The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 1880.
The police are to be congratulated on having obtained a verdict in the sly-grog Belling case yesterday. It is a difficult matter to get at the unlicensed dispenser of alcohol, since the police are debarred by their instructions from taking any active part in procuring evidence to get a conviction, and no respectable man will visit or countenance such illegal business. It therefore becomes necessary, where a conviction is needed, for the police to descend to the employment of a professional informer. The individual who appeared in the role of “public prosecutor” • yesterday, was one of more than ordinarily despicable character. He appeared to imagine himself a benefactor to his species, au£ was evidently not particularly j
truthful in his statements!, for he swore in his evidence that he had been employed by the publicans of the town to on leaver to obtain "a conviction. We tod: the trouble to enquire if such was the ease, a.id the statement was denied by the licensed victuallers. We regret that no better method of bringing offenders i against, the licensing lives to justice tu- j their crimes is practicable. Wo call their tiv.de a crime, because it is a well known fact that a deal of this illicit traffic is carried on in this district, and as a rule the most vill vinous compounds in the shape of chink arc sold. Only this week the police were successful in unearthing a private still, which was probably intended to supply fusel oil to the Mount Somers people, to assist them more rapidly to their death. It is hard to say how the law can be upVheld, and the sly grog dealers brought to justice by satisfactory and reliable evidence. Some years ago it was looked upion as the duty of the p)o!ice force, at any rats such was the case on the West Coast, where shanties wore numerous, and it was customary to get a strange policeman every few months to drop) on the offenders. It was found that this system was very effective. Judge Richmond, however, in one ■)f his charges to the jury, condemned the practice in very strong terms, and said that the piolice force was not established to do informers’ work, and that it was a degradation to that body to have such dirty work indicted on them. Since then the illegal sale of stimulants has increased to an alarming extent in many parts of the colony, and no better remedy hasbeon adopvted than the occasional employment of loafers who are willing for a consideration to become amateur detectives. Something should be done in a matter of such grave importance to a district which supports so large a floating population as Ashburton does, and who arc liable to take their lodgings in one of these dens of infamy. Public feeling execrates the avocation of an informer ox the “ Thomas ’ description ; but the calling of the regular detective is just as necessary as is that of the pioliceman, and both are res’peotablc enough, and wo can see no reason in the world, if the licensing laws arc to bo enforced, why detectives should nai bo cmploved to bring pmnishment homo to the breakers of them. With the number of licensed houses all over the colony there is no excuse whatever for men being guilty of ‘‘ shebeening. ” The existence of shebeens is a disgrace to any community, and a gross unfairness to men who carry on a legitimate trade in liquor, licensed, by law, and open to the surveillance of the piolice.