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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73

Minutes of Evidence

Minutes of Evidence.

Tuesday. 16th October, 1894.—(Hon. Mr. Barnicoat, Chairman.)

Mr. District Judge Kettle examined.

1. Hon. the Chairman.] You are aware that the Government Save removed Major Brown from the Commission of the Peace and cancelled his license as a Native interpreter, on the ground that he interpreted a statutory declaration to a Native knowing it to be false?—Yes. The facts of the case are stated in a memorandum which I gave to the Under-Secretary of the Justice Department, which was produced before a Committee of the Lower House this morning. [Appendix A.] The memorandum was given after the Government had dealt with the case.

2. You are aware of all the circumstances?—Yes. The memorandum referred to states clearly the whole of the facts which came out in evidence in the case of Meringa v. Humphries, tried before page 8 me and a jury in Now Plymouth. I will explain all the circumstances if the Committee wish it.

3. Hon Mr. Montgomery.] Is there anything you wish to add to this memorandum?—No. It contains all the facts of the case. In my memorandum I did not express an opinion on the matter a way or other.

4. Hon. the Chairman.] I should like to ask you whether, you opinion, the duty of an interpreter begins and ends with interpreting correctly to the Natives, or does he constitute himsel[unclear: f] any extent a protector of the Maori to whom he interprets, or of the interests of that Native?—I think it was Major Brown's dut[unclear: y] interpret truthfully what was in the declaration. If he knew the any statement contained in the declaration was false, [unclear: incriminte] or misleading, he should, I think, have declined to act in the matter and he should also have warned the Native.

5. Is there any reason to suppose that this Maori woman [unclear: hersel] was not fully aware of all these facts—that she was not aware this sum of £40 had not been received, and that she was willin[unclear: g] accept in lieu of payment an implied promise of receiving the rest—The Maori woman (Meringa) was called as a witness in the [unclear: cas] of Meringa v. Humphries. She appeared to be incapable of under standing anything. She brought the action against Humphrie[unclear: s] recover moneys which she alleged were improperly withheld [unclear: for] her by Humphries. The Committee will see that, after the declaration was made, the Trust Commissioner raised the consideration from £40 to £70. Mr. Humphries was acting as her agent-least, he alleged he was her agent, but appeared, as far as I could see, to be acting also in the interest of Cunningham, the purchaser He received the extra £30, but did not disclose to the Maori woman that she was to get the extra £30. He put the money in his pocket, hence the litigation before me. She brought the action against Humphries to recover this money, and it was on the hearing of the case that these facts came out. I considered it my duty forward the report of the case to the authorities. I was of opinion that the declaration was false to the knowledge of those [unclear: press] when it was made. This is the declaration [produced; paragraph 4 read]. I will explain the procedure in these cases if the Committee will allow me. When a Native sells his or her land the transaction is not complete, and the deed cannot be registere[unclear: d] it is passed by a Trust Commissioner. Before he passes i[unclear: t] must satisfy himself that the Native has actually received the purchase-money for the land as stated in the deed, and that the purchase-money is adequate—that it is a fair consideration to the Native for parting with his land. There are rules under the Act which prescribe forms in English and Maori which have to be used One of these forms is a statutory declaration which has to be [unclear: ma] by the Native in alienating his land. Clause 4 runs thus: [unclear: "Th] the sum of £ has been duly paid to me by the purchaser as [unclear: sa] page 9 for the consideration of the said deed." There must be an absolute allegation that the "consideration" has been received by the Native who is selling his land. Meringa in her declaration declared that the consideration—viz., £40—had been paid to her by the purchaser. Major Brown wrote out the declaration, and it was his duty to translate it to her. The declaration was to be used before the Trust Commissioner as evidence of the fact. Major Brown knew that this was not true. He knew that she had not received the sum of £40 and that she was about to declare something which was not correct. If he knowingly allowed her to declare to what was not to his knowledge true he was not doing his duty. He ought to have stated the actual facts in the declaration. He should have said, "This woman is asked to swear to a fact which, to my knowledge, is not true, and I decline to be a party to the transaction." Apart from his legal duty as a Native interpreter he had, in my opinion, a moral duty. There are moral duties as well as legal duties. If, for instance, you were in a Court of justice, and heard a witness despose to a fact which you knew to be absolutely untrue, and which you could clearly show was untrue, I think it would be your duty to disclose what you knew.

6. An Hon. Member.] It is alleged that she received the money?—It is so stated in the declaration. As I have already said, she was called as a witness in the case, which was heard before me. Major Brown was present. The old woman appeared incapable of understanding anything, and we failed to get any account of the transaction from her. She could not answer any question put to her, and the interpreter seemed unable to make her understand. She is a very old woman, and seemed dazed. Owing to the state of her intellect she would, I think, sign any document that was put before her, believing and trusting that the persons who were there would protect her interests. Most Maoris who are ignorant will sign anything put before them, more especially if they are getting a little money. I think this old woman would sign any document that she might be asked to sign, without knowing what it meant. In this case I do not think she really knew what she was signing. I do not think she had sufficient intelligence to distinguish between what was true and what was untrue.

