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

R. v. Williams and Lane [1790] NSWKR 1

stealing, food rations

Court of Criminal Judicature

Collins J.A., 12 April 1790

Source: Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings Feb 1788-Oct 1794, State Records N.S.W., 1147A[1]

[169] James Williams and William Lane were charged, for that they on Thursday the eighteenth day of April in the thirtieth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the third, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and at Sydney Cove, in the County of Cumberland, with force of arms, 13 pounds of biscuits of the value six shillings and sixpence, of the goods and chattels of Andrew Miller esq., the Commissary for the Crown, then and there being found feloniously did steal, take and carry away, against the peace of our said Lord the King, his Crown and Dignity.

            The prisoner being arraigned pleaded not guilty.

            Simon Dunn being sworn deposed, that Williams was employed under his direction in a gang. Lane was employed by Powers. That betwixt 1 and 2 o'clock, last Thursday, after the [working] hour, M. Clark applied to him for some people to roll some casks of bread from the wharf to the store; that the prisoner were both employed to roll the casks up. He saw Lane rolling up a cask of flour, and he was going to get the people to come down. [170] That on his coming down, he perceived a cask of bread, standing up with the head hunched in and on looking in, he saw that some bread had been taken out. That at this time Lane was gone onto the store with the cask of flour; that he directly called for Saltmarsh (the cooper). That he came and M. Palmer was coming also along and he leaved him the cask. Then enquiring of the people about him, who had been selling the cask. He was informed that the prisoner, Lane rolled it up by store of Saltmarsh. That he went after Lane and stopped at Watkins' hut, but he was not there; that he went round the gardens near Batten's hut, and near the fence, he found 12 biscuits and 9 that he secured the biscuits and shewed them to Mr Palmer. That Saltmarsh only mentioned Lane as having been rolling up the cask. That the cask of flour which Lane had been rolling up when he saw him, was about 30 yards from the bread sack; that he found the biscuits near the bread cask.

            William Saltmarsh, being sworn, deposes that he was attending on Thursday last at the wharf, to see the casks in rolled up, and that their heads did not come out. That as he was coming down from the store towards the wharf, he saw the prisoner, Lane, rolling up a cask of flour by himself. Lane said it was very heavy and was killing work; he leaned himself down over the cask that he helped him out on about eight or nine yards; that immediately [171] his having helped him, Lane jumped into a garden (next to Middleton's); that hearing a cask had been opened, he pursued Lane, who hid from him behind a house. That he came up with him and saw him empty the biscuits out of his shirt under the hedge; that he begged him not to mention it; that they came away out of the gardens, leaving the biscuits in it. The garden belongs to Ayers and Murphy. That he saw the prisoner, Williams run up from the wharf to his own home and then afterwards he ran down calling for him.

            Mr L. Clark, Assistant Commissary, being sworn, that this morning he weighed a cask of bread that he had been informed on Thursday last, had been broken into and on which he put a mark. The cask was marked on the outside to contain 200 pounds. He found it contained 187 pounds and there be deficiency of 13 pounds. But cannot tell whether there were 200 pounds in it. Twelve biscuits produced, which M. Clark deferred to being of the same shape to the remainder in the cask.

            Thomas McLean, being sworn, deposes that the prisoner Williams was employed to make a fence round his garden; that he was coming along last Thursday, he asked him when he meant to stand him a hand. At this time he told him after dinner; at this time having a small axe in his hand the prisoner, asked him for it. (This was after the drum had beat for leaving of work.) That he gave him the axe, and then went into his own house. That at the time he saw the cask laying by itself on the wharf. On after he heard that a cask had [172] been opened. That half an hour afterwards, he saw the axe at his own door.

            Simon Burn, being called again, deposes that he found the biscuits behind the fence in Murphy's garden.

            William Murphy, being sworn, deposes that last Thursday being just come home from landing some bread at the wharf, about 10 or 15 minutes after he had been at home, Lane came in with something on his person, which he asked him to permit him to leave there. He imagined it to be bread, as he had heard them calling out a cask of bread had been opened. That he told him not to leave it there; that Saltmarsh then coming to him, he saw him drop some biscuits under the fence. That he saw it fall, but did not go near it, and knows not how many. That he knows nothing of the prisoner, Williams.

            William Saltmarsh, being again called in, deposes that he saw the bread put into the cask, but is not certain of net quantity; but he is certain there were not less than 200 pounds in the cask.

            The prisoner, Lane, says he saw the cask had been open, and thereupon prompted him to take these biscuits.

            The prisoner, Williams says that seeing a stock of the cask he borrowed a tomahawk to fasten it on. That in fastening it a piece of the head fell in. Then Lane took some biscuit, and that two having fallen down, he picked them up and took them away, and he knows nothing more.

            The prisoner Williams, guilty of stealing under 12 pence, to receive 500 lashes, in the usual manner.

            The prisoner Lane, guilty, to receive 2000 lashes in the usual manner.


[1] We are indebted to Lynette Hitchell for transcribing this case record.


Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University