Barbados 1960 – White Journalist Allowed Into Court, Black Journalists Excluded

A Bit Of Island History: Walter Hinds & The Supreme Court

Times were a bit different back in 1960, and when the editor of The Truth Newspaper reported that a “European” (read “white”) journalist was allowed into a court hearing while black journalists were not, the court was “scandalised”.

Quite the dust-up with a Barbados newspaper editor being sentenced to jail for six weeks for contempt.

Interesting reading dug up by John.

Here are some excerpts from the reported case. Read the whole thing here.

R. v. HINDS, EX PARTE THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL

[SUPREME COURT (Stoby, C.J.) November 13 and 15, 1960)]
[1958 – 60] Barb. L.R. 248

Contempt of court – Scandalising the court – Motion to commit publisher of newspaper.

Facts: The Attorney-General moved for an order committing the respondent Walter Hinds for contempt in publishing an article containing statements and comments which tended to bring the authority and the administration of the law into disrepute and disregard.

In an issue of the Truth newspaper of October 12, 1960, of which Hinds was the editor, an article appeared under the caption “Justice is not a cloistered virtue” and containing inter alia the statements and comments referred to in the judgment. The article referred to the exclusion of the public from the Supreme Court when an application had been made to commit the editor of another newspaper for contempt of court in respect of the publication of an account of an armed robbery at a bank with the photograph of the person being arrested and charged with the offence. The person so charged was the applicant in the contempt proceedings and his application in respect of that contempt came on for hearing on the same day as his criminal trial on indictment was fixed for hearing before the same judge. That [248] application was taken in a court which was not an “open court” and adjourned till the conclusion of the criminal trial. Any further publicity to the contempt proceedings involving the person charged on indictment with armed robbery would have tended to prejudice his fair trial. The affidavit sworn by the acting Registrar of the Supreme Court as to events which occurred when the prior contempt proceedings came on for hearing indicated that the reasons which the court gave for taking the application in a court not “an open court” and for adjourning the application were in the interest of justice.

Held: the article constituted contempt of court. Application granted.

Editorial Note: The editor was released after four days, having tendered by affidavit a complete apology.

The Attorney-General (Actg.) for the Crown instructed by the Crown Solicitor.

Mr. E.W. Barrow and Mr. H.A. Phillips for the respondent instructed by Messrs. Hutchinson & Banfield.

STOBY, C.J.: This is a motion by the Attorney-General for an order that the respondent, Walter Clare Burton Hinds, be committed for contempt in publishing an article containing statements and comments which tend to bring the authority and the administration of the law in Barbados into disrepute and disregard.

(snip)In all the cases dealing with contempt of court by scandalising the court or a judge great stress is laid on the right of the press to criticise. In a democracy the right of the press to criticise the conduct of public men is rightly treated as one of the great safeguards of a free society. Any man, be he judge, magistrate, politician or civil servant, must expect to have his conduct exposed to public glare. The knowledge that legitimate and forceful criticism will be forthcoming acts as a check to arbitrary actions by public men. Perhaps nowadays criticism is not always employed with the purest of motives. With the advent of a wider reading public and greater competition among newspapers, pandering to public taste has become more important than constructive criticism. The Christian virtue of charity, the desire not to misrepresent facts, are gradually becoming lost virtues, but public men must be prepared to have their actions analysed in the light of what the modern press consider appropriate, and provided the law is not infringed bad taste and dishonest criticism must be treated as the penalty for temporary importance.

But although the press has a notable duty to perform it is not an unbridled champion. When it elects to condemn the administration of justice it must take care that the structure is rotten and deserves condemnation, for great and essential as is the function of the press the necessity for public confidence in the administration of justice is greater.

Counsel for the respondent has submitted that the publication does not transcend the limits of proper criticism and that its purpose was to complain that a section of the press was excluded from the court while one individual was admitted. The article commences as follows:

“On Thursday last a Notice of Motion was filed by Percy Bushell of Seclusion Road, St. Michael (at present detained at Glendairy Prison) to commit one Ian Gale, Editor of the Barbados Advocate to prison for contempt of court.

There appears to be a conspiracy of silence in this freedom-loving country over this application which must be of interest, not only to the people of [252] Barbados, but to the Press in a freedom-loving world. And up to today’s date, neither of our daily contemporaries has seen fit to disclose that the liberty of a newspaper Editor may possibly have to be restrained.”

If the article had ended there no objection could be taken to it. It would seem to be a criticism of the newspapers in Barbados for not publishing an interesting news item. But it continues:

“The first that we knew about this matter was when, with other members of the Press and Radio, we were denied entry, both by uniformed policemen and a Deputy Marshal, to the Criminal Sessions of the Supreme Court on Monday morning.

This denial of entry to public and press at a sitting of the Sessions of `Oyer, terminer and general jail delivery’ is unprecedented in the annals of British Justice. And certainly, even if it may happen in South Africa, is entirely novel, and we go further to say, illegal in Barbados.”

