"Pirates of the Ether" - Sheffield's First Licence Evaders - February 1926
I was asked by a neighbour about the history of the houses in the street adjacent to ours in Sheffield. She informed me that the house that she was living in was built around 1901. I confirmed this by referring to the 1901 Census. Out of curiosity I also accessed the British Newspaper Archive and found the first mention of the road in 1915.
But there was also an article from The Sheffield Daily Independent dated 26th February 1926 that referred to 17 Ainsley Road Sheffield and its occupant, a Mrs Helen Bell.
PIRATES OF THE ETHER. 10s. FINES IN FIRST SHEFFIELD CASES.
The first of what will probably be a series of prosecutions of wireless “pirates” the Post Office authorities in Sheffield were conducted yesterday, when fines were inflicted on three people who pleaded “Guilty” to charges installing and working wireless receiving sets without taking out licences.
The defendant in the first case was Helen Bell, of 17, Ainsley road, Sheffield. Mr, Harry Monks, who conducted the prosecution on behalf of the Post Office, said that the cases were brought under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1904.
The maximum penalty in this court was €lO. Officials visited Mrs. Bell's house, and found that small home-made crystal had been installed with an inside aerial.
Mrs. Bell admitted that the set had been worked
Mr F W Scorah defending said that the set was a small home made one, of which there were hundreds in the city. It had been made by a friend of the defendent and had been tried for a while and then discarded. It had not been worked for some time, and the defendent did not intend to work it again.
"It seems a little strange," continued Mr. Scorah, that a prosecution of tlis kmd should fall on a person who happens to possess a small home-made crystal set I should have thought a better case could have been made.
Mr. Monks said that the set was worked on an indoor aerial.
Mr. Scorah: That will not very good results on a crystal set
The magistrates said that as this was the first case of its kind to brought before the Court they were disposed treat it with some leniency. Defendant would be fined 10s. on each of the two charges, but it was not to supposed all magistrates would observe the same leniency. Circumstances in the cases of Joseph Frith, of 157, Neal road, and William Blackton, of 139, Chippinghouse road, were similar, and defendants were fined 10s. on each of the two charges.
For those who are unsure what the magistrates were hearing there is an article on wireless receiving radios on Wikipedia
The fine is the equivalent on just over £21 GBP in today's money and with a maximum penalty of ten times this, the magistrates were lenient. But nearly one hundred years later these type of prosecutions are still happening. Why are licences stll required in the twenty-first century??
The Sheffield Daily Independent dated 26th February 1926
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