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Colonial Cases

R v. Dodds, 1865

[manslaughter - deportation]

R. v. Dodds

Consular Court, Shanghai
26 January 1865
Source: The North-China Herald, 4 February 1865


THE decision recently given by the Consular Court in re DODDS, has produced much criticism at the hands of contributors and correspondents.  Since the publication of the article which appeared in the North-China Daily News of the 31st ulto, we have received various letters from English readers enlarging on the facts of the case, and endeavoring to put matters in new and unexpected light.  Amongst these, that signed A SUBSCRIBER, which will be found in another column, deserves especial notice from the absurdity of the position assumed by its author.  The tenor of his communication may be adjudged from the opening paragraph, in which he lays down as a dictum for beyond controversy, that we "set a bad example in questioning the decision of H.B.M.'s Consular Court.  We now learn for the first time that Consular Courts are infallible, and we are convinced that A SUBSCRIBER would be at once ready to denounce the intense folly of such an assertion, were a case in which he was interested, and in which he believed himself to be in the right, given against him. But we do not desire to turn this extraordinary expression of opinion inside out, or hold it up to the full measure of ridicule which it deserves/.  Our correspondent, still guided by the inspiration which prompted the clause quoted above, and in ignorance of all the recognized rules which guide the conduct of the Press, (with which rules we till now believed that every educated Englishman was familiar, thus proceeds:-

You throw an imputation on the President of the Court, which his long experience in a judicial capacity, does not justify you in doing.

Really this is too childish for serious criticism!  The delicious non-sequitur involved in the last clause quoted, almost eclipses the bad taste of the entire paragraph, and blinds us to the impertinent hint that a personal attack of the President of the Court was veiled under the article in the Daily News.

Our correspondent next assumes that the finding in the Rice case at Hankow was all that it should have been, ignoring the fact that the decision educed very severe strictures at the time, and he then draws from this assumption the conclusion that the Shanghai Court was necessarily guided by the Court at Hankow.  So much for out correspondent's discrimination in providing himself with premises vide the syllogism which he triumphantly flings at our head. We pass over the witticism contained in the last paragraph of his letter, and address ourselves to the consideration of his opinions as to the practice of Courts in general, and of the English Consular Court at Shanghai in re Dodds, in particular.

In punishing a crime by which a fellow creature has been injured, the attainment of three objects is set before the tribunal which condemns the criminal.  The first object is the infliction of a penalty which shall satisfy the ends of justice; the second - to afford a warning to others should they ever find themselves tempted to commit an offence of the same nature; the third - to provide compensation to the party or parties injured.  Our correspondent expresses his disbelief that these ends have been accomplished in the Dodds case.  His manner of proving the correctness of his position is somewhat characteristic.  He grants the necessity of a serious warning being given to the English community, and having fixed this major in its place, he proceeds with his minor - "Deportation to him (Dodds) is not a severe penalty," whence the conclusion that "these ends (those mentioned above) have been attained, and justice satisfied." The codicil to the minor premiss: - "bit should a man holding a superior position in society commit a like offence, it would be a much more severe punishment to him than a fine could be," is, if it means anything, out of place; and if, as we suspect, it means nothing, it were better omitted.  We maintain that, out of the three objects which might have been attained, only one was fulfilled - that of compensating (not the sufferer but) the family of the sufferer.  And this, less through any fault of the Consular Court, than through the imperfect machinery which the consul and assessors have at their command.

They might, it is true, have sent the prisoner to Hongkong, but that the Chinese prosecutors refused to provide witnesses to appear before the Supreme Court, and the charge would in consequence have fallen through.  Or they might, as A SUBSCRIBER suggests, have inflicted a fine of a thousand dollars or a year's imprisonment.  As this is the limit of the Consular power it was probably as well to keep safely within it, lest another crime in which the attendant circumstances might be more aggravated should at any future time engage the attention of the Court. Bit that we are convinced that A SUBSCRIBER utterly misconceived the motive which suggested the verdict, we should say that personal elements which were altogether out of the place entered into the consideration of the Court; and that Dodds' prospects in life and the desire to afford compensation to the Chinawoman's family, outweighed the requirements of justice and the necessity for assuring "British subjects that Chinese life cannot be taken or even jeopardised with impunity." 

We have no hesitation in admitting the Dodds' crime was thoughtlessly committed, but such a plea could easily be put in where in reality malice might exist.  It was therefore of the utmost importance that Dodds should receive such a lesson as would have impressed the minds of those foreigners who  travel in the interior, with the fact that the life of a Chinaman is as sacred as the life of a foreigner.

