Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 21 September 2014), December 1798, trial of BENJAMIN CLARKE (t17981205-52).

BENJAMIN CLARKE, Theft > petty larceny, 5th December 1798.

53. BENJAMIN CLARKE was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 19th of November , two ounces weight of tea, value 4d. the property of the United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies .

Second Count. Laying it to be the property of certain persons unknown.(The case was opened by Mr. Knapp.)

WILLIAM COMBES sworn. - I am a labourer in the East-India warehouses. On Monday, the 19th of November, I was upon the upper floor of the building when I saw the prisoner go down one of the alleys of the warehouse, he went up to a chest, took some tea out of the chest, and put it into his pocket, I believe it was either in his breeches pocket, or some place made for the purpose in his apron; I acquainted one of the elders with it, and that is all I know about it.

Cross-examined by Mr. Const. Q. I believe it is not by such small quantities as this man is accused of, that the India Company in general have a complaint? - A. I cannot say.

Q. He might have seen you, as well as you see him? - A. He saw me when he went down.

Q. Therefore if he had supposed he had been guilty of a felony, he would have continued it about him? - A. I cannot say as to that.

Court. Q. If he did not observe you, he might have taken a great deal more? - A. Yes, he might, he had an opportunity of taking more.

Q. How long afterwards was it that he was taken up? - A. I believe two or three hours.

Q. Then he continued upon this floor for two or three hours? - A. Yes, he was generally employed upon that floor.

JOHN BURGESS sworn. - I am the King's locker at the India-house: I searched the prisoner, and found upon him a packet of tea, concealed in his breeches pocket, after searching him for ten minutes or more; it contained about two ounces. (The tea produced).

Cross-examined by Mr. Alley. Q. You attend for the purpose of searching people as they come out of the warehouse? - A. Yes.

Q. I take it a man is not likely to get off without being detected, or you must neglect your duty? - A. If we were to search every man as I searched him, it would take us from eight o'clock in the morning till night; we search them as quick as we can.

Q. Do not you search their pockets? - A. No; we search their breeches sometimes.

Q. This is worth about four-pence? - A. Yes.

Q. The prisoner has been some years in the Company's service? - A. Yes.

Q. This tea was folded up in a paper? - A. Yes.

Q. You did not find it in his waistcoat pocket? - A. No.

Q. Did you find it in his apron? - A. No.

Q. You did not find any loose in his pocket? - A. No.

Q. You do not search men when they come into the warehouse? - A. No.

Q. Therefore if a man means to go to see a sick friend before he goes home, after he has done work, and takes a little tea in his pocket for that sick friend, there is nothing wonderful in that? - A. No; but there is a rule against any body taking tea in.

- BARBER sworn. - I am an elder belonging to the India Company's warehouses.

Q. Look at that tea - is that like the tea that you had in the warehouse? - A. Yes.

Cross-examined by Mr. Alley. Q. You have every kind of tea in the warehouse, and therefore you know it must be like the tea in the warehouses? - A. This is congou tea.

The prisoner left his defence to his Counsel, and called eight witnesses, who gave him a good character.

There were upwards of twenty more attending, but the Court thought it unnecessary to examine them. GUILTY (Aged 60.)

Confined fourteen days in Newgate , fined 1s. and discharged.

Tried by the London Jury, before Mr. COMMON SERJEANT.