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Colonial Cases

R v. Martin [1874]

sending threatening letter - criminal appeals

Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 23, 27 July 1874

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 339, pp 181-187

Regina v. Michael Martin

Indictment read

Sending letter to A. Silverthorne on 24th June last threatening to burn and destroy a certain house of his.

Plea - Not guilty.

Jurors, sworn: A. Kraus; T. Marshall; J. M. Cory; A. N. Brown; A. J. Pollock.

Mr. Robbinson for the prisoner.


I am a Publican - Little [Acton?] House, Hong Keu. I have a place called the "Camp." It is a buildg with a Thatched roof on it & a Bar for refreshments. On the night of the 16th or the morng of the 17th of June a fire took place at the Camp. I went out & found it had been on fire. The out house roof was destroyed. I gave instructions to the Police. I went down a second time & found Bootmarks - some quite plainly - I thought it a foot mark of the Prisoner. On the 23 rd I heard the Camp had been fired again. I went & found it had been fired. Onj the 24th June I recd a letter thro' the local Post office. I was out when it arrived - my servt gave it me. This is the letter & envelope marked A.

As soon as I saw the letter I said I believe it to be in the handwriting of M. Martin - the envelope is the most plainly written, but the inside is also in his hand writing. I believe it [ now] ? to be in his handwriting. The small note is much more plainly in his handwriting. I took it to the Police station. I took it again in the Eveng. I read it. I supposed that the Camp not being burnt down, he meant to set fire to it again.

I sent to enquire of his Boy about the Clothes - [then the allusion]. The follg day I went again to inquire about a stick.


No one accompanied me on the 2nd time to the camp. Mr. Stripling was there when I saw the footmarks - he was searchg & I found the plain ones. I believed they were Mr. Martin's foot-marks.

I recd the letter about noon of the 24th of June. I preferred the charge I think on the 4th of July. I did not suspect the prisoner when I first saw the fire. I am a pretty good judge of M. Martin's handwriting. I felt positive the letter & envelope was in his hand writing. This looks like my own hand writing. Mr. Burke was in charge of the Camp for a short time - he left I think about a week before the 1 st fire. He was managing it - for about a fortnight. There was no disturbance at the Camp. There was a robbery - Mr. Burke dismissd all the native servts. That is, he dismissed one & the others left. Mr. B. drank too much & I dismissed him for that. I never discovered the Robbers. I held a Bill of Sale over Prisoner's furniture - I sold under it. I had no parlar dispoute. I had to summons him - I had a criminal summons for a store & another summons. He returned some of the things he had taken away from the Bill ofd Sale. I don't recollect that we had so far recovered ill will as to be drinking together at the Camp.

This is a letter I recd from the Prisoner dated 19th of May 1874 - it is in his ordiny hand witing - (read) - I am not aware that he laid any information.

Mr. Wainwright

I am a [???][?????] here. I know the Prisoner - he was in my service since Aug 1872 until end of 1873. He was in my partner's service before. I know his handwriting. I believe the letter & the envelope to be in the handwriting of the Prisoner. I have no doubt in my own mind at all it is his handwriting.


I think portions of the letter are carefully disguised - but the others are not even disguised a little - some are [?????????]. I recognise it now. There are alterations made but if I had a piece of his ordinary writing I could [?????] out identities. Being very familiar with his handwriting I have no hesitation in saying that it is his. It is not his ordinary handwriting.

Mr. Bishop

I am Clerk of the Court. I know the prisoner's handwriting - for a period of 5 ot 6. I have no doubt it is in the handwriting of the Prisoner. I have seen him with documents in my office. A portion not all disguised - in his natural handwriting.


It is written more carelessly & with an inclination to make the letters more upright.

Case for Prosecution.

Submits no case to go to Jury.

Sendg a letter no evidence of sendg. King v. Howe, 7 C & P.

P Roscoe on Evid. 877.

Leave to move.

I take a note of the objection - It appearg to me that R. v. Howe is not an authority ecxcept that it goes to show that the Evidence showed that it was quite possible that Goode under whose influence he might have written the latter - might have sent it & not the Prisoner.

3 Russell 186.


6 mos hard labour - deportation at end.

Thursday, 23rd July 1874

R. v. Michael Martin.

Mr. Robinson, counsel for the prisoner, moves pursuant to leave reserved, in arrest of Judgment and for leave to appeal to Her Majesty in Council. (See Motion paper No. 123)

Monday, 27th July 1874

Hearing of the above motion.

Applicn to quash conviction.

Some connection between the Prisoner & the sendg.

Roscoe 877 - 6th edit; Arch. Prac. P. 743, 15th edit. 341; 2 East P. of Crown 1105; 3 Russell 197; Hammond; E. P. of C. 1119

Roscoe 626 - as to marks on letter - L. P.

Russell 210, 243

Rex v. Howe - 7 C & P.



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