An off duty soldier who struck a man with one punch which proved fatal avoided a custodial sentence.
On the 6th September 1941 Private Charles Jenkins was enjoying 48 hours home leave from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He went to a pub near his Eastlake Street home with his father and brother, who began arguing with the 23 year old about the amount he was drinking.
The argument spilled out onto the street and an old family friend, Frederick Couzens, came to intervene. Jenkins objected to the interference and punched Couzens, who fell straight to the pavement. Couzens, a 51 year old warehouseman, died in hospital the following night and Jenkins was arrested at his unit and charged with murder. When told of the death by a detective sergeant Jenkins replied 'I did not mean to do him serious harm at all.' A post mortem revealed that the cause of death was a fractured skull.
On 3rd October Jenkins was brought up before the examining magistrate, where medical evidence was heard that Couzens would not have died if he had fallen onto soft ground. In light of this the charge was reduced to manslaughter and Jenkins was granted bail.
When Jenkins appeared before Mr Justice Croom-Johnson the following month his solicitor described the death as a 'tragedy of drink.' Couzens, it was said, had made a remark that had been resented and fell heavily due to him weighing fifteen stone.
The judge then showed remarkable leniency by simply binding Jenkins over. He said no condition about abstaining from alcohol would be imposed as Jenkins was incapable of sticking to it. Justice Croom Johnson then commented that he didn't know what it was about modern beer that upset people so much.