In a prosecution brought by the island’s wartime Coal Controller, a 16-year-old youth appeared in the Police Court this week accused of stealing coal from a ship in St Helier Harbour.
The case against Michael Edwin Kirwin seemed a straightforward one. He was caught by the police coming off a ship at the harbour with a bucket-load of coal. The crew of SS Ceres, who were below decks eating their dinner at the time, were unaware he had been on board.
In court, the prosecution claimed that Kirwin intended to sell the coal, which is in worryingly short supply due to wartime constraints and therefore fetching high prices. While admitting to the theft, Kirwin claimed it was not for personal gain. He was in a desperate position, needing to provide for his sick mother.
Summing up, the magistrate dismissed Kirwin’s defence, reminding him that the Constable of St Helier always kept a supply of coal for disadvantaged parishioners. If some were needed, he should have gone to the Parish and asked. Besides, Kirwin had a record of convictions for theft, and – regardless of wartime conditions – must abide by the law.
A/E/10/4 contains documents and correspondence on the island’s coal supply and wartime shortages.