R v Ollis

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Year1900
Date1900
CourtCourt for Crown Cases Reserved
[CROWN CASE RESERVED.] THE QUEEN v. OLLIS. 1900 March 17; May 5; July 2. LORD RUSSELL of KILLOWEN C.J., MATHEW, GRANTHAM, WRIGHT, BRUCE, RIDLEY, DARLING and CHANNELL JJ.

Criminal Law - False Pretences - Evidence - Admissibility - Proof of Guilty Knowledge - Acts in respect of which Defendant had been previously acquitted.

The defendant was indicted for obtaining a cheque by falsely pretending that another cheque, which he then gave to the prosecutor, was a good and valid order for the payment of money. The prosecutor deposed that he gave his cheque to the defendant on the faith of the defendant's statement that a cheque, which the defendant then gave to the prosecutor, was a good cheque. The cheque given by the defendant was dishonoured. The defendant stated that when he gave the cheque he expected a payment which would have enabled him to meet it. The defendant was acquitted. He was then tried on a second indictment, charging him with obtaining from other persons three sums of money on three cheques which were dishonoured. To prove guilty knowledge the prosecutor in the first case was called, and gave the same evidence as in the first case. The defendant was convicted, and the question as to the admissibility of the evidence was reserved:—

Held, by Lord Russell of Killowen C.J., Mathew, Grantham, Wright, Darling, and Channell JJ. (Bruce and Ridley JJ. dissenting), that the evidence which had been given on the first indictment, upon which the defendant had been tried and acquitted, was legally admissible upon the trial of the second indictment, for the purpose of proving guilty knowledge, and the conviction was right.

CASE stated by the recorder of Bath.

The defendant was tried at quarter sessions on October 13, 1899, on an indictment which stated that:—

“Thomas Edwin Ollis, on or about July 5, 1899, unlawfully, knowingly, and designedly, did falsely pretend to one Harold Fairbrother Ramsey that a certain paper writing, which he then produced to the said H. F. Ramsey, and was as follows — ‘X E. 2127. London. July 5, 1899. Birkbeck Bank, Southampton Buildings, W.C. Pay to H. F. Ramsey, Esq., or bearer, Five pounds (5l.). Thomas E. Ollis’ — was a good and genuine order for payment of the said 5l., and of the value of 5l., by means of which false pretence the said T. E. Ollis unlawfully obtained a cheque or order for the payment of money of the value of 3l. from the said H. F. Ramsey, with intent to defraud, whereas in truth and in fact the said certain paper writing was not of the value of 5l., as he the said T. E. Ollis well knew at the time when he did so falsely pretend as aforesaid, against the form of the statute, &c.”

H. F. Ramsey deposed as follows: “On Saturday, July 1, the prisoner asked me to lend him 2l., which I did. On the Wednesday following I went to his office, and asked him to return me the 2l. I had lent him. He wrote the cheque produced” (verbatim as in indictment) “for 5l. in my presence, asked me to cash it, saying, it would be all right. I, believing it to be a good cheque, gave him my cheque for 3l. on the London City and Midland Banking Company, thus deducting the 2l. he owed me. I paid the prisoner's cheque in to my account at my bankers, and it was returned marked ‘N/S.’ I then took it to prisoner, who expressed his surprise. I believe he said his solicitors had paid money into his account. He then offered to write, and wrote out, another cheque for 5l.; that also was returned similarly marked. I should not have given him my cheque for 3l. had I not believed that he had a current account at the Birkbeck Bank.”

It was proved that in July, 1899, the balance to the defendant's credit at the Birkbeck Bank was only 3s. 10d.; that the account had been an active running account, but had ceased to be such two or three years previously; that the account was not closed on July 5, 1899, but no money had been paid in after March 31, 1896.

It was proved that on May 25, 1899, the defendant had been adjudged bankrupt.

It was proved that the firm of solicitors referred to by the defendant did not hold any money belonging to the defendant in June and July, 1899, or since. He would have been entitled to 183l. commission on the sale of a hotel, if it had taken place, but the sale had not taken place.

The defendant gave evidence, and stated that in drawing the cheques he had relied on obtaining from the solicitors a payment on account of the commission note, that had he not believed they would have made him an advance he would not have drawn the cheques, and that he had no intention to defraud.

