Monday, March 8, 2010

Dickens Street(迪肯斯街)

Dickens Street, or Lebuh Dickens(迪肯斯街), is a short street between Penang Road and Transfer Road. It was between the Cathay cinema(now Mydin) and Penang police headquarter. Beside the Cathay cinema at the corner, there was formerly coffee shop. It was a bungalow, and you can sit outside under the tree. Cathay cinema was a top English movie cinema, in competition with Rex, Capital and Odean. While waiting for the show, or after the movie, you can take some food in the coffee shop. The Koay Teow Th'ng there is famous, and if you still miss it and eager to taste it. The daughter-in-law of the stall owner in now operating a shop at Evergreen Café, No. 11, Hutton Lane, a specialty Koay Teow Th'ng shop, a walking distance from Dickens Street.

A quite street where one side occupied by the police station, and the other side are clinic, vegetarian restaurant, tour office and other offices etc. The rear portion of the Hutton Lodge is at Dickens Street.


The Dickens Street was only a footpath, connected Transfer Road to Penang Road. It was only built when Penang Police Headquarter completed construction in 1937.

The central Chowrasta wet market was reportedly built as a single-storey structure in the 1890s. During the late 19th century, many Chinese traders lived in the wooden houses across the police barracks in Dickens Street,the old lane just across Chowrasta Market. They smoked opium in small dens they built there. But they were hard workers, as they worked in the Chowrasta market from seven in the morning till midnight.

The Chowrasta Outdoor Dispensary was located at today's Dickens Street, at the enclaves fronting Penang Road. The Dickens Street was not exist at that time, only footpath Transfer Road with Penang Road. In August 1937, the dispensary moved to No.7, Buckingham Street, opposite Kapitan Kling Mosque. The place was former Malay Home, hostels for Malay students studying in Penang Free School(located at today's Penang State Museum building. The doctor in charge of Dispensary then was Dr E.W.De Cruz. The street must had been built after 1937 when the Penang Police Headquarter was constructed.

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The street was named after John Dickens(狄更斯), the first magistrate and Judge of Penang from 1801-1805. He is also the first judge of Malaysia. For your information, he has nothing to do with famous Charles Dickens. John Dickens always signed his letter as magistrate and judge(法官兼推事). Noted the first magistrate in Penang was Philip Manington, who was the 2nd Superintendent and acting governor of Prince of Wales' Island, succeeded Capt Francis Light.

John Dickens was a British magistrate from Supreme Court from Fort Willian, India, who was appointed as first magistrate and Judge of Penang. Dicken was stunned to find a skeletal security forces looking after some 300 convicts from India(Penang was the penal settlement) and 100 odd Europeans. His legal staff were ignorant and illiterate.

Note: A magistrates' court or court of petty sessions(裁判司署), formerly known as a police court, is the lowest level of court in England and Wales and many other common law jurisdictions. A magistrates' court is presided over by a tribunal consisting of two or more (most commonly three) justices of the peace or by a district judge (formerly known as a stipendiary magistrate), and dispenses summary justice, under powers usually limited by statute. Police Court is a minor court to try persons brought before it by the police


Mr. Dickens did not assume duties till some time after his appointment. In April, 1801, Sir George Leith was apprised by a letter from the Secretary to the Government of India of Mr. Dickens' departure, and that he, Mr. Dickens, had been instructed " to continue to act upon the principles of the existing laws and "regulations of the Settlement until further orders."

Mr. Dickens arrived on the 7th of August, 1801. He took the bench for the first time on the 27th of that month, up to which period both Mr. Caunter and Mr. Manington, appear to have acted as "Magistrate" and "Assistant" respectively. Mr. Manington died in Penang on the 13th June, 1806, and was then " Paymaster of the Hon'ble Co."— Mr. George Caunter; died in April, 1812, and up to 1811, the Court papers mention him as " Police Magistrate."

Dickens had dispute with the governor, Leith(李特)as he wanted to have the police under his control; but the governor insist on separation of power between police and magistrate.

