On this day in Yorkshire

Libellous postcards to Leeds girl: court accepts man's denial that he sent them

March 16, 1940

Two typewritten postcards, sent through the post and delivered to a Leeds girl - against whom they made an accusation which his Lordship would not read aloud - formed the basis of an unsuccessful libel action at the Assizes in Leeds yesterday, Mr Justice Croom-Johnson entering judgment for the defendant, with costs.

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Plaintiff was Miss Joan Pearson, aged 21, of Southend Grove, Bramley, who alleged that the postcards had been sent to her by the defendant. Mr Francis Peter Smith, of Blackpool.

His Lordship, being handed the postcards at the beginning of the action, said the words in the first postcard could be construed as referring to the “white slave traffic” and obviously were defamatory.

Miss Pearson formerly worked at a chocolate shop in Boar Lane, Leeds, and became acquainted with Mr Smith’s daughter, Miss Hazel Smith, and another young woman, who were working at a neighbouring shop opened by Mr Smith for few months up to Christmas, 1938, for the sale of bed Jackets. After the Smiths had returned to Blackpool she exchanged letters and visits with Miss Smith.

She told the Judge she received a postcard in July last year, and the “signature” was F. P. Smith, in typewriting. She had never had anything to do with Mr Smith, but he was the only person of that name that she knew about, and she knew of no-one else but him and his daughter in Blackpool, the place where the postcard was posted.

Her solicitors wrote to Mr Smith demanding an apology, and the next day she received another postcard, also typewritten with the same name.

Mr Smith, in evidence, said that he knew nothing at all about the postcards. He was not at home at Blackpool when Miss Pearson visited his daughter, and until he received a solicitor’s letter he did not even know that Miss Pearson existed. He made no accusations against her at any time.

At the Judge’s request, Mr Smith brought to court the portable typewriter which he used for work, and typed Miss Pearson’s name and other words on a sheet of paper. He also set down the words in handwriting.

Giving Judgment, his Lordship said he had compared the typewriting, and there was not the smallest similarity between the letters on the postcards and those which Mr Smith had typed on his machine in court. There was no suggestion that he had another machine.

There was not the smallest resemblance between his handwriting and the only written word - the name Pearson on the first postcard.

The case rested on the coincidence of the second postcard being posted in Blackpool, and bearing a reference to a letter from Miss Pearson’s solicitors, on the evening of the same day as Mr Smith received the letter.

His Lordship added that he was completely unsatisfied that the postcards were sent by the defendant. It must be emphasised that not the smallest suggestion was made by anyone in the case that there was a scintilla or shadow of a suggestion of anything wrong against Miss Pearson.

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