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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

The Petitions Committee Justified

The Petitions Committee Justified.

So triumphant indeed is the demonstration which the evidence provides of Meikle's innocence that one feels much more inclined to marvel at the cold, halting, grudging, ungenerous finding of the Commissioners than at the headstrong voracity with which Mr. Justice Ward swallowed all Lambert's incredible stories at the original trial and persuaded the jury to do the same. We shall now, however, proceed to show that the Commissioners have found quite enough to entitle Meikle to the fullest measure of redress that the country can afford. Technically the position stands thus:—
1.1887.—Meikle convicted on Lambert's evidence.
2.1895.—Lambert convicted of perjury in respect of that evidence.
3.1907.—Meikle found "Not Guilty" by the Commissioners, and recommended for the grant of a free pardon or the quashing of his conviction.
4.1907.—Lambert's conviction untouched by the Commissioners, though they ruled at the opening that he was equally on his trial with Meikle.
The long-standing dispute between the Petitions Committee and the Government has thus been decided in favour of the former. The judicial decision which Mr. Seddon's Government invoked to release the deadlock fully justifies the finding on the facts at which the Committee arrived in 1895, viz.:—

"That the Committee are of opinion that, after eliminating Lambert's evidence, who has since been convicted and is now serving a sentence for perjury, there was not sufficient evidence adduced at petitioner's trial to warrant his conviction on the charge preferred against him."

As it has been pointed out, the finding of the Commissioners rather more emphatic than a verdict of "Not Guilty," since they say not only that "it would on such a retrial have been proper to acquit the claimant," but also that "'we should have so stated to the jury." Thus the fundamental and only disputed finding of the Petitions Committee is more than justified; and it follows that the recommendations which they based upon it must be carried out.