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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

"Not Guilty."

"Not Guilty."

A Royal Commission, composed of two Supreme Court Judges, was accordingly appointed on the 15th March, 1906, to review the whole matter of both trials and to report up the merits of Mr. Meikle's claim that he had been wrongfully convicted, and was entitled to compensation. The Commissioners were Mr. Justice Edwards and Mr. Justice Cooper, who after hearing evidence and argument at great length Dunedin in May, 1906, and at Wellington in January, 1997 sent in a report which is now before Parliament. The extraordinary nature of that report and the fact that Parliament must act upon it during the present session combine to render this publication necessary. The object of appointing the Commission was to secure an authoritative and decisive Pronouncement on the legal and moral issues involved, and to at rest for ever a question which had disturbed the peace of Parliament and the conscience of the public for many years and threatened to be absolutely interminable. If the Commissioners had been sitting as a jury and bound to announce their conclusion on the legal issue without stating reasons the result would have been that unhesitating verdict of "Not Guilty," which everybody who had studied the previous trials with any care knew to be inevitable. This is their only finding upon the facts:—

"Nevertheless, weighing the whole of the evidence as best can in circumstances so difficult, we are of opinion that the proceedings before us had been an actual re-trial of the claimant before a jury upon the charge of sheep-stealing (of which he was convicted in 1887) the evidence of his guilt is so far from conclusive that it would on such a re-trial have been proper to acquit the claimant upon that charge, and we should have so stated to the jury."