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Colonial Cases

R v. Singh [1888]


R. v. Singh

Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 27 August 1888

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, Vol. 3 (1880-1893), The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 340, p 289


R. v. [Batun] Singh.

Larceny of a ring.

Mr. Wilkinson for the prosecution.

Mr. Drummond for the prisoner.

Plea.  Not Guilty.

Jurors; G. S. Perrott, C. J. Rawlinson, C. Comins, A. J. H. Carlill, R. W. Starkey. 

Four jurors not in attendance - Each fined $50: clerk to give the usual notice.

Mr. Wilkinson opens to the Jury.

Definitions of Larceny, Archbold (19th edn) p. 358.

What was the intent when he got possn of it?

What when he ran away? p. 374.


Seng-niang-ching, cautd.  Chinaman.  Buddhist Priest.  Remember the night of the 5th & 6th Augt.  was going home at 12.15 a.m. in my private jinrikisha.  I was stopped by a Sikh constable, prisoner is he.  He inquired where I was going.  I told him.  He also asked me the time.  I took out my watch, & so did he.  He saw a ring on my finger.  That (produced) is it.  He wanted to take it off to look it.  I told him he cd see it on my finger, but he tried to take it off my finger, & so I wet my finger & took it off & gave it him.  He looked at it & then ran away towards Sh'ai.  I followed after him.  In doing so I met a native constable.  He & I then returned to the [East?].  We saw prisoner hiding behind a tree.  It was with the help of the native constable's lamp that we saw him.  He was then 30 or 40 ft on the Shanghai side of the place where the ring was taken from me.  The native constable asked him to return the ring - he replied it was not his (the n. constable's) business.  I also asked him to give it back.  He denied having taken it. [291]

   I then asked accd to go with me to the station.  He & I then started for Sh'ai.  When we got to the paper-mill he wdn't go further, & knocked at the door.  When it was opened, he asked for Chinese pen & paper.  When it was [brot] he told me to write the name of my temple.  I did so, & told the servants of the mill, what the Sikh had done.  He therefore threw away the paper.  He then turned back towards Yangtzepoo, & I went with him.  The native constable was at this time with the jinrikisha near where the ring was taken from me.

   On our way I offered him $2 to get back my ring.  I gave him $2.  He signed with his fingers, he wanted $3.  I hadn't a 3 dollar & he returned me the 2.  He wanted my watch.  I cheated him.  If he wd give me the ring, I wd give him my watch.  He took hold of the chain, & gave me the ring, which I put in my mouth.  He wasn't able to get the watch, as I held on to it.  He then struck me with his baton over the buttocks, & again on the fingers.  I shouted out for help & accidentally swallowed the ring. I told him I had swallowed the ring & to put his hand in my mouth to satisfy himself that it was so.  We continued towards Y. & met the n. constable in jinrikisha coming [slowly].  I told the n. c. that I had swallowed the ring, prisoner sd to him that watch, ring, & money had been returned to me.  The n. c. told me to come next morning at 5 to the station if I had [292] any complaint to make. 

   I went on home, took an emetic of soap & water, whereupon the ring came up with rice & blood.  It was 2.30 when I got home.  It was 1.15 when I left the constable.  I can't say whether I had ever seen him before.  I wasn't on terms of friendship with any of the Sikh constables.

   The ring is worth $16.

Xd By Mr. Dd.   The prisoner was dressed on that night as he is now.  I have been nightly since the 9th moon of last year on that road about that time.  I am a doctor.  I live at the temple.  I've sometimes Sikh constables, sometimes not.  Sometimes mounted, sometimes on foot.  Sometimes they've stopped my jinrikisha & asked where I was going. 

