Before outlining the circumstances of the case, it may help to outline the legislation that underpinned the prosecution

"The Street Betting Act 1906 enacted that any person frequenting or loitering in streets or public places for the purpose of bookmaking, or betting, or wagering, should be liable on summary conviction, in the case of a first offence, to a fine not exceeding ten pounds, in the case of a second offence, to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and in the case of a third or subsequent offence, or in any case where he is proved to have committed the offence of having a betting transaction with a person under the age of sixteen years, to a fine, on conviction on indictment, not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding six months. On summary conviction the fine is a sum not exceeding thirty pounds or imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding three months. A wide definition is given to the words "street" and "public place," and racecourses are expressly exempted from the operation of the act"(1911 Encyclopedia)

From the outset the legislation was flawed in both design and implementation. The enforcement of the legislation rested with the police, and given the nature of the business, and those involved, police corruption was rife. Most newspapers of the time carried frequent reports of those involved in street betting being apprehended and then prosecuted for "loitering in streets or public places for the purpose of bookmaking." But the ones prosecuted tended to be the "bookies runner" people who would take the bets and pass them on to the bookmaker/layer in return for commission. Those that controlled street betting tended to do so at "arms length" and so avoided prosecution

Less frequently there were also prosecutions of police officers under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. But from the evidence which is admittedly anecdotal, street betting continued to flourish and gain in popularity.

This provided the backdrop to the case which was reported in The Times dated 5th April 1930.


Just from reading the case report you get the unmistakable impression that street betting, and the associated corruption was deep seated, and had been for many years. Quite why the Chief Constable had chosen these particular offences to "go to town with" is unclear, but there was clearly a strong belief amongst the police that WILLIAM AISTRUP was a "centre of corruption" and by restricting and curtailing his illegal activities, the problem of street betting would be diminished. His activities were centred in the east end of the city around the major steel and engineering works, and the corruption of police officers was centred on the force's Brightside Division 

There is also the question as to why this was dealt with in the "normal" manner i.e. suspension and/or dismissal from the force. The Chief Constable said that wanted the matter dealt with in "open court." If that was the case why was this not done in earlier cases. The report does not name the Chief Constable but he was in fact Percy Sillitoe who was appointed to the position in May 1926. He is best remembered as the man who "broke the Sheffield Gangs" but this is only partly true. Nevertheless it has to be acknowledged that he had a fearsome reputation as an administrator, disciplinarian, and upholder of the law. My personal view is that street betting and the associated corruption was getting totally out of hand, and Sillitoe saw it as an affront to the integrity of both himself and the Sheffield police. It was also sending a signal out to other areas of the city that such activities would not be tolerated. As he said in court he hoped that the result "would be beneficial not only to the Sheffield force but to others".

But what the case did reveal was a widespread belief (one that was held by the jury at Leeds Assizes) that the bribes that Aistrup and others gave, were only made after they had been pressurised by the police themselves. And the other problem that repeatedly manifested itself was that the only witnesses to these offences under the 1906 Act were the police themselves. As Mr Justice Humphries quite rightly noted "men who take bribes cannot be trusted"

But despite the case and subsequent prosecutions street betting continued to flourish in the decades that followed. It only died out when the 1906 Act was replaced by the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960, the aim of which was remove "archaic, restrictive and often inconsistent laws on gambling".  The government hoped that by allowing the introduction of betting shops in May 1961 it would  take gambling off the streets for good. Coupled with this new system of licensing, would be the introduction of higher penalties for illegal street betting.  The Act was an immediate success. Licensed Betting Shops opened at over 100 a week and by the end of 1961 there were over 10,000 in the country. The government regained control of the cash betting industry, and also found a new vehicle for taxation!

The era of "street betting" was well and truly over


1911 Census

Name William Aistrup
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Condition Married Gender Male
Age 28 Estimated Year of Birth 1883
Occupation Steel Turner
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Industry Engineers Place of Birth Yorks Sheffield
Enumerator Information
Address 306 Alfred Road Sheffield Parish Sheffield Town Sheffield Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms Four Inhabited Y
Reference RG14PN27976 RG78PN1599 RD510 SD6 ED17 SN117 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Sheffield
Registration Sub District East Brightside Enumeration District 17



1911 Encyclopedia

Percy Sillitoe

The Times dated 5th April 1930

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