Don't fight for your bag of coal

Hertfordshire Mercury, 18th May 1918


At Hatfield Petty Sessions, Frederick Basill (51), an employee of the G.N.R. Company at Hatfield, was charged with stealing 40 lbs of coal from the station yard on 6th May.  Mr Deacon, from the solicitor’s department of the G.N.R., King’s Cross. stated that the defendant was employed by the company as a bricklayer’s labourer, and had been so engaged since August 1915, his wages being £2 2s per week.

On 6th May, the defendant booked on duty at 6.00 a.m. at Hatfield Station and went to work in the locomotive department.  He should have been at work until 8:00am before going to breakfast but, at 7.25  a.m., he left the yard.  Shortly afterwards, he was seen by Police Sergeant Olding in the St Albans Road, just opposite the mortuary, carrying a kit bag which appeared to be a bit heavy.  The Sergeant therefore pulled him up and asked him what he had got in it, and the defendant replied  “It is only a mangold”.  On examining it, he found the bag contained some coal and, when asked where he had got it from, the defendant said that he had found it in a meadow on his way home to breakfast.  The defendant refused to say anything more and, when further questioned, flew into a temper and talked about fighting the officer.  Afterwards, however, he repented and said  “I may as well tell you the truth.  I picked it up in the yard on the locomotive road”.

Mr H.W. Lathom, who appeared for the defendant and pleaded guilty on his behalf, said that for 26 years the defendant had only had two employers, being with Lord Salisbury for 23 years and the last 3 years on the railway.  He hoped the Bench would take into consideration the man’s age and previous good character.

The Chairman said that the offence of stealing coal was an increasing one in this neighbourhood and he was quite sure the railway company and private employers could tell them a similar tale to that heard in Court that morning.  The Magistrates gave every consideration to the appeal of Mr Lathom as to the defendant’s long service and good character, and would fine him £5.

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