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Colonial Cases

Cheshire v. Campbell, 1863

[indecent assault - perjury]

Cheshire v. Campbell

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 28 November 1863


THE inevitable inference from the decision of the vice-consular court in the case of CHESHIRE versus CAMPBELL, is that the vice-consul and three assessors who composed it consider the principal witnesses for the defence - Messrs. Bowra, Hollins and Lowder - guilty of wilful and preconcerted perjury.  English judges usually instruct juries to give their verdict in accordance with the weight of evidence, and if a doubt exists, to give the benefit of it to the defendant.  In the present instance, this principle has been completely reversed.

The mass of conclusive evidence for the defence has been entirely ignored, and even the doubt which the existence of that evidence could not fail to raise, has been interpreted in favour of the prosecutrix.  No person need in future be surprised to receive a summon s to answer a charge of criminal assault, at any moment, and on its receipt may as well at once remit a fin e of $1,000 for the benefit of Her Majesty the Queen.  It will be a waste of time to defend himself against the accusation, for the principle is now laid down, that a woman's unsupported testimony is to be accepted as veracious, while the most clear and complete contradictory evidence is to be cast aside as utterly unworthy of belief.

Mrs. Cheshire's unsupported statement was so totally irreconcilable with the evidence for the defence, that unless the Court had felt firmly convinced that the latter was a tissue of falsehood, premeditated and pre-arranged, in order to screen the defendant, it could not by any known process have arrived at the decision announced.  Mrs. Cheshire distinctly swore that she left the Clarendon at half past seven in Mr. Campbell's company, that they walked directly to Kung-kwan, stayed there about ten minutes in Mr. Campbell's room, and were back at the Clarendon at ten minutes past eight.  Messrs. Hollins and Lowder on the other hand swear with equal distinctness, that Mr. Campbell left the dinner table at half past seven, that ten minutes after he left, they went up to his room, and that from twenty minutes to eight, till twenty five minutes to nine, they remained either in his room, or in that of another gentleman on the opposite side of the passage, both doors being open the whole time, so that it was impossible for any one to go into either room with-out their knowledge.  The two statements are utterly incompatible, so it is evident that one must be a deliberate falsehood.

The Counsel for the prosecution saw this clearly, and was so alarmed that his client's statement should be discredited, that he forestalled any such contretemps by suggesting in the course of his \speech that Mrs. Cheshire might have made a mistake as to time, that ladies' watches generally  went wrong, and more to the same effect, forgetting that he had taken particular pains at the outset of the case to corroborate Mrs. Cheshire's assertions in this respect by the evidence of Mr. Warden, who affirmed that Mrs. Cheshire left the Clarendon in Mr. Campbell's company between a quarter and a half past seven , and returned about ten minutes past eight.  The Court, however, preferred believing Mrs. Cheshire, and discarding the evidence of the two witnesses for the defence as unworthy of credit.

Mrs. Cheshire distinctly swore that, on the evening she went into the room, the sofa was standing on the right hand side of the doorway close to the wall; whereas Messrs. Bowra, Hollins and Lowder affirm with equal clearness that, on the evening in question, it stood in the middle of the room in front of the fire, and was not moved into the position in which Mrs. Cheshire places it, until nearly a week after the date on which she declares that Mr. Campbell took her into his room and assaulted her.  The inference is very strongly in favour of the allegation by trhe defence, that Mrs. Cheshire's description of the furniture in the room was derived from hearsay, and founded on an arrangement of it made subsequently to the evening on which she fixes the commission of the offence.  The Court, however, again credits Mrs. Cheshire, and by so doing imply that the three witnesses for the defence have committed deliberate perjury.

So much for the first paragraph of the judgment delivered by the Court, which expresses its conviction that the charge of indecent assault preferred against Mr. Campbell has been proved.  Their next remark is designed to clear Mrs. Cheshire's character, so far as the expression of their opinion may be effectual, from any slur which may rest upon it in con sequence of her visit to a gentleman's bedroom. Although Mrs. Cheshire acted imprudently, they say, in going into Mr. Campbell's bedroom, she did so in implicit faith in his character as a gentleman, and leaves the court without a stain on her character in consequence.  This, of course, is merely an opinion; and this opinion of the gentlemen composing the Court, is merely that of four individuals.  We ourselves hardly think that Mrs. Cheshire deserves to be so completely exonerated. For a married lady to go for a walk with a single gentleman after dark; to go into the latter's bedroom, after, according to her own evidence, he had told her that there was not another soul in the house, was a piece of imprudence which it would indeed require very strong faith to justify, and one which, we expect, very few husbands would like their wives to be guilty of.

But Mrs. Cheshire's faith in Mr. Campbell was surpassing.  Even after he had committed the assault of which she complains, she neglected to call for assistance when she heard a footstep passing the door, because Mr. Campbell had promised to take her home; and absolutely preferred the society of the man who had just so grossly outraged her, to claiming that of another individual.  The excuse that she wished to avoid making a scene, says a great deal for her presence of mind and coolness in emergency; but still is singular. Very few ladies would have had sufficient control over themselves, under such circumstances, to suppress the desire to call for the aid which they knew was at hand.  There is no accounting for female caprice, so it is hopeless to attempt to explain Mrs. Cheshire's preference for Mr. Campbell's society to that of another doing her walk home.

