Mrs Marsden-Smedley Fined
During 1917 the government imposed restrictions on the private use of petrol the Motor Spirit Restriction Order which came into force on 1 November. 1917 Standing instructions were issued to police forces throughout the country to stop any car they had reason to believe was being driven contrary to the regulations. The aim was to eliminate joy riding. Roads in an out of resorts such as Matlock Bath were to receive special attention, as were cars parked outside hotels, restaurants and theatres. The onus of proving that cars were being used legitimately rested with the driver of the vehicle. The local police were quick to act when Mrs Marsden Smedley went to the Matlock Town Hall on 1 November to open and “American Tea” being held to raise funds to send Christmas gifts to local soldiers serving abroad, she arrived by car. The chauffeur driven vehicle had been led to her by Mr and Mrs Shore Nightingale. The police charged all three and the driver with contravening the new regulations. In court the police pointed out that a pony and trap could have that could have been used. The defending solicitor claimed that the event was not so much an entertainment but a public meeting at which a considerable sum was raised for the benefit of 700 local soldiers and sailors. Mrs Marsden Smedley he suggested was performing a public duty. The bench, expressing sympathy with the defendants and knowing that they would not have broken the law unknowingly nevertheless concluded that an offence had been committed at each was fined ten shillings.
High Peak News 14 November 1917
FIRST PETROL CASES
The first charges of using petrol illegally under the new Order were heard. The charges were for using petrol or motor spirit, contrary to the regulations, and the defendants on the charge sheet were: Louis Hillary Shore Nightingale, gentlemen, for permitting the use of the petrol on the 1st of November; his wife Helen Joanna Shore Nightingale, and Gertrude Mary Marsden Smedley, of Lea Green (wife of Alderman J.B. Marsden Smedley JP, the Food Controller for the county, etc) for causing is use; and the chauffeur William Shaw, for using the spirit.
The event was an American tea at the Matlock Town Hall on November 1st, and the proceeds were in aid of the fund to send Christmas gifts to our soldiers abroad. Mrs Marsden Smedley had consented to open the proceedings and motored there in her friend's car, that of Mr and Mrs Shore Nightingale.
Mr F.C.Lymm, Matlock, defended.
Mr L.S.Nightingale appeared in the box with Shaw.
Mrs Marsden Smedley was given a seat by the solicitors table.
The defendants pleaded not guilty.
PC Jenney stated on 1st November he was at the Police Station at 3.30 p.m. and saw a motor car drive up to the Town Hall. The driver was defendant Shaw, and the owner of the car was Mr L.S. Shore Nightingale. Inside the car was Mrs Marsden Smedley and another lady he learnt was Mrs Shore Nightingale. They went into the Town Hall to an American tea for Christmas gifts for soldiers and sailors. He asked the driver if he was aware the new order was in force and he said he was not. He added he had received instructions to drive at the two ladies to the Matlock Town Hall, and he thought that was from Mr Nightingale. The officer explained it was not permissible to drive to entertainments, and that he would have to report it.
Cross examined by Mr Lymn: The bill of the tea did not ask the payment for admission so that anyone could go to the entertainment. It called it an American tea.
Supt Clarke: There were competitions, and that was an entertainment.
Cross examination continued: there were a great number of people attending the event. The bill announced Mrs Marsden Smedley would open the tea. PC Lester spoke to the driver first, and afterwards he came to the police office.
Superintendent Clarke: It says tea is 6d (No sugar)
PC Lester corroborated.
Sgt Aves also gave evidence and said he saw Mr Nightingale at Wood End about this complaint. The defendant told him that he gave orders for the car to go, and it was his car. He also said if he remembered all right Mrs Smedley's car had broken down. Mrs Nightingale confirm this as the car being broken down, and their car was sent for Mrs Smedley. Afterwards they returned with the car.
Supt Clarke explained the order came into force that day, which practically prevented the use of all private motorcars. No cars could be used to entertainments or for recreation. The order was sent out in October to all holders of cars. With regard to the American tea he could not be suggested it was not in entertainment, had even otherwise a horse and trap could have been used. Mrs Marsden Smedley had a pony and tub she could have used.
For the defence Mr Lymn put in a statement from Mr Shore Nightingale, which had been sent to the superintendent.
Mr Lymn read the statement, which confirmed the breakdown of Mrs Smedley's car and the substitution of Mr Nightingale's car. His intention was to assist a friend and neighbour, and the occasion might be regarded as justifiable. That could not be classed as joyriding, but as to that, of course, opinions differed. He would take full responsibility for the consequences.
