asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been called to the deposition of the bankrupt, Kenneth Mackenzie, examined at Dingwall, in which he deponed that he was indebted to an amount exceeding two hundred pounds, but had no books or accounts, and that such books as he at one time kept ho had burnt within four months of the presentation of a petition against him for cessio, and that he had written to one creditor offering to pay him ten shillings in the pound "if he would pretend to accept two shillings, and not tell the other creditors;" whether, under "The Debtors (Scotland) Act, 1880," it is a crime punishable by imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a bankrupt, within four months next before the presentation of a petition for cessio, to have destroyed or mutilated any book, document, paper, or writing, relating to his property or affairs, or, if his debts exceed two hundred pounds, not to have kept such books or accounts as, according to the usual practice of his business, are necessary to explain his transactions, unless he proves to the satisfaction of the court that he had no intent to defraud; and, why no proceedings were taken by the Crown Office under that statute in Mackenzie's case?
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
Sir, I have made inquiry into this matter. The deposition of Kenneth Mackenzie was made more than a year ago, on 3rd June, 1881. It contains the admissions set out in the Question. Mackenzie stated that he kept certain books in pencil; but they do not 1228 appear to have been proper mercantile books. He was the son of a crofter, residing in his father's house, and had no shop of his own, although he seems to have obtained a quantity of boots and shoes on credit. Ho appears to have been an ignorant man, imperfectly acquainted with the English language. The provision of the Debtors Act is correctly recited in the Question. The case was reported to my Predecessor, and fully investigated by his instructions. The Procurator Fiscal reported that, in his opinion, and that of the Sheriff who presided at the examination, the case was a very trifling one, and the Crown Counsel decided at the time that there were not materials for a successful prosecution.