16th November 1909
Reference Numbert19091116-84
VerdictGuilty > unknown
SentenceNo Punishment > sentence respited

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CHAPIN, Alice (45, no occupation) ; unlawfully and without due Authority interfering with a certain ballot box then in use for the purpose of a certain Parliamentary Election for the Parliamentary Division of Bermondsey, by introducing into the said ballot box divers liquid chemicals; second count, unlawfully and without due authority attempting to destroy a certain packet of ballot papers then in use for the purposes of the said election; third count, unlawfully assaulting George Thorley and thereby occasioning him actual bodily harm; fourth count, unlawfully and maliciously inflicting upon him grievous bodily harm.

Mr. Muir and Mr. Leycester prosecuted; Mr. C. F. Gill, K. C., and Mr. H. A. McCardie defended.

GEORGE THORLEY . I am & schoolmaster, living at Acton. On October 28 I was one of the presiding officers at the Boutcher's School polling station, Grange Road, Bermondsey, on the occasion of an election for the Bermondsey Division. The poll opened at 8 a.m. and polling commenced at once; about 80 voting papers had been handed in by 11 o'clock. At that hour defendent entered the room, walking; from the door towards me; I stood up and bent forward to ask her her business; instead of stopping when she reached me she took another step, which placed her in front of the ballot box; she raised her hand and brought it smartly down on the mouth of the box; there was a slight crash as of broken glass, and I felt on my face and in my eye a splash of some liquid; I felt a burning sensation in my right eye and on the cheek and neck. I was attended to temporarily by Dr. Marshall and then went to Guy's Hospital. I am still receiving medical attention. My sight was slightly blinded, but the doctors say it is improving. The coat I was wearing (produced) has holes burned in it in several places, from the fluid splashing on to it.

Cross-examined. At the police-court I said that I was quite satisfied that the injury to myself was purely accidental and that the defendant had no idea of hurting me; I made that statement quite voluntarily and without having been approached in any way on behalf' of the defendant. The first thing I did on receiving the splash was to go to a cupboard in the polling-room where there was some 800 ammonia, used for chemical experiments in the school, intending to apply it to my burns. One of the polling clerks tried to dilute it for me, but I found his solution was too strong to use. The ballot-papers are sent to the presiding officers in perforated books of fifties; as each elector comes up he gives in his name and number on the register, a paper is torn out of the book and handed to him, and he himself places it in the box; there is no "packet" of papers in the box itself.

Re-examined. I did not use the ammonia on my face and none of it went on my coat.

HAROLD WALTER STEVENS , who acted as polling clerk under Mr. Thorley, spoke to saturating his handkerchief with some diluted ammonia and handing it to Mr. Thorley; the latter declined to use it, as it was too strong.

JOHN OLIVER NEWTON . I was acting as polling clerk on this day. I saw defendant enter the room; I heard a little crash of glass, and saw on the top of the ballot box some dark fluid. I picked up from. the floor the remains of the glass test-tube, from which the liquid had come.

P. C. EZEKIEL GREENAWAY spoke to picking up the rubber stopper of the test-tube.

WILLIAM HAYES , High Sheriff of the Borough of Southwark. I acted as Returning Officer at the Bermondsey election. On receiving a communication I went to the Boutcher's School polling station about 11.15. I found the top of the ballot box was nearly covered with a sticky brown, fluid, with some pieces of glass. I sealed up the box, and it was not opened until the counting that night. It was found to

contain 83 voting papers; most of them were stuck together in a mass, but they were all decipherable.

REGINALD PRIM MARSHALL . I am Divisional Police Surgeon at Grange Road. I happened to be at this polling station at the time Mr. Thorley was injured, and saw him immediately. I found the conjunctiva of the right eye was excoriated, the eyelids were injected, the eye was suffused with tears, and the pupil was contracted. The injuries were such as would have been caused by some corrosive irritant, an acid or an alkali.

Cross-examined. I noticed no smell of ammonia about the eye.

CYRIL ALBERT FRANCIS , and ARTHUR WILLIAM ORMOND, opthalmic surgeons at Guy's Hospital, described the injuries received by Mr. Thorley, confirming the evidence of Dr. Marshall. The conjunctiva was now healed; there was only a little redness, which would pass away. There was a mark on tie cornea, one-third of an inch long; this was healing, but there was still a slight haze. Mr. Ormond was of opinion that there might be a slight permanent effect.

This concluded the case for the prosecution.

Mr. Gill submitted that there was no case to go to the jury on count 2, on the ground that the injury done was to individual ballot papers, not to a "packet"; and that there was no case on count 1, on the ground that the ballot box itself was not itself "interfered with" in the sense contemplated by the Statute.

Mr. Justice Grantham overruled both objections.

Mr. Gill further submitted that there was no case on counts 3. and 4, as no intent to injure had been proved; on the contrary, Mr. Thorley himself stated that he believed the injury to have been caused accidentally.

Mr. Justice Grantham ruled that the case must go the jury.

Mr. Gill, in his address to the jury, disclaimed, on the part of the defendant, any intention to injure the prosecutor. Her only object was to obliterate some of the ballot papers, in order to call public attention to the views of herself and others on the question of woman suffrage.

Verdict, Guilty on count 1; Not Guilty on counts 2 and 4; on count 3, Guilty of a common assault.

Sentence postponed until the conclusion of the following case.

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