At the Limerick City Petty Sessions, magistrates were engaged for a considerable time in hearing a series of charges of larcenies by boys, some of whom were as young as eleven and the eldest being sixteen. There were eleven defendants brought before the court, with several of the younger boys facing multiple charges. These included larceny of a three-pound note from Coward Street Post Office, robbery of two tills containing various amounts of money, larceny of a box of cigars, and theft of a watch and 6s. 9d. in cash.
The magistrates discharged four of the defendants, believing that they played a minimal role in the crimes and were led astray by the ringleaders. Mr Hickson, R.M., took the opportunity to remind the court that parents were now liable for punishment if they failed to keep their children from participating in criminal activities. Recent legislation has placed greater responsibility on parents, holding them accountable for their children’s actions up to the age of sixteen.
After hearing evidence in the remaining cases, the court ordered the defendants’ parents to pay compensation to their children’s victims, with the amounts varying from £1 5s to a mere 1s. Mr Hickson remarked on the severity of the cases before them, likening the young boys to Hooligans who roamed the streets seeking anything they could steal. He added that it was essential for the public’s protection, as well as the boys’, to impose heavy penalties as a deterrent.
John Burke was fined 10s and received ten strokes of the birch, while Joseph Carmody was fined 5s and sentenced to seven days in jail. J. Fetherston was ordered to spend five years in a reformatory, as were siblings Patrick O’Callaghan and R. O’Callaghan. The latter was also ordered to pay 10s and received ten strokes of the birch. Two others, named O’Halloran and Feehan, were fined 10s each and sentenced to seven days in prison.
During the proceedings, solicitor Mr Hall suggested that it was essential to uncover the publicans responsible for providing some of the boys with whiskey and porter. He recommended further investigation be done to prevent alcohol from exacerbating the situation involving young criminals. The police confirmed they were currently gathering evidence to bring forth prosecutions against those who had sold alcohol to the minors.
These incidents featuring young boys engaging in larceny and theft call attention to the significant issues that may lead to juvenile delinquency. The Limerick City magistrates are doing their part by instituting harsh consequences, but it is essential to investigate and address the deeper causes of this behavior to curb the rising rates of petty crimes committed by minors. Parents, community members, and legal authorities must work together to provide education, support, and guidance for these young boys so they can turn their lives around and become responsible citizens.
Northants Evening Telegraph – Tuesday 28 January 1902