Theft of wire netting at Brocket Hall

Hertfordshire Mercury, 20th November 1915


At Hatfield Petty Sessions on Monday, Harry Wyndham, a labourer, in the employ of Lord Mount Stephen at Brocket Hall, Hatfield, was charged with stealing 40 yards of wire netting, valued at 12 shillings, the property of Lord Mount Stephen, on November 11.

P.c. Handley stated that at 5.15 on Thursday, November 11, whilst on duty in Brocket Park making inquiries as to a robbery, he met the defendant, whom he knew well, carrying the bundle of wire netting produced on his shoulder.  On seeing the witness the defendant threw the wire on to the grass.  He went up to him and said:  ‘What have you thrown down on the grass, Harry?’  The defendant replied:  ‘Only some old wire netting which is no good.’  He asked him who gave him authority to take it, and he replied that nobody had.  The witness took the defendant back to the Hall and informed Lady Mount Stephen of what had happened, and Mr Kent, the head gardener, identified the wire.

George William Kent, head gardener at Brocket Hall, said the defendant worked in the laundry and the garden, and had been employed at Brocket for about 16 years.  The netting was taken from the shrubbery at the rear of the laundry.  The defendant:  ‘Didn’t I tell you the next morning when I came to work that I wanted the wire to keep the pheasants off my garden?’  The witness:  ‘Yes.’  The defendant (addressing the Bench) said:  ‘I live close to the estate, and every year my garden is infested with pheasants, and I can never grow a bit of winter stuff without the pheasants having it.  I wanted something to protect my plants, and so I thought I would take the piece of netting home to prevent the pheasants getting into my garden.  It is true I never asked permission, but I had no intention of stealing it.  For three weeks in succession I have put in young cabbage plants, and each time the pheasants have taken them.  Do you think I should steal anything with all the years of good service I have behind me, and a good discharge from the Army?  I should have been fighting for my country now, but I am too old.  Yesterday morning six pheasants were in my garden before breakfast, and yet if I had touched one of them I should have been prosecuted.’

The Chairman:  ‘We are very sorry to have to come to a decision in such a case as yours; but we cannot understand in the least why you did not ask permission to take the netting.  The Bench cannot look over it altogether, and you will have to pay a fine of 10 shillings.

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