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An important decision affecting the liberty of the Press was recency delivered by a full Bench of -Judges in Melbourne. The judgment is in remarkable contrast with the special prerogatives which have been claimed by New Zealand judges, whidhyhave bo seriously afflicted the mind' trf th*e irascible Mr. Barton, with whom it has became as all absorbing as r " King Charles' head" was to the man in Dickon's novel. The plaintiffs in the action Daily Telegraph Company v. Berry made an application to the Court to attach Messrs. jDavid and Joseph Syme, proprietors of the Age newspapers for contempt .of Court in certain , comments upon one of its former judgments in the case. The Court refused the rule nisi. Their Honors recognised the proposition -that a fair and candid criticism of the judgment of a Court 'of justice, and even a sevflre attack on one of* its members, would hot constitute a contempt of Court so as to. justify its interference by a summary -process for attachment. Judges, like other public administrators, were open to criticism. If they were unfairly criticised, and their office was not properly respected, it showed a low ebb of public morality, for which there must be some other remedy besides criminal prosecutions. Healthful and straightforward comments in the Press, said one of the learned judges, tended to strengthen and assist the court of law, and he was always glad to see them ; whilst another said he was prepared to pay the greatest respect and deference to public criticism, although he would despise a personal attack. This rule, however, it was pointed out, was subject to the limitation that comment must not be made by public journals whilst a case was pending with the object of influencing judges and jurors in its determination, noroouldan attempt be made to prejudice a case under the guise of an attack on judges. Where this was done the proprietors of newspapers rendeved themselves liable to penal consequence of a severe character. Applying these principles to the case under consideration, their Honors did not think that the articles and paragraphs complained of showed any signs or an attempt to prejudice the plaintiff's case in the eyes of the public. The rule was therefore refused.

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Bibliographic details

THE.LIBERTY OF THE PRESS., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume VI, Issue 911, 3 October 1879

Word Count

THE.LIBERTY OF THE PRESS. Poverty Bay Herald, Volume VI, Issue 911, 3 October 1879