The criminal record for the year is marked by an unusual number of charges of outrage upon women and of fraud against the revenue.
Considerable sensation was caused throughout the colony in June when, through the pertinacity of Mrs. Abigail, the Government was moved to announce to Parliament that there was reason to believe that extensive fraud had been committed against the revenue in connection with the carriage of wool by railway, and that the Attorney-General was preparing to initiate prosecutions. In due course a number of persons connected with carrying firms were charged with conspiring to defraud the Commissioner for Railways by understating the weights of goods, and the following were committed for trial :—Francis Augustus Wright , Edward Heaton, George R. Bonamy Benjamin Windsor, Henry Hansard, Edward Webster , Charles James Tomalin, Edwin Jenkins, Robert Perry, and Robert Thompson. Near the close of an unprecedentedly long trial before Sir James Martin, Chief Justice, one of the jurymen broke down in health, necessitating adjournment. During the adjournment the lamented death of the Judge took place. Mr. Justice Windeyer took up the case, discharged the jury, and empanelled a fresh one, and then had to hasten away on leave of absence for his health's sake. The case then came before Mr. Acting-Judge Stephen, but the absence of a material witness has caused further delay.
Edward Brown Holt, manager of the Bank of New Zealand and of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company, was committed for trial on June 10, on three serious charges. When arraigned before Mr. Justice Faucett on the first charge, including, as its first and less serious count, larceny of a cheque, Holt pleaded guilty to this count, and thereupon the Attor- ney-General announced that he would not proceed either with the heavier count or with either of the remaining charges. The Judge sentenced Holt to four years'
George Berner, chief clerk of the Railway Depart- ment, was committed for trial on July 14 for embezzle- ment of Government moneys and securities, and on con- viction was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Theodore Horton, Government land agent at Young, pleaded guilty on October 5 to several charges of embezzling Government moneys. The press report of this case drew attention to the absence of check on such frauds in the country land offices. The embezzlements had extended over seven or eight years, though managed in the simplest possible way. Whon Horton received from free selec- tors their payments on account of interest and instal- ments of balances, he gave receipts in full but only entered the interest in the butts. As there was no fixed time for payments of balances by selectors, dis-
covery was avoided for this long period. Closely fol- lowing Horton's caso, Vere Hunt was arraigned before Mr. Justice Windeyer "for that on Novembor 7, he then being a clerk in the Lands Department, did make a false entry in the conditional purchaso book;" and Wilby Morton Ollivier, a member of tho firm of H. II. Brown and Co., land agents, &c, was arraigned at the same time for having "incited, procured, hired, and commanded Hunt to make the false entry." In the course of the trial Ollivior made a statement to the effect that Hunt was innocent of either intent or know- ledgo of fraud in the matter, and that he took upon himself whatever guilt there was. His account of the caso was that he had undertaken to get a perfected selection on a certain run restored and transferred to the squatter, charging the squatter a trifling sum for himself, £150 for one Tinkler, the selector in question, in addition to Government fees and payments. He had prepared the necessary documents, and at the moment when he was wanted the veritable Tinkler had stopped from another colony into tho office of Brown and Co., signed the transfer, pocketed £150 in cash, and departed without as much as giving a receipt. The jury disagreed. But a fresh jury convicted both
prisoners. Hunt received three years' imprisonment, and Ollivier 10 years' penal servitude.
Among the crimes of another order, one stands out as a humiliating blot on our civilisation. We refer to the brutal outrage by a whole company of young men on a young girl at Mount Rennie, near Waterloo, on September 9. A cabman persuaded the
girl to enter his cab on a promise to drive her to a place she was seeking in the city, but drove out of town instead, and attempted to assault her. She was rescued by some young men only to fall into a still worse fate, for a whole pack took possession of her, and dragging her into the bush, outraged her most brutally. A large number of the young men were identified and placed on trial, and as the terrible result, three are to suffer penal servitude for life, and six are condemned for execution on January 7. It is said that all those young men but one are under 20 years of ago. Charles Sweetman, the cabman who drove the girl to the place of danger, and who followed up his attempt by leaving her exposed to greater outrage, was sentenced to two floggings and 14 years' penal servitude. The over-crowding of Darlinghurst Gaol was the subject of much Parliamentary discussion in March last, consequent on strong remonstrances from Mr. Justice Windeyer and Dr. O'Connor, the medical officer. It appeared that nearly 900 men and women were confined in a space of about five acres, including buildings, goods, and workshops. The necessity for a juvenile reformatory also came up for discussion in August. The actual number of youths under 16 then in gaol was not large, but it was stated that many offenders requiring reformatory treatment had been sent
to the Vernon, and others had been discharged with only reprimands, rather than that persons so young should be sent to herd with hardened criminals. The Minister for Justice undertook to set immediately about providing a reformatory.