Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

An offer to settle

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Dr Marie Stopes sought to settle her libel suit against Dr Halliday Sutherland out of court, according to a 1939 newspaper report.

According to the report, written 16 years after the case was heard in the High Court, the offer showed that Stopes “was prepared to stop the proceedings and to pay his (Dr. Sutherland’s) costs if the slightest apology were made.”

The article: “Echoes of Famous Law Case, A.R.P. at Sea, and Finland” appeared in The Southern Cross on Friday, October 20th 1939 and reported Dr Sutherland’s speech to the Catholic Men’s Luncheon Club the previous week. The lunch occurred during Dr Sutherland’s Australian tour in 1939-40.

In welcoming visitors and introducing Dr Sutherland, Mr. A.J. Hannan K.C. made reference to the case and in his reply, Sutherland disclosed Stopes’ settlement offer:

Dr. Sutherland thanked the chairman and his audience for the welcome extended to him. In reference to the Birth Control Libel Case to which Mr. Hannan had made reference, he said that he had regarded it as an honor to represent the Catholic point of view. He could have achieved but little had it not been for the support accorded him, especially by the late Cardinal Bourne. He went on to mention a circumstance in connection with the case which had not been made public. The plaintiff’s legal adviser, Sir Charles Russell[sic], informed him before the trial that the plaintiff was prepared to stop the proceedings and to pay his (Dr. Sutherland’s) costs if the slightest apology were made. In discussing this development with Cardinal Bourne, the Cardinal asked him whether it had changed his mind about proceeding with the case. He replied that he was still determined to fight the  case in the courts, and the Cardinal said to him that he could not advise any other procedure in view of such a determination. “Whereupon,” continued Dr. Sutherland, “I hurried to a telegraph office and despatched the following message to Sir Charles Russell: ‘She has appealed to Caesar: to Caesar let us go.’ Sir Charles, who had much of the Russell blood in his veins, retorted: ‘How do you know which way Caesar will go?'”

Sir Charles Russell was Sutherland’s solicitor (ie. the defendant’s legal advisor, not the plaintiff’s as stated in the article). Mr Percy Braby was the solicitor to the plaintiff.

It would be interesting to know at what point the offer of settlement was made, what the proposed apology looked like, why Stopes was prepared to pay Sutherland’s costs. Unfortunately this was not disclosed.

The article, which is part of the National Library of Australia’s excellent Trove collection, can be viewed here.

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This entry was posted on 1 February 2019 by in Australia, Australian tour, 1939, Stopes v Sutherland.

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Centenary of the Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial

21 February 2023
3.8 years to go.
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