Perception counts

Perception counts

The official record of the main judgment in R v Sussex Justices; Ex Parte Mccarthy, a decision of the (then) High Court of England and Wales on 9 November 1923, consists of only 426 words, but this is one of the most often quoted cases in English law, and has been quoted numerous times in South African Courts.

One McCarthy was charged with negligent driving.  By coincidence, a solicitor doing duty as clerk to the magistrates hearing the case was a member of a law firm that acted for a claimant in a civil damages claim against McCarthy arising from the same vehicle accident.  The clerk was present when the magistrates considered the case, but played no role in their discussion and decision-making.  McCarthy was convicted, and appealed based on the apparent conflict of interest of the clerk.

The appeal succeeded:

“… a long line of cases shows that it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.  The question therefore is not whether in this case the … clerk made any observation or offered any criticism which he might not properly have made or offered; the question is whether he was so related to the case in its civil aspect as to be unfit to act as clerk to the justices in the criminal matter. The answer to that question depends not upon what actually was done but upon what might appear to be done.  Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the course of justice.”

It would be wonderful if that standard of conduct was maintained at all times.

Also in this issue:

More quotes from Sowell

To mask or not to mask

The children are not the problem

Support thy neighbour

Beware of meeting with competitors

How close is too close?