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brandon_at_war

Law. Fines for assault?

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brandon_at_war

Just wondering if anyone can direct me to a resource about sentences for those committed of assault in 1919.

I am researching a riot in my hometown caused by a businessman/town Councillor assaulting a disabled war veteran. It was reported that half the town came out, wanting to burn down the alleged assailant's home and lynch him. The case went before the local Petty Sessions, where he was found guilty and fined £2. I just need to know how this compares within the scale of fines for such a crime. Thank you.

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Khaki

Two pounds doesn't seem a lot now, but then it probably was a significant amount. It would be an interesting case to follow, if you have any information about the assault, I for one would be interested to read it.

thanks

khaki

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John_Hartley

Then as now, sentences can widely vary depending on the aggravating/ mitigating factors of individual cases. As such, £2 may be an entirely reasonable sentence or, equally, an entirely unreasonable one. I'd suggest the best way forward for you, is to look through the local newspapers to see how that particular court dealt with cases of assault.

If you want me to guess, then I'd suggest that the local magistrates, who will have been business people and others active in public life, may have treated "one of their own" less harshly than if the defendent was some oik from the "wrong side of town".

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brandon_at_war

Hi Khaki. Thanks for responding. I have an inclination that £2 is not a hefty fine for assault in 1919. In 1918 the same Petty Sessions fined a woman £5 for cruelty toward a horse. 'Cruelty' toward a one-legged war veteran with a withered arm should surely have carried a more significant sentence? I will put my research of these events on here for you to read.


John. I currently agree with your assessment that they saw the accused as "one of their own". However there was such feeling in town that I thought they might have fined him much more. So I was wondering if there is anything to reference that would give me the boundaries of what was available to the magistrates.

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brandon_at_war

A few notes from my research of the Brandon riot of 1919 ...

Mr Henry John Liddiard was not a born and bred Brandonian, but in fact a Londoner who was severely wounded at Ypres, in August 1917. After being gassed, losing a leg and the use of one arm, he was invalided from the army. He came to Brandon to start up a small dairy business with his pension. During January 1919 he was charged and fined £1 by the Brandon Magistrates for selling milk that was allegedly watered down. This milk was supplied by a local butcher Mr Frederick Gentle. Gentle was also councillor, as was his father, and his image still turns up on postcards and photos from the era, typically showing him standing outside his hugely successful butcher’s shop, with its array of carcasses on show. This business ran for decades in the High Street and Gentle is still held in great esteem by the town as the benevolent man he no doubt was.

On Wednesday 15th May, Liddiard visited Gentle once again to complain about the quality of milk. It is not clear what happened next, but if you believe Liddiard he was pushed to the ground by Gentle, who then stood over him and threatened to knock him to the ground again if he ever came onto his property. A real Englishman would not have taken such disgraceful actions he later claimed in court. In Gentle’s corner were the only two witnesses, coincidentally both young girls employed by him, who, along with Gentle, said the disabled man had stumbled to the floor whilst Gentle was trying to escort Mr Liddiard off the butcher’s premises.

Liddiard immediately made his way to the Police Station and gave a statement to Inspector Mobbs, timed at 8.45am, alleging common assault against Gentle. Mobbs, seeing that Mr Liddiard was very upset, served a summons against the butcher. However for the townsfolk, or more importantly the ex-servicemen of Brandon, this was not enough justice for them. At about 7.30pm a very agitated crowd left the Market Hill and headed down the High Street, where they gathered around Mr Gentle’s butcher’s shop shouting abuse at him and demanding he came out. Inspector Mobbs, on duty along the High Street, was immediately on the scene and spotted two men attempting to break into the premises. One was a serving solder, Private Oxford, of the Suffolk Regiment, who was stationed at Thetford at the time, and Mr Frederick Adams, a Brandon man who had been pensioned out of the Army following wounds inflicted in the war. They allegedly told the policeman they were after Gentle and had plans to kill him. Inspector Mobbs somehow quietened the crowd and told them to go home, and quite miraculously, after about ten minutes, they obeyed his command, but unknown to him they were also making plans to return later.

