Chapter 160139511

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberVII
Chapter TitleA PUBLIC DUTY AND A PRIVATE QUARREL.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160139511
Full Date1880-12-25
Page Number44
Corrections0
Word Count1616
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSir Denis O'Donoghue. A Reminiscence of the English Bar
article text

CHAPTER VII.

A PUBLIC BUTT AXID A PBrrATE QUABBBL,

" At the commencement of the long vacation," continued O'Donoghue, " we returned to Mild mate Cottage, where my wife was again aur ronnded for a couple of months by the friends and associations of her childhood; bntshe did not take kindly to her former companions.

" At the closeof the Long Vacation she paid me the compliment of refusing to remain behind in the country without me; but she none the less continued her complaints when she found her self in London with me.

"I was very busy up to the beginning of the next summer, my London practiee having much increased, and so I looked forward—though no doubt more as a Londoner than as a husband—

to a few weeks' repose among the ruraliti6s of Brsgstoke after my circuit had ended. My hopes and longings, in short, oscillated like a pendulum between town and country. The Eton Latin Grammar here furnishes a quotation which I forbear to make. But the pendulum was not destined to swiBg much longer towards Mildmate Cottege. My hopes were cut off from that agreeable retreat. It was not my wife's fault. It was not my own. But the circumstances which occasioned the misfortune gave her many painful opportunities, which she did not neglect to nse, of complaining of my profession. She said she should never feel happy as a lawyer's wife. I'll tell you how it was. _

" Our most intimate acquaintances in the village were the parson and his wife, and we often spent the evening at the Parsonage with them, and sometimes they came to the Cottage to us, when the parson would smoke his pipe in the antrum, feri while his wife exchanged opinions with Mrs.O'Donoghue; but whether on religion, fashions, or jellies, I have not the least

idea.

" Well, one day a great deal of valuable plate was stolen from the rectory, and no one ex pressed her sympathy to the parson's wife more demonstratively' than did mine, and no one condoled with the parson more sincerely than I did myself.

" I attended the October Sessions as usual, and received from one attorney two briefs to defend prisoners. My client told me just as he was leaving, rather late in the evening, that one esse, the Queen against Halkett, was likely to be brought on rather early next morning, and so he commended my attention to it. After he was gone, I found to my astonishment that the defendant (* ho seemed to have previously fallen under suspicion of being connected with thieves,) was charged as the thief and also as the receiver of the very spoons and forks which were the proceeds of the robbery at the parsonage at Brsgstoke. At first I thought of getting rid of the case, but as my client had left me and I had been paid the fee, and there was no one to whom I could hand over the papers with confidence that justice would be done to the defence, I per ceived that I was bound to conduct the cas9.

Then I began to reflect that the parson would have no real cause of offence against me for dis charging a strictly professional duty under such circumstances. I, therefore, devoted myself to a study of the esse.

" The facts were very simple, though rather peculiar. Halkett kept a lodging-house in the town, of rather low repute. Since his father's death he had lived at this house with his mother, and had acted and was generally regarded as master of it, though it really belonged to his mother. After the robbery at Bragstoke the police searched the lodging-house and found the stolen silver in a basket underneath Mrs. Hal kett's bed.

" When before the Magistrates, the prisoner, by advice, said, in answer to the usual question,

* I ara innocent'

" The case did not come on as early as was expected, the bili not being found by the Grand Jury till late in the afternoon ; so, as I saw the parson in Court, I thought I would tahe that opportunity of making it all right with him. I told him that I was going to defend the prisoner, and explained to him the circum stances under which I felt compelled to do so.

" To my surprise he became flushed with anger, and 1 thought he was going to choke.

" 1 had heard that you were engaged as the apologist of this crime,' he said, ' but I waa looking forward to the trial to furnish a contra diction to the report.'

"' I am engaged to perform an ordinary pro fessional duty,' I answered, ond one which must be performed by somebody. Knowing the stolen property to be yours, I should have preferred that another person had looked after tbe defendant's interests; but, as there is no time now for me to escape from what I have under taken without prejudicing a prisoner who has confidence in me, I feel bound to do what he expects of me.'

"1 And what is it that he expects ?' said the clergj man angrily.

"'He expects, Sir,' I answered, slightly warming,' that an honest man—not to say a gentleman—who has has undertaken to see that the prisoner has a fair trial and tj urge what may be proper in his defence, will not desert that dnty at the last moment out of re gard to a person indirectly interested in the

case.'

"' Indirectly ?'

"'Yes ; it is public justice which, at the snit of the Sovereign, is vindicated here.'

'"And do you consider that, in defending a man whose guilt is manifest, you are assisting

in that vindication i"

"'If there were no defences, prosecutions would become tyrannical and innocence wonld suffer; and, as to the man's guilt being manifest, that is not a conclusion to be formed by the irresponsible opinion of yon and me, bat to be expressed by the verdict of a Jury on their oaths—an institution for whioh you may lire to be thankful yourself.'

" The parson turne4 away angry and disgusted, and evidently affected to regard me as having personally insulted him.

" The case came on. The parson was called to prove the robbery and to identify the plate. He had scarcely recovered from his anger to me, and the instant I rose to put a question to him he again became the victim of this passion. I bad really nothing to cross-examine to, but, wishing to puzzle the other side, I turned over a spoon in my band, and asked him if he was quite certain of tho identity of tbe plate. This made him furious: he said he was sorry bis ownership should be called in question, and then began to Iectnre me. The Recorder administered a reproof to him, and I sat down, saying that I wonld not irritate the witness by another question. The prosecnting counsel re examined at some length, and, pointing to a bent spoon, made tbe witness give a long history of tbe origin of the deformity.

" The police produced the basket, which was a large cloth- a-basket, and proved finding the silver in it, covered with clothes, and also that the defendant, when told of the discovery, said he knew nothing abont it. The thieves bad not been caught, but the polioe stated that the prisoner's lodgiDg-bonse was frequented by bad characters. This I improved a little so as to tell in my client's favour. They also stated that the defendant occupied the home, which, upon croBs-examination, turned ont to mean that

he lived there.

" Then came the landlord of the house, who said the prisoner paid him the rent for it every quarter, and had done so ever since his

father's death. It tarced oat, however, that th» witness seventeen years ago had leased the house to the prisoner's father for twenty-one years and that the lease was still subsisting. Then came the rate-collector, who said tha prisoner always paid the rates; I asked him for the rate-book, bnt he had not got it, for he had not been told it wonld be wanted.

"This closed the ease for the prosecution, and I tock the objection that as there was.no attempt to show that the lease of the house was vested in the prisoner by assignment or as exe cutor or administrator of his father, nor even that the prisoner was rated in respect of it, the presumption was that he paid the rent and the rates only as the agent of his mother, who would be the proper person to administer in case of intestacy, and would probably also be the owner if there had been a will; and that the occupa tion of the house having fallen to the gronnd, the fact of the stolen property being found in a part of the house over whioh the prisoner would, naturally have no control, raised a presumption of innocence rather than of guilt. And so I submitted there was no case to go to the. Jury.

"The Recorder ruled accordingly, and the prisoner was discharged.

"The real tenant, and the person aotually rated, was the mother herself; but we avoided criminating her.

" Well, the parson never spoke to me again— though he spoke of me in a way which, if I had chosen to notice his remarks, might have made him more practically acquainted with the province of a Jury than he seemed to be—and, of course, his wife never again held sweet converse with mine at Mildmate Cottage."