On 26th August 1955, Patrick Docherty, a labourer of Hut 6, New Dechmont Camp and a 13-year old boy pleaded guilty to stealing coal with 2 other people unknown, from the refuse bing at Bardykes Colliery on 2nd August.
Docherty was 21 years old. During a patrol, 2 police offers saw 3 men and 1 boy on the bing that afternoon, each carrying a small sack, and returning it to a hidden cart in the bushes. When Docherty and the boy reached the bottom of the bing, the police apprehended them, but the other 2 men ran off, their identities hidden by Docherty. The police took possession of 7 bags of coal amounting to 4.5cwts. Docherty and the 13-year old boy were each fined 20 shillings, with the alternative imprisonment of 10 days.
The situation appears more desperate as August that year was particularly warm and pleasant, with good temperatures, even in the evenings. It is assumed the coal was needed to heat water at the camp.
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Different times I suppose. At 13 years, boys were regarded as making their way in the world, earning livings, being accountable for their actions. Imprisonment “alternatives” for most petty crimes was simply a way of ensuring the councils collected fines. Not sure about the 1950s , but in the 1930s, 78% of fines were paid when judges gave out alternatives of prison if they couldn’t be paid.
A 13 year old boy facing imprisonment of 10 days?? Who were the REAL criminals?