Police Seizure of Rabbits

September 1897

Sheffield Independent – Tuesday 28 September 1897

Police Seizure of Rabbits

At the West Riding Court, a respectably dressed man named William Haslam of 18 High St, Conisborough, hawker, was charged with having in his possession 20 couples of Rabbits on September 20, contrary to the provisions of the Poaching Prevention Act.

Mr. Burton, of Wakefield, defended.

P.c. Midgley staled that he was on duty at Denaby on Sept 20th, and met the defendant in Doncaster Road going in the direction of Conisbro’ and coming from Sparrow Barracks.

Witness stopped him. and asked him what had in his cart. After some delay the defendant replied “Some rabbits.” Witness inquired How many ?” and defendant answered he did not know. He then went round the back of the cart, and saw a hamper containing quantity of rabbits under a rug and some paper.

The defendant said two men had thrown them into into his cart at Mexborough

Witness remarked, “it won’t do to tell me that tale,” and the defendant said, “A gentleman came to this morning and asked me if I wanted some rabbits and I said yes” The defendant thought his name was Cooke or, Cooper. Witness said, you know very well what they call him, and the defendant answered that he did not. He also said he paid nothing for the rabbits, and did not know what he would have to pay.

Witness then asked him who the two men were that he had said had thrown the rabbits into the cart. The defendant again said he did not now. Afterwards the defendant said: “I met a man in Mexboro’, and he took me up a Street by the Sparrow public house, and two men brought them out and put them into the cart.’’

Asked who the two men were, the defendant said he not know, but one was a big man. Witness said that it would be Sam Bailey then, and the defendant said did not know what they called him.

Witness said “My opinion is that they are poached rabbits,” and the defendant remarked he did not know anything about them. Witness took possession of the rabbits, and the defendant then told him the hamper belonged to Mr Mr. Cox. of Doncaster. The rabbits were quite fresh. The man Bailey was a miner where he worked, and was well known to the police as a convicted poacher.

In reply to Mr Burton, witness said he not seen Bailey that day. He was in uniform at the time but he knew the defendant by sight, and the defendant called him by name after the cart was slopped. The defendant did not say, “I have bought them and was to fetch them at 11 o’clock from Mexborough, but I was an hour late.” Haslam had a fairly good shop at Conisborough, and was a fish, poultry and rabbit dealer. When witness took the defendant and the cart to the police station he did not ask the defendant for the first time how many rabbits he had. When he served the summons he did not say to the defendant, “Well, Bill, if were you I would not make great stew, it will only cost you a sovereign. ’’

Witness brought the rabbits to Rotherham and left them in the charge of Supt Quest.

In reply to the Bench witness said the defendant had nothing  else saleable in his cart at the time.The cart contained two hampers, one filled with rabbits and the other was empty

Mr Barton argued for the defence there was no evidence, the defendant was an accessory to the man Bailey, and the Bench could only suspect that the man was Bailey. He submitted there was no direct testimony on the point. The defendant had never before been even suspected of being associated with poachers, and he had never before seen the man he bought the rabbits. A man named Cook came to the defendant’s shop and it was agreed that the rabbits, if satisfactory would be bought at 2s 2d per couple. That was a good price. He submitted there was not sufficient independent corroborative evidence given for the prosecution and argued that Haslam carried on his business at a reasonably and legitimate time. There was no evidence that the man Cook had come off any land at all or that there had been poaching. Assuming that the rabbits were in someone’s house, there was no continuity of the offence.

He produced testimonies of defendant’s character from the Rev GH Stock, Vicar of Conisborough, Mr GT Nicholson, Holywell Brewery and others and asked for the case to be dismissed.

For the defence, James Cook, collier, Denaby Main and living at 19 Rossington St, deposed that on the date in question he went to the defendant shop between eight and 9 o’clock, and saw the defendant. He asked him if he would buy a few rabbits, and the defendant inquired how many he had got. Witness said he had a few, and asked 2s 3d a couple for them. The defendant bargained for them at 2s 2d and witness told him they were at Mexborough, and that he would meeting with them against Lefley’s at 11 o’clock. The defendant did not come at 11 o’clock, and witness got a fellow to help them to carry them in the direction of the defendant shop. They met him near Sparrow barracks about 12 o’clock. There were 20 couples of rabbits, and anybody could see them put into the cart. The defendant had paid 25 shillings on account. No other persons named but that of witness and the defendant had been mentioned. He had had no transactions with the defendant before. The receipt for the 25 shillings was given last Tuesday.

In reply to Supt Quest, witness said that the defendant purchased the rabbits without having seen them. He first knew the rabbits have been seized on Monday night but had not claimed them. He had been to the defendant for the rest of the money. He got the rabbits from some friends whose names he declined to give. He had not been convicted under the Game Laws. He did not know where the men lived who supplied him with the rabbits but he had sold them for a man named ‘Lugard,’ and paid him the money without getting a receipt.

Re-examined by Mr Burton he said the defendant had told him the rabbits had been seized and had refused to pay the balance. He gave the defendant no indication that the rabbits had or had not been poached.

Witness was then put through a smart examination by Mr TP Rhodes, the Clerk of the court, as to whether he had been convicted for offences under the Game Laws and asked whom he had sold the rabbits for and where they had come from.

Witness still refused to disclose the origin, stating that he and Bailey took the rabbits into Bailey’s house to wait until the defendant came by. He denied that the defendants who gave him the rabbits to sell were all poachers; he did not know who they were or their names.

Kate Mary Haslam, daughter of the defendant, and a schoolgirl said she saw Cook come into their shop. It would be about 8.30 to 9 o’clock and her father agreed to buy some rabbits at 2s 2d per couple. Her father was to fetch the rabbits at 11 o’clock. She had never seen Cook there before.

The defendant was fined 50 shillings and costs 18 shillings, and the rabbits were ordered to be forfeited