Peace Day trial: Amos Gooch

Amos Gooch, aged 38, straw hat blocker, of 22 St Ann's Road, Luton, first appeared before magistrates on Wednesday, July 23rd, 1919, when he was remanded in custody for a week charged with rioting and stealing a quantity of toilet requisites, value 4s 3d, the property of Carl Caspers [hairdresser, 4 Bute Street].

Luton magistrates on August 1st, 1919, were told that Mr Caspers was a German by birth whose application for naturalisation was held up owing to the war. He came to England in 1884, and commenced business in Luton as a hairdresser in 1892. He married an English woman and had five daughters and one son. The son had fought for England in the war, and one of his daughters had lost a husband, an officer, in the war. He now carried on business as a hairdresser and umbrella manufacturer in Bute Street.

On Saturday and Sunday [July 19th and 20th] he was absent from Luton. In the windows of his shop on Friday night there were umbrellas, sticks, bottles of perfume and other toilet requisites, and similar goods were also in the back part of the shop behind the counter. The value of the stock in the shop on Friday night was £160.

All the glass windows in the front of his premises were smashed when he returned to Luton on Monday – the plate glass windows, the door and a glass showcase in the door, and the whole of the stock had disappeared.

The hairdressing room at the back was not smashed, but all the articles used in the business (razors, scissors etc) were stolen. It had been estimated that it would cost £40 to replace the glass alone. He identified certain articles produced as those taken from his shop.

In conclusion, he stated that, although he was a German, he had always conducted himself loyally towards the British throne, and had never been guilty of anything which might have caused animus against him.

At this stage it was intimated that the charge of rioting would be withdrawn against Gooch, and Mr Barber, who appeared for the defendant, said that in the circumstances he would plead guilty to the larceny charge, accepting the evidence given by Det-Sgt Bacon in the case against Ellen Gilbert, and the statements made by her to the police officer.

The Town Clerk pointed out that although he did not allege any specific action against Gooch in taking an active part in the rioting, he was proved, and had acknowledged himself, to be in possession of articles from the demolished premises. He submitted the magistrates could not deal with this case in anything like the manner in which they had dealt with the women.

The man [Gooch] was well known to the police, and his history, so far as concerned the Courts, commenced in 1900, and offences for which he had been punished included cases of drunk and disorderly, obscene language, obstructing the highway etc.

The reason he [the Town Clerk] had taken the course he had was that since 1914 (when he was last before the Court), Gooch had either behaved himself, or the police had been lax. He was always anxious to give a man an opportunity of continuing his reformation.

Mr Barber said that after all that had been said of the good work of the police, there was no question of their having been lax. The man Gooch had legitimately striven to reform, and had succeeded.

In 1914, like every decent man, Gooch had repeatedly volunteered for service with the Forces, but was rejected. It was not until late in the war that he was accepted for service, and when discharged he had been given a very good character by his superior officers.

He asked the Bench to deal with Gooch mercifully in view of his reformation. The magistrates retired, but were not long absent, the Chairman announcing on their return that, in view of his attempts to lead a new life, Gooch would be fined £5 or one month, and he would also be bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.