Mexborough and Swinton Times, May 19, 1917
Mexborough and Denaby Men Fined.
Conisbrough Purchaser Who Complained to the Food Controller.
At Doncaster police court on Tuesday, an old Denaby farmer, William Scott, was summoned for selling seed potatoes at a price above the official maximum price; and Albert Atkinson, a Mexborough provision dealer, was summoned for aiding and abetting.
Mr F. Allen defended, and the defendants pleaded guilty.
Spt. Minty said two tons of potatoes were purchased, and £29 was paid. The purchaser found he had been overcharged. And complained to the Food Controller, with the result that he (the superintendent) had received instructions to prosecute.
Joseph Drabble, confectioner, Northcliffe House, Conisbrough, said he saw the defendant Atkinson in March, and he asked him if he knows anyone who had any potatoes to sell. He said he knew someone and would make enquiries. He mentioned Scott’s name, and he asked him to see Mr Scott for him, subsequently he told him he could have potatoes through him (Atkinson) at £14 10s a ton, and witness purchased two tons. Afterwards he discovered he had been charged too much and so wrote to the food control. He only should have been charged £13 a tonne.
Mr Allen: I submit you knew that before you went into this business? – Yes I did.
Then why say “I then found?” You knew you were giving more for the potatoes and the law authorised you, and yet you bought them. And then after having been obliged went and wrote to the Food Controller? – I didn’t persuade him to sell.
You know you were breaking the law when you offered £14 a ton? – I had been searching for said potatoes for three months, and could not get them. I found out I would either have to pay the price or go without.
Do you know if you had bought through Atkinson, and Atkinson bought through Scott, you might have been charge £15 10sa ton. It’s that not so? – I don’t know.
You might have been charge for delivery form Old Denaby to Conisbrough. You agreed to pay £14 10s as your proportion. And then wish to run off it – in fact did run off it.
Sergeant Lewendon said on May 8 he saw Mr Scott and told him he had received a complaint from the Food Controller. He asked if he sold to tons of seed potatoes to Joseph Drabble, and he replied “no I sold two tons to Albert Atkinson. He paid me £28 for them.” Witness showed him the receipt and asked him if he had made a bill out and he said he had not, but Mrs Scott had. He afterwards saw Atkinson and he admitted he had paid Scott £28 and received a pound himself for the transaction.
Mr Allen said that was the position they took up, though, of course, ignorance was no excuse. There was some excuse, however in these cases when one saw how potatoes were being sold at public auction for £15 10s a ton. Orders were issued very frequently, and even lawyers got their law on the subject from hand to mouth, so to speak. There was a widespread belief that one could charge £15 a ton. In this case Mr Scott went and got himself to let Mr Drabble have some. What did they think of Mr Drabble? He knew he was paying more than he was entitled to, and then calmly wrote to the Food Controller and trapped a man and a neighbour who had obliged him. The Order was not clearly understood, and in this case they were only approximately 5s a tonne out.
He submitted it was a trivial case and the man who shone least in it was Mr Drabble who had turned round on a friend and neighbour who had helped him. It was a dirty, contemptible action. He asked for lenient treatment.
The chairman (Mr John Brocklesby) said they were sorry that a case of that sort had come before the court again. Recently when they had similar cases the penalties were very moderate, but it was stated at the time they could not be accepted as a criterion if future cases came.
That day there must be increased penalties; Scott would have to pay £3 and Atkinson £2.