On Mrs Marsden Smedley being called, the Chairman said the law was that cars should not be used and she came.
Mrs Smedley said she was invited to open this American tea on October 24. She knew something about the use of motorcars, and she knew of the new Order. She had complied with that Order since 1st November. The invitation she regarded as a public duty, and she fell she was entitled to use a car for that purpose. That being so she was going to use her own car. She could have bought the car to Matlock Bath railway station to catch a train to Matlock according to the order. For such an object, Mrs Nightingale said they would be justified in lending their car.
She herself did not know anything of the Order only in the newspaper.
The Chairman: we have two rely upon the papers. People are not in the habit of sitting on doorsteps waiting for information. It is very unfortunate, but there it is.
By Mr Lymn: this was not a joyride; I thought I was doing a public duty, and for the public good. I consider petrol should only be used in furtherance of the war. I excepted this invitation to assist in getting funds for Christmas gifts for the soldiers and sailors.
Cross-examined by superintendent Clarke: I am afraid I could not say there was a print of the regulations sent with the last motor licence.
You say this was a public duty? – Yes.
There are hundreds of these teas being held every day? – Yes.
Do you contend that every person can use a car to go there? – I think there is a distinction between the person asked to open and the rest.
You do not suggest that it would save petrol if all the people went in cars? – It is for the Bench to decide.
You honestly believed it was so. How did you come to that conclusion? – I thought the object was good.
But sympathy has to take a back seat. I do not suggest who did not think you were doing good.
By Mr Lymn: I was the opener of the tea, or I should not have come all that way to attend the event. I consider it was an official ceremony as it was a county affair.
Supt Clarke: you could have driven here? – Yes, if I have started at 8 o'clock in the morning I should have got here. And the pony would have died on the way, and you would have had me up for cruelty to animals. You seem very anxious to catch me.
Your daughter appears to be taking the risk? – You see she rides.
Supt Clarke: We live in difficult times, and I'm afraid we shall have to put up with it.
Mr L.S.Shore Nightingale then gave evidence to the same effect as in his statement. In applying for his licence per petrol he received a copy of the order. In this instance he thought it a justifiable use of the car, and he would not have sent the car in the front of the police station had he thought otherwise. It was a public function and a public duty to raise funds for Christmas gifts.
The clerk: In the performance of any public duty, it says in the order? – That is how I regarded it.
Supt Clarke: And twice in this statement of yours you use the word entertainment. It is obvious if entertainments are excluded then you must have been wrong in your judgement? – You can put that construction upon it if you wish.
Had you thought anything about the Order at the time? – I knew it was in then.
You were doing a very kind act, I admit. – I admit I was in a hurry at the time.
Mr Lymn, in addressing the Bench said the use of the car was for the 700 soldiers and sailors in that locality. It might be in entertainment or not, but a considerable sum of money was raised, to the great credit of the organisers. The effort was made because the local people were asked to raise the funds, instead of from a central fund at Derby. He claimed this function was a public one, and a public meeting. He contended that the notices opened the event to the public. The only charge was for the tea. He he asked the Bench to say Mrs Marsden Smedley was performing a public duty. She had no other means of coming to the event. She could have motored to the railway station and gone to Matlock from the nearest railway station. The train nearest to the time was the 1.52 at Matlock Bath. It was not a joyride. He wanted the Bench not to penalised the defendants. Under the extra ordinary circumstances he was justified in asking for the case to be dismissed. Supt Clarke said it was not a public meeting. The onus of proof was on the user.
After retiring, the magistrates announced they had come to the conclusion that although they were in full sympathy with the defendant's, the law had been broken to some extent. It was for a very good cause, and taking everything into consideration and knowing the defendants would not willingly break the law, each defendant will be fined 10s.
High Peak News 15 December 1917
The appeal on behalf of Mrs Marsden-Smedley of Lea Green, against the fine of 10s imposed by the local magistrates for using petrol to the motor in which she travelled to open the American Tea at the Town Hall, will be in the ordinary course come on the January Derbyshire Quarter Sessions. The point at issue is an important one. Petrol supply coupons are only issued subject to the provisions of Clause 3 of the New Petrol Restriction Order, and that clasue says the use is only for a public duty. The issue there is: "Did Mrs Marsden-Smedley perform a public duty in attending the American Tea to perform the opening ceremony?"