Assault on a Constable at The Phoenix in Frogham, 1872

From the Dover Express and East Kent Intelligencer, 16 February, 1872. Price 1d.

An agricultural labourer, answering to the name of Smith, who described himself as an “Essex thrower,” was charged with assaulting Richard Bowden, a county constable, at Frogham, near Nonington, on the 22nd ult., while in the execution of his duty.

Mr. Minter appeared to prosecute, and, in opening the case, he stated that the complainant had been on duty at a sale which took place at the “Phoenix,” Frogham, on the 22nd ult. The defendant was also there, in company with three companions, who abused and made very personal remarks about the complainant towards the close of the sale, the defendant challenging the complainant to a wrestle; and on the complainant’s refusing to accept the challenge, the defendant came up stealthily behind him and tripped him up, causing him to fall to the ground. The complainant took no notice of this act at the time; but subsequently. in consequence of some representation which had been made, he was called on to send in his resignation; and now wished to vindicate himself from the charge which had been made against him, of neglect of duty at the time in question. He should call witness to prove that the defendant’s language throughout the day to the complainant was of a very improper nature, and that the assault Smith committed was quite unprovoked. He could also bring testimony before the Bench of the good character borne by the complainant throughout Shepherdswell and the neighbourhood. He called:
Richard Bowden, the complainant, who deposed: I have been a constable in the Kent County Constabulary for about eight years. I have been stationed at Shepherdswell for the past four years. On the 22nd of January I was on duty at a sale, at the “Phoenix” public-house at Frogham. I noticed the defendant there. He was in company of a man named Maxted, and some others. He made some very offensive observations of a personal nature to me during the afternoon. He was very drunk indeed. He said, “Look at that policeman. He’s no good; he wants a knocking over.” The defendant said he was “An Essex thrower,” and could throw me any day. Seeing that the defendant was drunk, I took no notice of his observations. the defendant and Maxted were afterwards talking about their measurement around the chest. The defendant and one of his companions procured a piece of string, and wanted to measure me, and I allowed them to do so. I afterwards heard them making a great noise inside the bar of the “Phoenix.” I was standing outside, some little distance from the house. I was afterwards talking to Maxted, when the defendant came up and said to him, “Here’s a policeman for you.” If he wants to stand before a man let him stand before me.” I moved away, and I heard Maxted remonstrate with the defendant about interfering with me. He said I had not said anything to him, and that if he (the defendant) persisted in annoying me, he (Maxted) would knock him down. The defendant, however, moved away from Maxted and followed me. He crept stealthily up behind me and tripped me down on the ground. I had a stick at the time, and when I fell down it flew out of my hand and fell some distance away. The defendant picked it up when I fell, and as I was getting up he ran at me with it, trying to hit me. Maxted took the stick away from the defendant, and then they both fell down together. Maxted was also drunk. When Smith had the stick taken from him, he rushed at me and tried to throw me down again; but I threw him down instead. I said I should have the defendant locked up; and on my asking Maxted to assist me, he said, “No, I shall stick to my mate.” Maxted then dragged Smith away from me. There was no  one on the spot at the time but myself, Maxted and the defendant. Two men named Sheath and Beer came up almost immediately afterwards, and they all went into the public-house together. This happened about three or four yards from the public-house door. In was about nine in the evening. Smith presently came out and said he knew he was to blame. He wanted me to make it up, but I told him I should do no such thing. I had orders to remain at the public-house from 12 o’clock, when the sale began, till eight or nine in the evening. When the defendant and his friends had gone into the public-house, I stood behind a tree till they came out. I think they came out at about a quarter to ten. I distinctly heard one of the party say, “There are six of us to one, and we can out-wear him. We can say that he challenged you; and if he says he didn’t, we can swear that he did.” I went back to Shepherdswell with Mr. Card, the landlord of the “White Hall” public-house. I told the superior officer what had happened on the following day. I have known property to be stolen at different sales in the country like the one in question; and I was there to protect the property, and see that no breach of the peace was committed.

By Major Munn: I was on duty at the sale in uniform. The defendant was so drunk that he fell over a tub near the public-house door. I had a staff with me when the defendant assaulted me; but I did not use it. I am instructing constable of a section, and it is my duty to present at any public assemblage that may take place within the district occupied by my section.

