TOWN CLERK'S FOUR "SPOTS"
New Brighton Official Acquitted of Being Drunk While Motoring Home From Trots PROMINENT MEN SUPPORT HIS STORY (From "N.Z. Truth's" Special Christchurch Representative.) «iiiiiiiH!iiiiiiiiiiMimmiiiniiiiniiiiiiim!miiiiiiiiii!iiiii!n | ;:: Something of a sensation was occasioned m Christchurch business and social circles when it became j | known that a previously unknown "public official/ who had allegedly been drunk while driving his car home | | from the New Brighton trots, and had been arrested was none other than Clarence Tyrell Middleton, Town | | Clerk of New Brighton. § | Following Middleton's arrest, at a time when he was accompanied by the well-known sportsman and ' j | ex-Mayor of New Brighton, Captain A. W. Owles, the charge was thrashed out m the Magistrate's Court arid 1 j the Town Clerk acquitted of the allegation. j | Several police witnesses declared Middleton was intoxicated, but Dr. W. F. Browne testified to his | 1 sobriety when he saw him m the cells about an hour later. Middleton emphatically denied being intoxicated. j
WHEN the police charged Middleton before Mr. E. D. Mosley, S.M., the town clerk admitted he had taken four drinks at the races, but declared emphatically that he was not intoxicated. Many prominent sportsmen and business people gave evidence m favor of Middleton. Mr. F. D. Sargent .appeared for Middleton, and the case for the police was handled by Sergeant Kelly, the hearing occupying over four hours; The first police witness' was TrafficInspector Caldwell, who was watch- | ing the race tr.affic that day, and he told the court that a tram conductor drew his attention to the. trouble being caused by Middleton's car. "There was a traffic- jam, and accused wa^ .trying to start his car with the starting handle,", said the traffic officer. Middleton, m his opinion, was intoxicated, and staggered when he walked. He also declared that he had trouble m getting the, town clerk into the back seat, because he had tried to climb over the door. "I would still say he was not ' m a fit state to drive a car," returned the officer when Mr. Sargent said that four men would say that Middleton was sober. Constable who conducted Middleton to the police, station, described how he found the town clerk when he inquired into the trouble. . ' Sergeant Kelly: Was he still intoxicated when he got to the police station ? — Yes. V Mr. Sargent: Do you know Middleton has a curious, ambling walk? — , Nr>, I do not. When asked "■, what he thought of Middleton's condition when he saw: him at the police station, Sergeant Wolfindaie declared the town clerk was intoxicated. "Dr. W. P. Browne arrived -about 6.20 p.m. and he -.asked accused if he had had-anything v tb' ; dhrikv -Accused' said he had had four wliigkies," added the sergeant. v ' The witness went on to say that he saw the doctor test /Middleton for si|jns of ' intoxication, -making him close his eyes, and place his heels and toes together, and when this.vW.as i done Middleton swayed slightly backwards. "The doctor asked him who the other occupants of the car were; he described his male friend, but could not say if there had been two females ■:■■*'
m the car. lam satisfied he was intoxicated, and was not m a fit state to drive a car," concluded the sergeant. Mr. Sargent: You say he ;• couldn't say who his female . friends were? — He- may. have told v the doctor, but I didn't hear him. Then yoii were not there all the time? — I wasn't actually- in the cells all the time, but I was m the doorway. f "He went through the back door and staggered all over the place," was the description of Middleton's arrival at the police station given by. the constable who had' taken him there. "His speech was thick; and he was excited. He A asked r to see Dr. Browne and the doctor arrived at 6.20 p.m." | Middleton's counsel also put Constable Malloy, a further witness for the prosecution, through a thorough cross-examination. "Where were . you when the defendant was m the cell?" he asked. Constable: I was outside. Where was the sergeant ? — He was m the cell some of the time, then he was at the door. Would you say Middleton was drunk? — He was staggering about. After similar evidence had been given by Constable McCormick, the last police witness, Mr. Sargent opened his defence.. "I feel a considerable amount of responsibility m defending this case," counsel • told the bench. • "Defendant holds an important public position, and he has been held m great respect m the place where- he has lived for a great number of years. "This is a most serious matter for the defendant. If he is convicted he will probably have to resign his position. If your Worship has some doubt about the matter, 1 defendant should have • the benefit of that doubt." ' Mr.. Sargent put Dr. W. F. Browne In the box, asking him to explain the tests he had put Middleton through at the police station to discover whether he was intoxicated or not. The doctor's evidence threw some light on the method adopted, and which, he explained, had the sanction of the British Medical Association. Regarding the . memory test, the doctor stated that he could find no fault with Middleton,. as his memory was good. > "He was able to tell me what had happened from the time he left his office until he was locked up. The only. thing he could, not. remember was the name of one of the passengers m his car, but he remembered that later," said witness. Neither did the doctor have any fault to find with the reaction of the town clerk to the
