Re: Harper Vending Machines
Posted: Wed May 10, 2017 5:09 pm
Vintage coin operated machines discussion
One other issue enlivened the municipal politics of Croydon in 1938 when three local men were prosecuted on charges of bribing electors at a municipal election. Percy Harper, the managing director of the Harper Automatic Machine Manufacturing Company, had stood unsuccessfully as an RA candidate in a by-election in Whitehorse Manor ward on 8 December 1937. Two of his employees, a manager in his firm and a tinsmith, had allegedly 'frequently treated electors to drinks in public houses' in the two weeks of campaigning and on the night of the poll. In addition, 'three sums, totalling 5s.' were distributed on other occasions by Harper's canvassers. Harper himself had been in the pubs at the time of the alleged 'treating', and had played darts with the customers, but he himself had not stood the rounds of drinks. The case went to the Central Criminal Court, and was sensational enough to prompt questions in Parliament, where a Tory MP demanded to know who the 'informer' was who had prompted the charges, implying that it was someone in the Croydon Labour party. As there was no evidence that Harper himself had paid for the drinks, he was eventually acquitted, along with his employees. There is no way of knowing, of course, how the electors of Croydon viewed these events, but some at least amongst them must have wondered why a prosperous businessmen should frequent the public houses of a ward he was standing in, whose inhabitants were described in the Times as 'of the working class', while one of his managers bought drinks all round.
HansardMr. H. G. Williams asked the Attorney-General the name of the common informer on whose instigation the Public Prosecutor initiated criminal proceedings for alleged offences in connection with a municipal election in Croydon against Mr. Percy Harper, Mr. John Terry, and Mr. William Peacock?
The Attorney-General The question refers to a common informer, but this was not a prosecution brought by a common informer but was a prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is contrary to the public interest to disclose the identities of any persons who may have given information to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to prosecutions undertaken by him. I need not add that the fullest inquiries were made before these proceedings were brought and the justices, after hearing evidence, committed the case for trial.
Mr. Williams Shall I be right in assuming that the Labour party of Croydon were very disappointed when the jury stopped the case?
Mr. Thorne Is the Attorney-General aware that the common informer is the most despicable man in the world?
The Attorney-General This case had nothing to do with a common informer.
That’s good to know. I can’t wait to open it tomorrow now and see what’s inside. I’ll post what I find here. For me the story is as interesting as the item. I’m hoping that the person who was checking the machine was a local chap with a local name so I can trace them back.