On Saturday evening, the Circuit Court of Justiciary was opened here by the Right Hon. Lords Meadowbank and Pitmilly. The court did not proceed to business till Monday, when they met at ten o’clock.
The first case that occupied the attention of the court, was that of John Ferguson, accused of housebreaking and theft, in the shop of John Henderson, Bonnykelly, by forcing an entrance through the roof, and therefrom abstracting tea, sugar, &c. and about 16s. of money. To all the charges the pannel pleaded guilty, and the libel having been, from the youth of the delinquent and other circumstances, restricted to any arbitrary punishment, he received sentence of transportation for 14 years.
Afterwards came on the trial of Charles Grant, of Airly, accused of falsehood and fraud, in drawing the allowance of a deceased Chelsea Pensioner.
The indictment being read over, and the pannel asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, answered that he was guilty in part, in the manner that would be explained by his counsel. Mr Jeffrey then stated to the court, that his client was a person in a respectable station in life, who, in his youth, had borne his Majesty’s commission in the army, and had since lived on his own property with the esteem and friendship of all the gentlemen in the vicinity: That after the death of John Grant, the Chelsea pensioner mentioned in the indictment, his widow had applied to him to see whether the balance of pension which she supposed to be then due, could not be recovered for behoof of his family, and for that purpose put into his hand the blank forms of certificate mentioned in the indictment. Mr Grant put these forms into the hands of a person called Robert Roy, who appeared from the indictment, to have been guilty of a number of very improper operations on the certificates. With the most criminal part of these proceeding Mr Grant was never made acquainted; but there were other parts of it which, upon reflection, he was satisfied were also extremely improper, to which he must confess he was privy. After reviewing his whole conduct therefore in the transaction, he himself was opinion, that the fairest and most honourable course he could pursue, was candidly to admit that he had been accessary to the fraud and imposition by which a pension which turned out not to be really due had been obtained from Chelsea hospital; but at the same time to deny most solemnly that he knew any thing whatever of the forgery, or of the personating of the deceased by Robert Roy, with which he was charged; and also to deny that he ever had the most distant idea of applying to his own use the money which was thus obtained.
The depute-advocate declared that he would be satisfied with the evidence afforded by the qualified admission that had been mentioned; and at the same time would pass from the indictment in so far as it was laid upon the statute.
If this limited plea of guilty was admitted by the public prosecutor, and the case rested upon it, the matter might be easily adjusted; but if any attempt should be made to prove any further degree of guilt than what he had now admitted, the admission would be retracted before the jury, and the pannel would enter on his defence.
A jury was then impanneled, when the pannel repeated and adhered to the qualified plea which he had entered: and having obtained leave of the court, he called as witnesses to his general good conduct and character, Robert Garden, Esq. One of the baillies of Aberdeen; Adam Wilson, Esq. Of Glasgoego; and Mr John Kelman, a farmer in his neighbourhood.
The jury then returned a verdict finding the pannel guilty in terms of his judicial confession; upon which the court, after some consultation, sentenced him to four months imprisonment, and also to pay a fine of one hundred guineas for the use of Chelsea hospital.
Counsel for the pannel, Francis Jeffrey and Hugh Lumsden, Esqrs. Advocates.
Peter McKay, accused of deforcement, and Alexander Duff, accused of theft, were outlawed for not appearing.
The court then proceeded to the trial of Elizabeth Stewart, accused of housebreaking and theft, and of being habit and repute a thief. The pannel pleaded guilty to the whole of these charges; and the jury, upon her own confession, returned a verdict of guilty. An objection was stated by the counsel for the pannel to an irregularity in the verdict, the name of one of the jurors having been omitted in the enumeration of the jurymen. This objection was however repelled. Sentence to be pronounced tomorrow.
Tuesday 17. – The court met again this morning, and Elizabeth Stewart was brought to the bar and sentenced to two years confinement in Bridewell; and at the expiry of that period to find security for five hundred merks, or be confined for two years more.
The last business before the court at this time, was the trial of George Muirison, Alex. Noble, Margaret Noble, Jane Nicoll, and Mary Thain, accused of mobbing and endeavouring to prevent the shipment of grain at Fraserburgh. All the pannels pleaded guilty of the indictment under certain qualifications; and, after a suitable address from Lords Meadowbank and Pitmilly, George Muirison and Alex. Noble were sentenced to imprisonment for one month; Jane Nicoll for two; and Mary Thain for three months. The diet, from particular circumstances, was deserted against Margaret Noble, pro loco et tempore.
Counsel for the pannels, F. Jeffrey and Hugh Lumsden, Esqrs. Advocates.
There being no other business before the court, they proceed furthwith to Inverness.