Riot defence lawyer condemns 'lack of tact'

Mr H. W. Lathom, representing some of the riot accused, said in court during the remand hearing on July 30th, 1919, that all were impressed with the great sense of degradation which had fallen over the town, and the great sorrow that “to live in Luton” should now be a byword in England, simply because they did not know how to conduct themselves on a day when everybody should have acted with sobriety and quietness.

The advocates must join with the Town Clerk in thanking the police and commiserating with them. They showed great tact in very difficult circumstances. The only sorrowful thing was that that did not apply to another public body in the three or four weeks before the trouble took place, when, as everybody knew, they were expecting trouble.

The town was palpably seething with trouble and there was such a thing as preventing it by tact. The police showed marvellous tact in the face of their being hurled down and subjected to bruises and assaults, and if that tact had been used by the Corporation there need have been none of this trouble.

He would not say why there were complaints in the town. They could keep the peace at Dunstable and be extolled from end to end of England while Luton was blamed. If the Corporation had used tact this would not have happened.

There was an old proverb: 'Those who excuse themselves accuse themselves,' and nothing could be more self-accusatory throughout than the publication of a manifesto after all the trouble. They made an explanation by way of excuse, which was an accusation against themselves. It was like the little boy who, after a fight, safe behind his mother's skirts, threatened what he would do if there was a recurrence. It was a much more pitiful sight today.

Referring specifically to defendant Barrett, Mr Lathom said that according to police evidence he had been a good citizen here for 20 years. He had been 18 years in the Corporation's service.

They all knew what Corporations were. They had 'neither a soul to save nor a body to kick,' but they knew when they got a man worth his wages, and they kept him.

The man was 58, and set an example by voluntarily offering his service to the country when 55 years old. He was told, and expected, he would not be sent into the firing line. That was not an act of cowardice.

Barrett had a bit to grumble about. He was pushed forward by the crush, and he made this little grumbling protest. Was that what they would send a man to the Assizes for, to be liable to penal servitude for life? After his grumble, Barrett went away and did nothing more.

Barrett was acquitted when he appeared at Beds Assizes in October 1919.