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The Revolt of the Samoans

When the Chief Judge Broke the Law

When the Chief Judge Broke the Law

Arising out of what the Natives of Samoa regard as New Zealand's maladminstration of Western Samoa, there has grown up the great organisation known as the Mau. Its membership is wholly Samoan, and its badge of membership is a purple ribbon. In a brief while thousands of Samoans were found displaying the purple badge; and the spectacle would appear to have aroused the ire of the Chief Judge, who set himself the task of forcibly removing the badges from some of page 13 the wearers. Evidence given Before the Joint Samoa Committee described how the Hon. G. E. L. Westbrook, M.L.C., had come upon the Chief Judge in the act of pulling the purple badges off the coats of two Samoan chiefs. Mr. Westbrook saw the Judge throw one of the badges on the ground and stamp on it after tearing it off the chief. There was intense indignation among the Samoans who were aware of what had taken place, and but for the timely intervention of Mr. Nelson when he found certain Natives searching for the Chief Judge the incident easily might have led to violence. In due time an information was laid, charging the Chief Judge with having used insulting behaviour whereby a breach of the peace might have been occasioned. When the case was called, in July last, counsel for the Chief Judge made an endeavour to have the charge withdrawn, and Judge McCarthy (who was on the Bench) also urged a withdrawal. His Honour said that, while the Samoans were quite within their rights, they had in effect brought disgrace on the Chief Judge by having him charged in that court. The Chief Inspector of Police, Mr. Braisby, said that he had urged the Samoans to withdraw the case, but they had decided to go on. The court was adjourned to facilitate a withdrawal; but, after consultation with about a score of other chiefs who were present, the two chiefs against whom the offence had been committed decided to proceed with the charge; whereupon counsel for the defence entered a plea of guilty and suggested that the ends of justice would be met if the maximum fine were imposed. The presiding Judge then asked if there was any need to go into the facts of the case, and the Police Inspector said that if the maximum fine were inflicted there would be no need to state the facts. Consequently, the facts were not stated; but, instead of imposing the maximum fine, Judge McCarthy let the Chief Judge off with the ridiculously light penalty of a fine of £3 and no costs!