ASHBURTON LIBEL CASE.
The withdrawal of the Ashburton libel case is unquestionably a triumph for the press. While we are glad that a fellowjournalist has escaped from the trouble and cost of defending himself in the Supreme Court, and that the result of the" case is almost in harmony with the wish we had already expressed—viz., that the case should end without the necessity of going to Christchurch, we must confess to some little regret that, having gone so far, it should not have been argued out upon its merits. Had the question gone before a jury we should have been able to judge by the decision how far, as a journalist, a man may go in denouncing what he believes to be a wrong without laying himself open to a possible position in the dock as a criminal. But the matter has ended in smoke, and all the fuss in R.M. Court is now of no more value than the fizzle of a schoolboy’s squib. The alleged libeller has been put to trouble and expense that were useless, because, as we have seen, purposeless, and resultless, so far as regards either the clearing of Mr. Crisp’s aspersed character, or any further light thrown on the haziest of all hazy lans, the law of libel. Mr. Crisp has backed out of the case, and as yet we have obtained no reason why he shouldhavedonoso. We aregiven tounderstand that the Crown prosecutor declined to prosecute, we are further informed that this declinature was known to the prosecuting party before the case went to Christchurch at all; and if that be so, then we must set down the whole matter as case of “funk” on the part of Mr. Crisp and his counsel Mr. Joynt. We scarcely think there was any unpreparedness on the part of Mr. Ivess, who now finds himself in the position of having suddenly escaped from an impending troublesome and costly prosecution, while Mr. Crisp still remains uncleared by the Supreme Court of the charge made against him of being an extortioner of money he had no right to claim. It will now be necessary for him to answer the Borough’s question as to why he made those charges of six shillings, when, according to what most of the Councillors believed was the spirit of his contract, the £IOO they owe him was calculated to cover all costs. He refused to explain to the Council, pending the case’s decision by a higher tribunal — having retired from that tribunal’s adjudication, the lower tribunal of the Council will now want to know why he made the charges, and who is to make restitution to the parties who had to pay.
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