At 10.15pm that night Oxford rode his cycle along High Street, followed by a mob. He threw his cycle down opposite Mr Gentle’s butchers and yelled to the crowd, “Come on boys, we will have him tonight.” Oxford had by now removed any identification from his military clothing, but Inspector Mobbs, who arrived quickly on the scene, recognised him from earlier. Mobbs estimated the crowd as being at around 500 people at this point. This was a considerable number because the town at that time had only about 2,000 inhabitants. Once again Inspector Mobbs tried to persuade the mob to leave, but it was in vain. The mob wanted blood. The first to act was a Brandon man, Amos Catchpole, who rushed from the crowd, Inspector Mobbs apprehended him, but the crowd swamped the Inspector and managed to release Catchpole. Catchpole once again ran from the crowd and punched his fist through one of Gentle’s windows. He turned to the crowd and shouted, “I said all day I would smash his @@@ windows, and I have done it now.” Then a hail of stones came through the air from the crowd shattering all of the butcher’s windows and the glass front door. Inspector Mobbs recognised another man from earlier, Frederick Adams, and tried to reason with him, but Adams allegedly replied, “We will burn the @@@ out before we are finished!” Oxford was by now urging the crowd to enter the premises and it was Adams who made a move to get in. However, it was only the presence of Inspector Mobbs, assisted by Police Constable Burgess that kept the crowd out of the Mr Gentle’s shop. I assume there was still some respect for the law and it was taboo to lay a hand on a policeman - the consequences would be drastic. The crowd, which Mobbs estimated to be now in the region of 1,000 people, made continuous threats to storm the shop, but most of it came to nothing and the two policemen ably dealt with any individual who tried. Had the crowd surged forward as one body then the outcome would obviously have been very different.

The following day Inspector Mobbs served Adams, Catchpole and Oxford a summons to stand before the Brandon Magistrates and answer for their actions. Adams and Oxford did not help their defence. Adams replied, “We didn’t serve the @@@ half bad enough. We ought to have killed (him)”, and Oxford, for his troubles, was seen the next day parading along the High Street claiming the damage to Gentle’s shop was down to him and that he would be getting another mob to storm the premises. Catchpole, on the other hand, was very apologetic for his part in the event, which had included ringing a hand bell through the town to summon people to the meeting on the Market Hill. The three men denied any charges of riotous behaviour and were committed for trial at the next Quarter Sessions at Bury St Edmunds.

Mr Gentle, would also appear in court to be judged on his actions. The Bench, consisting of Dr Pickworth and businessman George Wood, led by its Chairman, Colonel Hamilton, was the same one that had overseen the prosecution of Mr Liddiard a few months earlier. Mr Gentle’s defence solicitor addressed the court to ask if they could believe that Gentle would be such a coward as to use violence towards a wounded soldier, especially as he (Gentle) had held almost every public position in the town. Liddiard’s story was entirely uncorroborated, whereas two respectable witnesses supported the defendant’s statement that Liddiard had fell. It was during the questioning of Mr Liddiard, by Mr Gentle’s defence solicitor, that the tide seem to turn against the butcher. Mr Bankes-Ashton, of Bury St Edmunds, questioned Mr Liddiard about a car drive he took after the alleged attack. Mr Liddiard’s solicitor, Mr Chittock, from Norwich, objected as it had no relevance to the alleged attack by Mr Gentle and suggested the other solicitor should only concentrate on what had happened in the morning. Colonel Hamilton upheld this objection and the public gallery, sensing a tiny victory against Gentle, suddenly erupted into cheers and applause. The defence solicitor, clearly feeling that the public gallery were biased against his client, said to the Chairman, “You can see what the feeling is in Court.” The Chairman quashed any allegations of bias from him and aimed his reply toward the court and the public gallery. He stated that he was an old soldier, and with him law was law, and while he presided over that Court he would have discipline. “DAMN ME”, he added, “I WILL HAVE IT.”

At the end of the evidence and questioning, the Chairman and the other two members of the Bench retired to consider their verdict. Upon their return, Colonel Hamilton informed the court that before he gave his decision he wished to remind those present that he would not have any applause or disturbance of any kind and he had the power to throw out anyone who did not obey this, and what he said was final. His last words were …

“We have carefully considered this question, and have come to the unanimous decision that an assault was committed, and the fine will be £2 and costs.”

The following weekend a delegation from the National Federation of Demobilised and Discharged Soldiers held a meeting on the Market Hill, where they spoke of their outrage that Mr Gentle was still allowed to continue as a local councillor. They wrote to the Brandon’s council calling for him to be removed from all public office, a call backed up by the Brandon branch of the National Union of General Workers, whose members also signed the petition. The Council for their part declined to act on the petition and Mr Gentle remained as Councillor.

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Khaki

What an involved story !, the one clear thing that stands out to me, is that Inspector Mobbs should have got a commendation.

thanks for that

khaki

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KevinBattle

I assume that Frederick Adams

Mr Frederick Adams, a Brandon man who had been pensioned out of the Army following wounds inflicted in the war.

was related to your William Adams, died of wounds 13 October 1917?

Does seem a little strange that the milkman (an outsider) was felt to be the one watering down the milk purchased from Frederick Gentle.

How much was Liddiard fined for adulterated milk?

I'd also have expected Colonel Hamilton as Chairman to have been more inclined towards an old soldier, but we're almost 100 years removed from really knowing what was behind it all.

PS: I also like the quaintness of Inspector "Mobbs" dealing with a riot!

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Terry_Reeves

Just a couple of points. We don't know the exact charge. If it was common assault as suggested in the newspaper report, it is likely that that was the going rate. Common assault can be as little as a push or grabbing hold of an arm, with much depending on the circumstances. Even the newspaper, who presumably had a reporter in court, said "it was not clear what happened next". What is also interesting is that the complainant appears to have held grudge against the defendant after being fined for selling watered down milk purchased from the accused. I also wonder if the reaction of the mob, who would almost certainly have been ignorant of the full facts at that stage and fired up by the fact that the complainant was a disabled ex-serviceman, had any influence on the decision of the police and the magistrates.

TR

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John_Hartley

So I was wondering if there is anything to reference that would give me the boundaries of what was available to the magistrates.

There must have been sentencing guidelines of some sort or another. In modern times, it's quite well laid down. There's a "tariff" for each type of offence - the "going rate", if you will. But then there's a flexibility within defined parameters to increase or reduce the tariff depending on the individual circumstances. Maybe not as well defined as now, but there must have been something along those lines. Expect things to reflect society as it was - skimming through the newspapers, you'd quickly conclude that crimes of violence, particularly those against children or women, were less harshly regarded as they are today (in spite of what the Daily Mail would have you believe).

BY way of comparision, it'd be interesting to know what sentences were passed on the rioters.

John

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brandon_at_war

Thank you to everyone contributing to this discussion.

I can tell you that Inspector Mobbs was held in very high esteem, not just in Brandon put from his previous 'beat' in Newmarket, where he was involved in protecting royalty when they visited for horse racing. However, for reasons not currently known, Mobbs was transferred to a small village about 30 miles away just a few months after the riot. Not long after he retired from the police. No commendation for actions of that night. He dies in 1937, aged 66.

The vast majority of the evidence accumulated about the assault and riot comes from local newspapers. These articles tended to be submitted by local "well-to-do" types, so probably one of Gentle's peers. So perhaps not 100% unbiased.

