Chief Clerk of the Queen Square Police Office, Westminster. Executed before Newgate, 18th of March, 1812, for Forgery
GEORGE SKENE, who was chief clerk of the Queen Square police office, Westminster, was indicted at the Old Bailey on the 15th of January, 1812, and brought to trial at the bar of that court. The indictment charged him with uttering forged receipts for the payments of money, in four instances, with intent to defraud his Majesty.
Mr Abbott opened the case, and it appeared that the prisoner had presented forged receipts from four different persons, purporting to have been signed by them -- viz. thirty-six pounds, eight shillings when was charged to him seventeen pounds, nine shillings; eleven pounds, ten shillings for printing, when the printer's bill was four pounds, eleven shillings. There were two other forged receipts, purporting to be from Mr Ryder, for rent, and Mr Stanton, for stationery, with considerable additional charges.
The principal witness was Mr Baldwin, receiver-general to the several police offices, who settled accounts quarterly with each office, with a statement from the chief clerk at each office, of fines, fees, etc., received by the office -- the salaries of the magistrates excepted. He believed the forged receipts in question to be in the prisoner's handwriting. The prisoner attended on witness at the Secretary of State's office, where he presented the forged vouchers. The fees and fines obtained at the office were given to witness, in part payment of the police establishment, but such were inadequate to the demand. The prisoner's salary was two hundred pounds a year.
The forgeries were severally proved to the four receipts by the handwriting, which was proved to be the prisoner's.
The prisoner, being called on for his defence, stated that his embarrassment prevented him from addressing the Bench, but he declared to God and his conscience he had no intention to wrong anyone, and he attributed the error in his accounts to his having been absent five hundred miles from London on professional business.
The Marquis of Huntly gave the prisoner an excellent character. He had known him many years, and he had always considered him a man of strict integrity, incapable of an act of injustice.
The other witnesses to character were chiefly magistrates -- viz. Messrs Nares, Fielding, Storey, Carrick, Rhode, Bernie, etc., and Captain Duff of the navy. The above gentlemen spoke in the highest terms of the prisoner's honesty and integrity.
The Lord Chief Baron, in summing up the evidence, observed that such a character of a prisoner was perhaps never heard in any court. He observed that the character of a well-spent life had its weight in cases of doubt, but where the weight of evidence was conclusive against a prisoner it was much to be lamented that character had been forfeited. If any doubt existed (but he, the judge, could point out none) the jury would give the prisoner the benefit.
He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
From the moment of the conviction of this unhappy man till the Friday before his execution he was buoyed up by the hope of the Royal mercy; and a paragraph appeared in some of the public prints stating that he had received the Royal pardon. But these hopes were dissipated on the Friday before his execution, when he was given to understand that he had no mercy to expect. He expressed his perfect resignation to his fate. In the course of Tuesday, the day before his execution, many of his most intimate friends took their leave; and about four o'clock he, in company with Lord Robert Seymour, took the Sacrament.
At an early hour on Wednesday, the 18th of March, 1812, he was attended by the ordinary of Newgate, until summoned to the press-yard; from whence, at eight o'clock, he proceeded to the scaffold. Previous to ascending the platform he seemed considerably affected, but after a few seconds he resumed his fortitude, and taking off his hat advanced, and submitted himself to the executioner, who, having performed his melancholy office, retired, leaving Dr Ford with him in prayer. In two minutes afterwards the platform fell. After being suspended the usual time, the body was cut down, placed in a coffin, and carried within the prison, where it remained until eight o'clock that evening, and was then delivered to his friends.
The deceased was of a most respectable family in the north of Scotland. His wife, who was burnt to death about four years before, had been previously the wife of the Earl of Fife, then Mr Duff. He was formerly clerk at the Shadwell police office, and from thence went to the Queen Square office as chief clerk. He had received a good education, and possessed considerable mental acquirements.