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Judicial CP - September 1956

Corpun file 24968 at

Mona's Herald, Douglas, 11 September 1956, p.1

Douglas robbery with violence case

Liverpool waiter is gaoled and whipped

Attacked holidaymaker late at night and took his wallet

Very serious crime, says Deemster

Click to enlarge

SENTENCE of twelve months' imprisonment and ten strokes of the birch-rod was passed by Deemster J.A. Cain, at a Court of General Gaol Delivery, held in Douglas, yesterday, on George Pratt, a twenty-yr-old waiter, of Portland Place, Liverpool, after he had pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery with violence.

Pratt had been jointly accused with another seasonal worker, twenty-two-years-old Christopher Byrne, an assistant chef, of Carrow Road, Drimnagh, Dublin, of attacking a Glasgow holiday-maker, Robert Russell, in Strand Lane, late at night, and taking from him a wallet containing £28 in notes. Byrne, who denied the charge, was represented by Mr. R.K. Eason, and will be tried by jury on October 16.

Mr. David Lay, prosecuting, said that he intended to call Pratt as a witness in the case against Byrne, and because of that he would suggest that Pratt should be sentenced immediately. His Honour agreed to that course and said that Byrne would be remanded in custody until the sitting of General Gaol to be held at Douglas on October 16.

Mr. Lay said that Pratt was a seasonal worker, aged twenty and lived in Liverpool. The circumstances which brought about the charge were that the victim, Mr. Robert Russell came to the Isle of Man on holiday on July 12. At 1 a.m. on July 14, he was walking along Strand Line, which ran between Howard Street and Granville Street. The prisoner, and another man and two girls were in the lane. Russell was the worse for drink.

Belt round fist

Pratt had said he was going to get a few bob and had taken off his belt and wrapped it round his fist. He had then assaulted Russell and had taken £28 in Scottish bank notes from him. Both men then ran away.

Later Russell was found in a dazed condition. As a consequence of the attack Russell spent five days in hospital and then attended for treatment as an out-patient.

Russell had multiple minor injuries to the face, including a deep two-inch cut above the right eye, and a smaller cut over the left eye. Both eyes were "blacked." Both cheeks were cut and bruised.

Pratt had been arrested on the afternoon of July 14. Pratt when asked about the wallet stolen from Russell, had taken out a wallet which he said was his own, saying: "I burnt the one we got from the man, in the furnace." Pratt had in his possession three Scottish £1 notes and a 10s. note.

He was taken to the Douglas Police station where he said: "Nothing I can say will help me now. We had £14 each."

Pratt also said that he had changed a five pound note in a photographer's shop. He had also bought a pair of shoes, a shirt, and some tobacco. The prisoner had added: "I only hit him once, in the stomach or face."

Detective-Sergt. J.J. Clague said the prisoner was a single man living with four brothers and his parents in Liverpool. He had been employed as a waiter and kitchen porter in Douglas hotels and in London over a period of years. In October, 1954, Pratt had failed to report for National Service. There was one previous conviction against him at Liverpool in June, 1951, when he was bound over on two charges of house-breaking.

Mr. Lay pointed out that under Manx law the maximum penalty for robbery with violence was imprisonment for life and a whipping up to fifty strokes.

Pratt asked that the fact that he had been in custody since July 14th should be taken into consideration.


In sentencing Pratt, Deemster Cain said he had pleaded guilty to what His Honour regarded as a very serious offence, that of robbery with violence. Pratt had not seen fit even at this stage to express regret for his conduct or even sympathy with the victim of the attack.

Mr. Lay intervened to say, in reply to a question from the Deemster, that Pratt had made no public expression of regret, but he understood that he had expressed some regret when talking privately to the police.

His Honour stated that he would give Pratt the benefit of that unofficial expression of regret.

"The offence you have committed is a serious one for this reason," continued His Honour. "If people go about behaving as you did it becomes unsafe for responsible citizens of this country to walk on the roads or lanes of the town at night."

Mean action

The prisoner's action was made more particularly mean by the fact that the man he saw fit to assault was not able to resist, but was a man under the influence of drink, a person who could not put up even a reasonable defence to the assault.

The maximum penalty allowed by Manx law was imprisonment for life and a whipping, and having considered the facts of this case he had decided to impose both imprisonment and a whipping.

In the circumstances, and because the prisoner was under twenty-one years, the instrument with which the whipping would be carried out would be a birch rod and not the cat-o-nine-tails.

The penalty he would impose was one of twelve months imprisonment, to date from the day the prisoner was taken into custody, July 14, and that he should be given ten strokes of the birch rod.

After imposing sentence, Deemster Cain said the thanks of the public were due to the police for their prompt action and to other persons who helped in the apprehension of the prisoner.

blob Follow-up: 18 October 1956 - Youth Gets 6 Strokes of Birch

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