Jail and hard labour for theft of a shirt

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William James Bartlett, aged 43, who was fined at the Borough Police Court a week ago for selling umbrellas without a licence, appeared before the North Riding magistrates at Scarborough today charged with stealing a shirt from a clothesline at Seamer, and appropriating the same to his own use. He pleaded that ill health and the cold weather were the circumstances which led to his action.

The magistrates were Mr F Baker, in the chair, and Mr J Hall.

Prisoner pleaded guilty.

Mrs Dickinson, 3, Musham Bank, Seamer, identified the shirt as the property of her husband.

Mary Fewster, 1, Musham Bank, said she saw the prisoner behind Dickinson’s house. He shouted to her, “How long will the missus be before she is back?” Witness told him she didn’t know, and he replied, “It’s alright. I will leave a note on the door step. It’s only about some insurance.”

She noticed one of the shirts was missing from the line, and saw prisoner putting it on behind a hay stack. She told him to take it back, but he remained silent.

PC Almond said he found the prisoner in bed at a common lodging house, and the stolen shirt was on the bed. When charged he 
replied that he saw it lying about at the back of the garden, and picked it up.

Prisoner had no defence to offer, he said he did not quite know how it was that he stole it. He was in a very bad state of health, and he was suffering from a rash. He was on the road from Scarborough to London and in the meantime he was trying to get an order or two in repairing umbrellas. “I was feeling in very bad health at the time, and I was bitterly cold. I felt irresponsible for taking the shirt.” It struck him perhaps that it might make him warm, and it would help him along. He had no intellectual discussion in his mind of the matter. He had not had a dinner since Christmas.

In reply to Mr Donner, the Magistrates Clerk, the accused said he had been in Scarborough about six or seven months.

Why did you come to Scarborough? - I thought I might get a living here during the season. He was also broken down in health and he thought being near the seaside it might perhaps brace him up a bit. His wife and one of his children had died, and another was in a home, and his son, who was 21, was at sea.

Inspector Robinson read out a series of previous convictions against prisoner at other towns, for stealing, child 
neglect, begging, etc.

The Chairman said that prisoner had pleaded guilty to a very serious offence, and his record was a very bad one. He would have to go to prison for two calendar months with hard labour.

The prisoner, before he was removed from Court, said: “I have lived my life in accordance with the teachings of the New Testament, and in the true spirit of it, and in spite of the evil in the world. My life is a tragedy, and I appeal to God for redress and justice.”