A Hornsey Engineer’s Speech: Conviction and Sentence

Hornsey Journal, 28 March 1919

At Bow Street Police Court on Saturday, Sir John Dickinson concluded the hearing of the case of William Foster Watson, 37.

Mr Foster, an engineer’s turner, of Inderwick-road, Hornsey, and Featherstone-buildings, Holborn, was charged under the Defence of the Realm Regulations with having, on 8th February, at a “Hands Off Russia!” meeting at the Albert Hall, delivered a speech calculate to cause disaffection amongst the civilian population.

Mr George Lansbury, editor of the Herald, said he was acquainted with the terms of the resolution submitted to the “Hands Off Russia” meeting and he considered the defendant’s speech was quite in keeping with that resolution. He stated that he had been associated with Socialist and trade union movements for a great many years, and it was the declared policy of such movements to make people discontented with their conditions, so as to bring about necessary changes and reforms. Defendant’s speech would be calculated to create discontent with bad social and industrial conditions, and anyone would be justified in doing that. He had known defendant for many years as an active worker in the movement and had never known him advocate the buying of arms etc. for aggressive purposes.

The defendant in an address which occupied an hour and a half, said he was proud to rank himself as a revolutionary Socialist, being convinced that only by a complete overthrow of the present system of society could they abolish the evils and anomalies that had so long existed in security. If he was sent to prison he would not fear, because he knew that his comrades would keep the good fight going.

Sir A Bodkin mentioned that in December, 1916, the defendant was convicted of an offence against the same regulations, and was fined £25, and seven guineas costs. Sir John Dickinson said Watson had used inflammatory language, intended to incite people to take certain steps, though some among his audience might not have had sufficient balance of mind to see through his real purpose. He regretted that the defendant had not accepted the warning given him by his conviction in 1916. He must now be imprisoned for six months in the second division.

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