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-------..-SPEECHES BY MR.…





A COLWYN BAY SLANDER CASE. JUDGMENT FOR DEFENDANT WITH COSTS. AT the Chester Assizes, on Tuesday, before Mr. Justice Lawrence, and a Jury, Mr. John Porter, chairman of the Directors of the Colwyn Bay Gas Company, the Rev. W. Venables Williams, an- other director, and vicar of Llandrillo yn Khos, and others, sued Mr. William Davies, builder, a member of the Colwyn Bay and Colwyn Urban District Council, for damages for slander. Mr. E. H. Lloyd (instructed by Messrs Cun- liffe and Davenport, Conway), appeared for the plaintiffs and Mr, Samuel Moss and Mr. Trevor Lloyd (instructed by Messrs. D. Jones & Roberts, Llarirwst), defended. The defendant denied uttering .the words com- plained of, or, if he did, pleaded it was a privi leged occasion, and he uttered them without malice, and in the honest belief that th?v were true. Mr. E. H. Lloyd, in his opening, said the case arose out of some breezy scenes at the meetings of the Colwyn Bay District Council, of which both the plaintiffs and fche defendant were members. The defendant hacf, taken, apparently, a violent dislike to the Gits Company and its directors, which had been of some years' standing. As long ago as 1890, when he had some property connected with the gas mains, he was dissatisfied with the way in which' the work was carried out by the company's plumber, complained bitterly about what he called the outrageous charges, and even- tually rushed into a newspaper correspondence. From that time he seemed to have entertained a feeling antagouistic to the Ga.s Company, and showed it by having, on every possible oceanic; a shot at the directors who happened to be members of the District Council. On the 10th Deofcinbc-r, 1895, he made a great scene at a Council meeting, speaking of the directors who were present as gae- mongers and blood suckers. He further declared that the directors attended the meeting as spies, and that they had tasted the bread and butter of many a widow of Colwyn Bay in their dividend. Upon that occasion his language was such that the chairman asked him to refrain from making objectionable personal remarks, but he repeated that the directors were bloodsuckers and turning round to the gentlemen of the press raid:- I Now put that down.' At another meeting of ,-the Council, on January 14th, 1896, the defendant again attacked the directors right and left, finish- ing up by saying You can ,ee the directors- how they are diluting the meeting.' The defen- dant was not very familiar with the English lan- guage; and what he meant was evidently 'delud- ing the rneetitig. At a special meeting, on the 21st oi January, the Council discussed the advisa- bility of purchasing the Gasworks, the Gas Company being willing to refer the matter to arbitration. The defendant strongly opposed the proposal; and said in the presence of the reporters that the Directors of the Gas Company had issued 'fallecious' (meaning fallacious) reports. This statement created a sensation, and the business of the meeting was for a time suspend ad. Subse- quently, on receiving a letter from Messrs. Cun- liffe and Davenport, asking for a withdrawal and apology, the defendant' denied using the words complained of; but declared that n thyeat of the Gas Company would prevent him from doing his duty to the ratepayers so long as he had their confidence. It was a 'vile lie and only malice and spite.' Mr. John Porter, in his evidence, said the public attended the District Council meetings in good numbers when a breese was expected (loud laughter). In cross-examination, he admitted that they had breezes perhaps too often. When Mr. Davies' proposal as to gas testers was intro- duced, some amount of chaff was indulged in. The Rev. W. Venables Williams moved that Mr. Davies should be appointed gas tester till the 1st of April; and the defendant fin reply, said he would hold it till the 1st of April, and then give it up to Mr. Venables Williams (laughter). Re thought the price of gas had been reduced since the defendant became a member of the Council. The present price was 4s. 2d. for illaminatin-^ purposes, and 8s. 41. for heating. Immediately after the discussion as to the purchase of the gas- works Mr. Blood, who opposed the proposal, was returned by the ratepayers at the head of the poll, with Mr. Daviea next. John Humphreys and Ernest Winter, two re- porters, gave evidence as to the defendant's utte- rance of the alleged libellous statements. On one occasion the defendant remarked, 'You have tout ing reporters on vour aide.' Evidence having also been given by George Bevan,fa member of the District Council, and H. J. Linekar, secretary to the Gas Company. Mr. Samuel Moss, for the defence, submitted 0" that the occasion was privileged, and that there was no evidence as to malice. The fact that in 1891, the defendant was angry with company's plumber, and complained that he was being over- charged—with the result that the charge was re- duced could not be construed into proof of malice. Tiie -defendant was than called, and stated that he had been a member of the Council since 1S94. When he brought forward the question of gas testers, Mr. Porter called him across the table a scamp; arid he was so interrupted that he became annoyed"and used rather strong language. The witness had. also had occasion to complain of the Gas Company cutting up the roads to lay their pipes and leaving them to be repaired at the ratp. payers' expense. He denied using the words • fallacious reports,' and said he had no malice against the directors of the Gas Company; in fact, the late chairman, Mr. Frost, had thanked him several times for the way in which he bad opened their eyes. In cross-examination, the witness said be got annoyed because the reporters were making a laughing-stock of him all 'over the country. By bloodsuckers he meant that the directors were bleeding the place—over-charging the people. Did you say there were 'touting reporters' there? I did one time. Hrid vou lost your temper then ? No; I knew them pretty well by then. Do you mean they do not report fairly what you say ? Not they. Everybody in Colwyn Bay knows that (laughter). Thomas Parry, chairman of the District Coun. cil, and an alderman of the Denbighshire County Council, said he did not hear the defendant use the words fallacious reports' and they had occa- sionally to complain of the inaccuracy of the re- porters. Cross-examined The witness had many times had to call the defendant to order for using lan- guage he did not approve of. On one occasion he turned round to the Rev. W. Venables Williams, snapped his fingers, and said, Is that your Oh ristianhy 7) (laughter). The Judge; He is excitable, like a good many Weighmen 7 The Witness Yes, la re examination the witness said he had also had to call the Be v. W. Venables Williams to order when be was joking about April Fool's Day (laughter). Before the close of the defendant's case the jury intimated that they had heard enough. They found that there was some doubt whether the de- fondant used the word ^fallacious,' and that he was not actuated by malice. The Judgre I dare say you agree with me that if-the case is to be tried at all it should be tried in the country where it arose. Why you Cheshire gentlemen should be troubled with a case that comes from Colwyn Bay I don't know. Mr. Samuel MOBS: That is what we wanted, my Lord, but we were not allowed- Judgment was then given for the defendant, with costs.


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