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Colonial Cases

R. v. King and Trotter, 1899



R. v. King and Trotter

Chief Presidency Magistrate, Calcutta
9 June 1899
Source: North China Herald, 10 July 1899




Calcutta, 9th June.

  Considerable astonishment has been caused here by the conviction and heavy sentences passed on Lieutenant King, R.E., and Mr. Trotter, of the Public Works Department, by the Chief Presidency Magistrate on a charge of assaulting Mr. H. V. Low, of the firm of Messrs. Jardine, Skinner and Company. The facts of the case are that Mr. Low had a lady friend named Mrs. Gray, living at Mrs. Bertram's boarding house, Canuac Street, where Messrs. King and Trotter also resided. After 12 o'clock on the night of the 9th May, Mr. Low, who was a frequent visitor, was seen coming out of Mrs. Gray's bedroom.  Next morning Mrs. Bertram wrote to Mrs. Gray a letter saying: "After last night's disgraceful conduct you must leave my house at once."  Mrs. Bertram also wrote to Mr. Low telling him never to enter her house again. To that Mr. Low replied sarcastically: "I must say the indignation professed is too laughable from you," meaning, it is alleged, that Mrs. Bertram being an ex-barmaid her moral character did not stand very high. Other aspersions were cast on Mrs. Bertram's character by Mrs. Gray. Mrs. Bertram showed these letters to Mr. King and Mr. Trotter, who undertook to chastise Mr. Low. In the meantime Mrs. Gray had removed to a boarding house in Dacre's Lane, where late on the night of the 17th, Messrs. King and Trotter waylaid Mr. Low and assaulted him severely with fists and sticks.  Whilst Mr. Low was defending himself against Mr. Trotter's attack, Mr. King came up from behind and struck Mr. Low a heavy blow with a stick, rendering Mr. Low's arms powerless. The assault was then continued till Mrs. Gray opened the window of her room and called for assistance. Messrs. King and Trotter then mounted their bicycles and rode rapidly away, Mr. Low at the time being quite ignorant as to who his assailants were. Subsequently he obtained their names and addresses and instituted proceedings. Messrs. King and Trotter then offered to apologise and pay all Mr. Low's legal and medical expenses together with any further sum that might be arranged by counsel engaged by the parties. Mr. Low, at the instance of Messrs. Jardine, Skinner & Co., it is said, refused to accept these terms and went on with the prosecution. The case was watched with great interest by both military officers and civilians.

  The Magistrate, in disposing of the case, said he thought that a premeditated and totally unjustifiable attack had been made by the two accused upon Mr. Low, who was waylaid and taken unawares. It seemed to him that it was a very serious matter and such an attack as that could only be expected from the lowest class of ruffians in the slums of Calcutta. That the attack had been made by two gentlemen of position, one of them holding a Commission in Her Majesty's Army and the other employed in the Public Works Department, made the case more scandalous. Complainant had been taken unawares by both men simultaneously, one from the front and the other from behind. The attack of the second accused (Lieutenant King) was no doubt most vigorous and given chiefly with a stick, which was said to be a heavy one, but as the stick had not been produced it was impossible to judge whether it was so or not. The other attack made by Mr. Trotter in front was probably with his fists and the cut over the eye was probably caused by a ring. Mrs. Gray said that Mr. Trotter had a ring on and Dr. Caddy stated that the cut might have been from a blow with a ring or some other sharp instrument. As regards the second cut over the eye it was impossible to say whether it was done by a stick or with the fists, but Dr. Caddy was of opinion that it was caused by a stick. The result of this attack was most disastrous to Mr. Low whose face and body were covered with blood and there was a pool of blood on the road near his feet. Dr. Caddy had also stated that there were seven or eight very large bruises on Mr. Low's back, while both he and Mr. Low stated that the left arm was temporarily numb and rendered useless. There was no doubt that the blows on the back and arm were given by Mr. King with a stick; there was also no doubt that the blows on the face were given by Mr. Trotter with his fists, which closed up Mr. Low's eyes and made them black. Mr. Henderson, counsel for the accused, had stated that he did not in any way justify what had been done and put in a letter from defendant's solicitors in which was stated a great deal of facts relating to matters which arose on account of the quarrel between the two ladies who lived in 13 Canuac Street. The quarrel between this two ladies was, his Worship thought, precisely irrelevant to this case. There was no evidence given of the motive for this assault. He thought there was no justification for this very serious assault, having regard to its premeditation and the manner in which the assault was carried out simultaneously by both accused in a most cowardly manner. If gentlemen would put themselves in such a position they must bear the consequences and he was glad to say that cases like this did not often take place in Calcutta. 

  His Worship did not think that a fine would meet the gravity of the offence. He would convict both the accused under section 323 I.P.C. As regarded Mr. King there was no doubt that his assault was the worse of the two, though as regarded premeditation and the mode in which this attack was carried out both the accused were in the same position. He sentenced Mr. King to three months' simple imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 500.

  With regard to Mr. Trotter His Worship held that the assault was less in severity and sentenced him to two months' imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 200.The fines, if realised, were to be given towards the expenses incurred by complainant in this case.

  Both the accused appeared considerably dejected on hearing the sentences, which caused a profound sensation among the large crowd of spectators in Court.

  Application for leave to appeal against the decision of the Chief Presidency Magistrate who convicted Mr. Trotter and Lieut. King, came on for hearing at the High Court this afternoon before Justices Prinsep and Hill. After reading the Judgment of the Chief Presidency Magistrate, Sir Henry Prinsep characterised the assault as a most brutal one, such as only a professional bully would be capable of. After considerable argument the appeal was admitted, but bail was refused, although counsel for accused eloquently urged that imprisonment meant life-long ruin to Messrs. Trotter and King. Their Lordships, however, were inexorable and said that the only concession they were prepared to make was to hear the appeal at the earliest possible moment. The Court was closely packed with mercantile and military gentlemen. - Rangoon Gazette.

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