This part of the article makes it abundantly clear that the writer knew that Bushell’s motion was being taken. A great deal of time was spent by both counsel in arguing whether the respondent was denied entry to the Criminal Sessions or to the Supreme Court hearing a motion. I cannot see in the light of the article how the question is important. While the writer of the article complains of a denial of entry to the Criminal Sessions the preceding part of the article proves that whether he was denied entry to the Criminal Sessions or not he knew that it was the motion involving Gale which caused his exclusion.

I interpose here to say that there is nothing objectionable in a newspaper criticising a court for hearing in camera a case which that newspaper thinks should be heard in public. In the instant case it is the motive attributed to the judge which makes it scandalous. The article continues:

“If, contrary to law, the public and Press is going to be excluded from Open Court, justice, as we see it, is retreating into the bed-chamber where she cannot suffer the scrutiny and comments, respectful or otherwise, of ordinary men.

This paper is not going to be a party to any conspiracy of silence, or any other conspiracy. And when Mr. Gale is being tried we intend to insist on our right to be present and to report accurately and without bias, proceedings which we consider of vital public interest.”

The average reader at this stage cannot help concluding: (a) that the judge was a party to the conspiracy of silence; (b) that it was illegal to exclude the public from the hearing of Gale’s contempt proceedings; and (c) that the judge was importing into Barbados the hateful policy of South Africa.

The concluding portions of the article refer to the fact that a European [253] journalist was admitted to the court while Barbadian journalists were excluded.

In my view this part of the article contains legitimate criticism. In a multi-racial society the press does a service to the community in drawing attention to racial discrimination. It was the duty of the police or the marshal or the judge himself if he realised it, to have Dugal Smith excluded from the courtroom. There may of course be an explanation. The article refers to him as the latest importee of the Barbados Advocate. It may be that the police and marshal thought he was entitled to be present and that the judge either did not notice him or having observed him did not worry to draw attention to his presence, as the object of the adjournment as shown by the Registrar’s affidavit was to prevent too much publicity being given to the publication in the Advocate. Dugal Smith as an employee of the “Advocate” would probably have read the publication and would know that nothing further was to be published.

If the respondent truly regretted his attack on the court he could have filed an affidavit stating that now that he knew the true facts he wished to apologise. Even in his second affidavit containing a half-hearted apology he denied committing any contempt. I will nevertheless in imposing sentence take into account what he has sworn in paragraph 5. The sentence is six weeks’ imprisonment without hard labour.

There will be liberty to apply for an earlier release provided such application is accompanied by an unqualified apology. [254]

9 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Culture & Race Issues, History

9 responses to “Barbados 1960 – White Journalist Allowed Into Court, Black Journalists Excluded

  1. william duguid

    This gentleman Mr Burton Hinds went to become a most formidable member of parliament and speaker of the house of assembly.

  2. John

    William

    Can you remember why he had to(?) leave Barbados?

    I seem to remember him one day as speaker and the next day gone with all sorts of innuendo.

    Wasn’t he BLP?

  3. william duguid

    No idea thought he died.

  4. John

    William

    I was looking to the secretary of the BLP to share some of the history of one of its illustrious members.

    Ah well, I’ll see what I can find.

  5. John

    Warren Alleyne in his book on the Houses of the Barbados Assembly lists W.C.B. Hinds as the speaker for the period 1976-1984, 8 years of unbroken service.

    The list covers the period 1652 to 1986. At first glance it looks like there was no other man who held the post for as long an unbroken period.

    As I start to go through the list the closest seems to be Sir John Gay Alleyne who held the post from 1767 to 1770 and then again from 1772 to 1779, the second period being 7 years.

    Nope, there is a Sir John Thomas who held the post from 1847 to 1860, that’s 13 years and then there is Sir F.J. Clarke, KCMG, VD who held the post from 1898 to 1934, that’s 36 years!

    I believe in those days these members would have had to face an election every year, although the electorate would have been limited to landowners who owned above some value, women excluded.

    … and there is J.E.T. Branker QC who held it from 1961 to 1966 and then from 1966 to 1971.

    So W.C.B. Hinds is up there with some heavy names.

    I am sure someone in the BLP could help in giving the history of W.C.B. Hinds and what became of him.

  6. John

    Found a site which gives up to date statistics on the recent speakers.

    Looks like the current speaker beats W.C.B. Hinds for unbroken length of service and the one before equals him.

    http://www.barbadosparliament.com/the_house_of_assembly.php

  7. John

    Looks like the site is missing the period 1966-1971 where it lists no speaker.

    I’ll go by the book and say it was Sir J.E.T. Branker.

  8. littleboy

    WCB Hinds suffered a stroke and was ailing for many years. He beat Frank Walcott in 1966 and was an opposition member until 1976.

  9. Jason Hynds

    Thanks very much for this piece of history!