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Colonial Cases

R v. Donaldson [1887]


Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 21 April 1887

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, Vol. 3 (1880-1893), The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 340, p 208


Regina v. Charles Peter McArthur Donaldson.

Charge - Embezzlement.

Plea - Guilty.

Prisoner admits offences - pleads he has repaid the money, has given every assistance in clearing up the accounts.  Pleads also loss of position - loss of pension, &c.

Mr. Wilkinson for the Crown admits the truth of all prisoner has said.  Has no wish to press for heavy sentence.

Sent.  6 Calendar months impt.

G. Jamieson.


Source: North China Herald, 22 April 1887

Shanghai, 21st April.
Before Geo. Jamieson, Esq., Acting Assistant Judge.
  Charles Peter McArthur Donaldson, lately employed in H.B.M.'s Office of Works, was put forward to take his trial on a charge of embezzlement.
  Mr. H. S. Wilkinson prosecuted.
  Mr. F. J. Marshall of the Office of Works attended.
  The accused was not professionally represented.
  The case excited a good deal of interest, the Court being nearly full of spectators.
  Mr. M. Jones, Clerk of the Court, read the indictment which contained three counts, the first being "That the said Charles Peter McArthur Donaldson on the 21st day of February in the year of our Lord 1884, being then employed in public service of the Queen, and entrusted by virtue of such employment with the receipt and custody of money the property of the Queen did by virtue of his said employment and whilst he was employed receive and have in his possession and was entrusted with certain monies the property of the Queen to the amount of six hundred and fifty Mexican dollars, for and on account of the public service of the Queen and then, fraudulently and feloniously did apply the said money to his own use and benefit and fraudulently and feloniously did steal the same last mentioned money being the property of the Queen against the form of the statute in such cases  made and provided."
  The second count charged the accused with fraudulently and feloniously converting to his own use and stealing the sum of three hundred and thirty-two and ninety-six cents Mexican, the property of the Queen, on the 6th of April on the same year.
  The third count was that he did on the 14th of August in the same year fraudulently and feloniously convert o his own use, the sum of one hundred and forty Mexican dollars, the property of the Queen.
  The prisoner in answer to the question "guilty or not guilty," said - I am guilty of taking the money.
  His Lordship then dismissed the jury, which had been summoned; and asked the prisoner had he anything to say.
  The Prisoner said - If I am allowed I would say a few words in mitigation of my sentence.  It is true that I took the money.  I am deeply sorry for it, and it is only just that I should be punished for it.  But I had no intention of stealing the money, as I could very easily have taken a much larger sum and got away.  But such an intention never entered my head.  I have paid back every penny of the money, and of my own free will assisted in every way in making out a statement which was forwarded to the Government at home.  Not only have I brought disgrace upon myself and those belonging to me, but I have lost 30 years' service.  Besides I have been in very delicate health for some time past, as Dr. Jamieson can tell you, and I hope that you will take all these things into consideration and give me as light a sentence as possible.
  His Lordship said that it did not appear to him from the depositions that the money had been paid back, and he would be glad to know whether as a matter of fact that was so.
  Mr. Wilkinson said that the money had been paid back to the Government who had no desire to press for a severe sentence on the prisoner.  The prosecution had been instituted upon telegraphic instructions from England, as the Government thought that the offence was one that could not be overlooked.  As the prisoner had stated the money had been paid back, and he had lost all those 30 years' of service, and he (Mr. Wilkinson) as representing the Crown had no wish that all these circumstances should not be taken into consideration in passing sentence.  But as to the statement that the prisoner's admission was voluntary, he (Mr. Wilkinson) would say that it was true, but it was only done when the discovery was impending.  Since then he had assisted Mr. Marshall, in making his statement to the Crown, in fact the statement had been made in his handwriting, and there was no desire to press for a severe sentence.
  His Lordship in passing sentence said that under the circumstances it was his desire to avoid saying what would aggravate the position in which the prisoner stood.  The prisoner had showed that he was fully conscious of the serious nature of the charge by the course he had adopted and the Court would take into consideration, all that had been said in extenuation. The facts of the case as it appeared from the depositions in the Court below, were that in 1884 when the prisoner was in charge of H.M. Office of Works during Mr. Marshall's absence, he had appropriated to his own use certain sums of money amounting in all to some $1600.  In order to conceal from Mr. Marshall on his return, the fact of the misappropriation he had given at the end of the quarter a false statement of the amount of cheques outstanding, that is to say issued but not presented at the Bank on the last day of the quarter.  It was his duty to make up this statement and Mr. Marshall relied upon this statement, having implicit confidence in the prisoner, a confidence which might be deemed justifiable from his long employment and his familiarity with the accounts.  This mis-statement was continued quarter by quarter.  So the thing was carried on till the beginning of January, in the present year, or about 3 years in all, when the prisoner being in ill health, Mr. Marshall had to take over the charge of making up the accounts himself, and he at once discovered that something was seriously wrong.  The prisoner then confessed and since that he had done all in his power to make matters clear to his superiors and had repaid the money.  He had as he stated not only lost his position, but, also, all claims to a gratuity or pension, so that  taking all things into consideration, the Court would pass sentence of imprisonment for six calendar months.
  The prisoner who seemed deeply affected and made no attempt to hide his tears, shook hands with his father and was removed in custody.

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