7. Hon Mr. Jenkinson.] Are we to understand that the £40 was to be paid in cash, or was some of the money to be paid in cash and the rest to go for fees?—It was represented in the deed and declaration that £40 was the consideration. Mr. Humphries alleged that it was agreed that £15 of that sum was to go towards the expense of the transfer to the purchaser.

8. Is not that usual?—It is not usual. The whole of the actual facts should have been stated in. the declaration. The facts were that £5 had been paid to her son, that £15 was paid to her, and that £5 was to be paid upon the registration of the deed; and that the balance, £15, was to go in payment of fees and costs. The page 10 Trust Commissioner should have been informed of the whol[unclear: e] these facts, and they should have been stated in the declaration

9. Hon. Mr. Rigg.] Was Major Brown aware that the [unclear: £40] not been paid?—He was aware of the facts as I have stated the He may have believed that £5 had been paid to the son, wh[unclear: o] dead when the case was heard. Mr. Humphries did not product any receipt for it, and I think it is doubtful whether it wa[unclear: s] paid; but yet Major Brown may have had reason to believ[unclear: e] Humphries' statement. Major Brown also knew that £15 was [unclear: p] to the Maori in his presence, and he knew that £5 was to b[unclear: e] back and paid on the registration of the deed. He also knew the £15 was to go towards the expenses of completing the title.

10. Where do you get these facts from?—From Major Brown evidence on oath before me in the case of Meringa v. Humphries

11. The manner in which the money was to be applied is state in your memorandum, but I did not gather from that that h[unclear: e] aware of it?—I think that Major Brown may have honestly he lieved that that £5, which was to be paid on the registratio[unclear: n] the deed, and the other money, was in the hands of Humphries and that Humphries was the agent of this old woman. Bu[unclear: t], my opinion, a Trust Commissioner ought not to be satisfied [unclear: unles] it was shown that the money had actually passed into the [unclear: ha] of the Native. After the Moari actually gets the money into his possession he can, of course, spend or dispose of it as he likes but, in my opinion, it would be the duty of the Trust Commissioner to see that the Maori did get actual possession of the money or its value.

12. Hon. Mr. Jenkinson.] You do not count his services; [unclear: y] do not count that part of the £40?—Humphries alleged that [unclear: sh] was to pay the costs of completing the title out of the £40.

13. Is it not usual to pay those costs out of the purchase-money, the amount being deducted from the amount the seller would receiv[unclear: e] the land?—A Maori, upon selling his land, usually receives a [unclear: lu] sum in cash. The statement in paragraph 4 of the declaratio[unclear: n] decidedly untrue. The point is: Was it untrue to the knowledge Major Brown, and did he, designedly, and with the view of assisting others to defraud the Maori woman and deceive the Trust Commissioner, allow her to make a false declaration to be used before the Trust Commissioner? I cannot believe that Major Brown thought that the Maori woman would be defrauded; or that i[unclear: t] irregular to obtain her signature in the way he did. At the same time, I think that he was grossly careless in not stating the fact correctly. It was, I think, very irregular. I have simply stated the facts as they were proved before me. I feel confident [unclear: t] Major Brown did not intend to commit or assist in a fraud in any way. I cannot believe that, as a Justice of the Peace, he woul[unclear: d] a party to a transaction of this kind with the view to defraud a [unclear: M] page 11 woman, and to deceive the Trust Commissioner. I think Mr. Humphries was acting more as agent for Cunningham than as agent for the Maori. I am of opinion that he swindled this old woman, and I also think that he may have deceived Major Brown, and used him for the purpose of carrying out the swindle; Brown may have believed everything he (Humphries) said. I think that Major Brown, knowing Humphries, ought to have been more careful. I say again that I do not believe that Major Brown ever intended to be a party to the fraud. He was, I think, very careless in not stating the true facts in the declaration, but beyond that I would not care to go.

14. Then, is it your opinion that he should not have had anything to do with this declaration?—He should have stated the true facts as he knew them. He explained to the Maori woman the true position. This is his evidence in the case of Meringa versus Humphries. [Extract of evidence read as follows: "I was told to explain that the purchase-money was £40, but that she would only receive £25—£20 now, and £5 when deed registered; £15 was to go towards payment of legal expenses, &c. I explained this to her. She is an old woman. She signed a receipt for £20. £15 was actually paid to her, but the receipt included the £5 paid to her son. She also signed declaration, Form E (produced). I filled it up, and explained it to her. She declared it before Mr. Ward, J.P., who was present."]

15. Hon, the Chairman.] Are Native Interpreters paid by fees?—Yes.

15A. Does there appear to be anything unusual which Major Brown demanded or received?—The fees are rightly charged according to scale. There is nothing of that kind. Major Brown only charged what he was entitled to charge.

16. Do you remember any other case than this of Major Brown of a person being struck off the roll of the Commission of the Peace for a breach of rule or regulation: is not striking off the roll reserved rather as a punishment of a criminal or quasi-criminal act?—Before the Commission of the Peace is taken from a person, and his license as a Native interpreter cancelled, I should certainly say it should only be for a grave offence; and the person so deprived should have full opportunity afforded him of answering the charges made against him. The charge should be made distinctly, and he should have the opportunity of adducing evidence to refute the charge; moreover, the tribunal that would have to adjudicate in the matter should be absolutely free from bias, and thoroughly independent.