A desire to screen her own imprudence in entering a gentleman's bed room could not have been her object, as she has since voluntarily come in to Court and made the whole matter very much more public than any call for assistance could have made it.  We can only conclude that her motive for silence was a conviction that, if found in her the rather questionable situation in a gentleman's bed room, her asserting that she had been outraged would hardly be regarded.

The third point in the decision of the Court was that Mr. Campbell's offence had been aggravated by the attempt to blacken the character of the prosecutrix.  We confess that our discernment is at fault here.  The defence certainly endeavoured to show that it was no uncommon thing for Mrs. Cheshire to go for a walk with her bachelor friends, and succeeded.  But beyond any inference of impudence which might be drawn from this fact, we did not observe any attempt to impute improper motives to these walks.  If such imputation had been cast, it might have been held to be balanced by the very ludicrous attempt to cast doubt on M<r. Campbell's veracity, through the evidence of the immaculate barman at the Clarendon.  This gentleman on entering the witness box expressed a solemn opinion that Mr. Campbell's veracity was not worth two pence; inasmuch as he had himself found him out in a gross falsehood.  This gross falsehood being, as he was constrained to admit in the course of his cross-examination, an expression  of opinion  by Mr. Campbell that the landlord had doctored the brandy, - a by no means unlikely remark for a person to make on opening a bad bottle.

On the whole, we do not think Mr. Campbell's character will suffer much, either by the barman's imputation of falsehood, or Mrs. Cheshire's accusation of dishonorable conduct.  Most persons, we imagine. Will credit the statements made by the witnesses for the defence, and infer that Mrs. Cheshire's impression that she had been in Mr. Campbell's room was a hallucination.  Those who may be inclined to follow the example of the Court, and place implicit credence in the unsupported statement of the lady, will probably opine that her own imprudence was so great as to very greatly palliate Mr. Campbell's fault.

Source: The North-China Herald, 12 December 1863

The sentence of the Vice-Consular Court in re CHESHIRE v.  CAMPBELLhas been reversed, and this reversal has, we believe, given almost universal satisfaction.  The charge against Campbell has been pronounced Not Proven, and the fine, in consequence, remitted.

Source: The North-China Herald, 12 December 1863

(From the Daily Shipping News.)


WE readily insert the subjoined letter at Mr. Cheshire's request, though we fail to see what purpose he expects to serve by its publication, unless it be to render his position still more ridiculous than it is at present.  The matter is a very simple one.  Mrs. Cheshire's own statement as to her presence in Mr. Campbell's bedroom, which is totally unsupported, is flatly contradicted by that of three witnesses for the defence. As we think it more probable that one woman should be mistaken, than that three men should perjure themselves, we believe the latter and consequently disbelieve the former.  It is only just to Mr. Campbell to add, that Mrs. Cheshire's impression that any of the evidence has been omitted from our report, is erroneous.  We do not think he will be able to prove his statement, but that on the contrary the report of the evidence published in the Daily Shipping News will be found much fuller than either that given by our con temporary, or the minutes taken in the Consular Court.

The only portions omitted were the indecent remarks attributed to Mr. Campbell, and one or two details of a rather suggestive character.  We only allude to this portion of the letter, lest it should be inferred that any evidence prejudicial to Campbell was brought forward, which we have not made public.

To the Editor of the


SIR, - After your very unfair and partial report in this case, all the evidence that told with the Vice-Consul and Assessors having been as far as possible suppressed, and your leader in the North-China Herald prejudging the case, an action to which Editors of the most commonplace journals in England would not condescend, after seeing your reporter "hail fellow well met" with Mr. Campbell and his honorable witnesses, I was fully prepared for your comments on Mr. Markham's reversal, sol called, of the verdict.

I hope for Mr. Campbell's sake that every one in Shanghai will accept the verdict of "not proven" as equivalent to "not Guilty," regardless of the opinion of Mr. Lay and three impartial gentlemen who listened to the case throughout with the greatest possible attention, and therefore must be the best judges.

When however I see that public opinion so perverts public enquiry as to admit a man's innocence, and, of course, his re-admission into Ladies' Society, in consequence of a verdict of "not proven" in a case stated by Mr. Lawrance, Mr. Campbell's own counsel, to be "most difficult to prove," I shall indeed believe it true, what I have often heard since I have been here, that morality is not at a very high standard in this country.

It is very well known that in Scotland such a verdict is only one degree removed from "Guilty" and is about equivalent to the Irish one of "not Guilty only don't do it again."

I have not the least hesitation in saying that had Mr. Markham seen and heard the witnesses in the wirness box he would have approved of the verdict given by Mr. Lay and the three Assessors.

I trust that in justice to myself you will insert this letter in your journal of tomorrow.


Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School