Harbouring a deserter

Hertfordshire Mercury, 28th August 1915


At Berkamsted Petty Sessions Nora Pheasant, of Long Marston, was charged under the Army Act with harbouring Corpl. Mackenzie, of the 12th Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers, knowing him to be a deserter, on August 2.  According to the police evidence, the young woman was keeping house for her mother, Nurse Pheasant, while the latter was away, and Mackenzie had been billeted at the house for a short time prior to going into camp at Halton, and been ‘walking out’ with the defendant.

When P.c. King, of Wilstone, accompanied by a number of military policemen, went to the house on August Bank Holiday and asked if the Corporal was there, the young woman replied that he was not, and that she had not seen him.  After some demur, she consented to a search being made, and Mackenzie was caught by the military police as he was attempting to escape from a bedroom window in a partially clothed condition.  He was arrested and taken to the camp at Halton.

In answer to the Magistrates a Constable stated that the defendant had been warned on July 13 as to the seriousness of the offence if she harboured the Corporal, who, he believed, had been a deserter for three or four months.  The defendant stated that she kept company with the corporal before he was billeted at her mother’s house.  Some time after he had gone to the camp other soldiers told her that he had gone away, and later he wrote to her and said he was not now soldiering.  On the Sunday night before August Bank Holiday he came to the house and asked to stay the night.  She replied that it would get her into trouble, but the defendant assured her that it was all right.  She did not then realise the seriousness of the crime, or she would not have taken the Corporal in.

The Chairman said that she had knowingly screened the soldier after being warned, did her best to hide him, and told the police a lie.  It was a most serious offence, without any mitigating circumstances, and if the defendant had been a man she would have most certainly have been sent to prison.  Taking into consideration her youth and her circumstances, the Bench had decided to deal leniently with her and fine her £5, or in default of payment one month’s imprisonment.  The defendant asked for time to pay, and for the sake of her mother, who is the parish nurse, the bench allowed a fortnight.

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