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ABERGAVENNY- PETTY SESSIONS—FEBRUARY 15. Before the Hon. W. P. Rodney, chairman, and the Revds. G. W. Gabb and James Farquhar. IMPORTANT EXCISE CASE. The Queen v. John Harris Conway.—This was an infor- mation laid by Mr. Robert Braithwaite, officer of excise, lately stationed at Abergavenny, against Mr. Conway, a respectable grocer at Abergavenny, for having chicory in his possession, prepared and manufactured for the purpose of being an imitation of coffee." The proceedings were founded on the 43 Geo. 3, c. 129, s. 5, which imposed a pe- nalty of £100, upon any person offending against its provi- sions. The collector of excise appeared on behalf of the com- plainant; and Mr. Secretan Woodhouse appeared for Mr. Conway. The following witnesses were called in support of the in.- formation :— I Mr. John Slater was sworn he said, I am an ofllcer of Inland Revenue. On the 2nd of May last, I went to the shop of Mr. Conway, and asked for half a pound of coffee. I paid 8d. for it: I took it to the supervisor's lodgings, and divided it into three several quantities, in the presence of the supervisor, and sealed them up. I purchased another S^lf a pound of coffee on the same day, in the same shop, r^ch of the purchases was divded into three parts, and l^o samples of each sent to London. Witness, in reply to the Bench, said he did not of his own knowledge know that the samples had been sent to London, but that he had left them with the supervisor. Cross-examined by Mr. Woodhouse: The 2nd of May was the only time I can call to mind I made any purchase at defendant's. It was in the afternoon I asked for half a pound of coffee the first time, and the packet paper pro- duced, is the paper I received it in. I went to Mr. Con- way's, by the direction of the Board of Excise. I did not want the coffee for my own use. It had a label upon it, which I did not observe when I purchased it. When I dis- covered it, I returned and told the young man who served me, that he had sold me a mixture, but that I wanted half a pound of coffee. He then served me with the contents of the second wrapper produced. It had no label on it; there was no one with me when I made the purchase. It is no offence to sell coffee and chicory mixed; provided it is pro- perly labelled. After I made the purchases, I took them te the supervisor's lodgings, and divided them into three pack- ages each left two with him, and retained one myself. I am still in the Inland Revenue office, and stationed at Birming- ham. I do not expect any participation in the penalty. I have given information of this sort before, and the parties have been convicted, and I have occasionally been rewarded. I have been eight or nine years in the office, and have been employed in detecting parties guilty of breaches of the laws. I have not, to my knowledge, received £10 as rewards. I re- ceive £100 a year salary. Mr. Robert Braithwait sworn I am Supervisor of the Inland Revenue. On the 2nd of May last, I received cer- tain samples from last witness. I saw him divide them. I sent them to the chief office in London, by the luggage train from Abergavenny. Mr. William Harris Johnstone sworn, said, I am a chemist, employed by the Board of Inland Revenue. On the 17th of May last, I received, in London, at the Labora- tory of the Inland Revenue, two duplicate samples of what was endorsed .as coffee, and a mixture of chicory and coffee. The packages were sealed, and the seals perfect. I examined each of those duplicate samples they were forwarded in their original wrappers in each case. The duplicate samples I pro- duce as I received them, not having been opened. The pack- age endorsed by Mr Slater, as pure coffee, I found to consist of a mixture of coffee, with 15 per cent, of chicory the other sample endorsed a.f a mixture of chicory and coffee, I found to be what it purported it contained about 31 per cent, of chicory there was a lable upon it, indicating that it was a mixture of chicory and coffee.. Cross-examined by Mr. Woodhouse I received them on the 17th of May they were delivered by a railway porter on that day. I do not know where they were from the 2nd to the 17th. „ Mr. Secretan Woodhouse then addressed the Bench for Mr. Conway. He observed that he had never known a bench of magistrates called on to affix a stain upon a respect- able man's character, and fine him in a heavy penaLy 01 £ .100, upon evidence so insufficient and unsatisfactory as that which had been offered on the part of the Crown, in support of this information. This prosecution was not the result ot any accidental circumstance, arising suddenly or unexpect- edly, and where the prosecutor had no choice as to the qua- lity or quantity of the evidence by which it might be sup- ported but here was a prosecution resulting from a pre-ar- ranged plot, deliberately contrived by the prosecutor himself, who had, therefore, the power, as it was his duty. to pro- vide the most satisfactory evidence to support his charge. Yet the prosecutor had thought fit, in the present instance, to attack the