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

R. v. Halloran and Parr [1823] NSWKR 2; [1823] NSWSupC 2

threatening letter, sending - aiding and abetting

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 27 December 1822

Source: Sydney Gazette, 2 January 1823 [1]

            Mr Laurence Halloran and Mr Thomas William Parr were placed at the bar, and indicted for writing and sending a threatening letter to Mr Robert Howe, on the 25th of March last: the prisoners were also indicted as aiding and abetting each other in the said crime.

            Mr Frederick Jones deposed, that he was clerk to Mr Howe in March last; that he received the paper or letter in question unsealed, on about the 25th ult. between 8 and 9 in the evening, from a man unknown; but from the same person, he thought, that handed to him a letter some few evenings before, which was signed "Castigator;" the threatening letter was signed "Castigator's Brother." The two productions were delivered to the witness in the box. He could not swear positively to the first letter (Castigator) as he had not opened it; but the second letter, for which the prisoners stood their trial, he well remembered to be the same, as he had opened it, and read the four last lines.

            Mr Michael Robinson, Principal Clerk in the Police Office, deposed, that he was acquainted with the handwriting of the prisoner Halloran. [Here the prisoner Halloran admitted the production, at least the poetical part, to be his hand-writing, as well as the letter signed Castigator.] He was not acquainted with the writing of Parr sufficiently to speak with certainty. The first time he saw Castigator's Brother, purporting to be the threatening letter, was at the Police Office. The day prior to the investigation before the Bench of Magistrates (Good Friday), the prisoners called at his residence in Castlereagh-street. He saw a copy of the poetry in the hands of the prisoner Halloran, who recited it to him. Parr then told the witness that he had written and sent the letter, and that Halloran had only, in a friendly and confidential manner, obliged him with the verses. Halloran then said Parr - "I am sorry you sent the letter, for I never intended it to go out of your hands." Parr seemed to treat the matter very lightly, and said he would take the burden upon himself, sooner than Halloran should suffer. In [extenuating] the contents of the threatening letter, Parr informed the witness that Mr Howe had treated him extremely ill, having held him up to public ridicule, and that he had also behaved very gratefully toward him. A Sydney Gazette was produced during the interview, which lasted an hour and a half, containing some strictures on the conduct of Parr, owing to the receipt of a note which had been written by him and which the prisoner [?] note was said by Parr to have been grossly perverted. Parr further said, that he intended to go forward and avow himself to be the sender of the letter. [Mr Solicitor Moore, on behalf of the prisoners, admitted the writing, viz. the direction, introduction, and superscription, to be Parr's, and the verses to be those of Halloran]. The witness was aware of Mr Howe being stabbed some months ago.

            It is as well to inform the reader in this place, that the threatening letter, signed Castigator's Brother, consisted of 30 lines of poetry. It was directed to Mr Howe with the introductory line, "Select Poetry for the Sydney Gazette," and terminated with a note, addressed to the Printer, calling upon him, as an act of common equity, to give the same insertion. The first 26 lines of the production are merely scurrilous and defamatory. Those, however, were passed over by the present tribunal, and the following concluding verses were thought subject of important consideration; viz

            "Your pride, ere long, will meet a fatal fall,

And that unfeeling heart be taught to feel;

Unwarn'd by one just, tho' vindictive hurting.

Beware! the next may be more deadly certain !!!"

Another letter, however, ten days prior to the receipt of the above had been sent to Mr Howe, bearing the signature of Castigator, which is only worthy of note in so far as it tended to manifest the spirit with which these productions had succeeded each other. Among other abusive and infamous language, the words "illegitimate spawn" were introduced, as particularly applicable to the individual adressed, though they were well known to be false.

            Mr Gilbert McLeod deposed, that he lived opposite the prisoner Halloran's, with whom he was on terms of great intimacy; but of Parr he knew very little. The threatening letter was handed to him; he said that he had seen the same at the Police Office; and that about three weeks before, either a copy, or the same paper, had been shewn and read to him by the prisoner Halloran in his verandah. In Halloran's school-room, he had also been favoured with a perusal of Castigator. Halloran told him the circumstances alluded to in that epistle had been inserted in the Sydney Gazette without the authority of the house (McQueen, Atkinson, and Pritchett), and then smiled. The witness said, that he considered the verses and merely ludicrous. The witness went on to say, that the prisoner Halloran, upon the morning of the examination, informed him, that he had not sent the letter. Since this period, he had several conversations with Parr, but merely as to the supposed issue of the trial.

