Gilbert's Letter to The Times of 29 January 1908
Issue 36865, pg. 9 col E


Bailiff Shooting


Sir,--I read in The Times of to-day that a man of 70 was charged before Mr. Justice Ridley with shooting two bailiffs who entered his house to remove furniture under a bill of sale. The prisoner, although he was represented to have been in ill-health at the time, nevertheless shot so well that the first bullet was only prevented from entering the body of one of the bailiffs by the accidental presence of two penny pieces in his waistcoat pocket. The second bullet pierced the other bailiff's coat-sleeve. The amazing Mr. Justice Ridley decided to discharge the would-be assassin on the ground of his age and ill-health, binding him over in his own recognizances to be of good behaviour in the future. At the same time, and to prevent any general misconception on a really important point, the Judge thoughtfully stated that if other persons (presumably younger persons in robust health) came before him charged with the offence of emptying revolvers into the bodies of officials engaged in executing the law, "they must not expect to be dealt with so leniently."

If a man of 70 may attempt with impunity the murder of officials who are following their lawful pursuits, it would seem to follow that he is also at liberty to commit crimes of lesser magnitude should it please him to do so. If this indemnity were carefully formulated and embodied in the Old-Age Pensions Bill, it might tend to enhance the value of the mere money dole in the eyes of prospective recipients.

Your obedient servant,

June 27.
W.S. GILBERT
Previous letter Next letter



Page created 9 October 2004