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

R. v. Bacon [1806] NSWKR 2; [1806] NSWSupC 2

stealing from a dwelling house - capital punishment

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Collins J.A., 29 August 1806

Source: Sydney Gazette 31 August 1806[1]

Michael Bacon, alias Burgan, was now indicted for breaking and entering the dwelling house of Benjamin Mills, at Hawkesbury, and stealing from thence sundry articles of trifling value; to which the prisoner pleaded guilty, and implored the mercy of his judges. The court cleared, and after due consideration of the case re-opened, when the Judge Advocate informed the prisoner that the crime of which he stood convicted upon his own voluntary acknowledgement was a capital offence, and made him liable to the punishment of death; but that from a humane exercise of its powers, in consideration of his extreme contrition, the court had found him guilty of stealing to the value of four shillings and ten pence; by which verdict his life was saved; and term of transportation for seven years pronounced upon him, to commence at the expiration of his original term.


[1]   Despite this being decided by a military jury, as all Court of Criminal Jurisdiction cases were, the jury showed a compassion which was often evident in England as well. By knowingly reducing the value of the goods to a figure below the rate which led to the death penalty, the jury engaged in what was sometimes called pious perjury.

See also in State Records N.S.W., Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, February 1801 to December 1808, 5/1149, p. 290; Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Indictments, Informations and Related Papers, 1796-1815, 5/1145, p. 299.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University