Guilty Plea on One Count
MOUSEHOLE builder, Cecil James Knight, Green Gables, Cliff Road, appeared before Penzance magistrates on Monday on two counts under the War Damages Act, 1943. He was fined and ordered to pay 25 guineas advocate's fee and costs amounting to £17 18s 2d, a total of £69 3s 2d. The case, which aroused a good deal of local interest, arose out of repairs to property which was damaged when a 2,000 lb. bomb fell at the back of the Green Market in September, 1942. Represented by Mr. J. D. Casswell, K.C., with whom was Mr. C. L. Hauser (instructed by Mr. W. G. Scown, St. Austell), Knight pleaded not guilty that he in February, 1944, for purposes of obtaining for Charles Rowe a payment in respect of war damage under the War Damages Act, 1943, did furnish information which he knew to be false in a material particular, namely, a certificate relating to repairs at the. Liberal Hall Penzance. He pleaded guilty to unlawfully and recklessly furnishing information which was false in a material particular, namely a certificate relating to repairs at the Liberal Hall, Penzance. Mr. R. L. Frank, prosecuting, accepted the pleas and proceeded on the second charge.
Mr. Frank said that on Sept. 26, 1942, damage was caused by enemy action to the Liberal Club premises, which included two rooms in the occupation of Mr. Williams, a jeweller. The owners of the premises were the executory of Mr. Rowe and one of the executors was Mr. Charles Rowe. On Oct. 10, two claim forms were received by the Bristol Regional Office of the War Damage Commission, signed by Mr. Rowe and two other executors. They gave notice of damage to the premises, one specifying damage to the Liberal Hall and the other to damage to the whole of the business premises in Union Street.
On Oct. 16, 1942, Mr. E. H. Wyn, an assessor of the Commission, visited the premises, and made a fairly extensive report on the damage. He said that no works of partial or complete reinstatement had been carried out. On Dec. 2, 1943, a claim form on the War Damage Commission was received, signed by Mr. Rowe as executor which he claimed a sum of £85 11s. 10d. in respect of compensation for repairs which had been done to property described as Union Street, Penzance. The builder was Mr. H. Rogers, Bread Street, Penzance, whose account covered the whole of the sum claimed except 5s. to the Electric Power Co. The form stated that no further repairs were necessary. The bill of Mr. Rogers referred to the property as the Liberal Hall, Union Street, Penzance. A further claim form was received on Feb. 11, 1944, claiming £174 8s. 6d. for repairs which were stated to have been done by Mr. Rogers, Messrs. Colenso and Co., Mr. J. H. Tregenza and Mr. Knight in respect of Union Street shops and rooms, ground floor, Liberal Hall; Penzance. The accompanying Accounts were Mr. Rogers, £28 17s. 7d.; Messrs. Colenso, £1 17s. 6d.; Mr. Tregenza, £26 5s. 11d.; Mr. Knight, £117 7s. 6d. This form was supported by a certificate signed by Mr. Knight and other builders, which said: "The repairs done to the property cover temporary works: that the cost of repairs was reasonable having regard to the amount of work necessary, the price of materials and the rates of remuneration." On May 24, 1944, a payment of £100 was made on account to Mr. Rowe who was the claimant."

Mr. J. Cameron Harris, an assessor of the Commissioners, made an inspection of the premises on June, 15. He became suspicious about Mr. Knight's bill because he could not find either the whole of the materials mentioned in the bill or anything to represent the 151 hours stated to have been spent on two small rooms. His estimate of the work done by Mr. Knight, on a generous basis, was £30. Mr. Knight's bill included an item for 400 cut slates, while Mr. Rogers first bill in respect of the Liberal Hall, included an item for 1,200 scantle slates. Mr. Harris did not see why the premises needed to be slated twice. He discovered that the roof of the Liberal Hall was not a slated roof, but one covered with asbestos sheets and had been repaired with hard-block by Rogers. Four hundred slates would not have been insufficient to do the work. When seen by Mr. Harris on June 19, Knight said he had. in fact, used the slates, adding that he had had to buy an extension ladder to do the work on the main roof. When asked if he knew the main roof was unslated and had been repaired by Rogers with hard-block. Knight did not appear to know about that. He said he had done no repairs for the local authority Knight promised to produce time sheets to justify the 800 odd hours. About a month later he produced four sheets, of paper containing dates showing that his men were on the premises before Mr. Wyn went there or when Mr. Rogers' men were there. Mr Rogers time sheets showed that his men were there on those dates and his men would have said that Mr. Knight's men were not. It was an illustration of recklessness. Mr. Harris saw Mr. Rogers and Mr. Knight and asked them if they would give a written confirmation that they did the work. Mr. Rogers gave one, but Mr. Knight declined. He added: "If Mr. Rogers did the roof you can deduct it from my account." That was another illustration of his recklessness. The original time sheets, Mr. Knight said, had been burnt or thrown away as salvage.

