Maliciously wounding by firing at point blank range

Hertfordshire Mercury, 22nd February 1918


At the Ware Petty Sessional Courthouse on Saturday morning, before Mr A.H. Rogers, Bert Sharp (20) was charged with being on land in the occupation of of Mr Henry Bacon in the Standon Parish near Barwick, and further with maliciously wounding Edwin Earney, a gamekeeper in the employ of Mr Bacon on the Plashes estate, with the intent to do him grievous bodily harm.

Edwin Earney, whose right hand and arm were bandaged, deposed that at 8.40pm on the Friday, the 26th instant, he had heard shooting and, coming from the edge of a dark wood, he had seen Sharp with a gun and, when within about 10 yards of him, Sharp had fired point blank at him but, owing to him stooping down, the charge went into his arm instead of his face.  He made a rush for Sharp, got him down, and with some help from the military nearby, he was secured until the police arrived although, whilst on the ground, he fired the gun a second time.  Sharp was conveyed to Ware police station.

The Magistrate remanded the defendant in custody until the Tuesday.

On the charge sheet on the Tuesday the prisoner was described as a ploughman, of Colliers End.

Edwin Earney said that in consequence of some conversation he had heard, he went to Blackie Mead Wood and walked from there to a searchlight station.  He heard a shot in the wood and, going into the wood, heard another shot being fired.  After the second shot, the witness heard a gun snap together.  About a minute later, the defendant came out of the wood in a stooping position and crept up to within about 8 yards of where the witness was standing.  He then put his gun up to his shoulder and fired at the witness.  He had pointed the gun at the witness’s face, but the witness had ducked and rushed towards the defendant.  The witness received the charge from the gun in his right forearm, but he still closed with the defendant.  They fell together, and he struck at the defendant who tried to twist the gun around.  The witness shouted to the men at the searchlight station, and they came along. When one of the men came up, the defendant handed him the gun.  The defendant was then taken to the searchlight station by two other men.  The witness went home to get his bicycle, and then went to Standon to get a constable.  He subsequently went to see Dr Daniell, of Puckeridge, and to the County Hospital at Hertford where he was put under the X-rays.

In cross-examination, the witness said that the defendant had shot at him deliberately.

Lance-Corporal Burdett, who said that he was stationed at Blackie Wood searchlight station, said that on the date in question he was at the station when he heard shots at about 7:45pm.  Shortly afterwards, he saw the gamekeeper, with whom he had some conversation, and the keeper then went into the wood and then back out again.  There was another shot, and the keeper returned to the wood.  After a few minutes, there were other shots, the keeper had shouted for help, and the witness and two other men had gone to his assistance.  They found the keeper and the accused on the ground, the former being in a kneeling position.  The defendant was then taken to the camp.  Sapper Wildman examined the gun and there were two empty cartridges in it.

Police Constable Morley, stationed at Standon, said that on Friday the 25th, at about 9.00 p.m, the keeper at Plashes came to him and reported that a man had shot him.  The witness took him to the doctor, where he was attended to, and the witness then hired a conveyance and went to the searchlight station at Blackie Mead Wood where he saw the defendant in the camp.  The witness arrested him and felt in his pockets where he found two empty cartridge cases.  The corporal handed him the gun and two more empty cartridges.  The defendant was then taken to Ware Police Station.  The witness there searched the defendant and found a live cartridge in his pocket, which fitted the gun, as did also the empty cartridges.

Superintendent Handley said that on January 25th, when the defendant was brought to the Police Station, he charged him with shooting Edwin Earney with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and the defendant had replied “I never did it on purpose.  I never saw him.  He must have been up a tree.”

Dr E.P. Daniell, of Puckeridge, said that he had examined the prosecutor and had found several gunshot wounds in the right forearm, and he could feel the shot beneath the skin.  He did not extract the shot but applied suitable dressing, and suggested that the man should go to the County Hospital.  The wound seemed superficial.

The defendant was then charged, and said “I didn’t do it on purpose.  I could not help it going off after he got me down.  The gun was cocked.”

The defendant was committed for trail at the Assizes on February 12th.

At Herts Winter Assizes, on the Tuesday, Bert Sharp, 20, a ploughman, was indicted for causing grievous bodily harm to Edwin Earney, a gamekeeper, at Standon, on 25th January.  The prisoner pleaded not guilty, but after the jury had been sworn he withdrew that plea and pleaded guilty.

Mr Naldrett, who prosecuted, stated the facts which were that, on 25th January, Edwin Earney called at the searchlight station at Blackie Mead Wood and in consequence of some information he went into the woods, and a few minutes afterwards heard some shooting.  He heard a gun snap together and a minute or two later the prisoner came out of the wood in a stooping position and crept up to within 8 yards of Earney.  It was moonlight and the prisoner shot Earney in the right forearm.  All the shots had not yet been extracted.  He closed with the prisoner and they fell to the ground.  Earney kept the gun away with his left arm as the prisoner was trying to twist it around.  Earney shouted out and three soldiers came and disarmed the prisoner who was taken into custody.  The prisoner then said that he did not do it on purpose.

The Medical Officer at Brixton Prison said that he was of the opinion that Sharp was mentally deficient.

Superintendent Handley said that the defendant had recently got mixed up with poachers and that he had warned him not to carry the gun.

His Lordship, in passing sentence of 9 months in the 2nd division, said that if the prisoner was mentally deficient he would be dealt with in another manner.

This page was added on 26/11/2015.

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