- Assizes record courtesy of Mr John Gillespie, grandson of Insp Fred Janes.
George Fowler, aged 21, a carter, of 6 Albert Terrace, Luton, was charged: “On the 19th July 1919, together with divers other evil disposed persons to the number of one thousand or more whose names are unknown, unlawfully riotously and routously did assemble and gather together to disturb the public peace and then unlawfully, riotously, routously, and tumultuously did make a great noise, riot, tumult, and disturbance to the great terror and disturbance of His Majesty’s subjects there being and residing passing and repassing and then and there unlawfully, riotously, routously, and tumultuously did assault, beat, and ill treat one John Wood, against the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King his Crown and Dignity.”
When he first appeared before magistrates on July 24th, 1919, Fowler was said to have been arrested by Sgt Arthur Clark that morning at the Bute Hospital, where he had been detained for some days owing to injuries received on Saturday [the only civilian to be treated at the Bute Hospital as a result of the riots]. When the warrant was read by he said: “I am not guilty. I was knocked down by the fire engine.”
Prisoner told the court: “I was coming through the streets and I was knocked down by the fire engine. I never did any damage or anything of that sort.”
Pc John Wood, whose head was bandaged, giving evidence in support of the charge of assault, stated that at 10.40 on Saturday night prisoner and other men charged the police at the Town Hall. They were driven back, and some of them fell on the pavement.
Prisoner caught the leg of witness's trousers, pulled him to the ground and beat him while he was on the ground. “I was bruised all over,” said Pc Wood.
Held in custody, ex-soldier Fowler was in court on July 31, when he was refused bail and remanded in custody to appear at Beds Assizes in October. At this hearing, Pc Wood said that on the Saturday night at about 10.30 a rush was made for the Town Hall by a large crowd, and prisoner was in the front. He tried to push past the police, who were forced back, and prisoner and others were knock down on the pavement.
While lying there, Fowler pulled Pc Wood down by the trouser leg, and then got up and kicked him in the back. Witness also received a blow on the back of the head. Prisoner shouted, “Kill this -----,” and this referred to witness.
Pc Robert Roberts said that a baton charge was made when the crowd tried to force the door in Manchester Street. The Town Hall was on fire, and Fowler had a long stick. He made for witness, who thereupon knocked him down.
Pc Roberts had previously seen Fowler when a baton charge was made to clear the crowd from the Town Clerk's office. Fowler was inside. Witness also saw him at the Mayor's house in the afternoon, when prisoner was very excited.
Deputy Chief Special Constable Charles Robinson stated that he saw Fowler attempt to strike Pc Roberts, but the constable got in the first blow. Fowler struck witness in the stomach with some heavy implement, and this incapacitated witness for some days.
Dr Archibald gave evidence as to the injuries of the police constables, and said the injury to Charles Robinson was too extensive to have been caused by a blow from a fist.
Prisoner pleaded not guilty and was committed to the Assizes, bail refused.
AT THE ASSIZES
George Fowler said at Beds Assizes that after seeing the procession on Peace Day he did not come out till the evening. Then he was at Wardown till 10.30 and afterwards at the Town Hall. He was knocked down by the fire engine and was admitted to hospital.
Cross-examined, Fowler denied that he was in the crowd outside the Mayor's house. He was knocked down by the fire engine as it came up Williamson Street. He denied that he tried to get into the Town Hall at any time. He did not pull Pc Wood down, or see any other policeman on the ground, or anyone kick a policeman near the Town Hall steps.
Fowler was found guilty of rioting and assaulting Deputy Chief Special Constable Robinson and Pc Wood, but not guilty on other charges.
Inspector Janes said prisoner was somewhat of a ne'er-do-well, but had a good character for his period of Army service. He did not go overseas.
Prisoner had 13 previous convictions, including wilful damage, assaults on the police and stealing. For the latter offence he received two months hard labour in May last.
Prisoner asked the Judge to take into consideration the fact that he had been 13 weeks in custody. His Lordship: “I was going to give you 18 months, but in view of your term in custody I will make it 15 months hard labour.”