            Mr James Underwood deposed, that Parr read to him a copy of the verses, but that it was subsequent to their receipt by Mr Howe. Parr acknowledged to him repeatedly that Halloran was innocent in the transaction, for that he had sent it.

            Mr Samuel Terry deposed, that he saw the letter at the Police Office, and that Mr Howe had shewn it to him prior to the examination; but that he had not seen or heard of it before.

            Mr R. Howe was then called. He deposed to the receipt of the productions before the Court; and that he was stabbed about 10 months ago. The witness said, that he found out the letter signed Castigator to be the hand-writing of the prisoner Halloran, by comparison with correspondence in his possession; and that he had not the least doubt on the threatening letter (the professed poetry) being the hand-writing of Halloran. He said that no offence, to his knowledge, had ever been manifested by him towards the prisoner Halloran: but that with Parr an interruption in amity had occurred, in consequence of a formal requisition to insert a letter in the Gazette, which had not been complied with. Mr Howe, being questioned by the Solicitor for the prisoners, said, that the mushroom of the day had no special reference to Mr Parr; not in the most distant way to shopkeepers; and that the note, which appeared in the Gazette of the 13th ult. signed, "T. W.,Parr," was inserted word for word. The witness was asked as to his knowledge of another press being on the way out; he replied that there was a vague report of the kind abroad. Being further questioned, whether the words fatal fall were not intended to bring to notice the contemplated arrival of the said press, whereby the indictment to, and support of, pride, would be considerably diminished; the witness replied, that he considered it bad a reference only to the rusty bayonet.

His Honor the Judge Advocate now read to the Court the two productions; viz. Castigator, and Castigator's Brother.

            The prisoners being called upon for their defence, Parr said, that he had no other way to retaliate for the injuries done towards him by Mr Howe, than to send the paper exhibited to the Court.

            Halloran was allowed to read a written defence; which went to any, that the poetry was considered by him more in a ludicrous than a serious light; that the last two lines were certainly objectionable: and that the word just was hastily and inconsiderately expressed; but that taken as a whole, the production, in fact the two productions, were merey admonished [next line illegible] to a cautious way in writing, in future.

            Upon the part of Halloran, Mr Michael Hayes was called, who deposed, that Parr read a copy of a letter to him, saying that he had sent it to Mr Howe; but this was on the day of the examination.

            Mr Gilbert McLeod recalled. He said that the prisoner Halloran had frequently spoken of Mr Howe in a friendly manner.

            Mr James Bradley deposed, that he never heard, in many conversations with Mr Howe, the most remote wish expressed to remove Halloran from the Colony.

            Mr James Hankinson deposed, that he had seen a copy of the verses in Parr's shop; and that Parr said he was the only party interested; that Halloran had written them for him, at his suggestion and request, in consequence of Mr Howe's ill-treatment towards him (Parr); and that, as every other avenue to satisfaction appeared shut; he considered that he was perfectly justifiable in the line of conduct adopted.

            No further evidence being called, His Honor the Judge Advocate proceeded to charge the Jury. In referring to the threatening letter, and in again reciting it, His Honor commented on the odious complexion of the production in general, and said it was truly lamentable to find a prisoner, like Halloran at the bar, lending his talents to such malevolent purposes; an individual said to have performed the sacred functions of a Minister to be found sporting with Religion; and that by a man whose duty it was to carry consolation to the dying bed! About 3 quarters of an hour were occupied by His Honor in laying down the law upon this particular case, when the Court retired; and in a few minutes returned with this Verdict: - "The Court is of opinion, that the letter is not a threatening letter within the Statue (27 Geo. 11. c. 15), and therefore adjudged the prisoners - Not Guilty.

            Halloran, being under sentence of transportation, was ordered to be detained in custody, till the papers were returned to the Magistracy, in order that he might be brought before that Authority, to see whether any, and what charge would there be preferred against the parties. No further complaint having been presented to that tribunal, Mr Halloran was discharged from custody on Saturday.


[1]  See also Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Informations, Depositions and Related Papers, 1816-1824, State Records N.S.W., SZ801, p. 234 (no. 18).

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University