The quality of mercy strained - theft from a barge : a sad case

Hertfordshire Mercury, 26th May 1906

Transcript

Benjamin John Timson, of 38, Star Street, Ware, was charged with stealing wheat, the property of Messrs Albany, from a barge on May 17th.

P.C. Moles, of Ware, stated that on Thursday, May 17th, at about 10.50 p.m., he saw a man coming from the towing path by the side of the Old Victory public-house – the Hertford side of the toll-bridge – carrying the sack produced. Witness stopped him and asked what the sack contained, and he said ”Only a few sweepings which Mr Albany allows us to have”.

Witness looked at the contents and said they did not look much like sweepings, and in reply to further questions prisoner said his name was Ben Timson, and he worked for Mr Albany on the barge ‘Perseverance’ where he got the wheat from. He was skipper of that barge.

Witness told him he should take him to Mr Albany, and prisoner said “It’s a pity you have not got something else to do. It’s the likes of me that keeps the likes of you.” Witness took him to Mr Albany, who said he had not given permission to prisoner to have any wheat.

Prisoner said ”It is only about a bushel of sweepings which I am taking down for the skipper, Mr Hulls.” Witness told Mr Albany it was clean wheat. Mr Albany said to prisoner ”I shan’t take your part,” and to the witness ”You had better see my man Hulls.” At 11.30 p.m. in company with William Hulls witness visited Messrs Albany’s barge ‘Douglas’ moored alongside the towing-path. He saw that one sack was undone and a quantity of wheat missing. He took a sample of that wheat and found it corresponded with that in the sack taken from the prisoner. He charged the prisoner with stealing wheat, and he replied ”I was only taking it down to the skipper, Mr Albany will know all about it later on.”

William Hulls, of Mount Street, Ware, said he was skipper of the barge ‘Douglas’ owned by Messrs Albany. They arrived at Ware on the the the 17th inst with a quantity of Russian wheat in sacks. Benjamin Timson was not working for him. At one time he did, but had not done so for some time previously to the 17th inst. He had not given him permission to take any sweepings or grain from the barge. The ‘Perseverance’ was in London on the day named. When the witness went with the policeman to the barge a sack had been pulled down and some wheat was gone out of it.

William Henry Abbey, clerk to Messrs Garratt And Sons, of Hertford, stated that Messrs Albany were carrying for his firm a quantity of Russian wheat on May 17th. The value of the wheat in the sack produced would be about 6s.6d.

Prisoner elected to have the case settled at once, and he pleaded guilty. He said he was very depressed on the evening named. He went home and had had no food, and had none for his little children. They were crying for food, and he could not stand it and went out to try to get a shilling from someone to get some food for them. He could not do so, and seeing the sack on the barge he took it thinking it was sweepings. He was going to sift it in the morning and see if someone would buy it for chicken food. He had nothing to eat for days and days, only what his friends had given him, and he had tried for work but could not get it. He had four children and had only earned 4 shillings in three weeks.

Supt Duke said he had made inquiries and found the prisoner was employed by a London firm for seven years. They stated that he bore an excellent character as being honest, a good worker, and respectable. He was a perfectly honest and respectable man, and nothing was known against him.

The Chairman said the Bench considered it a very sad case. They had taken into consideration the prisoner had had very great difficulty in obtaining work and also the excellent character given him. They were really under the circumstances dealing very leniently with him in passing a sentence of fourteen days’ hard labour.

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