Stealing to pay a debt doesn't mitigate the offence

Hertfordshire Mercury, 22nd June 1918


At Herts Summer Assizes, Charlotte Croker (34), a munition worker at Watford, pleaded guilty to forging the signature of Agnes Emily Eaton, with whom she lived, and stealing her savings from the Post Office.

Mr J.H. Murphy said the prisoner had been lodging with the prosecutrix apparently on good terms.  At about Christmas time, the prosecutrix was foolish enough to send the prisoner to the Post Office at Watford to get some money out of the savings bank for her, and no doubt in that way the prisoner got to know the formalities required to draw money from the Post Office.  The prisoner denied all knowledge of the savings bank book and the forgery of the withdrawal form until the book was found carefully hidden away under some floor cloth with a heavy box on top of it.  The prisoner stole the book, filled in the withdrawal form, forged her landlady’s signature, and drew the money, all of which she now admitted.  One sum with drawn was £4 10s., and whether she took all the money out he could not say.  The Judge said  “The book shows that there is nothing left.”

Inspector O’Connor stated that the prisoner was a native of Aylesbury where her parents, very respectable people, resided.  The prisoner had been brought up by an uncle from the age of 3 years, and was a teacher of music.  About two and a half years ago, she went into a munition works at Watford, where she resided with Mrs Eaton.  Prior to this case, the prisoner had borne a respectable character.  There was no evidence that she was in financial difficulties because she was summoned at the Watford Crown Court on 22nd April for a debt.  She had been ordered to pay that debt by 6th May, and she paid it on the very day that she drew the £4 10s. of Mrs Eaton’s money from the Post Office.

The Judge said that the prisoner had hitherto borne a good character, but that bad characters, like everything else, had a beginning, and the prisoner had begun her bad character very badly indeed because she had commenced with a crime of forgery which was a most serious offence.  In addition to forging her landlady’s signature, she had withdrawn all of her savings out of the Post Office.  The excuse that she did it to pay a debt did not make the offence any better.  It was a gross piece of ingratitude to the woman who had trusted her.  She must go to prison for 6 months in the second division.

The prisoner was apparently not in the least moved by the trial or the sentence.

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