In Shanghai, where the number of low class foreigners is every day increasing we want either a magistrate entrusted with far higher powers than those wielded by our present energetic Consul, or a judge of assize who should at stated intervals go a circuit of the ports, and enjoy the same authority as is vested in the Supreme Court of Hongkong.  We believe that A SUBSCRIBER has contrived to damage his own case far more severely than we could or would have done.  We admit that deportation, involving as it does three months imprisonment in Hongkong, and a subsequent voyage to England as a prisoner, is a severe penalty to Dodds or to any other Englishmen; but we fail to see that the sentence passed in any measure marks the equal value of Chinese and European life which the Court professed itself anxious to establish.


January 26th, 1865

Before - Sir HARRY S. PARKES, K.C.B., H.B.M. Consul.

J. THORNE, Esq., W. WALLER, Esq., Assessors.

In re DODDS.


THE minutes of the enquiry into the circumstances attending the death of the Chinese woman shot by Dodds on the 7th ulto., which enquiry was held on December 10th, were read.  (A report of this enquiry appeared in the North-China Daily News of Dec. 12th.)  The prisoner was then asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, and answered "Not Guilty in intent."

Mr. EAMES, on behalf of the prisoner, said he understood that the prisoner had with him when the occurrence took place the sum of $600.  His boy was aware of its being on board and when the boats passed him and then stopped he feared an attack and was therefore alarmed.  He then fired with the intent of frightening them off, not having an idea of firing into the boat; but when firing the second shot at random, his boat was being shoved off the bank, and the gun was brought to bear on the other boat, and the melancholy occurrence was this caused.  He submitted that the prisoner had reasonable grounds for alarm, that he was justified in endeavoring to frighten the boats away, and that the consequences were the result of accident.

PANG FU-CHUNG, the husband of the woman who was killed, being duly sworn, his evidence taken on a former occasion in the presence of the prisoner was read.  The circumstances of the case were minutely described in it.  The prisoner was accused of having menaced him with a sword.

Mr. EAMES cross-examined the witness, in behalf of the prisoner: - When the first shot was fired I was at a distance of 30 or 40 feet from his boat, and 30 feet when he fired the second.  We did pass his boat.  We were ahead when the shot was fired.  I heard from those on board the foreigner's boat that he was drunk but I don't know.  Before the second shot was fired no quarrel took place.  I don't know where the foreigner came from.  I don't know at what time the first shot was fired, but the second shot struck my wife in the thigh.  She was sculling at the time.  In out boat ands the boat we had in tow, there were three people, my wife, and two young sons.  There were three men including myself.  I had no daughter on board.  After the second shot we waited until the foreigner's boat came up.  After the first shot was fired we did not stop.  The foreigner had his gun aimed towards out boat, and I trembled with fear.  I was in the cabin eating rice, my wife was in the after part of the boat and told me that the gun was aimed at the boat.  I stopped eating my rice.  We sculled faster, but the other boat came up after us faster still.  The foreigner's boat had two men tracking with ropes on shore and was also sculled. We did not speak to the foreigner at all.  The foreigner said nothing to us before he fired.

TO THE COURT: - The foreigner was going towards Shanghai.  I was also.  When I saw his boat first it was ahead.  They stopped to pick up a blanket which fell overboard, and we passed them.  No conversation took place between us and the boatmen in their boat as we passed.  Out boat was tracking.  As we passed the foreigner's boat, out tow-rope did not touch his boat.  The foreigner's boat was also tracking.  They slacked their rope into the water and we passed them.  I don't know why the foreigner fired.  After the second shot I asked the men on board the foreigner's boat why the shot was fired. 

If when tracking, a cross creek without a bridge intervened, the ropes would be taken on board until it was passed.  This did not happen on this occasion.  When we passed the foreigner's boat, the children were in the house, so that the foreigner could not have seen them.

Dr. HENDERSON's evidence formerly taken was read.  It was mainly descriptive of the wound.

To Mr. EAMES: - At the post mortem examination we opened the body and found that the woman had been healthy in other respects.  Mortification is not generally caused by poison is the blood.  Mortification was caused more by the bullet going in than by its remaining in it.  It would not have had a mortifying effect remaining for such a short time as three days.  I cannot say that I think that mortification was aided by the bullet remaining.  The object in extracting a bullet is to prevent suffering.  The bullet might have been extracted at once, but with great danger to the woman.  Mortification would, I think, have taken place sooner had the ball been extracted, in consequence of the irritation it would have caused.

TO THE COURT. - There was no other cause in this case that could have produced mortification.

... A. STRIPLING, Inceptor of the Municipal Constabulary, examined by Mr. Eames, said: - the statement made before me by the prisoner was a purely voluntary one.  I did not offer any inducement for him to make it.  I warned him that any statement he made would be taken down in writing and would be put into Court as evidence against him at his trial.  I wrote the statement rather hastily.  I read it over to him once or twice.  I put it down in his precise language with the exception of changing a few rather Scotch expressions for English ones.  I have taken it down as nearly as possible exactly as he said it.

