Legal Subject: Extortion

Case Date Legal Subject Abstract
Wood and Mason v. Skene 20 Dec 1776 Extortion, Fraud In November 1776, James Robertson hired Alexander Morison to arrest James Wood, who owed him about £20. Morison later hired John Skene to retrieve the money, and Skene had Wood incarcerated in the Leith tolbooth. The next day Wood was released after conveying seven shillings to his jailor "for what was called jail-fees"; and to Skene £4 in cash and a conjunct bill with his brother-in-law, Andrew Mason, for £16. Wood also informed Skene that he had earlier paid Robertson about £1 for the expenses of diligence, and Skene answered that he would grant a receipt for this amount once a voucher was produced. Wood and Mason later brought a complaint against Skene before the Court of Session on the basis that he had requisitioned from them more than what was owed, and that he had failed to return the principal bill. Claiming that part of the money paid to Skene had been to cover his own fees, they accused him of transgressing an essential duty of his office as messenger-at-arms. To support this accusation they cited the Court's 1738 decision in Monro v. Ross, which had later been ingrossed in the books of Sederunt and of the Lyon-court, forbidding messengers from extracting their fees from the object of their diligence. Skene responded that none of the money he had extracted from the pursuers had been to cover his own fees, and that he had not returned the principal bill at the time because it was not in his possession. Handwritten marginalia on the Petition and Complaint observes "It does not appear how this case was disposed of, but the Answer to the Petition seems satisfactory." The Court's decision regarding the ten shillings paid to cover the fees of Alexander Morison are not brought up in these case documents.