“Between the Devil and the Deep Sea” — A Barum Motorist’s Dilemma

NDH 29th July 1915 5b Barum Motorist

Whilst trying to comply with the Defence of the Realm Act this Barnstaple motorist got caught driving without his lights at night…

The magistrates at Braunton Divisional Sessions held in Barnstaple yesterday (Wednesday), were called upon to decide a case of an unusual character. A Barnstaple motorist, Mr. Roy Berry, was summoned for allowing his motor car to be on the highway at Croyde at 10.30 p.m. on the 8th inst. without lights being attached to the car. The defence was that had lights been allowed to remain burning the owner would have come within the Defence of the Realm Regulations for failing to obscure the lights so as to render them invisible from the sea. To use a rather common expression he was “between the devil and the deep sea.” It being the coast road, directly open to the sea, he switched off the lights. Acting on the suggestion of the magistrates—Mr. G. C. Davie (in the chair) and Mr. Comer Clarke—however, the police subsequently withdrew the case.

Mr. A. F. Seldon represented the defendant and pleaded “not guilty.”

P.C. H. Palmer, stationed at Georgeham, said he was on duty at Down End Point on the main road on the night in question when he saw the defendant’s car standing on the highway with no lights. He saw the defendant and asked him the reason why he had no lights burning on the car, and he replied that he did not think it mattered because it was on the coast road. —Mr. Seldon: What time was this? At 10.30 p.m.—If the lights had been burning they could have been seen from the sea? No; they would not because the car was not facing the sea.—What was between the car and the sea in the way of a fence? Barbed wire.—The front part of the car was facing directly out to sea? No.—If the head lights of the car had been burning could they have been seen from the sea? No.—In the course of further cross-examination witness admitted that the right-hand lamp of the car, if lighted, could have been seen from the sea.

The Chairman said he thought matter could be simplified. He presumed the defence was that the lights were purposely put out, and that they were facing the sea?—Mr. A. F. Seldon agreed—The Chairman said that whether it was an error of judgement one side or the other was a very narrow margin. It was done with best intentions.

P.C. Palmer said he thought the car could have pulled into a lane.

The Chairman said he thought the case ought to be withdrawn. The police superintendent was perfectly right to bring the case forward. Even if it were proved, however, there would be no penalty or conviction. There was no doubt that the action Mr. Berry took was taken with the best intentions.—Supt. Hulland mentioned that there was a lane close by –The Chairman: There was no attempt to evade the law by going without lights.

Mr. A. F. Seldon said he considered the course adopted by the defendant was the proper course.

The Chairman reiterated that what Mr. Berry did he did with the best intentions. The matter only turned upon the question as to whether a particular light could or could not be seen from the sea.

Mr. Seldon said he did not think there was the slightest doubt that they could have been seen from the sea.

Supt. Hulland, acting on the Chairman’s suggestion, withdrew the case.

transcript taken from the North Devon Herald 29th July 1915 page 5 column b. This just one of many articles about  North Devon’s experiences during World War One published in the local newspapers. For more visit our North Devon War Items Album on our Facebook Page…Barum Athena

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