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that the papers were the papers of the benchers at the time of the assault. That I shall leave to the jury, with this direction, that it depends upon whether the letter-book was the plaintiff's private and personal book or the book
Somal book of the book of the company; in which latter case I shall direct the jury to find the question in favour of the defendants, as I am of opinion that they would then have a lawful possession of the book for the purpose of the inquiry.
But then, in the event of that question being rightly determined in favour of the plaintiff, another question will arise, which appears to me to be of law, and which I propose to reserve; viz., whether, even assuming that the papers were the plaintiff's private and personal papers, they were not lawfully in the possession of the benchers as a species of domestic tribunal (a), having a lawful jurisdiction to pursue a certain inquiry (although, no doubt, not having the compulsory powers of a regular Court of Justice), just as, in a Court of Justice, private papers, which have not been produced by a witness, and placed in the custody of the officer of the Court, are, pending the trial, in his lawful possession; whether or not, in fact, they were produced voluntarily or compulsorily (b). That question I shall reserve.
(a) Just as the visitatorial juris- the consent of both the parties to it, diction is not the less one recog- and before any revocation of authonized by law, even to the exclusion rity by either, capriciously and arbiof Courts of Law and Equity (Whis- trarily to withdraw it, pending the ton v. The Dean of Rochester, 7 inquiry; and 2ndly, whether, in the Hare, 532), because it is a domestic case which this clearly was(and was forum.
laid down to be) of a jurisdiction (b) This important question di- not voluntary as regards the parties vides itself into two points; 1st, whe- to the inquiry itself, though with ther, even assuming that the case was no compulsory powers to as to third one of a purely voluntary inquiry parties, a third party having pro(like an arbitration at common law duced a material document can after a revocation of authority), a thus capriciously withdraw it pendthird party, producing a material ing the inquiry. Upon this quesdocument as a witness, has a right, tion—as it was reserved the LORD while the inquiry is continuing, with Chief Justice of course had not
Chambers contended that the benchers only formed a private body, and were making only a friendly inquiry;
SLADE and Others.
COCKBURN, C. J., was clearly of a contrary opinion; that they were a tribunal, though a domestic tribunal.
At the close of the case,
COCKBURN, C. J., thus directed the jury :—The case on the part of the plaintiff divides itself into two heads of complaint; one is the assault committed on the plaintiff, the other is as to the giving him into custody. These two branches of the case each stand on a different footing. As regards the first, it is admitted that the assault was committed ; and it is admitted to have been done by the order of the Master Treasurer, given on behalf of the benchers : they all concurred in it, and the four who are sued accept their liability and adopt the act, and admit that, unless legally justified, they are responsible for it.
Now, the plea of justification states some things which to direct the jury; but some obser- is attained for which it was given. vations which he made in his com- And on this point, perhaps, the alments on the general character of legation in the plea as to the object the case had a strong and pertinent with which the book was withdrawn, application to this great question of may have been material; vide ante, law; observations in which he dwelt p. 394. The plaintiff, on the first on the extreme injustice which occasion, clearly licensed the use of might be done to Mr. Seymour on the book for the second. Added the one hand, or the profession and to this, there was the estoppel the benchers on the other, by rea- arising from the plaintiff's having, son of the withdrawal of the book during the whole of one day's exajust when it began to become most mination, allowed the defendants important for the interests of truth, to suppose they were lawfully posand the objects of the inquiry. If sessed of the book, and to act on as regards a mere ordinary licence that supposition. It might, perit may becoine in some cases per- haps, be hazarded as a proposition manently irrevocable by reason of of law, that a man can never be its having been acted upon, surely allowed to act capriciously, so as to a licence under such circumstances perpetrate an injustice and an in. may fairly be deemed temporarily jury upon a third party; vide Freeirrevocable, or at least not revocable mun v. Couke, 2 Exch. 654. th ou tjust cause, until the object
are admitted, as that the Middle Temple is an ancient Society, and had a certain jurisdiction to inquire into the conduct of its members, and were engaged in a certain inquiry. Then the plea goes on to state that the plaintiff had submitted himself to be examined, and that it appeared upon such examination that he had himself been connected with the gold mining company, and that questions arose upon certain papers of the benchers which were produced by them for the purposes of the inquiry.
Now, here a question arises whether they were the “papers of the benchers," i. e., their property at the time, and of which they had lawful possession. Now, certainly, they had a possession; but possession would not necessarily give them the property in the papers. Primâ facie, indeed, it would; for possession is sufficient as against a wrongdoer. And if Mr. Hudson, without himself being entitled to the papers, took them without any right or title from the possession of the benchers, then, as against him, they were theirs. But if they were his papers, and he was entitled to the possession, and his possession would be good against them, they would be wrongdoers. This raises the question whether he was a wrongdoer. The benchers had received the papers from Mr. Brown, who was solicitor of this defunct company. He had become its solicitor at the time when it was on the eve of expiring, and he in the course of his inquiry discovered that all the books and papers of the company had vanished, except this letter-book. Thus he had a legitimate custody of the papers, and handed them over to the benchers, who were managers of the inquiry, and who were bound to band them back to him. They had thus a special property in them unless the plaintiff made out that he was entitled to them. This brings us back to the question whether they were his or not (a). If they were not, then, for the pur
(a) The question as to the inte appears, from all the authorities on rest or property in a book or paper the subject, to depend rather on
SLADE and Others.
poses of this trial, they were the papers of the benchers.
property in the paper-book, as it was first made, was in 1862. him. But, even if he be correct as to that, did he not,
HUDSON after having had the book made up, so far dedicate it to
SLADE the purposes of the company as to make it theirs ? We and Others must look at it and see if it was not really the letter-book of the company; and if you are of opinion that it was, then he was no more entitled to it than any other director; and, as it was in the hands of the solicitor of the company, and Mr. Seymour, who had been its chairman at the time the letters were copied into it, desired that it should remain with the benchers, it could not be said to be the plaintiff's as against them, they having received it from the solicitor, and Mr. Seymour having desired them to retain it.
Now, I have looked carefully over the letters, seventeen in number, and out of those seventeen only six are copies of letters to Mr. Hudson. The others are copies of letters to or from the secretary, or the engineer or manager of the company, or on behalf of Mr. Seymour, the chairman. And you will observe throughout, even in the few letters by the plaintiff, the use of the word "we.” Thus, the first letter is from the plaintiff to the manager in America, and refers throughout to the business of the company, it is for you (a) to exercise your judgment upon this,—whether, though this in a certain sense is a private letter, yet, as being written by a director to the manager
Beav. 134. On this principle the book in the present case would be the property of the company, and were it at the office, was not more in the possession of one director than of another; Penny v. Goode, i Drewry, 474 ; so that it was not more in the plaintiff's possession than in Mr. Seymour's, and so was lawfully in the possession of the benchers. And further, it continued in their possession, in law, up to and at the time of the assault
and attempt to retake it, because it had been obtained in such a manner as not to revest the possession lawfully in the plaintiff or deprive them of it, and his actual manual possession had not for a moment been acquiesced in, so that the case did not in that respect resemble Blades v. Higgs, 30 L.J., C. P. 347; and even assuming that case not to be supportable, in the present case the benchers would be justified.
(a) See 27 L. J., Exch. 34.