End of the Racecourse Gangs. Part 4
The Judge called a halt to proceedings for the day, saying “This case is adjourned until 10.30am tomorrow. The trial had all but ended during the middle of the afternoon of Wednesday 29th July 1936.
In the meantime, the Jury had been sent out at 1.30pm with a view of considering their verdict. They returned at 4.30pm after considering the charges against the sixteen men, who had been charged with two offences each.
The Judge asked the foreman to stand and asked, “Have the jury come to a conclusion?” The foreman replied, “Yes your lordship, we have, we find all defendants guilty on all charges.”
At 10.30am on Thursday 30th July and with everyone in place, the trial resumed. The judge, Mr. Justice Hilbery took his seat and looking around the court said, “You sixteen men all stand, and continuing said “I will start my summing up by saying, “Crimes of gang violence in this Country will met wit no mercy.” Theses were stern words from the Judge at this Sussex Assize Court in Lewes. He certainly was in no mood for ‘pussy footing’ around today, when he was about to pass some severe sentences. The look on some of the faces of these sixteen men indicated to the court, just how scared a number of them were. They realised that they were about to lose their liberty for quite some while, He said, “this has been a case that will be forever known as ‘The Lewes Race gang Case,’ and rightly so., when passing sentence on the sixteen men who were facing him.’ He carried on; his eyes firmly fixed on these men and said there is no case here for leniency on any of you, and you will therefore receive such sentences which I hope will teach others, who are here listening, or who may read about what happens in the case afterwards.
While addressing the sixteen men Mr. Justice Hilbery referred to the alertness of the police officers involved and thanking them for their prompt action when dealing, what could have been something far more serious than what it is now?
Both the Defence and prosecuting barristers had made good speeches at the end of the trial and probably the defence team thought it was a pretty forgone conclusion as to the outcome. The evidence was very strong on behalf of the prosecution.
The Judge then called the prisoners forward from the dock to be told of their sentences.
After they had been sentenced then Superintendent Albert Waghorn then entered the witness box to inform the court of the prisoner’s antecedents.
The first man called forward was:-
George Gilder, 28 years, married with 2 children of No.6, Fanshaw Street, Shoreditch, London. He is a labourer by trade. He was sentenced to 3 years penal servitude.
He had convictions for the following; theft, using insulting words and behaviour, being a suspected person, assaulting the police, imprisonment and 3 years Borstal training.
Albert Blitz, 24 years, a lorry driver of No. 48, Bookham Street, London N1.
He is married with one child He was sentenced to 4 years penal servitude. he has convictions for theft, receiving stolen goods, being in possession of housebreaking implements at night, has served one term of imprisonment.
George Gardiner, 30 years, a salesman of No.2, Gibraltar Gardens, Bethnal Green, London, Married with no children. He was sentenced to 18 months hard labour. He had no previous convictions.
John Tyler, 27 years, a labourer, single, of No. 55, St. George’s Street, Shadwell, London. He was sentenced to three years penal servitude. He has convictions for theft, assault, shop – breaking, driving away a motor car without the owner’s consent, assaulting the police. He has served a term of imprisonment.
George Churchill, 29 years, a bookmaker’s clerk, married with one child of No.42 Lyndock Street, Kingsland Road, London N1. He was sentenced to two years hard labour. He had convictions for theft and attempted larceny. These were convictions under the alias name of George Jones. He has served a term of imprisonment.
Thomas Mack, 40 years, a painter, married with two children of No. 14, Nicholas Street, London N1. He was sentenced to three years penal servitude. He had convictions for theft, loitering, assaulting the police, causing grievous bodily harm (GBH), gaming, assaulting a female., disorderly conduct, aggravated assault, unlawful wounding. He has served a term of imprisonment and two years of Borstal training.
