Nostalgia: 1916 Court – Cabman takes ‘law’ into his own hands

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Walter Dove, cabman, 8 Beechville Avenue, was charged on separate summonses at the Borough Police Court, before Mr J Dippie, chairman, and other magistrates, with obstructing a special constable whilst in the execution of his duty, and whilst using threatening language to the special constable.

Defendant pleaded not guilty.

The chief constable said there was some rather objectionable language in the case, and he thought it would be better if the ladies in court retired. The suggestion was acted upon.

Continuing, the chief said Mr Richard Cliffe, who in private life was an ironmonger, at 43 Victoria Road, was also in public life a special constable, and this charge was for obstructing him in the execution of his duty. The duty he was performing at the time was a very important one and one which was very dangerous to obstruct him in. It was Sunday night, October 1st - their worships would perhaps remember it was a night on which there was a zeppelin raid on England.

Having received an air raid warning in Scarborough, messages were sent out to the constables to parade at the police station. Mr Cliffe was charged to deliver a message to a police constable in Beechville Avenue to parade for duty at once. On his way there and whilst going along Dean Road he saw a cab standing at the junction of Columbus Ravine and Dean Road and on the opposite side of the road stood defendant and another man whom the special constable could not recognise. Dove - the defendant - was shouting out to the cabman to “get his b--- lights on or he would report him.” The driver of the cab said he had been with a party of preachers to Staintondale and he had an old gentleman in the cab, whom he had to set down near Dean Road. The special constable told the drive to proceed along with his fare. Dove took the exception to this and began ordering the cab driver to stay where he was and not go any further. The special constable said, “Oh, it’s alright; go at a walking pace under the circumstances.” Dove took the law entirely into his own hands and, seizing hold of the special, put his arms around him and forcibly detained him there out of sheer badness for ten minutes. It was really an assault, but he (the chief) had charged him with obstruction. The delivery of the special constable’s message was delayed 10 minutes. It was alleged Dove knew perfectly well Cliffe was a special constable for he was wearing the uniform and armlet at the time, and he also passed the remark: “The is one of them special constables - he ought to be shot.” Dove and the other man seized the special constable by the arm and coat collar, and Dove said: “We are going to report you for telling the man to go away without lights.” The chief proceeded to say this was one of the most serious offences that a man could commit in times like the present. If the special constable was doing something wrong it was not for a man of this kind to deal with him. The trouble was, said the chief, that this man was on the rank at the railway station a short time before, and he was, as well as other cabmen, ordered, in view of the air raid warning, to take their cabs in within fifteen minutes. This man was dissatisfied with the order and he went out and carried on because another man was taking a fare home.

Special Constable Cliffe gave evidence bearing out the statements of the chief.

The magistrates here intimated, on the suggestion of the clerk, that the case would be heard as one assault.

Sergeant Stockdale deposed to interviewing the defendant, and read the language used by defendant against Mr Cliffe.

Defendant, in the box, denied that he put his hands on Mr Cliffe.

Replying to the chief, defendant denied that he was the leading spirit in the whole affair. He did not remember using the language read by Sergeant Stockdale. He (the sergeant) did not write it in his (defendant’s) presence.

The magistrates said they found the case of assault proved.

Defendant admitted the second charge of threats, and said all he said was that he (Mr Cliffe) ought to have his head knocked off.

Evidence was given to the effect that the defendant went up to Mr Cliffe in Melrose Street after the night of the “scene” in Dean Road, and made use of the most disgusting language, and threatened him.

If there ever was, said the chief, a case under the by-laws with intent to put a person in fear, this was one. He must ask the magistrates to safeguard the special constables against such people as the defendant.

The chief said the man’s record was a shocking one, and proceeded to read off a long list of previous convictions against him, these dating back from the year 1892.

The magistrates found the case of threat proved. Defendant would be committed to gaol for six weeks on the first charge, with hard labour, and on the second charge of threat he would be fined 10s 6d.