« AnteriorContinuar »
whether the prisoner was in the habit of wearing spectacles, or whether he had any on at the time. After he gave Cummings the paper he handed it, he believed, back to him again, and he returned it to Burnett. The paper was in Cummings's hand about three or four minutes. He had given a roll of paper on the evening they were about to start for Birmingham. On being re-examined the witness said he had not known Burnett by that name until within the last four months. Ellen Mills, the woman who passed as Burnett's wife, and who also was examined in the previous case, deposed to having seen the prisoner, who had called at the house in which she and Burnett were residing in London, subsequently to his introduction by Aubrey to the latter. Cummings on that occasion had asked for a man named Johnson, whom she understood to be the same as Burnett. She had also seen Cummings once afterwards. Henry Webb, detective officer, proved that he went to the house of James Griffiths on the 17th of October, and had found there several forged notes, as well as apparatus used in printing them. This testimony having been corroborated by two members of the Birmingham detective force, evidence was adduced to show that the forged notes printed on genuine paper which had, some months ago, been presented at the Bank of England, must have been printed on the plates found in Griffiths's possession. Several witnesses were then called, who gave testimony to the effect that Burnett and Cummings had been seen frequently together in Birmingham in August last. This closed the case for the prosecution. Mr. E. T. Smith was about to address the jury for the defence, but The learned Judge interposed, and said that the evidence which had been adduced in corroboration of the testimony of the two witnesses who stood in the position of approvers, Henry Brown and Aubrey, did not seem to him to be sufficiently strong to justify the conclusion that Cummings was in Birmingham for an unlawful purpose. If it could be shown that he had gone to Griffiths's house, the matter would be different; but as the case stood, in accordance with the principle of law which was opposed to the conviction of a man without confirmatory evidence, upon the testimony of persons who happened to turn what was called “King's evidence,” and who had many inducements to endeavour to throw the burden of their own guilt upon others, he should deem it to be his duty to direct the acquittal of the prisoner, and he did so entirely on his own responsibility. After some argument on the point, The jury, under the direction of the learned judge, Acquitted the prisoner. His lordship, however, said he would not discharge him until it was ascertained what course the learned counsel for the prosecution proposed to take with reference to any further indictment, observing at the same time that the prisoner had a very lucky escape, and that he had no moral doubt of his guilt. The next day Robert Cummings was arraigned upon other indictments, to which he pleaded “Not Guilty.” Sir Fitzroy Kelly, addressing the Court, said he had had a conference with the gentlemen instructing him on behalf of the Bank of England, and he was bound to admit, after the great exertions which they had made, with the assistance of the police, that though it was possible here and there to add to the weight of evidence laid before the Court on the previous day, his clients were not in a position to carry the case against the prisoner beyond the rule of law which his lordship laid down, and to which he (Sir F. Kelly) implicitly bowed, —that one accomplice confirming another was not enough, in the absence of independent testimony of a corroborative kind. That being so, and especially after this case had been deferred from the December Sessions, the advisers of the Bank felt that they ought not to ask his lordship for any further postponement. They therefore withdrew from the prosecution. The learned judge thought the course they had taken was a discreet one, and directed the prisoner to be discharged. The four men who had been convicted being then placed at the bar for sentence, Mr. Justice Blackburn, addressing the prisoners, said, 'You have been convicted of the several offences with which you were charged—Burnett and Williams on their own confession, and Griffiths also on his own confession as to part of the indictment, and by the jury as to the rest. The crime of which three of you have been convicted is that of forging and uttering a Bank of England note, under circumstances which differ as to the part which each bore in the transaction, but any of which constitutes an offence of great magnitude. In your case, Griffiths, it is in evidence that for a considerable number of years you have been engaged at a regular trade in forging bank-notes. You have been, though that does not appear to have been quite made out, almost the only person possessed of sufficient skill to execute a forgery of a bank-note in such a way as to deceive an ordinary person in the community, but, until bank-note paper was stolen and used for that purpose, not in such a manner as to deceive any one with a competent knowledge of the matter. You seem to have pursued that course deliberately and systematically for a considerable time, and you must have talents and skill which, if they had been employed in an honest trade, would have brought you a much greater amount of emolument than the prostitution of them for an unlawful purpose; but you were at length detected, and you are here to answer for your crime. Your conduct is aggravated by the circumstance that in this particular case you were guilty of the offence charged, knowing, from your use of the actual genuine paper in the forgery, that that genuine paper had been stolen. You must have known also that the effect of putting forged notes into circulation would be, not only to cause very heavy losses to innocent persons, but also to expose them to the danger of conviction. It may sometimes have been that, when forged notes came into the hands of an innocent person, that innocent person has been tempted to get rid of them, thinking he was doing little harm, and has afterwards been convicted, though wholly guiltless of the actual forgery. The crime of which you have been convicted is one of the greatest magnitude. It was formerly, as you probably know, a capital offence, and although it is no longer so, it is visited with the greatest punishment known to the law short of death. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, I cannot bring myself to think that, short of a capital offence, there can be a greater crime than that of which you have been guilty, and the sentence I have to pass upon you, and which is the highest known to the law, is, that you be kept in penal servitude for the remainder of your natural life. Buncher, your case is one shade, and only one shade, less bad than that of Griffiths. It appears in evidence that you, a person in the possession of rather more means than the rest, have for a considerable time acted as the agent in passing off forged bank-notes. In this particular instance you had received the stolen paper, and by your connexion with Griffiths and your command of money and means had endeavoured, and successfully endeavoured, to dispose of it for the purpose of forgery. I had considerable doubt, in looking at your case, whether I ought not to pass the full sentence prescribed by law; but your crime, as I have said, is one shade less aggravated than that of Griffiths; and, that being so, I consign you to a term of penal servitude which, at your age, will nearly be tantamount to your natural life—namely, for twenty-five years. Burnett, you have, upon your own confession, been guilty of these forgeries, and your case is a very bad one, but it is a degree less serious than that of the prisoner Buncher. You had been previously convicted of felony, and had completed the term of your punishment in penal servitude. I notice, in passing, the circumstance of your not having been released before the expiration of your sentence, though it does not bear on the immediate subject in hand. Shortly afterwards you were found visiting the neighbourhood of Laverstoke and inciting one Henry Brown, employed at the mills there, to steal, either by himself or with the aid of others, Bank paper, which you then brought to London from time to time and caused to be passed to other persons. The offence of which you have been convicted on your own confession is that of receiving the paper with a guilty knowledge. That is an offence which in itself, after a previous conviction, is punishable by penal servitude, but not for so long a term as that which I have felt bound to award for the crime of forging and uttering. Believing you to be one degree less guilty than Buncher, the sentence I have to pass on you is that you be kept in penal servitude for twenty years. Williams, you pleaded guilty yesterday before the Recorder to an offence connected with this crime of forgery, but a minor offence. You are convicted on your own confession of preparing and engraving some of the plates with which Griffiths no doubt consummated the crime. You are represented to be a working man skilled in engraving, and who had on this occasion and several others been induced to execute these engravings; but you had probably no further part in forging and uttering the notes. The offence of making such engravings is punishable with penal servitude for fourteen years as the marimum, and that is
a punishment which in some cases would not be too great, but, taking the
circumstances into account, I do not feel myself bound to pass so high a sentence. It is, however, a crime that must be punished by a severe retribution. You must have known when you were engraving those plates that you were doing it for a person who intended to commit the crime of forgery, and it is lamentable to think that you, who were engaged in an honest trade, should for a moment have been diverted from its legitimate pursuit. In your case I think the ends of justice will be satisfied by my directing you to be kept in penal servitude for four years, and I do so accordingly. The convicts were then removed from the bar. The learned Judge, addressing Cummings, whom he had directed to be brought before him, said, You have been acquitted on a technical ground, and I call you forward merely to explain, partly for your own sake, and partly for the sake of others, why you were discharged. By a rule of practice which, from long usage, has almost acquired the force of law, it is not a right or proper thing that any person should ever be convicted on the evidence of an accomplice, unless it is corroborated by independent testimony. For want of such corroboration you escape; but whatever be the effect of that, it is of infinitely more consequence that the administration of the criminal law should be kept pure, and that the great evils which would result from any one being convicted on the evidence of an accomplice alone should be avoided. I have therefore directed your acquittal, and you will be now discharged; but I wish you and all others to take warning from the history of this case, that if these crimes are committed, it is impossible that they can long be continued without the detection and punishment of the persons who embark in them; for, as soon as suspicion is awakened and inquiry set on foot, there will always be a certain amount of treachery among those implicated in them, and the treacherous associates who betray the rest are probably themselves the greatest villains. I say this partly for your warning, and partly for that of others. You will now be discharged, but should you resume those courses afterwards you will soon be detected, and this affair will be remembered against you.
Cummings then left the bar, and this remarkable trial, which had occupied four days, was brought to a conclusion.
THE QUEEN v. GEORGE VICTOR Town LEY.