reputation of a most respectable man, and pub- licly to prefer this serious charge against him, upon the single and unsupported testimony of one solitary witness; and this witness a subordinate in the Excise, interested, if not directly in the penalty sought to be recovered, yet in- terested at least in the successful result of the prosecution, as adding one more claim to the favour of his superiors, for his activity in the unenviable occupation in which he admits «hat he has for some years been employed—that of a common informer for the Excise. He (Mr. Woodhouse) did not wish i? impute any want of veracity to tho witness, Slater, as ■"Ir. Conway's innocence was quite consistent with this wit- ness's evidence much less did he wish to attribute to this young man anything so wicked as that, having bought two Packets of coffee—theone containing chicory, and the other not r~he should afterwards have mixed the former with the iatter, iu order to trump up a charge against Mr. Conway. .what he condemned was, that the prosecutor should have Pit it into the power of a witness so to act. It was quite Oianifest that the witness might have done this if he chose that Mr. Conway had no means or opportunity of pre- venting it. Yet the prosecutor took no trouble to guard against this, but staked the honest fame of an innocent and unguarded man on the sole credit and testimony of this single witness. Whose character would be secure—what to k? T^hl there be in the best earned reputation, if liable WW imPeached at any time by such evidence as this ? hat more easy than to have contrived at least a second the1?8-at tlle cloor> or even in the shop, to have confirmed the lmP.ortapt fact that the packets had been delivered to Pur(0i^>eiT*sor t'he same condition in which they had been nishp,iaS?v. 14 was ^e duty of the prosecutor to have fur- char™ conSl-matory evidence. In presenting such a stiPDorf Bench, it was his imperative duty to have he mie-M1 *he best and most conclusive evidence, which now h, pVe <ione > and were this case to rest where it does missal of +i 0IH:h m*sht be confidently appealed to for a dis- eviiloneA i 1? ^nfol;mation, for the want of that amount of Haprjilv might, and ought to have been adduced. Bench HO + 0j*reyer, there was no occasion for asking the Was nrenoJLi i this charge, from which Mr. Conway to relieve himself, by the clearest and most cor- r' roborative evidence. The witnesses who would be called for the defence, would establish beyond all doubt, the fact that if the packet of coffee sold to Slater as pure coffee did con- tain an admixture of chicory, such admixture was altogether accidental and unknown, and arose from the coffee having been ground in a mill which had been previously used for grinding chicory. It would be proved that the young man who served Slater, knew at the time that he was connected with the Excise, and on his asking expressly for pure coffee, the young man took pure coffee berries to the mill, and ground them, and then served Slater with what he had so ground fully intending to serve him with pure coffee, and fully believing that he had done so. It would, indeed, be absurd to suppose that the young man, knowing, as he did, who Slater was, and suspecting his object, would have knowingly served him with an. article not genuine, even if this had been the practice of Mr. Conway's establishment; but so far from this being its practice, Mr. Conway s young men, some of whom had been in his service for four or five years, would prove that they had never known a. single instance of any unlawful adulteration of the articles sold there, or of any other fradulent practice whatever. It would therefore be made manifest to the Bench, that if there was an admixture of chicory in the packet sold as pure coffee, such admixture was purely accidental, and if accidental, then such an ad- mixture would not amount to the offence charged. The offence charged, is the having chicory in possession prepared and manufactured, for the purpose of being an imitation of coffee." To constitute this offence, there must be a purpose" in the preparation, and that purpose must be, that it should be an imitation of coffee but where the admixture was simply accidental, there must necessarily be an absence from it of all purpose whatever. It is no offence for a coffee dealer to hare chicory in his possession. It is no offence that he should have ground" chicory in his possession; although, when ground, it may altogether resemble coffee but the offence consists in having it in his possession prepared and manufactured, for the purpose of being an imitation of coffee," which purpose would be pro- perly implied, where chicory was knowingly sold, or offered or exposed for sale as genuine coffee, but not where, as in the present case, it became accidentally intermixed with pure coffee, and was unintentionally and unconsciously sold with it. With these observations, added Mr. Woodhouse, I shall now call the witnesses for the defence but before I sit down, I hope I may be excused in expressing the anxiety I feel in the result of this