HC Deb 07 May 1894 vol 24 cc472-3

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been called to the case of a lad named John Nicol, who early last month set fire to a whin bush on the land of Mr. Robb, farmer, Strypehead, Mear, Elgin; whether he is aware that, although Mr. Robb made no complaint about the matter, it was reported to the police by one George Petrie, who occupies land bordering on Mr. Robb's, and that the lad was taken before the Sheriff Substitute in Elgin, on the 13th ultimo, and fined £1 or 20 days' imprisonment; whether he is aware that four days afterwards a number of lads burned George Petrie's effigy on Mr. Robb's land as a protest against Petrie's conduct in reporting Nicol to the police for burning the whin bush; that Petrie lodged a complaint with the police on the following day; that, in consequence, the police, armed with a warrant, apprehended a lad named George Grigor during the night of the 24th ultimo, and lodged him in Elgin Prison; and that he was brought before the Sheriff Substitute on the following day, and fined £1 10s. or 30 days' imprisonment for taking the lead in burning the effigy; and whether, considering the excitement which these proceedings have created in the district, he will inquire into the matter, and take steps to redress any miscarriage of justice, if such has taken place in these two cases?

* THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J B. BALFOUR, Clackmannan, &c.)

I am informed that Nicol deliberately set fire to the whins near George Petrie's house, which is thatched, and towards which a strong breeze was blowing, with the risk of setting that house on fire. Nicol was charged with malicious mischief, and pleaded guilty, and several cases of whin burning having recently occurred he was fined as stated. Thereafter George Grigor and others went by night to George Petrie's house, burnt his effigy, and so alarmed him and his wife by their throats and otherwise, that they were subsequently charged with breach of the peace, and having pleaded guilty, and the case being, in the view of the Sheriff, a bad one, were also fined as stated. The fines in both cases were paid, and I am told there is no excitement in the district.