1897 : Mr J C Pluck is a Witness in a Defamation Case


Title:   The South Eastern Gazette, Maidstone Gazette, Kentish Courier, and Middlesex Advertiser, 7,392 5
Date:  2 February 1897
Place:  London



In the Queen’s Bench Division, on Wednesday1, James Henry Leeks brought an action against Robert Croft, of Gravesend, Maidstone, &c., to recover damages for alleged slander. The defendant, by his defence, denied the alleged slander, and further pleaded justification. Mr. Joseph Walton, Q.C., appeared for plaintiff, and Mr. H. F. Dickens Q.C., defended.

In opening the case, Mr. Walton contended that the defamatory words alleged to have been spoken of the plaintiff by the defendant were of a very malicious character. The plaintiff was formerly in the employment of the defendant and his brother, who carried on business as pawnbrokers at Gravesend, Maidstone, and other places in Kent, but in the year 1890 he was dismissed without notice, and charges of dishonesty were made against him. The result was that he brought an action against his employers (who refused to pay him his salary) to recover his salary, and damages for wrongful dismissal and for slander. The plaintiff in that action obtained a verdict and damages. After that the plaintiff commenced business himself in Gravesend as a pawnbroker. That business, not being very successful, was bought by Messrs. Crofts, and plaintiff subsequently opened business as a boot and shoemaker in Gravesend, but, being still unfortunate, arranged for a composition with his creditors, amongst whom were Mr. Haldenstein, Mr. Edward Clarke, and a Mr. Henry Levy. On the 23rd July. 1895 (the composition arrangement being on the 12th July), the present defendant, who had no interest in the composition arrangement, went to Mr. Edward Clarke and made a statement to him to the effect that the plaintiff had removed a considerable amount of the stock which he had in his shop. He also, it was alleged, said that the plaintiff was “the greatest blackguard and vagabond in Gravesend,” and that the police were watching the plaintiff’s place of business. The defendant went to Mr. Haldenstein and to Mr. Levy, and made similar statements, and the plaintiff had nothing else to do but to commence the present action. He originally brought his action against Mr. William Croft, but it then turned out that it was Mr. Robert Croft who had made the statements against plaintiff, and. of course, that action failed, and was dismissed with costs.

The plaintiff was called and substantially bore out counsel’s statement. Cross-examined by Mr. Dickens, Q.C. — In the action which he brought against Messrs. Croft he claimed £1,000 damages for the slander, £100 for the wrongful dismissal, and £20 for wages. The jury gave him a verdict for £19. He did not then instruct Mr. Murphy, his counsel in that action, to ask for substantial damages. His brother had had the boot and shoe business for four years before he had it, and owed him (plaintiff) money, but he never told him that he (his brother) must call his creditors together. His brother’s creditors were called together. When witness started the boot business he owed certain persons money. He had advertised the business as being opened by his mother, but he did that because his mother was held in great esteem at Gravesend. From the day of opening, however, he carried on the business as J. H. Leeks. He kept it on until July, 1895. The only books he kept were a repairing book, a day ledger and sales book. He kept the stock from invoices. Before the compromise with his creditors he did not tell Mr. Pluck, another tradesman of Gravesend, what he was going to do, as he wished to keep the thing as quiet as possible.

Mr. Dickens — Did you tell him this, “I am compromising on my creditors, and unless they like to accept what I have offered them they may take all the stock in the shop, as I have removed about £300 worth of stock, which will be sufficient for me to start in business again?” — I never said such thing.

Mr. Dickens asked Mr. Pluck, who was in Court, to stand up, and, addressing the witness, said, “Will you pledge your word,in the presence of Mr. Pluck that you never said that or words to that effect? The witness: Yes, I will.

Did you go on after this to say to him: “Do you notice that the shop looks bare?” — No, I never said so.

And did he say to .you; “It looks as if you have had a clear out?” — No, nothing of the kind.

A few days afterwards did you stop Mr. Pluck at, your shop door and ask him whether he had told Croft anything about your private affairs? — It is totally untrue.

Did he say this: “I know nothing of your affairs, only what you told me that day?” — He never said such a thing.

After this action had been commenced did you say to Mr. Pluck one day, while he was standing at his door: “I hear you are going to be a witness against me?” — Yes I did.

Did he say: “Yes, you know what you told Mr. ——?” He did.

What did you say to that? — I said “Tell you what?”

What transpired then? — Nothing else. He went in, and I walked down the street.

In further cross-examination, plaintiff denied making a similar statement to Mr. C. Aylen2, of Gravesend, to that imputed to him in regard to Mr. Pluck, or that he said to Mr. Aylen, “I am going to have a game with a lot of Jews, as they have put a writ in my place for £30, after promising me an extension of time.” In October, 1895, he saw Aylen at the Grand Theatre at Gravesend, but did not threaten him, nor was he (plaintiff) ordered out of the place by the proprietor. Mr. Aylen summoned him, but withdrew the summons on his apologising and paying the costs. He had never said to Mr. Alexander Mee, of Gravesend, “I do not believe in hard work; there is no money to be made out of that.” The witness was then examined in great detail as to his business transactions and commercial dealings.

Mr. Edward Clarke and Mr. Charles Arnold (Manager to Mr. Haldenstein) gave evidence as to the uttering of the alleged slanderous words by the defendant. Mr. Henry Levy, a boot and shoe manufacturer in the High-street. Shoreditch, gave similar evidence. Walter Thornton, Chief Constable of the Borough Police at Gravesend, said that he had never watched the plaintiff in connection with the removal of stock from his house, and he knew nothing about it.

At the close of the plaintiff’s case, Mr. Dickens, addressing the jury on behalf of the defendant, said that his client’s answer to the action was that the statements he had made to Mr. Clarke, Mr. Levy, and Mr. Haldensteih were substantially true. He intended to call the three gentlemen whom he had mentioned in the cross-examination of the plaintiff, namely, Mr. Pluck, Mr. Aylen, and Mr, Mee, as having had conversation with the plaintiff, and after the jury had heard the evidence, he should ask them to find that Mr. Croft’s statements were justified, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.

The hearing was resumed yesterday (Monday), before Mr. Justice Kennedy. Evidence was given by the defendant, and Mr. J. C. Pluck, clothier, of Windmill-street, Gravesend, swore that plaintiff informed him on one occasion that he had made an offer to his creditors, and if they did not accept it they could take all there was in the shop, as he had sufficient stock put away to start business with again. Mr. J. C. Ayling3, jobmaster, Stone-street, Gravesend, said plaintiff once informed him that he had hidden away about £200 or £300 worth of stock. Other witnesses were examined. In the end the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, damages £150.

1    27 January 1897
2    sic
3    sic

This is almost certainly a mistake by the newspaper. If you look in the 1891 census you find
William Pluck and his family living at 182-3 Windmill Street, Gravesend.
William's occcupation is clothier/employer.
There is no C J Pluck in the family.  William is PL0771 in Tree 11.


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