- John Stanley Long bail application while being held in Bedford Jail ahead of trial at the Assizes.
John Stanley Long, aged 40, labourer, of 19 Alma Street, Luton, was charged with “On the 19th July, 1919 together with divers other persons whose names are unknown to the number of at least one thousand then and there being riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the Public Peace, feloniously did unlawfully and with force demolish and destroy a certain building there situate, to with the Town Hall, belonging to the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Luton, contrary to Section 11 of the Malicious Damage Act, 1861”.
He first appeared before magistrates in Luton on Thursday, July 24th, 1919, and was remanded in custody to appear at Beds Assizes in October. At that hearing, Pc Robert Rushmer said that on the Saturday night he was at the Town Hall among constables who charged on the right side of the Town Hall entrance at about 10.20. He saw Long in the front of the crowd. Long shouted: “Go, break into the ------ Town Hall. Give the ------ it hot. Now is our chance”. Long was very hostile and noisy.
And Pc Richard Odell said Long shouted several times: “Give the ------ it. Smash the doors in.” He was very violent.
Replying to the Town Clerk, Mr Barber (representing Long) said the prisoner was in the Army 22 years. Long: “I was wounded 20 years ago.”
Pc John Wood said he was in several charges, and about 11.30 heard Long shout: “We have a thousand more discharged soldiers coming along. They'll give you something to go on with.” The crowd immediately got excited, and tried to rush the police. The Manchester Street side of the Town Hall had then been on fire. Pc Wood said he was injured.
Asked whether he had anything to say why he should not be remanded, prisoner replied: “I should like to settle it now.”
The Clerk: “You cannot have it settled now.” Prisoner: “Can I have bail?”
The Chief Constable: “I strongly oppose bail in any of these cases. They are most serious charges, and it will defeat the ends of justice if they are allowed bail.”
Long formally pleaded not guilty and was committed for trial. Bail was refused, the Town Clerk stating that prisoner was undoubtedly one of the ringleaders. A second application for bail was refused by magistrates on September 13th.
AT THE ASSIZES
Frederick James Rignall, manager of the public buildings of Luton, mentioned Long during his evidence. In the Town Hall Assembly Hall he had tried to persuade the men not to throw furniture on the people below. Long rushed across and told the men not to take any notice, and said he would throw Mr Rignall out of the window if he said any more.
Cross-examined by Mr Bernard Campion (counsel for Long) Mr Rignall said that 80 to 100 people had rushed into the Assembly Hall, but the only one he recognised was Long. Counsel suggested that the witness was mistaken, and that Long was not there at all. But Mr Rignall said he knew Long well and he was certain it was Long who threatened him. Long was the only person who spoke to the witness, but there was considerable hubbub going on. He did not see a Mrs Amy Hacking or a Cpl Hood mentioned by Long in evidence as being with him on the night.
In the witness box, Long said that after the procession passed the bottom of Alma Street, and his sister went to the Town Hall, which had then been entered. Both he and his sister walked straight in and upstairs. There was nothing to stop them. They came down again, and the stairs met Inspector Janes.
Asked about the statement that he threatened Mr Rignall, prisoner said he did not remember seeing him. He and his sister went away to their mother's, and from there to the sports at Wardown. Later, when he was near the Salvation Army place [in Manchester Street] there was an Army man appealing for help to get the furniture out. Witness and some other brought out the piano, afterwards helping to bring out other things.
Then they went to the front of the Town Hall, and he was told the premises of a relative which adjoined the Town Hall were on fire. He pushed through the crowd to get there, and afterwards, with his brother-in-law and another man, he went and stood on the pavement for about two hours. He then went home, and throughout the day he did no damage of any sort.
Cross-examined, prisoner said all speech-making was done when he got to the Town Hall, but he agreed that the crowd was hostile against somebody.
He went into the Town Hall, although he had no grievance against anybody, just “to see what the performance was”. The smashing of things was all done by that time, he said, and chairs were going out of the window.
Prisoner denied going into the Town Hall more than once, and was positive he was not there when the destruction was done. He also said he did not see any baton charges at the Town Hall when he was there at night. He denied saying anything about another thousand discharged soldiers coming to take a hand.
Amy Hacking, sister of prisoner Long, said Long did not behave badly in the Hall, and did not threaten Mr Rignall. Long was not in the crowd at 10.20, as Pc Rushmer had stated.
Cpl Percy William Hood, of the R.F.A. stationed at Colchester, said he was with Long the whole time, and Long never in any way interfered with the police.
Cross-examined, Amy Hacking said she was not with Long at night. She did not go to the Town Hall.
DEFENCE AND VERDICT
“One of the more serious cases” was his Lordship's description of John Stanley Long, for whom Capt Loseby argued that, although prisoner went into the Town Hall in the afternoon and was in the crowd at night, he was not guilty of any of the acts or expressions alleged against him. In support of this Long had as witnesses his sister, Mrs Amy Hacking, and Cpl Hood, but on the other hand there was evidence from three police officers and Mr Rignall, of the latter of the Judge said that, like the police, he did all that a man in his position should do, and deserved the thanks of the town for what he did in trying to protect the town's property.
“It is probably true,” said the Judge, “that the events of the afternoon had little to do with the demolition of the Town Hall, but with the people who went into the Town Hall there was undoubtedly an intention to do damage.”
The jury found Long guilty of riot and damage to the Town Hall but not guilty of demolition. Inspector Janes said he was a man of violent disposition who had been trained as a boxer and was a low and perfectly worthless character.
Long served in the Hussars from 1893 to 1903 and in the Yeomanry from the outbreak of war to January 1915, when he was discharged medically unfit. In 1897 a court martial awarded him six months' hard labour and discharged him with ignominy, and there were also 36 civil convictions for wilful damage, vagrancy, drunk and disorderly, obscene language, assaulting the police, fighting and larceny. He had three years in a reformatory, and his sentences included six, ten and 18 months. He had not served overseas in the recent war.
The Judge sentenced him to 18 months hard labour, and disallowed the expenses of the witnesses for the defence.