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Colonial Cases

United States v. Troop, 1887


United States v. Troop

United States Consular Court
Kennedy, 9 May 1887
Source: North China Herald, 13 May 1887

Shanghai, 9th May.
Before Gen. Kennedy, Consul-General, Acting judicially.
  J. R. TROOP, chief officer of the U.S. ship Hagarstown, was prosecuted by Messrs. Jardine. Matheson & Co. for appropriating to his own use a quantity of oil, their property, and selling the same to a Chinaman named Devering.
  Mr. Myburgh appeared to prosecute.
  Mr. W. S. Emens defended, by order of the court.
  Mr. Myburgh said he thought that at that stage of the proceedings it was only necessary to produce sufficient evidence to send the case for trial.
  Mr. James McKie was sworn and said that he was a British subject, and a clerk in the employment of Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co.  The cargo of the ship Hagarstown which was very much damaged was consigned to him on behalf of his employers.  The ship arrived in Dec. last.  Delivery of part of the cargo as taken at Woosung and the remainder at the general wharf. The captain of this ship, after she had been discharged at the wharf, told witness that there was a quantity of loose or bulk oil in the hold.  Witness in accordance with the Captain's directions sent some boats to take the remainder of the oil and carried it away till they were told there was no more.  He had since reason to believe that there was more oil on board.  The books of the ship were closed on the 7th January.
.  .  .  
  The Court in delivering judgment said - The prisoner at the bar stands charge with grand larceny.  The charge is that he sold in the month of January last a quantity of kerosene oil, a part of the cargo of the American ship Hagarstown, consigned to Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co.
  He admits selling the oil, but contends that he had a right to do so, as I was the refuse "leak" oil, and their godown man who was taking delivery of the cargo told him they did not want it, and it was worthless, and that he sold it openly and without wrongful intent, and had been wont to sell the same kind of oil under similar circumstances elsewhere in kerosene oil ships in which he had sailed for the last eleven years.  Furthermore that the master of the ship told him if Jardine, Matheson & Co. had finished taking delivery he could sell what was left. He sold it to Devering, a tailor, who testified that he received it on the 4th, 6th and 8th January. This the prisoner denied, fixing the date of sale on the 14th January and afterwards.
 The Counsel for the prosecution stated in his argument very frankly, that if the date given by defendant is correct then he cannot be convicted of the offence as he had a colour of right to the oil, as Jardine, Matheson & Co. had ceased to take delivery and the master had authorised him to sell it.  
  In the conflict of testimony as to date the prisoner under the settled rule in criminal law is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.  Larceny is defined to be "the felonious taking and carrying away of the personal goods of another with intent to steal." The distinction between grand and petty larceny is simply in the degree of value of property taken.  The gist of the offence is in the intent, and we do not find that the prisoner intended to steal the oil in question.  How far he is reprehensible in not reporting the fact of the quantity of refuse oil to the consignees, or to what extent custom may sanctioned his appropriation, we will not consider. The judgment of the Court is, Mr. Troop, that you are honourably acquitted.
  The verdict was announced with applause which was instantly suppressed.

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