Blighted Career – Conisborough Councillor Sent To Prison. (picture)

May 1931

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 22 May 1931

Blighted Career
Conisborough Councillor Sent To Prison.
Robbery and Forgery
Public Work Too Costly For Private Pocket.

Arthur Roberts, of 6, Wheatley Street, Denaby Main, a former chairman of the Conisborough Urban Council, a former magistrate, and a county councillor, was at Doncaster on Tuesday sentenced to twelve months imprisonment on charges of stealing and forgery.

The charges were that Roberts stole £20 belonging to Delilah Burke, between Aug. 20th, 1939, and Dec. 31st, 1930, and referring to the same sum of money, that he forged an endorsement on the cheque concerned and secondly that he stole £20 belonging to Mary Elizabeth Martin between Oct. 22d, 1010, and May 9th. 1931, and endorsement on the again forged the cheque.

Prisoner, who had been remanded in custody from the previous Friday. pleaded “guilty” to the first charge of stealing, “not guilty” to the first charge of forgery, “guilty” to the second charge of stealing and the second charge of forgery. Mr. G. S. Want prosecuted and Mr. D. Dunn appeared for the defence.

Cheques Withheld.

Mr. Ward said that the facts of the two cases were similar. Mrs. Burke husband was killed in the Cadeby pit on August 20th 1930. Under an arrangement which existed in view of the fact that the colliery did not stop, but worked the next shift, a collection was made for the widow by stopping 6d from the wages of each man who worked on the next shift and 3d. from the wages of each boy. To the sum thus realised the colliery, added £20. The sum collected for Mrs. Burke was £123 16s. 6d., and both this amount and the £20 were paid by cheque.

The first cheque to be drawn was the Colliery Company’s cheque for £2O. This was made payable to Mrs. Burke and was handed to Roberts, acting on behalf of the workmen. The cheque for £123 was handed to the prisoner five weeks after the death of Mrs. Burke’s husband and the other cheque tea days later. On or about October 9th, when the second cheque was received by the prisoner, he told Mrs. Burke she would have to go to Doncaster to get the cheque cashed. He went with her to Doncaster where, after she had endorsed the cheque, he got the money for her. No mention was made that he had also received a cheque for £20. Mrs. Burke knew nothing about this additional money till about four months afterwards. She then went to Roberts to ask him about it. He said he did not know about the grant. He told her to leave it to him and if it was so he would get the money for her. This cheque for t2O was passed through the National Provincial Bank, Conisborough, on or about September 30th. Mrs. Burke saw the prisoner repeatedly from Christmas and eventually on the 11th of this month he said to her “I must have cashed the other cheque with it and not seen it, but I will go straight to Doncaster and get it for you.”

Defrauded Widows.

Mrs. Burke said she had put her signature to only one cheque, but the Colliery Company’s cheque with her signature on it would be produced. Prisoner had Mrs. Burke’s signature became she had consulted him about a certain newspaper claim and it was suggested he had forged the endorsement with this signature before him.

In the case of Mrs. Martin, her husband was killed on October 22nd, 1930, and on September 2nd she came to Doncaster and was given a cheque for £125 from the men. She endorsed it and Roberts got her the money. She did not know till ten days ago that she was entitled to £20 from the Colliery Company.

Delilah Burke, of 52, Clifton Street, Denaby Main, said she went to Roberts at Christmas and said she had heard she ought to have some more money from the colliery. Roberts replied, “Have you? I did not know.” Witness said she never received the £20 or any part of it. The only document she had signed was the cheque for £123.

John Watkin, cashier at the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries, said in the case of Mrs. Burke’s husband the Company handed over the usual amount of £2O. The amounts from the men and the colliery were drawn by separate cheques. Both the cheques for £20 in respect of Burke and Martin were handed over, to Roberts.

Mary Elisabeth Martin denied that the cheque for £2O had been signed by her. She had never seen it.

A Ruined Career.

Mr. Dunn said this was an extremely grave case and a very sad one. It showed that it was undesirable for a man with a small income to engage in public life to any extent. Roberts had had to work particularly hard for a living. He was a man blessed with a great amount of intelligence which he had devoted to the public as well as to the men he represented. In fulfilling his obligations he had been put to a terrific amount of expense. His income hail only been £4 10s. a week and he had a large family to provide for.

He was instructed to say that in connection with these charges Roberts had been guilty alone of these frauds and no man connected with him in respect of his secretarial duties had had anything to do with them. He did not wish his friend’s chances of success to be impaired through any act of his. Even to the last moment had he been in the position to repay the amounts in question Roberts would have done so. He had hoped against hope that he would be able to do so. Last week there was a rumour that he had committed suicide, and had it not been for that he might even then have been at large trying to raise the money.

He had a distinguished public career, having been on the Mexborough Council in 1916 her nd being chairman of the West Riding Tuberculosis Committee, Vice-chairman of the West Riding Public Health Committee, a member of the Conisborough Urban Council, local secretary for the Y.M.A., and a member of the Guardians Committee. This was the career of a man who left school at the age of ten. He had done everything he could for the men without going to extreme measures. Their worships would realise that his career was damned for ever. He must now, at 49 years of age, turn, when his sentence was finished, to some hard work for the purpose of maintaining his family. This was a case where they could properly be merciful. Roberts bad been well respected wherever his public duties took him. He had tried to do all he could for his fellow men but his pocket had not been strong enough.

Confidence Abused.

After a short retirement. Mr. G. E. Cooke- Yarborough, announcing the decision of the Bench, said: “It is a very painful thing for the Bench to have to deal with this case in which the defendant is a man who has for many years been engaged in public work in the district. He has held responsible positions on local bodies and that aspect really makes the offences more serious than might otherwise have been the case. People have hers induced to put their confidence in him and that confidence has been abused in a very grave manner. I am not able to see what extenuating circumstance should be advanced in favour of the defendant. These frauds were deliberate and the manner in which the two women were defrauded of money is contemptible beyond words. Having regard to the sentence passed recently by a High Court judge in a somewhat similar case we cannot but deal with this case as a very serious one. It is impossible to impose a lesser sentence than the one we have decided to impose. This sentence is not chiefly for the purpose of punishment. The defendant has already been punished. But it is to prevent a repetition of frauds of this sort by other men in similar positions.”

A Year’s Imprisonment

Roberts was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment on the first charge of stealing, to 6 months imprisonment on a charge affording the cheque belonging to Mrs Martin, the sentences to run consecutively, and six months in charge of stealing the £20 belonging to Mrs Martin, this to run concurrently with the sentence of forgery. The sentences will be served in the second division.