1917 court: Boy ‘beyond control’ after spate of thefts

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A deplorable story was told at the Children’s Court at Scarborough. A boy of ten pleaded guilty to three counts of stealing. A basket of fish valued at 4s, the property of George Harrison and another fish merchants on November 10th; three milk cans, valued at 7s 6d, the property of the Woodlands Dairy Co, on November 19th; and 4s 6d, the money of Louisa Tyson, Mill Street, on November 20th.

The boy, according to the statements of Detective Sergeant Yeoman, had shown considerable ingenuity in regard to the thefts. In the first case his mother had sent him with a shilling to get some coal, telling him to borrow a barrow, belonging to Mr Harrison, miller, whose premises are near. Going to the railway station and seeing the basket of fish, with the same “Harrison” on, he claimed it. The officials seeing that he had a barrow with the name “Harrison” on it, thought it would be all right. The boy stated in reply to questions, that he had gone for the fish, and when requested to sign the book he put the name “John Tate.” Subsequently Special Constable Musham saw the handcart with the basket on it in the Crescent, and ultimately he took them to the police station.

Asked by the chairman (Mr George Rowntre) why he took the fish, the boy said he wanted to sell it, but could not get the fastening undone. He therefore left the barrow with the basket on it in the Crescent. Asked what he would have done with the money had he sold the fish the boy replied that he did not know.

Detective Sergeant Yeoman had found him on South Cliff, where some soldiers had taken pity on the lad, who was badly clothed, and on the night in question it was very rainy. Mr W Sayner, a magistrate, asked if the lad took the mother’s shilling back, and it was said that he had not.

The chairman (to the lad): What did you do with that?

The boy, who wept copiously, said he spent it.

In the second case, the milk cans and a milk bottle had been left in the usual way, on the front doorstep of a house in the neighbourhood, ready to be called for. Miss Richardson the daughter of the manager of the dairy company referred to, on calling for them found only the bottle. On proceeding towards the dairy she met the boy with the three cans. He told her he had found them in his mother’s backyard.

It appeared that the lad had tried to steal the cans, and on being asked by the Bench what he was going to do with the money, he said he had wanted to buy some apples.

In the third case it was stated that the mother of the boy - the father is with a Labour Battalion in France - owing to the illness of another child, had gone to reside with Mrs Tyson in the same street. The latter had put 5s in a drawer on the night of November 19th, for the rent. The next morning at 9.30am Detective Yeoman had occasion to go to the house with the boy. The women were not up, and the mother was surprised to find that the lad had been out of doors. On the previous night the boy had bought a flash lamp at Mrs Stott’s for 2s 6d, and he stated he had given another lad eleven pence - which the other lad denied - and had spent some of the money. The sum of one shilling and a penny was subsequently found by the complainant in a box in the coal-house.

The mother told the magistrates, in reply to questions, that she had had trouble with the boy since the father went away. On the day she sent the lad for the coals a young child was in the house from seven o’clock in the morning until 5.30 in the afternoon without a fire. She then had to go for the coals herself. The chief trouble with him previously had been his staying out at nights.

Mr Sayner closely questioned the woman as to her want of supervision over the lad, and she said he played truant. She had two other children, aged six, and fifteen months.

Detective Sergeant Yeoman said the boy’s surroundings were not what they should be. There was no supervision, and the mother appeared to be giving way to loose habits. He had been struck by the uncleanliness of the house and children. The boy seemed to be beyond the mother’s control. She could do better and no doubt would do better after that lesson.

The magistrates ordered the boy to be sent to an industrial school, and in order that the police might make arrangements they adjourned the case for a week. The chairman added that the Bench felt the boy would not be in that position if the mother had only acted straightly. The chairman added that when the father came home, if the home conditions improved, the parents could make application for the boy to return home.