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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Misappropriation of the Moneys of a Trade Society

page 78

Misappropriation of the Moneys of a Trade Society.

Barnet Petty Sessions.—Monday, April 8th, 1878.—Magistrates present: H. E. C. Stapylton, Esq. (chairman), J. W. Cater, Esq., and W. Müller, Esq.—Charles Timpson, carpenter, of Victoria Road, New Barnet, was summoned that he, having the sum of £38. 10s. 1½d. in his possession belonging to the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, did wilfully withhold or fraudulently misapply the same, or apply the same to purposes other than those expressed or directed in the rules of the society.—Mr. H. Avory, barrister, prosecuted.—John D. Prior, of Brunswick Street, Manchester, said he was general secretary to the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, which had its head offices at Manchester. The society was registered under the Trade Union Act of 1871. He produced the rules, to which was annexed the certificate of the Registrar of Friendly Societies.—Elisha Blakey said he was a carpenter living at Leicester Road, New Barnet, and was secretary of the Barnet Branch of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners. Defendant had been treasurer of that branch since 1873. It was his duty, under the rules to attend every meeting held at the Railway Hotel, New Barnet. Under rule 20, clause 2, it was his duty to bank or remit the money as was ordered. The defendant did not attend the audit in September last, nor did he send his books. At the audit in December he attended and went through the books with the auditors, and it then appeared he had a balance of £49. 8s. 3½d. He was asked to produce on the audit night, the 17th January, the money in hand. He said he had not it with him, and he was sent to fetch it. He returned with the bank book, but without the money, and said he could not get the money as his wife was out and she had the keys. He was then instructed by the auditors and witness to bank £40, and return the book to the officers before the next meeting night. At the next meeting he did not attend. Witness then wrote to him to the effect that unless he banked the money, clause 6 of rule 20 would be strictly enforced. On the 25th February he attended a meeting, and being asked if he had banked the money said "Yes." By the bank book it appeared that on the 25th February the sum of £13 odd had been paid in. He had paid nothing into the bank since. Witness reported the matter to the meeting, and on the 13th March he sent the defendant a notice under the 6th clause of rule 20. On the 23rd March a meeting of all the members of the branch (specially summoned) took place, at which defendant attended, and witness said there was a deficiency on the books of £38. 10s. l½d. Defendant, at that meeting, expressed sorrow at being in the position he was. He had spent the money, and could only throw himself on the mercy of the members. He asked them to accept an offer to pay £1 a month. Nothing else was said on that occasion by the defendant. John Haynes said he was a carpenter and trustee of the Barnet Branch of the society. He signed the notice which was sent to the defendant that the trustees would attend on the 16th of March. In accordance with that notice, he, with two other trustees, attended the house of defendant at seven o'clock. He saw the defendant. The trustees asked him for the cheques, books, and money. He brought the cheques given for money paid out, and money bag and book. The money bag was turned over, and there was £4. 14s. 3d. Defendant said—"You will find all I have there." He further said he had no more money, he had spent the money, and no one else had anything to do with it. He made an offer to pay £1 a month, if the trustees would accept that. Witness was present at the meeting when defendant attended, and he heard the secretary tell defendant what the deficiency was. Defendant said he was sorry for it; he had spent the money, and must put up with the consequences.

The Chairman said the penalty the Bench might inflict was £20. They had been considering the case, and they felt their first object should be to get back the money for the society. As the prosecution had dealt mercifully with the defendant, and had not proceeded against him for embezzlement, the Bench thought they would be doing best if they made him pay the law costs, 20s. and 50s. a month. In default the defendant would have to go to prison for three months.—From the Barnet Press, April 13th, 1878.

∵ If the facts contained in the above report do not convey a lesson of warning to the minds of our members, it will be very difficult for us to say anything which will give additional weight or force to the report of the trial. It is the old, old story repeated once more. A small branch, in which the members are all personally well known to each other. The treasurer, an old member of the society, his character beyond page 79 suspicion, and his honesty so undoubted that the checks provided in our rules for the protection of our funds appear latterly to have been considered quite unnecessary as far as he was concerned. He was also a foreman; and it may possibly be that the influence he thus possessed in taking men off the vacant book had something to do with the extraordinary leniency shown in his case. He was sent to take charge of some work at Poplar, consequently he could not regularly attend branch meetings or audits, nor could he manage to bank the society's funds, which were from time to time entrusted to his care, until at last he held about £50 in a branch of only twenty-five members. At last the suspicions of his branch became slowly aroused, and the newspaper report tells you the result.

We fear that in too many of our small branches a similar laxity exists. It does no one any good, and often produces evil results. If a treasurer is not prepared to properly account for the cash he holds in the book provided for that purpose, to bank it without delay whenever he is required to do so, and to produce all his cash at every audit of the accounts, there should be no false delicacy shown; he should plainly be told that he must resign his office and make way for those who will faithfully discharge the duties. Where dishonesty or carelessness exists, the checks which the society's rules provide must be enforced for our own protection; and the zealous and upright officer will gladly welcome any scrutiny which will demonstrate his integrity. Had the members of the Barnet Branch strictly enforced rule 20, clause 2, at every quarterly audit, we believe that the treasurer would have managed to have raised the original amount of his deficiency; but by repeated neglect, and by accepting trivial excuses, instead of insisting on a strict compliance with the rule, they allowed the small amount to grow into a large one, which he was unable to make good, and thus proceedings in a court of justice became a necessary result.

We advisedly use the term necessary result, for we have determined that in all such cases the law shall decide between the society and the offender. If any member thinks that he can borrow the society's funds, and by the influence of his friends get the matter hushed up and repay the deficient amount at his convenience, he will find that he has made a great mistake. Having now the full protection of the law, we shall feel it our duty on every occasion to prove that no member can with impunity tamper with the society's funds.