S. SMITH, Constable, examined by Mr. Eames, said: - I arrested the prisoner on Wills' bridge on the 8th Dec.  I spoke to him first.  He had been drinking but was quite cool.  I took him to Mr. Stripling.  I was in plain clothes.  When I met him I told him I had a warrant to arrest him.  I had a Chinaman with me to identify him.  He did not appear flurried until he came to the station.  When I met him I judged that he had been drinking, not from his conversation but from his face which was red and flushed.  He did not ask me for what he was arrested.  This was unusual.

SIU WAN-CHING's (son in law of the former witness) previous deposition was read.

To Mr. EAMES: - The foreigner's boat was ahead of ours when they dropped a blanket into the water and went to the other side of the creek.  They dropped the rope down in order that they might pick the blanket up.  We went ahead.  When they picked up the blanket, they spliced two lines together and tracked and also sculled.  As we came within a distance of 40 paces, a gun was fired from the foreigner's boat, I saw a boy bringing up the gun.  The foreigner fired it.  He told the boy to bring the gun.  The first shot did not hit.  The second did and struck my mother-in-law.  I was on shore tracking, my father-in-law was eating rice in the house.  I thought that the foreigner was firing an unloaded gun for amusement.  Their tow-rope being short dropped into the water.  They had to get in close to the bank to get the tow ropes pout.  When we passed they had not yet got the bedding out of the water.  They were not sculling then.  This creek is natural not artificial.  It is crooked.  It was straight where we passed the foreigner's boat.  There was a small creek running into the creek where we were.  There was no crook in the creek between the two boats.  As we passed the foreigner's boat no conversation took place.  There were three men on board out two boats; myself, father-in-law and father-in-law's son.  When the second shoot was fired there was a distance of 30 paces between us.  The foreigner did not say anything when he took up the gun.  I thought the first shot was fired for amusement, and that there was no ball, and I did not have anything to do with the foreigner.  I did not say a word, not thinking it was intended for us.  The gun was pointed towards the boat.  The other boatmen did not speak.  I suppose every body saw the gun pointed at the boat.

To the COURT: - When our boat was 40 paces beyond the foreigner's boat, the first shot was fired and the second at 30 paces.  The foreigner's boat was coming up behind.  One Chinese hour elapsed between passing the foreigner's boat and the firing.  Our boat was sailing slowly.  We went only one li in an hour.  The foreigner's boat could have passed ours.  The tow-rope of his boat was fastened to the mast.

J. GIBSON, Captain of the City of Nantes, was then examined for the defence: - I can only vouch for the prisoner's character; I know nothing of this case.  He was highly recommended to me in Glasgow as a ship-steward.  He had formerly been in good circumstances.  He was with me for five months, and I found him a steady, quiet and good man.  He was occasionally a little nervous.  On arriving here in Sept. 1862, I discharged him, he not being of any use as a steward in a passenger ship.  From what I know of him, I do not think he would be guilty of wantonly killing a human being without provocation.

To the COURT: - I believe he has a wife and family.  I observed him to be nervous on board the steamer, but I attributed it to its being his first voyage.  I never found him irritable.

The evidence (previously taken) of CHAO-PAU, servant of the prisoner, was read.  In it he stated that the tow-rope of the prisoner's boat was broken by the other boat, which irritated the prisoner.  He then made witness bring up the gun, threatening not to pay his wages if he did not bring it.  The shots being fired there was a cry that a woman was killed and the other boats tried to make fast top the prisoner's boat but he would not allow it.

To Mr. EAMES: - When the other boats passed we were picking up some bedding at the other side of the boat.  The tow-rope was tight, and the louda told them not to pass.  They did pass and when they got 40 paces ahead, my master fired.  The tow-rope of our boat was made fast to the mast.  Our boat went in pursuit because they broke the tow-rope.  There was nothing said after the first shot was fired.  They were watching out boat but did not say anything.  The louda of the prisoner's boat met me on the bridge and told me to come and help in the search for my master.  We went to a police station in Hong-que and found my master had been already arrested.  The men in the other boat threatened to have my head cut off if I did not tell everything.  The tow-ropes in the other boats were made fast to a bamboo placed perpendicularly.  The bamboo could not have broken the rope of my master's boat.  The bamboo was very strong, but it would have given way before the tow-rope.

TO THE COURT: - The foreigner was at the head of the boat and saw the rope breaking: the louda said "pull fast, pull fast."  My master called out to them to stop.  He wanted to ask them how they broke the rope.  The people in the other boats turned round and looked.  My master told me to take the gun and cartridges.  He then loaded and fired.  Between the time the rope wass broken and the shots were fired from three to five minutes elapsed.  My master urged the boatmen on, taking a sword and making a noise with it.  He had had tiffin.  He had only one bottle with him the whole way.  I don't know what was in it. (From witness's description of the bottle it would appear to have been a bottle of liqueur).

