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

R. v. Dawson [1809] NSWKR 2; [1809] NSWSupC 2

stealing rope

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction
Atkins J.A.., 6 June 1809
Source: Court of Criminal Jurisdiction Minutes of Proceedings, 1809, State Records N.S.W, 5/1150 [1]

[124]    Robert Dawson and John Waldron placed at the bar. James Jenkins sworn. Is not yourself and brother owners of a vessel called the Brothers?

           Answer. Yes

           Question. Was you not letting her out to sea and was she not partly rigged?

           Answer. Yes

           Question. Did you lose any part of her rigging about the 18th day of April, and if you did state what you know respecting such loss?

           Answer. On the 18th day of last April at sundown, myself and others who were at work on the vessel left her, and on sun rise the next morning, he offered all the rigging of the vessel out away, and on going on board, found it taken away. After some consideration he got some men and searched about the Rocks, but without any effect. He then got Black Randal and others to make a search, and after some time, he came and informed him that he had found three men concealed in the Rock. That [125] prisoner Dawson was one John Thompson, the man admitted brings evidence, and the other person is unknown to the deponent. That defendant got some persons to go in pursuit of the men and took them into custody nigh the windmill opposite the church. That he informed them he had lost his rope from the vessel, and that he suspected them with having taken it. After some hesitation they said that if he would let them go back, they would shew him where the rope was. They all went back together, and they took deponent to the prisoner Waldron's house. Mrs Waldron was at home and deponent asked her if Mr Waldron could be spoke with. She answered that he was not at home nor could she tell when he would be. The prisoner Dawson said that if she chose, he would speak to Mrs Waldron, for that she could give him the rogue as well as Waldron himself. On going to speak to her he ran away. Deponent after seeing Dawson and Thompson went to Redmond the Chief Constable, and informed him that he had two men in charge, who had informed him that the rope was in Waldron's house [126] and requested assistance which he gave him. They then went up to Waldron who was not yet come home. That he arrived in about half an hour. Quin asked Waldron if he had bought any rope. He said he had not. Thompson said to Waldron again did purchase some, and you weighed it. The constables then proceeded to search the home, on which Waldron acknowledged he having purchased some. That some man who works with Waldron, present and shewed them the rope, which was concealed under some case. The rope being produced, he swears that it is his, [in] his brother's property, that it was the same that were stolen out of the Brothers, and that was found in Waldron's house under the case.

           Question by Waldron. Have you not positively said on oath that I made part of the rope which was to rig your vessel?

           Answer. Yes he has made rope for us.

           Question. Have you any particular marks by which you can swear to the rope?

           Answer. Yes. By three strands being [loose].

           John Bevan, a rope maker sworn. Question. Did you ever make any rope for the [127] brothers Jenkins'.

           Answer. Yes

           Question. Is the rope now produced any part of the rope if so made by you?

           Answer. I have made the same kind of rope now produced for them, and to the best of my knowledge it is the same.

           William Jenkins sworn. Question. Did you in company with your brother and others go to the Waldron's house in search of the rope that had been stolen from your vessel?

           Answer. Yes.

           Question. Look at the rope now produced and say is it part of the rope so stolen, is it yours and your brother's property, and is it part of what was found in Waldron's house?

           Answer. I can swear to all the circumstances.

           [William] Thorn a constable sworn. Question. Did you with others go to Waldron's house for the purpose of searching for something that had been stolen?

           Answer. Yes

           Question. Did you ask Waldron whether he had purchased any rope and what answer did he give?

           Answer. I think he was asked that question by Lewin and in my presence he said he had not.

           Question. Is that part of the rope found in the [loft] of Waldron?

           [128] Answer. Yes. Waldron afterwards acknowledged that he had purchased such rope.

           John Thompson admitted, sworn and his confession made before the Judge Advocate being read he confirmed every part of it, and that is exactly the statement of what passed.

           Vide no. 2.

           The evidence on the part of the Crown being closed and Robert Dawson was called on his defence and denies the charge.

           John Waldron being put on his defence says that on the 18th of April two men came to him between 7 and 8 o'clock, and asked him if he would purchase some rope. He did not know they were, but told him that they were letters from the Hawkesbury. They informed him that they had got it from the Duke of Portland for [stock]. That he purchased it from them for £2/hundred.

           Prisoner Waldron calls Mr Gowen who being sworn. Questioned by prisoner. What price is old rope sold for out of the stores.

           Answer. For £1 4s. per hundred.

           Tom Pugh sworn. Question. What is the rope now produced worth per hundred?

           Answer. I have had as good out of the stores for £1 4s. per hundred.

[129] Mr Dight sworn. Question by Waldron. I came in the Cornwallis with you, what can you say to my character?

           Answer. I know nothing against him, but on the contrary I have always entertained a good opinion of him

           Mr Edward Wills sworn. Question by Waldron. You have known me some time, had we had dealings with me; what is your opinion of me as to character?

           Answer. I always considered you as a very honest person

           Read the paper no. 3.

           Robert Dawson. Guilty of stealing to the amount of 39 shillings and to sentence him to receive 500 lashes.

           John Waldron. Guilty transported for 14 years.


[1] Despite the gross breaches of the rule of law in the criminal courts during the rebel period, the day to day operation of the courts in New South Wales continued throughout. Woods observes at p. 36: "By and large, excepting cases where particular enemies of the rebels were involved, it was much as it had been over the preceding decade. Even allowing it as a period of savage repression of the convicts, and excessive and illegal punishment, some threads of fairness and proper principle can be seen in the work of the courts even in 1808 and 1809". This is shown by the following selection of quite ordinary criminal cases.

The Court of Civil Jurisdiction also continued to operate in the usual way during the rebel period. It is hard to find evidence of political bias in the civil court during 1808 and 1809. The rebel Judge Advocates in 1808 and Atkins in 1809 continued to operate as the civil court had done before the rebellion, as shown in cases such as Pitt v. Biggers, 1808. Atkins, however, appears to have been less sympathetic to debtors than he had been up to 1808. See Palmer v. Jones, 1796.

See also Sydney Gazette, 11 June 1809; and see Woods, History, 36-37; B. Kercher, Debt Seduction and Other Disasters: the Birth of Civil Law in Convict N.S.W., Federation Press, Annandale, 1996, 42-44.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University