Source: pp 65-66, The Art of the Advocate (1993) by Richard Du Cann QC.
Sorry for the long quote; please advise me if and how I can abridge it.
Tenacity is more than an aspect of courage. Counsel must expect to cross-examine many witnesses whose evidence he will fail to destroy. He must also expect to come across a number who believe that attack is the best method of defence, and who will do all they can to embarrass him. Two such witnesses appeared in the 'Black Book' criminal libel case tried at the Old Bailey during the First World War. Noel Pemberton-Billing, independent member of Parliament for Hertford, alleged that German secret agents had compiled a list of 2,000 prominent people whose sexual proclivities and abnormalities had led to an irresolute prosecution of the war. When he criticized the dancer Maud Allen in obscene language for playing the part of Salomé in Oscar Wilde's play she prosecuted him for criminal libel. Hume Williams was briefed to prosecute. He had an extensive practice in the Divorce Division, but this did not fit him for the rougher atmosphere of the criminal courts, nor for witnesses who were prepared to stick at nothing in order to win. It allowed an unscrupulous man, with a full wave of national sentiment and war hysteria behind him, to secure his own acquittal and a travesty of justice at the same time. One of the witnesses for the defence made a reply to Hume Williams in cross-examination which led him to ask, with a note of incredulity in his voice.
WILLIAMS: People in the service of Germany are able to get British secret service agents marooned [on the Greek islands] by the orders of the British Government?
WITNESS: Yes. I think I told you that privately.
WITNESS: Do you not remember talking to me?
WITNESS: When I came back from Albania you met me at dinner we had a conversation together.
WILLIAMS: I have never met you in my life.
WITNESS: I quite expected you to say that.
WILLIAMS: Because it is the truth.
WITNESS: You were never at the Clitheroes'?
JUDGE: I expect one or other of you will get marooned.
The loud laughter which greeted
this sallyof the Judge's disguised the defensive nature of Williams's last assertion. When one of the later witnesses made a similar claim, that she had ported a 'dangerous state of affairs' direct to Hume Williams who had advised her, 'there are too many people involved to make a personal sacrifice to expose it', [1.] he was impotent to deal with the situation. [2.] He had allowed himself to become personally involved.
I do not understand 1. Williams was correct to refute the Witness's falsities; so how was Williams impotent? If Williams had ignored them, then the audience may infer that the Witness was speaking the truth?
How is 2 true? What else should Williams have done?