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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 147 may be inferred from the fact that during the first year no fewer than 2857 cases were determined ; and in the second a diminution of only 392 had taken place. But however inflexible or abstractly just in his conceptions of equity, the administration of justice by Judge Tait was far from satisfactory. His conduct was viewed as too severe and unbending ; and there were not a few to accuse him of occasionally overstepping the limits of his commission. The clamour against Mr. Tait was for the most part ill-founded. His office was a difficult one ; and of a nature which almost precluded the possibility of giving general satisfaction. Ult,imately it was deemed expedient to procure a new Act of Parliament, which, among other alterations, declared the office of Judge of the Police Court to be abolished. By the Act of 1805, the appointment had been rendered permanenta law presenting insuperable objections : insomuch that while the magistracy were a changing body, and therefore in some degree amenable to public opinion, the Judge of Police remained superior to any such control ; and whether he might happen to be a tyrant or CL dunce, the community were compelled to suffer from the severities of the one, or the mistakes and incapacity of the other. By the new Act, the decision of police causes was again placed in the hands of the magistrates, who successively occupy the bench. The “ last sitting ’’ of the Court, as originally constituted, occurred on the 6th July 1812-on which occasion Mr. Tait delivered the following valedictory address :- “ I am now to close this Court, after having officiated in it for nearly seven years of nnabating solicitude, during which above twelve thoi~sand cases have been determined, as appears from the volumes on the table, containing abstracts of the judicial procedure. I was placed here in consequence of an Act of Parliament, of an cxperirnental nature. The experiment has been made -several defects have been discovered-and these have been obviated by a new Act, which makes great additions to the means of preventing offences, and of detecting offenders, from which the most beneficial effects may be expected. But here I must be permitted to repeat a remark made by the highest authority in this place, and which cannot be too strongly enforced, that ‘no institution of police can be effectual without the cordial siipport of the community.’ And, I may also notice, that there are many attentions necessary on the part of those who have the charge of youug persons, with respect to religious as well as moral duties, for want of which the greatest exertions of the best regulated police will not compensate. Leaving the administration of the police of this place in much better hands, to whom I most sincerely wish all possible success, I return, with much satisfaction, to the exercise of a profession, the cares of which, though great, are pleasures, compared to the anxiety which I have, for some years, experienced. I cannot, however, leave this place without expressing my acknowledgment to the Clerk, the Inspectors, and other officers of Police, for the assistance they have rendered. They may have had troublesome duties to perform ; and I trust that, when the difficulties inseparable from a new institution, the smallness of the number of men employed, the want of a fund to procure information, and other untoward circumstances are considered, great allowances will be made for us all.” Some of the foregoing remarks refer to the “great riot,” as it is termed, which occurred in Edinburgh on the night of the 31st December 1811, “ Hogmanay “-or the night preceding New-year’s-day-has been from time immemorial devoted to festivity ; and nowhere in Scotland was the practice more enthusiastically adhered to than in the capital-the streets being thronged with people of both sexes, in the pursuit of light-hearted frivolity, and the joyous interchange of mutual good feeling. A number of young men-mostly
Volume 9 Page 196
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