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

R v Bridges [1825] NSWSupC 22

Norfolk Island - secondary transportation - women defendants in crime - Crown mercy

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 27 May 1825

Source: Australian, 2 June 1825


On two prisoners, a man and his wife, receiving sentence of transportation last week for seven years, the former entreated the Court to be allowed to be sent to Norfolk Island with his wife and family.

The Chief Justice upon this observed that he had some reasons to believe a misunderstanding existed among a certain class of individuals, and it would be perhaps proper to set that matter aright.  Those prisoners who are sent to Norfolk Island after being convicted by this Court, will be kept to hard labour from the hour they land until the day they die.  The man's name is Bridges.[1 ]



[1 ] Joseph and Elizabeth Bridges had been convicted of receiving goods, knowing them to have been stolen: Sydney Gazette, 2 June 1825.

In one of his regular reports to Governor Brisbane (28 November 1825) about the prisoners convicted in the Supreme Court, Forbes C.J. wrote as follows: "Circumstances transpired at the trial which induced me to state to Elizabeth Bridge, that I should recommend her case to your Excellency and as the husband rather appeared to have exercised authority over his wife in the transaction, I recommend a remission of the remainder of Elizabeth Bridge's term."  The governor noted: "Remitted accordingly (sign) TB."  (Source: Chief Justice's Letter Book , Archives Office of New South Wales, 4/6651,p. 65.)

On 9 June 1827, Forbes C.J. forwarded a petition from Joseph Bridge to Governor Darling, requesting that he not be sent to Norfolk Island.  Forbes said he had no record that Bridge was ever ordered to go to the island.  He stated that the prisoner had been convicted of simple Grand Larceny, and was sentenced to transportation for seven years.  He assumed that the then governor, Brisbane, had intended to send Bridge to Port Macquarie, as transportation to Norfolk Island had not been resumed at the time of conviction: Chief Justice's Letter Book , Archives Office of New South Wales, 4/6651, p. 101.  He appears to have been unaware of the account of the sentencing hearing given by the Australian on 2 June 1825.

On the strict conditions of the second settlement at Norfolk Island (which commenced in 1825), see Brisbane to Bathurst, 24 March 1825, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, vol. 11, p. 552, and 1 August 1825, p. 697.  The defendant's request to be sent to the island with his wife may well have been granted if he had been sent there during the period of the first settlement on the island.  During the first settlement, it operated like a more brutal version of the convict system in the Sydney region, with convict spouses living together and assignments to private masters.  See B. Kercher, An Unruly Child: a History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1995, pp 28, 35; A.C. Castles, An Australian Legal History, Law Book Co., Sydney, 1982, p. 161.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University