From the Alfreton and Belper Journal, 3rd December 1909:
SPITFIRE IN COURT
A CHESTERFIELD PRISONER’S ECCENTRICITIES
An extraordinary statement was made by a prisoner at the Chesterfield Borough Police Court, on Monday, the person in question giving the name of Luke Spitfire, of no fixed address, who was something of a “spitfire” by nature.
The man was charged with stealing a Bible, valued at 50s., from the Chesterfield Parish Church, on Saturday, and evidence was given that prisoner was seen to emerge from the building with the book underneath his coat. Benjamin Gascoigne, a young man living in Durrant road, Chesterfield, asked Spitfire what he was doing with the Bible, and he replied that he was going to sit down and read it, although it was too dark to do so. Police-constable Kee arrested the man, who made no answer to the charge.
Spitfire loudly requested the attendance of the priests to identify the Bible as the property of the church. Having entered a plea of guilty, the accused went on to make the following amazing statement: “I have been a ratepayer for 20 years, and of course every ratepayer helps to keep the Bishops and the priests and everybody else between, and supposing I was stealing the Bible, I was only stealing part of my own property. (Laughter). It is no earthly use to me, because what is in the book I have swallowed. I claim to be tried by my peers. I am a B.A. and an educated man, and I am the same as Lord Byron, when he committed murder, he claimed to be tried by the Lords, and he got off. I claim to be tried by my equals and not by ‘vagabones’.” (Laughter).
Sentence of 28 days’ hard labour was passed.
The County Local Studies Library holds the Alfreton (and Belper) Journal, 1870-1935 – just ring to book a microfilm reader.