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SUPREME COURT—CRIMINAL SESSIONS.

Tuesday, October 8. (Before His Honor Mr Justice Williams.) KMBKZZI.E.MEST OF FOSTAf. FUNDS. Thumus J'Jaslon Waugh surrendered to his hail and pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with having in August, 1887, while in tho public service, stolen the sums of L2O 17s Sd and LOO, the property of the Queen, Other counts to the indictment charged him with embezzling the amounts stated. Sir Robert Stout defended the prisoner. _ Tho evidence was similar to that given in the lower Court. Tho following witnesses wore called;— Sydney Pope Stevens, Isabella Willoughby, Lctitia Ashton, William Gould Churchward, Edward Drury Butts, and William Joseph Hall. Sir R Stout, in addressing the jury, said the question was whether the prisoner had embezzled or stolen or appropriated to his own use the amounts mentioned in the indictment. So far as the LOO was concerned, he submitted there was no evidence whatever against tho prisoner, for none of the witnesses suggested that the signature to the receipt, “ John Reid,” was in the handwriting of the prisoner. As to this charge there was not a tittle of evidence, and it must go. After dealing in detail with the evidence, tho learned counsel said the simple question was this : Was the prisoner to he convicted of embezzlement because Mr Butts said there was some similarity in the “c’s” and “h’s” of tho prisoner with those in tho signatures to the receipts, and because Mr Churchward said there was a resemblance in the writing ? That was the whole case against the prisoner. So far as Reid’s case was concerned, it would be an insult to the intelligence of tho jury to ask them to say that the prisoner forged tho signature “ J. Reid,” when not one of the experts would venture to say that there was any resemblance whatever between that signature and the handwriting of the prisoner. Then, with reference to M'Kee’a case, could any reasonable man say, looking at the various handwritings, that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the “I. M'Kee” on tho withdrawal receipt was forged by the prisoner? Tho witness Stevens, when the document passed before him, had seen no such resemblance, or ho would not have forwarded it without question to Wellington as he had done. Experts looked at handwriting to find resemblanees, and rarely failed to find some, but their evidence was generally of a contradictory nature. The jurors were entitled to look at tho matter and to judge of it for themselves, and the learned counsel invited them to do so, submitting that in M'Kee’s case also there was not sufficient evidence to justify them in finding a verdict against the prisoner. His Honor, in summing up, said that the frauds alleged to have been committed by accused were committed by the forging of depositors’ names by someone. He directed the attention of the jury to the fact that they should be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the prisoner did forge the signatures of the depositors to the cheques and slips, because it was by the concoction of these documents that the amounts had been withdrawn from the bank. There was not the slightest doubt hut that the documents were forgeries, and that it was by some person or other that the documents had been forged. Of course, persons employed in the office would ho more likely to know of the existence of these long-unoperated-upon accounts ; while there was also in tho ollice the original declarations of the depositors, and they were accessible to any person in the office who wished to take copies of them. It had been stated in evidence that tho signatures on the documents filled in by the prisoner resembled the signatures ou the original declarations signed by the depositors. As Sir Robert Stout had pointed out, the original signature to tho first declaration had been “Isabella M'Kee,” while the others, which had been filled in and signed subsequently were signed “I. M'Kee.” They had heard the evidence of expert witnesses regarding the similarity there was in the forged signature! to the signatures of the depositors, and they themselves would have an opportunity of comparing them with the handwriting of accused. Of course if some woman had come to the office and had said that she had lost her book and made application for a new declaration, it must have been the prisoner to whom she made application for tho declaration, because the documents presented bore the accused’s handwriting. Regarding Reid’s case it was stated that, according to the books of tho Post Office Savings Bank Department, his account was closed on August 10, ISS7, aud on tho original declaration which was issued in 1871 there was an endorsement in the handwriting of accused. So that there was LOO 7s 3d lying in the hank to Reid’s account on August 11. The assumption therefore was that the man Reid came to the bank on August 11, and asked that his account be closed, because it was on that date that tho new depositor’s book was issued according to tho books of the hank. The declaration made by Reid was not forthcoming, neither was the old book, because that would have been alleged to have been lost. In November tho account was again operated upon, the sum of L9O being withdrawn on the third of that month. Of course to effect that the person must have come again after August 11, and obtained the money. Witnesses had said that in the forged signatures there was a resemblance to the handwriting of the prisoner, They would, however, have all tho documents before them ; and before they could connect tho prisoner they must be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the documents were concocted, and that the prisoner concocted them. He did not think there was any need to trouble them any further.

The jury retired to consider their verdict shortly after seven o’clock, and at ten minutes past nine returned a verdict of “ Guilty ” upon the first three counts having reference to tho amount of L2O 17s Bd, and “ Not guilty ” upon the other counts, The jury expressed the opinion that the declarations to which the prisoner had obtained access should be kept under more careful charge, and that when a new bank book was issued, its issue should be cheeked by a second clerk. His Honor: Yes; I sec the point, that more care should be taken in granting fresh books; that it should not be left to one clerk alone. I quite agree with you. The Foreman : The jury would further like to recommend the prisoner to mercy oh account of his youth. His Honor: Yes. Mr Haggitt said ho would apply for permission to enter a nolle prosequi with respect to the other charges. His Honor deferred passing sentence until this (Wednesday) morning. WELLINGTON. The Court was occupied all day hearing the charge of alleged fraudulent bankruptcy preferred against Charles Edward Beckman. The jury, after an hour’s deliberation, found a verdict of “ Not guilty,” Edward M'lntosb, convicted yesterday of robbery, was sentenced to two years’ hard labor. CHRIS rCHURCH. Minnie Brown and Annie Cassidy, for larceny from the person, were sentenced to six and three months respectively. John Martin and Henry Sorry, for conspiracy at Lyttelton by means of the three-card trick, received three months. William Mulligan, charged with the larceny of a cheque, was discharged on probation. Robert M'Cready, charged with cutting and wounding his paramour (Annie Reilly), was acquitted.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18891009.2.31

Bibliographic details

SUPREME COURT—CRIMINAL SESSIONS., Evening Star, Issue 8033, 9 October 1889

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1,252

SUPREME COURT—CRIMINAL SESSIONS. Evening Star, Issue 8033, 9 October 1889

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