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Colonial Cases

R. v. White, 1886

[assault by police]

R. v. White

Police Court, Shanghai
Mowat AJ, 14 January 1886
Source: North China Herald, 20 January 1886

Shanghai, 14th January 1886
Before R. A. Mowat, Esq., Assistant Judge.
  J. WHITE, Superintendent of the private police employed at the Associated Wharves, appeared in answer to a summons charging him with having on the 30th December at the Wharves, assaulted a Chinese named Wo Ah-wu.
  His Worship, addressing the defendant said - This summons for assault is in respect of the same matter in which you were tried before me on Friday, when, after hearing the evidence that was called for you, I dismissed the case.  The mere circumstance of dismissing the case is not a bar to a subsequent charge in respect of the same matter, unless at the time, the Court, on being requested so to do, should think fit to give you a certificate of dismissal; and then that would be a bar.  No certificate was asked for, and I did not give one, and that partly explains why you are now here before me again on the same charge.  It is extremely rare in this Court to re-open a case, but the circumstances brought to my knowledge on the afternoon of the day on which the charge as dismissed, or on subsequent days, were so exceptional that I thought it right to direct a fresh summons to be issued and the matter tried practically over again.
  The Prosecutor was then called.  Examined through the Court Interpreter, he said his name was Wo Ah-wu, and that the name Ah-yuen, by which he was also known was a "school name." He was a coolie formerly employed at a dye factory, but at present out of employment.  
  On the 30th December he was at the Wharf waiting to see a Cantonese stevedore from whom he wanted to get a job in loading a steamer, when the defendant came up and struck him with a cane.  Asked the thickness of the cane, the witness formed a ring with his finger and thumb a good inch in diameter.  He said the defendant struck him twenty or thirty times with this cane about the legs, and a dog that was with the defendant bit him in two places in the leg, the wounds bleeding.  He went to the Hongkew Police Station, who sent him to the hospital with a native constable.  A native doctor there gave him some medicine and dressed his wounds.  He then went back to the Police Station, and afterwards to the Wharf accompanied by detective Jones and a native police constable.  He there again saw White, who still had the same cane in his hand, though prosecutor did not see the dog this time.  It was a small yellow Chinese dog.) The prosecutor measured out the length and height of the "small dog" on the Court table, representing it to be about the size of an ordinary retriever.) He (prosecutor) had never been charged at the Mixed Court with stealing old iron, had never been cangued; the story was false.
  The Defendant said he had no questions to put to the prosecutor.
  HENRY JONES was then called and sworn. He said - I am a detective police constable.  On the afternoon of the 30th December I was sent for to my room at the Hongkew Station by Inspector Howard, who told me to go with the prosecutor and native police constable 119 to Hongkew Wharf to enquire about a foreigner assaulting this coolie.  I looked at the coolie when he was at the station.  He had been bitten in three places by a dog, and there were three or four wales on the calf of each leg.  I did not see the bites of the dog, because the wounds had been dressed; I only saw the dressings.
  I saw White at the Wharf.  I did not know till then that it was he that the coolie wanted to charge; I was under the impression that it was a Sikh.  I asked White if he "knew anything about this," pointing to the coolie's legs.  White said, "I did it." I said, "What about his being bitten by a dog?"
  But previous that I ought to mention that he said, "I will tell you in confidence." I then asked him about the dog biting the man, and he said, "Immediately I put my hand on the coolie the dog flew at him. He would fly at you if I put my hand on you." I advised him not to try it.  I asked who the dog belonged to, and he told me it belonged to the Wharf watchman.  I have omitted to tell your Worship that in his hand he had a Malacca cane about 3ft. 5in. long - a rough-cut one; I should say it was more than an inch round - thicker than my finger considerably.  I asked him where he got it from, and he said he got them out of the godown.
  His Worship - Did he at any time say what he had struck the man with it?
  Witness - He held the cane up to me, Sir, and told me he had done it with that.
  Did he say anything about coming to the station? - He asked me whether it was necessary for him to come to the Station, and I told him he might please himself, but I should report what he had told me to the Inspector.
