At Hatfield Petty Sessions Second-Lieut. Herman F. Segmitz, of the 2nd 19th County of London Regiment, stationed at Coggeshall, was charged with driving a motor-car to the danger of the public at Hatfield on May 20.
Alfred Bond, coachman in the employ of Mr John Lloyd, of Astwick, stated that just after 5 o’clock on May 20 he was driving a brougham from Union Lane across the Hatfield to St Albans main road into French Horn Lane, and directly he got sight of the St Albans road he saw the defendant driving a motor-car towards him at a terrific rate. He made his horse spurt so as to try and get clear but could not do so, and turned sideways so that the car might be enabled to swerve and pass behind him. Instantly the car crushed into the rear of the carriage and carried away the hind wheels. The witness was knocked off the box and and rendered unconscious. He knew no more until some time afterwards, when he came round and found himself in someone’s cottage.
Supt Sullivan: ‘Do you know there is a ten mile speed limit sign just beyond the turning where you were coming out?’ ‘Yes’. ‘It is a dangerous corner?’ ‘Yes, and if he had been going at a reasonable speed there would have been plenty of time for me to get clear’. ‘Will you tell the Bench the extent of the damage done?’
The Clerk: ‘We have nothing to do with that here’.
The solicitor for the defendant: ‘That is to be the subject of a County Court claim’.
Marjory Weldon, of 4 Lothair Villas, Hatfield, who was cycling along the road and saw the accident, said that the brougham was three parts of the way across the main road when the accident happened. It was a dangerous corner, and the defendant ought to have approached it at a considerably slower speed.
P.C. G.E. Sermons said he was on the scene of the accident immediately after it happened, and saw the brougham turned over, with both the hind wheels severed from the body. The motor-car had swerved right round, and was facing the direction of St Albans. The driver appeared unhurt, but his car was damaged, and he was unable to drive it any further. Judging by the marks made in the road there was sufficient room behind the brougham for the motor-car to have passed without colliding.
Mr John Lloyd, the owner of the brougham, said he arrived some time after the accident and spoke to the defendant, who admitted that he was going at the rate of more than 30 miles an hour. The accident did not happen inside the ten mile control, but was only half-a-dozen yards outside it.
Cross-examined, he was asked: ‘Do you remember saying anything about the defendant’s nationality?’ ‘No’. ‘Don’t you remember accusing him of being a German?’ ‘No’. ‘Don’t you remember saying to some soldiers who gathered round, ‘Here, you men, this is an officer in the British Army who is a German’?’ ‘I might have said so.’ ‘You made yourself very objectionable to him – insulted him?’ ‘I am very sorry if I did. I was rather cross with him.’
The defendant said he first saw the brougham when he was 15 to 20 yards away. The horse was trotting, and the driver never accelerated or slackened his speed to try and get out of the way. He swerved to try and get behind the carriage, but there was not sufficient room to do so. There was nothing to show that there was a side road until he saw the carriage emerge. It was a concealed turning. After he had assisted in getting the coachman away he came back, and some soldiers told him that Mr Lloyd accused him of being a German. He told them that he was not.
Supt Sullivan: ‘Did you tell the Constable that you were travelling at between 20 and 25 miles an hour?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Seeing the brougham come across the road, didn’t you think it was your duty to pull up?’ ‘I tried to do so’.
The defendant’s solicitor contended that the accident was due to the careless way the coachman was driving. It was a most risky thing to attempt to cross a main road in front of a motor-car. This was a blind lane, and there was no sign to indicate it. It was a most extraordinary thing that when the ten mile limit was made it should end just before it got to this dangerous cross road. The defendant had just come out of the control, and was not aware of the blind lane.
The Chairman said the Bench had come to the conclusion that it was a pure accident, and the charge would be dismissed. They strongly recommended that a warning board be put up at this dangerous spot.