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Colonial Cases

R. v. Dent [1833]

domestic violence - assault

Court of Quarter Sessions

W.H. Mackie, 1 January 1833

Source: Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 5 January 1833

[3] Fremantle 1st January 1833.- Before the Honorable W. H. Mackie Esq. Chairman, the Revd. J.B. Wittenoom J. P., George Leake Esq J.P. and J. Morgan Esq. J.P.  

Thomas Dent, was brought up charged with committing a violent assault upon his wife,

Chairman. - Gentlemen of the Jury this is it very aggravated case, and as similar assaults have been very prevalent in the Colony, we should wish you to give particular attention to the evidence. We have reason to believe that the prosecutrix has been intimidated and deterred from coming here by some threats which have been held out.

Prisoner I have never threatened her.

Chairman - I did not impute it to you or any individual but I repeat gentlemen it is our belief that the prosecutrix has been intimidated, therefore in order that the ends of Justice may not be defeated, we must treat the case as though she was prevented from attending by illness.

Prisoner - My wife came down to Jail to say that she was conscious of having given me just grounds of provocation.

[4] Chairman.-You will have an opportunity of bringing that forward in the proper cource, when you are called upon for your defence.

John Cleland sworn, Mrs. Dent stated to me last night that she did not know what step to take, whether to incur the displeasure of her husband, or forfeit the £10, as she had promised not to appear. I live next door and have had frequent opportunities of witnessing the assaults, 
it was every day, a regular succession of assaults. Never saw any provocation on the part of Mrs. Dent, she never raised her hand, she was obliged on two occasions to my knowledge to take refuge with a neighbour. I saw the prisoner on one occasion strike her violently, and 
knock her down on a chest, he hit her principally on the breast, she ran out of the house, her screams brought a neighbour who took the infant child away.

By a Juror - She exhibited marks of violence on her throat.

Chairman,-Have you any thing to say prisoner in your defence.

Prisoner - I am not a very good speaker. 

Chairman, - The Jury will make every allowance.

Prisoner, - I will acknowledge gentlemen we have not lived a happy life together. My wife, has been in the habit of practising many petty vexation. (As an instance of this a letter was here handed to the bench. The prisoner complained that it commenced and ended without any of those endearing epithets, which might be expected, from an affectionate wife, addressing a beloved husband. The circumstance of the letter being written to him during his confinement in the prison, in consequence of the repeated attacks made upon her, seemed to explain this apparent want of courtesey.) 

The prisoner continued, I object to the evidence of Cleland, he had a spite against me, because he imagined that I destroyed a valuable Astronomical work belonging to him. My wife has never exhibited any marks of violence.

Chairman, - warmly - We saw the marks on her throat, and delicacy no doubt prevented her 
from exposing others.

Prisoner - I have been subjected to a lengthened series of vexations, but I now solemnly swear I will never molest her again.

Chairman. - The conduct of Mrs. Dent under all her sufferings, has been truly exemplary, and calculated to excite the deepest sympathy - Gentlemen, the facts are so simple that it may be needless to recapitulate the evidence, however if you are of opinion that it is necessary, I will now read to you the deposition.

The Jury not requiring it, retired for a few minutes and returned a VERDICT GUlLTY. ...

On Wednesday morning the following sentences were past. ... Thomas Dent 3 months imprisonment and at the expiration of that period to find security for his good behavour.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School