Is it the beginning of a life of crime?
Hertfordshire Mercury, 9th October 1918
At Hertford Quarter Sessions, James Bradford (19), a soldier, pleaded guilty to breaking into the office of Messrs James Bowman and Sons, millers, of Hitchin, and stealing 39 cigars, on 9th September.
Mr Morrow, on behalf of the prosecution, said the office was left secure on Saturday, 7th September but, on the Monday morning, it was found that the premises had been entered by pressing back the window catch and 39 cigars stolen from a box in the office. When the prisoner made a statement admitting the offence, stating that he was in the RAF at Henlow and that he broke out from the guard and committed this theft.
PC Prior said the prisoner gave a false name when arrested but afterwards he said that his name was Bradford and that he was in the RAF. He broke out of camp on the Saturday night and, seeing this mill, he broke into the office and took the cigars. He afterwards met a man in the road to whom he sold the cigars for 4 shillings which he had spent in purchasing food. The reason he broke out of camp was because he was tired of the Air Force.
Supt Reed stated that, on 28th February 1916, the prisoner was put on probation for 12 months. Then he was arrested for housebreaking at Denbigh in May 1916 and sentenced to 3 years in a Borstal home. The prisoner was born in Swinton in Lancashire, and resided at Pendleton with his parents in February 1916 when he was arrested for the first offence. He was placed on probation in a home, but after a few days he left and traversed the country committing petty thefts and doing odd jobs in various towns. The Manchester police reported that he was a lazy, thoughtless, fellow. His parents were hard-working, respectable, people but they had no control over him. He was employed at quite a number of different places, never staying anywhere very long; he was most untruthful and cunning and nothing could be said in his favour. The Governor of the Borstal Institution reported that his conduct whilst there was most unsatisfactory. He made no effort to improve himself and the training given him was largely wasted. In January last, when he became of age, he was released to join the Army, being placed on licence until April 1920. He joined the RAF and was stationed at Henlow, where he was engaged when this happened.
Capt J.P.Bridger, Acting Asst Provost Marshall, stated the prisoner’s character whilst in the Army was not at all good either militarily or morally, and there were certain occurrences for which he could have been dealt with by the civil authorities. His record was a very bad one. Asked if he wanted the prisoner back in the Army, witness said he would rather the man was dealt with by the Court.
The Chairman told the prisoner that he had had every chance to run straight, but from the beginning had gone crooked. He could be sent for a long term of imprisonment but would be given one more chance. The sentence of the Court was that he be given 6 months’ hard labour and that at the end of that period probably he would be taken back to Borstal to complete his 18 months’ unexpired term there. He hoped that this would be a lesson to him.