We recently came into possession of a wonderful judgment from the Court of Quarter Sessions at Cowra in 1973.
The judgment is fascinating both for the wonderful prose used, but also as an insight into how our attitude towards domestic violence and the relationship of the sexes has changed in what is not really such a long time.
The case concerned the appeal of a conviction of a man for assault and malicious wounding.
As set out in the judgment the background to the case was the breakdown of the appellant’s marriage. His Honour describes the background in brief but revealing terms. He details that when told by his wife that she wanted him to leave the marriage he “asked if there was another man. No, lied the wife, she had merely fallen out of love with him.” As it turned out the appellant was informed by a friend that the local milkman had been “carrying on with his wife”.
I often mourned the demise of the milk rounds, but this situation has given me second thoughts.
When confronted by the appellant she “confessed her past misconduct with the milkman, said she was madly in love with the milkman, could not live without him, etc, etc”. The appellant subsequently moved out.
The appellant also confronted the milkman, and asked him whether he was really going assume all of the appellant’s responsibilities. The milkman apparently replied “he would give the situation a week’s trial” and that he would let the appellant know. The Judge seemed to take a dim view of this state of affairs saying that the milkman’s statement “that he would take the wife for week, apparently on appro.., no doubt deepened the husband’s gloom”.
I think that we can all see where this is going. As His Honour put it “Thoughts turned to resolve and resolution to action”. The appellant went to his house with his brother and found his wife and the milkman in bed together naked whereupon in the appellant’s own words he “got into” the milkman and got him to get out.
The milkman was still naked and objected. As relayed by His Honour “The husband, becoming irritated at the thought of the milkman’s sense of propriety being offended by these sartorial or thermometric considerations, happened to notice a rifle on the top of the wardrobe which he remembered was loaded, perhaps not inappropriately with rat-shot”.
This is a situation unlikely to end well, particularly as His Honour noted, with the wife having “remained noticeably audible”. The husband “becoming even more irritated at the slow rate of the milkman’s departure, at his wife’s wailings and her pursuit of the milkman” shot at the milkman’s foot.
The shot missed the milkman and “perhaps by another piece of wild justice” hit the wife’s legs. As described by His Honour “This development did not cause the wife to fall silent”.
His Honour made following well written, but by modern standards arguably sexist and outdated statement that:
“The husband was acting as father, husband and provider while the milkman was clandestinely the wife’s lover. When spoken to by the husband the milkman replied in terms which were on any analysis contemptuous of the wife. It appears to me that if a man elects to intrude into another’s marriage, putting the welfare of the children as well as that marriage at peril, he must expect as a natural hazard, at least the possibility of getting a hiding from the husband. On any realistic basis this milkman appeared to have asked for what he got.”
In relation to the shooting of the wife with rat-shot His Honour said (in what would probably be termed victim blaming) “it must also be remembered that it was the milkman and your wife who created this explosive situation which you in an understandable excitement merely detonated”.
The appellant was fined 20 cents for the assault on the milkman and was given a good behaviour bond for the shooting of his wife.
Well written, but I think that had a case with these facts gone to trial in recent times the result would have been much worse for the aggrieved husband.
So did they live happily ever after? We may never know, but in His Honour’s words “there is a suggestion that the milkman’s ardour has cooled”.