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

R. v. Peck and others [1821] NSWKR 23; [1821] NSWSupC 23

R. v. Joshua Peck senior [1821] NSWKR 23; [1821] NSWSupC 23 

R. v. William Peck

R. v. Joshua Peck, the younger

R. v. Thomas Peck

cattle, feloniously killing, cattle, property of government, Van Diemen's Land

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 15 May 1821(Hobart session)

Source: Sydney Gazette, 7 July 1821

            Joshua Peck, the elder, William Peck, Joshua Peck, the younger, and Thomas Peck, were placed on trial, charged with having feloniously killed 10 sheep, the property of our Lord the King.

            Also, with having feloniously killed an heifer, the property of one Thomas Daley.

            The prisoners, in this case, were a father and his three sons, the youngest about 15 years of age; and, in support of the charge.

            Thomas Daley stated, that he was overseer of the government stock, which, till the present month, consisted partly of sheep, kept at a stock-yard in Camden Plains, about 9 miles from Launceston; that the prisoners lived about three quarters of a mile from this yard, and were the only settlers who lived near that place; that it was his duty to keep an account of the stock: that he particularly counted it over in December last; when it consisted of 484: that he soon afterwards missed some; frequently - every week, more or less - sometimes 1, 2, or 3, and sometimes, 10 at a time; that in February last the shepherd reported the loss of 20; but he went in search of them, but never found but the track of some sheep, which is far as it went, lead towards and within 100 yards of the prisoners dwelling down to a creek; that he lost altogether, since December, about 30 sheep; that the ease with cut close to the head.

            The overseer stated, that he had also lost an heifer of his own, that ran in Mr Barclay's herd, branded D.  In the neighbourhood.

            John Bourke was next examined, and swore, that he lived at the prisoners house from the 24th of January last to the end of February, having rented 80 acres of land adjoining to Pecks; that during that time, one afternoon after sun-down, he saw Joshua Peck, the younger, and Thomas Peck, bring in the carcasses of three sheep without heads; that, before day-light the next day, he saw them cut up in the house openly; that the Pecks asked him to tan the three sheep-skins for them; that, during the time he lived there, the family fed chiefly on salt mutton and beef, but that the Pecks had no sheep of their own.  That, in February, an heifer was killed by himself, Joshua Peck, and William Peck, at ten o'clock at night, in the stock yard; that the heifer was branded D; Thomas Peck was there also; that the brand was cut out and thrown into the fire by Peck, senior in the presence of the other prisoners; that he had the hide to tan for them, but that he could not now produce it, as it had been stolen from the tub, when he came into town to give in his information.

Ann Seatou, who had appeared lived with the last witness at Peck's, corroborated the testimony in every point as to the three sheep; and further, that she saw the three heads on the Sunday morning, when Mrs Peck skinned them for dressing; that the ears had been cut off close to the head; that on the over-night she heard Thomas and Joshua Peck say at the door, a little before dark, that they were going possum hunting.  This witness swore also as to the circumstances of the heifer being killed by Bourke and the two Pecks, and the burning, by the father, of what appeared to her a piece of skin.

            Thomas Colvin had been assigned as a government servant to the Pecks, and had lived with them for 18 months; that before Bourke came to the house, and after January last sometime, he knew of sheep having been killed there; five he remembered at one time, brought in from a hill by the Sugar Loaf (in Camden's Plains); that he, William Peck, Joshua, and Thomas, drove about 40 sheep to a brush under the hill in the night-time, when five were caught, killed, and afterwards salted for the use of the family; that he left the service on the Saturday, as Bourke was to come on the Monday, about the 30th of January; that before that he knew of three more having been taken from the government flock, and killed at one time; that he was aware the sheep were stolen, but nothing was said about it in the house.

            On the prisoners being called on for their defence, the charge was generally denied, and witnesses were called, at their request, in order to prove that Colvin was not so long as he stated in the service of the Pecks; but the evidence was not at all considered by the Court sufficient to destroy the evidence of Colvin, as it was of a very general nature, and not at all positive, or certain as to time.

            An attempt was also made to prove, by a conversation between Bourke and the witness called (another convict), that he, Bourke, gave information altogether from malicious motives and influence; but the Court gave no credit to this evidence, and in the close of the case directed the witness stand committed for wilful perjury.  A person was also called to prove, that he had, during a time referred to in the case, supplied the prisoners were sheep; but, upon examination, it turned out, that whatever he supplied was only in parts of a sheep now and then, and that, in two instances only, had let them have a single whole carcase.

            The Court found all the prisoners guilty: and the Judge Advocate strongly remarking upon the nature of the case in proof against the prisoners, pronounced the sentence of the Court to be, that for the offence of which they had been convicted, they be respectively transported to Newcastle for the term of 14 years.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University