THE HABITUAL DRUNKARDS’ ACT
A Painful Case at Dukinfield
At the Dukinfield Police Court on Thursday, before Alderman
H PRATT, J KERFOOT, and Councillor R WOOD, an application
was made by Mr J A GARFORTH, under the above Act, on behalf
of Mr Thomas BOWKER, hat trimming manager, of 28 Russell-street,
for an order an order of separation from his wife, Ann
BOWKER, on the ground that she was an habitual drunkard.
On her name being called there was no response.
Mr GARFORTH said he was sorry
and also glad at the same time that the lady had not put
in an appearance. He thought every chance should be given
to her. In the first place he should like to point out,
and it must be his excuse for going into the case at some
length, that it was, as far as he knew, the only case
that had ever arisen in this and the immediate surrounding
district, where an attempt had been made to put into force
this section of the recent Licensing Act.
The Magistrates’ Clerk
(Mr WESTBROOK): Isn’t this a case where the defendant
ought to be here? — Mr GARFORTH: How are you going
to get her? — The Clerk: There are always means
in this Court. You had better had a warrant. — Mr
GARFORTH: There is nothing in the Act. — The Clerk:
I understand she lives very near the court. It would be
better if an officer went for her.
Mr GARFORTH: It would increase
the painfulness of the case. — The Clerk: That may
be, but this is an important application. — The
Chairman: Supposing a constable went to her residence,
and asked if she will come. It will save issuing a warrant
or an adjournment of the case.
Mr GARFORTH: I want to save
her the painful humiliation of coming into court. —
The Clerk: That is all very grand. — Mr GARFORTH:
I don’t often dispute my friend’s law, but
I know no precedent except the Bench make an order to
send her away to a home, where her personal attendance
is necessary. — The Clerk: This is a case where
the magistrates can make such an order. — Mr GARFORTH:
With her consent? — The Clerk: Therefore she must
be here to give her consent. — Mr GARFORTH: There
are alternatives, and I ask for an alternative clause.
— The Clerk: It is for the magistrates to say.
Mr GARFORTH: Of course, as
to what order they could make. It will be a painful scene
for her to come here. — The Clerk: It may be painful;
but it does not do away with the necessity for the woman
attending. — Mr GARFORTH: It is perfectly true her
consent must be given, if the Bench decide she ought to
go to a home. They can act on other portions of the law,
such as he may not be bound to cohabit with her, and as
to the custody of the children, and what he has to pay
per week, for which consent is not absolutely necessary.
Of course, I am in the hands of the court and I cannot
go any further.
The Clerk: It seems a waste
of time to go on without the defendant. The magistrates
must have the whole of the facts before them, and then
they can make any such order as they think fit. One order
is that they can confine this woman, but she must give
her consent. They cannot have her consent unless she appears
Mr GARFORTH then consulted
with Mr BOWKER, and said his client left the whole thing
in his hands. He thought the best thing they could do
was to ask an officer to go over to the house, which was
only 40 or 50 yards away, and see if she was in a condition
to come. He need hardly say that she was heartbroken at
the necessity of these proceedings. If she declined to
come he would ask the Bench to adjourn the case, and in
the meantime it would be shown that to her that it was
essential she should attend court.
The Clerk: Has she been told
it is not essential? — Mr GARFORTH: Certainly not.
— The Clerk: It is no use getting summonses if people
are told they need not appear. — Mr GARFORTH: I
was never in such a case in my life. I may say that Mr
BOWKER has been to the trouble to communicate with the
whole of her relations, brother and sister, not later
than yesterday, warning them that this case was coming
on, and the necessity of her being protected.
An officer then left the court
to fetch Mrs BOWKER. In a short time she appeared with
a wrap round her head.
The Clerk addressing her said:
You are charged that you are an habitual drunkard, as
defined by section 3 of the Habitual Drunkards Act, 1879,
and your husband desires to apply for an order or orders
against you under section 5 of the Licensing Act. Do you
admit the charge or not that you are an habitual drunkard?
Mrs BOWKER: No, sir.
Mr GARFORTH said the Bench
could see from the surroundings without him telling what
an extremely painful case this was. It was painful for
him to have to appear in such a case. He treated this
lady as suffering from a disease, and he trusted that
the action now being taken, which they would find from
the evidence was amply justified, might be the means of
reformation and the leading of a better and happier life.