This case, which, both from the circumstances of the crime, the defence set up for the prisoner, and the legal and other questions which arose subsequent to his conviction and sentence, excited an unusual degree of interest in the public mind, and led to much controversy and discussion, came on for trial at the Winter Assize for the county of Derby, the court being unusually crowded, and the proceedings watched with the greatest anxiety. Mr. Boden, Q.C. (specially retained), and Mr. Bristowe appeared for the prosecution ; and Mr. Macaulay, Q.C., and Mr. Serjeant O'Brien (both of whom were specially retained), with Mr. Stephen, defended the prisoner. The prisoner, who was described as a man of very quiet and refined manners, a good linguist, and an accomplished musician, and who was apparently about twenty-five years of age, pleaded “Not Guilty.” Mr. Boden, in opening the case for the prosecution, stated that the prisoner was a member of a respectable family living at Hendham-vale, a mile or two from Manchester. His father was a commission agent at Manchester, but the prisoner had no employment, unless it was that he acted as a clerk in his father's office. Miss Elizabeth Goodwin, with whose death he was charged, was the daughter of Mr. Henry Goodwin, and granddaughter of Captain Goodwin, who had long lived in the county and acted as a magistrate there. Mrs. Henry Goodwin lived at Chester, and up to the last three or four years Miss Goodwin had lived with her mother, but about that time she left Chester and went to reside at Wigwell Grange with her grandfather, an old man upwards of eighty years of age. Miss Goodwin herself was very nearly twenty-three years of age. Captain Goodwin's eldest son was a physician at Manchester, and Miss Goodwin while on a visit to him had formed the acquaintance of the Townleys. That acquaintance led to the forming of a strong attachment between the prisoner and the deceased, and ultimately, about four years ago, they became engaged. Owing to Townley's want of means to support a wife the engagement was not approved by the lady's friends, and for some short time it was broken off. It had been renewed, however, shortly afterwards, and continued to exist to within a short time of her death. Miss Goodwin appeared to have written to the prisoner on the 14th of August to break off the engagement. Her letters, however, had, with one exception, been given up by Townley
to her friends, who destroyed them. On the 16th of August Townley wrote to Miss Goodwin as follows:— “Hendham-vale, Sunday. “My dearest Bessie, -Dearest you will always be to me; to say that I am not terribly cut up would be a lie, but, at any rate, you know I am not the man to stand in your way. I answer nothing to your last letter, except that I wish to hear from your own lips what your wishes are, and I will accede to them. You know me too well to suppose that I should give way to any unnecessary nonsense or sentimentalism. I have had a singular run of good and bad luck lately; it suffices to say that I have an offer to leave England. Before I go I wish to see you once again, and for the last time, though God knows what misery it gives me to say so. You will admit that my desire to see you is but natural. Say in your next where you will meet me. I will come by the first or second train from Derby on Tuesday or Wednesday morning, whichever suits you; of course, without any one knowing. The sooner it is all settled, the better for both parties. “Ever, dearest Bessie, your affectionate “GEORGE.
“P.S.—I arrived too late from Bolton to answer yesterday. Will you write by return ?”
On the Monday he wrote again:— “Hendham-vale, Monday. “Dearest Bessie, It is doubtful whether you will get the letter I wrote you yesterday till to-morrow. I posted it myself last night at eleven o'clock, at the general office (I could not before), and being Sunday, could not make out about the mails, so I put it into the extra stamp box for the chance of its going. “This is simply to say that in my haste I mentioned Tuesday or Wednesday, forgetting that I should have to leave here to-day in order to see you to-morrow —that is, if I see you in the morning, as on the last occasion; but if it suits you better I could arrive by the same train that Kate and I came by, and you could meet me the same evening, I returning the following morning. I suppose it would not be possible the same night. I think if we say Thursday evening or Friday morning it will be best, as then there will be plenty of time for you to say which you prefer, so at any rate in your next say at what time and whereabouts I can see you. I suppose any where between your house and Whatstandwell would do. I am ill and thoroughly upset, and I do not wonder you are. We shall both be happier and better in mind, as well as body, after this last interview. Address, care of W. Arrowsmith, Gilnow-mills, Bolton, where I am going back to-morrow. Of course, if I hear to-morrow, and you fix time and place of meeting, I shall be at your appointment, ‘cotite qu'il cotite.’ “Always your affectionate “G. W. T. “Trains.—I can arrive at Whatstandwell-bridge at 4.2 afternoon, or at 9.34 or 11.37 in the morning, whichever you like.”
On the following Wednesday, the 19th, the prisoner wrote again as follows:– “Gilnow-mills, Bolton, Wednesday.
“My dear Bessie, I will only say here that I will arrive by the train you mention (11.37 a.m., Friday morning), and that I hope, dear Bessie, you will