1917 court: Band of boys in court for pilfering yet again

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In the children’s court before the mayor (Mr CC Graham) presiding, Alderman Rowntree, Mr RG Heys, and Mr J Sinfield, several charges of juvenile pilfering were gone into in which eleven young boys were implicated.

Some of them were members of “The Potter Lane Arabs” a gang whose exploits were some time ago disclosed in a children’s court case and whose activities do not seem to have been brought to an end by the measures then taken.

In the first case two boys of 12 and eight years respectively on two charges of having stolen one handkerchief, one Boy Scout’s service set, value together at 10d. They were further charged with stealing two pieces of eraser and one pocket book, value together 4d on January 22nd.

Both boys admitted the offences, and from the statement of the chief constable it appeared that on January 22nd a Miss Emmerson, of Messrs W Boyes and Co saw the younger boy put a box of beads in his pocket. She got hold of both boys and took from the other the Scout’s set. He then broke away and ran out of the shop.

Eventually all the other articles were recovered from the boys, some of which it transpired had been taken from the Penny Bazaar. He would say for them that they had been very truthful about the matter. The younger boy went with PC Allan to West Square and pointed out where he had hidden some of the “vest mems” stolen.

The mayor questioned the boys as to the motive of their offence, and the younger replied, “Because we wanted them for school.” The mayor said the boys would be bound over in the sum of £5 for twelve months, and to be under the care of Miss Crosthwaite, probation 2s 6d towards the costs.

In outlining the next case, in which boys of 13, 12, 9, 13, 11 and 9 were concerned, the chief constable said Hetty Croft, grocer, on January 20th, had several boys come to her shop and ask for articles which she did not stock, and which she had reason to believe they knew she did not stock. Subsequently she noticed there were nine eggs missing from a bowl on the counter and several oranges from the window. A little girl told Sergeant Yeoman that when she asked him for some sweets one of the elder boys gave her an egg. Another girl had received an orange. Later the boys each admitted having taken eggs and oranges. At the police station it was found the boys had arranged to get what they could from this shop. Some of the boys had been there before as members of the same gang.

They were then known, and glorified still, he believed, in the title of “The Potter Lane Arabs.” They gloried in that description. On the former charge one of the boys had broken a window and helped himself from time to time. Some were concerned in two cases of shop breaking.

All the boys promised to give up stealing. The cases of four boys, members of the “Arabs”, were adjourned for two months. One was bound over and had to pay 2s 6d costs, and the others appeared on two subsequent charges.

In the next case the boy referred to and another aged 13 (on probation) were charged with stealing ¼lb butter and an onion, valued together at 6d. The case of the 13-year-old boy was adjourned for two months. On the other charge two boys, aged 12, together with the boy not dealt with in the preceding two cases, were charged with stealing ½lb butter, value 1s, between December 21st and January 8th. They had burnt the butter in an empty building – a dangerous proceeding as the chief constable said.

The case of the nine-year-old boy was adjourned for a fortnight for Miss Crosthwaite to enquire if better arrangements could be made at his home – he was left to himself from early morning to evening. One of the other boys who had been concerned in other charges had his case adjourned to March 21st. In the remaining case the boy was bound over in £5.

The mayor spoke to all the boys at length as to the gravity of their offence.