1917 court: Fined for supplying cigarettes to a minor

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Before Mr AJ Tugwell (in the chair), Alderman Rowntree, and Mr George Rowntree, at the Borough Police Court, Clara Maud Philps, manageress, 1, West Bank, was summoned on a charge of having sold cigarettes to a person apparently under the age of 16 years, on December 24th. There was a further summons with respect to an offence on January 6th. The cases were adjourned at the previous hearing on Monday on account of one of the boys concerned having failed to attend court.

Mr GE Royle appeared for the defence, and a plea of not guilty was put in.

The chief constable said the proceedings were taken under section 39 of the Children’s Act, which made it illegal to sell cigarettes or cigarette papers to persons “apparently” under 16 years old. In the first case Special Constable Simpson would tell their worships that when on duty in Seamer Road at 3.30pm on Sunday, December 24th, he followed three boys who were smoking, and caught one Ernest Parker. He took the latter to Mr Pickard’s shop of which defendant was manageress, and told her that the boy had informed him that the cigarettes had been purchased at her shop by another boy named John Dawson. Defendant replied, “Yes, but Johnny Dawson is over 16 years old.” Their worships would see Dawson and be able to judge if he was apparently under 16 years of age. The whole case depended upon that. Special Constable Thomas Cammish Simpson corroborated. He had caught Parker, but Dawson with Hudson, the third boy had got away. Defendant told him she sold cigarettes to Dawson knowing him to be over 16 years of age. By Mr Royle: He had no recollections of defendant having said Dawson was at work; that he had left school.

John Dawson said he would be 15 next Thursday. The other boys had run away up the Dark Arch. They had come out of Sunday School together and he had gone to Pickard’s and asked for a packet of “Pals”, for which he paid 2½d. He had on previous occasions told defendant he was 16. He often went to the shop for other things, and defendant would know him well.

Mr Royle said, without any disrespect to the bench, he would give the meaning of the word “apparently” according to Nuttall, viz: “That may be easily seen, obvious; while obvious means easily discovered, easily seen, plain, clear.” In other words it had in very truth to “hit you in the eye”. It was not strikingly clear that John Dawson was under 16. To her infinite credit, for there was no obligation, defendant had asked the boy previously if he was over 16.

The bench intimated that they found the case proved.

In the second case the chief constable said Special Constable Peck would relate that on Sunday January 7th he had taken a boy named Harold Cappleman, whom he had seen smoking, to Pickard’s shop. Defendant admitted selling cigarettes to him the previous day, stating “Yes, but he is over 16. Special Constable Peck replied, “So he states, but he does not look it. I guess him 14.”

Special Constable Peck said he had seen a boy smoking “apparently under the age of 16 - quite obviously” - he submitted.

When he put the boy’s age at 14 defendant replied: “I don’t know where your eyes are Mr Peck” - she knew him evidently.

Mr Royle: Of course.

Special Constable Peck: She said to the boy, you are 16 are you not, and he said yes. Later defendant said: “What are we to do if they say they are 16? We can’t ask them to bring their birth certificates.”

Harold Cappleman, aged 14½, said he had purchased “Park Drives”. Defendant on a former occasion said to him, “Are you 16?” and he answered “yes”.

Cappleman: So that I would be able to get the cigarettes (laughter).

By the chief constable: He thought it was fourteen getting them and sixteen smoking them (laughter).

Mr Royle: Smart boy this. Fourteen last June? - Yes. You are quite sure? - Yes, sir. You are a very fine boy. Have you got your birth certificate? - No.

Mr Royle said it appeared special constables were told to detect these heinous crimes. It seemed to reflect on the regular police that prosecutions and detections of this kind were not brought by them.

Specials’ dignity versus duty. Mr Peck’s intelligence had been directed hitherto lighting offences and protecting the town from Germans. Mr Peck was absolutely turned into a kid-catcher, which was a role that a man of his dignity ought not to be put into. In very truth this was a case of a mountain being in labour and bringing forth an absurd mouse. With the boy’s great stature, fine appearance and no whinnying little voice, no one would take him for under sixteen years.

After the bench had retired for a considerable time the chairman said a penalty of 5s would be inflicted in the first case, and in the second case they were disposed to give the benefit of the doubt about the boy’s age.

The case would be dismissed.