At Ware Petty Sessions, William Cheek (36), a plumber, was charged with stealing 96 lbs of old lead from Haileybury College.
Inspector Moles said that on February 26, at 6 p.m., in company with P.c. Berry, he went to 13 Hertford Road, Hoddesdon, where the defendant lived. He saw the defendant and said to him ‘I am making inquiries about a quantity of lead and other metal alleged to have been stolen from Haileybury College, and I understand that you have a quantity of old lead on your premises’. The Defendant replied ‘Yes, there it is’, at the same time pointing to a sack (produced) which stood outside the back door. The witness went to the sack and asked the defendant where he got it from. He replied ‘From Haileybury College. I have had it now for some weeks. It was lying under my bench, so I brought it home. I suppose there will be trouble about it, I didn’t think there was any harm in it. It was the first I have had’. The witness took possession of the lead and found it weighed 96lbs.
Charles Hodge, clerk of the works at Haileybury College, said that on March 11th he went to Hoddesdon Police Station and saw the lead, which he said was worth about 14s.. There were also two chandelier weights, which were similar to some they had had at the College. The lead produced would in ordinary course be put on the scrap heap and sold, and no one had any right to to take it away. The defendant was employed regularly at the College.
The defendant said he had been there for nine and a half years. He asked if there had ever been any complaints against him in the past, although he had to go into the masters’ rooms and fill positions of trust.
The witness said he had never found anything against the defendant.
The defendant elected to be dealt with summarily, and said he admitted that he took the lead from the College, but he had no felonious intent. He had been employed there for nine and a half years, and he should not think of stealing anything from there. He told Inspector Moles that he took it. It had been lying quite open for a month or five weeks. The lead came into his possession when the people who built the big school at Haileybury had left the building. The foreman of works gave the order to go and clear up what was left. There was a lot of scraps of lead lying about, which he picked up and put into a bag and placed them nearby the bench in his shop. When he was clearing his shop out after the Christmas holidays he sent the bag of lead home. He did not think he was stealing it, and it was in his yard four or five weeks but not in any way concealed.
Supt. Handley: ‘Have you ever taken anything else?’ ‘No’. ‘Have you ever taken any books?’ ‘The only books I have taken have been what I have found in the rubbish barrow’. ‘Have you ever taken any disinfectant?’ ‘Disinfectant?’ ‘Yes, Izal.’ ‘I might have taken a little bottle’. ‘Didn’t you have a half-gallon jar?’ ‘No’. ‘Did you have any authority to take that away?’ ‘No’. ‘Have you taken a copper disc?’ ‘A copper disc? Do you mean a round piece of copper?’ ‘You know what I mean. Did you take a copper disc?’ ‘Yes, I took it. I found it.’ ‘Did you have permission?’ ‘No, I simply found it’. ‘So you have taken several things besides this lead?’ ‘Yes, now you come to speak of it. I have taken some of these things from the rubbish barrow.’
The Chairman: ‘Did you know the lead was sold from time to time?’ ‘Yes’.
The Rev. T. Wahon, curate of Hoddesdon, said he wished to state very emphatically and with a deep conviction as regards the defendant’s character. He was the last man he would have thought would have got into trouble of this kind. He had known him for eight years. There was a men’s institute at Hoddesdon, and the defendant had been one of the best workers there. The witness had raised a good deal of money for charities etc. and the defendant had handled no end of money. He did feel the man had no intention of stealing. He could testify to his honesty, straightforwardness, and respectability. He felt strongly that the man had no criminal intent, and he would not like him to leave the court with a stain upon his character.
Mr Ernest Anson, bursar at Haileybury College, said he had only held that position since November last, but he had formed a very favourable opinion of the defendant. He, with other employees there, had been trusted to a very considerable extent, and allowed to go into all sorts of places where possibilities of theft might occur. The Master of Haileybury, who was unable to attend court that day, also had a very favourable opinion of Cheek. Although such an act as Cheek had been accused of would not be allowed to pass unnoticed, and they could not keep an employee who was found guilty of such an offence on the staff, they had a strong wish that the man should not be punished twice – by the College and the Bench also.
Supt. Handley said the whole of the facts of the case had been placed before the Chief Constable, who came to the conclusion that it should come before the Bench.
After consultation in private, the Chairman said the Magistrates had given the case very careful consideration, and they felt that under the circumstances which had come before the Court the defendant must be convicted of stealing the lead. The Police could not have done anything else but take up the case, and they had done perfectly right. At the same time the Court had considered the defendant’s good character and the fact that there was nothing else against him, also that he had the severe punishment of losing his situation at the College. They would bind him over under the First Offender’s Act to come up for judgment if called upon within 12 months.