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At the Lewes Petty Sessions on Tuesday, before Henry Scarlett, Esq, and other justices, George Freeman of Station Farm, Glynde, was summoned for assaulting Henry Thompsett at Beddingham on March 22.
Mr Lambe appeared for the complainant, and Mr H J Vinall defended.
Mr Lambe said that the complainant brought forward the case with great reluctance. He was a neighbour of the defendant; both rented farms which belonged to Admiral Brand, and as neighbours it was a desirable thing that they should live peaceably together. The assault, he submitted, was a cowardly one and one which required considerable punishment. He asked the Bench to inflict as heavy a fine as possible under the circumstances.
Prosecutor, the tenant of Comps Farm, said on March 22 he went to shoot pigeons and rooks which were at his crops. Defendant’s ducks came on to his wheat, and he fired in order to frighten them. He did not fire at them, and did not kill any. As they continued to come amongst the wheat he again fired, and then walked away home. Defendant then came on to his (complainant’s) ground, and threw him in a ditch, without any cause whatever. Defendant also took the gun away from him. The ditch was a very dirty one. He had no words with the defendant.
Replying to Mr Vinall, complainant denied killing one of the defendant’s drakes, wounding another, and wounding two ducks. He did not hit any. Defendant did not ask not to shoot the ducks.
Mr Vinall – Were you sober?
Witness – Yes.
Had not you had a drop too much? – No.
This was not the day you fell through a shop window in Lewes? – No.
Replying to further questions, complainant denied saying to defendant: ‘I should have shot them the same as I would an old rook, and I will shoot them.’ He denied using foul language and threatening to fight the defendant. Defendant did not strike him.
Mr Vinall – Have not your cattle trespassed on the defendant’s land?
Witness replied that they had on one occasion.
Mr Vinall – Do you think cattle do more damage than ducks?
Witness – No sir.
Arthur James Gravett, 6 Spring Gardens, Beddingham, said on 22 March he saw the defendant on the complainant’s land, go up to him, and deliberately throw him in the ‘cesspool dick’.
Replying to Mr Vinall, witness said sewage went into the ditch.
Mr Vinall said when he was at Glynde the other day the stream looked a very pleasant one.
Witness said at times it ‘stunk enough to knock him down’.
In further cross-examination, witness said he saw the defendant carrying a duck by the neck. It was not usual to carry a live duck in that manner.
Georgina Himes [probably a mistake for Hines], wife of a labourer, of Trevor Gardens, said she saw the defendant take away complainant’s gun and throw him in the ditch. Complainant was standing still with his hands in his pockets. Witness, replying to Mr Vinall, said she witnessed this through her bedroom window.
Mr Vinall said that one of the grounds on which an assault was justified was where it was committed in defence of property, and that was the foundation of his defence. Defendant, he explained, had endeavoured to live on good terms with the complainant and other neighbours, and he was justly exasperated by the complainant’s high handed proceedings. Defendant greatly regretted that he took such a strong course, but it was on the spur of the moment, and was in defence of his property.
Defendant gave evidence on oath, and said his and the complainant’s farms were separated by an estate ditch. On the day in question he was feeding his poultry when he distinctly heard five shots fired. He went to where complainant was, and endeavoured to get his ducks back. Complainant said, ‘I will shoot them, the same as I would an old rook’. Complainant was in a high temper, and was swearing about. He shot two barrels right into the ducks. The casualties were one mortally wounded and three others badly hurt. Complainant came up to him, ‘in his bearing way, shouting about,’ and he (defendant) then took his gun away and threw him in the ditch. Complainant got out of the ditch very quickly, and he then drove the ducks into his own ground again. Complainant challenged him to fight. Some three years ago he (defendant) put up some wire netting in order to prevent the ducks getting on complainant’s ground, but he subsequently found that it had been taken down.
Thomas Paine, Spring Gardens, cowman in the employ of the defendant, spoke to seeing the complainant shooting the ducks. He subsequently saw the wounded ducks.
Mrs Elizabeth Freeman, wife of the defendant, gave evidence as to the demolition of the fence three years ago. The complainant, she said, acted like a madman, and called her husband all the names he could lay his tongue to. Complainant had a right of way through the field.
Robert Hughes said the complainant pulled down about four rod of the fence.
Mr Vinall – Did he tread on it?
Witness –Not half, he didn’t.
P C McKean said he was called by the complainant in reference to the alleged assault. He saw traces of blood on one of the ducks. The others seemed to him to be all right.
The Bench convicted, and imposed a fine of £1 and £1 10s costs.
Mr Lambe applied that an advocate’s fee should be allowed, but the magistrates declined to grant this.
The hearing of the case lasted an hour and a half.
Mr Lambe said the parties were farmers, occupying adjoining land. He proposed to prove that the damage and trespass had continued for a period of years, ever since plaintiff acquired this farm at Beddingham.
Mr Vinall objected that the particulars of the claim which had been delivered were not sufficient.
His Honour, after reading the statement, said he should not stop the case on that point.
