Riot case: Charles Copley

Charles Copley record

  • Assizes record courtesy of Mr John Gillespie, grandson of Insp Fred Janes.

Charles Copley, aged 37, rag and bone collector, of 5 Langley Place, Luton, was charged that: “On the 19th July 1919, together with divers other persons to the number of one thousand or more unlawfully and riotously did assemble to disturb the public peace, and then did make a great riot and disturbance to the terror and alarm of His Majesty’s subjects there being, and against the peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his Crown and Dignity.”



Appearing before magistrates on August 2nd, 1919, was was said by Sgt Frederick Smith with three other prisoners on the Saturday afternoon. He joined in the shouting and booing, and said: “Come on, let's out the ------ Mayor.” Told by the sergeant to be quiet, he replied: “You get your ------ living with a pen”.

In the subsequent rush into the Town Hall, witness was knocked down and trampled upon. Copley was one of the ringleaders in the rush and was one of those who got into the Town Hall. He was excited and violent.

In reply to prisoner, witness said this happened after the procession had passed, just before 3 o'clock.

Copley was committed for trial at the Assizes on two charges of riot and demolition. Bail was allowed, prisoner in £10 and one surety in a similar amount. Prisoner was also bound over to keep the peace until the time of the trial. He was advised by the Chairman of the Bench that he must be careful in his conduct.



At Beds Assizes in October, Copley defended himself. He said he was out with prisoner Kempson on Peace Day, but lost Kempson while talking to someone else, and then went towards the Town Hall. There was a crowd, so he went to see what was the matter.

Prisoner Miles was there speaking, but he could not hear what he said, and he could not see Kempson. So he went home.

Cross-examined he said: “All the police know me, but not for a bad character because I've never been to the police station for anything.

Prisoner agreed people were shouting for the Mayor to be fetched out, but prisoner did not join in the cry and had no grievance against the Mayor.”

Copley was found guilty of rioting only, and that during the afternoon disturbance. He sentenced to three months imprisonment, the Judge saying he would be treated the same as the other afternoon offenders.