The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. MONDAY, JULY 22, 1889. THE CHRISTIE CASE.
As if the Atkinson-Fisher affair were not sufficient scandal for a Ministry to be concerned m, another correspondence disclosing, it is stated, a still more discreditable state of affairs, namely the correspondence between Judge Ward and tbe Minister of Justice with reference to the case of William Christie, of Oamaru, a bankrupt, is to be laid before i Parliament. It will be remembered that Christie was tried for an offence against the bankruptcy law, convicted and sentenced to four months' imprisonment, and that the sentence was quashed on appeal, owing to an informality m the warrant of commitment* Pending the hearing of the appeal, however, a petition to the Governor, praying for a free pardon for Christie, waß numerously signed, and handed to the Hon. Mr Hislop, who was m Oamaru at the time, to be forwarded to the Minister of Justice (the Hon. Mr Fergus). A copy of tho petition was m due course sent to Judge Ward, apparently by Mr Hislop. After requesting his Honor to report «b to the evidenco on which ho held that intent to defraud the Colonial Invest ment and Agency Company was proved, Mr Hislop mentions that a statement had been made that Judge Ward was largely indebted to the prosecuting company, and asks that he state to the Minister of Justice whether there was any truth m the report. Judgo Ward accordingly forwarded to the Minister of Justice his grounds ior convicting, and explained that he purposely abstained from commenting on the Colonial Secretary's letter, because the evidence m the bankruptcy proceedings showed that Christie had long been a olient of Messrs Hislop and Creagh. This called forth an immediate reply from tho Minister of Justice to the effect that Mr Hislop had not acted m this matter m any other capaoity than that of a Minister oi the Crown, and tbat the case so far as it had gone disclosed nothing more as regarded relations GXJsilHg between Messrs Hislop and Christie than was already known to tho Government. Judgo Ward replied by a letter marked " private," addressed !to Mr Fergus, denying Mr Hislop's right to question his indebtedness to the Colonial Investment Company, whether ho be acting as Minister of Justice, on behalf of his own client, or as Colonial Secretary. At the same time Judge Ward sets forth his sole connection with the Company m question. Mr Fergus objected to being addressed otherwise than m his official capacity m tho matter, and Judgo Ward practically repeated his previous letter, aud denied that his relations with the company influenced his decision m fcho case m 'ho slighto&t degree. Mr Fergus then expressed his ontire dissent to this view of tbe case and remarks that if a Judge does not perceive the obvious impropriety of adjudicating between persons to one or other ot whom ho is Under pecuniary obligations it becomes tho duty of tho Minister of Justice, m the interest of the public, to intervene, and that hiß Honor's views on tho Bubject meet with the gravest disapproval of the Government. Judge Ward replies still adhering to the stand he had taken, and after characterising the proceedings of Messrs Hislop and Fergus as the exercise of a private inquisition, tells the latter that he completely mi&understands his position as Minister of Justico, and goes on to cay that if when "a client of a Cabinet Minister is sentenced to imprisonment, such Cabinet Minister is to be permitted forthwith to transform himself into a Minister of Justioo and to intemne after Mr Hislop's fashion with tho Judge who convicted his olient, such *a course would simply be the destruction of the independence of the Bench, nnd would bo an entirely new development m oonstitutional government." Mr Hislop undertakes the reply to this letter, refuting tho allegations as to his acting m Christio's favor, and commenting trcn chantly on Judge Ward's actions. Tho correspondence, it is said, occupied an hour aud a half m being read to tho Public Petitions Committee Wo can of course givo only a brief sketch of itß contents, but this is sufficient to show that a grave scandal has occurred, and one of two consequences must follow — the retirement either of his Honor Judge Ward from the Bench, or of the Hon Mr Hislop from the Ministry.