My master had $240 wrapped up in a handkerchief and a note for over 100 taels.  After loading the gun he fired immediately, and after urging the louda on again loaded the gun and fired.  We were 3 or 5 chang distant from the other boat when the first shot was fired.  We were nearer when the second was fired.  There was a cry in the other boat after the second shot was fired.  My master's boat stopped at Wong-du that night.  On the next day we saw the other boat again a few li's distant from Wong-du.  Our boat arrived in Shanghai on the 9th.  We stopped near the Consulate. The other boats stopped when we stopped and moved on when we went ahead.  My master got into a sampan at Wong-du at 10 o'clock on the day after the firing, and went on by himself.  The sampan belonged to Mr. Barker.  My master was afraid. When my master got into the sampan the other boat was in sight.

Pang Fu-chung did not ask my master to pay him any money.  When we came down to Shanghai Pang Fu-chung's boat anchored in front of the Consulate.  Two foreign policemen came down with Pang Fu-chung to the boat to arrest my master.

CHAN A-MOU's (louda of prisoner's boat) evidence formerly taken, was read.  It confirmed the statements made by the former witnesses.

Mr. EAMES submitted that there was evidently something concealed in the evidence given by the Chinese witnesses.  It was hardly credible that the boats passed by without any conversation taking place between the boat-men, and it seemed exceedingly improbable that they came down to Shanghai in company and yet did not talk the matter over.  The evidence of the Chinese witnesses agreed in some things, as for instanced in the assertion that nothing was said before the firing, but he (Mr. E.) certainly considered that the prisoner must have called out before doing so.  The husband of the woman who was killed said that the prisoner received no provocation, but the little boy said that the tow-rope of his boat was broken by the other boats in passing. 

There was no doubt that the prisoner caused the woman's death, but the question still remained, whether it was criminal.  According to the witness' testimony he fired while the boat was being sculled, but he himself stated that he fired while the boat was being pushed off the bank.  It was natural to suppose that under these circumstances he might have made a blunder.  He (Mr. E.) submitted that he was perfectly justified in feeling nervous in finding the boats waiting as it were for him to come up, that he was justified in frightening them and was not responsible criminally for the accident.  It was most probable that the prisoner was nervous and acted hastily.  He hoped the Court would discharge the prisoner with the punishment he had already undergone.

The prisoner, questioned by the Court with regard to the confession made by him at the time of his arrest, said that he fired to frighten the boats away and it had the desired effect.  He was afraid to go pasty them.  By telling them to clear the way he meant that they should move on.  After the other boats had gone ahead some distance and stopped, his boat was being pushed off the bank and he, seeing the other boats stopping, told them to go on but they remained stationary and he fired again to frighten them, because he was afraid to pass them.

The prisoner was sentenced to deportation from Shanghai and to pay a fine of $500.


Source: Press (NZ), 21 July 1865

In the English settlement little of interest has occurred, except the trial of an Englishman named Dodds for the manslaughter of a Chinawoman under singularly inexcusable circumstances.  He was coming down the canal from Soochow when he espied a number of boats ahead going at a slower rate than his own, and to a certain extent blocking his way.  They did not immediately comply with his shouted instructions to make room, and he fearing, as he says, that they meant to attack him, loaded his rifle and fired towards them to frighten them into compliance.  The first shot was still ineffectual, so he loaded and fired again, this time wounding a woman who was sculling one of the boats so severely that she afterwards died.  That is Dodd's version of the case, which depends for an extenuating circumstances on the palpably absurd supposition that a few Chinese trading boats were going to attack an armed foreigner in open day in one of the most frequented creeks in the neighbourhood.  Dodds, who has been accustomed to creek journeying, must have known better than to suppose such a thing likely.  His servant asserted that the boat in which the unfortunate woman wass had broken the tow rope of Dodds's boat in passing, and that the latter fired in anger at the occurrence.  Whichever may be the correct version, it is evident that the act was most unjustifiable.  The Consular Court expressed that opinion, adding that foreigners must be taught to estimate the lives of Chinese at the same rate as those of Europeans, and yet inflicted the mild punishment of L. 100. (500 dollars.) fine and deportation from Shanghai.  It would seem likely that the end of impressing on foreigners the equality in value between Chinese and European life would be better attained by equality in punishment, whether the victim be Chinese or European, whether the scene be china or England. In the latter country a man who deliberately loaded and fired a rifle into a crowd of boats, thereby causing the death of an Englishwoman, would certainly not escape with a fine of L. 100, and it seems a pity that Dodds should not receive the English measure of punishment for crimes committed in China on Chinese, equally as though they were committed in England on Englishmen.  The guilt is equal, and the punishment should also be so.  The sentence of deportation is little punishment, inasmuch as it merely implies a free passage home.

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