The Police

In 1906, Arthur took a policeman to court who he had seen committing a violent crime against an innocent man. This demonstrated the awful nature of not only this man (PC Ashford) but also of the policemen who subsequently tried to get Arthur convicted of crimes he didn’t commit.

The Prevention of Crime Act of the period aimed, unsurprisingly, to prevent crime. It did this by creating a category of criminal known as the ‘suspected person’ which applied to anybody with two offences or more. Arthur had received two jail terms in quick succession when he was just 15 years old meaning that he could be charged under the Act and had to prove his innocence rather than the courts having to prove his guilt. This is exactly what happened to Arthur in 1909.

One policeman who Arthur believed was not in the job for his moral sense of responsibility, was Detective Sergeant ‘Jew Boy’ Stevens. On Arthur’s trip to Clark’s Coffee Shop one morning, he was seized and taken in as a suspected person, suspected of picking pockets. The charges were utterly false, but several plain clothed policemen, led by Detective Sergeant Stevens, swore to the charges and landed Arthur a twelve month jail term.

Previously, Arthur had been suspected for the shooting of a young girl, something which would have carried a life sentence. Had the police decided to frame him, he could have easily been in prison for twenty years or more, but luckily two witnesses came forth and explained that Arthur had nothing to do with the event except that he was spotted running away from the gunshots.

Debatably, the police had too much power under The Prevention of Crime Act, and many argued that it could easily be abused. Arthur believed that the act was used against him by the policemen that didn’t look favourably upon him because they could place a charge under a false pretence. This act has now been abolished.

Bribery was not in any way uncommon. Many gangsters hoping to earn money through illicit activities relied on their close relationship with the police to create a secure environment under which to function. One such man was Jimmy Watts, who ensured a stable illegal business environment by being a police informer, trading criminals for protection and leaving him untouchable by both the police and any gangster since his power stretched both ways. The police would also take bribes from gangsters if they thought that by allowing one type of criminal activity, they would prevent crime in other areas. For example, by allowing the Jewish spielers to run as illegal gambling houses, they could keep an eye on all the potentially dangerous anarchists that went there.

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