Worst Village – 3. Defendant’s Summing Up

May 1900

Mexborough and Swinton Times May 11th 1900

Defendants Summary

Mr Robson addressed the jury for the defendants.

He remark that at the opening of the case counsel for the plaintiff had taken occasion to impress on the minds of the jury that there have been previous litigation between the parties. That he was entitled to do, but that having been done. It was right that the jury should look at both sides, and ask themselves whetherMr Pope on all occasionshad been of a peculiar nature.

The chairman of a little railway depended on a larger Railway not infrequently got into controversies with the larger Railway. Mr J.S. Forbes was chairman of the Hull and Barnsley Railway, which was in this instance the larger Railway, and between him and Mr Pope, as representative of the South Yorkshire line, there seem to have been very lively times. Of course the disputes are matters of very considerable interest to everybody in the district served by these Railways.

Circulars were sent out from time to time by contending parties. One such circular emanated from the Denaby Main Colliery Company and Mr Forbes described the authors of that circular at a shareholders meeting our sanguinary liars. Was responsible for that circular? Mr Pope and now admitted in the witness box that he was responsible; that he assisted in drafting, in writing, in settling its terms. At the meeting at which Mr Forbes got? Other circulars were also discussed, and the reporter of the “Eastern Morning News,” to distinguish this one circular from the others, referred to it as “Mr Pope’s circular.”

That was the sole libel. Now they had Mr Pope´s admission that that was a substantially accurate statement. Mark what followed. If he had desired to complain of the statement that the circular was a tissue of sanguinary lies, who should he have sued? Mr Forbes. Why did he not sue him ? Mr Forbes would have justified his action. He was not a man afraid of litigation. Mr Pope , no action against the man who said, in effect that he was a sanguinary liar. He left that man alone. Instead he charged this newspaper with having falsely ascribed the circular to him. Mr Pope was a man of position, a barrister; he instructed Counsel, and knowing that the statement that he was responsible for this circular, was substantially true he allowed it to be put before the jury as a false libel; and asked them for money because he had been libelled. He must have heard the judges summing up, and knowing that the judge proceeded on a false basis, knowing that the jury were being greatly misled, he sat in court awaiting damages from the jury. Mr Pope himself did not go into the witness box. If he had, he would never have got te £100 damages that the jury awarded him. He admitted that he had been asked to repudiate the statement that he was the author of the circular, and he did not deny that it was his authorship. Could the jury wonder that comment should have been made upon is not going into the witness box?

Later, on November 8, 1899, an article, which counsel admitted was drawn in high colours, appeared in the “Christian Budget” purporting to describe the conditions of life in Denaby village. It might be suppose that there would be at once an attack on the “Christian Budget.” A couple of weeks passed. Still nothing was done; and the “Westminster Gazette” thought they could make short extracts from this article. They published two extracts from it. In the columns of the “Westminster Gazette” the defendant’s all these extra, and they republished them with the observation:

“Mr Buckingham Pope my devolve some of the leisure moment which he can spare the task of instructing the Hull and Barnsley Railway Company into the way it should go, the more pressing work of promoting reforms nearer home.” That was all. That was the libel. Was it malicious, wicked? It did not say he was responsible. Nobody reading it would infer from the words you that his responsibility extended to anything more than the corporate responsibility of the chairman of any large company for the acts of this company.

A council then read the first brief apology inserted by the defendant, to the effect that the article from the “Christian Budget,” reprinted by them, was a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

The moment the doctor, the rector, the schoolmaster and the responsible persons in the village wrote to the “Westminster Gazette” denying the truth of the implications on the village, and that journal published a retraction, defendants republished it, without any dictation or invitation. Was that like malice?

But that did not satisfy Mr Buckingham Pope´s appetite for apologies. Defendant printed a third apology. They said “Since the name of the chairman of the Denaby Main and Cadeby Colliery Company was mentioned in connection with this matter, we also tender our apologies to that gentleman.” No action was brought against these other papers.

Mr Bankes: that is not correct, actions were commenced

Mr Justice Grantham: that does not matter

Mr Robson said that as far as the village of Denaby was concern, it had been whitewashed plastered, smothered with apologies, and so had Mr Buckingham Pope. None of these sufficed. Mr Pope now wanted more damages. He thought the defendants were entitled to say that having already apologised to Mr Pope beyond his many – and his own admission – and beyond h is right, they could not justify, and did not justify, those remarks, the case was one in which they had already overpaid him what they have paid into court and in what he had received as damages in the previous action: that he had made out. No title to further damages, and that the verdict of the jury should be for the defendants.