1918 Court: Servants receive harsh punishments for thefts

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Two charges of thefts by servants in the same employ occupied the attention of the Scarborough magistrates.

One defendant was sent to gaol for three months, and the other was fined 40s.

The magistrates on the bench were Mr J Sinfield in the chair, Mr AJ Tugwell and Alderman Rowntree.

Eva Ethel Ward, married woman, 6 Allthorpe’s Yard, was charged on remand with stealing a number of articles of the value of £12 5s 3d the property of her employer. Prisoner pleaded guilty.

The chief constable said the accused had been employed at a house in Lonsdale Road as a general servant since the middle of November, 1917. She remained there about a month, and then she had to go to hospital to undergo an operation and did not return to the house again until 4th of May. It was certain that all the goods, the subject of the charge, were about the house and in possession of the owner at the time when the accused was in her employ on November 19th. Everything appeared to go on all right until the 1st of June, when the accused received a telegram calling her away and she left the house stating she was going to Skinningrove, and after she had gone certain articles were missing. Search was made and a large number of articles were found to be missing. Information was given to the police on the 4th of June and on the same date search was made by the police in company with the owner and in the bedroom, which prisoner had occupied, certain articles were found in a drawer. On the 6th June prisoner returned to the house, but her mistress refused to keep her. She had since identified the articles, the subject of the charge, which had been recovered by the police. Very extensive enquiries had been necessary in recovering this property from a large number of witnesses. There was one very peculiar circumstance about the case, and that was that prisoner did not appear to have stolen the articles with a view to her personal profit because the police had only been able to trace one case where a stolen article was sold for 5s. All the remainder she gave away. Edith Annie Southwick, defendant in another case, took a parcel to the Post Office for the accused addressed to her mother at Bolton, and with feminine curiosity had a look to see what it contained. It consisted of some of the articles mentioned in the charge and they had since been recovered. When arrested by PC Nalton prisoner was wearing underclothing belonging to her employer and she had one or two trinkets upon her.

Prisoner in reply to the charge said she was very sorry indeed. She did not know what made her do it.

Edith Annie Southwick (21), domestic servant, or Brompton, was then charged on remand with stealing a blouse, stylo pen, and other articles, value 9s, the property of the same employer, between the 9th of March and 4th of May. Prisoner, who was represented by Mr Whitfield, pleaded guilty.

Chief Constable Windsor said Southwick was in the employ of the prosecutrix from the 9th of March to the 4th of May. She was there a few days with the other defendant, and after she obtained another situation she visited the house daily. The prisoner Ward said on the 30th of May last Southwick handed to her a parcel and asked her to take it to the railway station. It was addressed to Mrs Southwick, and Ward opened the parcel and saw articles belonging to the mistress. The parcel of goods had been recovered.

Mr Whitfield, in extenuation, said Southwick had hitherto borne a perfectly good character.

Although she had pleaded guilty to taking the whole of these things, there was perhaps something to be said with regard to some of them. With regard the blouse, she wore it one evening without permission and then put it in a box and overlooked it. She later took it away with her. It was not a very valuable blouse and indeed all the articles were small in value. The pen she thought had been thrown out with some papers, and the same remark applied to a powder box which she had cleaned up.

Defendant confirmed her solicitor’s statement in the box, and the chief constable agreed that her parents were very respectable.

At the close of the cases and before the magistrates retired, the chief constable said he hoped the magistrates would consider the question of disallowing the expenses of four witnesses who had received articles of value without making any enquiry as to how defendant became possessed of them. If people were prepared to accept presents in that sort of way they should have their expenses disallowed.

On the magistrates returning the chairman said Southwick would be fined 40s.

With regard to Ward the charge was a very serious one, and she would have to go to prison for three months’ hard labour.