  And did you do so? - I did.
  And you saw an entry made? - I saw the Inspector write, but I did not look at it.
  What about Friday afternoon - the afternoon of the day on which the case was heard? - I saw White then, Sir, on Hongkew Wharf.  I went down to see if the Bellopheron had come in, and I saw him here.  I told him he had made a mistake - that th man had not been convicted, and said he had not done that coolie justice by bringing two Chinamen to prove a conviction against him.  He said, Never mind; I only wanted to win my case."  I told him he had better not call me, as I could not say anything in his favour.  I then walked away.
   Were you present on Friday, when the case was heard? - I was, your Worship.
  How was it you came to stand silent and say nothing about what you knew? - Well, the reason that I stood silent, you Worship, was that I thought it was entirely a private case, and that I would not be justified in saying anything unless I was called upon. Of course if I was wrong -----
  His Worship - Anyone's sense of justice should tell him that if he knows anything about a case he should volunteer his evidence.  Had you any reason to know that he had not been convicted at the Mixed Court?
  Witness - Well, I could not prove it at that time; but I did not think he had.  Mr. White produced his book, and I had no book to confute his assertion.
  His Worship - Then so far you did not know?
  Witness - I did not know.
  His Worship - But you knew the other facts.  Well, I hope in future cases you will volunteer any evidence that you can properly give.  I am glad you did so later; but it should have been done in the first instance.
  Cross-examined - Any time that you have been at the Wharf, have you seen Malacca canes loaded there?
  Witness - I have not.
  Have you ever seen rattans laded there? - I cannot say.  I have never taken any particular notice of the cargo landed there.
  How long have you known me, Mr. Jones? - Personally, about six months; I suppose I have seen you before that.
  In answer to further questions on this point, the witness said that he might have met the defendant a few times before that at the house of a Mr. Campbell, formerly of the Waterworks.  Latterly he had met him almost daily at the Wharves.
  Defendant - During the time you have known me, have you ever seen me with a dog?
  Witness - I never have.
  Did you on the afternoon of the 4th January speak to me at the Wharf about giving the coolie two dollars? - I do not remember doing so at the Wharf; but I mentioned it here, outside the court.  I advised you to settle the case and give the man a few dollars.
  Who was here? - Mr. Bowman (Consulate constable) joined in the conversation and I said to him, "Don't you think it would be advisable, Mr. Bowman, for Mr. White to compensate the coolie and not take the mater into Court?"
  GEORGE HOWARD, Inspector of Police, was then called.  He said - I am one of the two Inspectors in charge at Hongkew station.  I was on duty on 30th December, when the prosecutor came in.  He had several marks on his legs, and I could see that he had been bitten - at least there was blood coming from two wounds.  There was also a third wound, which seemed to be merely a graze.  As he said he had been bitten by a dog, I did not make any enquiries at that time, but sent him at once to St. Luke's Hospital.  He came back in about a quarter of an hour.  When he came back, he said he had been bitten by a dog, and struck, principally about the legs, - by a black man, as I understood.  When he came back from the Hospital I sent Jones with him to the Wharf to make enquiries.  Jones came back, probably about half an hour after he left, and made a report to me.
  His Worship - Which you entered in the book?
  Witness - Yes. This is the entry I made.  Inspector Howard read from the "Occurrence Book," as follows:
  "30th December, 9.30 p.m. - Wo Ah Hou, a coolie, reports that at about 3 p.m., 30th instant, he was on the Hongkew Wharf to look for work, when a foreigner named John White (watchman) assaulted him and set a dog on to him, which bit him on the leg in three places.  He was sent to St. Luke's Hospital, where the wounds were cauterized; they were not very deep.  P.C. Jones seen White, who admitted that he struck the coolie, but denies setting the dog on him.  The dog belongs to a Chinese watchman on the Wharf.  The coolie was told he could apply for a summons against White at the British Court if he wished to do so, and was given the name for that purpose."
  His Worship - But the coolie did not say that "John White (watchman)" had assaulted him?
  Witness - No.  I should have put in that P.C. Jones informed me that it was White.
