The first of a series of lectures arranged by the Wine Trade Club for the present session was given on March 8th, at Vintners Hall, London, when Mr. R. H. Monier‐Williams, B.A., read a paper on “ Legal Matters in the Wine and Spirit Trade ”. Capt. F. H. T. Ree, R.N. (Rtd.), occupied the chair, and in opening the proceedings said that probably most of those present were aware of the fact that Mr. Monier‐Williams was the greatest authority on the problems which beset their trade and he had steered them very successfully through more troubles than he cared to remember. In the course of his address Mr. Monier‐Williams referred to the question of misdescription of an article, and more particularly in relation to wine labels. The Merchandise Marks Act provided that every person who applied any false trade description to goods should be guilty of an offence unless he proved that he acted without intent to defraud. The most usual way in which a trade description was falsely applied was on a label, but the delivery of an invoice containing a false trade description of goods was an “ application ” of that description, and a retailer who gave such an invoice was, prima facie, guilty of an offence under the Act. To establish the defence that he acted without intent to defraud, the defendant must satisfy the Court that he did not know that the trade description which he applied to the goods was false, because he was mistaken as to what the goods really were. For instance, a wine merchant bought, in all good faith, several dozen bottles of wine labelled “ sherry”. It was invoiced to his customers as “ sherry ”, to which it was found to bear no resemblance except possibly in colour. The wine merchant was entitled to be acquitted, but he must have acted in good faith. If the prosecution proved that the merchant knew or must have known perfectly well that the stuff was not sherry, or that he applied the description without caring whether it was true or false he should be convicted. In answering charges a defendant would establish a defence if he proved that he was mistaken as to what the goods were and did not know, therefore, that the trade description was false. Nevertheless, his defence would fail unless he could establish certain matters laid down in the Act, namely that, having taken all reasonable precautions against committing an offence, he had at the time no reason to suspect the genuineness of the trade description, and that, on demand made by or on behalf of the prosecution, he gave all the information in his power with respect to the persons from whom he obtained the goods.
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