Stackfiring at Sacombe - a smart sentence

Hertfordshire Mercury, 20th February 1926


Harry Herbert Smith, 23 , described as a gardener , formerly living at Garland Road , Ware , pleaded not guilty to setting fire of a stack at Sacombe , the property of Mr Arthur Percival Broad , of Burrs Green Farm .

Henry Wheeler , a County Council roadman , said he saw the prisoner pass him at about one o’clock in the day , and directly after he saw the stack on fire . No one else had passed in that direction . A policeman came along, and he told him what had happened .

Mr Broad said that at 1.25 he saw the stack burning at both ends , and it was afterwards completely destroyed . It was valued at £50 .

PC Bignell , of Watton, said that when he caught the prisoner he said ” I am about fed up with it . How many more of your chaps are coming after me ? ” Later he said he was going to plead guilty . He was fed up with thing , having only left Brixton Prison four days  . He might as well be inside prison as out . ” I saw a stack by the side of the road . I was desperate , and I set light to it . ”

Inspector Boulton , of Stevenage ,  said the prisoner subsequently made another statement in which he admitted burning the stack , and gave as his reason that he was fed up with going from one workhouse to another, and that he would be better off in prison.

The prisoner put in a statement in which he said his footsteps had been dogged by the police , and he hoped the judge would give him penal servitude so that he could get out of their way .

Prisoner went into the witness box and denied setting fire to the stack , but intimated that another man who was a local character had done so. The same man offered him £25 to swear that he ( prisoner) was the man who fired the shot the policeman at Welwyn station two years ago . The reason he pleaded guilty to the police was because he wanted to get into prison .

The Judge told the jury that if they really could believe this extraordinary story of the prisoner they must acquit him . But could they believe him ? Why , the man had already twice admitted that he set fire to the stack and said he wanted to go to prison : in fact, he asked to be sent to penal servitude .

The jury found the prisoner guilty .

His Lordship said there could not be a moment’s doubt in anybody’s mind that the prisoner not only set the stack on fire but that he set up what was a ridiculous defence. The prisoner had a good many previous convictions , but he was not going  to send him to penal servitude as he had asked , because it would cost the country too much money to keep him .  He would have to go to eighteen months’ hard labour instead.

Prisoner : Thank you very kindly .




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