17. Do you think that the prayer of this petition is a reasonable one?—Certainly, I think so. I think that Major Brown is entitled to a fair and full investigation of the charge made against him.

18. Hon. Mr. Montgomery.] Before whom?—This is not for me to say. There appears to be no proper tribunal having power to page 12 act ill a case of this kind. The Government, of course, hav[unclear: e] power to deal with cases of this kind in a summary way. I [unclear: thi] it is highly desirable that where judicial officers, such as District Judges, Magistrates, Justices of the Peace, and the like, are charged with any misconduct which would, if proved, justify the cancellation of their commissions, &c., some tribunal should be appointed, absolutely free from bias and independent, to take evidence on oat[unclear: h], that the person charged would have ample opportunity to [unclear: defe] himself against such charge, the same as is afforded to every on[unclear: e] a Court of law.

19. Would you regard a request such as this, suppose the Committee were to back it up with a favorable report, as conveyin[unclear: g] imputation on the Government?—I do not think I am called upon to answer such a question. I think it would be improper for [unclear: n] being a Civil servant, to give an opinion on the action of the Government. I may, however, state that, in my opinion, [unclear: Ma] Brown was entitled to have the complaints made against him fairly and fully inquired into by an impartial tribunal before his commission was taken away from him and his license cancelled. He was most decidedly entitled to a fair enquiry—some opportunit[unclear: y] being heard and adducing evidence on his own behalf, and explaining his conduct.

20. My question was not whether there exists any imputation up on the Government, but whether the recommendations of an enquiry would essentially convey any such imputation?—I think the Government ought to court enquiry. If they have acted fairly an[unclear: d] sufficient grounds there is nothing to fear, and if any error has [unclear: be] committed, or injustice done, they should be pleased to set right In cases before the Courts, Judges always allow litigants to [unclear: appe] where there are fair and reasonable grounds for doubting the correctness of their decisions. They are always glad to afford an opportunity for appealing to another tribunal.

21. Hon, the Chairman.] Do you know any other case of canceling a Native interpreter's license?—Yes; there is the case of Williams Williams. I was appointed a Royal Commissioner to hold an enquiry into the circumstances connected with the sale of the Kaitangi when a Block. In that case I took evidence, and reported to the effect [unclear: th] Williams had practically stolen from the Maoris £5,411. He was I believe, asked to resign his appointment in the Public Trust Office My report was condemnatory in the highest degree. Major Brown was not asked to resign. He has been removed from the [unclear: Commissi] of the Peace, and his license has been cancelled. There is also the case of one Bailey, but that was before my time. I have been here only five years. Bailey's license was cancelled for some [unclear: miscondus] in connection with matters of which I know nothing. I believe the Government refused to renew his license.

page 13

22. Was there any parallelism between the two cases—namely, that of Williams and that of Major Brown?—In the case of Williams the evidence was clear that he had most dishonestly taken this cheque from the Maoris. He proposed to them to take it and get it cashed for them and then divide the proceeds among the Natives who lived at Waitotara. He took the cheque to Patea, cashed it, and paid the money into his own bank account, and never ¡accounted for the money. I belive he resigned his positions. Mr. Williams was an officer of the Public Trust Office under the West Coast Settlements Act. He was not a Justice of the Peace. He was a Native interpreter. I do not know whether his certificate has been cancelled; I think it has been recalled.

23. Hon. Mr. Montgomery.] Do you not say that the document Major Brown signed was not in accordance with facts?—Yes; the facts were not truthfully and correctly stated.

24. That it was not true?—That it was not in accordance with the facts.

25. But you said that Major Brown should have known that it was not true?—Yes; he knew the facts. He may have thought that the money was in Humphries's hands, as agent for Meringa, and that that was sufficient.

26. But you say that Brown's conduct was grossly irregular?—Yes; in my opinion it was grossly irregular.

27. You reported the facts?—Yes; after the Government had dealt with the case. I sent in a report of the case of Meringa versus Humphries first, and the Government had it before acting.

28. There are no new facts?—No; I think not.

29. So that the Government had the whole case before them?—Yes; they had the report of the case Meringa versus Humphries. They did not ask me for anything further.

30. They had everything that an independent tribunal could have before them?—Yes. When I had sent in my memorandum of facts before referred to they had the report, of the case in their hands. I do not know what steps they took in the matter, except what I have seen in the correspondence between the Under-Secretary and Major Brown.

31. The order was to bring out the whole of the facts?—Yes; and to hear Major Brown's version of the facts, and to hear what he had to say.

32. And there are, you say, no new facts?—No.

33. Putting the matter to you as a Judge, did not the whole of the facts come before you, and you reported them to the Government? If that was so, were not the Government in the position of a tribunal such as you mention—free, without bias, and independent?—I have already said that before a Justice of the Peace is removed from the Commission of the Peace, and his license as a page 14 Native interpreter cancelled, the complaints or charges against [unclear: hi] should be dealt with by some impartial tribunal. The removal [unclear: fro] the Commission and cancelling his license indicates that he has been guilty of some serious offence. Before action of that kind is take the accused should have ample opportunity to answer the charges made against him, and an opportunity to call evidence to disprove then The tribunal which adjudicates on the charges should be an [unclear: indepe] dent tribunal—as independent and impartial as a Judge of the Supreme Court—absolutely unbiassed, and free from influence of any kind.

