1918 court: It’s game up for man caught with pheasant

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Three cases were down for hearing against John Ward, waggoner, Osborne Lodge, East Ayton.

These were: Trespassing in pursuit of game in the township of East Ayton; (2) assaulting Thomas Thornton, a game watcher; (3) using a gun for taking game without having a licence. The alleged offences took place on January 12th, the land on which defendant was alleged to have trespassed being that of the Earl of Londesborough, and let for shooting purposes to Mr BB Poppleworth of Scarborough.

On the suggestion of Mr JR Wilkinson, solicitor for the defendant, the cases were taken separately, and he pleaded not guilty to the first case.

Mr J Whitfield, solicitor, was for the prosecution. On the day in question Thomas Thornton, a game watcher at Ayton Moor (for Mr BB Poppleworth) saw defendant in a plantation, called Whin Cover. When 70 or 80 yards from where the keeper was stationed in the plantation, the defendant pointed his gun into some trees, where the keeper had, shortly before, heard some pheasants roosting. The defendant fired, there was a flicker in the trees, followed by a thud. Defendant picked something up and put it in his pocket. When defendant arrived opposite the keeper, the latter said, “What have you shot?” Defendant replied, a rabbit. The keeper said: No you have shot a pheasant - produce the rabbit if you have shot one. Defendant said, with an oath, he would not, and ran away. The keeper followed and searched him. During this search defendant had the gun fully cocked in both barrels, and the search was fraught with considerable danger to both persons. They fell to the ground, defendant still holding the gun, and whilst on the ground the keeper felt what he took to be a pheasant in defendant’s pocket. Having only one free arm the keeper got his knife out of his pocket, slit defendant’s coat and secured the pheasant. Defendant then said he would shoot some more (oath) - he would take no notice of the two game watchers. Certain episodes then took place which would form the subject of other charges.

Seen by Sergeant Peacock on the 15th defendant said he saw what he took to be a rabbit running in some bracken. He put the gun up, shot at it, and going into the wood he found it was a hen pheasant.

It was immaterial, said Mr Whitfield, to that charge whether defendant shot a pheasant, who was in the employ of Mr Smith, of Osborne Lodge, and adjoining land was in Mr Smith’s occupation, this particular planting was reserved for game and neither defendant nor his employer had any right there.

The game watcher, in evidence, said on the struggle defendant had the gun between his legs. Replying to Mr Wilkinson, he admitted that he made defendant bleed - it was in the struggle, defendant refusing to give up the pheasant and resisting. Witness never pointed his gun at defendant. He had seen defendant, at times, shooting on Mr Smith’s land.

Mr Wilkinson said the defence was entirely opposed to the evidence of the keeper. Defendant had frequently shot rabbits on Mr Smith’s land, and on the day in question, he went out to shoot rabbits. He saw an object squatting on a bank. He took it to be a rabbit, fired, and on putting his gun down and going into the planting he found it was a hen pheasant. It was ten minutes later when he saw the keeper. The latter asked him what he had got and he admitted saying “A rabbit.” The keeper was very violent, made the defendant bleed profusely, ripped his coat open, and treated the matter so flippantly, said Mr Wilkinson, that he actually offered defendant threepence to get a drink.

Defendant, in evidence, said he felt certain he was firing at a rabbit. Defendant went about four yards into the plantation and that was the only time he was in. Only one barrel of the gun was cocked in the struggle after the keeper chased him.

By Mr Whitfield: He told the keeper it was a rabbit he had got because he thought Thornton would let it go at that. Witness had seen lots of pheasants he could have fired at had he wished to do so.

Mr Whitfield urged that defendant having no written permission from Mr Smith had no right to shoot even rabbits.

Mr Wilkinson, on a point of law, argued that the defendant was not in the planting when he fired, and was not guilty.

The magistrates after returning, found the case proved, defendant being fined 10s, or seven days.

In the case of the assault defendant pleaded not guilty. After the searching of defendant by the keeper, when the two got up from the ground, defendant went three of four yards away. Having the gun fully cocked in his hand, pointed it at Thornton and said: “I will blow your (oath) brains out.” The magistrates, after retiring, imposed a fine of 10s or seven days in this case also.