  Inspector Howard then produced the charge sheets of prisoners brought before the Mixed Court from the 11th to the 18th September, 1885.  Among those charged was one Chi Wu-sung, aged 36, who was charged by Mr. White with stealing at the wharf, and was sent to the Refuge.
  His Worship asked the prosecutor his age, and the prosecutor replied 28.
  Inspector Howard said that entry could not possibly relate to the prosecutor in this case.  H had made enquiries at the Station, and found that the prosecutor was not known to any of the detectives or gatemen or anyone there as ever having been convicted or charged at the Mixed Court.  There was a record kept of all men convicted; but he had not got it with him in Court.  He had, however, a list of the prisoners received at the Hongkew Stations during September, only one of these was sentenced to be cangued, and that was certainly not the prosecutor.  None but decrepit beggars were sent to the refuge; able-bodied men like the prosecutor were sent to the chain gang if they were not cangued.
  Cross-examined by the defendant, the Witness said he did no remember four men being sentenced to a months' cangue at the Wharf for stealing sandalwood during September or any other month, and being kept there only a week. Such a sentence might have been passed in some other month, but certainly not in September, or the book which he had produced would show.  If they were sentenced to two months' cangue the sentence must certainly have been carried out to the full.  He remembered a watchman from the Wharf getting 400 blows for giving false evidence against a man.
His Worship -But in that case I suppose if the prosecutor was punished the defendant was not punished?
  Witness - I suppose not, your Worship.
  His Worship aid he did not quite understand the defendant's question, as he had made a specific statement that the prosecutor had been sentenced to four days' cangue on the 17th September for stealing old iron.  As he had mentioned a specific date, only the charge-sheets relating to about that time had been produced; but if the defendant thought he had made a mistake in the date, his Worship was quite willing to adjourn the case till the sheets relating to other months  as far back as might be necessary, were produced.
  The Defendant said he still believed that this was the man who had been cangued.  He had taken the date from his note-book, but the case might have been adjourned till later.
  His Worship pointed out that in that case the charge would still appear on that day's charge sheet.  He asked the defendant if he wished to have any earlier or later charge sheets produced.
  Defendant - No, Sir.  It is not a bit of good.  It will have no effect on the case.
  A coolie was then called, who deposed to having been in the prosecutor's company at the time of the alleged assault.  He corroborated the prosecutor's account of the occurrence.
   A Chinaman who was described as a boatswain" on the wharf, his duty being to make ships fast alongside the Wharf, was then called as a witness for the defence.  He said he had never seen the defendant with a dog at the Wharf.  The defendant had no dog; but there were often stray dogs about the Wharf.  He had seen the prosecutor about the Wharf for about two years, but had never seen him do any work.  He was present on the occasion of the alleged assault.  Mr. White did not strike the man; he simply pushed him off the wharf.  The defendant had a small rattan cane in his hand, but did not use it.
  A Chinese watchman employed at the Wharf was then called.  He had been employed there for five years, and had seen the prosecutor about there for two years, but never doing any work.
  His Worship - Three months ago, in September, did he see the prosecutor taken away to the police station for stealing iron?
  Witness (through Interpreter) - I remember seeing the prosecutor taken to the Mixed Court.
  Who took him? - Native constables.
  He did not go with them? - Yes; he went.
  What was done with the prosecutor? - The magistrate told him not to go near the Wharf again and let him go.
  What was he taken to the Mixed Court for? - Stealing a piece of sandalwood.
  Who told witness that the man was taken there for stealing sandalwood? - Witness saw it himself.
  Did witness see him steal it? - Yes.
  Then it was witness who arrested him? - Yes.
  What did he do with him? - Handed him over to the naïve police.
  Where did he find the native police? - At the Wharf gates.
  Where did the police take him? - They first took him to the police station, witness believed.  The next day witness went to the Mixed Court.
  Who went to the Mixed Court? - The native police and witness.
  Nobody else from the Wharf? - No.
  And that was what the Magistrate decided - told the man not to go near the Wharf again, and let him go? - Yes.  It was only a little piece of sandalwood.
  Did the witness say last time he appeared here that the man was cangued? - No.
