You may have heard the expression, "Forbidden Fruit" and this rather sad story from August 1921, helps illustrate the meaning behind it.
Henry Simmonds aged 53, who lived at North George Street, Salford and James Pollitt aged 23, who resided at Water Street, Manchester appeared at Salford Magistrates Court with stealing gooseberries otherwise receiving them knowing them to have been stolen...yes that's correct, gooseberries.
Simmonds have been employed by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company for several years as a loader, whilst Pollitt was employed by a wholesale butcher.
In response to to repeated cases of fruit pilfering, the company had gone as far, as to use two of their detectives to to hide in the goods yard and keep observations on the workforce.
They saw Simmonds on several occasions bend down and take fruit from a barrel which he was unloading off a train and eat them, as if this wasn't bad enough, Pollitt was then seen to climb onto a railway waggon and also eat some fruit, however he was seen by the keen eyed detectives to put something into his jacket, followed by Simmons who did the same.
As Pollitt was leaving the goods yard, Detective Bolas sprang into action and asked him what he had in his pockets, Pollitt admitted having some gooseberries and said that the other men unloading the fruit were also eating them.
Simmons was also stopped and searched, rather comically he was seen swallowing the evidence and five squashed gooseberries were found in his pocket, this was all the evidence the detectives needed for the men to be arrested.
They were taken to a nearby police station and charged with theft, Simmons pleaded not guilty, whilst Pollitt who had been caught red handed, pleaded guilty to this heinous offence.
In the Magistrates Court, Mr Howard Flint who was defending Simmonds put forward the rather half hearted excuse that the fruit was loose in the barrels and could have, in transit accidentally fallen into his clients pockets....
Furthermore his client had unloaded 36 baskets of fruit that day and he could have filled his pockets with gooseberries, yet instead he had, only taken four or five, which were squashed.
Predictably the Magistrate, Alderman Hughes, dismissed the notions of fruit accidentally landing in pockets etc and showed that he had no sense of humour by finding both men guilty, and they were fined £1 each but were warned if the fine wasn't paid in seven days they would go to prison for 14 days!
Talk about petty, the sad thing is that, Simmons who had no previous convictions would not only get a criminal record but he would lose his job at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, this at a time of economic gloom for the whole country, obviously they shouldn't have nicked a few gooseberries but it was hardly a major crime was it?