The parties had been married
so long ago as October 5th, 1872, and there had been numerous
children of the marriage, some of them now being grown
up. The plaintiff, Mr BOWKER, was with Holland’s
the leather merchants at the present time, and he had
started for them a new business. He would tell them that
for the last 20 or 25 years he had only been in two or
three employments, having been in a responsible in one
well-known firm for 17 years.
Some 12 years ago his wife
became addicted to taking too much drink. It showed slowly
for some little time, but within the last four or five
years she had got into such a condition that her house
and children had got into such a condition that this was
the last resort which the husband could adopt. The aim
of the legislation for many years had tended towards the
protection of the wife against her husband, and it was
only in a portion of the new Licensing Act, which came
into force on January 1st, that any attempt had been made
by legislature to find relief for a man who was hampered
and crippled with a woman who took too much drink.
The defendant was charged that
she was an habitual drunkard, as defined in section 3
of the Act of 1879, which provided that where the wife
of a married man was an habitual drunkard he should be
entitled to apply to the court of summary jurisdiction
for an order under subsection 2. Upon such application,
the court might make one or more orders, such that he
should be no longer bound to cohabit with his wife; that
he should have legal custody of the children; that he
should pay towards his wife’s maintenance a sum
not exceeding £2 per week.
They had also the power to
commit the defendant to a home for inebriates for a term,
and they could, of course, make an order that he should
be responsible for her maintenance there.
The section defined an habitual
drunkard as a person who, by reason of habitual intemperate
drinking of intoxicating liquors, was at times dangerous
to himself, or herself, or others, and incapable of managing
himself or herself or affairs. The money given to the
defendant to keep the household had been spent in drink,
and the plaintiff and his children had come home and found
no dinner ready, and some of the children had been driven
from home through the woman’s drunken conduct.
He need hardly say that this
step was taken by the husband as a last resort. Every
effort that love and affection could make and every persuasion
had failed. If the magistrates decided that the plaintiff
was no longer bound to cohabit with his wife, and if they
thought it would be better for her to be sent away —
better for the household and the lady herself, they would
make an order to that effect. He hoped and trusted that
at the end of the term probation which she have to undergo,
lengthy or short as her conduct determined, she would
be able to return and have a new life. If such a happy
issue came about the plaintiff would be perfectly willing
to take her back again as a loving wife and mother, and
the honoured head of his household.
Mr BOWKER was then called,
and gave evidence bearing out Mr GARFORTH’s opening.
He said he had eight children living, two of them married,
and the youngest was six. His wife had been addicted to
excessive drinking for many years, and when in that state
was violent and hysterical. When she had these paroxysms
on they had to stay up with her until four or five in
the morning and hold her down. He had given notice to
her relations of these proceedings, and her brother had
written, “Whatever steps you take I cannot blame
Asked if she had any questions
to ask her husband, defendant said they were both to blame.
They had thrown things at one another. She did not try
to make herself good, or appear that she was a good person.
They were both alike.
The Clerk: He charges you with
being an habitual drunkard. — Defendant: As for
drink he came home roaring drunk last night, and could
not stand. — The Clerk: Is that so? — Plaintiff:
No — Mr GARFORTH: Last night has nothing to do with
this case. — The Clerk: She has a perfect right
to put the question. He comes here and tells the magistrates
he is an angel and she is the other.
Defendant: He is telling stories.
Were you not drunk last night? — Plaintiff: That
has nothing to do with last Monday week. — Defendant:
I could have come here for a separation from you, but
I’m not so hard-hearted. I have always done my house
work, and washed last Tuesday. Of course, he has got Mr
GARFORTH. He is all right; he is lining Mr GARFORTH’s
pocket. — (Laughter.) He has had money for a solicitor
and I have had none. That is not a right thing. I want
him to let me go home and try to do my house duties once
more. He promised this morning he would try me another
The Clerk: What do you
say to that? Plaintiff: I did not promise that. I have
no desire for separation, but we must lead a different
life. The Clerk: Are you willing to try her for a month?
Plaintiff: From what I see now I am not willing. Miss
Ada BOWKER having given evidence, the bench decided to
adjourn the case for three months.