34. If the Government, when they received your report, though they had all the facts before them, were they not in a position; decide what was to be done?—I do not know what they thought When the report of the case was received by them, it was for then to take such steps as they considered necessary and proper under then circumstances.

35. Hon. Mr. Bolt.] Have you noticed the date of that declaration?—Yes; the 1st of July.

36. In your opinion, at that date, might he have considered [unclear: Huphries] as this woman's agent?—Yes.

37. Well, we find that he was not made her agent until the [unclear: 2] of July 1?—I say that Humphries may have misled Major Bro[unclear: wn]. certainly swindled and deceived the old Maori woman, and i[unclear: t] possible that he deceived Major Brown and the others. It is onl[unclear: y] sample of a good many more cases of the same kind. I do not [unclear: thi] that Major Brown was a party to that fraud in any way; he w[unclear: as]. doubt, very careless and negligent, but beyond that I would [unclear: not]

38. Hon. Mr. Swanson.] Would it not have been [unclear: desire], that Major Brown should have assured himself before this document was signed that Humphries was or was not her agent?—1 [unclear: thi] that if Humphries said he was her agent, then Major Brown [unclear: migh] have taken his word. It was not for him to inquire.

39. Would it have been too much trouble to ask her?—If he [unclear: h] any reason to doubt the accuracy of Humphries's statements he might have thought it necessary to verify them; but if Humphries told him that he was her agent I do not think, unless he had some reaso[unclear: n] doubt it, that he could have gone any further, unless he suspected fraud.

40. If he had to interpret this declaration, knowing that this woman had not got the money, and had given no authority to [unclear: Hophries] to collect it for her, would it not have been his duty to [unclear: ascertai] whether it was true or not?—If he had any reason to doubt [unclear: Hphries's] statement it would be his duty to inquire further.

41. As I understand the matter, the duty of an interpreter i[unclear: s] get at the facts, to let the Maori see the European mind, and [unclear: th] European the Maori mind, and to know everything that has [unclear: take] page 15 place with reference to a specific transaction between the two—that everything should be interpreted which she may have said to Europeans or Europeans to her?—The declaration was taken before and is signed by Mr. Ward, J. P.; it was equivalent to giving evidence on oath, and is recognised as a document of importance. It was Major Brown's duty to interpret truthfully what was in the declaration. If any part of it was, to his knowledge, false he should have refused to interpret, or to be a party in any way to the transaction. Major Brown was under the impression, so he has stated, that Humphries was the woman's agent, and that when she declared she had received the £40 he thought the balance of the purchase-money was in the agent's hands

42. But Humphries was acting as agent also for the other party?—In my opinion, he was in the first place acting for Cunningham, and that in case there should be any dispute over the transaction, and in order to secure himself, he got Meringa to sign the documents appointing him her agent, &c. This was on the 22nd July, three days before the Trust Commissioner passed the deed.

43. Would Brown be conversant with the fact that Humphries was acting for the other person concerned?—No; not necessarily. I do not think it is likely that he would know that Humphries was acting for Cunningham.

44. Is there any provision under which an imbecile person is specially protected?—If a declaration comes before the Trust Commissioner properly attested, and without having any suspicion attached to it, he has a right to receive it as evidence of the fact therein stated. My pratice is not to trust to these declarations. I, as a rule, insist on the Natives being before me, and with the aid of an independent interpreter I satisfy myself. A loose pratice has, no doubt, prevailed on this coast with regard to these transactions with Natives, and durations of this kind have been drawn up and obtained in a very loose way. I have always put my foot on anything of the kind and insist on correctness as far as possible.

45. Is it no part of an interpreter's duty to warn the Judge?—I do not think it is part of his legal duty, but if he knows, or has reason to believe, that a declaration is false, I think he ought to mention it. It is the duty of everybody who knows that a fraud is being committed to warn those who may be affected by it. That is simply a duty that we owe to our fellows, apart from any legal obligation.

46. Major Brown does not ask for an independent tribunal?—He asks that the matter should come before the Chief Judge of the Native Land Court. The Chief Judge is, I presume, a person of integrity; therefore I do not see why he should not act in the matter. The tribunal to inquire into these matters should be free from any influence or bias of any kind; it should be absolutely page 16 impartial; in fact, it does not matter who holds the inquiry [unclear: a] adjudicates so long as he is strictly impartial and capable.

47. Hon. Mr. Swanston.] Do you not think it is a little too strong for a petitioner coming here to suggest his tribunal, or the [unclear: tribu] which should hear his case? Have you any reason to suppose [unclear: th] the Government has not fully inquired into the matter?—I [unclear: can] tell what the Government did. The Premier alleged other [unclear: reas] for the action which the Government took. I may say that in [unclear: th] correspondence I do not see any other reasons alleged beyond [unclear: th] false declaration. If there are any other reasons—old complaints-then I think Major Brown is entitled to have these matters se[unclear: t] in writing. I say that if a public officer does his duty honestly [unclear: a] fearlessly he is liable to have complaints made against him by [unclear: a] as person who thinks he has acted wrongfully. The best and [unclear: m] efficient public officers are liable to have complaints made against them occasionally. But if they are complained of, or charge[unclear: s] made against them, such charges should be clearly defined, as ample opportunity given to answer them or disprove them.

