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The Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 1890. MISTAKEN SEVERITY.

It is very rarely that in this colony there is occasion to find fault with the decisions o£ the Bench, indeed—in strong contrast to the frequency of that sort of thing in the Old Country —what is there yclept "Justices' justice" is in New Zealand almost a thing unknown. We gladly admit that as a rule the administration of the law by the " great unpaid" is characterised Iby intelligence, conscientious care, and merciful consideration for the offender, yet it occasionally happens— ,as it must of necessity happen, for I " humanum est errare" —that mistakes are made, sometimes on the side 'of undue leniency, and at others on that i of an unnecessary severity. One such case in the latter direction—it appears to us, was that recorded in our issue of Monday. The presiding Justice was an ex-Resident Magistrate, and the case for adjudication that of a man who came before the Court for the first time on a charge of drunkenness, supplemented by one of resisting the police in the execution of their duty— , that is to say by resisting arrest. The charges were proved, it being shown that the accused had been found sleeping off the effects of a drinking bout by the roadside, and being waked up and arrested for drunkenness, declined to submit, and the constable had to call in the assistance of another officer and handcuff the prisoner before conveying him to the lockup. Now the circumstances here detailed certainly justified, nay demanded, punishment, for one of the duties of the Bench is to protect the police in the execution of their duty, but it seems to us that the Magistrate altogether overshot the mark by imposing a fine of £'20, Avith the alternative of 3 months' hard labor. The latter was practically the sentence, inasmuch as Mr Lawlor must have known that so heavy a fine could not be paid, and was, it appears to us quite disproportionate to the offence. The prisoner, walked up suddenly as he was, almost naturally resisted, and it did not appear that th&,t resistance ,was of a vicious or dangerous sort, the constable being in no way mauled, nor his uniform damaged, and the whole case therefore differed widely from one of what we will term malevolent, resistance. Under the circumstances the Magistrate might very well have refused to give the option of a {mo and have imposed imprisonment without alternative, bub a term of 48 hours, or at most say 7 days, would it seems to us have sufficed to vindicate the law and enforce the duty of respecting the authority of the Queen's uniform, while a term of three months, hard labov—equivalent to the sentence that "would ordinarily be imposed for felony in the case of a first offender — appear,? to us to be altogether disproportionate to the offence of which the | prisoner had beau guilty, It is with considerable delicacy that we venture to impugn the wisdom of the decisions of the Bench at any time, but in this case we think it our duty to say that we are of opinion that in the instance referred to Mr Lawlor for once, fell into the error of over severity.

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18900507.2.3

Bibliographic details

The Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 1890. MISTAKEN SEVERITY., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2423, 7 May 1890

Word Count
547

The Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 1890. MISTAKEN SEVERITY. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2423, 7 May 1890

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