[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: August 2nd, 1919]
Yesterday morning [August 1st, 1919] the Bench decided to deal with the larceny cases, and it was understood at the opening of the day's proceedings that the Justices might see their way to dealing with those charges without committing the persons concerned to the Assizes.
The Town Clerk, in his opening statement, said that amongst the persons charged in conen with these riotous proceedings were several who were found in possession of stolen articles. That being so, they must have been out in the streets somewhere between 12 o'clock Saturday and 2 o'clock on Sunday morning, or they must have been associated with the people who were in the crowd.
Consequently, they were as much rioters in the eyes of the law, though they actually did nothing then, and were assumed, by the law, to be persons actually concerned in the demolitions. There was no way of getting away from that proposition. It had been clearly laid down by the High Court, and he did not propose to read any extracts or judgments or legal decisions regarding the matter, as in his statement on the opening day he said enough to make that quite clear.
It was his duty to ask that every one of these persons should be sent for trial with the others who were actually guilty of active participation in the rioting; but after giving very grave consideration to the matter, especially bearing in mind that some of them were women, he was going to take it on himself to withdraw the charges of rioting against the women, thought perhaps not against all the men charged with larceny.
“It is wonderful how acquisitive women are at times,” said the Town Clerk, “and what awfully powerful liars they are.” They had lied in these cases, and changed their own story at least twice in some instances. If the Bench found it possible to deal summarily with some of these cases it would end the suspense of these women, who must have had a very bad mental time while on remand.
This must not be understood, said the Town Clerk, as any sign of weakness. He would ask the Bench to administer to those people found guilty of stealing property from the damaged shops, or being in possession of such property, the strongest possible reprimand – one that would be a leson to them for life to keep out of riotous proceedings, and also to behave themselves as good citizens, and not be led away by wild, drunken and irresponsible people.
Mr H. W. Lathom, who represented all but one of the prisoners charged, later addressed the Bench. One great thing in their favour, he said, was that not one of them had had the slightest charge against her previously.
Considerable stress had been laid upon the fact that the women, when questioned, lied. They all knew it would be impossible for anyone – and they would be committing the biggest lie they ever told – to say they never lied. Everyone lied when it was a case of trying to evade responsibility for some foolish act. It was historic that when anyone was questioned concerning wrong doing, they lied.
After presenting his defence for individual defendants, Mr Lathom said there were thousands and thousands of people out that night, a night of great excitement, and they all knew that when there was an element of great excitement, people who were thoroughly innocent and had not the slightest intention of joining in, were led away, became excited and thoughtlessly committed acts of folly.
In conclusion, he thanked the prosecution for having taken the action they had in these cases, which enabled the magistrates to deal with the offenders.
The magistrates then retired, and were absent some 20 minutes or more. On their return the Chairman announced that the Bench considered the offenders were most fortunate in that the prosecution had reduced the charges against them. The magistrates had taken into consideration those cases in which the prisoners had been retained in custody.
Some of the offenders were young girls who did not think, to the fullest extent, what they were doing. They ought to have known, however, that in mixing with crowds of this description on that night that the goods they had must have been stolen.
They had accepted the goods and, in the eyes of the law, which was very reasonable in that respect, they were equally as the persons who actually stole them. He then announced the decisions of the Bench as follows [click on names in yellow for more detail about individual cases]:
Emily Tilcock, fined 30 shillings, or 14 days.
Ellen L. Goodridge, fined £5, or one month.
Edgar C. Goodridge, fined £5, or one month.
Ada Andrews, fined 40 shillings, or 14 days.
Bertha Field, fined 40 shillings, or 14 days.
Rose Winifred Bacon, 25 shillings in each case, or 10 days.
Emily Gilbert, fined 40 shillings, or 14 days.
Ellen Gilbert, fined £3 or 21 days.
Mr Lathom, on behalf of the offenders, thanked the magistrates for the careful consideration they had given the cases, and, in view of the circumstances, the merciful sentences they had imposed.
In the case against Amos Gooch, who was originally charged with rioting and larceny and it was then intimated that the charge of rioting be withdrawn, Mr Barber who appeared for him said that in the circumstances his client would plead guilty to the larceny charge.
The magistrates retired, but were not long absent, the Chairman announcing on their return that in view of his attempt to lead a new life, Gooch would be fined £5 or one month, and he would be bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.
In the case of Walter Wells, charges of riot and damage to a boot shop were withdrawn, leaving only a charge of stealing.
Mr Lathom, for the defence, admitted the offence, and said Wells had never had anything against him. His wife was very ill through worry, and had he given the boots back he might have been let off. He was very sorry for his folly.
Wells was fined £5 and ordered to pay £1 8s 6d for the boots, and 15 shillings court costs.
In the final case dealt with by magistrates, a charge of rioting against George Saunders was withdrawn by the Town Clerk on Saturday, August 2nd. Saunders was said to have joined hands with other men and tried to rush the Town Hall, but, after being pushed back by police, he went home.
Nevertheless, Saunders was bound over to keep the peace for 12 months in the sum of £10.