|- THE PRIMROSE LEAGUE - THE PRIMROSE LEAGUE - THE PRIMROSE LEAGUE - THE PRIMROSE LEAGUE - THE PRIMROSE LEAGUE - THE PRIMROSE LEAGUE -|
|Thursday, January 13, 1887.|
|Action for libel -- E. MAN - v - Ward Queen's Bench Division..|
Mr. Crump, Q. C. and Mr. Reginald Brown appeared for the plaintiff; Mr. Lockwood, Q. C. and Mr. Firth were for the defendant.
The plaintiff is a well known member of the common law Bar, who takes an active part in politics on the Conservative side, is the vice-chairman of a voluntary society for the relief of the poor at Croydon, where he lives, known as the Croydon Resident Unemployed Relief Fund. He brought this action to recover damages for libel from the defendant, the proprietor of the Croydon Advertiser under the following circumstances. Last winter a sum of £300 out of the Mansion-house fund for the relief of great distress then prevalent among the unemployed was sent to the Mayor and Vicar of Croydon, £30 of which had been apportioned to the relief fund in which the plaintiff was interested and the same amount to a society at Croydon of a similar character but of longer standing. The society in which the plaintiff was interested would appear to have been somewhat dissatisfied with this arrangement, and at the close of one of its meetings, held in March last, a resolution had been carried that the minutes then passed should be forwarded to the local Press. The plaintiff sent a report of the meeting, including some remarks he had made at it, to the defendant among others, and thinking that it was right to offer some remuneration for its insertion sent a guinea with it. The defendant did not publish the report, but inserted an article in which the plaintiff was spoken of as having been successful in smuggling into some of the local Press 'a garbled report of a slanderous speech' which he had made in the previous November, and in which the society was spoken of as the 'artful creation of the Primrose League'.
There was also the following in this article:-
'The minutes are practically devoted to Mr. Garnet Man's defence of himself, with insulting observations respecting several of his superiors in good manners. The report is 'dressed up' from beginning to end, and is a woeful exhibition of sham consideration with the poor. There being no more elections imminent, the funds of the Croydon Resident Unemployed Relief Fund have been run out, and it is only in rage that he cannot replenish its coffers with the Lord Mayor's money that Mr. Garnet Man speaks with his customary want of courtesy. Croydon has every reason to be proud of a Mayor who is superior to the blarney even of so experienced a professor as Mr. Garnet Man, and who has wisely kept from a Tory faction what was meant for all the Croydon poor. We observe that several passages reported where Mr. Man's volubility got the better of his reason have been struck out, showing that in his 'saner moments' (vide E.G.M) he was ashamed of what he said. Mr. Man says that his society has distributed its funds without regard to party or creed. But who will believe anything that he says after the many times he has proved unworthy of credence?'
After the present action had been commenced and the plaintiff had declared his willingness to accept an apology, a further article appeared in the defendant's paper with these words:-
'A few weeks ago he (the plaintiff) insulted us greatly by offering us a guinea as a bribe to insert under the guise of the minutes of a politically benevolent relief fund with which he was connected a garbled report of his own speech. He has been led into an attempt first to hoodwink the Press by a garbled report and then to hobble it by an appeal to law. We have no apologies to make to Mr. Garnet Man. Throughout the two recent elections there was no man who spoke so rashly, so libelously of his neighbours; no man who so embittered the political strife with vulgar personalities. One of his speeches was so bad, so abusive, so ungentlemanly, that the next morning, so anxious was he that a correct report of what he had actually said should not appear, that he went to one of the Croydon newspaper offices before its doors were open for the day.'
This second article was used by the learned counsel for the learned plaintiff to show that the defendant had acted maliciously in the matter. The defence was simply that the article complained of was a fair comment on a matter of public interest, no justification being relied upon, and it being fully admitted that the allegations as to the plaintiff's untruthfulness were absolutely withdrawn.
The plaintiff was the only witness called upon in the case, and he was cross-examined at some length to show that he, in November 1885, made a somewhat violent attack on Mr. Spencer Balfour, the liberal candidate at Croydon, and upon another occasion had charged Sir Sydney Buxton with having been mixed up with bribery which had led to the disenfranchisement for a time of Boston.
LORD COLERIDGE, in summing up the case told the jury that he should hold the occasion of the publication of the matter complained of to have been privileged, and that therefore the only question for them would be whether or not such privilege had been exceeded.
The jury found, on their return into Court after an absence of 25 minutes, a verdict for the plaintiff --- damages one farthing.
HIS LORDSHIP thereupon gave judgment for the plaintiff and a certificate for a special jury, but on the application of the learned counsel for the defendant he gave a certificate depriving the plaintiff of costs, intimating that he took that course, as he could not seriously differ in the matter from the jury, who he supposed to wish that each party should be left to pay his own costs.
Several of the jurors thereupon assured the learned Judge that he had rightly understood the true purport of their verdict.
The Court then adjourned.
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