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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Hill [1788] NSWKR 2; [1788] NSWSupC 2

stealing, food rations - convict discipline - Pinchgut (Fort Denison)

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Collins J.A., 11 February 1788

Source: Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, Feb. 1788 to Oct. 1794, State Records N.S.W., 1147A

[12] Thomas Hill, a convict, was brought before the court, standing charged with detaining a convict, and forcibly taking and carrying away a certain quantity of bread, the said convict carrying in a bag over his shoulder, to the value of two pence.

            Mr Shairp First Lieutenant of Marines being called in was duly sworn, and deposes that on last Friday morning, within his marquee, he saw one of the convicts carrying a bag on his shoulder, going along the rear of the of the convicts' camp. He then saw the prisoner run up to him catch hold of the bag by one of the corners, and put his hand into it, on which he called to the prisoner, saying he wished to speak with him. On his coming up he saw a small piece of biscuit in his hand, and took some out of the breast of his frock which he then had on. He reported the circumstances to the Lieutenant Governor.

            Question. Did the man appear to be unwilling to part with the bread?

            Answer. He did not observe any unwillingness. The prisoner walked on some little way with the man, with his hand in the bag.

            Question. Did you see the prisoner open the bag of bread?

            Answer. No. He says saw him take the bread out and put it into his breast, some fell down which the prisoner took up. He saw him stretch his hand over the man's shoulder. The bread belonged to the contractor who had previously told the witness he expected a man with some.

            [13] Question. What quantity of bread was upon the prisoner?

            Answer. A small quantity. The prisoner said his reason for taking it was that he was very hungry.

            The prisoner had no questions to put to the witness.

Peter Dargan private Marine being called in was duly sworn. Deposes that on Friday morning last being near Shairp's marquee he heard him call the prisoner to him. On his going out he saw the prisoner take some bread out of his breast. Does not recollect what quantity of bread was taken out. He heard the prisoner say he was hungry. Knows not where he got the bread.

            The prisoner being called on his defence sworn, that at about 11 o'clock on Friday morning last, as he was standing by the door of his tent, four men came up loaded with bread. The man the nearest to him, asked him if he would assist him in raising the bag higher on his shoulder. He declined and told him there was a hole in the bag, and that some of the bread was falling out. He asked how large was the hole. He told him not very large, but a biscuit was falling out which he desired him (the prisoner) to take it out, for it fell. He was unable to stoop down to pick it up. He did so, and a smaller piece fell out, which he picked up. The man went on about his business and immediately having called to the prisoner, asking him what he [14] had there, the prisoner gave him the bread which Mr Shairp returned to him. He then went to his tent, staid there for two hours, then went to wash; and about 10 o'clock Mr Clark , the Courtmaster told him to go to Major Ross. He immediately went, was put in charge of the guard, where he has remained ever since. Addressed idea he was committing a robbery and he should not have taken the bread. He has worked hard since he has been here never having been abroad or before found foul with. Several convicts heard him called by the man.

            The court having heard the evidence and the prisoner's defence, are of opinion that he is guilty of taking the bread, but not guilty of forcibly taking and carrying it away, and adjudged him to be sent and confined in irons for the space of one week, on bread and water on the small, white, rocky island, adjacent to the cove.[1]


[1] This island, named famously(Pinchgut)is now what we know as Fort Denison.



Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University