Liddiard was fined £1 for selling the diluted milk. Research suggests he didn't actually dilute the milk, in fact his supplier, Mr Gentle, was fined in WW2 for a similar offence. However Liddiard is guilty of supplying it to the town's residents. There seemed to be no enthusiasm to go to the source of the problem, Gentle. Liddiard left Brandon not long after. My research picks him up as a resident of a home run by Blesma (British Limbless Ex-Servicemen Association) and it is here were he sees out his last days in 1954. The charity is still running that establishment. It is my intention to print a booklet of this tale and proceeds will go to that charity. Almost bringing this story full circle.

The three men were accused of Section 12 of the Malicious Damage Act, 1861.

“If any Persons, riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the Disturbance of the Public Peace, shall unlawfully and with Force injure or damage any such Church, Chapel, Meeting House, Place of Divine Worship, House, Stable, Coach-house, Outhouse, Warehouse, Office, Shop, Mill, Malthouse, Hop-oast, Barn Granary, Shed, Hovel, Fold, Building, Erection, Machinery, Engine, Staith, Bridge, Waggonway, or Trunk, as is in the last preceding Section mentioned, every such Offender shall be guilty of a Misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the Discretion of the Court, to be kept in Penal Servitude for any Term not exceeding Seven Years and not less than Three Years,—or to be imprisoned for any Term not exceeding Two Years, with or without Hard Labour: Provided that if upon the Trial of any Person for any Felony in the last preceding Section mentioned the Jury shall not be satisfied that such Person is guilty thereof, but shall be satisfied that he is guilty of any Offence in this Section mentioned, then the Jury may find him guilty thereof, and he may be punished accordingly.”

If convicted they would face up to seven years imprisonment. However, this is in an era of reconciliation. The judge references events oversees, where rebellion is serious, and wants to reach out to the Brandon residents and draw a line under the events of the riot. He seeks counsel and bounds them over to the sum of £20 should they re-offend, so basically they get a slap on the wrist. A satisfying outcome for the town's residents I would suggest.


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Magnumbellum

A couple of contextual points.

Selling watered-down milk was by no means uncommon. It was made possible by the sale (whether from a corner shop retailer or by a milk roundsman) being made by filling the customer's own jug or other container from a milk churn which had previously been diluted. The practice was described colloquially as getting milk from the iron cow (water pump). So long as the dilution was relatively small, there was no easy way for a layperson to detect it; sellers were usually found out when the dilution was increased to an extent which made it obvious.

The system of countrywide tariffs for various offences is relatively modern - well after the Second World War. It was the realisation of wide discrepancies across the country, as news was more easily disseminated, that led to the present tariff system, reviewed from to time. Previously magistrates were guided solely by whatever was the statutory maximum for any particular offence, regardless of mitigating circumstances, including the degree of seriousness and the defendant's personal circumstances. "Common assault" can vary very widely in its seriousness.

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brandon_at_war

Thank you 'skipman' for the link to Liddiard's service record.

Thank you 'Magnumbellum' for your info. I can tell you that the milk was sent to the local analyst at Norwich. It appears Trading Standards did not exist at the time, and prosecuting 'weights and measures' was down to the detective work of the local police, Inspector Mobbs in this case. The analyst's report stated the milk had been diluted by 12.5% with water. It must have been noticeably diluted for the town's residents to prompt Mobbs into action. However, it should also be noted that Liddiard was considered an "outsider" and so he would have been viewed with suspicion by residents. This is in stark contrast to their view of him after he had been assaulted a few months later.

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Druid_Ian

looking on Historic inflation Calculator it would equate to £105 in todays money but the weekly wage was around £1.70 in todays money

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ss002d6252

I've been looking a lot at local magistrates courts in the second half of the 19th C.. Most fines were around £5 but you see some going up to £10 in total (for two offences) and the odd one even higher.

Most of the larger fines weren't paid and they took the couple of months imprisonment in lieu of payment.

Craig

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ss002d6252

Hi

Section 42 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 laid down a maximum fine of £5 plus costs or two months imprisonment

Regards Barry

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/24-25/100/enacted

Thank-you, I had a feeling the £5 may have been a maximum due to the number of times it crops up.

Craig

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