2nd July 1888
Reference Numbert18880702-679
VerdictGuilty > unknown
SentenceImprisonment > hard labour

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679. HENRY WILLIAM FOX (18) , Unlawfully placing a piece of wood across a railway, thereby endangering the safety of certain persons.

MR. FULTON and MR. KERSHAW Prosecuted; MR. BLACKWELL Defended.

Mr. Stannard produced apian of the district.

ROBERT CLAYTON . I live at 13, Third Avenue, Plaistow—I am a signalman of the London and St. Katharine's Dock Company—I have charge of the Bridge Docks, and control the swing bridge, which is worked by hydraulics from a lever in my box—the windows of the box are about 27 feet from the ground, and enable me to see the loopline which is used for ballast traffic—I cannot see the rails—I can see the top of the embankment, or a person standing on the rails, down to his knees—on 15th June, about 4 p.m., I was on duty at the signal box; my attention was attracted to four men playing about in the dock close by—the prisoner was one—he and another man were picking a piece of wood up, called a stage, being two long poles fastened together—it is used in painting a vessel in dry dock for the men to go from the quay to the dock by laying a plank on it—this is the stage (produced)—when not in use they lie about in the dock and are washed about by the water—I saw the prisoner and the others, two were carrying the wood along; they picked it up from behind my box—they were about ten yards off—I saw Fox's face—he was walking backwards—he had hold with one hand—he was facing me—the other two were playing—two took the wood towards the Y shed, and towards the fence of the loop line, and two followed—when they got to the top of the bank I called out "Do you want any help—Fox said "Go and f—yourself"—I said "If you want any help you can very soon have some, as you will be getting yourselves into trouble if you do not mind"—I was then looking out at the back of the box that looks into the Victoria Dock—the stage was token down the bank; Fox held one end—I then went to the north end of the box that faces Connaught Road and blew my whistle for assistance, or with the intention of frightening them—I then went to my window at the back of the box, and I saw three of the men at the top of the bank running away—about five seconds afterwards Fox ran away too in the same direction—my suspicions being aroused I went out of the box and looked through the fence on the top of the subway, and I saw the piece of wood lying across the line—I ran round to the gate to get into the Victoria Docks—I ran up the Victoria Docks past Nos. 3 and 4 granaries when I came up to Fox—I said "What do you mean by putting the timber on the line?—he said "It was not me, it was one of the others"—I told him it was him, and I should charge him with placing an obstruction on the line to endanger lives and property of the company—some person had put an obstruction on the goods line in January, and the bill produced had been put up by the Dock Company offering a reward of 5l. for the apprehension of the offender—Fox walked up the quay about twelve yards—I followed alongside, but could not see any assistance—the other three men were behind him—Fox ran round No. 2 granary; I ran after him—as we got back to No. 2 granary, west, he ran into the arms of a dock constable; I told the constable to hold him—I am not aware that these men had any

business on the premises—we took the prisoner to the station—I stated the charge to Inspector Hamilton—the trains go from the Royal Victoria Dock side down the curve and underneath the Connaught Road, as shown on the plan—they are called ballast trains—the crushing shed is marked on the left of the plan.

Cross-examined. I do not know of any bird's nests near the subway—there is an undergrowth of trees on the other side—the stage is not used as a ladder; I do not know what it is used for—I have not heard the prisoner say they were going to use the wood as a ladder—I could not see what the prisoner was doing when I blew my whistle—I did not see him put the wood on the line—the others were lads of about the same age as the prisoner—I could see west and north from my box.

HENRY KIMPTON (Policeman L 139). On 15th June I stopped the prisoner when he was running towards me from Clayton—I said to Clayton "What is a miss?"—Clayton said "I shall charge the prisoner with placing an obstruction upon the line"—I took the prisoner to the Dock Police Office—he was there charged.

GEORGE WILLIAM HAMILTON . I am a police inspector, employed by the St. Katharine's Dock Company—on the afternoon of 15th June the prisoner was brought to me by Clayton—he was handed over to the Metropolitan Police after hearing Clayton's statement—Clayton said "I found him putting an obstruction on the line"—the prisoner said "I did not do it, but I know who did"—he was charged by the Metropolitan police-constable with placing this piece of timber on the line and thereby endangering life and the property of the Company—he replied, but I did not heed it—I went to tine loop line and examined the place—I saw this staging at the buttress of the bridge—one part was across the metal and the end of that was under the other rail about six inches from the chair that supports the rail—it was in a slanting position—an engine-driver might see it about 80 feet off—the radius of the curve is 6 chains, and the incline is 1 in 50—that would be a sharp curve and a steep incline—a train coming from the Albert Docks side would have to pass through the tunnel—I question whether the driver would see the wood at all—it has not been weighed; it is about 1/2 cwt., and 10 feet 10 inches one side and 8 feet 6 inches the other—it was heavier then, because it had been in the water and had become saturated, as much as two could carry—the height of the bridge where the obstruction was was about 15 feet from the rail to the girders—it is not an arched bridge.

Cross-examined. I said before the Magistrates that I knew there were bird's nests in the arch, and that lads used the staging as a ladder to get at them—I did not hear the prisoner say they were taking it to get at bird's nests.

Re-examined. The prisoner said "I did not do it, but I know who did"—one end of the wood was under the rail, but could not go beyond—it formed an obstruction which could not move any further.

WILLIAM RICHARDSON (Policeman K 280). On 15th June, about 5.30, I was called into the St. Katharine's Docks—Hamilton said he would charge Fox with placing a piece of wood on the line in the docks, thereby endangering life and property—the prisoner said "I was there with the other two; they said there was some nests, so we took the wood from under the bank"—I took him to the station—on the way he said

"Iwould have pulled it off again, but that chap blowed a whistle, and the others ran away, so I ran away too"—he was charged at the station—he said "It is false; I never put the timber on the line at all."

JOHN SHERLOCK . I am an engine-driver, in the service of the London and St. Katharine's Dock Company; I have been with them four years—I drive the ballast engine between the docks and the loop line—my train consists of an engine and eight trucks—we get the ballast from the crushing machine, shown on the left of the plan—it is used by the ships—from 10 to 15 trains a day pass over the loop line—my attention has been drawn to where this wood was—I should be able to see the obstruction from my engine about 80 yards off coming down the incline, but we often go with the trucks in front of us, so that there would be about 30 yards between the trucks and the obstruction—I should not be able to pull up before coming against it, because we should not see it soon enough—the curve is sharp—if the trucks had been thrown off the line they would have been dashed into the bridge—three people are employed on the train, myself, stoker, and guard—the guard is shunter—coming from the dock we should see it about the same distance—we should not be able to pull up before coming against it so well, because it is a steeper incline than the other side—we travel from 10 to 15 miles an hour—we could not bring the train quickly to a stop at an angle of 1 in 50 at a place like that—the trains run at irregular times—our train went down the line about 4.40.

The prisoner received a good character.

GUILTY . — Six Months' Hard Labour

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