Mr Dickens' last Court Book was on 31st May, 1805. Mr. Dickens shortly after this left for India, and with him ended the most lawless period of the Settlement of Penang, and greatly through his untiring energy and exertion must be attributed the hastening of the grant of the first Charter in 1807, which provided for the setting up of the first Supreme Court. Dickens was loved and respected by the locals as he was closed to the locals.

Police magistrate system(警察司法制) was introduced in November 1805 after John Dickens had left; it was reported that it is because of introduction of the police magistrate system by the governor, Philip Dundas(坦达斯), that Dickens left. Philip Dundas proposed police magistrate to remove Dickens. Philip Dundas had a short road named after him, Dundas Court, side road at Farquhar Street, but disappeared due to expansion of the road in 1968.

The first police magistrate was P. KELLNER(哥勒)who was later sacked due to corruption charges. He was succeed by THOMAS MCQUID(马秋).


Police Magistrate

Philip Dundas 设立了警察司法权(POLICE MAGISTRATE)(1805年11月)。(这是莱特生前所要求的),其职权包括:

(i) 任何有关乔治市及威尔斯太子岛的税务或门牌税的争执的处理。而这些税收是用在建造道路及其他有关警察方面的。



可以说,职权之大,无所不包。第一位被委为此职者是哥勒(P. KELLNER),很快被查出贪污被革职。1806年10月改由马秋 (THOMAS MCQUID)接任。

坦达斯(Philip Dundas)之所以要设立警察司法权,目的是要除掉于1801年在李特(Leith)任总监督时委任的一位法官兼推事的狄更斯(JOHN DICKENS)。


坦达斯接位时,巧妙地设立警察司法制(Polis Magistrate),又于1807年宣布新司法制度,仿效英国,有主簿官,有陪审员,而总督及三位议员坐审。当这项法令于 1808年5月31日生效时,狄更斯已被革职。

(extracted from

Penang and Legal system

Penang was where the modern Malaysian court system, and therefore the Malaysian judiciary and Bar has its origins. In 1801, John Dickens was appointed as the first magistrate in Penang and in 1807, a Royal Charter was granted to Penang providing for the setting up of the first Supreme Court. This was followed by the appointment of the first Supreme Court judge designated as the “Recorder”. The Supreme Court of Penang was first housed at Fort Cornwallis and was opened on 31st May, 1808. The original courthouse which was constructed 1809 at a plot of land bounded by Pitt Street (Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling), Light Street (Lebuh Light) and Farquhar Street (Lebuh Farquhar). The Penang Supreme court was rebuilt to replace the original court house(Year 1809)in 1905, as the premises of the supreme court. It also call High court of the Penang state or Mahkamah Tinggi Pulau Pinang in Malay, the national language.

The first Superior Court Judge in Malaya originated from Penang when Sir Edmond Stanley assumed office as the First Recorder of the Supreme Court in Penang in 1808. Interestingly, Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, was the first registrar(主簿官)of the Supreme Court of Penang. Later, and with changes made to the judiciary of the Straits Settlements, the designation “Judge” was substituted for “Recorder”. Hence, the Malaysian legal profession actually originated from Penang at the turn of the 19th Century.

The Second Charter of Justice was issued on 27 November 1826. This Charter abolished the Recorder's Court, which served only the Prince of Wales' Island, and established the Court of Judicature of Prince of Wales' Island, Singapore and Malaya.

The Third Charter of Justice of 12 August 1855,the Court of Judicature was reorganised into two divisions. The first division had jurisdiction over Singapore and Malacca and comprised the Recorder of Singapore, the Governor and the Resident Councillors of Singapore and Malacca. The second division had jurisdiction over the Prince of Wales' Island and Province Wellesley, and comprised the Recorder of Prince of Wales' Island, the Governor and the Resident Councillor of the Prince of Wales' Island.

The Judicial Duties Act of 1867 brought about further changes to our judicial system. The Governor of the Straits Settlements ceased to be a Judge of the Court of Judicature, although the Resident Councillors continued to sit under their new title of Lieutenant-Governors.

This Act also changed the titles of other officers: the "Recorder of Singapore" became the "Chief Justice of the Straits Settlements" while the "Recorder of Prince of Wales' Island became the "Judge of Prince of Wales' Island". Sir Peter Benson Maxwell, then the Recorder of Singapore, became the first Chief Justice of The Straits Settlements in 1867.

