Police officers improperly accept army stores

Hertfordshire Mercury, 20th July 1918


Before the St Albans Borough Bench last Saturday, the defendants were two members of the Police force, Valentine Churcher and George Jones, who were charged under the Army Act with having, on 3rd July, unlawfully and knowingly received from Corporal Alfred Thrower, Army Service Corps, certain bacon, the property of the Army Council.  Mr C. Doughty, instructed by Mr T. Ottaway, appeared for the accused who pleaded guilty.

Detective Sergeant Herbert Paine said that in consequence of certain information which came to his knowledge he kept observation on the DPO butchery stores in Bricket Road.  At 5.30 a.m., he saw the Corporal in charge near the stores; at 5.45 a.m. he heard someone talking to him  but had seen no-one enter, and at 5.55 a.m. the defendant Churcher came down the road and without hesitation entered the gate leading to the stores.  A few minutes later, both defendants left, Jones having a small parcel in his hand.  Witness followed them to the police station and, as they were about to leave duty, he called them back and asked Sergeant S. Payne to see what they had got.  Jones produced a small parcel containing 5.25 ounces of bacon, and Churcher another containing 4.75 ounces.  Jones said “You can look at the duty book and you will see that I have not been on that beat for some time.  I went in and the old Corporal gave it to me.  I did not know what was in it.  This will mean the sack after all this, but you have to do your duty.”  Churcher said  “I just went in; we were talking of lifting a side of beef, and the Corporal gave me this.  I did not know what it was.”

Captain Miller, APM, said that a soldier would not be entitled to give away rations issued for his own or for any other man’s use.  The Army took a very serious view of this case.  There had been continued and constant losses of Army stores; it had been most serious and extremely disquieting.

Mr Doughty, in his address to the Bench, said that the defence agreed that if a soldier gave away his ration it made no difference, but that there was no defence to this charge.  This was a very sad case for the defendants who had held honoured, and honourable, positions in their station of life in St Albans.  The corporal said to them “Here is a small snack for your breakfast”, and, in a moment of thoughtlessness, and perhaps out of courtesy, they accepted what was offered.  It was so difficult to be always on one’s guard, but the defendants assured him that this had only been an unfortunate chance and not a deliberate plot, and that they threw themselves on the mercy of the Court.  The defendants had been very severely punished as it was in having to stand there on that charge, and a money fine would be a mere bagatelle compared to the disgrace and loss of character that they must necessarily suffer.

The Mayor (Alderman Flint) said that it was most painful for him to have to pass sentence upon two men who had held the positions that the defendants had.  There would be a much heavier penalty than the amount of the fine, as in all probability it meant dismissal from the Force from which they had already been suspended.  They would each have to pay a fine of 40 shillings.  Several members of the Bench expressed sorrow at the position of the defendants.

Superintendent Peck said  “It has been very painful for the Police to have had to bring this charge.”

It is understood that both defendants will shortly join the Army.

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