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Colonial Cases

R. v. Shaw, 1877


R. v. Shaw

Supreme Court for China and Japan
23 April 1877
Source: The North China Herald, 28 April 1877




Shanghai, April 23rd.

Before R. A. MOWAT, Esq., Acting Assistant Judge.


   Prisoner surrendered to his bail on an indictment charging him with stealing and embezzling Tls. 5,800, Kukiang currency, the property of his late employer, Mr.   Robert Francis.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT appeared for the prosecution.

   Mr. RENNIE defended the prisoner.

   The indictment, which contained three counts, having been read over, the prisoner was called upon in the usual manner to plead.

  He said - I plead guilty to the first charge.

   The CLERK - Have you anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon you?

   Mr. RENNIE rose, and said - I have.  In pleading guilty to the charge brought against him, the prisoner instructs me to say that he is actuated by a desire to save trouble and expense to the prosecution; but that he does not admit having actually used all the missing monies for his own private purposes.  Had the case proceeded, which would have involved a long investigation of accounts, he would have hoped to be able to prove that he did not, in fact, appropriate to his own use by any means the full amount of those monies.  He had even hoped, and that was why he asked for further adjournments of the preliminary hearing, that a careful investigation of the books would nave enabled him to account for the disposition of the whole amount of money.  Although such account might not have cleared him from guilt, he would still have trusted by some means to have placed his conductor under a less criminal light.  The result of his investigations, however, has convinced him that he cannot deny having appropriated to his own use a considerable portion of the money, and fully appreciating his misconduct in the matter, he has felt that the only reparation it is in his power to make to those who have suffered by his defalcations is to put them to as little further expense and trouble as possible.  He has not at any time, since receiving the letter in which Mr. Francis informed him of the charge against him, sought to evade his responsibility or to escape from justice.  Indeed, he purposely remained in Japan for nearly a month afterwards; and on his leaving Japan, advised Messrs. R. Anderson & Co. of his going to Hongkong.  He is in very poor health, and is informed by his medical advisers that the climate of China is peculiarly injurious to his constitution, whilst the anxiety and remorse preying upon him since the charge was made against him, and whilst he has been under restraint, have much toll upon him.  In throwing himself upon the mercy of the Court, he trusts that these circumstances may be taken into consideration, and that the sentence upon him may be made as light as possible as the ends of justice require.

   Mr. WAINEWRIGHT next rose, and said - I appear for the prosecution, and have a few words to add to what has been laid before the Court on behalf of the prisoner.  I need hardly say that the prosecution felt themselves compelled to come forward in this case on public grounds, and they were also obliged to do so on private grounds, because in the business they carry on, they are dependent on the honesty of many persons in the position occupied by the prisoner.  Therefore they could not pass over an offence such as that to which the prisoner has pleaded guilty.  At the same time, they came forward to prosecute reluctantly because of the prisoner's position.  The antecedents of the prisoner were, so far as they know, respectable; and they do not wish at the present time to press for a severe punishment upon him.  They quite endorse what the prisoner's counsel has said, that the prisoner has not, so far as they know, sought to evade his responsibility bin the matter or to escape from justice.  He waited in Japan longer than he need have done; and there is no doubt he might have got away had he thought proper.  Then prosecution also admit that, since he has been committed for trial, the prisoner has done all he could to save them trouble and expense, ands thereby from increased loss.  He has, in fact, saved them expense; and they believe what his counsel has said, that he is in a poor state of health.  That being so, and on account of his youth, they commend his case to the merciful consideration of the Court.

   His HONOUR, on passing sentence, said - The recommendation to mercy that has been made in your behalf by the prosecution, justifies me in passing a lighter sentenced than I should otherwise have considered it my duty ton pass.  For the offence with which you are charged, and to which you have pleaded guilty, is - as you must know as well as I who am addressing you - a most serious one.  It is aggravated, moreover, by the circumstances under which it was committed, for you took advantage of the position of trust in which you were placed by your employer, and of that confidence which he reposed in you, and which should have the most armed you against temptation, to work him or his principals a great loss.  Nor did the results of your misdeed end there merely, for it is probably not too much to say that by your act the trust which employers in this part of the world place in their confidential servants sustained a very palpable, even if momentary, shock; and on the other hand, the probity and honour of the class to which you belonged - for the honour of a class, it should never be forgotten, is made up of the honour of its individual members - had inflicted on it a very grave wound.

   The prosecution have, however, invited me to deal leniently with you, on the score of your youth and your ill-health, and to this invitation I gladly accede and the more because I am  mindful that the object of all punishment is not to punish for punishment's sake but to deter, and while deterring to postpone to no later fate than is necessary for the salutariness of the needed lesson, the time when the criminal may begin in a new career to atone, as far as in him lies, to society and to himself for the wrong he has done to both.  I say nothing of the other ground for mitigation  that has been urged - that you have pleaded guilty and thus spared the prosecutors the trouble and expense of a prosecution - not because I undervalue a frank admission of an offence, on the contrary I consider it the first step on the road to repentance, and the germ of a better life for the future - but because in the nature of things it is impossible to know how far such admissions can be construed with certainty in that way, or how far they may be made with a view merely to a mitigation of sentence.

   The sentence of this Court is that you be imprisoned for 12 calendar months; and you have my earnest wish, and that I am sure of the prosecutors, that by reflection during the period of your imprisonment you may come to see the unwisdom of crime, and that you may on your return to the work of the world so conduct yourself for the rest of your life that it may be seen that this terrible experience has not been without fruit.

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