  His Worship pressed the question and confronted the witness with the prosecutor; but the witness still persisted in denying that he had said at the past hearing of the case that the prosecutor was cangued.
  The Prosecutor, re-called, declared that the story of his being taken to the Mixed Curt on a charge of stealing sandalwood was false.
  His Worship (to the watchman) - How many months ago was that?
  Witness - About two years.
  His Worship - Three months ago there was nothing of that kind?
  Witness - No, nothing at all.
  J. R. BOWMAN, Consular Constable, was then called.  He said that on the 8th inst., just before this charge was heard for the first time, he saw the defendant and P.C. Jones outside the Court.  Jones said to him, "Bowman, don't you think it would be better for White to give this man something and hush it up sooner than go into Court?" Witness replied, "No., certainly not."
  His Worship (to defendant) - Have you anything to say?
  Defendant - I have nothing to say, only this, - that to the best of my abilities and the best of my knowledge that man was brought up by me at the Mixed Court and charged with theft.
  His Worship - Well, I have told you that there is no record of that on the police charge-sheets, on which all charges are entered at the time you speak of.  I have offered you an adjournment if you wish to inspect the sheets of other dates.
  Defendant - I am still in the belief that this is the same man that was taken to the Mixed Court.
  His Worship - The charge against you is one of assault.
  Defendant - I did not strike him; I only pushed him out of the Wharf.  What took place after the man went through between the godowns I cannot say; I have no dog; and have not had a dog for the last twelve months.
   His Worship - Have you anything to say about Jones's statement?
  Defendant - It is simply this.  He came to me in a joking way, and not thinking there was anything in it, I might say to him in a joking that I had hanged the man.  There would be nothing in that, because I have known Jones ever since he has been in the Force.  Not thinking I was going to be charged with assault - it was a joke.
  His Lordship remanded the defendant in custody till 10 o'clock next morning.
  15th Jan.
  J. WHITE, Superintendent of the private police employed at the Associated Wharves, was brought up in custody, charged on remand with having on the 30th December, at the Wharves, assaulted a Chinese named Wu Ah-wu.
  Inspector Howard told his Worship that he had brought to the Court a book containing the photographs of prisoners to which he referred on the previous day.  If the prosecutor was charged two years ago and charged again in September, his likeness would appear in the book; but it did not.
  His Worship did not think it necessary to go further into the mater.  A particular person was charged, but he was dealt with in a different way from what the accused said.  The accused had taken the fact, and alleged that it was this man, no doubt with the intention to deceive.
  In answer to his Worship, the prisoner said he had nothing more to say.
  Hi Worship then said that there could be no question as to what the facts of the case really were.  He believed the prosecutor's story completely - that he was badly beaten by the accused as he alleged; he said he was struck twenty or thirty times, and his Worship construed this to mean many times.  In addition to the beating with the cane, the prosecutor was bitten by a dg, which, by the prisoner's statement to the constable, would fly at any one whom the prisoner laid his hands on.  That made the assault a very much more severe one than it otherwise would have been, because in addition to the beating there was the biting by the dog.  That the prosecutor was bitten severely was shown by the evidence of the police, who said that two wounds were bleeding when he went to the station.  His Worship was aware what sentence he should have passed if the prisoner had admitted the charge and given a tolerably fair account of the occurrence.  But he had not done so; he had told the Court, with a certain amount of particularity, with the intention to deceive, what his Worship believed to be untrue; and, what was still worse, he put forward two witnesses who, his Worship was satisfied, did not tell the truth.  They said they were present, and must have seen what took place; but they would not admit the beating or the biting by the dog.  Then the prisoner further induced one of these men to come forward, and said that three months ago the prosecutor had been cangued.  
  Now these circumstances gravely aggravated the offences with which the prisoner was charged, and without saying what might have been the sentence if the offence had been admitted, he should sentence the accused to six weeks' imprisonment with hard labour.
  The Prisoner asked to have the option to pay a fine, saying that in similar cases the option of a fine had always been granted.
  His Worship - I cannot allow it in this case.  It is a wicked thing you have been guilty of doing, in addition to the assault.

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