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.

Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial – Day Four.

The only witness to appear for Stopes on the fourth day of Stopes v. Sutherland was the Rt. Hon George Roberts M.P. Roberts approach to the cross-examination was to not answer the questions put to him, in keeping with the best traditions of British politics.

The defendant, Dr Halliday Sutherland, entered the witness box after Roberts. Mr Patrick Hastings K.C. had been instructed (in his brief) on how he should proceed in the cross-examination:

“Sutherland is very highly-strung, nervous, irritable and loses his temper very easily if opposed, and when thoroughly roused completely loses his head and his temper and slashes about. He would, therefore make a very bad witness if subjected to a very long and persistent cross-examination of a hostile nature.”

Exterminating Poverty: the true story of the eugenic plan to get rid of the poor, and the Scottish doctor who fought against it” by Mark H. Sutherland (in conjunction with Neil Sutherland).

Despite Hastings’ best efforts, Sutherland acquitted himself competently and credibly.

Following that, the testimony of Dr Arthur Giles, Dr Frederick McCann and Dame Mary Scharlieb provided a coherent criticism of Stopes’ work, and Dr Agnes Saville and Dr William Faulkner rounded out the evidence for the defence.

The next witness, Dr Norman Haire, appeared for neither side because he was appearing under subpoena (ie. his attendance was compelled by order of the Court). Haire’s evidence was very damaging to Stopes not least because, as a birth controller, he might have been expected to support her. While he spoke favourably of her books, his testimony that the cervical cap (the device used at the Mothers’ Clinic) had failed in 25 out of 29 cases and that the Gold Spring she recommended was likely to cause septic abortion was damning. When Stopes’ letter to Haire (asking him to fit the Spring to two correspondents who had asked her for advice) was read to the Court, it revealed that the standard of care she applied to women who came to her for help was below that of the medical profession.

The impact all this evidence had on the minds of the twelve men of the jury was not recorded, but it would not be long before the Court would find out.

In addition to the burden of the trial, Stopes was taxed further by the death of her younger sister, Winnie, at the age of 38.

A summary of the dispute (under 3 minutes) is given here:

Or you can read the full story by clicking here.

One comment on “Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial – Day Four.

  1. Pingback: Centenary of the Stopes v Sutherland libel trial - Halliday Sutherland

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Stopes v Sutherland libel trial 1922-24

Centenary of the House of Lords judgment21 November 2024
13 months to go.

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