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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Caught in the Act: Gomer and others (1942) part 1

Despite the passage of seventy years, some of the details below might be strong for some. I'm posting this because it details the second and final case from 1942 involving obscene publications that resulted in a conviction and imprisonment in excess of 18 months. It helps chart the rise in prosecutions for indecent photos, although in many cases this was a secondary charge.

On Saturday, 19 December 1942, Francis John Thomas Hart (38), a schoolmaster of Blind Lane, Wimborne, was charged at a special Police Court at Wimborne with having committed an act of indecency.

On the same day, Ronald Gomer (52), a musician of 60 West Borough, Wimborne, was charged at Bournemouth Police Court with procuring a boy for the purpose of committing acts of indecency. According to Detective-Sergeant Jones, Gomer said, "I can't get away from it can I? It is right. It has only happened two or three times at the most. I should say several times. I don't want to tell lies about it."

Gomer was remanded as Inspector Fisher gave details of a second arrest in Wimborne and said it seemed desirable that Gomer should be handed over to the Wimborne police as both men lived in Wimborne. The Bench agreed. Following a second appearance at Bournemouth on Monday morning, Gomer was arrested by Detective-Sergeant C. Fudge at noon at Bournemouth Police Station and was brought up at the Police Court at Wimborne before Major Eric T. H. Hanbury-Tracy, OBE, that same afternoon.

Superintendent J. Dark, when applying for a remand in police custody until Thursday, said that he hoped by then to have arrested others involved. He also said that it was almost certain that other charges would be preferred. When the Magistrates' Clerk (Mr. M. J. Raymond) granted the remand, Gomer said: "I don't think I wish to make an application for bail."

Meanwhile, Hart, who had been arrested on the Friday evening, was also remanded until Thursday and his bail extended. A hearing was scheduled on that day for New Year's Day and whilst Hart's bail was renewed, Gomer remained in custody at Dorchester Gaol.

A third man was arrested on Boxing Day morning. Harold Miller (31), an aircraftman and native of Oldham who was living Edgehill Road, Windon, was arrested at Cleethorpe, Lincolnshire, and charged with having committed gross indecency with Gomer at Wimborne.

All three were brought before a special court on New Year's Day and again remanded, although Supt. Dark said that the charge against Gomer of gross indecency with Miller would not be proceeded with; instead they would be charged jointly. Bail was extended for Hart and Miller and Gomer was returned to Dorchester Gaol. The following Monday, all three were committed for trial at Dorset Assizes (at Dorchester).

The case against the three involved twelve charges. Ronald Gomer was charged with acts of indecency with Harold Miller; Francis Hart was charged with two acts of gross indecency with a boy, two indecent assaults on another boy, one indecent assault on a third boy, and three offences under the Post Office Act, namely the sending of indecent photographs, articles and an indecent communication in the form of a poem through the post. Both Miller and Hart were charged with gross indecency with Gomer.

At the close of the prosecution's case, Gomer pleaded guilty to the ten charges against him; Miller and Hart pleaded not guilty and reserved their defence.

Continued in our next.

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