   The ring was on the 3rd finger of the left hand.  The prisoner out the ring on the same finger of the same hand immedy he got it.  There was a little diffy in putting it on, there was no diffy  in getting it off mine.  I thought he only wanted to have a look at it.  I had an objection to his taking it - he used force.  Prisoner asked me to let him see it.  He said me in Chinese, "that ring bring it here, let me have a look."  It was in Shanghai dialect.  I only understood the words "Kau Ken" (look see).  He had his hand on my ring at the time & these 2 words were the only words he said.  He said first of all "[xxxx  xxxxx, xxxx  xxxx]" (Where are you going?  I replied (Yangtzepoo, xxxx ping ssu, chi)

   He pulled out his watch after I had said it wasn't very late.  Prisoner didn't say or do anything with regard to time, [293] before.  I used the phrase about it's not being late.  I had my watch out first; accd then pulled out his - we compared the time - a silver watch, silver chain.  I held out the watch & chain when we were comparing the time.  It was in both hands. The prisr held my wrist with his left hand, & tried to take the ring.  I wouldn't let him, but it was very sore.  I didn't resist any more when I felt the pain.  I wetted my finger, took it off, & gave it to him.  He put it on his finger while he stood by the j'a & then ran away.  He didn't use his bull's-eye.  It was shut all the time.  It was a very dark night.  Without a lamp [visible] at all.  When pr was in front of me, I noticed his uniform buttons.  I knew he was a Sikh, on duty.  I didn't speak to the jin'a at the time.  No carriage passed & no persons on foot passed up to this time.  No one else in sight.  It was on the river side of the road, bet. the paper-mill and W. Works.  Open road with trees.


   I ran after him on foot.  I didn't call out to pr to stop.  I met the native c. after I had gone 40 or 50 ft.  Met nobody before.  The tree behind which he was hiding was on the river-side of the road.  There trees there are nearly as big as a man's body.  He was standing up.  Prisoner came out when he saw the bull's-eye on him.  I didn't notice him before at all.  It was in English that the accd said it's none of yr business.  The n. c. told me what it was in reply to my questions.  I asked him in Chinese to go to the station.  The accd replied in Chinese.  I sd "If you don't give me back the ring let's go to the station."  He said, "Let's go."  He was willing to go to the station.  I was afraid of him.  It was none of the n. c.'s business to go with us - & he was afraid to [do] so.  It was the watchman he asked for pen & paper, in Chinese. [294]

   I don't know what my temple name was to be written down for.  I asked the watchman to help me to take him to the station.  He refused, saying it was none of his business.  Pr did not ask me for money before I offered him $2.  He put the $2 in his pocket, but wanted a third.  He then signed for the watch.  He let go the watch-chain to put his finger in my mouth.  It was only by signs that the pr conveyed that he had returned the things.  He sd something in English to the constable & accompanied it by gestures.  The ring came up after ½ an hour after the emetic.

RXd  I pointed out the several places to the Inspr.  [Howard]  (It's 'paces' witness said - not 'feet.')  The ring is now a little larger.

Ng-ai-ding, cautd.  Clerk in the Taping temple.  My master vomited the ring (produced).

Ching-chang-siang, cautd.   Rickshaw coolie.  Prostor is my master.  About 12.15, 3 weeks ago, pr told me to stop.  When the prostor put his watch in his pocket, pr saw the ring & wanted to look at it.  Prostor said, you can see it on my finger - but pr wanted to take it off.  Prisoner [wd] capsize the jinrikisha.  He wanted to take the ring by force and so prostor wet his finger & took it off, & gave it pr who put it on his finger & ran off.  I followed along with my master.  Later I heard the n. c. [295] ask the pr to give back the ring.  He replied it is not yr business.  Prisoner then caught hold of the prostor & wanted him to go to the station.  The native constable & I wanted to follow, but the accd prevented us.

Xd.   Prisr asked where are you going?  My master said Yangtzepoo.  Prisoner replied Humbug.

   Prisoner asked my master about the time.  My master hadn't said it wasn't late.  I've been 3 mos with my master.  Was only once stopped by a mounted constable & asked where we were going.  Prisoner was trying to upset the jin'ra, at the time he was trying to get the ring.  My master gave him the ring to prevent his doing this.  Pr put the ring on his 4th finger left hand.  My Master called out it was very sore.  Prisr had hold of my master, saying in Chinese to come to the station.

