Braintree Workhouse Asks for Police Assistance

The Essex Newsman - Saturday 03 July 1909Saturday, July 3, 1909



At the meeting of the Braintree Board of Guardians, on Monday, Mr. Joseph Smith, J.P., C.A., presiding, the Workhouse Master, Mr. C. H. Barlow, reported upon the trouble which he said he had with a violent inmate, and upon the decision of the local police not to arrest a man from the Braintree Workhouse unless a warrant was issued.

In this case he said a man caused a disturbance in the dining hall, where he used threatening language, and ha to be placed in a cell, pending the issue of a warrant. He (the Master) telephoned to the police but they refused to render any assistance unless a warrant was first issued for the arrest of the man, and while this was being done the man smashed the door of his cell and absconded in the Workhouse clothes.

If the police refused help in such cases it meant that there was some danger of a Workhouse officer being murdered before the police would interfere. In the case in question he (the Master) told the police he would charge the man with felony, but the police state that the ran a great risk in sending a policeman to the workhouse. [Laughter.] Supt. Terry himself told him that an officer might be injured, and then there would be trouble. [Laughter.] But what about a poor Workhouse officer? The whole difficulty arose because some time ago a man cut a policeman's throat after he had been arrested by the police, and ever since then officers in the Workhouse had been denied protection. He had had as many as a hundred tramps there, and what would happen if they were to cut up rough and the police would not assist? 

The man now in question had a large piece of granite upon him, and he had been looking for the Workhouse Master. Near where he had found this instrument (the Master held up a piece of wood, very much like a policeman's truncheon in appearance, which had a short piece of iron pipe on the end). He (the Master) had only a boy for a clerk and a porter, and he did hope the Board would afford him some protection. He would suggest that they should write to the Home Secretary. Essex and Kent were the only two counties where the police required a warrant before they would arrest a man from a workhouse. All the protection the officials could expect was illustrated by a case which recently arose there. A man broke a window in the Workhouse. He was arrested on warrant, which meant that the Master had to visit the police-station and the clerk's office and then the man was sent to three days' hard labour. Under this sentence he did one day's imprisonment. He hd a ride into train as far as Chelmsford, and when discharged after one full day he got a cup of tea from the Prisoners' Aid Society, and a promise of money to help him on his journey, and so he was able to go on his way, blessing the Braintree Workhouse Master.

The CHAIRMAN: This is an old story.

The MASTER: It is a most disgraceful state of affairs.

Mr. B. S. WOOD (Bocking) move that the case be made out of the Home Secretary, He said it seemed abominable that rates should be raised for the support of he police and then protection be denied to a Workhouse. In the present case the Guardians should go right past the county authorities, because they did not seem to recognise that things were as bad as they really were. The local Superintendent felt that he was supported by the county, and the Guardians should go to the higher authority.

The Rev. A. CURTIS (Braintree) seconded the motion.

Mr. A. W. GUGGLES BRISE, J.P. : I think it would be more courteous for us to consult the Chief Constable of Essex before going to the Home Secretary. As a rule the police of this county do their duty admirably, as we all know, and I think it very hard on our Chief Constable that because the Supt. at Braintree has refused to send a constable to this house we should send direct to the Home Secretary. Such action might do injury to the police force. We should tell our Chief Constable that unless he meets our wishes we shall make representation to the Home Secretary.

Mr. H. F. BAWTREE (Witham): It is certainly an extraordinary thing for a local Superintendent to be able to refuse our Workhouse Master assistance. I fully agree that it is a most serious position, but we all know the Chief Constable of Essex, and we should hear what he has to say on the subject before we carry the matter to the Home Secretary.

The CHAIRMAN: I think the Chief Constable knows all about it.

Mr. WOOD: Supt. Terry no doubt acted under the direction of his superior officers. We want immediate aid in an instance of this kind.

The MASTER: It is only fair to say that Supt. Terry said he could not send a policeman, because the Chief Constable ha told him not to do so. We had a letter from the Chief Constable some years ago stating that in the case of an obstreperous person the police would lend assistance, and I told Supt. Terry this.

The CHAIRMAN: The Clerk will write to the Chief Constable, and on his reply we will decide whether we will lay the facts before the Home Secretary.

Mr. WOOD: This is a case of a broken head on one side, and courtesy on the other. I don't withdraw my resolution.

The Rev. A. CURTIS: I withdraw my sending of it.

Mr. WOOD: It must go to the vote.

A vote was taken. Four members favoured laying the case before the Home Secretary, a the rest, who comprised a great majority, voted for writing first to Capt. Showers.