Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Edinburgh United Breweries Fraud Trial

I told you we'd learn what happened to the managing director and head brewer of Edinburgh United Breweries in court.

It was quite a big case, as you can see from the number of prosecution witnesses called:


It was intimated at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to-day, when William Lawrie, director and secretary, and John Archibald Clark, head brewer in the employment Edinburgh United Breweries. Ltd.. Edinburgh, appeared, that their trial on a charge defrauding the Commissioners' Customs and Excise of sums amounting to £31,291 would take place in the High Court on March 5th.

There are 71 witnesses for the prosecution. "
Nottingham Evening Post - Saturday 23 February 1935, page 4.

And it lasted more than a week, before the inevitable guilty verdicts. There's a little more detail given as to exactly how the fraud was perpetrated:

After a trial bating eight days William Lawrie, managing director and secretary of Edinburgh United Breweries, and John Archibald Clark, head brewer, were at Edinburgh yesterday found guilty of conspiring to defraud the Customs and Excise authorities.

Lawrie was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment and Clark to 12 months' imprisonment.

An appeal on behalf of Lawrie was lodged and he was liberated on bail.

The charge alleged that the company had evaded the payment of beer duty amounting to £2,291. It was stated that the methods adopted were the abstraction of worts before the Excise officers had taken measurements and the running of secret brews upon which no duty was paid.

The Lord Justice Clerk said that having regard to the magnitude of the sum involved and the period over which the fraud was carried on he had difficulty in refraining from passing sentence of penal servitude.

On the other hand the accused were both men who had good records. Grave as the frauds were, the money did not go directly into their pockets although they might have derived indirect benefit."
Financial Times, 15th March 1935, page 13.

I’m pleased that Lawrie got the longer sentence. As managing director, he was the one ultimately responsible for the fraud. Too right he got banged up for longer than the head brewer.

Good records? I suppose they did have good records, other than the little matter of 7 years of committing fraud. It's true they didn't receive any direct benefit from the fraud. Other than not losing their jobs when EUB went bust, as it well might have without the fraud. The company's inability to meet the Excise demand for the dodged duty shows its finances weren't too healthy.

The managing director, unlike the head brewer, refused to accept the guilty verdict and apealed. Unsurprisingly, without luck:

The Scottish Court Criminal Appeal at Edinburgh yesterday, dismissed the appeal Wm. Lawrie, director and secretary of the Edinburgh United Breweries, Ltd., against his conviction sentence of 21 months imprisonment on a charge of being concerned with other employes of the company in a fraud the Inland Revenue whereby the company avoided payment beer duty amounting to £31,291. Lawrie had been tried along with John Archibald Clark, head brewer of the company, who was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment."
Western Daily Press - Friday 14 June 1935, page 8.

I wonder what happened to Lawrie and Clark when they were released? Did they ever work in the industry again? I'd love to find out.

No comments: