THIS case, which was tried at Bristol before Lord Gifford on the 4th of April, 1825, had excited great attention in consequence of the respectability of the prisoner's connexions, his father having been for many years a banker of some consequence in that city. He was committed on the 23rd of December, and all who knew him declared that he was appallingly altered since his imprisonment. He looked pale and was evidently most feverishly agitated. His age was thirty-three.
The offence was, that he had affixed the name of William Pearson to a note for 500l. dated Birmingham, 7th of October, 1824, with intent to defraud the Bristol-Copper Company, no such person as William Pearson being in existence.
When asked by the Clerk of the Arraigns,' Henry Savary, how say you; are you guilty or not guilty?' the prisoner replied, 'Guilty.'
This answer was wholly unexpected by the Court, and it was delivered in a firm and deliberate tone.
Lord Gifford paused for some moments, appearing to be taken more by surprise than any body else. He changed colour, and was evidently much affected by the painful duty he had to perform. His lordship at last said, earnestly looking at the prisoner, 'Have you well considered your answer?'
Prisoner-- I have.
Lord Gifford.-- I trust no false hopes have induced you to give that answer?
Prisoner replied something about having deliberately pleaded as he had; but he was not distinctly heard.
Lord Gifford again paused a few minutes, and then said, 'Prisoner, you had better consider a short time before you resolve to persevere in pleading guilty.'
The prisoner shook his head, reclined on his hand, and again covered his face, agitated by grief, It was intimated to the Court, that the prisoner had no other answer to give than what he had given.
Clerk of the Arraigns-- Shall I enter the verdict, my Lord?
The Recorder.-- Wait a short time.
The prisoner was taken from the dock, and in about five minutes he was brought back by direction of the judge. The prisoner appeared to be much more collected, and looked partially round the Court.
Lord Gifford. -- I understand, Henry Savary, you persist in pleading guilty.
Prisoner.-- I do, my Lord(He then again looked round the Court somewhat collectedly, as if he had relieved his mind.)
Lord Gifford, having put on the fatal black cap, then addressed the prisoner:-- Henry Savary, you have pleaded guilty to the crime of forgery charged against you,-- the forgery of a bill of exchange for 5001. and purporting to be the note of W. Pearson, of Birmingham, and with the intent to defraud the prosecutors in this case. You have, I trust, well considered the consequences of pleading guilty. I trust no false hopes or expectations, that by so pleading you should avert the dreadful sentence which it will be my painful duty to pronounce on you, have induced you to plead guilty. You were brought up in commercial pursuits, and you followed them for a considerable period in this respectable city, so that you must have been intimately acquainted with them; you therefore could not but know the calamitous consequences to commerce which the crime of forgery is calculated to produce, as well as the magnitude of the penal results to yourself. So essential is it to give security to the circulation of bills of exchange, so important is it in this country to give ground for confidence in such transactions, that it must have been impossible for you, in your own experience, not to have known and felt the importance of ouch matters, and the extent of injury calculated to be produced by the circulation of forged instruments, whether the names forged were those of existing or non-existing persons.
Prisoner.-- My lord, I was not aware that to forge the names of persons not in existence was criminal.
Mr. Smith, the prosecutor, who was standing near the witness box, most agitatedly attempted to address the Court. 'My lord.'
Mr. Palmer, one of the counsel,-- My lord, I believe evidence can be adduced of some circumstances --.
Lord Gifford.-- All these interruptions are really very irregular. I must proceed, painful as is the duty. It was impossible that you should not know you were circulating fictitious and fraudulent paper, and that the intention was to deceive and defraud. You could not be ignorant of those facts. It is melancholy to think that you should have so destroyed your own character, and wounded the feelings of others; it is not, however, my wish to add anything to the grief that they must feel. But let me renew my entreaty that you suffer not yourself to be led away by any delusive hopes or expectations. The scene of this life must shortly close upon you. Let me implore you, then, to endeavour -- not to atone to society, for that, I fear, is impossible, but -- to secure your peace with your Maker. And let me again say to you, that this Court can hold out no expectations that the sentence which it is now my painful duty to pronounce on you will not be carried into effect. The sentence is -- that you, Henry Savory, be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, and there be hanged by the neck till you are dead.
The prisoner, on hearing the latter words, seemed to lose all power of breathing, and dropped down his head.
Mr. Smith, one of the prosecutors, who had before attempted to address the Court, made way through the crowd by the witness-box towards the Bench, and very agitatedly exclaimed --'My lord, as the prosecutor, I recommend him to mercy. I, the prosecutor, my lord, recommend him to mercy, if mercy can be shown. The consequences of his crime were limited, the public have suffered nothing -- hardly any thing.'
Lord Gifford leant back on his seat, greatly affected; but made no reply.
The prisoner was then removed from the dock, and his sentence was afterwards commuted into transportation for life.