By the defendant: I did not say that I could wrestle any man in Nonington, neither did I say that I could put down any two or three men in Nonington. You said you could throw me, if I would give you leave. I did not speak to you much during the whole of the afternoon in question. You came up behind me and tripped me up once; but you did not throw me two or three times.

William Higgins: I was present at the sale which took place at the “Phoenix” public-house, Frogham, of the afternoon of the 22nd ult. I returned to Shepherdswell between six and seven in the evening. I remember seeing the defendant at the sale, in company with Maxted and some others, During the time I was there, both the defendant and his companions behaved themselves very badly. All of them were the worse for drink. I think they had some words together. The complainant was perfectly sober during the time I remained at Frogham. I saw him performing his duty up till half-past six. The complainant had borne an excellent character among all the inhabitants of Shepherdswell, during the four years I have known him to be stationed there.

By the defendant: I did not give the complainant any beer while I remained at the sale, neither did I see him drinking any. My brother was at Frogham on the afternoon in question, but I can swear he did not give the complainant any beer.

Caleb Card deposed: I reside at the “White Hall” public-house, Shepherdswell. I attended the sale on the 22nd ult., at Frogham. I drove there at about half-past eleven in the morning. I went away for an hour during the sale, but I returned again at about half-past one, and remained till about half-past ten in the evening. I saw the complainant there. He was sober and performing his duty in the proper manner. I did not notice the defendant there. Bowden drove home with me in the evening. He was perfectly sober then. I noticed that his clothes were muddy, and I made a remark about it.

Henry Thomas Jacques: I was at Frogham on the 22nd ult. I did not see the defendant during the sale; but I saw him in the evening after it was all over, in company with a man called Maxted, and some others. When I saw him then, he was standing in a room at the “Phoenix.” While I was there I heard one of the defendant’s friends say that the complainant was only a policeman, and that he aught to be knocked over.

By the defendant: Bowden was just going out of the door when I heard the expression made. I did not see the complainant touch a glass of ale all the time I remained there.

Charles Ratcliffe deposed: I am an auctioneer in partnership with Mr. Sutton, and I reside at Womenswould. I had a sale at the “Phoenix” public-house, at Frogham, on the 22nd ult. I saw the complainant there; he was doing a constable’s duty. He was quite sober during the whole of the sale. The sale was over about five; and I then gave the complainant a glass of ale. I saw the defendant just as I was going home. He seemed to me to have been drinking pretty freely.

By the defendant: I did not see the complainant on the evening in question after I had given him the glass of ale. He was drinking it inside the public-house when I left Frogham. I did not know whether he had any ale before I gave him the glass. He was perfectly sober when I gave it to him.

Re-examined by Mr. Minter: I gave the complainant the ale because I thought he had earned it.

This being the case for the prosecution.

The defendant said that at about nine on the evening of the day of the sale, he heard the complainant and Maxted talking about wrestling. He heard the complainant say that he could throw any man in Nonington, and that there were no two men in all Nonington who could put him down. He (defendant) went up and challenged him, saying if the complainant would give him leave, they would see about that. The complainant said. “Come on, then.” They then wrestled, and the complainant was thrown twice in succession. The third time they wrestled they both fell down together in the door porch of the public-house. The complainant got on him, and after striking him several times in the chest, he called for assistance, and wanted to take him into custody. No one would assist him to handcuff me; and when they got up complainant said he should summons him. He (defendant) asked him what he had done to be summonsed. He finally promised the complainant that he would not say anything about it, and they went to have some beer together.

Mr. Elsted: Were you drunk on the day of the sale?

The defendant: I wasn’t what you call drunk, sir. In short, I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t sober. (Laughter.)

The defendant then called Maxted and the two other witnesses, who, on being examined by him, bore out in a great measure the truth of his statement; but on being cross-examined by Mr. Minter, the replies they made were not at all satisfactory, the first witness Maxted, going so far as to refuse replying to some of Mr. Minter’s questions, while the statement of two others of the defendant’s friends, as to the time and place of the wrestling, showed that they were not in a very clear state of mind at the time of the occurrence, and were productive of much amusement in Court.

Mr. Minter, at the conclusion of their examination, again addressed the Bench at considerable length, criticising several weak points in the evidence of the witnesses for the defence, and asked, with great confidence, for a conviction.

The presiding Magistrate, after a short consultation, said that the evidence of the three witnesses called in the defence differed so entirely in many respects from each other that they were inclined to discredit the defendant’s statements altogether. He would be fined 30s., including the costs.

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