Riot case: George Goodship

George Goodship record

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

George Goodship, aged 42, fitter at Laporte's, of 129 Highbury Road, 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 out Sovereign Lord the King, his Crown and Dignity.”



Appearing before Luton magistrates on August 1st, 1919, Goodrich was said to have been seen in the crowd at the time Mayor Henry Impey was addressing ex-servicemen in the procession, and after the Mayor and members of the Council went inside the Town Hall, Goodship faced the crowd and said: “Come on, let's rush the ------- Mayor and Smith, and get them in the crowd.”

The crowd pushed forward and Sgt Frederick Smith begged them to keep back for the sake of the children in front. Prisoner said: “You go and ------ yourself,” and continued to be very noisy. Later, when the crowd rushed the Town Hall, Sgt Smith was knocked down and trampled on and badly bruised.

Pc Charles Clements said Goodship was the first person to make a statement urging the crowd to “rush 'em”. Witness actually saw Goodship enter the Town Hall.

Prisoner, who was represented by Mr H. W. Lathom, pleaded not guilty and reserved his defence. He was committed for trial at the Assizes.

Mr Lathom, in an application on prisoner's behalf for bail, stated that the man had been 27 years in the Navy and had a record of character which showed 25 'very good' and two 'good'. The man, with such an extraordinary good character, must have been carried away.

The Town Clerk, who opposed bail, said that the man, in view of his character, should have had a restraining influence on the crowd and have kept a steady head. Mr Lathom: “He lost his head.”

The Chief Constable said he objected to bail. If the magistrates granted it in that case, they would have to grant it in others. Bail was refused.

Later in the day, Mr Lathom made a further earnest appeal for bail for Goodship. He said he had never before asked the Bench to reconsider such a decision. He now pointed out that Goodship had four young children and a wife who shortly expected another. The man had good work at Laporte's, and for the sake of his wife and children and in view of the man's record, he implored the Bench to give bail. It was again refused.

But just before the court rose, Goodship was given bail as a result of a strong appeal by Mr W. J. Mair, one of the magistrates on the Bench. He was bailed in his own bond of £10 and a surety in a like amount. Goodship was bound over to keep the peace while awaiting trial.

[Goodship did breach his conditions of bail when he was found guilty of steal wood from his employers, Messrs B. Laporte Ltd. He was fined 40 shillings by Luton magistrates on September 27th, but his breach of bail was not pressed.]




At the October Beds Assizes, Goodship was alleged by Sgt Frederick Smith to have incited the crowd to fetch out the Mayor and Town Clerk and to have been one of the leaders in the rush on the Town Hall.

It was suggested for the defence that a mistake had been made in the identity of the man, but St Smith said he was quite sure it was Goodship, and corroborative evidence was given by Pc Clements.

In his defence, Goodship said he went to see the procession on Peace Day and stood at the bottom of Wellington Street. The crowd commenced to shout and boo, and he joined in.

Counsel: “Why did you join in?” Goodship: “The crowd booed when the Mayor came out. I was a bit excited, and did not know what it was about, but I joined in with the crowd.” (laughter)

Some time later Goodship was on the Town Hall steps, and asked a special constable why the Mayor did not come out and speak to the people. When the Town Hall was rushed, prisoner had moved from the steps and was not among those who rushed it.

In a later rush he was carried forward, and helped a soldier who complained that his leg was hurt. He went into the Town Hall and up into the Assembly Room to implore people not to throw things out because of the women and children.

In further evidence, prisoner said Sgt Smith and a constable came to his place of employment [Laporte's], and the sergeant at first thought another man, named Wildman, was the man he wanted.

Later St Smith asked prisoner: “You took a prominent part in Saturday afternoon's affair, didn't you?” To this he replied, “I don't know that I did.”

Capt Loseby (defending) said Goodship had served on 20 or more ships and had the South African, China 1900, General Service and Victory ribbons.

Cross-examined by Mr Hollis Walker (prosecuting), Goodship said he went to see the procession and had not the slightest idea there was going to be any disturbance. He was not intending to create any disturbance, and had no grievance against the Mayor and Corporation.

He could not say why he joined in booing the Mayor, except that he was carried away by the crowd. Prisoner denied urging the crowd to fetch out the Mayor, or hearing other people say so.

Frank Shedd, also employed by B. Laporte Ltd, said Sgt Smith first called Wildman out, but was told this man was not Goodship, and then went to Goodship.

John Charles Wildman, who was formerly employed by Messrs Laporte, said Sgt Smith came in while they were washing their hands and said: “I want you.” Goodship asked, “Me?” and the sergeant said “No”.Witness [Wildman] then said, “Me?” and the sergeant said “Yes” and took him outside, and asked where he was on the Saturday afternoon. Witness told him he was in bed and asleep.

Then the cashier came and told the sergeant witness was not Goodship, who was in the shop. The sergeant then went into the shop to see Goodship.

The Judge had said the identification of people in a crowd on such an occasion had to be looked at very carefully, and if the police officer did not know the man in question well there could be the same importance attached to their view as in a case where they were dealing with somebody they knew well.

In this case the identification was left in a somewhat unsatisfactory state, but it might be of little importance from the fact that prisoner admitted he was there, and the only question was as to his language and actions.

Goodship was found guilty of rioting, but not guilty on other counts. His Lordship said he was sorry to see a man of prisoner's description in this trouble. It was not one of the most serious cases, and the sentence would be three months imprisonment. Prisoner's relatives were to have an opportunity to see him before he left the court.