24th August 1997


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History of the Ceylon Police

Allegations against the Attorney General’s Dept.

Following is yet another installment in our continuing series of excerpts from the book The History of the Ceylon Police (Vol. II) by A.C. Dep, Former Deputy Inspector General of Police

In the Pettah Riot Case great difficulty was anticipated in bringing the offenders to justice. It was rumoured that a large sum of money was being collected "for perverting the course of Justice" Money was to be paid to the Officers of the Attorney-General’s Department. The Governor hearing of this mentioned it to Mr. Hansard.

"I observed to Mr. Hansard, then acting for the Inspector-General of Police, who was confined to bed by illness, that these suspicions were of the gravest nature". In the meantime in a case of attempted murder, "bad accusations of bribery were brought against the Attorney-General’s Department by a notorious individual by the name of Gould who also laid a charge of conspiracy and bribery against Mr. Crown Counsel Morgan before Mr. Boake, Justice of the Peace". A counter case was filed by Morgan. Boake took up Gould’s case first and dismissed it. But he made adverse observations.

After the counter case was over, the Superintendent, Western Province (Mr. Hansard), preferred through the Inspector-General of Police a request for an executive inquiry into the allegations made by him as to the evidence of corruption in the Attorney-General’s Department". The Governor permitted an inquiry and Mr. Hansard searched the premises of Edward Perera, Proctor. But the documents he was looking for were not there. The only document of value found was a counterfoil of a cheque which compromised Morgan "who was clearly proved to have been paid money from the Buddhist Committee formed to aid and screen parties in the Kotahena Riot".

Hansard’s raid and search was done on a defective search warrant.

The Governor next appointed a Commission to inquire into this. This Commission consisted of:-

1. The Principal Collector of Customs.

2. Acting Government Agent, North Western Province.

3. Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council - Honourable Mr. R. A. Bosanquest.

4. Leading Member of the Mercantile Community, Mr. H. Bois.

After inquiry, a preliminary report was put up as Mr. Bois was leaving the Island shortly. Going through this report the Governor made the following observations: "The state of things which this report discloses is in the highest degree deplorable. Whatever may be the case as to the actual corruption of officials (a question which I will not prejudge) there can be no doubt as to the existence of persons who profess to be able to secure the good offices of the Judicial Department for money.... That a general belief in the venality of the prosecution department should exist among the people and should be practically acted on is, in my view, a far more serious evil than that a single officer should in strict secrecy and with wholesome dread of detection before his eyes be guilty of corrupt practices"

The agents for this were well-known as Proctors. Based on the evidence collected charges were framed against Mr. Morgan. The charges were for (1) for corruptly receiving Rs. 50/- from Andrew Perera, (2) for corruptly receiving Rs.52.50 from E.F. Perera, (3) for improperly and corruptly accepting a present of a horse and carriage from Mathew Dubash, and (4) for indebtedness to an amount incompatible with the retention of his office.

The second charge was accepting a fee from a Proctor actively interesting himself for the Buddhists in the Kotahena case. The fee was paid from a fund raised by the Buddhists to prosecute the Roman Catholics. Mathew Dubash mentioned in the third charge was a character "constantly in trouble on one charge or another". Mr Morgan owed M. De Soysa Rs. 1,000/- and shopkeepers Rs 3,000/-.

The Governor observed, "The charges are so grave and the evidence in their support is unfortunately so strong that I have thought it right to interdict Mr. Morgan from the execution of his functions, pending the receipt of his explanations".

Mr. Morgan’s defence was found to be unsatisfactory. In this he made allegations against the Commissioners, especially Mr. Bosanquest. He also made charges against Mr. Boake for taking Gould’s case before his. He wanted to go to England to interview the Secretary of State. The Commissioners found him guilty of charges two and three but the Executive Committee found him guilty of all charges and had him removed from office.

Sequel to Morgan’s Case The search made by Mr. Hansard on the warrant issued by Mr. Boake was considered illegal. Mr. Boake in his haste failed to sign the warrant and sent it in a sealed envelope to Mr. Hansard. Mr. Hansard without verifying whether the warrant was in order carried out a search. He was accordingly sued in District Court Case D. C. 93825 and D. C. 93826 before Mr. Berwick.

When this case came before the Supreme Court the judge commented adversely on the conduct of Mr. Boake and Mr. Hansard but did not follow the usual practice of reporting them to the Governor.

The Attorney-General however reported on the strictures made by the Judge adding that they were based on a garbled and misleading record of the evidence given by Mr. Boake before the District Judge (Mr. Berwick). "That Mr. Berwick so altered and doctored the evidence given as to bring it into close conformity with his own judgment - a support which it would not otherwise have possessed and on which as it turned out the Supreme Court greatly relied in delivering the judgment".

The Attorney-General therefore did not take a serious view of the lapses of Mr. Boake and Mr. Hansard. He added, "That all that could be, at the worst urged against Mr. Boake and Mr. Hansard was mistaken zeal in a righteous cause".

There was however not even the faintest doubt of Mr. Hansard’s good faith in this matter. He was careless in not reading over the warrant. Owing to his blundering course of action the Governor held that he "showed a lamentable want of tact and judgment".

But at the same time the Governor showed that he realised the magnitude of the task in which he was engaged.

"He was engaged on a service of great difficulty in the prosecution of which he was certain to make numerous and powerful enemies whose hostility might prove to him a source of no slight discomfort and danger".

Towards Mr. Boake and Mr. Hansard the Governor took a lenient view. These things being so, I find it impossible not to feel leniently towards those who have shown courage in which others have been wanting and have, however clumsily done what they could to abate one of the greatest evils with which this island is cursed and restored to the Administration of Justice that immunity from suspicion which it certainly did not two years ago possess and I fear, does not altogether even now possess in public estimation.

In this case Captain Hansard had to pay costs Rs 1,500/00 after conviction in the District Court. He incurred Rs 1,992/10 as expenses. With the permission of the Government Rs 1,500/- was paid from the Police Reward fund. But Hansard had to pay dearly in other ways, too.

As for Mr. Berwick - whom the Governor knew too well, it was felt that his conduct was not due to malicious or corrupt motives. He had been censured more than once by the Secretary of State.

He is as you are personally aware, a man of eccentric conduct and habits of thought... he is possessed of an extraordinary degree of vanity and self-confidence.

Soon after these occurrences Mr. Berwick sent in his papers which were very gladly accepted. Mr. C.P Layard, Barrister-at-Law and leading Practitioner was selected District Judge of Colombo.

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