IT was not the sentence he had wanted, a mere ticking off would have been sufficient for the loser but such was the unforgiving attitude of magistrates the punishment went far beyond.

The culprits crime - nothing more than scrumping.

Four lads by the name of Robert Mason, Charles Street, George Scott and George Brown had stolen 21 apples, valued at 6d, from James Blatch's orchard in Millbrook, Southampton.

The boys had been unobservant in their mischievousness, their mid-afternoon trek across the fields being noted by Pc Knapton who witnessed them reach an adjacent pond which seemingly blocked their path.

Brown however stripped off, waded into the water, taking Scott's hat with him to serve as a bag, and when he reached the other side, removed the fruit which he threw to his waiting accomplices.

Knapton had seen enough and challenged the three about what they were doing. Almost in unison, they replied that Blatch's foreman had given them permission.

"I don't think that's true, do you?" the officer rhetorically remarked, taking possession of one apple from Brown, two from Mason and three from Street.

Scott was standing in the water and at Knapton's instruction, he splashed his way to the orchard where he retrieved his hat which contained the remaining 15 apples.

But instead of getting a severe ticking off, they were charged with theft, appearing before the local magistrates three days later on August 12, 1870 when they could have not have hired a better mitigator than Blatch who urged the court to be lenient.

"I don't wish to be hard on the boys," he explained. "But I have missed a great many apples and if they get into the orchard again, they might take other things there."

His plea went unanswered.

Scott, who had one previous conviction, was jailed for a month and his three friends received a week each.