The Supreme Court Ordinance 1868 abolished the Court of Judicature of Prince of Wales' Island, Singapore and Malacca, replacing it with the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements.

The Courts Ordinance of 1873 reconstituted the Court, so that it now consisted of the Chief Justice, the Judge of Penang, a Senior and a Junior Puisne Judge. One division of the Court sat in Singapore and Malacca, whilst another sat in Penang. In addition, the Ordinance conferred on the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements the jurisdiction to sit as a Court of Appeal, with final appeals lying to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Previously, appeals had lain only to the King-in-Council.

The Courts Ordinance of 1878. This Ordinance was passed in response to the United Kingdom Judicature Acts of 1873-75, which modified the court structure in England. Under the Ordinance, the jurisdiction for the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements was brought in line with that of the new English High Court.

The Courts Ordinance of 1907 allowed Judicial Commissioners of the Federated Malay States to be appointed from time to time to perform the duties of a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements.

The Court of Criminal Appeal Ordinance came into force on 1 September 1934 to provide for the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal. This was necessary as, up till then, the Court of Appeal had exercised only appellate civil jurisdiction.

Strait Settlement courts ceased to function when the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942 and established a Military Court of Justice to administer Military Ordinances and the laws of the Japanese army.

Following the surrender of the Japanese on 12 September 1945, Singapore was temporarily administered by the British Military Administration. All law prior to Japanese occupation will be respected.
The British Military Administration came to an end on 31 March 1946. The Straits Settlements were disbanded and Singapore was made a separate Crown Colony on 1 April 1946.

Penang’s Many Firsts

Malaysia’s own first pair of brother and sister to be called to the English Bar are the late Mrs. B. H. Oon and Mr. Lim Khye Seng, both of whom were born and practiced law in Penang. Mrs. B. H. Oon was also the first Chinese lady lawyer to be admitted to the English Bar in 1926 and the first Asian woman admitted to the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Bars in 1927. The Advocates & Solicitors Ordinance of 1914 permitted only men to be admitted to the Straits Settlement & Federated Malay States Bars. It had to be amended in 1927 to allow Mrs. B. H. Oon as the first lady to be admitted to the local Bar. She was subsequently awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth and the pingat Tun Fatimah by our Government in recognition of her achievements.

On 4th July, 1974, legal history was again made when Malaysia’s first Primer Minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, became the first Prime Minister (after leaving office) to be admitted to the Bar before the Penang High Court. His admission was presided over by Chang Ming Tat, J and moved by the late Dato’ Eusoffe Abdoolcader. The Tunku in addressing the Bench at his Call descrived the event as “the proudest moment” of his life.

Among the other notable senior lawyers (some of whom were later appointed as Judges) who originated from Penang are:

Dr. Sir Hussein Hasanally Abdoolcader
Lim Cheng Ean
Lim Cheng Poh
Lim Ewe Hock
Eusoffe Abdoolcader
P. G. Lim
Lim Kean Chye
Lim Kean Siew
Karpal Singh
Chief Justice Tun Datuk Seri Utama Abdul Hamid

Cecil Rajendra: the first practicing lawyer to win international acclaim as a poet and writer. In 1997, Amnesty International accorded him the rare honour of carrying one of his poems as the theme for its calendar.

The Penang High Court, one of the earliest purpose built courts built around 1903, has recently been restored to its former glory.

In front of the Penang High Court/Supreme Court, is the Logan Memorial built more than a century ago in honour of a lawyer that gave free service to the people, The memorial has beautiful carvings of four statues representing the four cardinal virtues; Temperance, Wisdom, Fortitude and Justice. It stood as a silent moral guide to the judges and lawyers who passed by the High Court of the importance in upholding the rule of law.

Ironically, Dickens Street is beside Penang Police Headquarter.

Related articles:

1. From Then Till Now - A Brief History of the Penang Bar,
2. Cases heard and determined in Her Majesty's Supreme court of the Straits Settlements, 1808-1884(1885),by JAMES WILLIAM NORTON KYSHE, ESQ., published by "Singapore and Straits Printing Office

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