Supreme Court, Part 4

Reprinted from the Evening Telegram,
March 21, 1925

Supreme Court
The King vs Albert George Benson
(Proceedings Yesterday Afternoon).


Benson, who was charged with the murder of his ten year old nephew Walter John Sheppard, was found “not guilty” of the charge, nor of manslaughter, by a special jury, after about two hours deliberation. They found the prisoner guilty of gross negligence and, being sent back to consider if this was equivalent to manslaughter, they returned a verdict of “not guilty.”

The Chief Justice began his summing up after recess, pointing out that the charge against accused was a very serious one. Once the fact of killing is found, it is taken to be murder, but every murder charge involves other charges; it is necessary not merely to consider murder, but also whether there has been manslaughter. The evidence of the witnesses was read, and the outstanding features pointed out. The accused had found that the statements made to his wife and others were untrue; he had discovered they were not believed, and it was for the jury to say whether they believed the story told by the accused on the witness stand. The Crown had put before them a case in which there was no direct evidence; all was merely circumstantial. The boy left home with the accused, in apparent good health, and shortly after the latter returned home with the boy who was dead very soon after. The accused made untrue statements and the Crown says that the making of these is not consistent with innocence, unless there is something to hide. Two cases were put before them. There was killing and it had to be considered if there was foul play. In this connection the accused was the only person present. It had also to be considered if there was manslaughter. Where some trivial blow was struck with the intention of causing mere momentary pain, and death results from such, it is manslaughter. There is a further thing that may be considered, that is termed involuntary manslaughter. A person may be doing a perfectly lawful act, but is done in so negligently a manner that death results to another, that is involuntary manslaughter. The jury has to carefully consider the evidence of both sides, discriminating between what is “yes” and what is “no.” It is not sufficient for them to take one statement and balance it against the other as a sum in subtraction, the whole evidence must be sifted out.  Having done so, if they found the Crown had satisfied them that the accused was guilty under any of the headings explained, it was their duty to bring in a verdict according to the evidence. But if there was any doubt the prisoner had to receive the benefit of it.

The jury retired at 3:15 and returned again at five o’clock, reporting that they had found the prisoner “not guilty” of murder, “not guilty” of manslaughter, but “guilty” of gross negligence.

Mr. Bradley submitted that on the finding the prisoner should be entered as not guilty. Mr. Hunt claimed the finding of gross negligence was equivalent to manslaughter.

The Chief Justice then instructed the jury to retire again and bring in a clearer verdict. They had found the prisoner not guilty of murder, and that phase need not be again considered. Manslaughter was of two kinds voluntary and involuntary. If it was found that the prisoner’s negligence was responsible for the death, they must return a verdict of manslaughter, but that was all they could consider under the charge.

The jury again retired, and returned in twenty minutes, reporting a verdict of “not guilty.”

Mr. Bradley then moved for the discharge of the prisoner which was forthwith ordered.


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These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.