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Issue #1918      June 8, 2020


Against Sharkey, states Paterson

“This is a political prosecution, aimed at the defendant because he is General Secretary of the [Communist Party of Australia],” declared Mr F. W. Paterson MLA in winding up the case for the defence of Mr L. L. Sharkey on charges of sedition in the special Federal Court.

Mr Paterson’s speech was one of the most powerful ever heard in the court. Spectators, including the big array of journalists from all Sydney newspapers, were deeply impressed. The Crown Prosecutor, Mr Dovey, referred to it as a “very earnest and interesting address.”

Mr Isles SM dismissed the charge of publishing seditious words, but held that a case had been made out on the charge of uttering seditious words. He committed Mr Sharkey for trial at the Central Criminal Court.

“If the defendant is guilty of publishing words of a seditious intention the Daily Telegraph reporter, editor and proprietor should be in the dock with him, or rather, instead of him,” said Mr Paterson.

“They were the persons finally responsible; they published it; and it is obvious that the Crown has not sought to prosecute the Daily Telegraph or any body connected with it.”

The Telegraph, said Mr Paterson, deliberately sought this statement.

“They sought it for whatever motive I do not know — whether in order to get news or whether because it was a deliberate conspiracy to trap him: there is no evidence of that, but the fact is plain that the Daily Telegraph, through its employees, deliberately sought this; they calmly published it after they had it in front of them, and if the publication by Sharkey, through the authority, was likely to promote feelings of ill-will, etc., then obviously the publication by the paper itself was likely to do the same.”

“No intention proved”

Mr Paterson asked the magistrate to dismiss the informations on the grounds that the evidence didn’t prove Mr Sharkey uttered or published the alleged words; that the words didn’t express any intention at all and that, if they did express an intention, it was not a seditious intention as defined in the Crimes Act.

“I cannot find any evidence that the defendant uttered those words,” said Mr Paterson.

“The Telegraph reporter, Mr McGarry, gave evidence to the effect that he had certain conversations with the defendant.

“The most his evidence can support is, as a result of conversations, the exact words or the effect of which he cannot recollect, he typed certain things down.

“For instance, I might say to Mr X ‘Are you married?’ Mr X says ‘Yes.’ If I were journalist and reported that to a newspaper the paper would say ‘Mr X said he was married.’ That does not mean, and there is no evidence here to suggest, that Mr X uttered the words ‘I am married.’ He merely utters the word ‘Yes’; that is the utterance.

This article originally appeared in Tribune April, 1949.

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