Evidence—Inadmissibility of confession made by a servant—Inducementoffered by another servant having authority—Evidence Act, s. 24.
A confession of guilt made by a servant to another servant havingauthority over him as head servant, upon the inducement that ifthe former would tell the latter what he had done with the articleswhich he was suspected to have stolen no harm would come to him,is not admissible in evidence under section 24 of the Evidence Act.
'T'HE facts of the case are fully stated in the followingjudgment.
There was no appearance of counsel for either side.
1st August, 1898. Bonsetr, C.J.—
In this case the appellant is a boy of about sixteen years of age.
He was in the service of Mr. A. C. Bonner, of Kirkoswald estate,
1898.August 1.
( 168 )
August 1.
Bonser, O. J.
and had entered his service on the 15th May last. On Sunday,the 10th July, the head appu made a communication to Mrs.Bonner, in consequence of which she searched the almirah andfound that a quantity of jewellery was missing. When thatjewellery was taken she was unable to say. The last time shesaw it was about the middle of June last. The almirah was locked,and the lock does not appear to have been tampered with. Theappellant was charged with having stolen the property, but hepersistently denied the charge. He attempted to run away, butwas caught. The head servant says that he heard from one ofthe kitchen coolies that on the previous day, Saturday, when Mr.and Mrs. Bonner were absent from the house, he had seen theappellant in the room standing by the almirah, which was opened,apparently rummaging the contents of a drawer. He does notappeal’ to have told any of the other servants about this, but sub-sequently told the appu. He says his suspicions were arousedby the appellant being in possession of a few hoppers, which hethought was a piece of extravagance on his part not warranted byhis means. The appu says he charged the boy with stealing thethings; he denied the charge, until at last he swore on a prayerbook that if the boy would tell him what he had done with thethings no harm would come to him. He says that the boy thenmade a confession admitting his guilt. The Magistrate says hebelieves that evidence of admission of guilt. It seems to me thatevidence was inadmissible. The witness was in a position ofauthority. He was the head servant, and the inducement wassuch an inducement as is referred to in section 24 of the EvidenceAct, and is therefore inadmissible in evidenfc. Apart from thatconfession there is merely the evidence of the kitchen cooly, whosays that he saw the boy standing near the open almirah. Theboy denies that, and the kitchen cooly does not appear tohave told anybody about this very suspicious circumstance. Anumber of servants in the house had access to this room in thecourse of their duty, amongst them the kitchen cooly, and theywere all liable to be suspected of stealing the things, and it wouldnot be unnatural for any one of them to seek to exculpate himselfby throwing suspicion on another.
In my opinion, although there is a strong case of suspicionagainst the appellant, yet when the evidence of the admission isexcluded there is not sufficient evidence to fix him with this theft.It is by no means improbable that the boy did steal these things,but the evidence is insufficient.