ACCUSED FOUND NOT GUILTY.
RIDER BY THE JURY.
On May 26 a train for Oakleigh crashed into a Carrum tram at Caulfield. Three people died from injuries sustained and a number of others was injured. Arising out of the accident, the driver of the Oakleigh train, William Stevenson Milvain, and the guard, James Hargreaves, were charged with manslaughter. The trial was concluded before Mr. Justice Mann in the Criminal Court yesterday.
The allegation of the Crown was that the accused had been guilty of gross negligence in that they had passed the home signal while it was at danger. For the defence it was argued that both the automatic and home signals were at "proceed." After an absence of an hour and 10 minutes the jury yesterday returned a verdict of not guilty, and Milvain and Hargreaves were discharged.
Mr. Justice Mann in charging the jury said that the accused were charged with manslaughter, which meant that the death of a person had resulted from gross negli- gence of both or one of them. Another way of putting the same thing was that the accused, or one of them, had shown such a want of care in critical circumstances as to merit punishment if death resulted. Before the question of punishment could be dealt with at all, however, the jury would have to find that death had been brought about by the action or omission of the accused, or one of them, and had been
brought about by negligence of such a gross character that it merited punishment through the criminal law. It followed that there would be no punishment for an honest mistake which resulted in death; that there was no punishment for what was called an error of judgment. There was also no punishment for having failed to exercise the very highest degree of vigilance. The jury would have to find what degree of blameworthiness attached to the negli- gence, if negligence were proved. If the jury found that the accident had been caused by the act or omission of accused, or one of them, it then had to estimate the blame attachable to them or him for that negligence.
Safe railway travelling was built up on a vast system of signals. The driver of a train loaded with helpless passengers could only go when the signals told him to go. If the driver allowed his attention to wander or be distracted he knew that he would be leading those passengers into disaster. That being the kind of business upon which a driver was engaged, Mr.
Justice Mann felt that any jury would be justified in saying that a driver who allowed his mind to wander, and who ran past a danger signal, was guilty of grave negli- gence, and that if death resulted the jury would be entitled to convict him of gross negligence. On the other hand if that driver was able to show that at the critical time his attention had been distracted by unforeseen circumstances, circumstances which tended to confuse him, and that although attending to his duties he made a real and honest mistake, something that was called an error of judgment, then he should be found not guilty of manslaughter. The jury would weigh the circumstances and the facts and must not decide the issues from the enormity of the results.
The jury retired at 25 minutes to 12 o'clock and returned at 15 minutes to 1 o'clock with a verdict of not guilty. The foreman asked if the jury could add a rider to the verdict.
Mr. Justice Mann.—It has no effect but you can use your own discretion.
The Foreman.—In the opinion of the jury, from the evidence given regarding the running of electric trains, the precautions taken to safeguard the public at this par- ticular point are inadequate, and should be rectified immediately.
JURY APPRAISES DAMAGES.
Verdict for £287/13/.
Bitha Lillian Halfpenny, a telephonist residing at Point Nepean road, Chelsea, yesterday obtained a verdict for £287/13/ against the Victorian Railways Commis- sioners. Miss Halfpenny, who is 19 years of age, and who sued through her next friend, John Halfpenny, her father, claimed £400 damages. She was a passenger on the Carrum train which was run into by an Oakleigh train at the Caulfield station on May 26. One of her knees was injured and she suffered from shock and from in- juries to her heels.
The Railways Commissioners offered £75 compensation, but the amount was re- fused. Eventually Miss Halfpenny brought an action before Judge Williams and a jury the County Court. After the hearing had proceeded for some time on Monday the offer of the commissioners was increased to £150. This sum, how- ever, was also refused, and the matter was allowed to go to the jury.
The jury returned a verdict for plain- tiff and assessed damages at £287/13/. The amount of special damages claimed by Miss Halfpenny was £37/13/, so that she was allowed £250 above her out-of-pocket ex- penses. Judgement was entered for the amount, with costs.
Mr. Eager (instructed by Messrs. Morgan and Fyffe) appeared for plaintiff, and Mr.
Macfarlan (instructed by the State Crown solicitor) for the defendant commissioners.