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FRIENDLY SOCIETY AND ITS TREASURER. POLICE COURT PROCEEDINGS AT CHESTER. At the City Police Court, on Friday, before Messrs R. L. Barker (chairman), J. J. Cuanah and F. Skipwith, considerable time was occupied in the hearing of a summons taken out under the Friendly Societies Act, under which an order was asked to be made against Charles Cordery, licensee of the Nag's Head Hotel, Fore- gate-street, Chester, for the payment of a sum of £ 57 Os. 4d., which the complainant (.Jesse David Hodgkinson), secretary of the Court Westminster, No. 1591, of the Ancient Order of Foresters, alleged was due by the defendant to that court, for which until recently he was treasurer. fr. S. Moss, M.P., appeared for the complainant and Mr. W. H. Churton for the defendant. Mr. Moss first asked the permission of the Bench to amend the summons by altering the sum from £57 to £77, because it had since been dis- covered that the latter was the amount in Mr. Cordery's possession. Mr. Churton objected on the ground that no demand had been previously made for the additional JB20, but the money was forthcoming. The Bench therefore refused to amend the sum- mons. Mr. Moss, proceeding, explained that the sum- mons was taken out by tho secretary of the Court Westminster, to which the defendant was until recently treasurer. Cordery was appointed treasurer in February. 1900, and began his duties on the 1st of March. Mr. Hodgkinson was ap- pointed secretary on the 8th September, 1903. The treasurer, whose duties were not very onerous, received a nominal salary of L5 a year. Accord- ing to the rules of the society, auditors had to be appointed twice a year to audit the books of the secretary and treasurer, and in January, 1902, Mr. Hodgkinson was appointed auditor, and the trouble with Mr. Cordery began at that time. The returns for the year 1901 not having been com- pleted, Mr. Hodgkinson asked the treasurer to produce his books, so that he could audit them and present his report to the society. The treasurer, however, did not do so, and on the 28th February, 1902. the auditor wrote him a letter reminding him that he had not yet sent his books. After that repeated applications were made to Mr. Cordery. Eventually Mr. Cordery produced his cash book at a court meeting, which, curiously enough, shewed that a sum of B17 12s. 6d. was due to him and nothing was due to the society, whereas the auditor found from the secretary's books that a sum of JB28 9s. 6d. was due from Mr. Cordery. This difference he failed to explain, and at a later meeting he accepted the fierure of £ 28 9s. 6d. as correct, and entered it in his own cash book. Mr. Churton. interposing, said there were only four items in dispute between the parties, and he considered that the only sum his client owed was f24 odd. He thought in fairness to defendant Mr. Moss might have explained that during the year 1901 Mr. Cordery was ill and unable to keep the accounts and receive any moneys, the whole of the work having to be done by the secretary. The dispute was purely a question of account. Mr. Moss denied that the case was purely a question of account, and thought that when the situation was explained the Bench would come to the conclusion that it was something more. This was not an isolated instance where a man through illness was unable to comply with the request of the court to furnish accounts, but was a case where a man had for a period of nearly eighteen months systematically defied the officers of the court and refused to give any account whatever. In July, 1902, Mr. Hodgkinson was again ap- pointed auditor, and the treasurer m spite of repeated promises to produce his books, remained a defaulter. After making repeated applications, the complainant wrote to defendant on the 4th: November, 1902-11 1 beg to remind you that we have not yet had your books for audit. The next meeting takes place this day week, and I should be glad to report that we have finished." To that letter defendant made no reply, and, if he had any excuse to make, one would have thought that in ordinary courtesy defendant would have replied that he could not prepare the accounts owing to illness. At every successive court the matter was brought up. but no accounts were presented, and on the 10th March last year the trustees and auditors were directed to meet Cordery and go into the accounts themselves. The books were produced and found to be very incomplete, no balances having been struck. De- fendant promised to go into the matter and present proper accounts. On the 23rd March another court was held, and the treasurer's books were found not to have been touched, whereupon the auditors were instructed to examine the books and compare them with the secretary's books. At the April court it was found from the books that £ 60 88. 