The West End success of the play Stephen Ward recalls the scandalous mistrial in 1963 of the trendy osteopath that prompted Ward’s suicide. Luckily, to remind us of the gross injustice meted out by the Judge, Alfred Denning, we have a review in the Aylesford Review by the maverick Carmelite monk Brocard Sewell, of Ludovic’s Kennedy’s revelatory Trial of Stephen Ward (1964).
Denning was a clever man with a first class degree in mathematics, but it is generally acknowledged that many of his judgements and pronouncements in court and outside, lacked a degree of humanity and empathy, qualities that seem to have diminished still further with age. He may, of course, have suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome at a time when this condition was little understood. He was 65 at the time of the Ward trial and he continued as a senior judge until asked to stand down because of his great age. Nor did the prosecution and police ( quelle surprise) come out of the matter with any plausibility. In fact, according to Father Sewell, ‘few of the people concerned in the trial emerge with credit ‘.
To Sewell, Denning proved himself to be anything but the impartial weigher of evidence and sifter of facts that his profession demanded of him. Instead of allowing the prosecution to ask the necessary questions of the police witnesses he intervened by asking the same witnesses exactly the same questions himself, thus telling the jury obliquely that ‘in the judge’s view Herbert and Burrows were men whose word was to be trusted’. Continue reading