So-sung-san, cautd.  N.C. 337.  My attention was attracted by a priest running up the road crying 'return me the ring!'  We found the prisoner behind a big tree.  I told the prisoner in Chinese to return the ting to the priest.  He showed me both his hands, & I felt them, and there [296] was none.  He also invited me to look in his watch-pocket.  He said when he opened his hands, he said in Chinese "What is it."  He then wanted to take the priest to the station, and wdn't allow me to follow, but I was to go ts Y.  At 1.15 I saw prisoner & priest again.  Prisoner told me $2 & the ring were retd to the priest.  Pr was hiding behind the tree.

Xd.  I thought at first prisoner was joking & wd return the ring.  When he came from behind the tree he commenced to laugh.  When he wanted to take the priest to the station, I then thought there was something the matter.

Two native constables, called in the Court below, attended for XXn - and XXd.

George Howard, sworn.  Inspector.  Pr was on duty that night, and on foot.  The distce from the spot where the priest was stopped to the tree was 76 yds & from that point to where the constable was [not]  67 yards.

   The prisoner made no report to me.  He stated to me that his reason for not reporting was that [297] he couldn't speak English.  There was, however, a man in the station who cd have interpreted.

Xd.  It was 4.20 a.m. when he got to the station.  He has been 8 or 9 months on that beat at that time.  There are orders to stop jinrikishas.

Case for prostion.

Mr. Wilkn sums up.

Mr. Drummond calls, as to character

James Painter McEwen, sworn.  Capt. Supt. of Police.  I have a certificate as to the service of the accd for nearly 3 yrs.  Character is given as very good.  He has been 16 months in service here; good character during that time. [298]

Mr. Drummond addresses the jury.

I sum up.

Verdict: Not guilty ! !

R. A. Mowat, A.C.J.


Source: North China Herald, 10 August 1888

Shanghai, 9th Aug., 1888.
Before J. C. Hall, Esq., Acting Assistant Judge.
  This was a very curious case, in which Sikh Constable Balm Sing, 96, was accused of stealing a gold ring from the prosecutor, a Buddhist priest, named Nian Shing, who is abbot of the Taiping Tsu temple.
  Captain McEuen and Inspector Howard watched the case for the police.
  The accused admitted taking the ring but denied that he had any intention of stealing it.
  The evidence of the priest was as follows: - About a quarter past twelve a.m. on the 6th instant he was returning from visiting a sick patient, and when near the Water Works he met the accused who called out to him to stop.  He was in his own private jinricksha at the time, and asked the constable what was the matter.  He found that the Sikh wanted to regulate his watch, and thereupon he took out his time keeper to give him the time.  The constable then noticed the ring which he wore upon his finger, and forcibly tried to pull it off.  This being painful, witness wetted his finger, took off the ring himself, giving it to the accused, who put it on his own finger and ran off towards the foreign settlement.  Witness followed him for the distance of about ten houses when the accused disappeared and witness going on further must have passed him. Witness walked on till he met a native constable, with whom he turned back.  They then came upon the accused hiding behind a tree.  The native constable asked him to give the ring back, to which the Sikh replied that it was none of his business.  Witness then asked him to go with him to the Police Station; to this the accused consented but when he came as far as the Paper Mill, he knocked at the door which was opened by the watchman, from whom the Sikh got a pen and piece of paper, and then he asked witness to write the name of his temple.  Witness did so and the accused threw the pen away and then walked on.  The native constable attempted to go with him, but the Sikh refused to allow him. Witness, however, followed him for some distance and offered him $2 if he would return the ring.  The accused took the $2, and asked for it to be made $3 which witness refused, and the accused thereupon handed him back the $2 but not the ring.  He then asked witness to let him have his watch in exchange for the ring.  Witness held out his and for the ring while getting out his watch, and the accused gave him back the ring which he put in his mouth for safety, keeping a tight hold om the watch all the while.  The watch was not taken out of the pouch at his girdle, though the accused caught hold of his chain and held it for a little while.  The accused asked him for the watch again and on witness refusing to give it up, the Sikh stuck him on the lower part of his back with his baton, causing witness to involuntarily swallow the ring which he was holding in his mouth. The Sikh again struck him on the finger, but not with very great force.  
  Calling out for help witness saw the native constable and the jinricksha coolie coming running towards hm.  Witness then told the native constable that he had accidentally swallowed the ring and that he must hasten to his temple to take steps to get it up again.  The native constable then told him that if he had any complaint to make he had better wait till five o'clock in the morning.  Witness returned to the temple where he took an emetic and brought up the ring. [The ring which was produced in Court was of the usual Chinese pattern, and about an inch in the outer diameter.] After informing his subordinates of what had happened he went to the police Station and lodged a complaint.
  To Captain McEuen - He was in the habit of returning to his temple by the same road every night, and had often seen the accused before.  He had never been interfered with by the accused or any other constable before, though he had been asked where he was going.  The accused was walking, not mounted, that night.
  Cross-examined by the accused - He was quite sure that the accused struck him with his baton, when the prosecutor would not give his watch.
  The accused said that if he had struck the "Jossman" and he cried out the country people would have come to his assistance.
  The Prosecutor in reply to his Worship said he cried out when the accused struck him but no one came to his assistance.
  The jinricksha coolie who was pulling the priest on the night of the affair was next examined and generally corroborated his story.
  The native constable was also examined and corroborate the evidence of the other witnesses.
  The investigation lasted from 10.45 to 5.30, the evidence having to be doubly translated as none of the parties spoke English.
  The accused was remanded till tomorrow, bail being refused.


