A remarkable criminal case was once tried before Baron Parke, in which his ruling and sentence were at the time considered extremely hard and severe; upon re-argument before the fifteen judges in London his law was held to be sound, and has remained as a text in succeeding cases.
The prisoner purchased at an auction an old bureau, and finding it rather too long for a recess in which he wished to fit it, got a carpenter to cut off a portion of the moulding at one end. While this was doing, a secret drawer flew open and disclosed one hundred guineas, which had been hidden there; the carpenter claimed half, as the finder of the coin; this was refused, and a single guinea given him, the purchaser taking the rest of the money and appropriating it to his own use. The carpenter blazed abroad the story, the heir-at-law of the deceased owner of the bureau claimed the money, and being refused, gave the purchaser into custody for stealing his property.
The case was tried at the Liverpool Assizes before Baron Parke, who told the jury that the prisoner only bought the bureau, and that that only was intended to be sold, that the money was still legally in the custody of the man who placed it there, or of his heirs-at-law, and that if they believed the fact that the prisoner took the money from the bureau, and spent it, that was larceny in the eye of the law. The jury had no alternative but to find a verdict of guilty, and the judge sentenced the prisoner to three months imprisonment with hard labour.
Recollections of Baron Parke
The Leisure Hour – (London) 1879
– Jeff Burks