§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)
asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been directed to a criminal process for malicious mischief, &c. against William Stokes and William Macdonald, both of the parish of Duthil, tried before the sheriff and a jury at Inverness on Wednesday, 3rd March last; whether the two persons, John Grant and James Fraser, who came forward towards the close of the trial, and stated (after being duly warned of the consequences) that they, and not 1176 the accused, were the guilty parties, the jury thereupon acquitting the accused, are to be put on their trial; and, whether for the offence charged against Stokes and Macdonald, or for perjury?
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)&c.) (Clackmannan,
I have repeatedly had occasion to consider the Papers relating to this matter. Evidence against Stokes and Macdonald was given principally by the Rev. Mr. Bain and his family; but very strong evidence was adduced in defence that they were elsewhere at the time, and it is the case that Grant and Fraser came forward and said that they were the persons who had committed the offence. The jury, without leaving the box, unanimously found Stokes and Macdonald not guilty, and I see no reason to doubt that the verdict of the jury was right. After the trial I directed investigation, with the view to deciding whether Grant and Fraser should be put under charge; but the result was that it appeared that if charged they would not confess, and there is no separate evidence to sustain a prosecution against them. I may add that the affair seems to have been a somewhat rough New Year frolic.