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Colonial Cases

R. v. Hart, 1896



R. v. Hart

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 16 November 1896
Source: North China Herald, 20 November, 1896




Shanghai, 16th November

Before Sir N. J. Hannen, Chief Justice, and Messrs. John Morris, E. H. Kenny, F. Baird Reid, A. R. Bowman, and J. Juster, Jury.

R. v. HART.

   Stephen Hart was brought up for trial on an indictment charging him with feloniously, unlawfully, and maliciously setting fire to No. 3 Foochow Road, on Sunday, the 4th of October.  Mr. H. S. Wilkinson (Crown Advocate) prosecuted, the prisoner being defended by Mr. F. Ellis (Messrs. Browett and Ellis). Prisoner pleaded "Not guilty."

[Not transcribed.]

The only remark that I think it is necessary to make is that Mr. Ellis' attack upon Mr. Bullard's coolie is not one that ought in any way to influence you. You may say that the way in which that coolie gave his evidence appeared not to be the way in which an honest and truth-speaking man would give it. He may have been wrong as to time - I do not think any Chinaman is accurate as to times - but that he was endeavouring to tell the truth seemed to me to be evident. We have it distinctly proved that a fire took place and it is for you to say whether it was a fire caused by accident or design. But in reality there can be very little doubt, I suppose, that the fire, originating as it appeared to do in two or three places at the same time was the result of design and not accident.

   The next point is as to who did it, and with regard to this the person on whom the greatest suspicion falls is undoubtedly the prisoner. What Mr. Wilkinson pointed out is that there is a time, somewhere between five and ten or fifteen minutes past ten - for the Greek did not exactly remember the number of minutes - there is that time unaccounted for, and it is during that time that the coolie says that he saw Hart come in. After you have got that into your minds it will be for you to determine whether the prisoner was the person who lit the fire, and, in dealing with that question you have to make up your minds as reasonable men whether there is any other way of explaining it, then give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt. But if you do not see any reasonable way of explaining how this occurred, and you knowing the prisoner was there and the prisoner might and could have done what he is accused of doing, the you have got to find him guilty, and I do not think I can more elaborate the question that that, and I now leave you to consider your verdict.

   The Jury retired to consider their verdict at ten minutes to five o'clock. After an absence of an hour and twenty minutes they returned into Court, and answered to their names.

   The Clerk - Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict?

   The Foreman (Mr. John Morris) - We have.

   The Clerk - How say you; do you find the prisoner Stephen Hart, guilty or not guilty?

   The Foreman - Not guilty.

   There was some slight applause from the crowded Court which was at once suppressed.

   His Lordship - Stephen Hart, you are discharged. 

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School