Plaintiff stated he lived at Comps Farm, Beddingham, which he had rented for five years. He had no written agreement. His rent was £110, and the acreage was ninety-eight acres. Defendant occupied an adjoining farm, and his fowls trespassed on plaintiff’s land, doing damage. Defendant did not try to keep them in; he put some wire netting up for a little while, and then took it down. Plaintiff had frequently made complaints to defendant and also to Mr Pickard, the agent. The fowls principally came on the grassland known as Spring Gardens; they also ran over the arable land. Altogether they had the run of four and a half acres of grass and one and a half acres of arable land. Plaintiff sent defendant a notice, and he (defendant) took no notice of it; in fact, he thought the fowls and ducks ran over his land still more (laughter). Defendant stuck the notice on his stable door. About twelve months ago defendant employed a boy to keep the fowls back, but he did not know how long he was there. The fowls last year ate the peas and oats, and he should think on an average, they did about £3damage a year. From one to a hundred chickens and ducks trespassed at different times. He had taken the matter good naturedly.
His Honour asked if there was no way of settling this matter. The landlord was the best person to do it.
Mr Lambe said the landlord had been trying to settle it for five years. But could not do it.
His Honour (to Mr Vinall) – Do you go so far as to say that the defendant’s fowls have not been on the land?
Mr Vinall – No, but not to the extent stated by the plaintiff.
His honour – If you admit trespass, there must be a verdict against you.
Mr Vinall – A small verdict. We bring a counterclaim for damage for trespass by defendant’s bullocks.
Plaintiff said his heifers had only once trespassed on defendant’s land.
Mr Lambe (to plaintiff) – What about the drake?
His Honour – Is he the principal criminal?
Mr Vinall – He met with a cruel death (laughter).
Plaintiff denied that he shot the drake. He shot to frighten him back on to defendant’s land, but did not kill him. He shot four times.
His Honour – And you did not hit him once.
Mr Vinall – Did you ever see as many as a hundred ducks on your land in one day?
Plaintiff – I have counted ninety-nine (laughter).
Mr Vinall – One ran about, and you could not count it.
Plaintiff, replying to further questions, denied that he had shot and killed one duck and severely wounded three.
A son of the plaintiff supported his father’s evidence as to the damage.
Mr T W Pickard, agent for Admiral Brand, said he had heard a good deal about this matter.
His Honour – It is a storm in a tea-cup, isn’t it.
Witness – Yes.
Mr Pickard said he had received complaints from time to time, but he could not say when he first received a complaint from plaintiff. As a result of one complaint he sent defendant 250 yards of netting to put up to keep the chicken off his land. He had no idea how many chicken defendant kept. He had never seen any damage to the crops except when they were in a green state. Witness did not remember whether he had ever been over the plaintiff’s farm during harvest time.
His Honour (to witness) – Can’t you settle this case?
Mr Pickard – I have tried, but I think your Honour had better settle it now.
His Honour – You could do it much better than I.
Mr Pickard – I think we had better raise their rents (laughter).
His Honour – You had better raise the rent of the one who trespasses on his neighbour’s land.
In reply to Mr Vinall, Mr Pickard said he believed endeavours had been made by defendant to keep the chicken back.
Two female witnesses gave evidence that they saw plaintiff shoot to frighten the ducks, but they did not see any of them killed.
Mr Vinall said his client had still got the duck which was killed, but he (Mr Vinall) requested him, as a personal favour, not to bring it to Court that day (laughter).
General evidence as to the alleged damage having been given defendant went into the box, and stated that he kept between four and five hundred fowls during the season. Some of them had got on to the plaintiff’s land, but if they had done any damage it was trifling. For a considerable part of the year they were kept where it would be impossible for them to get on to plaintiff’s farm. On one occasion he saw plaintiff shooting at some of his (defendant’s) ducks, and when he remonstrated with him plaintiff said ‘I shot your ducks like old rooks,’ and started swearing. The ducks were in the ditch which belonged to the estate. One of them was mortally wounded by plaintiff, and three severely wounded. He (defendant) had done all he could to keep the fowls on his own land.
A witness named Paine deposed to having seen seven of the plaintiff’s heifers in defendant’s rick-yard, pulling the hay stacks about, and George Huggett, in the employ of the defendant, stated that he knew it was defendant’s custom to move his chicken right away from plaintiff’s land in March and April, and not to let them go back till after the harvest.
For the defence, Mr Vinall contended that plaintiff had only partially made out his case.
His Honour, in giving judgement, said he had tried cases of this character for thirty years. They generally lasted about ten minutes but this case had proved an exception, and he was afraid he had been a little impatient. When trespass was once admitted, it only remained to fix the amount of the damages. He was satisfied that defendant’s fowls got on to plaintiff’s land, and they committed a certain amount of damage, for which he awarded plaintiff £5. Plaintiff, of course, had no right to shoot his neighbours ducks, and as he appeared to have killed one and inflicted more or less injury on some others, he thought defendant was entitled on the counter claim to 20 shillings. Plaintiff would get costs on the action for trespass, and defendant on the counterclaim. His Honour further remarked that he had never had a more trumpery case, and he was rather unwilling to grant an injunction. He would much rather that the landlord, who was generally able to bring his tenants to a reasonable frame of mind, should have settled the matter. An injunction would be granted to restrain defendant from allowing his fowls to trespass on plaintiff’s ground, and if they did trespass after that, defendant would have to take the consequences.
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