George Lane pleaded not guilty to a charge of stealing 16 shillings from the till at the Railway Hotel at Ware on January 10th. Mr White appeared for the prosecution.
Florence Clements, on the day in question, had been working in the bar when the defendant came in. She had served him, but had then gone into the garden for a moment. On returning, she found the prisoner inside the counter, apparently coming away from the till. She found that four lots of half-crowns were missing.
The landlord, Mr Girling, said that when Miss Clements, his niece, had called him to say that there was a man behind the counter in the saloon bar, he got up, went into the bar, and saw that the bottom shelf of the till had been cleared. He went to the hotel door and saw the defendant halfway between the hotel and the level crossing, running hard, with his left hand in his overcoat pocket. Mr Girling ran after him, shouting to people to stop the defendant. Once in Amwell End, the landlord put on a sprint and caught the prisoner near the drill hall where he was able to hand the prisoner over to two Constables who were nearby. On returning to the hotel, the landlord found 16 shillings to be missing from the till.
The prisoner cross-examined the landlord, but the Judge got impatient and said that his questions were not relevant to the issue in hand. Supt Handley stated that, when searched at the police station, the defendant had, in his left overcoat pocket, 2 half-crowns, 1 florin, 6 shillings, and 6 sixpences, whilst in his trousers there were 4 half-crowns, 6 shillings, 4 sixpences, and 11.5 pence in bronze. When charged, the prisoner had said “I don’t know what this is about. I have been drinking.” The prisoner was perfectly sober.
The prisoner, on giving evidence on his own account, said that he had gone to Ware to see a friend, and had put silver in his pockets in case his friend had needed to borrow some money. Whilst he had been waiting for a train to Enfield where he worked in munitions, he had decided to go into the hotel for a drink but, because there was no fire, he had left. He had been surprised to be stopped by the pub landlord. In cross-examination, he admitted that it was a coincidence that the money in his pocket equated to that allegedly stolen from the hotel.
The jury retired to consider their verdict because they were not all of the same view, but they did return a verdict of guilty after a lengthy retirement.
P.C. Buckhurst read a long list of previous convictions showing that the defendant had first come to court when aged 14. He had served various terms of penal servitude, had been convicted 7 times on indictment, and was currently a convict out on licence. The judge said that as the prisoner still had a year to serve on his last sentence, he would now be sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour.