Saturday, 2nd January, 1892
The Publican And The Bona Fide Travellers
Samuel Spicer, landlord of the Ship Inn, Breck Road, Wallasey, was charged with committing perjury at Liscard Petty Sessions on the 17th February. Mr.Colt Williams, with Mr.Yates, prosecuted. and Mr.Marshall defended.
Mr. Williams, in opening the case, said that on the date named prisoner was summoned for supplying liquor to two men, Clare and Burgess, during prohibited hours. On Sunday morning, 31st January, the men came to the house and were supplied with two pints of beer each, and when they were having the second pint five policemen in plain clothes entered the house, and disclosing their identity asked prisoner who the men were, and he led them to believe they were bona fide travellers. The prosecution alleged that the prisoner took no precautions to ascertain whether the men were bona fide travellers until after the constables came and said who they were, and he then put questions to the men, and ascertained from them that they came from the Alexandra Dock, Liverpool, and had slept on a flat there the previous night. Before the magistrates prisoner gave evidence on his own behalf, and swore that when Clare and Burgess came to the inn, and before the constables arrived, he questioned them as the distance they had come, and where they had slept the previous night. The men Clare and Burgess gave evidence against Spicer, and as a result he was fined £3 and costs. Clare and Burgess were also convicted of being on licensed premises during prohibited hours.
John Burgess, flatman, Birkenhead, deposed to having gone to the Ship Inn with Clare on the morning in question. He asked for two pints of beer. Before witness had tasted his second pint the police officers came in. When witness went to the house Spicer said nothing to him about having stopped serving travellers from that side of the water. He did not ask them anything. Neither of them told him that they had slept on a flat at the Alexandra Dock the night before. Witness had come from his own house. When the police officers came in they asked who witness and Clare were, and Spicer said. "oh, they are right enough; they are from Birkenhead". After the officers came in nothing was said to Spicer about the Alexandra Dock. It was to the officers it was said by Clare, and in the hearing of witness. Witness remembered Spicer and a young man named Bell coming to his house on a subsequent Sunday. Spicer said to him "Jack, I want you to go to Mr.Thompson - (a lawyer) - and tell him you slept at the Alexandra Dock". Witness replied, "I shall do nothing of the sort".
Cross-examined : Clare and he were flatmen at the same flat. On the Sunday they went to the Ship Inn. They did not say a word to Spicer before they asked for two pints of beer. Witness did not ask Spicer of they were within the limits for a drink. That happened on the previous Thursday. On that day they walked to the Ship Inn for the purpose of asking Spicer if they would be within the limits for a drink if they came there on the Sunday morning. Spicer said to witness. "Jack, when you come in my house you must go out when I tell you, and mind no one else. He told them if they came there on the Sunday they would walked the necessary distance. Witness heard Clare say to the officers that he had slept at the Alexandra Dock the previous night, but witness knew that he had been fined for being drunk on licensed premises in Birkenhead, and also for being drunk and disorderly.
Mary Burgess, wife of the previous witness. recollected prisoner calling at her house on the Sunday morning, and asking her husband to say he had come from the Alexandra Dock.
Thomas Clare, Craven Street, Birkenhead, captain and owner of the flat "Margaret", corroborated Burgess's evidence.
Cross-examined : If he had said he came by Seacombe Ferry that morning it was untrue; and he did not remember saying anything of the sort when before the magistrates. He did not say to Mr.Thompson that he had not slept at home on the night of the 30th January. He told him plainly that he had slept at 45, Craven Street. He could not remember rightly what he said, because Spicer took them away, and they had something to drink, and were confused. It was after they had had the drink that they saw Mr.Thompson, and then witness was drunk.
His Lordship said he had been considering the nature of the evidence during the luncheon adjournment, and the whole case must depend upon the statement of these men as to what Spicer said to them. It would be rather dangerous to act upon their statements unless the prosecution had some other evidence.
Mr .Williams said when he opened the case to the jury, he told them they would have to rely upon the evidence of Clare and Burgess.
The jury having conferred together, the Foreman said they were agreed that the evidence was conflicting.
His Lordship : I think so too.
A Juror : There is no sufficient evidence to convict.
His Lordship : I am of the same opinion.
The jury then acquitted the prisoner, and he was discharged.
Mr.Colt Williams said he proposed to offer no evidence in the charge of perjury against Charles Alfred Bell, nephew of the prisoner.
The jury then returned a formal verdict of not guilty against Bell, and he was discharged.
This concluded the criminal trials.