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When the railway by-laws were framed and became law, we presume that the efficient working of the system and the protection of life and limb of the railway servants and the travelling public were what a paternal Government had in view. There is no doubt that without a certain discipline on the lines of railway in the colony, accidents would be more frequent, and a. very disorganised state of railway traffic would ensuo. But we do not think when the railway by-laws came into existence that their penalties and punishments, as well as the privileges associated with them, were intended to include a select few to the exclusion of all others. Anything which savours of impartiality, especially where law and good government are concerned, is reprehensible in the extreme. Her do we think that in the eyes of the law the life of one man should be more valuable than the life of another. If not a great deal better, at any rate, “ one man should be as good as another.” But a very different construction was put upon the by-laws by one of the legal gentlemen in court on Tuesday morning in volunteering his advice to the Bench. Mr. Ireland argued that a constable, being in the service of Government, and on public duty, was perfectly at liberty to jump off the train while the same was in motion, and be guilty of no breach of the by-laws. Under extraordinary circumstances wo can imagine such conduct being warranted, and perhaps the end might justify the means ; as, for instance, where the apprehension of a criminal depended upon such a step being taken ; but in the case in point no particular end seemed to be gained by the act, and from what we can gather, no miscarriage of justice would have eventuated had the constable awaited the arrival of the train at tho usual stopping place. Are we to understand, from the law as laid down on Tuesday, that any officer of the Government, no matter in what capacity he is placed, so long as he could plead that ho was in the execution of his duty, is at liberty to sot at defiance the laws which everyone else must knuckle down to, or be fined severely. From such a line of argument we are led to conclude that if, in his zeal or thoughtlessness, a Government officer thinks fit to endanger his life by stepping off a train while in motion, the authorities regard his life of so much less value than that of his fellowcreatures as to allow him to go unpunished for his foolhardiness. If such is the law there is every probability of the coroners of the colony having a pretty busy time of it in the future. We hardly think, however, that the railway by-laws will bear such an interpretation.

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Bibliographic details

Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 90, 22 April 1880

Word Count

RAILWAY BY-LAWS. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 90, 22 April 1880