7sd. was due from Cordery. but Cordery's own figures shewed that J347 5s. 4d. was due from him at that time. The court was now getting into serious trouble with the Order, and a committee was appointed to investigate the whole matter. Defendant said the 1902 accounts were on a wrong basis altogether, but the committee, on investiga- tion, found that his statement had no foundation. He then urged that the accounts had been wrong since he became treasurer. The books were then given to him, and he was told to prepare a balance- sheet shewing what was alleged to be due to him or from him in connection with the society. De- fendant, however, took no notice of it, and the matter was again delayed until August last year, when the district book examiner came and ex- amined the books and made a report. On the 5th of November a letter was written to defendant, of which he took no notice, and, as the situation was becoming serious, formal notice was given on the 19th of November, demanding payment of all money due and a return of the books belong- ing to the society in his possession. On the 27th November a further notice was sent to him, and on the 1st December he wrote to Mr. Hodgkinson: I will send down to-morrow at noon for books. I shall be confined to the house for weeks, and will do my best to find the error, which I am sure must exist somewhere." They knew now that in the year 1900 defendant had the sick pay which had not been entered in the books at all. After being further pressed, defendant returned the cash book, and it was found that he had dropped the balance of JB47 4B. 5Ad. and omitted several figures which were entered in red ink. On Dec. 0 18th last Mr. Cordery wrote a regrettable letter to Mr. Hodgkinson, in which he stated: Your statement is to hand. and am very pleased with it. Are you incapable of keeping accounts, or arc you conspiring to obtain more money under false pretences? There is something radically wrong somewhere. Are you all of the same mind, or is it a one-man show? You can take what action you like, but I think you had better get your books properly audited beforehand. It seems you have made up your mind that I have £ 57 0s. 41d. in my possession belonging to Court Westminster. To make up that amount you do not care what amount of cooking you do. It is either cheek or incapacity, T don't know which you possess." He concluded I am not going to be fooled any longer by you. Be careful and make no mistake. Per- haps it will pay you to consult Bro. Burrows, and, finally, I tell you I have not had or got your money beyond what I gave in my statement." In reply to this letter the secretary wrote stating that as he refused to rocognise the items which he (the secretary) had added in red ink on his account, he had no alternative but to proceed as indicated in his last letter. Evidence in support of counsel's statement was then given by Mr. Hodgkinson, who was cross- examined at considerable length in reference to the treasurer's accounts. Evidence was also given by several members of the society. Mr. Henry Jones, chartered accountant, de- posed to having examined the. accounts, for the year 1902 and verified the accuracy of the balance- sheet as presented by the officers of the e^urt. Mr. Churton, addressing the Bench on behalf of the defendant, contended that the section of the Act under which tho proceedings had been taken was a very drastic section and applied only to dishonesty Unless the Bench were satisfied, that what Mr. Cordery had done amounted to de- liberate dishonesty, they would have no alterna- tive but to dismiss the case. If they were satis- fied that there was no intention to defraud, and that there had been merely carelessness or negli- gence in the style of his book-keeping it would be no part of their duty to decide whether he owed any money to the society. Where was the evi- dence of dishonesty? The only thing that had been disclosed was that defendant had not. ren- dered proper accounts. The prosecution probably argued' that because defendant in the end owed them a sum of money he must have known of it, and therefore withheld it dishonestly. Defendant, who was one of the oldest members of the society, only took up the offioe of treasurer with the greatest reluctance in succession to a Mr. Powell, who had been nearly worried to death by the troubles connected with it. In the year 1901 Mr. V-Oruery tell ill, and tor nearly six micnths was unable to attend to the duties of the office, which were performed by the secretary. Unfortunately, the secretary had also been more or less ill. At all events no proper accounts were ever kept. Mr. Cordery frankly admitted that he knew nothing about book-keeping, and it was only aftar em- ploying Mr. Conway, chartered accountant, that he was able to satisfy himself as to what he owed to the society. Defendant had intimated his willingness to be responsible for £ 32 Is. 5 £ d., al- though his accountant had found, that ne owed the society only JB24 odd. Defendant gave evidence, and was cross- examined at great length by Mr. Mass-Mr. Moss: Do you think now that the secretary has been cooking the books to make you appear to be owing more than you were?—Defendant: I was certainly under the impression there was some- thing radically wrong. Defendant. added that he was now sorry he had written the strong letter to Mr. Hodgkinson. Mr. Walter Conway also gave evidence as to an examination of defendant's books on his behalf. MAGISTERIAL DECISION. After a few minutes' private consultation the magistrates decided to convict, and fined defend- ant 25 and" costs. They also made an order upon defendant to pay to the society the sum of J647 10s. 4id., and in default of distress sentenced him to one month's imprisonment. The Chairman an- nounced that they had omitted two of the items, about which there appeared to be some doubt.


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