Offence: Royal Offences > seditious libel
Verdict: Guilty > pleaded guilty
Punishment: Imprisonment > no_subcategory
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HORSLEY, Arthur Fletcher (printer), pleaded guilty of unlawfully, maliciously, and seditiously printing and publishing in a certain periodical called the "Indian Sociologist" a wicked, scandalous, and seditious libel concerning the Government of the King of and in At Indian Empire and the administration of the laws in force there; printing and publishing, and causing to be printed and published, a the said periodical a certain scandalous printed article, being part of that periodical, the same being calculated and intended to stir up and erase discontent and unrest among Hit Majesty's liege subjects.
The Attorney-General (Sir William Robson, K. C., M. P.), Mr. Bodkin, Mr. Rowlatt. and Mr. Graham-Campbell prosecuted; Mr. G. Tully-Christie appeared for the defendant.
The "Indian Sociologist" was first printed by the defendant in May. It was edited by one Krishnavarma, a British Indian subject, resident in Paris, a prominent leader of the Indian "Nationalist" movement, who openly advocated the doctrine of political assassination. The July number, the immediate subject master of this prosecution, contained an article which the Attorney-General described as one of the worst that could possibly have been-published, containing the clearest and most criminal incitements to murder.
On behalf of the defendant Mr. Tully-Christie called one of several available witnesses to character:
Mr. FRANK MYNOTTsaid that, having known the defendant all his life and had every opportunity of studying hit character, he could testify that his general reputation at regards character and loyalty was excellent.
Mr. Tully-Christie said the defendant was a man of the highest character and had never mixed himself up in anything relating to politics. It had been merely the want of exercising proper care in preparing the proofs which had brought him into hit present position. The proofs of the article in question were sent over from Paris and arrived on the morning of Jane 26 with a letter from Krishnavarma asking that they should be immediately sent bank to Paris, if possible the same day. Without opening the packets of proofs the defendant handed them over to his manager, who set op the type. The defendant had never even seen a copy of them. Of course, it could not be said that that was any excuse for the publication of this disgraceful and scandalous libel, but counsel asked the Court to take into consideration that it was merely a technical offence on the defendant's part. He had no knowledge of Krishnavarma and was even unable to tell the police what his address was. Only two copies of the July number were circulated in England; one of these was given to the police and the other to an illustrated paper. Counsel asked the Court to take into consideration the facts and to deal with the defendant as leniently as possible.
The Lord Chief Justice, in giving judgment, said: Arthur Fletcher Horsley, you have certainly adopted a very proper course, so far as what you have done since this charge was made against you, and I am quite willing to take the view that you did print tins very terrible and wicked article without taking sufficent care, and without knowing, it may be, exactly what the contents were. I have no intention of repeating any of the paragraphs from the article; I certainly do not wish to give them any greater publicity. They have been properly described by the learned Attorney-General as being deliberate and direct incitings to murder and a wicked attempt to justify those incitings by suggesting that political assassination it not murder. I am quite sure that you would be the last person in the world who would wish to be thought to endorse any such suggestion It must, however, be borne in mind that very great mischief is done by these articles. Any student of history—any student of what has happened in the last 50 years—must know perfectly well that the evil which these articles do is not always traced or discovered; but when it is discovered it is shown undoubtedly to exist to a very large extent, and you have brought yourself within the law by printing for the proprietors of this paper this article. While I am quite willing to believe, and do believe, that had you known and appreciated the character of the article you would have stopped it at once, I am obliged to observe, in the interests of justice, that you had had warning which ought to have made you more careful. The terns of the May article and the language of the June article were such that you ought not to have accepted without some care articles coming from the same source. I admit that you seem to have recognised that afterwards. Further, while, as the Attorney-General has said, from some points of view the interview with the police was in your favour, because I believe that you honestly said that you would stop the publication if there was any objection to it, the reply given by the police, which they were bound to give you, that they had no right to interfere, and would not interfere, if you kept within the law, was a warning which ought to have made you more watchful. I say this, not in the least for the purpose of throwing any doubt upon the sentence with which I began, that I believed you were careless and had no—what I may call—direct criminal intention in publishing this article. But it must not be forgotten that the intention may be gathered from the article itself, and people who carelessly publish such articles must understand that it is no defence, if from the article itself a libellous or seditious or malicious intention can be gathered, to say that they themselves had no intention of publishing it. I cannot pass over this matter without some punishment I think it would be of the worst example if that were done, because, as I have said, what has happened—it may be in consequence of such articles as this—is patent to all of us at the present moment. are probably aware that by provisions of statutes persons convicted of seditious libel are ordered to be treated as first-class misdemeanants—that is to say, you will not be subjected to the ordinary incidents of prison life; but it would not be right that it should be thought that a person can—even by carelessness—publish such articles without punishment; and I must sentence yon to four months' imprisonment as first-class misdemeanant.