Call McGarr Solicitors on: 01 6351580

Home » Blog » Criminal Law

Judge Roy Bean & friends

Regrettably, power drives the Judicial system, as it does the Executive. How else to explain the case of Mr. Goldstein?

Mr. Goldstein was (is) an Orthodox jew in Manchester. He wrote a cheque in favour of his business colleague in London, to whom he owed money. He had owed the money for some time and was, on one valid view, making payment late.

He put the cheque in an envelope. He also put in some table salt. The salt was a coded joke and was a reference to the fact that the payment was late.

In the postal system the envelope leaked; the leaking salt was discovered by a worker who handled it. This frightened the worker whose managers closed the postal unit until the nature of the salt was discovered. (Inspection revealed its nature). (Emphasis was placed on the fact that a system of a daily double postal delivery was reduced to one delivery that day, discommoding the public).

Mr. Goldstein was charged on indictment and was convicted. Conviction was affirmed in the Court of Appeal.

Luckily for Mr. Goldstein he had two assets; the will and opportunity to keep fighting and a good lawyer.

He appealed to the House of Lords where he was vindicated and his conviction was quashed.

The judgment is of interest to lawyers; it clarifies the crime of public nuisance. But the court went further. It pointed out that, on the known facts, Mr. Goldstein had committed no crime.

A calm, fair-minded person ought to have been able to see this; Mr. Goldstein had no Mens Rea,
no malicious intent. Why enclose a piece of paper with your name on it, in the envelope with the salt, if the intention was to cause a scare? (Of course, it was not incumbent on Mr. Goldstein to prove he had no such intent; it was for the prosecution to prove he did).

To explain what happened to Mr. Goldstein it is necessary to see the legal system as, in single instances, (that is, the individual cases) an expression of a process. The process is driven by power. The people who start and operate the process want it to have an outcome. The process can bring about the equivalent of “type-castingâ€? in the film and theatrical worlds. An actor who plays the villain finds only villainous roles are offered to him/her. In a criminal trial the role of the villain is always allocated to the accused, it seems.

The system (the operators) wants a conviction more than it wants an acquittal.