At Herts Quarter Sessions, William Christian, 42, a harness maker, pleaded not guilty to a charge of embezzling £1 17s 6d received on behalf of his employer, Horace Allison, at Stevenage, on 22nd December 1913. Mr Eustace Fulton appeared for the prosecution.
At the end of November, Mr Allison had required an assistant. He advertised in a daily paper and the prisoner applied for the position. He was engaged, at 10s a week, plus his board and lodging. When the prisoner had been there about a week, his employer had occasion to go away for the day and therefore left the prisoner in charge of the shop. Whilst the owner was away, a customer, Mrs Jackson of Stevenage, went to the shop and paid a bill that was outstanding in respect of a second-hand saddle, and the sum paid was £1 17s 6d. The prisoner took the money and wrote out a receipt in the name of A. Allison, but did not account for it in any way to the owner of the shop. At the end of the week, he was paid his wages, and then he left shortly afterwards. When Mr Allison checked the account, he discovered that Mr Jackson had paid the money out. He at once applied for a warrant for the prisoner’s arrest.
On December 27th 1913, he had seen the defendant at Blackheath, and had given him into custody. An officer of the Hertfordshire Constabulary thence proceeded with the warrant and arrested him.
The prisoner made a rambling statement to the jury, stating that he was hard up when he had taken the money, and that Mr Allison had taken him on on a permanent basis but had dismissed him at the end of the first week. At Blackheath, he had offered to pay Mr Allison £2 in settlement but this had been refused. He thought his employer had treated him unfairly.
The jury found the defendant guilty.
The police proved that the defendant had been sentenced to 3 years’ penal servitude at Dorchester in October 1910 for stealing, on which occasion there were six charges against him. There were numerous other convictions before that. The officer said that the prisoner usually gained the confidence of people by pretending to be very religious, and by carrying a prayer book about with him. He was sorry that he could say nothing in the prisoner’s favour.
The prisoner said that, since his last sentence, he had become a changed man and had been leading an honest life for 12 months. The prisoner added that he had been employed as a harness maker for Messrs R. White & Co., the mineral water people, for Mr Larkin of Brighton, and for Mr Shortman of 33 Union Street, Borough High Street, London. He said that all of these people would speak well of him. He asked the Court for leniency.
The Chairman said that the Court would be pleased to hear just how far the prisoner’s statement could be borne out by facts, and that he would agree to adjourn sentencing for 3 months for that purpose or, alternatively, the case could be dealt with at once. The prisoner, after some hesitation, said that he preferred the case to be dealt with at once.
The Chairman said that he had carefully considered the prisoner’s previous record, and that the Court was unable to see any reason for treating him leniently. He was sentenced to 3 years’ penal servitude.
The prisoner, looking bewildered, exclaimed “It is a severe sentence, sir”.