Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Little Misunderstanding in Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard Constabulary 1897 [QEV20/4]

Friday 22nd January 1915: Corporal William Rooney of the 12th West Yorkshire Regiment has appeared in Court charged with assaulting Police Sergeant Dennis while in the execution of his duty at Leighton Buzzard on 10th January. PS Dennis was in Church Street near the Stag’s Head Inn when he heard a disturbance near North Square. When he got to North Street he saw Corporal Rooney and two privates; they were using filthy language. He asked them to stop but they took no notice. When asked a second time PS Dennis took hold of one of them and told him to get home to his billet. Corporal Rooney told him to let them alone as they were under his charge and caught hold of the policeman’s arm. PS Dennis told the corporal not to interfere with him while he was in the execution of his duty and again took hold of one of the men, warning that he would fetch the guard if he did not go home. Corporal Rooney then struck PS Dennis a violent blow to the mouth, which cut his lip and made his nose bleed. The policeman caught hold of Rooney as he fell and pulled him to the ground, where they struggled. Rooney broke away and ran down the road. When PS Dennis tried to follow, the other two soldiers obstructed him. The three men then ran down Chapel Path. PC Keens came up and they rushed at the prisoner but he slipped past. PS Dennis shouted for the guard, who came out and stopped him. When questioned by Lieutenant Morris, an officer in Corporal Rooney’s company, PS Dennis agreed that to push a man might get his back up, but denied kicking one of the men in the scuffle or kicking the prisoner while he was on the ground.

Corporal Rooney stated in Court that he was walking quietly down Church Street with two others but they happened to be in front of some other soldiers who were making a noise. The police sergeant came up to him and told him to clear off and he replied that he had done nothing. PS Dennis then struck at him; he put up his elbow which accidentally caught the policeman in the face. They fell to the ground together where PS Dennis kicked at him twice and tried to throw one of the privates on his back. The three of them ran away. Later they were walking down Church Street when they met PS Dennis again, who rushed at him but was not able to get him.  He said he ran away from Dennis to avoid being caught by the guard for being out late. Private George Smith, who was with Corporal Rooney, corroborated his evidence, although he did admit saying in the guard room that the Rooney had assaulted the policeman. Private Joseph Linnett gave further corroborative evidence, adding that PS Dennis pushed them first and kicked both Private Smith and himself in the back after they said they were going home. 

Sergeant Harold Brooks said he had known Corporal Rooney since September 9th and found him one of the most good natured men in the Regiment. Corporal Alfred Wilson, who was on guard on the night of the alleged assault said he had followed PS Dennis up Church Street and saw the Corporal on his knees in the road. PS Dennis tried to kick Rooney and did not call on him for assistance. Lieutenant Morris gave Corporal Rooney an excellent character and said it seemed perfectly clear from the evidence that the bother arose out of “an excess of zeal and a little misunderstanding”. While not making any accusation against the policeman he did point out that it was natural if a man was pushed for him to push back. He also stated that PS Dennis had no right to touch Corporal Rooney as he was doing nothing wrong and the matter was outside the scope of his duties. The military authorities regretted the incident, but asked that the Corporal be released without anything against him. After considering the matter the magistrates dismissed the case, which appeared to them to be trivial. They expressed the hope that the previous good feeling between the military and the police would continue and that there would not be similar cases in future. 

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 26th January 1915; Luton News 28th January 1915

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