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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Loading the Dice

Loading the Dice.

Before proceeding further, it may be as well to dispose of one cruel misconception, which has been created to Mr. Meikle's prejudice by the form of the first two issues and the formal character of the Commissioners' answers thereto.

These issues were:—
1.Whether the conviction of the said William Lambert for perjury established the innocence of the said John James Meikle ?
2.Whether the conviction of the said William Lambert raised a reasonable presumption that the said John James Meikle was innocent or that he was wrongfully convicted?

Both questions were utterly absurd, as any lawyer most laymen would see at a glance. Lambert's conviction not in itself either prove Meikle's guilt or raise any reasonable presumption of his innocence. Lambert's conviction did not in itself even prove his own guilt, though the evidence on which it was based might suffice to prove both Lambert's guilt and Meikle's innocence. The injustice of such issues pointed out by the Meikle Committee as soon as a draft of proposed Commission was submitted to them by the late Premier. "We are advised," they wrote to Mr. Seddon, "that the first of the questions to be submitted ... is from a legal standpoint a sheer absurdity, and that it must be decided in the negative by any legal tribunal on technical grounds which will leave the merits of either conviction absolutely untouched, (See "Evening Post," 26th March, 1906.) An amendment of these issues was promised by Mr. Seddon, but never That the omission was a bona fide oversight was, however proved both by the recital in the preamble to the Commission that the enquiry was "for the purpose of arriving at a final conclusion and settlement in respect of the claims or alleged claims of the said John' James Meikle," and by the consent of counsel for the Crown to the Commissioners' decision to treat the guilt or innocence of Meikle as the real issue.