A fallen woman's crimes

Hertfordshire Mercury, 27th November 1915


At Hertfordshire Assizes on Monday, May Houghton, 46, described as a dealer, was indicted for stealing an overcoat and a jacket, the property of William Bidgood, at Barnet, on October 14.  She pleaded not guilty.

Mr Bidgood stated that he kept a refreshment house at 59 High Street, Barnet, from which premises the coats were stolen.  He valued them at £4.

A man named Bray stated that he saw the prisoner with the coats on her arm.  She was then the worse for drink.

The prisoner in defence said that on account of the Zeppelin raids on London she was upset and got drinking.  Then she met a woman she had known for years as a hawker and she sold her the coats for 4 shillings.  She did not know the woman’s name, but she was well-known in Barnet and she (the prisoner) had described her to the Police, and told them where they would find her.

She said that she had been well brought-up and was well connected.  At one time she kept a house for inebriates.  She had no reason to steal, as her bank-book would show.  She had promised her friends to go into an inebriates’ home if she got the opportunity.

The jury found the prisoner guilty, and nine previous convictions for stealing were proved and between 20 and 30 for drunkenness.

The Judge in passing sentence said that the prisoner had committed a series of larcenies since 1910. She was evidently a woman of very superior intelligence and had acquired a considerable amount of practice and experience in advocating her own cause, but fortunately she had not succeeded in mystifying the jury in this case. The prisoner had asked him in a written statement to send her to a home for inebriates as drink was the cause of her trouble, but he had no power to do so.

She had already been in an inebriates’ home, but deserted, and it was no good sending her to a home of that sort where she could escape.  He had no power to send her to any home except a home that was called a prison, and if she wanted to reform herself she would be able to do so there.  Her record showed that she was dishonest as well as a drunkard, and she would have to go to prison for 18 months.

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