Does responsibility corrupt ?

Hertfordshire Mercury, 11th April 1914


At Herts Quarter Sessions, George May (44), a draper’s manager, of Hertford, was indicted that being the servant of Neale’s Bon Marche Company Ltd., he did feloniously and fraudulently embezzle 3 sums of money, that is, 11 shillings and 10 and a half pence, 7 shillings and 4 pence, and £1 and 10 pence, received by him on account of his employers, on May 3rd, June 14th, and September 13th, 1913.  He was further charged with stealing £22 0s 6d belonging to his employers, on 23rd January 1914. He pleaded guilty.

Mr Eustace Fulton prosecuted, and briefly related the facts of the case.  He said that Mr May had been in the employ of Neale’s, as a manager, and that he had practically complete control. There was nothing against the prisoner apart from these matters.

After having absconded, the defendant had been traced to northern England, and then to Bristol, where he had been found about a month ago, having attempted to commit suicide by taking poison.  He had been in Bristol Infirmary for 4 weeks and, when sufficiently recovered, he had been bound over and then delivered to Hertfordshire Constabulary to face the charges hanging over him.  The case had aroused considerable interest in Hertford, particularly bearing in mind the circumstances in which he had left.  He had left his wife and 4 young children absolutely destitute. His wife had only just given birth to a baby on Christmas Day and, at the time her husband had absconded, she had been still in bed, recovering.  Owing to the kindness of the shop owners and others, Mrs Day and her children had been afforded suitable temporary accommodation and provision.

When the prisoner had been marched, in custody, through the streets of Hertford on his way to the Police Court, passing the premises where so recently he had been the manager, he had had a most dejected appearance and appeared to seriously feel his humiliation. The sympathy of the townspeople was clearly with his wife and children.

The prisoner, when asked if he had anything to say, remarked, with emotion, “I am extremely sorry, and I throw myself on your mercy.  I have never been convicted before, and I hope you will give me a chance.  I have got myself into trouble, and I can see where I am wrong now.  I can say nothing more.”

The Bench retired and, on their return, His Lordship said that they had considered the case very carefully. It was a serious offence. The prisoner had been in a good position, and in a place of trust, and had embezzled money belonging to his employer. Furthermore, and knowing that he was likely to be exposed, he had taken the opportunity afforded to him by his position within the firm, to steal £22 out of the safe. The Court felt that it was impossible, even thought there was nothing against the prisoner and that his character had been good up until now, to pass this matter over without imprisonment.

The least sentence that the Court felt able to pass was imprisonment for 6 months.

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