Girl, 12, stole coats from her classmates and tore them up to sell the rags

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1915 court

At the Scarborough County Court today, before Messrs WS Rowntree and SP Turnbull, Jennie Brown (12), was charged with stealing and carrying away a child’s coat, value 1s, the property of Dorothy Howlett.

The Chief Constable said Dorothy Howlett, aged 12, who attended St Mary’s School, placed her coat on the peg in the cloak room at the school about 1.30pm on June 18. At 2.45pm she came out of school to play when she noticed the coat was still there. At 4pm when she left school for the day she found her coat was missing. She reported the matter to the school authorities. The key to her home was in the coat and was nowhere to be found. Shortly after 4pm Dorothy Howlett received a communication from another girl and the key was subsequently recovered, but not from Jennie Brown.

The matter was reported to the police the next day, and in consequence Detective Nalton made enquiries and found the remnant of the coat (produced) which had been sold for rags at Messrs Bennetts’ Marine Stores. The defendant, who brought them to the stores, was given a halfpenny for them. The defendant 
admitted to the detective stealing the coat from the school and selling it.

The Chief Constable, in reply to the Clerk, said that when the key was handed over to Dorothy Howlett it was said that the key was placed in a certain place indicated by the defendant, who told the “secret” to the other girls, and who eventually communicated it to Howlett.

Defendant, in reply to Mr Turnbull, said she tore the coat up herself. The father, interposing, said his child told him that she picked the coat up from the floor of the cloak-room, took it out with her, and sold it at Bennetts’ for a halfpenny.

The Chief Constable said the police had received several complaints of coats being missed from St Mary’s School. Enquiries having been made, it was ascertained that remnants of coats had been taken to Bennetts’ on June 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th, and 18th by accused, for which she received a penny apiece. On the last occasion she was only given a halfpenny. There was no question whatever of her having stolen these coats from school, tearing them up and selling them. It was practically impossible for the girls to whom they belonged to to identify them in their present torn condition.

Accused, in reply to a question, said she had never previously stolen coats from school.

Detective Inspector Nalton said in the course of an interview he had had with the girl he asked her how she came into possession of the rags. She admitted having stolen a coat from the cloak-room at the school, tearing it up and selling it at Bennetts’. She further admitted to having stolen other coats and selling them as rags.

Sarah Bennett said she assisted her parents at the Marine Stores. She had examined her books with regard to the purchase of rags and material, and found that accused had sold rags with her on eight occasions. She asked her on one occasion where she got the rags, and she said from a lady in Castle Road.

The father of the girl said he had never had any trouble with her before. She attended school regularly, and he did not know what prompted her to do such a nasty trick.

The magistrates deliberated in private, and later the Chairman said the child would be bound over on probation in the sum of £5 to be of good behaviour for 12 months, her father to be the probation 
officer. The latter would have to pay 1s to cover the cost of the stolen coat. He hoped he would do his best to prevent the child ruining her future life.