48. But if there were strong complaints—and those for no triflings matters—would it not be necessary to deal with them?—I d[unclear: o] know what complaints may have been made against Major [unclear: Bro] in past years; I only know of those arising out of this declaration I think it unfair that old complaints of many years ago shoul[unclear: d] brought against Major Brown now. He has held the offic[unclear: e] Justice of the Peace for a great number of years, and it mus[unclear: t], think, be inferred that if he was unfit to occupy the positio[unclear: n] would have been found to be so years ago. I do not think i[unclear: t] right to rake up stale charges. As far as I know, the only thing the Government had to consider was this declaration.

49. Hon. Mr. Rigg.] It is admitted that the declaration was translated literally?—Yes.

50. The declaration is stated to be false because Major Brown possessed other knowledge which he should have given to the Native?—The declaration stated that £40 had been duly paid by the purchaser as the consideration for the deed. Meringa swd that it had been paid to her. Now, Major Brown knew that i[unclear: t] not all been paid to her. He knew that £15 had been pai[unclear: d] her personally, and that £5 had been paid to her son, who has [unclear: sincdied.] He may have believed that the balance—viz., £20—wa[unclear: s] the hands of her agent. He may have assumed that if the money was in the hands of the agent it was sufficient to satisfy the [unclear: la] That seems to be the view taken by some Native agents. I d[unclear: o] think it is a correct view. I think the money should be paid over to the Native.

51. Hon. Mr. Montgomery.] Is it not the law that the mod should be paid so that the Native would have physical possession—That is my rule.

page 17

52. Suppose he had wilfully concealed anything in the declaration, what then?—I think he was negligent—that he was grossly careless in not having stated the true facts. I should be very sorry to say that he did it for the purpose of aiding a swindle, or that he would be a party to a swindle in any way. I do not for a moment think so.

53. Hon. Mr. Dignan.] What led to the difference £40 and £70?—When a transaction of this kind comes before the Trust Commissioner he has to satisfy himself that the purchase-money is sufficient. If the Trust Commissioner thinks that the price is too little, he refuses to pass the transaction. He may say, if he pleases, that the consideration shall be raised to so much. In this case he raised the purchase-money from £40 to £70, and the purchaser was quite willing to give the extra money. In the first case that came before me on this coast the annual rental stated in the lease was £12 a year. I insisted on having an independent valuer. The valuer's opinion was that the rent should be £25 a year. The old Native was quite willing to take £12 a year, but I, as a Trust Commissioner, insisted that the rental should be raised to £25 a year, and the lessee was quite willing to pay the increased rent. This shows the necessity of having a Trust Commissioner to protect Natives who do not know the value of property or money.

54. Hon. W. Downie Stewart.] You have stated the duty of the interpreter?—Yes. The duty of the interpreter in a matter of this kind is faithfully and truly to interpret the declaration to the Native; that is his legal duty.

55. Is it his duty to go outside of the declaration and to inquire whether the statements are true or false?—No; but if he knows that the statements in the declaration are false he should decline to have anything to do with the transaction, and refuse to interpret.

56. But if he knew, or if he believed, that the money had been paid to Humphries, would not that, as a matter of law, be considered payment?—As a matter of law, it would probably be payment to her, but in Native transactions the Trust Commissioner ought not to treat it as payment to the Native unless he was quite clear that the agent was entitled to it. That is my opinion.

57. Is that under some regulation?—No; it is my practice as a Trust Commissioner, and I think it is what the Legislature intended.

58. Yes; but the pratice would vary according to the vigilance of the Trust Commissioner?—Exactly.

59. Under this agreement these other moneys were not to be paid into the hands of Meringa, but only to be paid to make good the cost of completing the title?—Yes; that is so as to £15.

60. Would not an agreement of that kind amount to a constructive payment to her, if she believed that this £15 was to be paid to a solicitor, or other agent, as a matter of law, as in the case of an exchange of cheques: suppose she got a cheque for £15, and she gave this over as an assignment to a solicitor, would not that page 18 be held to be a constructive payment to Meringa?—Probabl[unclear: y] would; but I think that in the ease of a Native transaction [unclear: t] Trust Commisioner should be fully and truthfully informed of [unclear: al] the facts to enable him to see that the Native is protected.

61. Under the agreement it was never intended that she should get this in cash?—No; I think she knew very little of wha[unclear: t] going on.

62. This £10 he had to refund out of a charge of £13: that [unclear: w] for commission?—I think the jury gave what may be called a compromise verdict.

63. Meringa sued Humphries for a refund of an excessive charge; the jury allowed him £3, instead of the sum [unclear: asked]; had to refund £10; do you know how much there was of outlay?—She only agreed to pay £15. All the other expenses were to be paid by Cunningham.