Source: North China Herald, 18 August 1888

Shanghai, 14th August.
Before J. C. Hall, Esq., Acting Assistant Judge./
  Balm Singh, Sikh Constable, 96, was put forward on remand, charged with stealing a gold finger ring value $16, the property of a Buddhist priest residing at the Taiping temple, Yangtsze-poo Road.
  Mr. W. V. Drummond, who appeared for the prisoner, said he did not propose to cross-examine any of the witnesses at the present stage of the case, as the chief witness had not been cross-examined and it was no use prolonging the preliminary enquiry.
  CHING YAH-CHING cautioned, stated that he was the watchman at the Paper Mill.  On the night in question after the Cantonese in the Paper Mill had had their usual midnight supper, he was putting away the things in the cupboard, when another servant came and asked witness for a sheet of paper and a Chinese pen.  The Sikh constable was calling out for paper in English.  Witness handed some paper over to the Sikh constable who handed it to the priest.  Witness asked the priest what was the matter that they would want to write so late at night.  He replied that the Sikh constable had taken his ring, the constable being present at the time, just inside the Paper Mill.  After that they both left the house.  Witness did not see the priest write anything upon the paper.  That was all witness knew.
  Mr. Drummond in reply to his Worship, said he would not cross-examine the witness; he would reserve that.
  In answer to a question by Capt. McEuen, the witness said the priest and the Sikh had entered the place by the west side door.  He did not hear any noise outside before they came in.
  To his Worship - I am watchman and gatekeeper and have also to attend at table when the workmen are having their super.  I was not previously acquainted with either the priest or the constable.
YIH NEE-NEE, cautioned, stated that he was employed as a collie attending on the machinery at the Paper Mil.  He was taking in super to the "dining room" to the workmen when he heard a knocking outside the door.  He opened it and the Sikh asked him for a piece pf paper and a pen which witness gave him, and the Sikh then gave the writing materials to the priest who walked outside the door and wrote something on the paper.  The Sikh then beckoned the witness to follow him.  After following him beyond two or three trees the Sikh constable tapped witness and told him to go back. Witness returned to the Mill and knew nothing more of the matter.  The remainder of his evidence was corroborative of that given by the previous witnesses.
  To the Court - Witness understood that the Constable wanted the paper that the priest might write down his name and that he might go to the Station and get back his ring the next day.  The priest did not say anything about having swallowed the ring at the time.
  NG AH-DONG, cautioned, stated that he was a clerk to the priest in the Taiping temple, and kept the names of the patients whom the priest visited.  He did not know anything about what happened outside, but on the night of the 6th inst. the priest came into the temple and shouted out to me to bring him the soap.  Witness asked him what was the matter and he said he had swallowed a ring and told me to get him the soap to make some soap-water. The priest then drank the mixture and putting his finger in his throat and commenced to vomit up rice and brought the ring up.  Witness saw the ring bought up.  This was about two o'clock.  Witness after a long and minute examination identified the ring produced and proceeded to entertain the Court with an exhaustive and graphic, but not very inviting description of the contents of the priest's stomach. The priest told witness then how he came to swallow the ring, and went next day to complain about the matter to the Station.
  Native Sergeant, CHU CHING-PAH, 106, was next called and stated hat on the night of the 5th instant the native constable before mentioned came to witness and told him of the occurrence.  Witness asked the constable why he had not brought him to the police station, and he replied that the priest was in a hurry to get back to his temple to drink soap-water.  Witness then informed the constable that they would have to report the matter to the Inspector when they knocked off duty in the morning.  When witness went to the Station in the morning the priest was already there.
  Mr. Drummond asked his Worship to take a note of the fact that he objected to the whole of the evidence of this witness, as the circumstances described having taken place in absence of the accused.
  His Worship said it was accepted because it had taken place in the ordinary course of the sergeant's duties, and was relevant to the case.
  Witness to his Worship - The native constable reported the matter to him at about half-pas one in the morning, near the Paper Mill.  Witness knew that it must have referred to the accused who was on the Yangtsze-poo beat; but he did not see the accused that night at all.
  Inspector Geo. Howard was sworn and deposed that on going to the station at about half-past six on the morning of the 6th inst.,  was informed by the foreign Sergeant on duty there that a serious complaint had been made against one of the Indian Constables who had been on duty on the Yangtsze-poo Road.  Witness made enquiries into the matter in the office and decided that he would refer the whole matter to Captain McEuen.  Witness asked P.C. 96, the accused, why he had not reported the matter, when he turned off duty in the morning.  He gave as his reason that he could not speak English and waited till morning.
  To the Court - I scarcely think he knows sufficient English to report the whole case when he returned from duty at 4 a.m.  But he could have made some report sufficient to enable the Sergeant to understand, and if he had been anxious to report the matter he could have called another Indian constable in the station, a man who speaks English very well indeed, and this man could have interpreted for him.
  His Worship directed the Indian Interpreter to explain to the prisoner, that the case might either be dealt with by his Worship summarily if he pleaded guilty; or if he did not wish to plead guilty he would have the right to be tried by a jury.
  I reply to his Worship the prisoner said he would leave the matter of pleading altogether in the hands of his Counsel.
  His Worship having explained that the Counsel could not plead guilty or not guilty, the prisoner entered a plea of not guilty.
  He was then formally committed for trial in the superior Court, the same bail as before being accepted.


