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DEFENCE EVIDENCE DENIAL OF MALICE Evidence on behalf of the defendant was heard to-day when the libel action in which Lawrence Joseph Keenan, fireman (Mr. Haigh and Mr. A. K. Turner), is claiming £650 damages from the Auckland Harbour Board (Mr. Hamer), was resumed in the Supreme Court before Mr. Justice Callan and a jury. Plaintiff alleged that the board's engineer, Drummond Holderness, had falsely and maliciously written in a letter to the district manpower officer at Auckland that plaintiff was guilty of serious misconduct amounting to sabotage while a fireman engaged in one of the board's suction dredges, and that an officer of the board, Norman A. Taylor, had made a statement to the same effect to a union secretary. He claimed £525 in respect to the letter and £125 in respect to it he verbal statement. The defence denied publication and malice and claimed privilege under the war emergency regulations. John Singleton Melville, engineer in charge of the suction dredge, said the dredge had been held' up quite often on account of Keepan's absence. He had at times to speak to Keenan for having low pressure in his boiler. Witness had trouble with the engines on Friday, January 19. The following Monday there was more trouble and he removed sand and shell from an oil cup. Keenan watched him remove the grit. He considered Keenan was responsible because of the trouble he had caused and because of an. anonymous letter sent from the dredge to the Marine Department. Witness told Mr. Holderness that he suspected Keenan. Chief Clerk's Evidence Arthur Norman Taylor, chief clerk in the Harbour Board superintendent's department, denied having said Keenan was a nuisance and always causing trouble. When Mr. Melville showed witness the sand and shell taken from the oil cups he at once took him to Mr. Holderness, who questioned Mr. Melville thoroughly. Mr. Holderness afterwards dictated to witness a letter to the manpower officer. When witness was being asked about his statements about Keenan, his Honor interjected that no matter how much witness disliked Keenan, that dislike did not make what he said a malicious publication when he had to answer Ashton's inquiry as to the cause for Keenan's suspension. Mr. Haigh: Do you still believe the charges are true?— Yes. Witness said that before January 22 the engineer was not satisfied with the progress of the work by tha dredge, but did not suspect sabotage. An Anonymous Letter At this stage Mr. Hamer intimated that he proposed calling evidence on an anonymous letter mentioned by the witness Melville, and which had not previously been mentioned, and with the Court's consent, he called Lionel Stanhope Dawson, senior inspector of machinery in the Marine Department. Witness said some months ago he received an anonymous letter concerning the boilers on the suction dredge. He had not the letter, which had been committed to the waste-paper basket. It was not signed but ended, "I am only a greaser." Mr. Turner objected to any statement about the contents of a letter which was not produced. Mr. Hamer said he proposed to go into the authorship of the letter to prove by an expert in handwriting who saw the letter and compared the writing with another piece of handwriting. His Honor ruled against this, and the matter of the letter was not carried further.

Drummond Holderness, engineer and superintendent for the defendant board, testified to the vital nature of the work being done by the drfcdge. At this stage the hearing . was interrupted by the announcement of the peace decision and the clamour of sirens, bells and whistles. His Honor commented that it was hopeless in the circumstances to try to concentrate, and he adjourned the hearing till Friday morning.

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Bibliographic details

ALLEGED LIBEL, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 192, 15 August 1945

Word Count

ALLEGED LIBEL Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 192, 15 August 1945

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