The heinous crime of Thomas Wood…but he did not get to face the drop.

Published on 26 March 2020

We have previously examined the archives of Old Bailey proceedings for precedent offences to those of issuing Stablecoin (“coin clipping”) and issuing Bitcoin (“uttering counterfeit currency”).

To close the loop we need to take a position on the running of a Bit/Stablecoin exchange, and to do that we need to further review the range of offences to do with the Coin of the Realm.

Exchanges do not create Bit/Stablecoin, but clearly they play an important role in its functioning, and at the very least the exchanges enable the conveyance of the coin from one holder to another.

If the coin-in-question are either clipped (Stablecoin) or counterfeit (Bitcoin), then the offence is “uttering” in the sense of passing the coin, without having been its maker.

Case t17300704-65 tried on 4th July 1730 acts as precedent here, where Thomas Wood was accused under “coining offences”, which come under the heading of “Royal Offences” i.e. treason.

“Thomas Wood , of Christ-Church , was indicted for a Misdemeanor, in uttering a counterfeit 6 d. (Ed: that’s a sixpence, half a shilling, in the old money and 2½p now) knowing it to be Counterfeit , the 16th of April last”.

Trials only lasted 40 minutes and there was not much in the way of rules-of-evidence; Wood seems to have made no defence. The jury did not usually leave the courtroom. We have three prosecution witnesses and they got Wood bang-to-rights. Here is the transcript in full:

“Thomas Hancock depos’d, That he looking out at a Window, saw the Prisoner stand at a private Place rubbing of Money, and took some Dirt off his Stick to rub upon it; upon this he ran down and watch’d him, and meeting a Woman that sold Shrimps, he ask’d her, how she sold them? She said, a Penny a Pot, he bid her a Half-penny; and seeming to go away, turn’d back, and gave her a Six-pence to change, which she not liking, he told her, it was a very good one; that he would hastily have caught it from her, but he observing it, as he was leaning upon a Post, seiz’d him, and found a Shilling and Six-pence more of the same sort in his Glove; the finding more in his Glove was confirm’d by Mr. Priestly, the Constable.

Elizabeth Layton depos’d, That the Prisoner did give her the Six-pence to change for Shrimps, and she not liking it, bit it with her Teeth, and they making an Impression, said, it was not good; the Prisoner said it was, and then the Prisoner was seiz’d by Mr. Hancock as before; the 6 d. and other like Money was produc’d in Court.

Robert Low , Deputy-Weigher of the Mint, depos’d, It was a Counterfeit Coin.

Thomas Hancock added, That the Prisoner being search’d, had got Sausages, Polonia Puddings, and other Things in his Pockets, which he suppos’d he had before bought with the same kind of Money; the Fact being plainly prov’d, the Jury found him Guilty”. Despite its name, you cannot subject Bitcoin to the biting test of Elizabeth Layton, nor Stablecoin either. Nevertheless the parallel is clear: Wood was not accused of making the counterfeit currency, only of passing it. Guilty – fined and imprisoned.