Louis Diston Powles (1842–1911) was an English barrister. He is now remembered for his outspoken memoir Land of the Pink Pearl of his time in the Bahamas as a stipendiary magistrate, during the 1880s.
Unsuccessful in attempting to take silk in the early 1880s, Powles took up in 1886 a position as Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrate in the Bahamas.
Henry Arthur Blake had been Governor of the Bahamas from 1884. With a background as a resident magistrate for the Irish Constabulary, he wanted to reform the local system of lay magistrates, and applied in early 1886 to the Colonial Office for two salaried magistrates to be appointed, citing a lack of diversity in the system. Powles was the sole magistrate to be put into place.
A case in the Nassau Police Court, in which Powles sentenced James Lightbourn to jail for beating a maid, Susan Hopkins, caused controversy. Lightbourn was white, and Hopkins black. Powles had the intention of repressing domestic violence, and had announced that in all cases of a man striking a woman, the man if found guilty would be sent to jail without the option of paying a fine; and had acted accordingly in sentencing three black men in common assault cases. When Lightbourn was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment, he appealed to Henry William Austin, Chief Justice of the Bahamas.
Powles became convinced that Lightbourn, a Wesleyan Methodist, had perjured himself. His own published account of the case stated that the black witnesses were credible. Against Blake’s advice of silence, he made a public comment that he wouldn’t believe a Methodist. Powles being a Roman Catholic, on good terms with the local Anglican cleric Charles Carthew Wakefield, he aroused a furore based on nonconformist feeling. It was argued that, in a trial without a jury, Powles had acted in accordance with religious animus.