James Spinks, 29 years, a French Polisher, married with three children, of No. 64, Maidstone Street, Hackney, London E2.. He was sentenced to five years penal servitude. (The highest sentence) He has convictions for theft, assaulting the police (several), common assault (several) causing grievous bodily harm (GBH- two cases), drunk and disorderly, and assaulting the police, drinking during prohibited hours. Has served terms of imprisonment (several)
Arthur Bonniface, 28 years, a fruiterer, married with two children of No. 29, Bowlin Road, Dalston, London N16. He was sentenced to three years penal servitude. He has previous convictions for being a suspected person and loitering, larceny, conspiring to rob and assault, causing grievous bodily harm. He has served a term of imprisonment.
Michael Illingworth, 28 years, a porter, married with two children. He was sentenced to eighteen months hard labour. He has no previous convictions.
Charles Spring, 36 years, a labourer, married with four children, of No. 5, Wicker Terrace, Stepney, London E1. He was sentenced five years penal servitude. (The highest sentence as with James Spinks) He served in the Royal Sussex Regiment from 1917 – 1920 and saw service in France and with the Army of Occupation. His army record is recorded as good.
He has convictions for theft, wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH), assault, shop-breaking, loitering with intent, possessing housebreaking implements at night. He has served a term of imprisonment. He has also served three years Borstal training.
Harry Bond, 25 years, a florist, married with two children, of No. 33, Allerton Street, Shoreditch, London. He was sentenced to two years hard labour. He has previous convictions for shop-breaking, theft and tampering with a motor vehicle. He has served one term in prison.
Henry Wilkins, 23, a labourer, a single man of No. 18, Galway Street, St. Lukes, London. He was sentenced to two years hard labour. He has convictions for being found on enclosed premises and receiving stolen goods. He was sentenced to three years Borstal Training.
Leslie Edward Hain, 26 years, a labourer, a single man of No. 12, Buckland Street, Shoreditch, London. He was sentenced to 18 months hard labour. He has no previous convictions.
Joseph John Kilby, 26 years, a labourer, a widower of No. 9, Castigney Place,, Bah Street,, City Road, London. He was sentenced to two years hard labour. He has convictions for theft, assaulting the police. He has served a term in prison.
Stephen Patrick Bennis, 33 years, a clerk, married with three children of No.18, Weald Square, Upper Clapton, London. He was sentenced to three years penal servitude. He has convictions for being a suspected person, wounding, loitering, ‘Welshing, (at Brighton in 1930). Throwing packets of tobacco over a prison wall to his friends inside. He has served a term of imprisonment. Spent three years Borstal training.
Timothy Bennis, 28 years, a clerk, married with two children, of No. 8, Domingo Street, St. Lukes, London. He was sentenced to two years hard labour. He has convictions for theft, being a suspected person, receiving and having housebreaking implements. He has served a term of imprisonment.
Mr. Cassels, for the defence asked the Judge if the prisoners could see their families before being taken away, The Judge, after thinking for a couple of minutes said that they could but with a proviso; that being they can only see the following, namely, a Wife, Mother, Father, or Brother, no one else.
After they had each been sentenced, the Judge ordered the prisoners to be ‘taken down’. He then declared the trial finished. Everyone stood and after a few bows, judge, Mr. Justice Hilbery left the room. The courtroom was buzzing with everyone talking about the harshness of the various sentences. A total of more than 40 years imprisonment had just been bestowed upon these gang members. Never before has so harsh a sentence been given, for offences such as these. A group of men had been sitting in the public gallery, possibly some of the other gang members who had got away; they were talking excitedly about the sentences, hopefully thinking of not being gang members any more.
The National Bookmaker’s Protection Association
In 1932 The National Bookmaker’s Protection Association was set up to make pitch allocation fairer and to eradicate the intimidation of bookmakers. Only a bookmaker approved by the BPA locally and the Jockey Club could now have a pitch. That pitch could not be sold or passed on. A key profit stream of the racecourse gangs had been stopped.
The now ageing Brummagems were now without their leader and their usual funding. They weren’t even involved in the last great racecourse war at Lewes racecourse on 8 June 1936. It was this bloody battle that inspired Graham Greene to write ‘Brighton Rock’.
Special Thanks to Ted Janes