The King against Davison

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of the King's Bench
Judgment Date01 January 1821
Date01 January 1821

English Reports Citation: 106 E.R. 958


The King against Davison

the king against davison. 1821. A Judge at Nisi Prius has the power of fining a defendant for a contempt committed by him in the course of addressing the Jfiy- The defendant was indicted for the publication of a blasphemous libel. At the trial, at the London sittings after Trinity term, before Best J., the defendant conducted his own defence, which he read from a written paper. In the course of this, he made several offensive observations concerning the Christian religion, and derogatory to the character of persons who were not present in Court to defend themselves. The learned Judge warned him of the impropriety of such conduct, and told him he would not allow him to revile the Christian religion, or attack the character of persons not before the Court. After this admonition, the defendant, as a reason for his not employing counsel, used this expression : " No barrister will undertake and uphold an honest defence in a cause like mine." The learned Judge again interposed, and told him that his conduct was highly improper, and that [330] he must confine himself, strictly, to matter relevant to his defence, and that, if he departed from that course, he, the learned Judge, should be obliged to use the means he had, to restrain him ; to which the defendant replied, "My Lord, if you have your dungeon ready, I will give you the key." For that expression the learned Judge fined him 201. The defendant afterwards used the following expressions. "The deist is anathematised, because he cannot believe that some traditions, handed down among the Jews arid the Christians, are a divine revelation, and not only superior to the several and respective revelations possessed by the Turks, the Brahmins, or the Hindoos, and many others, but the only genuine and authentic revelation in existence. Now it so happens, that the deist considers this collection of ancient tracts to contain sentiments, stories, and representations, totally derogatory to the honour of a G-od, destructive to pure principles of morality, and opposed to the best interests of society." For these expressions the learned Judge fined him 401, The defefljdaat, after that, said, " The bishops are generally sceptics;" for h1ct4he learned/Budge fined him 401. The defendant having been convicted, Cooper, in MuchashHlS term, obtained a rule nisi for a new trial, upon an affidavit, which stated, that, by these fines, the defendant was intimidated and confounded, and omitted some most material parts of his defence, among which were a hundred respectable authorities, selected from the writings of ecclesiastics as well as laymen, in favour of a free toleration, and against every species of persecution, on the score of opinion, which deponent had connected by a chain of reasoning and appropriate remarks; and it further stated his belief, that, had he been permitted to go on without those interruptions [331] and fines, which paralyzed his energies, he should have succeeded in making an impression on the jury in his favour, and obtained a verdict of acquittal. 4 Bf &ALD. 332, THE, KING, V. DAYISONr 959 . Gurney and Marriott, in Michaelmas term, shewed cause. - These fines were properly imposed : the first was for an expression that contained a direct insult to the Judge, and therefore, of itself, was a contempt of Court. The second fine was for a repetition of the oifence for which he was indicted. That was a contempt, therefore, inasmuch as it was a breach of the law committed in the face of the Court; and also was a direct contravention of the order of the learned Judge. The last fine was for an attack upon the character of persons not before the Court, and was a contempt, as it was in contravention of the order given by the learned Judge. These fines, therefore, were all properly imposed, and the necessity for imposing them was created by the misconduct of the defendant himself. He cannot, therefore, make the impositions of those fines a ground for a new trial. Cooper contra. A Judge has no power to fine a defendant for impropriety in the course" of his speech to a jury in his defence. In Viner's Abridgment, more than eighty instances of contempt are given, but there is none of a fine on a defendant for a contempt committed in his defence. Lord Coke, in his 2nd Institute, 228, commenting upon the Statute of Westminster, says, that it extends only to extra-judicial slanders; and, therefore, if any man bring an appeal of robbery, murder, or other felony, against any of the peers or nobles of the realm, and charge them with murder, robbery, or felony, albeit the charge be false, yet shall they have no action [332] de scandalis magnatum, neither at the common law, nor upon either of the statutes for the bringing of his action, nor for affirming the same to his counsel, or attorney, or cursitor, for the framing of his~writs, or for speaking the same in evidence to a jury. And the reason given is, "that men should not be deterred to take their remedyj)^ due course of law." Now, if a man is not to be deterred by the fear of an indictment'' for libel, or an action for scandal, from prosecuting public offences, or the asse^Koin oj bis civil rights, much more ought a defendant, in a case like this, to be free frond all risk and fear. If men are to be free from all intimidation that.may make them hesitate to promote public justice, by prosecuting others, surely they are to be equally unrestrained by any fear of consequences from what they may say in defence of themselves...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • You Xin v Public Prosecutor and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 24 July 2007
    ...[1968] 1 MLJ 22 (folld) R v Almon (1765) Wilm 243; 97 ER 94 (refd) R v Davies [1906] 1 KB 32 (refd) R v Davison (1821) 4 B & Ald 329; 106 ER 958 (refd) R v Joseph Griffin (1988) 88 Cr App R 63 (refd) R v Lefroy (1873) LR 8 QB 134 (folld) R v Logan [1974] Crim LR 609 (refd) R v Kevin Joh......
  • R v Frater
    • Jamaica
    • Court of Appeal
    • 12 October 1979 Re Pollard. 63 Of the many earlier cases, prior to Pollard's case I refer to three only. 64 In R v. Davison (1821) 4 B & Ald 329; 106 E.R. 958 , the defendant was being tried for the publication of a blasphemous libel, and was defending himself in person. In the course of this he mad......
  • Australian Consolidated Press Ltd v Morgan
    • Australia
    • High Court
    • Invalid date
  • Jenkins v Todd
    • Australia
    • Supreme Court
    • 20 April 2016
    ...Detaram Shamdasani v King-Emperor (1945) AC 264; R v Clement (1821) 4 B & Ald 218; 106 ER 918; R v Davison (1821) 4 B & Ald 329; 106 ER 958; R v Dunbabin & Anor, Ex Parte Williams (1935) 53 CLR 434; Registrar of Court of Appeal v Collins [1982] 1 NSWLR 682, cited Supreme Court R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT