THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN ASHBURTON.
To the Editor.
Sir —l have read with a considerable amount of amusement, as well as contempt, tlie letter on the above subject sent to laS night’s Herald, by Mr. W. H. Gundry. Mr. Gundry endeavors in a roundabout spasmodic fashion to make three points. (1) That his interview with Mr. Guinness was after all a mere nothing ; (2.) That Mr. Gundry and his side only, in the great dog case, told the truth ; and (3.) That my letter was dictated simply by a desire to injure Mr. Guinness, because he had done something towards my cousin. As to the last point, it is too contemptible to be even alluded to, much less answered. The mere suggestion of such a motive is sufficient to show the writer’s narrow mind, I hesitated some time before I sent my letter to be published, for it occurred to me that some such notice might possibly be imputed ; but after arguing the matter to myself, and with friends, I determined to let the letter be published, because we all thought, my friends and myself, that no such motive would be suggested by any antagonist who was prepared to meet me in a fair and honorable combat, and to oppose his facts to my facts. As to the second point, this is a clumsy endeavor by Mr. Gundry to draw a red herring across the scent. The facts of the dog case, and whether one side told the wh»le truth, and the other perjured itself, have nothing, whatever to do with the accusations I made against Mr. Guinness. Those accusations are—That Mr, Guinness had an interview with one of the parties to the action, at which some conversation took place about the action itself ; that at the hearing Mr. Guinness showed his bias against my client by characterising our case as “ suspicious” ; and, lastly, that for no valid reason, Mr. Guinness refused to allow the costs of defendant’s witnesse", - indeed, that he refused to give his reasons for adopting that unusual course. At the same time, since Mr. Gundiy has taken the trouble to remind me that the evidence about the interview which he gave, and the evidence about the sale which Mr. Bullock gave, was on oath, let me also remind Mr. Gundry that Mr. C. Branson’s evidence on the first point and Mr. J, Ireland’s on the second was likewise on oath.
Now, Sir, as to the first and important point—that the interview between Mr. Guinness and Mr. Gundry was nothing but a mere question about ■ money paid into Court. Allowing this to be perfectly true, still, the fact remains that such an interview did take place, and the gist of my complaint against Mr. Guinness is that he permitted such an interview to take place. There is no attempt made to deny the fact that Mr. Guinness and Mr. Gundry did have some conversation about a case which was set down for hearing the next day, on which Mr. Guinness was going to decide, and in which Mr. Gundry was an interested party. As a member of the public I protest—and feel sure that many more will heartily join with me in protesting—against these private interviews. Where is this sort of thing to end ? Mr. Gundry may think it nothing to ask Mr. Guinness about money paid into Court in a case about to be heard, and Tom Brown (the plaintiff in Brown v. Jones) may think it nothing to interview the worthy R. M. the day before the trial of the cause, to tell the worthy R.M. the facts of the case, and to ask the worthy R.M. what judgment he would be likely to give on the morrow. After all it is only a matter of degree between these two cases. If Mr. Gundry’s sole object was to ascertain about the payment of money into Court in his case, that afforded no justification for an interview with the Magistrate. The proper person to have given such information was the Clerk of the Court, and that this was the case both Mr. Guinness and Mr. Gundry must have known, or, at all events ought to have known. Therefore, no matter what questions were asked and answered at the interview, Mr, Guinness’ conduct, from every standpoint, is alike improper and indefensible. As lam debarred by the rules of my profession from making public any facts communicated to me by my clients, I cannot, without the authority of Mr. C. W. Ireland, divulge some very interesting facts as to Mr. Guinness’ conduct towards him relative to, or at all events engendered by his (Mr. Ireland’s) determination to defend the dog case. Should I obtain Mr. Ireland’s consent, I will most certainly publish the facts alluded to.—l am, &., Gerald D. Branson.
To the Editor.
Sir— Mr. Gerald D. Branson having given your readers a rather one-sided view of the case, Edmiston, Gundry, and Co., v. Ireland, 1 must ask you to allow me to state a few facts which I would otherwise gladly have suppresed. Mr. Branson begins by saying that I admitted having a “ private interview ” with the Resident Magistrate, relative to the case, implying that the matter had been talked over and prejudged. Upon referring to the evidence you will find that this was Mr. C. B. M. Branson’s version ‘of the affair, and this I flatly contradicted, having only asked Mr. Guinness the simple question “ if the money had been paid into Court,” my object for so doing I explain further on. Why Mr. Gerald Branson has construed this simple question upon a Court matter into a “ private interview,” I am at a loss to understand. With the evidence of Messrs. Bullock, Smith, and J. L. Crawley, before them (to «ay nothing of my own evidence), there can be very little doubt in the minds of those who have read the report of the case, as to who was the real purchaser of the dog in question, and when I have to add the fact that Mr. 0. W.. Branson met Mr. Edmiston in East street, on the 23rd April, and told him he could not get Charles Ireland to pay for the dog, and asked Mr. Edmiston to recover it for him, I will leave it to them to judge of the worth of Mr. C. B. M. Branson’s evidence. After Mr. Branson’s conversation with Mr. Edmiston, they walked over to the Court together, and then and there took out the summons against Mr. 0. AV. Ireland. Up to this time Mr. Ireland had never repudiated the value of the dog to our knowledge, only referred us to Mr. 0. Branson, who, as above stated, instructed us to take action, and then turned round on us at the last moment without any notice, and after we had actually placed him in the witness box as our witness, and swore that he had never looked to C. W. Ireland for the money.
