At the North Riding Police Court, George Robinson, Burniston, was summoned for selling and removing wheat straw without a permit, at Scalby, on January 17th; and Halliday Huggan (Master of Foxhounds), Scalby, was summoned for having aided and abetted.
The cases were taken under the Defences of the Realm Regulations, and Robinson, an elderly, respectable looking man, pleaded guilty.
Inspector Boynton explained the regulation under which the proceedings were taken. The regulation stated that where forage was taken possession of by the Army Council no person had to remove, secrete, or deal with it in certain other ways without a permit. On March 31st, 1916, an order was made by the Army Council taking possession of hay, oat, and wheat straw in bulk on farms or other premises. On June 30th, 1916, a second order was made taking possession of the 1916 crop, either standing in bulk or unharvested at that time.
The defendant received an application from a prospective purchaser for a load of straw. He sent word without a permit, showing clearly that he knew a permit was required. Some time afterwards he received a second application from the same person for a load of straw, and as a result of a communication Mr Robinson sent the straw along. He was advised, by the purchaser, that if he was asked for any permit he had to refer the person who asked him to the purchaser. On the 17th of last month Sergeant Daykin met the defendant going with a large waggon load of wheat straw on Scalby Road. He told the officer, on the latter questioning him, he had no permit, and that he had been informed by Mr Huggan, the purchaser, that if anyone stopped him and asked him for the permit he had to refer them to him. The sergeant saw Mr Huggan the same day and asked him for a permit. He produced a number of papers and stated that one, which he pointed out, as his authority for instructing Mr Robinson to take the straw. The facts were then submitted to the competent military authority, and he ordered a prosecution against Robinson and also against Huggan.
Evidence bearing out this statement was given, and the case against Huggan was then gone into.
Huggan said he was innocent of all intention of defying the Defence of the Realm Act.
Inspector Boynton said the sergeant had called upon the defendant, and asked him if he had said he had, and produced a letter from a department in London, pointing out a certain paragraph, which he claimed exempted him. A sentence underlined drew attention to the fact that if he purchased straw from a person who had not a permit it must be from a person with authority to distribute. Mr Huggan had urged that he was in the right. Previous to taking out the summons he obtained the papers from Mr Huggan, and found they were a copy of the regulations and instructions issued by the Army Council to intending purchasers of such materials. Mr Huggan had seemed to think that the Army Council should send someone to tell him who had authority to distribute. It was not for him, he had argued, to inquire who had authority, he was under the impression that Mr Robinson had authority to distribute, and it was for Mr Robinson to have told him. As a fact on receiving the particulars defendant sent Mr Robinson word that all was in order and he could send the straw along. The instructions which Huggan had told him were how to go about getting the straw. Had he got it from a person in authority to distribute it no permit would have been required.
Defendant, addressing the bench, said the magistrates would know that he was a master of foxhounds. He had straw left at the end of the first month when he got his horses up. He had dealt with Mr Robinson for the past 15 years. His (defendant’s) man had told him he would want some straw, and that he thought he would have to have a permit, which defendant said was the case. He (defendant) went and asked Sergeant Daykin for the address at York with a view to getting a permit. He had a reply stating that he was to apply to Whitehall. This he did, and received papers which he read carefully. One instruction was that if he desired to purchase stacks of hay and straw (by the ton) direct from the producer he must make a declaration of the requirement upon a form indicated to be obtained from “this office.”
He did not want such material by the ton. Another instruction was that if he intended to purchase forage from time to time by the ton if he got it from a dealer who had authority to distribute, he would not require a licence. It was on the latter paragraph that he acted. He thought Mr Robinson was the producer, and he made a mistake in not asking him if he had authority to distribute.
He did not require to send any form - the only mistake he made was in not asking him if he had authority to distribute.
After retiring, the chairman Mr F Baker said the magistrates thought that Mr Robinson knew he had not authority to distribute, and they thought Mr Huggan did, too.
Mr Huggan: No, I didn’t.
The chairman: Well, that is the opinion of the bench. Mr Robinson will be fined £1, and Mr Huggan £5. The magistrates had not taken such a severe view of the case as they might have done, but as that was the first case of the kind at that court they thought it would be a warning to other persons not to act similarly.