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At the Resident Magistrates Court this morning (before E. H. Carew, Ksq., K.AI.), John Davidson, Charles Williamson, and William Cromir (respectively master and owners of the schooner Janet Ramsay) were charged by Henry Chamberlain, collector of Customs at Dunedin, Hithhuungon June 3, )88l), at the Auckland Islands, aud during tho close season for Beals prescribed and proclaimed by Iho Governor-in-Council under tho Kioberka Act, 1837, by Ordera-in-CouDCil, dated September 11 and December 18, 18S8, unlawfully taken ten suals, of t'le specie? known as fur seals, contrary to the statutes made in such caste.

Mr 13. C. HsfcgUt appeared on behalf of tho Customs Department, and Sir Robert Stout for tho defendants. Sir K Stout odmitted that tbe eff moo with which his clients were chirged had been coirmittci, hut ho pleaded in extenuation that they cou.tnitted the offtnen with jut knowing that they were scaling during the c oeo season. The circumstances under which the offence bal been commuted wore these: Tho Janet Ramsay left Dunedin on January 24 for the Macquarie Island?. They experienced extremely uufuvcrublo weather, and eventually dmdid to return to Duuoiin and uu>, tho vowel, which had suffered conakletaMy by the boisterous weather iiy tho (icje tho vessel had reached the Aucklaud Islands she was leaking badly, and it was thereupon decided to l.nd at the Aucslands Accordingly tho crew landed there, ai.d tho vessel was beached. Tho defendants then discovered ano'ic3— a Government proclamation-datjd May 2i, which stated that the close season for seali had bcou extended to June ], 1889; but uo other notification was found. It being somu timo after tho c'ato mentioned in the n tijo, the defendants were of opinion that the c oeo season had terminated ; and so thinking they had committed the effenoo with which they were olurued. Mr rldggin admitted the re.isoriahlo nature cf his learned friend's contention. ADOllm nolico regarding tho extension of tbo 010 1 season had, however, been issued. Tint notlUcrtion intimated that the oioso season for seals in the Auckland, Campbell, Anti.odes, Bouity, Snares, Solauderi, Cnalhani, and KormaCec lslanJy had been extended to December 80, 1889. Sir Robert Stout then called

Davidson, ma'-tcr ol tho sohooner Janet Ramsay, who said that he arrived in the colony as mato of a i/oat on the 31st December last. He was, comparatively speaking, a Btranger, because it was some fifteen years since be had Ins; been In New Zealand. Some timo after his arrival he was engaged as capuin of the Janet lUeusay to make trips trv tbo Macquarlo Islands, for which place tbe veseel left Dancdin on January 'Zi. Ho hid not the slightest Intention when starting; cf going to tbe Aucklaud Islands. Att?r thirteen d.v, t>' sailing they reached Macquarie Island and anchored on the east tide, tut two days after arrival anchor drifted They kept on tbe eastern sido of tho island for a woek, waiting for a clmnre to land, but could uot bring their vessel suQideutly close to the shore. After that tbey kept on tho western side of tho iihnd for five daya, and txporicced very heavy gales, which earned them a considerable distance in a southerly direction. They occupied bix weeks in miking M.-.c-qu.rlo Island again, and upon arrival again tried to land, but fjund they could m t do so without dagger to life. JiiPt before they loft the island—when the Kales commonoi'd—they had been living in a tent on tbo islanl. They liid cxperioncd very rough weather, tho vessel going us far fouth as fi7<:e<;, and b;itg s*raiced a. good deal. They took thirtytwo cr thirty-three days in getting nway from the island, and ultimately decided to return to Dunedin and refit tbe boit. During tbe voyago—ltfaro they reached tho Aucklands-por-tions of tho bulwarks wero carried away, as were several sails. Then they res:lvsd to ent( r Port Uobs, and oreutually til to, beaching the veseel and caulking her 'there. Witness »..w a nolioc ported up stating that tho oloeo season had been cxt.rdod to Juno I, 18S9, and a' that date had passed, cjncludtd that sealin.r would not be Illegal. Tho only reason tbey bad for visiting the Auckland Islands was thot the vessel w«9 maklner a considerable quantity of wa'er. After leaving the Aucklands, witness brought the vessel south, ultimately ar.choring and landing at Burke*, in the Upper Harbor, and it was then that he beard for tbo first time that the close season for seals had been further extendci to Dcoember 30 of tho present jear. To AlrHaggi't: (Vitnosa would iwear that he was not awire of the further extension cf iho c'ose tcason. Before tho vessel sailed for the Uacquario Islands he had seen a notice at the Customs Department intimating that tho dote season bad been extended to Juno 1.

Willum Cromar and Charks Williamson gave cor rohorative evidence.

William John Raito, clcik in the Customs Department, proved that a notice had been posted up at the Customs Office oa the morning of January 2, 1889, intimating that the close ecaeon for seals had been exteuded to Dcoamber 30. The notice was posted about two feet away from tbe ons giving June 1 as the date of termination cf the clobo season.

His Worship delivered judgmont at tho afternoon sitting of tho Ccurt as follows :—" Tho defendants admit the facts alleged in the information, but state they were uot aware cf the extension of the close sea'on beyond the Ist June, and therefore believed th'y were not committing an (ffence in scaling subsequent ta that date Ignorance of law is admitted cot to bo an excuse, but the defendants plead Ignorance of Mro fact that an Order-io-Council had extended the close seasou to December SI, ISB9. Assuming that to be truo-and it may be »". although I oatmot say that I fed c,u te confident thai it is so I find tho law in such case exp'alnod ii ' Stephen's Criminal Law,' Artlole 34, as follows :- l An ullesxd c (Tender is in general deemed to have acted under that tt»te of fno's which ho In good frith and on rca»onaMc grounds hellevod ti exist when ho did the act alleged to b> an cffenci-. . . . Pr ivie'ed that when an offence is io defined by statute that th« act of ihe offender is not a crime unless eomntnde endent fact 00-exists witi I', tho Court muit decide whether it was the Intention of the legislature that the person doing tbe forbidden not should do it at bis own peril, or that his ignorance as to the existence of the independent fact, or his mlstakea b'lief in fcood faith and en reasonable gauads that it did uot exist, should excuse hiin. . . . Provided also that voluntary or negligent ignorance of any such fact in no ex:us3 for any i>uch iff nee.' The concluding part of section 5 of ihe Fixhericß Conservation Act, 1834, reads thus: ' And all euci regulations ulnll bo gtzttei, and thereupon shell be binding and conc'usivo upon all person?, os if the same had bron ccntainod in this Act.' This is a most unusual prorlsion in an Ao*, and it S'eir.s to mi probable It Is inserted there to meet a defenco of this nature, and that tho Lecislature intended, as it states, that the gritting of a rcgu'ation or Ordcr-in-Council shall bo as bindlogand oonclusive a« If ft were contained in the statute. I think, therefore, tbe excuse li not sufficient to absolve tho defendants from an effenoo acrni: at the law, but the circumstances require on this ccc»i;n only a moderate penalty. The defendants are convicted and fined 1,5, and 5s for esch of the ton eeals killed ; each diftndant to pay one third cf the c *ts (11»), professional cost' LI Is." Olr Hobert Stout reminded His Worship that under tho Aoh of 1884 »'-d 1837 the skins nnd tho vessel even could be forfeited by the Marine Minister upon convlcion. As Hh Worship had Inflicted only the lowest flno the Act allowed, bo would respectfully ask (hit somo recommendation be made to the Premier to the effect that that portion attending upon conviction bring recorded against tbe defendants should be rtml'tod

His Worship: I will give the matter due consideration.

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