proceeding. It is seldom now, that my engagements admit of my having the honour ot advocating any case before this Bench, nor would I have undertaken to appear here to-day to defend Mr. Conway, except under the fullest conviction of his entire innocence of the charge brought against him. Deeply impressed with this feeling, I could not refuse him my humble assistance, and I sincerely trust it may have helped him to that, to which on my honour and in my conscience, I believe him to be most fully entitled, viz. A complete acquittal at your hands, from the charge which has been laidagl1inst him. The following evidence was then given for the defence :— Henry Dale, sworn I am an apprentice to Mr. Conway. I have been with him upwards of four years. I recollect Mr. Slater coming to Mr. Conway's shop for half-a-pound of coffee, in May last. I served him with a mixture of chicory and coffee, wrapped up in a labelled paper. He returned shortly afterwards, and said he had been served with a mix- ture, but that he wanted coffee. Between the first and second visit, I was told he was an exciseman. I went to the cask and took some coffee berries, and ground them myself, in the mill, and which I brought to the shop, and weighed half-a-pound for Mr. Slater. I put in the mill enough coffee to produce half-a-pound. The mill would hold about H, or 20 lbs. When I put the coffee in the mill, I believed I should get pure coffee out. I believed, when I was selling it to Mr. Slater, I was selling nothing but genuine coffee, Mr. Conwav's instructions are to sell nothing but genuine articles. I have never known a single instance of adulte- rated goods being sold in his shop, without its being labelled aSCroCss-examined by the Collector I ground the coffee in the room where the mill is; there was no chicory m that room at that time. Cross-examined by the Bench Chicory had been ground in the same mill. Ezekial Roberts, sworn I am assistant to Mr. Conway I have been with him 15 months. I recollect Mr. Slater comingto buy coffee, in May. Isawthelastwitnessservehim with a mixture of coffee and chicory. I knew himrto be an exciseman; and I asked Dale if he had put the right paper. Mr. Slater came a second time, and asked for coffee. Dale went to the cask, and got some coffee-berries, and ground them in the mill. He returned and served Mr. Slater with half-a-pound. I have never known an improper admixture of chicory and coffee sold by Mr. Conway. If I had been called by Mr. Slater, I should have done as Dale did, and -should have thought that I had served genuine coffee. The mill had been used to grind chicory and coffee together, occasionally. Cross-examined by the Collector: Mr. Conway did not keep coffee ground at that time he does so now. There was no room in which Dale could have gone and mixed the chicory with the coffee. John Johnson sworn I was in Mr. Conway's employ about five years and a half. I was there when Mr. Slater made the purchases. I recollect his being served as before stated. During the time I was there, I never knew an ille- gal sale of coffee amI chicory, or any attempt matle to evade the law in any way. Henry Dale re-examined I put nothing but pure coffee in the mill. I didn't mix any chicory with it. There was none ground in the honse. It would have taken three or four hours to grind; it must have been baked first. In a mill of that size, there might have been some refuse of ,wcor.y remaining in it. Mr- Slater, in reply to Mr. Woodhouse, said he might, or might not, participate in the penalty he did not expect it. The Board would do as they thought proper. He did not bring the case forward for self-interested motives—but to protect the public. The Magistrates, after a short deliberation, announced that, after considering the case, they must convict Mr. Conway in the lowest penalty—namely, £25, and that they were of opinion that there was no intention, on his part, to defraud the revenue that the admixture was purely acci- dental that they would recommend the Board of Inland Revenue to remit the WHOLE penalty, and that he would leave the Court without the slightest stain upon his upright character-neither did. they think that there was any reason to doubt the full truth of the evidence given by the young man Slater, and.ihat he had only done his duty by bringing the case forward. On the above judgment being pronounced, Mr. Secretan Woodhouse rose and thanked the Bench on the part of Mr. Conway for the kind recommendation and expression of opinion with which they had been pleased to accompany their judgment. At the same time, he hoped he should be pardoned in respeotfully expressing his disappointment that, entertaining the opinion which they had pronounced of Mr. Conway's entire innocence of the charge, they had neverthe- less felt it necessary to record a conviction against him. It was generally understood that the honourable and en- lightened chairman differed with his reverend and.learned col- leagues, as to the propiiety of recording any conviction under the circumstances..












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