Skip to Content

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

R v Gordon [1825] NSWSupC 10

maltreatment of animal

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 17 February 1825

Source: Australian, 17 February 1825


THURSDAY.  This day Thomas Gordon was put to the bar, charged with maliciously and cruelly maltreating a young mare, the property of John Thomas Campbell, Esq. on the 12th of October last, so as to occasion the death of the animal.[1 ]

Peter Burn, overseer to Mr. Campbell, at Bringelly, stated, that the prisoner had the charge of the horses.  On the 12th of October last, saw this young mare bleeding at the nose; her legs greatly injured; her fore legs much swelled; being asked how this came about, the prisoner said, she fell with her nose to the ground; and in the stable, by her restiveness, had hurt her legs.  She died two months after.

Enoch Handcock, assistant groom, stated, that the mare was very sulky, and could not be broken in; she had broke loose more than three times, and could not be taken.  Prisoner, in a fit of anger, pushed the stick up her nose, which caused the blood, and the swelling of her legs and body was occasioned by blows of a stick; heard prisoner say, that "Mr. Campbell should never have a £10, by showing her: for he had not acted as a gentleman to him.  Her legs were terribly swelled; so much so, that she could not walk, and died a few weeks after.

Mr. Campbell stated, that the prisoner was his groom; he had the charge of twenty-two other young horses; told him to bring them to Parramatta fair; and, if either of them gained the premium of £10, he should have it  meant to have given him the money; found him frequently intoxicated and insolent.

The Chief Justice, in summing up the evidence to the Jury, observed, that to constitute the criminal charge of capital felony, it must be proved that the prisoner had a malicious motive against the proprietor of the animal; but it did not appear in the present instance, that the prisoner had any malicious motive against his master, but against the animal  in consequence of its sulky disposition.  It appeared that the prisoner was a passionate man: and in the moment of passion, did the injury alleged in the indictment.

The Jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of Not Guilty against the prisoner.



[1 ] See also Sydney Gazette, 17 February 1825.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University