R v Gray

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date1900
CourtDivisional Court
[DIVISIONAL COURT] THE QUEEN v. GRAY. 1900 March 27, 28. Lord Russell of Killowen C.J., Grantham and Phillimore JJ.

Contempt of Court - Publication of Comments on Administration of Justice - Personal Abuse of Judge with Reference to his Conduct as Judge.

The publication in a newspaper of an article containing scurrilous personal abuse of a judge, with reference to his conduct as a judge in a judicial proceeding which has terminated, is a contempt of Court punishable by the Court on summary process.

HOWARD ALEXANDER GRAY appeared before the Court in obedience to an order made, upon the application of the Attorney-General, on the Crown side of the Queen's Bench Division, to answer for a contempt of Court committed by publishing in a newspaper — the Birmingham Daily Argus — an article headed “A Defender of Decency.”

The facts appearing from the affidavits filed in support of the application, and admitted by counsel for Gray, were as follows:—

The Birmingham Spring Assizes commenced on March 13, and Darling J. sat in the Crown Court for the trial of prisoners. On March 15 one Wells was about to be tried before the learned judge for unlawfully and indecently publishing and uttering certain obscene and filthy words, and for unlawfully publishing and selling an obscene libel contained in a book. Before the trial of Wells was commenced Darling J. made some observations in Court, pointing out in substance that, whatever might be the rights of the case, it was inexpedient that the newspaper press should give anything like a full or detailed account of what passed at the trial, and that, although a newspaper had the right to publish accounts of proceedings in a law court, and for many purposes was protected for doing so, there was absolutely no protection to a newspaper for the publication of objectionable, obscene, and indecent matter, and any newspaper which did so might as easily be prosecuted as anybody else. The learned judge further said that, although he hoped and believed that his advice would be taken, if it was disregarded he should make it his business to see that the law was in that respect enforced.

On March 16, after the trial of Wells, which resulted in his conviction, had been concluded and sentence passed, and whilst the Birmingham Assizes were still continuing and Darling J. was still sitting as one of Her Majesty's judges of assize, Gray wrote and published in the Birmingham Daily Argus, a newspaper circulating in Birmingham, of which he was the editor, the article in question, headed “A Defender of Decency.”

It is thought unnecessary to set forth this article. It was written with reference to the observations made by Darling J. before the trial of Wells, and may be described in the words of Lord Russell of Killowen C.J.F1, as being “personal scurrilous abuse of the judge as a judge.”

In an affidavit made by Gray himself he described the article thus: “In writing the article …. I used language referring to Mr. Justice Darling in terms which were intemperate, improper, ungentlemanly, and void of the respect due to his Lordship's person and office. …. I deeply regret the publishing of the article and the inexcusable and insulting language in which it referred to one of Her Majesty's judges, and I humbly apologise to his Lordship and to the Court for my conduct, which I now, upon consideration, see reflected not only upon the individual judge but upon the bench of judges, and the administration of justice.”

Sir Richard Webster, A.-G. (Henry Sutton with him), stated the facts, and said that he was prepared with authority to shew that the publication of the article was a contempt of Court, and that the proper procedure had been adopted.

[LORD RUSSELL of KILLOWEN C.J. intimated that the Court were satisfied upon those points.]

Hugo Young, Q.C. (Gilbert Tangye with him), for Gray, said that he proposed to...

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165 cases
8 books & journal articles
  • Administrative and Constitutional Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2010, December 2010
    • 1 December 2010
    ...AG v Wain [1991] 1 SLR(R) 85 (‘Wain’). Second, the reliance in some cases such as Wain and Tan Liang Joo (above, para 1.92) on R v Gray [1900] 2 QB 36 which Badry v Director of Public Prosecutions [1983] 2 AC 297 (‘Badry’) interpreted as requiring the consideration of the potential effect o......
  • Table of Cases
    • Nigeria
    • DSC Publications Online Sasegbon's Laws of Nigeria. Volume 7: Part I Preliminary sections
    • 29 June 2016
    ...R. v. Graham (1910) 4 Cr. App. Rep. 218…………………......................………......................……552 R. v. Gray (1900) 2 Q.B. 36 where at page 40…………………......................................................454 R. v. Greenfield (1973) 57 Cr. App. R. 849………………................................112......
  • Some reflections on the law of contempt
    • Ireland
    • Irish Judicial Studies Journal No. 2-2, July 2002
    • 1 July 2002
    ...can hardly have filled the accused or his representatives with confidence. The Birmingham Daily Argus launched an attack on Darling J 63[1900] 2 Q.B. 36. 111 Judicial Studies Institute Journal which was described as “scurrilous” but neither Lord Russell of Killowen who gave the main speech,......
    • Nigeria
    • DSC Publications Online Sasegbon’s Judicial Dictionary of Nigerian Law. First edition J
    • 6 February 2019
    ...and that they all must act with restraint on these occasions. We recall the observation of Lord Russell of Kilowen in R. v. Gray (1900) 2 Q.B. 36 at p. 41 that "jurisdiction to deal with contempt summarily should be exercised with scrupulous care and only when the case is clear and beyond r......
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