Emily Murphy, "A Straight Talk on Courts,"
Maclean’s 28.18 (1 Oct. 1920): 9.
Note—Mrs. Murphy has been a magistrate for a number of years
now, and in the accompanying article she tells of some of
the things she has learned. Perhaps the most striking
statement is to the effect that magistrates are pressed by
the civic authorities behind them to secure a large number
of convictions and fines for revenue purposes, thus
perverting their work. She also tells some interesting
stories of her work from the inside, with terse comment on
the relations of the fair sex to the law" (9).
* * *
"In his 'Recollections of a Police Magistrate,' Colonel
George T. Denison, of Toronto, wrote, 'I may also say that I
depend upon an intuitive feeling as to a man's guilt or
innocence, and not to weighing and balancing the evidence. I
depend upon this feeling in spite of evidence.'
'Spoken like a woman,' said certain contemptuous critics,
and yet in this sentence the veteran magistrate opens a
Most police magistrates contend that their decisions have
their basis solely on the evidence adduced but, when on some
slight technicality, the conviction is quashed in a higher
court the magistrate will usually say that if the learned
judge could have seen the defendants and their manner of
giving evidence the conviction would have been sustained.
In a word, the majority of magistrates in spite of their
high, inflexible intent, are actually influenced by
intuition, or shall we more properly say by the manner of
the witnesses, their voices, and by the fleshly tablets of
their faces? Colonel Denison is the first one who has dared
to speak the truth.
On one occasion, when I had the honor of sitting with him
on the bench in Toronto, he remarked, "I'll dismiss this
charge. I don't like his mug," and, as an actual fact, the
complainant to whom the police magistrate referred was a
most ugly man, a loose lumpish fellow who might almost be
cousin-German to a gorilla. I didn't like him either. In
truth, I felt about him what Mr. De Quincey said concerning
Mr. Coleridge, that while he was probably a worthy Christian
he was much too fat to be a person of active virtue" (9).