Thursday Flashback

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Thomas Robson, Princess Street, was summoned for absenting himself without leave from the steam trawler St Cloud on 30th January.

Mr C Royle, for the prosecution, said the charge was under Section 376 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, sub-section B, for neglect or refusal without reasonable cause to join his ship or proceed to sea. He was second hand on the St Cloud.

The boat came into harbour on Friday, 29th January, and defendant was told by the skipper he had to be down in the morning at four o’clock to proceed to sea. He did not come. The skipper met the defendant after breakfast time on Saturday morning, and asked him how it was he had not turned up. Defendant said he did not intend to come back, as he was going to leave. In consequence of the defendant not turning up the boat was delayed from sailing on the Saturday morning until the Monday morning. That was estimated by the owners to mean a loss of between £30 and £40. He understood that defendant went on board a boat belonging to some other people. If men were allowed to do things of this character it was a serious thing when a boat was delayed from Saturday morning to Monday morning at a time when owners had been suffering heavy losses in consequence of the war.

Richard Watson, 25, St Sepulchre Street, skipper of the St Cloud at the time, gave evidence bearing out Mr Royle’s statement.

Cross-examined by Mr J Whitfield, who was for the defence, witness stated that he was not the permanent skipper of the St Cloud. Admiralty orders were to the effect that they could not proceed to sea after dark. They could, however, have gone out into the bay at four o’clock in the morning.

James Walker, 152, Longwestgate, skipper of the Merrie Islington, stated defendant told him he was not going back on the St Cloud.

George Francis Shaw, 21, St Sepulchre Street, skipper of the St Cloud at the time defendant was engaged, stated he signed him on. He was present at the time defendant signed. He asked him to read over the agreement, and someone said “No, they all knew what it meant.”

Mr Whitfield, for the defence, submitted that the case was not made out for the reason that the Section of the Act, with regard to the engagement of the seaman, had not been complied with. The agreement must be signed by each seaman, and the skipper had to cause the agreement, or otherwise ascertain that each seaman understood it before signing.

His contention was that it was not read over or explained, and that the skipper did not otherwise ascertain that each man understood it.

Mr Royle pointed out that the skipper distinctly asked if any man wanted the agreement reading over and no one did so.

After consultation, the Mayor said that the magistrates had decided to dismiss the case. They regretted they had not been able to consider it strictly on its merits. They had had to dismiss it owing to the engagement of the seaman not having been, in their opinion, carried out in the strict form according to the Statute.