OUR PROSECUTION

From The Tribunal February 14th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

There was a crowded court at Bow Street on Saturday afternoon last, when the TRIBUNAL prosecutions were heard. The National Committee of the N.-C.F., which was sitting at the time, adjourned to the court and man other people well known in the movement were to be seen there.

Mr. Bertrand Russell received many congratulatory handshakes on his entry, and the atmosphere was tense with interest and enthusiasm. We do not intend to give a detailed account here of the proceedings – for the case has already been widely reported in the public Press, and as the case is still sub judice we are prohibited from commenting upon it.

The actual passage on which the first prosecution was based occurred om Mr. Russell’s article, “The German Peace Offer,” in our issue of January 3rd, and reads as follows:

“The American Garrison which will by that time be occupying England and France, whether or not they will prove efficient against the Germans, will no doubt be capable of intimidating strikers, an occupation to which the American Army is accustomed when at home.”

Mr. Travers Humphreys, prosecuting for the Crown, stated that in view of “the diabolical effect” this passage would have if published without contradiction, a prosecution had been decided upon, and it was thought desirable in the public interest that the words should be read in open court – thus ensuring, we may point out, that their “diabolical effect” should be spread broadcast over the world to a degree that the circulation of the TRIBUNAL does not yet permit of. But we are, perhaps, too modest in our estimate of our own influence, as we learned later that “it is difficult to overstate the effect which that passage would have in all probabilities upon the soldiers of this country and their Allies,” and, moreover, that Brigadier-General Childs was present in court ready to give evidence on this point.

Mr. Whiteley’s able speech for the defence was notable for the dignity and force with which he argued “that everyone is still entitled to his own opinion, and that so long as the law be not broken, freedom of the subject and of the Press is still the right and prerogative of every person, whatever his views may be.” Moreover, he emphasised the fact that Mr. Russell was warning the public in this article of what he considers is a serious menace, and one of which Labour should be warned in time.

It is impossible to give any idea of the bitterness of tone in which Sir John Dickinson gave his decision: six months in the second division, without the option of a fine, for Mr. Russell, and £60 fine and £15 15s costs for Miss Beauchamp. Appeals against both decisions were entered at once.

The Second Summons

The second summons was against Miss Beauchamp alone, and was for publishing “false statements” in the TRIBUNAL of January 3rd. the statements so described were contained in the “Guard-Room message of that date.

It is clear that the prosecution entered the court with the intention of taking this case the same afternoon, for when Sir John Dickinson proceeded to sentence Miss Beauchamp on the first summons, Mr Humphrey interupted with: “I don’t know whether you think it desirable on the question of the penalty to consider the other case first?” Mr Whiteley at once rose and said that as the second summons was on a question of fact, the onus was on the prosecution to prove the falsehood. The paragraph was a quotation from a letter, and he would have to ask for an adjournment as Miss Beauchamp wished to call the writer of the letter, who is at present in prison, and a Home Office permit would have to be obtained before he could appear. Then, again, she would call a number of other witnesses, and there would be a contest of facts.

On hearing this, Mr. Humphreys, who appeared to be surprised, consulted with General Childs, and later asked that the case should be adjourned sine die. This the magistrate agreed to, and the court rose.

Mr. Russell and Miss Beauchamp were conducted with all ceremony to the cells, there to await the conclusion of the formalities connected with bail, for which Earl Russell and Mt. Cobden Sanderson were sureties.

The crowd waited patiently for their appearance, and a hearty cheer went up as they came down the steps. The enthusiasm displayed reminded us of the prosecutions in the early days of the Fellowship, and it was good to the high spirits of bothe “criminals.”

We advise all our readers to mark April 12th carefully in their diaries, for that is the date of the appeal, and will prove to be a very interesting and important occasion, and one that may be a red letter day in the history of the movement.

dove..