The recorder directed the jury that the defendant, in making and giving the cheque in the circumstances stated, thereby made a representation that the cheque was a good and valid order for the amount inserted in it, and that if at the time he so made and gave the cheque he had only a colourable account at the bank on which it was drawn, and no available assets to meet it, and had no authority to overdraw, and knew that the cheque would be dishonoured on presentation, and intended thereby to defraud, they would be justified in finding him guilty, but that if at the time he gave the cheque he had reasonable expectation that money would be paid in to his account in time to meet it, and bonâ fide believed that the cheque would be cashed on presentation, they might find him not guilty. The recorder laid particular stress on the intention to defraud, directing the jury that it constituted the essence of the charge, and that if upon consideration of the whole of the evidence they found that in making and giving the cheque he had an intention to defraud they must find him guilty.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

The defendant was, on the next day, tried on another indictment alleging three other acts of obtaining money by false pretences on three other cheques — on June 24 and 26, 1899, from William Henry Morris, and on July 6, 1899, from Bertha Lucy Rawlings, all these three cheques being also drawn upon the Birkbeck Bank. Witnesses were called for the prosecution, and counsel then proposed to call H. F. Ramsey to repeat the evidence he had given on the former indictment. The recorder refused to receive the evidence, and directed the jury upon the law as he had done in the previous case. The jury were unable to agree to a verdict, and were discharged.

At the quarter sessions in January, 1900, the defendant was tried again on the indictment upon which the previous jury could not arrive at a verdict. Counsel for the prosecution again proposed to call H. F. Ramsey for the purpose of proving the circumstances in relation to the 5l. cheque drawn by the defendant on July 5, 1899, and in support of his contention that the evidence was admissible relied on the case of Blake v. Albion Life Assurance Society.F1 The evidence was allowed to go to the jury, and the point as to its admissibility was reserved. The witness H. F. Ramsey gave precisely the same evidence as he had given before on the trial of the first indictment, upon which the defendant had been found not guilty. The recorder directed the jury upon the whole of the evidence as he had done before.

The jury found the defendant guilty.

The recorder had no doubt that the evidence of the witness Ramsey had considerable weight with the jury.

The question for the opinion of the Court was:—

Whether the evidence of the witness Ramsey (above set forth), which was the subject of the first indictment, upon which the defendant had been tried and acquitted, was legally admissible upon the trial of the second indictment for the purpose of proving guilty knowledge.

The case was first heard on March 17 before Lord Russell of Killowen C.J., and Grantham, Lawrance, Wright, and Bruce JJ. A further argument was directed, and took place before Lord Russell of Killowen C.J., and Mathew, Grantham, Wright, Bruce, Ridley, Darling, and Channell JJ.

1900 May 5. J. Harris Stone (W. T. Lawrance with him), for the defendant. The evidence of Ramsey on the last trial was inadmissible and irrelevant.

[LORD RUSSELL of KILLOWEN C.J. Suppose the defendant had never been indicted and tried in respect of the cheque given to Ramsey: would Ramsey's evidence then have been admissible?]

It would have been inadmissible, for it would have had nothing to do with the case then before the Court. It would have been inadmissible if the defendant had been convicted in respect of the cheque given to Ramsey, and a fortiori it was inadmissible where he had been acquitted. It could not be used as evidence of guilty knowledge, for guilty knowledge in respect of the cheque given to Ramsey was negatived by the previous acquittal. The only effect the evidence could have would be to cause a prejudice against the defendant. It was inadmissible according to the principle laid down by Lord Herschell L.C. in Makin v. Attorney-General for New South Wales.F2 The case of Blake v. Albion Life Assurance SocietyF3, which was relied on for the prosecution at the trial, is not in point, and Reg. v. RhodesF4 is also distinguishable. No case can be found in which acts tending to shew guilty knowledge, other than those for which the defendant was on his trial, have been given in evidence, where the defendant had previously been indicted and tried, and either convicted or acquitted, for the same acts. To admit this evidence is to put the defendant in peril a second time in respect of the same facts. The facts stated by Ramsey could not be evidence of guilty knowledge, for he said the cheque was returned marked “N.S.,” i.e., “not sufficient,” which shews that the defendant had some money at the bank, and tends rather to negative than to prove knowledge on the part of the defendant that the cheque was not likely to be met.

Sir Sherston Baker, for the Crown. The evidence was admissible as shewing a systematic course of dealing on the part of the defendant. It is a fallacy to suggest that the defendant was put in peril a...

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