balance test to which he was also subjected. In this test, Dr. Browne explained, the man was made to stand with, heels and toes together and with eyes shut, and when he was in' this position he was pushed off his balance. * "A man under; the influence of liquor would stagger all over the room Until he stopped against a wall," he said, "but Middleton had shown no sign of intoxication at all." Asked by Sergeant Kelly if the fact that he had not seen Middleton until ! about an hour after his arrest might account for him showing little or no sign of inebriation, Dr. Browne replied that if he ,: had taken- sufficient alcohol to affect the nerve centres he
would not; be all right for three or four hours;; y. . ;., vVv • -His Wolilup': If you saw a man endeavoring to get m; his car by climbing over the door, wouldn't you think there was -X- something wrong with him? ■'•■■..'•'-' •■..'■• ' '■'• ■ Dr. Browne; Not necessarily* it may have been a hard door to open! The first of a lengthy list of witnesses who declared they had seen the clerk at the New Brighton ,trots, and that he was then sober, was George Spencer Cowper, clerk of the Waimairi County Council. "I saw Middleton several times that day, and I spoke to him just before he left the course with Captain Owles,'.' Cowper told the court. . A\ "It was' between the seventh 1 - and the eighth race. I passed some remark such as, 'You are leaving early,' and he replied that it was too cold' to wait any longer." Mr. Sargent: Was he sober then? — Absolutely! • \ Sergeant. Kelly:. How do youfix the time you saw him?— lt was after the second to last race. Vf Counsel called Middleton' himself, and the town, clerk, a well-built man, fifty-nine years of age, stepped into the box tp tell his own story. It was a* complete /denial of the allegations of drunkenness. Mr. Sargent: Are you a teetotaller? -VNo. ■ v ■ " ■■■'■■.'■'..' Do you drink much?— No. .; v "I've had considerable trouble with my car," commenced Middleton. "It has been m the garage for five or six days. I had the petrol supply cut down, and the car was inclined to j stall. I have also had trouble with the self -starter. "The function m , connection with the toast to Captain Owles took only a few minutes. There was, a toast, and I had a whisky and ginger ale." Middleton admitted that he had had four drinks m all that afternoon. ' Counsel: About what time did you have the last drink ? — Just about the fifth race.
When did you see Mr. Cowper? — | As we were leaving to go to the car. What was your state of. sobriety when you got into the street ? — "I would like to mention," Middleton interrupted, "that my car was parked a long way away, and I went there and got it from out of hundreds of cars and brought it opposite the stewards' stand." Mr. Sargent: And that is where you picked Captain Owles up ? — Yes. We went through the gates m low gear, and about three chains further along I got into a jam. The traffic was exceedingly slow, and the engine stopped. - - . - -■ ■ y . I "I saw the inspector waving to me to come on,',' continued Middleton. "I I got out and cranked her several times. The inspector came down and told me to get on. He said I was not fit to drive a car. t . "I spoke sharply to him, and he went back and beckoned a policeman, and the next thing I knew I>was pulled from the, -front seat." Mr. Sargent: What did you do when you got to the police station ?— Well, at first I walked up and down to' keep warm, then I became tired and sat down with my head m my hands. Sergeant- Kelly: .You say the con-
stable pulled you out of the front seat and pushed you into, the back seat ? — Yes. Didn't you walk? — I swear emphatically I did riot. Did you try to get oyer the, door of the car? — No; he pushed me over it. Other witnesses say you walked? — . I don't care if twenty witnesses say so! . ! . Do you know who started the car? —I know I helped to start it m this way: I cranked it, and the constable only had to put his foot on the self- j starter. ■> " | Do you remember when you had the last whisky ?— Yes, just before the fifth race. . .<» Asked by Sergeant Kelly when his belongings had been returned to him by the police when he was bailed out by Captain Owles, Middleton replied that he did not know. "Now then, Mr. Middleton," demanded the sergeant, "you have been m the police force, haven't you?" "I was m the police," the town clerk admitted, 1 "and I was jolly glad to get out of it!" The Magistrate: And do you say that all these men have perjured themselves? — I don't say that. I say they have made a grievous mistake. "How long have you been m public life?'* asked Mr. Mosley when Middleton said he had spoken sharply to the traffic officer. "About- twenty years," was the clerk's reply. Mr. Mosley: And hasn't that taught you the best way to get on is to speak civilly? "Suppose," continued the magistrate, "that I came into, your office and spoke to you as you spoke to that man, the traffic inspector, what would happen ? "xou would say, 'Well, Mr. So-and-so, I'm only doing my duty." Middleton: Unfortunately, your Worship, I'm very quick tempered. Questioning the town clerk again later, iri regard to his allegation that he w:as pulled from his car by the constable, the magistrate, asked, "Were you sitting behind the steering wheel?" Middleton: Yes. The Magistrate : What was the first thing the constable did? — He pulled me out. How did, he pull you out? — Well, he got me out, your Worship! ; X \ Would you mind me asking your weight; are you 14 stone? —No, I'm only 12 stone 10. "I" cannot imagine why these men, who say they don't know you, should perjure themselves," his Worship commented. "Two constables saw you going from the motor-car tb the police station, and both said you were staggering; one had to take you by the arm; is that true?"
