1916 court: Cycle thefts lead to term at reformatory

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Two cases of bicycle stealing against a boy were heard at the Scarborough Children’s Court, the youth being Walter Andrews (13), described as a news vendor, of 17 Ashville Road, Harrogate. The charges against him were (1) of having stolen a man’s bicycle of the value of £5, the property of Frank Tugwell, 102 Westborough, between December 24th and December 31st, and (2) of having stolen a man’s bicycle and cape, of the value together of £11 18s, the property of Cllr Moore, 1, Stepney Road on December 31st.

The magistrates on the Bench were Alderman Pirie (in the chair) and Mr WW Gibson.

The boy pleaded guilty, and the Chief Constable said the facts were very simple. Mr Tugwell left his bicycle in the passage leading to his offices about the 24th December. He was accustomed to leaving it there, and on Wednesday, the 29th, it was missed. At eight o’clock in the evening on December 28th the boy went to Mr Scott, cycle dealer, 28 Victoria Road, and offered the machine for sale. He said his mother wanted to sell the bicycle, his father having left the town, and they (the mother and family) were leaving the town also. He asked 30s for it. Mr Scott did not want the cycle, and he said he should not give more than £1 for it. He told the boy to take it back and ask his mother if she would accept £1. He would give that, but he was not particular about having it at all. The boy went back next morning, and said his mother would take the £1. Mr Scott gave him a Treasury Note for that amount. The boy gave the name of Alfred Simm, 10 Seamer Road, which, of course, was false.

Following on that case, continued the Chief, the police received a report of another bicycle having been stolen – before the recovery of the other one. This cycle was Cllr Moore’s, and it was taken about 1.30 (mid-day) on December 31st, Cllr Moore having left it for a minute or two in Albemarle Back-road. The cycle also had a cape attached to it. Information was sent round to cycle dealers, and about two o’clock on the 31st the boy went to Mr Bellwood’s, a cycle dealer’s shop in Falsgrave Road, and offered the machine for sale. Mr Bellwood, having been notified, told the boy to go back in a few minutes. Meantime, he communicated with the police, and when the boy returned PC Welburn was waiting for him. The boy had been truthful to some extent, although untruthful in some respects. He had told the police what he had done with the other machine (Mr Tugwell’s), but he had been untruthful in regard to his age, the police having thought he was nearly 16.

Replying as to the boy’s character, the Chief said he had communicated with the Harrogate Police by telephone, and spoken to a detective at Harrogate who knew him well. He had been informed that the boy was charged before the Harrogate justices on December 11th with having stolen three cycles, and was found guilty in each case. As a matter of fact there were four bicycles and three charges. The justices at Harrogate adjourned the case until January 8th to give the boy’s father an opportunity to get him into the Navy. It appeared, from what the boy had said, that enquiries were made with regard to getting him into the Navy, but he was not old enough. The father of the boy, who was present in court, said that was so.

The Chief said the father was stated to be a most respectable man.

Replying to the Chairman the boy said he had walked from Harrogate to Scarborough.

The Chairman: “What made you steal the bicycles? You know it was very wrong to do that.”

The boy: “I am very sorry for it.”

Replying to the Chairman the father said the boy had got out of his control. The Harrogate trouble was the first he had had with him.

By the Clerk: The boy left school last back end, he passed the labour examiners. He had worked at two shops, a flower shop taking out goods, and at a tailor’s. He had attended school regularly and his record was fairly good. He (the father) had tried to get the lad into the Navy, but he was too young.

The father was a builder’s labourer, and there were two other children.

The magistrates decided to send the boy to a reformatory for five years – until he was 19 – and expressed the opinion that that seemed his only chance to redeem himself. They hoped he would take advantage of it.

In a conversation as to what should be done with the boy pending the finding of a school for him the Chief said he had at Scarborough no suitable cells – they were only temporary detention cells. He would be getting into trouble some day about the cells. He might keep the boy until Monday, and the lad might be allowed some liberty, whilst also being taken care of out of cells.

The magistrates decided to leave the lad in the custody of the Chief. The father, who said he had had a lot of sickness in the family and had been struggling for the last seven or eight years, agreed to pay 1s 6d a week towards the boy.