Mr. Frank referred to 10 tons of haulage mentioned in the account. From two small rooms that appeared to be a large amount. Mr. Knight told Mr. Harris that his haulage work had been done by Messrs. Sleeman, and gave certain dates. The dates supplied by him were dates on which Messrs. Sleeman did no haulage work. It was another example of recklessness.

On Sept. 29, Mr. Knight was interviewed by Mr. Bishop, an investigating officer of the Commissioners. He had a prepared schedule of the work Mr. Harris had agreed Mr. Knight might have done. Mr. Knight was told he could add any other items. He did so and when they were examined it was found that some of the work had not been done. It was evidence of recklessness. Mr. Frank read a letter from Mr. Knight to Mr. Bishop, which he said he had found from his diary of 1942 that the account as rendered should cover part of the first aid repairs to the whole block of buildings including the Liberal Hall. The account included the first aid given for the whole of the buildings and not only for the work done for Mr. Williams. The letter went on: "In view of my mistake will you allow Mr. Harris and myself to come to a satisfactory settlement and if my attitude in this matter has caused unnecessary expense I shall be happy to defray the costs."

Mr. Casswell said the case was difficult for him or anyone else to advise upon. Until he came to court he had no idea what he had to meet. Mr. Knight called his men away from other jobs when the damage was caused because a jeweller's shop was involved. The surveyor who came along later had not the slightest "idea of the work that had to be done. Debris had to cleared from the street before they could get to the building It also had to be dumped 150 yards by Mr. Knight's men and then cleared away. It also had to be sorted because of the jewellery that might be hidden in it. The final reinstatement of the roof might have been done by some other builder, but Mr. Knight had to put on the tarpaulins and then replace them by heavier ones provided by the borough. Scaffolding had to be erected inside the roof. Mr. Charles, of Haughton's, Plymouth, and Mr. Knight had an opportunity of going over the premises and Mr. Charles priced the work at £111 13s. The question of the slates and sirapnite made it necessary for his client to plead guilty to recklessness. The materials were delivered to the job and there were 1,200 slates for the work. Mr. Knight was called off the job before the roofing was done. Miss Williams saw the slates, and, until he was seen by Mr. Harris, Mr. Knight was firmly of the opinion that his men had put them on the roof. He had never removed them from the job, but he ought to have checked more carefully whether they had been put on by his men. It might' be a reckless way for a contractor to have his accountant make out his bill. He argued that he took them to the job and why should they not be charged to the job as he had never had them back?

The same thing applied to the siraphite, sand, and cement which he charged as materials against the job. That might be somewhat reckless way of delivering a bill. Mr. Knight was fully convinced that the materials and the labour had been used on the job. He had not been paid a penny for the work he put on the job by the borough or anyone else except his share of the £100 paid by the War DaDmage Commission to the four builders. Mr. Casswell added: "This is nothing more than the reckless putting in of accounts by a man who was over-burdened and without any office staff. You know the stress and difficulty of the work after a heavy explosion. Mr. Knight has worked in Coventry, where he has been in business since the last war, in which he fought at the age of 16. He had never had a black mark against him. Lord St. Levan said Mr. Knight was a platoon commander in the Land's End Batt. of the Home Guard. He had given entire satisfaction in the way he had kept his accounts. Mr. Frank made an application for costs. After an absence of about 20 minutes the magistrates passed sentence on Knight in respect of the second charge as already stated.
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