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THE WARD-CHRISTIE CHARGES., Issue 7963, 19 July 1889
THE WARD-CHRISTIE CHARGES.
EXTRAORDINARY REVELATIONS ANTICIPATED. VERY WARM CORRESPONDENCE. [From Oub Pabliamentart. Reporter.] WELLINGTON, JutT 19. There is now before the Public Petitions Committee a further petition, lodged by William Christie, of Oamaru, praying for the removal frem that district of Judge Ward in the inteiestsof the due administration of justice. The task that the Committee will have is to practically inquire into His Honor's judicial conduct. Their report is looked forward to with a very considerable degree of interest. Of course the proceeding] of a Select Committee are presumed to be conducted in camera, and therefore it is difficult to learn what is going on at their meetings. I understand, however, that voluminous correspondence in connection with the case of Christie, who was sentenced by Judge Ward under the penal clauses of the Bankruptcy Act to four months' imprisonment, was submitted for the Committee's consideration, and that the reading of it alone occupied an hour and a-balf. It is stated that immediately on Christie's conviction a petition for his release was signed in Oamaru and forwarded to the Hon. Mr Hislop, the Minister then in Oamaru, for transmission to the Minister of Justice, and a copy of this petition was forwarded to District Judge Ward for his comments, this course being approved of by the Premier. After requesting His Honor to report as to the evidence on which he held that intent to defraud the Colonial and Investment Agency Company was proved, Mr Hislop mentions that a statement had been made that Judge Ward was largely indebted to the prosecuting company. To this was added a request that he would state to the Minister of Justice whether there was any truth in the report. Judge Ward accordingly forwarded to the Minuter of Justice his grounds for convicting, and explained that he purposely abstaintd from commenting on the Colonial Secretary's letter, because the evidence in the bankruptcy pcoceedings showed that Christie had long been a client of Messrs Hislop and Creagh. This called forth an immediate reply from the Minister of Justice to the effect that Mr Hislop had not acted in this matter in any other capacity than that of a Minister of the Crown, and that the caEe so f ar as it had gone disclosed nothing more as regarded relations existing between Messrs Hislop and Christie than, w&b already known, -bo tike Government.
According to the information at my disposal the next stage brings us to the most material part of the correspondence viz., a letter written by Judge Ward to Mr Fergus marked "private on the envelope, acd commencing "My dear sir," in which the writer denies Mr Hislop's right to question his indebtedness to the Colonial Investment Company, whether he 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 in question. In acknowledging this comminication, I bear that the Minister of Justice pointed out that, as in the matter of the petition to the Governor praying for a free pardon for Christie he had to act in a quasi-judicial rapacity, Judge Ward had no right to address him save as in an official character, and he resented the Judge'B attempts to jeopardise him by dealing with matters outside of the charge upon which the conviction was made.
Judge Ward in his next letter bitterly complains of the interference of Mr Bislop, whom he still treats as Christie's solicitor, and points out that as his letter marked "private" was written some time after Christie's release, the imputation that it web penned with an endeavor to bias the Minister of Juitioe's decision was unfounded. While not disputing his indebtedness to the prosecuting company, he denied that any tuch indebtedness on liib part could have had tha faintest influence on the decision he arrived at, nor did he believe it would have the slightest effect on any other judicial officers in the colony if placed in the came position He also disputes the right of the Minister of Justica to demand from any Judge an acccuat of the private relations existing between him and any suitor or creditor appearing in his Court. Mr Fergus dissented entirely from this position, and remarked with some severity that if a Judge does not perceive the obvious impropriety of adjudicating between persons to one or other of whom he is under pecuniary obligations It becomes the duty of the Minister of Justice, in the interests of the public, to intervene. Be adds that "it is with gnat regret that I have to inform an officer of your (Judge Ward's) lengthened experience that your views on this tabject meet with the graveßt disapproval of tha Government."
Judge Ward makes answer that, notwithstanding this grave disapproval of Mr Fergus and Mr Hiflop, he adheres to his denial of the. right of uhe Minister of Justice to demand from any Judge an account of the private relations exiatirg between him and any suitor or creditor, expresses no wonder that the Minister of Justice and Mr Hislop contend for the exercise of a private inquisition. He further says that Mr Fergus in so doing completely misunderstands hisipoßition as Minister of Justice. Judge Ward then remarks (so I heat), with considerable asperity, that "if, whenever a client of a Cabinet Minister is sentenced to imprisonment, such Cabinet Minister is to be permitted forthwith to tiansform himself into a Minister of Justice and to intervene after Mr Hislop's fashion with the Judge who convicted his client, such a course would simplybe the destruction of the independence of the Bench, and would be an entirety new development in constitutional government." It is further whispered that attached to the correspondence is a lengthy Ministerial memo, by Mr Hislop, inwhichheeompletely meets Judge Watd's accusations as to his acting in Christie's interest, and comments trenchantly on the obvious impropriety of a judge Bitting under the, circumstancesmentionedaswellasof his addressing a privateletter of the kind of Judge Ward ft to the Minister of Justice. Then, with cutting irony, Mr Hislop proceeds to paint out how different is the piinciple by which Judga Ward regulates his own conduct from what he expected of the late Mr Justice Chapman, of whose case he wished to define the rule as to telf-inte-rest to such an extent as to urge as evidence of his being likely to be biassed by the fact that he happened to have been godfather of the child of one of the suitors, and that, therefore, he ought not to tit in the case. Mr Hislop says that whatever may be the needful action to take, no officer should be allowed to permit the administration of justice to como under suspicion by sitting; in a case where he may be liable to be swayed by considerations personal to himself, nor to aidrecs a Minister in a judicial matter by a private letter, and attempting to prejudice his mind by referring to matters outside the charge. The toleration of conduct (the Colonial Secretary goes on to remark) in variance with these principles must strike at the root of judicial purity. Your. readers will understand from the above, which is but a mere tithe of the correspondence under consideration, what a pretty " kettle of 'fish V a complete perusal of it will disclose. I am assured tnat when papers a v e laid on the table next week they will create a sensation far more startling in its effects than that occasioned by the production of the Atkinson-Fisher correspondence. '"
One of two convictions, it is ssserted, seems inevitable— either that Judge Ward ought to be instantly removed from the Bench, or that Mr Hislop's retirement .from the Ministry is called for.
THE WARD-CHRISTIE CHARGES., Issue 7963, 19 July 1889
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