64. Do you think that Major Brown was a man of such objectionable character as to justify his removal from the Commission of the Peace for what you suppose to be an act of negligence?—I hardly think so. I think that, at the most, his certificate might have been suspended for a time, or he might have been cautioned to be more careful in the future. I am inclined to think that the total cancellation of his license and the withdrawal of his name from the roll of Justices are circumstances that affect his character as a citizen, and tend to ruin his means of a livelihood, which would in consequence be taken from him. All that, I think, is too [unclear: serer] a punishment for an act of negligence such as that complained of, and I say this the more readily having regard to the fact that Humphries, who was in my opinion guilty of fraudulent conduct, has been allowed to get off scot free so far. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to prosecute him or not.

65. Hon. Mr. Montgomery.] The Commsssioner who looked after Maori matters—would it not be his duty to report?—As I have already stated, I reported the case to the Government.

66. Would you say it was not something more than a gross irregularity to allow: this swindle to be perpetrated?—I do not [unclear: g] so far as that. I say only that it was a grave irregularity not [unclear: t] have stated the true facts. Major Brown knew the true facts, and should have stated them fully in the declaration. It was irregular not to state the true facts.

67. Then, if the facts had been stated truly, the swindle could not have taken place?—I do not know. If the Commissioner had the true facts before him, he might have refused to pass it. Mr. Stuart, R.M., was the Commissioner.

68. You would not have passed this transaction?—No; not till I was satisfied that the consideration was sufficient, and had been paid to the Native.

69. Therefore the fraud would not have been perpetrated?—[unclear: I] page 19 would not have gone through. Everyone is liable to be deceived occasionally.

70. Hon. W. Downie Stewart.] Whose duty was it to prepare the declaration?—The declaration could be filled up by any one. In the present case, Major Brown prepared it; it is in his handwriting. Major Brown said he did so at Humphries's dictation.

71. Major Brown.] Would you consider the swindle was with respect to the £30?—Yes; more especially with respect to the £30.

72. Do you consider there was any swindle in respect to the £40?—I think it is doubtful whether that £5 was ever paid to Meringa's son. Humphries was careful to get a receipt from Meringa, but there was no documentary evidence that the £5 was ever paid to her son; no receipt for it was produced.

73. You are aware that the woman admitted that her son had received it?—I think she would admit almost anything. Her intellect was so dim when she was brought before the Court that we could get nothing out of her except her name. It was not because she did not wish to give evidence, but because she was almost an imbecile. Humphries did not produce any satisfactory evidence that the money was paid to the son, and he was not the person to receive the money.

74. Do you consider that a person making a declaration like that is like a witness being examined upon oath in a Court of law?—Most decidedly that is so; an indictment for perjury would lie on a false declaration like that.

75. If there was any inaccuracy or false statement you should have been told of it?—Yes. It was your duty to interpret this declaration faithfully. If there was any false statement you should have refused to proceed; you should have declined to be a party to the transaction in any way. This declaration was intended for use before the Trust Commissioner; he would have the right to believe that it was true he would assume that it was truthful, and it was not truthful.

76. Assuming the truth, the Magistrate hearing the case knew everything from the evidence as much as I did?—I have already said that, in my opinion, you never lent yourself to the commission of a fraud. I think that you believed that Humphries hold the money as this woman's agent. So far as I am concerned, I wish to discharge you entirely from any imputation of being criminally negligent. The thing was irregular; it was careless of you. A statutory declaration is tantamount to a declaration on oath, and should be strictly stated. I think people have got into a loose habit of doing these things. In preparing and interpreting a declaration you should be as strictly truthful and correct as a witness on his oath in the witness-box to a Court of justice.

The Hon. Mr. Mantell examined.

77. Hon. the Chairman.] You have known Major Brown for a page 20 great number of years?—Yes; I have known him for fifty years and. I never knew him to do a dishonest or dishonorable th[unclear: ing]. do not believe him to be capable of doing such a thing. If I knew anything against him I would communicate it to the Commit[unclear: tee]. think we first became friends in 1844, and our friendship has continued ever since. That certainly would not have been the cas[unclear: e] I had thought him capable of doing a dishonest or dishonorable thing.

78. Hon. If. Downie Stewart.] You have frequently been brought into official contact with him?—Yes, in various ways. I have been a Minister; and I might say that I have been brought into contact with him in every possible sort of way. I have never known him to be guilty of a dishonest action, and I have been an observer both of his official conduct and of his military conduct.

79. Hon. Mr. Swanson.] Major Brown was himself a Commissioner?—He was a Civil Commissioner. He was head of the Native Department in his district, but not during the time tha[unclear: t] held a portfolio.

80. Major Brown: I might be allowed to state, in referenc[unclear: e] the suggestion that I should not have asked the matter to be referred to the Chief Judge of the Native Land Court, it was a[unclear: t] public meeting that the suggestion was made, and I had nothing further to do with it than accepting it.

Major Brown examined.

81. Hon. the Chairman.] We are now ready, Major Brow[unclear: n], hear anything you have to say upon the subject of your petiti[unclear: on]—I beg to put in a letter which I received from the Hon. Mr. Bryee upon my ceasing to be Civil Commissioner.

82. You put in this letter signed by the Under-Secretary of the Native Department?—Yes. [Letter read: Appendix B.]

83. Is there any other document you would wish to put in evidence?—Yes; the oath administered to interpreters. [Oath [unclear: read] Appendix C.]

