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The prisoners elected to be dealt with summarily, and pleaded not guilty.
Mr F Lawson Lewis (Eastbourne) prosecuted on behalf of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and said that for some time prior to November of last year defendants were under the observation of Inspector Akehurst, who had charge of the Eastbourne district and the surrounding neighbourhood. In the month of November it became necessary to take proceedings against them. The state of things up to that time had been this: visits had been paid by Inspector Akehurst to the prisoner’s cottage, which was situated at Toy Farm, on the Downs. There were four children living with them, the eldest aged 10 and the youngest an infant some four or five months old. On each occasion when a visit was paid by Inspector Akehurst he was accompanied by a member of the County Police force. A positively shocking and disgusting state of things was found, it being so bad as being almost impossible to employ words adequately describing it. The children were wickedly neglected, practically without clothes in a filthy condition, and appeared not to have been washed for weeks. Inside the cottage even a worse state of things existed. Not the least attempt to clean the bed clothes – if they were worthy of the name – had been made, and there were vermin all over the house, and also upon the children. Waning after warning had been given; but not only that, on the representation of a certain gentleman – the curate at Firle – clothes had been sent to these people. Whether they had been pawned or not was impossible to say, but they had not been used for the purpose of clothing these children. In November last it became necessary for proceedings to be taken. A summons was returnable at that Court on the 17th of December, but the defendants failed to appear. The Bench granted a warrant, which was only executed last week by the arrest of the defendants. Since the issue of the warrant inquiries had been made as to what the defendants had been doing in the meantime, and whether they had been taking care of their children. The report, which had been made to the society and to the police showed that during the whole of that time they had been tramping about the country staying at various workhouses, in one of which, they were told, the youngest child had died. Three of the children, then, had been accompanying defendants during most of the time, and from the information at their disposal it as evident that the same shocking state of things had been going on, not the least care and attention having been given to the unfortunate children. An explanation of this state of things was that both parents were addicted to drink, and from the evidence of the neighbours and of those who had the opportunity of making observation, there was no doubt that the woman had been for months past a confirmed drunkard. For whole days she had left the children in the cottage on the Downs, and had been to Newhaven, returning in a state of drunkenness. If it had not been for the neighbours even a worse state of things than there was might have existed. He (Mr Lewis) would rely for the most part on the evidence of the police constable, as Inspector Akehurst, who had charge of this case for some months, had unfortunately die, and he had been succeeded by the present Inspector, who could not tell them any facts with regard to the case.
P C McKeen, stationed at Glynde, stated that in company with Inspector Akehurst, of the NSPCC, he visited prisoners’ cottage at Toy Farm, on the Downs, on November 27th last year. The door was answered by one of the children. The male defendant made his appearance, and the Inspector asked him to show him the place where the children slept. He did not do so, but was most abusive. The female was also most abusive, and said she would do so when she was ready. Eventually witness and the Inspector went to the bedroom: the bedding was as black as dirt, and in a most disgusting condition. The female said that she did not know it was in that state, and the Inspector replied, ‘You ought to, it is not fit for a pig, let alone a child’. The husband also said he did not know the bed was in that state, but witness thought its state would be obvious to anyone who went in there. Two of the children slept in this room. They subsequently went to where the two other children slept. The bed was very dirty, but better supplied than the other. The children had the appearance of having been very much neglected, but they were fairly well nourished. They were clothed in rags. On Saturday, 30 November, witness visited the place again, but failed to get in. From what witness was told Mrs Gausden had locked the door, and had gone out on the Downs with her children. Witness had ascertained that the male defendant earned 18 shillings per week. The state of things was undoubtedly likely to cause serious injury to the children.
Sarah Ann Balcombe said she lived near Toy Farm, on the Downs. She knew the prisoners, and remembered the constable and the Inspector visiting their cottage. The children were ‘shocking filthy’, and were improperly clothed. The children had begged food of witness. The woman sometimes left the children, and went to Newhaven, returning in a drunken state.
Mrs Susan Sherlock, living at Toy Farm, spoke as to the condition of the children, and said when they had been left alone they had been to her for food. This was the usual thing. Witness had never seen the witness return home, after having been out for the day, sober.
Rev Edward Geoffrey May, curate of Firle, said he had visited the prisoners’ cottage on several occasions. Generally speaking the cottage was filthy, and the children untidy, ill-kept, and neglected. Clothes had been sent to the prisoners for the children marked ‘Lent and not to be pawned’. The children were generally in rags, but sometimes they looked a bit better. There was a slight improvement after the visit of the Inspector. He believed that the man was a good worker; but that the woman had very drunken and bad habits.
This concluded the evidence for the prosecution.
The male defendant said he was at work all day, and did not know the state of affairs until the Inspector pointed it out to him.
The female said that the children were never without food, and always had clothes to wear.
After a short consultation in private the Chairman said the bench considered the charge had been brought home to both prisoners. They would each be sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
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