Middleton: I wouldn't like to say that, your Worship. Referring to the corroboration m the police evidence, Mr. Mosley remarked that all the witnesses had been ordered out of court and they swore they had not discussed the evidence with each other. "Why did the doctor say I was sober?" Middleton wanted to know. Mr. Mosley pointed out that the doctor had seen him some time after he had been seen by the police wit-, nesses. y ' The magistrate -referred again to the allegation that Middleton had climbed over the door of his car, and asked the town clerk if there was a possibility of a mistake on his part. "Do you think you may have tried to get over the door?" he queried. "No," replied Middleton firmly. "As I said before, he tried to push me over it." The president of the New Brighton Trotting Club, William Franks, followed Middleton into the witness-box, and told the court that he had had a drink with Middleton about 4 o'clock on tlie afternoon of the races. "He, was quite sober," said Franks. Mr. Sargent: .You have known Middleton for some time; do you know if he has a peculiar walk? —He doesn't walk too straight. Sergeant Kelly: You wpuldn't say he staggered, would you?— Oh, no. . Counsel: Would you say he had a rolling gait? — Yes. "I saw Middleton just before the last race,"-- said John' McCreanor, a storekeeper at New Brighton, the next witness for the defence, "and he was quite sober." * A motor engineer, William Gordon O'Neil, told the court that he had attended to Middleton's car. The petrol supply had been cut down, and the car was hard to start. Mr. Sargent: Did you notice anything about the side door? — I know it was very hard to open. A further witness for the defence was Bernard John McKenna, an official of the New Brighton Trotting Club. . He declared that he saw Middleton just as he. was leaving the course. "He was going down from the stand, and I said 'goodbye' to him."
Counsel: Was he sober? — Yes; I shouldn't tiave thoiight he had had a drink. To Sergeant* Kelly, the witness said the races were somewhat behind time, and it might have been 4.40 p.m. when he saw him.Middleton's friend and companion at the New Brighton races, Captain Alfred William Owles, was the next to. enter the witness-box. Mr. Sargent: How old are you, Captain Owles? — Eighty-three. And you are a little bit shaky now ? — Oh, yes. Middleton, declared the captain, was "absolutely correct" and "as right as a bank," when he drove him from the course. "I don't know any more about a car than that chair," said Captain Owles, pointing to the piece of Government furniture, "but we were going very slowly, and the car stopped. He got out and did something to the front of the car, and then a constable came up." ' Mr. Sargent: Did you see what happened then? — Yes, the constable hauled him out of the car. Sergeant Kelly: You were sitting alongside Mr. Middleton? — Yes. Did you see the traffic inspector? — No, the side-curtains were up. How long was the car stopped there?— Oh, I -'-'don't ; know, but it wouldn't be long! -■■.'- His Worship: .Did you notice anything peculiar m the way he drove? —No. He drove very slowly; m fact,
I I I think it was because he was driving so slowly that the car stopped. ...'•' The evidence- of Frederick Kibblewhite, an ex-Mayor of New Brighton, was brief. To Mr. Sargent, he said he had seen Middleton on the afternoon he was arrested, and he could detect nothing wrong with him. v The case for the defence concluded, Mr. Sargent had nothing more to say, and the magistrate made a lengthy summing up before dismissing the information. "This case has had some curious developments," commented the bench. "The only thing to be said as regards the evidence for the defence is that the witnesses are all , friends or acquaintances of the defendant — but I think they are all men enough not to deliberately color their evidence. ' "It appears to me that defendant has got himself to blame through his manner more than anything else. I think his manner was his undoing. ' "Probably there are certain factors m the -life of defendant, well known to myself, and those factors might have made a number of men more irritable. "It appears to me that a mistake has been made somewhere. lam not at all satisfied that defendant was m .a state of intoxication when driving the car." The magistrate dismissed the charge with the remark that it was too grave a one^to convict defendant on m the face of the. evidence produced.
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