A few clays after serving the summons, Mr. Gerald Branson called and told me we were suing the wrong man. My answer was, that we had no claim against the brother, as we did not know him in the matter, and told him that Messrs. Bullock, C. B. M. Branson, Smith, Crawley, and myself were prepared to prove the sale of the dog to Mr. 0. W. Ireland. It was thus “ we opened our hand ” to Mr. Gerald D. Branson, who never offered to allow us to withdraw vnthout costs, nor in the least explained the case. Subsequently I met Messrs. Charles and James Ireland together, him why they did not settle the matter, ’ as one of them had taken the dog, and Charles Ireland said his “ brother had paid for the dog.”, I asked him to whom he had paid it, and he said it did not matter, it was paid for. As
I was entering my office immediately after this, I met Mr. Guinness at the door, and asked him if he could tell me if the money had been paid into Court, thinking perhaps the Irelands had paid. it in. He said ‘ ‘ Yes. ” I asked if he could tell me who had paid it in, as we had not, and he said he did not know. We were not in company one minute, and this is the “ private interview” Mr. Gerald Branson is trying to make so much of, and thereby attempting to cast a slur on Mr. Guinness, by saying “that the public must not be put off with mere assertions that only this and only that occurred.” I would remind Mr. Branson that these “mere assertions” were made on oath.
On Thursday evening I called on Charles Branson and said, “ Mr. Guinness says the money is paid into Court. Did Ireland pay it in, or did you 1” He replied, 1 ‘ I did. ” I asked him if ho had been paid, and he replied, “ No ; I have not received a penny of it yet.” I then asked him if we wore to go on with the case, and his answer was, “Yes, certainly.” Mr. Gerald Branson came at this moment and I left. At the door, I again said, “ We go on with the case tomorrow,” and he said, “ All right, old man. ” Imagine my surprise, and that of our solicitor, when, on putting him into the witness-box, ho asserted that the dog had been sold to James Ireland, and that he had never looked to either C. W. Ireland or to us for the money ; and, this being our witness, Mr. Branson argued we were bound by his statement, to the exclusion Of that of Messrs. Bullock, Smith, Crawley, and myself, and that our solicitor had not the right to cross-ex-amine onr own witness, Mr. Gerald Branson’s objection to which called forth the remark from the Bench, that any objection might lead the Bench to infer there were “suspicious circumstances connected with it,” and of which I will leave your readers to judge. Mr. Gerald Branson says, “ Had I not full confidence in my case, both on merits and law points, I should have unhesitatingly objected to Mr. Guinness sitting to decide it.” I think I have clearly shown both the “ merits and the lav points” in which Mr. Branson had so much confidence. I must again refer to Mr. Charles Ireland’s remark that the dog. had been paid for. Mr. Gerald Branson, in the examination of Mr. James Ireland, on Tuesday last, remarked that he (Mr. J. Ireland) had a claim against the dog for Bs. per day, for seven or eight days, for bailiff’s fees, which the Magistrate had previously disallowed as exorbitant. This, I presume, is what Mr. Ireland referred to in saying the dog had been paid for, and which undoubtedly throws some light on the form .the case eventually took. With regard to Mr. C. Branson’s statement that I said “ the old man had been up to see me about it,” it is havdly necessary for me to deny it. It is only on a par with the expression used by Mr. James Ireland when he asserted that Mr. Bullock turned to him at the sale and said, “ Mr. Ireland, I believe,” and which Mr. Bullock in his evidence, emphatically contradicted. These expressions give such a natural tone to the conversations.
Mr. Gerald Branson's grievance seems to be that in the face of the evidence given, the Magistrate did not allow full costs to all the members of the Branson and Ireland families who were in attend ance, and npt subpoenaed as witnesses. Are the circumstances connected with this case of sufficient public interest to warrant Mr; G. D. Branson in taking upon himself the questionable practice of making such an attack upon a public officer in the discharge of his duties 1 Do not the assertions distinctly show the sole reason to be simply Mr. Branson’s spleen against our local Court and Mr. Guinness, because his relative (Mr. 0, B. M. B.)has been removed from his office as Bailiff of the Court, a letter to which effect Mr. C. B. M. Branson received after my interview with him on Thursday evening I
I must apologise for trespassing so much upon your valuable space, but I think this explanation is due to our worthy Magistrate as bearing upon our “ private interview,” and placing him in a false light, and to ourselves as showing the origin of the case.—l am, &c.
W. H. Gundry. Ashburton, Ist May, 1880.
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