Source: North China Herald, 1 September 1888

Shanghai, 27th August.
Before A. Mowat, Esq., Acting Chief Justice.
  Sikh Constable Bahm Singh, 96, was indicted that he did on the 6th August feloniously steal and take away one gold finger ring the property of Nien Ching, a Buddhist priest.
  Mr. H. S. Wilkinson, Crown Advocate, prosecuted.  Mr. W. V. Drummond defended.  Capt. McEuen and Inspector Howard watched the case on behalf of the Municipal Police.
  The prisoner, through the interpreter pleaded not guilty.  The following gentlemen were then sworn on the Jury to try him:- Messrs. R. D. Starkey, C. Comins, C. J. Rawlinson, A. J. H. Carlill and E. S. Perrott.
  The following gentlemen were summoned to attend as jurors did not answer their names and his Lordship ordered a fine of $50 each to be imposed:- R. W. Little, O. Middleton, S. Morris, and C. Moller.
[Not transcribed.]
  His Lordship, in his charge to the Jury, said - As a considerable time has been given to the haring of this case, you will be glad to hear that I have very little to say upon the subject, because the questions in the case are questions of fact, and therefore entirely for you to consider.  There are really no points of law involved which I need explain to you, as both Counsel have correctly stated it to you.  .  .  .  
  The Jury then retired, and after a few minutes' absence, returned with a verdict of not guilty.
  His Lordship then ordered the accused to be discharged.

Source: North China Herald, 7 September 1888

  The following account of his proceedings on the night of the 6th ult. was given by Bahn Singh in the examination into his conduct which was held by Capt. McEuen previous to the investigation in the Police Court.  It has been handed to us for publication. [Not transcribed.]

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