Observer, Rōrahi XXXI, Putanga 24, 25 Huitanguru 1911, Page 2
The Industry of Constable Maher.
THE current session of the Supreme Court has been illumined by the presence of Constable Maher, who appears to have charge of the salubrious city yclept Taumarunui. Up to the time of writing, two cases from Taumarunui had been brought into the Supreme Cojirt, and in each case Constable Maher figured as one of the chief—if not the chief—witnesses. The first case concerned a keg of beer that was alleged to have been stolen by two residents of Taumarunui, whom the "Herald" describes as two respectable - looking young men ; and as the " Herald " is an admitted authority on respectability, the evidence of the paper in this . instance must be regarded as irrefutable. .
The principal interest about this case centred round the brand which the keg bore. In the Lower Court the prosecutor swore that it was branded by the name of "Innes, who is a local brewer.. Constable Maher, who was the chief witness, gave testimony to the same ettect. in
fact, an examinaion of his depositions discloses the fact that he made three repeated assertions that the brand was " Innes." But when the case came into the Supreme Court, a different story was told. On that occasion, Dunn, from whom the keg was alleged to have been stolen, swore that the brand was not innes," but "Hyde," who is another brewer. The intelligent. Constable Maher also went into the box, and, in spite of his previous emphatic and reiterative testimony in the L°wer Court, also complacently swore that the brand was that of Hyde, and that he had made a mistake in his original evidence. What reliance the jury placed in the general evidence is manifested by the fact that, after only ten minutes' .consideration, they returned a verdict of not guilty."
But it is the second case that calls for the greatest comment. In this instance, a man named Shears was charged wiht stealing a bicycle belonging to one George Sherson. Constable Robinson, who seems to halve the Taumarunui police duty with Constable Maher, read from his notebook a confession that was alleged to have been made by Shears. As this was unsigned, and as Robinson admitted that he had written it m the cab after leaving Shears at the Mount Eden Gaol, its intrinsic value as evidence was not very enormous, but the incident is worthy of quotation, if only to demonstrate the high standard of intelligence reached by some members of the Force. Maher himself deposed that he went into Shears' cell, and "that Shears then confessed that the parts of the bicycle found in his place of business came from the machine that was alleged to have been stolen. But of what value was such testimony ? If Shears wished to confess why did not Maher follow the proper procedure : take down his statement in writing read it over to him, and then get him to sign it r But there was no written confession handed up.
On the contrary, Maher admitted that Shears, when in the presence ot others, had always strenuously maintained his innocence. It cert certamly seems extraordinary, then, that Shears should suddenly feel constrained to unbosom his soul to Constables Maher and Robinson individually, and that, m the face of such unbosoming, he should . then enter a plea of "not guilty" m the Supreme Court. But that was not by any means the only extraordinary feature of the case. For instance, one of the Crown witnesses, a person named Moulden, was ordered out <rt the witness-box by Mr Justice Cooper, and it may be noted as an amazing fact that this witness was never produced at all m the Lower Court. And in view of His Honor's action, it may relevantly be asked why he was produced in the Supreme Court. „ .
The evidence of Maher himself was by no means brilliant, and a significant feature about it was this : He admitted that three days before the case came on, he had had a conversation with Mr J. R- Lundon, the counsel for the defence. But when pressed to give details of this conversation, he contended-that he could not remember them. If his memory is so painfully defective as all that, how did it come about that he able to enter nto such minute details about an alleged theft that took place in May of last year? Exactly what importance the jury attached to the evidence of Maher may be guaged by the fact that, after he -had been under cross-examination for three hours, the foreman said that they did not desire to hear any ™ore because they were quite satis?ed that the accused man was inno■cent. . i
From considerations of space we have had to omit Retails ot 4is case that would add tothe general interest thereof ; but we think we have said enough to demonstrate the necessity of searching inquiry at the hands of the Minister f fox-Justice. The practical collapse of the case, -taken with the verdict returned in
the one quoted before, would seem to imply that the activity of Consable Maher is slightly in need of curbing. Zeal is a good thing, but too much zeal on the part of a constable, "dressed in a little brief authority," is apt to have serious consequences for respectable citizens. Constable Maher may have erred in ignorance ; but that he did err is indisputable.