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Derby Daily Telegraph - 5 July 1919

The civil list of causes at the Derbyshire Summer Assizes included two — one for libel and the other for breach of promise — brought by Miss Annette Julia Elizabeth Leslie, of Ittingstone Farm, Shirley, whose father died in 1907 was formerly an architect in Derby.
A commencement with the libel action was made Friday evening, Mr. Justice Shearman sitting without jury. defendant Fred H. Atkins. Shirley Common, and the passage complained of as libel by Miss Leslie were contained in the following letter received by her fiance (Mr. W. E. Bourne, of Shirley) whilst was on active service abroad:—
I am sorry to tell you something I have had on my mind for a considerable time. I have not known you very long, but what I have seen of you I think can can you a pal, and I'm d_____ if I can let go on what without you knowing. You are engaged to Miss Leslie, and I think she is in duty bound whilst you are fighting for your country and for her to be true you and that she is not. She is going about and meeting every possible chance a soldier from Brown's the Mill. He takes her to dances every where. I could tell you heaps more, and will do should you wish when you come home. I ask you one thing, keep this confidential. I have written from man to man. It has taken me some time to tell you this, but felt my duty. Well, Old boy I hope we shall have many happy days in the near future. Very kindest regards, in which the wife joins, Believe me, yours most sincerely, Fredk. H. Atkins
Mr. H. H Joy (instructed Mr. J. W. Holbrook representing the plaintiff, said Miss Leslie. who was 23 years of age in 1913, became engaged to Mr. Bourne, who had served in Egypt and Palestine, but they arranged take the advice of Mrs. Leslie to postpone marriage until the war was over. Tn 1918 Mr. Bourne was abroad, and the correspondence showed the couple were on the best of terms, until Miss Leslie received letter from her fiance in February 1918, that the engagement was broken off in consequence of information he had received in a letter which he enclosed, and sent back photographs, letters, and a ring. Plaintiff lived with her mother the farm, there also being there another daughter and one or two sons. Mr. Bourne, man of about 30 years age, was in the Derbyshire Yeomanry previous to outbreak the war. The signature on the letter had been blotted over make it illegible, but it undoubtedly was that the defendant Atkins. Miss Leslie regarded the statements as most serious. The letter was clearly defamatory.
Suppose she was flirting with someone else whilst the other was away?
Mr. Joy said it was beyond that. The letter held complainant up to opprobrium and contempt.
The Judge: sunpose both these actions cannot be settled the parties marrying now?
Mr. Joy: we may hear of one that way, but I don't know whether we shall. He added that the soldier referred to in the letter was. nnmed Ryder; he had been sent Christmas. 1917. under substitution regulations, work on Mr. Brown's farm. Complainant, giving evidence, said in July, 1918. she was not at Brown's farm haymaking. Oct. 7 she would at, home in tot? daytime, and in the evenin? went with her and Mrs. Soften a sale the harvest festival goods in Shirley schoolroom. She came away with them and her brother Willie. She never saw Ryder that day. She went to fete Red Cross nurse, this being the suggestion of Mrs. Coatcs. and collected for the Red Cross funds, and in the evening there was a dance. There would be about present, and Ryder was one. The Judge: He was one ( century of guests. (Laughter.) Counsel elicited from complainant that Ryder was paying great attention another young lady. Mr. Joy there any foundation for what is suggested in that letter whatever. Mr. Norman Birkett (instructed by Mr. Bendlo W. Moore), who appeared for the defendant, crossova mined plaintiff when the case was resumed this (Saturday) morning, counsel suggesting that Atkins never had chance denying the. which had been upon the letter, and that the first thing was tbe issue writ. The reply was that plaintiff did not know that. She agreed that the letter did not suggest misconduct, but it did suggest she had not been true. The Judge:. What about the words "heaps more." is not letter that pleases me. Further cross-examined, admitted that on occasion she and Ryder were working on the cart in the bayfiold, aud both rode on the hay .stackyard. She denied strongly that on another Ryder had his arm round her waist. She did not care for anybody else, but she did not think could expect her to care for him now after the way he had treated her. The letter suggested that she was going everywhere with Ryder, and that she complained of, because was untrue. On one occasion Ryder cycled with her sister and herself to dance, because did not know the road. Miss Laura Leslie, younger sister of plair.tiff. gave evidence corroborating that her sister was never alone with Ryder, and at dances Ryder generally had his partner another young lady, whose name she gave. The Judge: had better have no name, but simply say "another young lady." We don't want another libel action. Mrs. Leslie said she took the letter her solicitor, it reflected on her daughter's character. The Judge said he considered the letter constituted an innuendo of immoral character. mark a letter confidential always accelerated the innuendo. Mr. Birkett argued that the letter did not bear any sinister innuendo, but simply ono impropriety going about with another man. He further pleaded privilege. His Lordship held that the letter was not privileged. Defendant, who is years age. and was I farmer, writing the letter. Mr. Birkett: By that letter did you mean these ugly things—that there hud been misconduct?— j .lost certainly not. He further stated that he i had seen Ryder walking with Miss Leslie with his arm round her waist. The. Judge: It doubles the damages. 1 don't believe it. true it would have been the plea justification, Cross-examined: Defendant ho considered he was doing his duty to the two concerned He thought Miss Leslie was not playing the game with her fiancee, who was fighting abroad. He had no j wish to break the engagement. The Judge said he did not believe last state! ment. It was perfectly obvious that the object of the letter was break off the engagement. Mr. Birkett said in his discretion would not call any further evidence in this case. then proceeded to address the judge in mitigation of damages. His Lordship said the defendant, was extremely luoky in the case being tried by a jury, who would bound consider he had succeeded in his mischievous endeavour parting two nice, good people. • " Tn giving a verdict for plaintiff £50-damages j and costs, his Lordship said 'he plaintiff did nothing any modest girl would not do. The miserable i gossip which existed in these small placet-—when- a. girl talked man they said she was _ •a a king him—reached this wretched man's ears, and he determined to exaggerate in every possible way and wrote .the letter waa convinced, with tho object of breaking off the engagement. h« acted thus from a duty was mistaken sens* duty. BREACH OF PROMISE ACTION. PARTIES AC.REE TERMS. At the conclusion the libel case hi* Lordship suggested that there might settlement of the ! ; action for breach marriage which ."diss Leslie had against W. E. Bourne, j farmer, Shirley, lo whom the letter wag written. The counsel, the tame as the previous case. consulted their client, and agreed upon a verdict for plaintiff for £25. Mr. BirkqsH expressed that there should . have been any imputation cast upon the character •of the plaintiff, and he desired ovary-one to now that there were ground- for imputation that she had ever done anything girl ought not do. Kis Lordship remarked that anyone's duty who j desired make accusations was young parents. He was very glad inde.v.l the case had been settled, and entered the verdic

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