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Colonial Cases

R. v. Vincent, 1897

[habeas corpus]


R. v. Vincent

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Hannen CJ, 12 June 1897
Source: North China Herald, 18 June,1897




Shanghai, 12th June.

Before Sir Nicholas J. Hannen, Chief Justice.


   Mr. E. Nelson (Messrs. Johnson, Stokes and Master) applied that a writ of habeas corpus should be issued to bring up in order that he might be discharged from custody Percy Vincent, who had been a arrested in Shanghai on a warrant issued in Hongkong, for alleged larceny. Mr. H. P. Wilkinson, Acting Crown Advocate, appeared for the Crown.


   Mr. Nelson said the accused was arrested on a provisional warrant granted out of the Court upon a warrant signed by Mr. Woodhouse, the Magistrate at Hongkong. The prisoner upon being arrested was brought before the Court and immediately remanded in order that evidence might be brought from Hongkong. Upon the 3rd of June the case was heard, the only evidence being the reading of an information signed by an employee of the C.P.R. Co. at Hongkong, and evidence of his identification by a constable who had come up from Hongkong. The Magistrate then ordered that he should be sent to Hongkong.

   The learned advocate contennded that before that could be done the Magistrate must have shown before him a strong and probable presumption of guilt. In this case, however, there was nothing beyond the information put in, which alleged that the accused had stolen two trunks and some cups and saucers, in all worth $12. The proper course would have been for the police to ask for a remand in order that direct evidence might be brought. 

   The prisoner's story was that he went to Japan on leave granted by his employers, the C.P.R. Co. and returned to Hongkong on the18th of May. He was ordered to deliver certain parcels on board an Empress boat, and did so, receiving a receipt for two boxes, and the receipt had been found in his possession. After that, being in difficulties, he came up to Shanghai. He applied for employment, and, after being medically examined, and sleeping one night in the Customs quarters, he was told that his age precluded him from joining the service. Thereupon he went to the police station to see if he could get an engagement in the police force, and was at once arrested. Was that the behaviour of a guilty man? 

   Moreover, the case was a trivial one, and under Section 10 of the Fugitive Offenders Act his Lordship had discretionary power to release the man in such an event. The prisoner's explanation of the missing cups and saucers was that Captain Tillett, the marine superintendent of the prosecuting company, was in the habit of occasionally using the company's launch for picnics, and on such occasions he frequently borrowed cups and saucers from the witness, who believes that some of them were on the launch now. Under all the circumstances, Mr. Nelson asked that the man be discharged on two grounds, first that the evidence brought forward was not sufficient to show a strong and probable presumption of his guilt and, secondly, that the matter was so trivial that the punishment of keeping the man in prison for the necessary number of days and then sending him to Hongkong would be too much.

   The Acting Crown Advocate urged that the accused was charged with the serious offence of having stolen property entrusted to his care. He contended that the information upon which the magistrate acted was amply sufficient, and asked that the accused should be sent to Hongkong.

   His Lordship said that according to the ruling in the case of R. v. Maurer the Court had no power to review the decision of the magistrate on the ground that it was against the weight of evidence laid before him, there being sufficient evidence before him to give him jurisdiction in the matter. Further, although the goods alleged to be stolen might be valued at $12 only, that figure might not represent the gravity of the charge, which might be a serious one.

   The application for a writ of habeas corpus would therefore be refused, and at the expiration of fifteen days, and upon the return of the warrant from Peking, the prisoner would be sent to Hongkong.

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