Notable convictions from the Criminal Justice Act in St Albans and Hertford

By Robert Gill

A Great Train Robbery :

On the 6th October 1908, a man named William Henry Smith, of Watford, was tried at Watford Court for several large scale robberies from the London and North Western Railway Company.

On the 13th August 1908, Mr Smith was alleged to have stolen from the aforementioned Railway Company one gold bangle and locket, one gold chain and pendant, one sapphire and diamond ring, one knife, and two shillings.  Mr Smith was then alleged to have returned to the railway company one week later on the 20th August and to have stolen one tortoise shell cigar case, three cat’s eyes, one gent’s monocle frame, one five pounds gold piece and one gold bangle, in total worth ten pounds, seventeen shillings and ten pence.  Evidently deciding that his previous booty wasn’t enough, Mr Smith returned again to the Railway Company on the 16th September 1908, after which he was accused of stealing one diamond pendant worth four pounds.

The defendant, who pleaded guilty to the above crimes, was sentenced to a total of eighteen months’ hard labour at St Albans Prison.

Indeed, this wasn’t the last of London and North Western Railway’s break-ins.  On the 27th October 1908, at Watford Court, a man named John Kirkland of Bushey was alleged to have stolen a quantity of coal to the value of ten pence, to which the defendant pleaded guilty.  The court decided, however, to give Mr Kirkland only a twelve month suspended sentence due to his previously well regarded character and that he would henceforth to be placed under the supervision of a William Wusidin.

Robbery in a Boot Shop:

On the 7th July 1909, a Mr Edward Geaves, a labourer of no fixed abode, was brought before Barnet Magistrates Court accused of stealing a pair of boots valued at five shillings and eleven pence, five days previously, from a boot shop run by a Mr George Harvey Gill.

The main witness to this crime was Constable John Bunnan of the Metropolitan Police, 269 S Division, Barnet.  Constable Bunnan told the court that, whilst he was on duty in Barnet High Street at 10:20 a.m. on Saturday 3rd July, he saw the accused standing against Mr Gill’s bootshop making “movements which aroused my suspicions” which seemed to him like “he was putting something under his coat”.  Constable Bunnan took hold of him and asked him what he had under his coat, to which Mr Geaves replied that he had a pair of boots that he was interested in buying, dropping them to the floor as he spoke.

The Constable then led Mr Geaves into the shop.  Mr Gill suggested that Mr Geaves was most reluctant to come in to the shop as the Constable appeared to be “pushing him in”.  Constable Bunnan described to Mr Gill what had happened, to which Mr Geaves replied that he only wanted to purchase the pair of boots, and proceeded to put one of the boots on. Declaring himself satisfied with the boot, he then put his hand in his pocket “as if to pay”, but instead “he bolted through the door and ran up the High Street”.

Despite the obstacle of, as he described it, “a busy High Street”, Constable Bunnan chased Mr Geaves through the market until he was tripped up by a passer by. Constable Bunnan then struggled with Mr Geaves “as far as New Road” but eventually succeeded in leading him to the station, with assistance from another Constable, where he was charged. Mr Gill then arrived at the police station where, in reply to the charge, Mr Geaves offered to pay Mr Gill for the boots if he dropped the charges against him and let him go. Mr Gill’s response to this bargain is not recorded, but it is safe to say that he was not impressed as he decided not to drop the charge.

Mr Geaves, who pleaded guilty to the charge, was imprisoned in Pentonville Prison for six weeks as punishment for his crimes.

This page was added on 28/08/2013.

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