HC Deb 14 March 1882 vol 267 cc878-9

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been called to the case of "William Forrest, a working watchmaker of Glasgow, fined A3;3 and costs for having sold a watch without a licence to deal in plate, in which the accused was entrapped into the commission of the offence by an agent of the Inland Revenue instructed to "make a detection;" whether it is true that Forrest, in reply to a false story told him by the agent of the Inland Revenue, stated that he did not sell watches, offered to take him to a dealer where he could select one, and ultimately consented to let him have a watch, sworn to be intended as a present for his wife, on the agent's expression of an urgent desire to deal with him personally, because he believed him to be an honest man; whether any evidence was adduced at Forrest's trial suggestive that this breach of Law was not a solitary one; and, whether the case was prosecuted by a Procurator Fiscal; and, if so, whether Public Prosecutors in Scotland have any instructions to prosecute in every Excise case, irrespective of its general merits, or the manner in which it may have been got up?


From the inquiry which I have caused to be made into the circumstances of this case, it appears that com- plaints had been made to the Inland Revenue Department that William Forrest, the person named in the Question, had been for a considerable time dealing in silver plate without a licence, and two of the subordinate officers of that Department arranged a plan by which they thought they might procure a conviction. One of them called on Forrest, and, after some conversation, proposed to buy a watch. It is the case that in the course of that conversation the subordinate officer did make certain untrue statements; and some witnesses deposed, it would also appear, in the course of the trial, that he rather induced Forrest to sell the watch. When it was reported to the Department that Forrest had sold the watch without a licence, they, not being aware that any deception had been practised, directed a prosecution; but when, after the trial, they became aware that there had been deception, they censured the officer. In answer to the third paragraph of the Question, I have to say that evidence was not produced at the trial that this was Forrest's first or was not his first breach of the law in this respect. The Solicitor to the Inland Revenue began to lead evidence as to the previous complaints; but this was objected to by the Solicitor on the other side, and, yielding to the objection, he did not persevere. The prosecution was not instituted by the Public Prosecutor, but solely by the Inland Revenue Department, who employed as their Solicitor a gentleman who happened also to be Procurator Fiscal for the Justice of Peace Court. The remainder of my hon. Friend's Question I answer in the negative.


I beg to givo Notice that I shall on Friday ask the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether he will consider the propriety of asking the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to remit the fine?