30 November 2016


In Wright v Wright (1910) 16 Argus LR 602
A wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage on the ground of her husband's repeated act of adultery; and, on the hearing, tendered as the only evidence of adultery a certified copy of an entry in the Register of Births in Brisbane, being a record of the birth of an illegitimate child of the husband registered by him. 
It was held by A'Beckett J that 'there being no reasonable doubt as to identity, and no circumstances of suspicion, the entry might be accepted as sufficient proof of adultery'.

The judgment states
 Alice May Emma Wright petitioned for dissolution of her marriage with Maxwell Parker Wright, upon the ground of adultery in the conjugal residence, and of a repeated act of adultery. In support of the second ground, the petitioner tendered as the only evidence a certificate of the Registrar-General, Brisbane, being a copy of an entry of the birth, on 20th January, 1910, of an illegitimate child, the father of whom was described as Maxwell Parker Wright, the person who registered the birth.
In this case the wife sought divorce on the ground of her husband's adultery, on the first occasion with a woman in the conjugal residence, and afterwards with another woman in Queensland. As to the first adultery I have no evidence but that of the wife of admissions made to her by the husband and by the woman. As to the second, I have nothing but a certified copy of an entry in the Register of Births in Brisbane, which shows that a person, describing himself and his other children in such a way as unmistakably to identify him as the husband of the petitioner, registered the birth of an illegitimate child born in Queensland, of which he described himself as the father. I doubted whether I could act upon this evidence alone, although I did not suspect collusion or any untruth in the statements made in the registration. The only way in which the registration would be evidence would be as an admission of adultery by the husband. It would have been possible for someone to have impersonated the bus- band in registering the birth. I think that the Court should not accept meagre evidence or doubtful ad missions where direct evidence is easily available. It was pointed out that in this case the procuring of direct evidence would certainly be costly, and prob­ ably be difficult, and that if I were satisfied that the admission was genuine I was at liberty to act upon it. Passing over the possibility of impersonation as too remote to cause doubt, an admission made by a father in registering a birth is made under serious sanctions. Untruth in the declaration is punishable by imprisonment. The declaration is made in the performance of a statutory obligation.
The other facts before me lead to no suspicion. The husband was personally served, and according to the affidavits on which leave to proceed was given, virtually admitted the case against him. The wife was enabled to obtain the copy certificate by an anonymous letter, unobjectionable in its tone and definite in its information, from someone signing her self her friend. Feeling no doubt as to the facts, I have evidence which I may accept as sufficient to prove them. I therefore grant the order nisi, on the ground of a repeated act of adultery, with costs against the respondent, and I give the petitioner the custody of the children of the marriage