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STIFF SENTENCES IN THE FOWNES…

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STIFF SENTENCES IN THE FOWNES CASE. WARNING TO SMALLER FIRMS. The three Rigdens, father and sons, partners in the well-known firm of Fownes Bros. and Co., glove manu- facturers, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the charge of trading with the enemy, and Mr Justice Low im- posed the following sentences: Wm. Gardiner Rigden, the father, a fine of £500. Wm. Fownes Rigden. 12 months in the second division. Stanley Fownes Rigden, 4 months in the second division. The prosecution, it will be remem- bered, alleged that since the outbreak of war goods to the value of £6,000 had been sent from Germany to the New York braneb of the firm, and al- though the gooda were used in America the invoices were sent to London. There was a sensational develop- ment when the caoe was resumed on Monday. Defendants withdrew their plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty, acting on the advice of their counsel. Mr Justice Low, in discharging the jury, said that the defendants had only anticipated what must have been the result of the trial. THE FATAL LETTER I Mr Travers Humphreys, alluding to the letter written by William Fownes Rigden, containing a suggestion that the goods should be consigned to "Murphy'' in New York, said that it was a disgraceful letter for a business man to write. Mr Hewart pointed out that with regard to the senior defendant for some time before the outbreak of war his relation to the business had been of a casual nature, the business being carried on really under the direction of the other partners. In September, 1914, he went for his holiday, and he was not consulted about the letter which had been referred to, nor did he becomQ aware of it until the hearing at the police court. With regard to Stanley Fownes Rigden, he was married a few days before the letter was written, and went away for his honeymoon. With regard to the other defendant William Fownes Rigden, it was right to consider the circumstances in which the matter was presented to him. The suggestions made in the letter were not suggestions for action, but for dis- cussion, and the suggestion about Murphy was capable of more interpre- tations than one, and counsel hoped that the Judge would not set the worst interpretation upon it. The business, deplorable and inexcusable as it was, was carried out in a perfectly normal way. No part. of the goods came to London; it was only the question of continuing the New York branch. Mr Justice Low, in passing sentenco said defendants were the principals in a great firm which was one of those firms that, in the exigencies of modern trade, had thought it right to have factories in various countries—of course, for obvious reasons. TO WARN OTHERS. I "It is just that type of firm," con- tinued his Lord&htp, "and I say it not only with reference to this case, but to warn others, which renders the enforcement of the law so difficult a,nd the evasion of it so comparatively easy. It has been urged that I might give different consideration to the cube because of the position and extent of the firm's operations. It seems to me that it is just that which renders this case such a grave one, because if per- sons of the commercial distinction of yourselves are caught infringing this legislation and are not dealt with severely how is it possible for the law to deal with small and comparatively obscure persons who break the law ? Trading with the enemy at the present time is merely a species of treachery. I eapnot deal with this matter len- iently," his Lordship announced. In imposing a fine only on Wm. Gardiner Rigden his lordship said he took into consideration his age and the fact that his part was compara- tively small. The position of Wm. Fownes Rigden was aggravated by reason of the letter. In the light of common-sense it was impossible to say that he entered upon that transaction with any other view than that of getting if possible goods from Germany and, if possible, for them. His lordship felt bound to pass sentence of 12 xionthd in the sooond division. Defendants were ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution. —————

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