Thursday, 15 August 2013

Poaching Prevention Act

Random court case time again.

William Drawbridge and William Jeffery were summoned under the Poaching Prevention Act with being searched on the highway and found in possession of a gun used for the purpose of taking game, and seven pheasants unlawfully obtained, at Southborough, on the 8th November.

Mr Thorn Drury, barrister-at-law (instructed by E. Elvy Robb, solicitor, of Tunbridge Wells), who defended, took objection to the summons, as it did not disclose any offence under the Act, part of the printed summons had been cut out.

Mr Harris (the Deputy-Clerk) said the summons was drawn by a law stationer, and did not include the words of the Act.

The Bench over-ruled the objection, and defendants pleaded not guilty.

Sergt. Stevens said that at five minutes past five on the morning of the 8tb November was on duty near Christ Church, in company with P.C. Marsh, when saw the defendants coming across Holden Park by way of a public footpath. Jeffery got over a stile, and on looking round and seeing them, he whistled and held up his hand to Drawbridge, who was twelve yards behind him. Drawbridge turned round and ran away. Witness pursued him and saw him carrying a bundle, which he threw away: afterwards a bottle, which he subsequently found to contain beer, and after that the gun produced. When near Keebles-lane witness called out, "All right, Drawbridge; that will do." Witness stopped, but the defendant went on. He went on and picked up the gun produced, a bottle containing beer, and seven pheasants tied up in a handkerchief, which was the bundle saw him throw away. The pheasants were warm and had only recently been shot. He heard several shots that morning in the direction from where the defendants were coming.

P.C. Marsh corroborated, and said that while Sergt. Stevens was pursuing Drawbridge he told that he was all right, and went towards High Brooms and witness followed after Stevens.

P.C. Martin, stationed at High Brooms, said that about a quarter-past five on the 8th November he was on duty near the allotment gardens. On getting on a footpath leading through Yew Tree Farm be saw Jeffery going in the direction of where lived. At half past five he was in Pennington-road, and saw Drawbridge coming from the direction of Southborough Common.

Mr Fred Eade, landlord of the Flying Dutchman. Southborough, said that on the evening of the 7th November Jeffery came to his house at about half-past nine, and he had two pints of mild ale. At five minutes to eleven the defendant took away some beer in a bottle similar to the one produced. The beer served him with was eightpenny old ale. On the morning of the 8th Sergt. Stevens brought him the bottle, and tasted the ale which it contained, and it was similar to that with which he served Jeffery.

Mr Drury, for the defence, said if the Bench were convinced as to the identity of the defendants there was nothing to be said. He could not understand how, if the first witness was sure of the identity of Drawbridge, and saw him throw these things a way, that he pursued him further. All that was alleged against Jeffery was that he whistled, and that, he contended, was not sufficient to charge him with abetting in the shooting of pheasants.

Supt. Styles proved four previous convictions against Drawbridge, and three previous convictions against Jeffery. The Bench said it was useless to waste words on the defendants, and fined them £5 and costs each, or two months' hard labour. They declared the gun and pheasants forfeited."
Kent & Sussex Courier - Friday 23 November 1900, page 3.

It's easy enough to see why I've plucked out this one. A mention not just of Mild Ale, but also of Old Ale.

Eightpenny Old Ale would have been pretty strong. That would have been the price per quart, double the fourpence that standard Mild Ale cost. My guess is an OG of around 1090º and an ABV of 9%. 

Did you see what Jeffrey did? Went to the pub for a couple of pints then got a carry out just before closing time. To be honest, the evidence about the beer in the bottle seems pretty tenuous. Could the landlord really identify his own Old Ale?  Though, admittedly, he did just say that it was similar.

Five quid (or two months' hard labour) seems a very harsh punishment for poaching seven pheasants. Five quid would have been a few weeks' wages for a labouring man. But how much could seven pheasants be worth? A few shillings. It's obviously not about the monetary value, but preserving the landowner's game rights. Very medieval.

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