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- Llandrillo and Eirias United…

Libel Action Against a Welsh…


Libel Action Against a Welsh Newspaper. Ex-Quarry Official Awarded £ 120 Damages and Costs. AT the Carnarvonshire Assizes on Monday, Richard Owen Williams, Gerlan, Bethesda, brought an action against Mr Frederick Cople- stone, of Chester, and others, to recover dama- ges for a series of alleged libels published in the "Herald Cymraeg" at Carnarvon. Mr Bryn Roberts, M.P. (instructed by Mr Twigge Ellis), appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr S. Moss, M.P. (instructed by Messrs Sharpe and Davison, Chester), was for the defendants. It was stated that the plaintiff was formerly an overlooker at the Penrhyn Quarries, but was now without any occupation. The defendants wer6 Mr F. Coplestone and Mr Daniel Rees, proprietor and editor respectively of the "Her- ald Cymraeg," and a man named John Jones, who turned out to be the author of the alleged libels which appeared on dates extending from the 29th May, 1900, to 1st February, 1901. Counsel explained that, as overlooker, the plaintiff had a certain district in the quarry as- signed to him, and it was a part of his duty to take measurements of the bargains. On the 29th May an article appeared in the "Herald" above an assumed name, and in it the writer said: "Bribing has been the curse of our quarry, but it is fairly good now, though the measuring- tape is still entrusted to very incompetent hands. We saw in writings once that it was by means of earnings that some people have been appointed stewards in the deacons' pew, like Judas among the disciples." Counsel here said that it was admitted by the defence that the passage re- ferred to by the plaintiff, and there could be no doubt that it was libellous. The only question was what were fair and proper damages. An effort had been made to ruin the defendant in his occupation. Some 18 years ago the plaintiff was the subject of a libel in another paper, and he then accepted an apology to sèttle the ac- tion, and this was what the author of the present libels meant by "other writings." On the 16th October, 1900, another contribution appeared, in which it was pointed out that overlookers at the Penrhyn Quarries were "wholly unfit for the position," and allusions were made to overlook- ers having obtained their situations by present- ing the daughter of the chief manager with jew- els, by treachery and flattery, by proposing the steward for local- boards, and by sittinlg in the same chapel as the chief manager. A third ar- ticle appeared on October 30, and on the 1St December, 1900, another appeared in the form of a rhyme in "Papur Pawb," a paper published by the same defendants, who owned and edited the "Herald Cymraeg." Counsel; continuing, said that in these alleged libellous lines someone was referred to as "Ish- mael," counsel explaining that it was a nick- name for the chief manager at the quarry. (Laughter.) Counsel added that the defendants claimed that they were not moved by malice, that they had not been guilty of gross negligence, and that they had inserted an apology as soon as their attention had been called to the matter. John Jones was a man of straw. The defend- ants had, therefore, permitted their newspaper to be used for the purposes of this libel by a man of straw. The plaintiff was then called. He said he had been an official at the Penrhyn Quarries for 20 years. He was a. deacon at Gerlan Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. There was no other official of the quarry a deacon at the chapel. He em- phatically denied that there had ever been even the slightest ground for the suggestion that he had done the things imputed in the libel. Cr,oss-exam-ih,ed He had in the first instance asked for an apology and the payment of costs. The apology was only inserted after the serving of the writ. Mr Moss, addressing the court for the defence, said that whatever the libel complained of might be, they were undoubtedly silly and stupid, put- ting them at their very worst. It was perfectly clear that the plaintiff had suffered nothing in reputation. It would take something very much more than those doggerel verses to damage the reputation of any man who had a reputation to lose. No one regretted the appearance of the letters more than the editor and the proprietor of the paper. They had given up the name of the writer they offered to insert an apology, and were prepared to pay the plaintiff's costs. The appearance of the apology was delayed be- cause Mr Twigge Ellis had written asking them not to insert any explanation without first sub- mitting it to the plaintiff, through his solicitor. The jury awarded the plaintiff £ 120 damages, with costs, including Z20 already paid into court.


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