84. Do you think that this bears on the question that turned [unclear: u] the other day, as to whether interpreters should to any extent constitute themselves the protectors of the interests of Nativesi?—Yes; I hold that the Trust Commissioner has that duty to perform.

85. Hon. Mr. Rigg.] That is the form of oath the interpreter takes in Court, is it not?—Yes.

86. Do you not think that it is a correct view to take of you duty, to advise a Native, or Natives, when you think they are about to be wronged?—No.

87. Hon. Mr. Bolt.] Not if you think they are about to be wronged?—No. If I thought a Native was likely to be wronged page 21 it would be my duty to make thoroughly clear to him what he was doing; to tell him the consequences of what he was doing he is not wronged if he knows what he is doing. I would not allow him to be cheated, which he might be if he did not understand what he was doing. But, if he did not understand what he was doing, then it would be my duty to bring the fact before the notice of the Trust Commissioner.

88. Hon. the Chairman.] You have put in a schedule of fees charged for doing an interpreter's work?—Yes.

89. Your actual charge in this case was £3 4s. 6d., and you say you might have charged more?—Yes; £5 17s.

90. Hon. Mr. Rigg.] Were you aware at the time she signed this declaration that this woman had not received the amount stated therein?—I believed that she, or her agent, between them had received the amount; that is the real question—whether the agent can bind the principal.

91. You believed that the money had been received either by her or her agent?—Yes; for this reason: The agent had paid £20 of it already. I naturally inferred that he had the balance in hand. But even if I had a suspicion I had no authority to ask any question. An interpreter can bring anything under the notice of the Trust Commissioner, who is specially appointed to protect Native interests. I would always bring anything which I think wrong before the Trust Commissioner, or anything which I think ought to be brought under his notice.

92. Hon. the Chairman.] We have presumed that the Government cancelled your interpreter's license, and struck you off the roll of the Justices of the Peace, in connection with this affair of the declaration of Meringa. Have you any information to give the Committee on that subject?—I received a letter that my services bud been dispensed with.

93. Was any reason stated why your services had been dispensed with?—Yes; here is the first letter. [Letter from the Minister of justice read: Appendix D.]

94. Did you reply to that letter?—Yes. [Reply read: Appendix E.

95. You wish those documents to be put in as evidence?—Yes.

96. Hon. Mr. Holt.] You point out that a receipt by the agent is looked upon as a receipt by the principal. What evidence did you have at that time that Mr. Humphries was the agent of Meringa?—She admitted the receipt of £15 from him, and she also admitted the receipt of £5 paid to her son by him as her agent. The jury recognised him as her agent. She sued him as her agent; and the jury reduced his commission by £10 because they believed him to be her agent.

97. How do you account for the fact that he was only made her agent on the 22nd of July?—I think that was done with the object of securing the additional £30.

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98. But if he was agent before that was not necessary?—I [unclear: d] not ask him, nor did I know that this £30 had been added. I [unclear: w] only before the Trust Commissioner once, when I charged half [unclear: a] guinea for my attendance. The only time I was there was when [unclear: s] was examined. That was the only time that I was required. [unclear: s] then admitted that he was her agent, and she sued him as her [unclear: agent] for this £30, or so much of it as was due to her.

99. You say you did not consider it your duty as an [unclear: interpre] to advise this Maori woman in any way as to her interest in the transaction?—No.

100. Supposing this Maori woman had been disposing of this [unclear: la] which was ultimately priced at £70. Suppose she was disposin[unclear: g] it, say, for £10, or for £5, would you not, under such [unclear: circumstan] have advised her that she was doing wrong?—That would be a question for the Trust Commissioner. I had no authority to do such thing. Besides, I am not a judge of value.

101. In the event of the price asked being so low that any body could see that an undue advantage was being taken of the woman do you not think it was your duty to inform her of that fact?—[unclear: N] it would be my duty to inform the Trust Commissioner of [unclear: it] is the protector of the Native. Referring to what Judge [unclear: Ke] said yesterday about the duties of an interpreter, when he [unclear: sta] that a Native interpreter was in the position of an interpreter to [unclear: t] person who was in the witness-box in a Court of law, the [unclear: interpre] in the case would have no power to interfere he would hav[unclear: e] power to say this woman is doing wrong. That is the questio[unclear: n] the Judge. It would be altogether out of place for the [unclear: interpre] to interfere between Meringa and the Court.

102. I understood Judge Kettle to say that, if a person in [unclear: Co] knew that the statement made by a witness was false, it wa[unclear: s] duty of that person if he could successfully rebut such evidenc[unclear: e], was his duty to do it, although he might not be called on to [unclear: do]—The interpreter could not interfere.

103. But he could call the attention of the Court to the fact?—Yes.

104. In the present case Judge Kettle stated that the [unclear: Magistr] should have had his attention called to the fact?—I could not cal[unclear: l] attention to it, as I could not tell him anything he did not know already. That Judge Kettle admitted.

