1917 court: House break-ins out of character for boys

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Boys will be boys was again exemplified at the Scarborough Children’s Court, although the antics of the two lads before the court puzzled some of the magistrates, particularly Alderman Ascough, to know how the idea of what they had done had entered their heads. It was all the more puzzling because the lads had good characters, an employer who had engaged one boy out of school hours speaking very highly of him and his honesty, while the schoolmaster told the courts that the lad in his free time had done a great deal to help in regard to the allotments question, and he had given time to assist on the allotments of soldiers who could not attend to them. That showed that the lad had a naturally good disposition, and he, the schoolmaster, could not imagine what had induced him to do this.

This boy referred to was 14 years of age, and his companion was 16. The former had lost his father in action, and the other lad’s father was at Salonika. The boy of 14 was one of a large family.

The two lads had found the back door of an empty house, 6, Victoria Parade, unlatched, and going in they had smashed off the gas brackets and other fittings. At 24, 25 and 26 Trafalgar Street West they had done the same, and also a similar thing, on another night, at 22, Albemarle Crescent. Entrance to the houses at Trafalgar Street West had been obtained by breaking windows, and at 22, Albemarle Crescent, a window had been found unlatched. All the houses were empty. The lads had then sold the brass and lead, valued at several pounds, to a man (named) who had given sixpence a pound for the brass and 1s half a stone for the lead, 4s 6d altogether.

PC Welburn, from information he had received, visited 6, Victoria Parade, and on examination he found, near a wash basin, a pocket book which bore the name of one of the boys. On going to this lad, and cautioning him, he at once told the officer that “we” had gone into this house, and others, of which he gave particulars, and taken the goods indicated. Asked what he meant by “we” he gave the name of the other lad. The fittings had been broken close to the ceilings and the walls, and broken up after being taken down.

Alderman Ascough (to the lads): How did you know where to go to sell it?

The younger boy replied: We had heard before - we knew.

Alderman Ascough: Did he (the purchaser) ask you where you had got it? - No.

The clerk: Where did you get the idea from? What made you think of it?

The answer was: To get sixpence a pound for the brass.

The clerk: To get the money? - Yes.

The clerk: But how did you get the idea? - We both had the idea.

The elder of the lads, it appeared, could not work, on account of having fits.

Alderman Ascough: Supposing you had found people doing the same in your houses, what would you have done?

The younger boy: “Report it to the police.”

Alderman Ascough: What had come into your heads? What had come over you? Where are you going to land - to what is it going to bring you if you go on like this? Are you going to spend a great part of your life in prison? Good gracious, boys, I don’t know what in the world has come into your heads.

Replying to further questions, the younger boy said he had the money he had got on him. He had a bicycle, and he thought if it wanted repairing he would have the money. The elder boy had spent the money he got - “He went to the pictures and all the rest of it.”

Mr Albert Harland, agent for one of the owners (22, Albemarle Crescent) said the owner he represented did not wish to press the case.

After retiring, the mayor, on behalf of the magistrates, pointed out the seriousness of the cases to the lads, and to what such conduct, if continued, might lead. They really deserved some punishment, but the magistrates felt they could not deal with the matter that day, and they would adjourn to see how the boys behaved. Regarding the elder boy the magistrates thought it would be the wisest thing for the lad to be sent to an institution, where he could be properly cared for and looked after.

The mother said she would like him to go. The boy was willing.

The mayor added that the bench regarded extreme dissatisfaction the action of the receiver of that metal case. The magistrates were not aware whether the police were following up the matter, but for a man to take fittings from boys like those without even troubling to enquire where they came from was a very reprehensive action.