Charles Bowen, Baron Bowen

English judge

Charles Synge Christopher Bowen, Baron Bowen QC, PC (1 January 1835 – 10 April 1894) was an English judge.

"Judicial Politeness"
Bowen as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, March 1892

Courts do not exist for the sake of discipline, but for the sake of deciding matters in controversy.


  • It is a Reasonable presumption that a man who sleeps upon his rights has not got much right.
    • Ex parte Hall; In re Wood (1883), L. R. 23 C. D. 653.
  • Most businesses require liberal dealing.
    • Hutton v. West Cork Railway Co. (1883), L. R. 23 C. D. 672.
  • The Court must never forget, and will never forget, first of all, the rights of family life which are sacred.
    • In re Agar-Ellis, Agar-Ellis v. Lascelles, (1883), id., L. R. 24 C. D. 337.
  • An English Court cannot judge by the light of nature.
    • Hyman v. Helm (1883), L. R. 24 C. D. 544.
  • Courts do not exist for the sake of discipline, but for the sake of deciding matters in controversy.
    • Cropper v. Smith (1884), L. R. 26 C. D. 710.
  • A collection of records may be the result of professional knowledge, research, and skill, just as a collection of curiosities is the result of the skill and knowledge of the antiquarian or virtuoso.
    • Lyell v. Kennedy (1884), L. R. 27 C. D. 31.
  • Stereotyped rules laid down by judicial writers cannot be accepted as infallible canons of interpretation in these days, when commercial transactions have altered in character, and increased in complexity; and there can be no hard-and-fast rule by which to construe the multiform commercial agreements with which in modern times we have to deal.
    • Jacobs v. Credit Lyonnais (1884), L. R. 12 Q. B. D. 601; 53 L. J. Q. B. 159.
  • The object of the discipline enforced by the Court in case of contempt of court is not to vindicate the dignity of the Court or the person of the Judge, but to prevent undue interference with the administration of justice.
    • Hellmore v. Smith (2) (1886), L. R. 35 C. D. 455.
  • The law has armed the High Court of Justice with the power, and imposed on it the duty of preventing brevi manu and by summary proceedings any attempt to interfere with the administration of justice. It is on that ground, and not on any exaggerated notion of the dignity of individuals that insults to Judges are not allowed.
    • In re Johnson (1887), L. R. 20 Q. B. D. 74.
  • Like my brothers who sit with me, I am extremely reluctant to decide anything except what is necessary for the special case, because I believe by long experience that judgments come with far more weight and gravity when they come upon points which the Judges are bound to decide, and I believe that obiter dicta, like the proverbial chickens of destiny, come home to roost sooner or later in a very uncomfortable way to the Judges who have uttered them, and are a great source of embarrassment in future cases. Therefore I abstain from putting a construction on more than it is necessary to do for this particular case.
    • Cooke v. New River Co. (1888), L. R. 38 C. D. 70.
  • At common law, the Attorney-General is, when he is exercising his functions as an officer of the Crown, in no case that I know of a Court in the ordinary sense.
    • In the matter of Van Gelder's Patent (1888), 6 Rep. Pat. Cas. 28
  • The only case in which I can conceive a person having breakfast over night is that he is not likely to have it next morning.
    • Borthwick v. The Evening Post, Ltd. (1888), 58 L. T. Rep. (N. S.) 258.
  • Judges, like Caesar's wife, should be above suspicion.
    • Leeson v. General Council of Medical Education and Registration (1889), L. R. 43 C. D. 385.
  • People must not be wiser than the experience of mankind.
    • Filburn v. People's Palace and Aquarium Co. (1890), L. R. 25 Q. B. 261.
  • The duty to prosecute, or not to prosecute, is a social and not a legal duty, which depends on the circumstances of each case. It cannot be said that it is a moral duty to prosecute in all cases. The matter depends on considerations, which vary according to each case. But the person who has to act is bound morally to be influenced by no indirect motive. He is morally bound to bring a fair and honest mind to the consideration and to exercise his decision from a sense of duty to himself and others.
    • Jones v. Merionethshire Permanent Benefit Building Society (1891), L. R. 1 C. D. [1892], p. 183.
  • An honest blunder in the use of the language is not dishonest... What is honest is not dishonest.
    • Angus v. Clifford (1891), 60 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) C. D. 456.
  • . . . The fallacious use of the principle that you cannot look into a man's mind. It is said you cannot do that: therefore what follows? It is said that you are to have fixed rules to tell you that he must have meant something, one way or the other, when certain exterior phenomena arise. The answer is that there is no such thing as an absolute criterion which gives you certain index to a man's mind. There is nothing outside his mind which is an absolute indication of what is going on inside. So far from saying that you cannot look into a man's mind, you must look into it, if you are going to find fraud against him: and unless you think you see what must have been in his mind, you cannot find him guilty of fraud.
    • Angus v. Clifford (1891), L. R. 2 C. D. [1891], p. 471.
  • The director is really a watch-dog, and the watch-dog has no right without the knowledge of his master to take a sop from a possible wolf.
    • In re North Australian Territory Co. (1891), L. J. Rep. 61 C. D. 135.
  • If no appeal were possible, I have no great hesitation in saying that this would not be a desirable country to live in. . . . It is quite true that there is enough difficulty in appealing as it is; but if there is to be no appeal at all possible the system would be intolerable.
    • The Queen v. Justices of County of London, &c. (1893), L. R. 2 Q. B. 492.
  • We must take the thing in the grip of our hands.
    • The Queen v. Justices of County of London, &c. (1893), L. R. 2 Q. B. 494.
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