105. Hon. the Chairman.] Do you think that Meringa was [unclear: awa] of the whole of the circumstances—that in her willingness to sign this receipt for £40 she expressed her willingness to accept the [unclear: pro] of the remainder?—She accepted the promise of £5, and she [unclear: w] willing that the £15 due to her might go to pay the expense of completing the title; and she was willing to accept the £5.

106. When you translated this declaration to her, did she acknow- page 23 ledge the receipt of £40: did she say she had not received it?—No. When she had any doubt she referred to her son for explanation, so as to make it clear.

107. Her son was with her?—Yes, her son was with her, as Judge Kettle's report says; her son and her son's wife, and I do not know who else, were there. There was a quarrel about a coffin which was to be provided for the dead man. The dead man was said to be no relation to her son, as he was a son by a previous husband. The son, who was present, refused to sanction the payment of £5 to the undertaker; he said that a box made of boards would be quite sufficient for the purpose.

108. And you put in these several documents as showing your view of the case?—Yes.

109. If on. Mr. Swanson.] As a matter of fact, was it true that this woman had got this money? It appears that Humphries was not her agent for a considerable time after. From the evidence it appears that he was agent for the buyer, and therefore it was quite natural that the money would come from him?—I have not heard that evidence.

110. It was he that got the money from Cunningham, the buyer; he did not appear to be acting for the woman till after the appointment. I want to ask you had the money been paid—this £40—at that time, for we have absolute evidence that he was not her agent?—I have not seen that evidence.

111. If you sign a thing under the belief that it is true, and it happens to be erroneous, that may not be even a moral fault, but the consequences to every one concerned may be just the same What I want to ask you is, how did you get to know or to believe that at this time he was her agent?—I have never heard anything to satisfy me that he was not her agent.

112. We have evidence of the date of his appointment?—He paid her the £5; he paid her the £15; I did not know that he was not her agent. It turns out now that Cunningham had not paid him a penny.

113. He might have been acting as agent and banker at the same time. We had evidence given by Judge Kettle yesterday that this woman would sign anything?—Judge Kettle did not go into circumstances as he would have done if he had been an independent tribunal and if I had had an opportunity of bringing evidence of my position in the matter. Mr. Williams had that privilege granted to him; he was allowed to call witnesses and examine them on oath; upon that his license was cancelled.

114. Are interpreters in the position of being Civil servants?—I think not.

115. Are Justices of the Peace Civil servants?—I think not.

116. Hon. Mr. Jenkinson.] Were you of opinion, when you page 24 interpreted that certificate, or whatever it was, that Humphries was this woman's agent?—I was under that belief.

117. Had you any evidence of it?—He paid money o[unclear: n] account, which showed that he acted as her agent, whethe[unclear: r] received the money or not from the buyer he acted as her agent. If you went to Levin to get an advance upon your wool, no matter who the buyer was, they would be your agents; if she put her property in his hands he is her agent.

118. Hon. W. Downie Stewart.] Can you state whether Judge Kettle has adopted a more strict course recently in reference to these matters?—Since he has been acting as Trust Commissioner, I [unclear: thin] so; but I pointed out that it had the effect of diminishing applications to pass these things by him as Trust Commissioner—people went to other Commissioners.

119. Do you know whether Mr. Ward understands the [unclear: Mao] language?—He does a little; he was born in the place.

120. Sufficiently well to know what is being translated?—Yes: he was perfectly aware, so he stated, of everything that was go[unclear: ing].

121. What reason did they assign for dispensing with you services?—The reason is given in the letter from the Minister of Justice.

122. Were you a candidate for a seat in Parliament at the [unclear: las] election?—No; I took no part in the election. I was not eve[unclear: n] qualified elector of the district.

123. It has been suggested that you opposed Mr. E. M. Smith and that that circumstance might have had something to do with [unclear: i]—My wife was a member of Colonel Trimble's committee to aid [unclear: hi] election.

124. Has there been any complaint of administration made agains you as a Government officer?—As Civil Commissioner?

125. Or generally?—There have always been complaints made against me in every position that I have held.

126. Has the Government ever threatened to suspend you, or anything of that sort?—Yes.

127. How long ago?—About ten years ago.

128. What were the circumstances?—A Mr. Whiteley Kin[unclear: g], grandson of a Wesleyan clergyman who was murdered in the Taranaki Province many years ago, asked me to transmit wha[unclear: t] knew to be a "bogus" telegram to a Native, telling him to meke confession of the circumstances of the murder, as a certain other Native had already confessed to everything to the Governm[unclear: ent] got the telegram forwarded, and the Government of the day reprimanded me as a Magistrate. That was the position I held. [unclear: Ther] I sent in my defence, to the effect that, when men committed [unclear: mder], they were to be treated as wild beasts, and trapped in any way and that the same thing had been done in the case of Winiat[unclear: a], the Waikato. That was the only occasion I was found fault with.

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129. Hon. W. Downie Stewart.] How long have you been a public servant?—Including my provincial services?

130. I mean your public service as a whole?—I was twice Superintendent of Taranaki—that would be seven years. During that time I was also agent for the General Government. I was also in other appointments.

131. How long?—About fiteen years.

132. I thought it was longer, from what the Hon. Mr. Mantell said. He mentioned fifty years?—My public services extend from 1851 to 1880—scattered over that period.

133. That would be about thirty years?—Yes.