Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Near Misses I: Alfred Hall Skelton

(An even-more occasional series on speech the government considered seditious, but which did not result in prosecution)

Statement on the Black Saturday massacre by Alfred Hall Skelton in the Auckland Star, 20th January, 1930:

The most wicked thing of all, which the police have not attempted to explain, was when they turned the machine gun onto Apia village square, which was crowded with women and children and onlookers who had run out on hearing the disturbance. Two boys, two young men, and seven others were all wounded. There was no occasion to fire on those people.

(Emphasis added).

Hall Skelton had been in Samoa at the time, and had conducted his own investigation into the massacre. Samoan witnesses denied the police's claim that the police station was under any sort of attack, and the bullet wounds Hall Skelton personally observed on the injured suggested that the police had pointed their machine gun rather lower than they claimed. His questioning of the official government line outraged the Prime Minister, Joseph Ward, who sought a legal opinion on whether he had overstepped the mark between "permissible censure and sedition". The Crown Solicitor concluded that while the comments were seditious, it was unlikely that a jury would convict.

(Source: Mau: Samoa's Struggle Against New Zealand Oppression by Michael Field, A H & A W Reed, 1984).

Update: re-titled.


This more than any of the other examples demonstrates the true evil of sedition laws. It is, apparantly, seditious to question the conduct of the government, even (or possibly particularly) when that conduct is utterly morally reprehensible and monstrous. More than anything else, crown law's judgement here 9which I'll endeavour to pull from the national Archives) shows why this law should not be on our books.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/28/2005 04:12:00 PM