The schoolgirl and the horse-whipped parson: an account of an early New Zealand cause celebre
This paper examines the curious litigation surrounding the Reverend Arthur Baker; litigation which included the criminal prosecution of Baker for allegedly indecently assaulting Mary Schroder, a schoolgirl; the appellate review of, and quashing of, the resulting conviction , and then the re-litigation of the whole matter in a civil action brought by Baker against George Schroder, Mary’s father on the basis of George Schroder’s public assault on Baker – horsewhipping him in the street outside Baker’s church. Although the truth or otherwise of Mary Schroder’s allegations may never be determined, the nature of the case, its conduct in different court proceedings, and the manner in which it was reported in the newspapers, provide interesting insights into contemporary attitudes to such offending, and to public challenge to, and criticism of, legal proceedings. Not the least interesting element is that this is a rare case of a trial of an alleged offender from a position of social privilege. Even more rare is the fact that the issues were in effect re-litigated; and rarest of all is the degree to which the proceedings, and its detail, were the subject of public and media discussion.