Working is better than thieving

Hertfordshire Mercury, 19th October 1918

Transcript

At Herts Quarter Sessions, William Manning (16), a labourer, pleaded guilty to a charge of breaking into St Marks Church, Hitchin, with intent to commit a felony on 22nd September.

Mr St John Morrow, who appeared for the prosecution, said the prisoner was discovered by one of the church-wardens, crouching in the church after he had locked it up.  On making an examination, he found that the prisoner had forced the catch on one of the side windows and gained admittance that way.  The prisoner had previously been convicted for stealing from a gas meter and was placed on probation for 3 months in July 1914 and, before that time was expired, he committed another offence.

Supt G Reed, of Hitchin, said the prisoner was placed on probation for stealing 3 shillings from a gas meter in July 1914  and,  before that time was expired, he stole 2 bicycles, for which he was sent to Handsworth Industrial School for 3 years.  He was remanded to Hitchin Workhouse and, whilst there, he absconded and stole a pony which he rode to Barnet where he was arrested.  He was then sent to St Albans Prison and afterwards to an industrial school from which he was discharged in September 1917.  Whilst at the school, his conduct was satisfactory.

Since his discharge he had been employed at a munition factory at Letchworth for a short time, but had to leave on account of ill health.  He was then employed on a farm, with his father, until he committed this offence.

The Chairman told the prisoner that it was one of the most serious crimes known to the law to break into a place of worship with the intention to steal, and was punishable by a long term of imprisonment.  Fortunately for the prisoner, the law allowed the Court to take a course which would place him under discipline for a considerable period, a course which would no doubt be for his benefit.  He would be sent to a Borstal Institution for 3 years.  Whilst there, he would be taught a trade and probably would come out a respectable man instead of a disreputable youth.  Asked if he would promise to do his best, the boy made no reply and left the dock crying bitterly.

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