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Colonial Cases

In re Lee Seck Long, 1897



In re Lee Seck Long

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 8 July 1897
Source: North China Herald, 9 July, 1897





Shanghai, 8th July.

Before Sir Nicholas Hannen, Chief Justice.


   This was a sitting for the hearing of an application for discharge by Lee Seck-long, a bankrupt.

   Mr. W. V. Drummond in making the application said it was made under the Bankruptcy Act of 1890, section 8. The petition was filed by the debtor on the 2nd of November last, and he was adjudged bankrupt on the 21st of December, the public examination being closed by the Court on the 12th of January,1897. Mr. W. B. Jamieson was appointed Trustee of the property of the bankrupt, with a committee of inspection composed of three Chinese merchants. At that time Mr. Clennel was the Official Receiver, but he had since been succeeded by Mr. Mansfield, who had filed a report in the matter, which towards the end went on to make a suggestion as to what the Court should do. It was not the practice at home for the Official Receiver to make such suggestions to the Court, and he (Mr. Drummond) therefore asked his Lordship to regard it as superfluous.

   His Lordship said he did not know that the home practice was, but here the custom had been for the Official Receiver to make some such suggestion, but of course it did not bind the Court, which dealt with the matter on the facts.

   Mr. Drummond, resuming, said the important thing was that the Official Receiver had reported that it did not appear the bankrupt could be accused of default under the bankruptcy laws. The only possible difficulty that might arise was perhaps, with regard to paragraph A, subsection 3, of the Bankruptcy Act relating to a case where the bankrupt's assets were not sufficient to pay 10s. in the £. In the present instance the assets had realised something over 5s. in the £ and he suggested that, in view of all the circumstances, the case was one in which the bankrupt might be granted an absolute discharge, which would enable him to return to the Straits and commence life a free and unhampered man.

   Mr. H. P. Wilkinson, who, at an early stage of the case, had represented the debtor, appearing for the moment as a creditor mentioned that his fees had not been paid.

   After some conversation,

   Mr. Drummond said no doubt the Trustee would see that the fees were paid.

   Mr. W. B. Jamieson, the Trustee of the estate, examined by Mr. Drummond, said the creditors had carefully gone into all the facts for the bankruptcy, and they were of opinion that no blame attached to the debtor. The failure appeared to have arisen from misplaced confidence in the manager or book-keeper. The creditors held a meeting on the previous day and expressed their willingness to leave the matter entirely to the Court.

   His Lordship said it was clearly laid down that the Court had to consider not only the interests of the creditors, but the interests of the public, and what was done there had to do not only with the creditors but also with the commercial morality of British subjects. He did not think it would be right, under the circumstances that had been disclosed, of there only being paid 5s. or 6s. in the £, that an absolute discharge should be at once granted. He had no doubt, from what Mr. Jamieson had said, that the creditors thought that they might as w ell be done with the whole matter and be rid of it. But that was not his Lordship's position. He had to do something more, and to bring it to the mind of everybody that if they traded in such a way as to be able to pay only a little over twenty-five per cent of their debts, they would not pass through the Court and be discharges as if nothing had happened.

   He thought the justice of the case would be met by the order for discharge being suspended for one year. He understood that Mr. Jamieson would pay the fees of Mr. Wilkinson.

   Order accordingly.

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