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

R v Osborne and Ward [1826] NSWSupC 16

Black Act - perjury

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen A.C.J.,[1 ] 7 March 1826

Source: Australian,  9 March 1826


John Osborne and William Ward were charged under the statute of Geo. I. called the Black Act,[2 ] for wilfully and maliciously shooting at Joseph Ward.

The prisoners are nearly related to the prosecutor, and were charged by him with having attacked his house and firing four shots at him, with the intent to kill him.  This circumstance was stated to have taken place on the 11th of April, 1825; the night was very dark.  He was not wounded, and they made their escape.  He had never charged them with the fact for ten months after its committal, when he made a deposition before the Bench at Campbell Town, but in a very indirect manner.  Domestic quarrels appeared to be the ground of its being brought forward now; and the testimony of the prosecutor was contradictory and evasive.

The Jury, without hesitation, returned a verdict of Not Guilty. [3 ]

Mr. Justice Stephen read to the Court a clause, enacted in 23d Geo. II. whereby a Judge was empowered to commit for trial a witness who might depose falsely, and assign counsel to the prosecutor gratis.  This, he conceived himself bound to do in the present case; and, therefore, ordered the prosecutor, Joseph Ward to stand committed for perjury.

Mr. Wentworth was appointed as his counsel.



[1 ] Forbes C.J. was on sick leave from 23 February 1826 until 29 May 1826; John Stephen was Acting Chief Justice in this period: see Australian, 23 February and 3 June 1826

[2 ] For the history of this famous legislation, see E.P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters: the Origin of the Black Act, Penguin Books, London, 1977.

[3 ] The Sydney Gazette reported this case on 11 March 1826.  Its report at this stage of the trial said: "After the verdict had been delivered, His Honor reprobated, in the strongest terms, the conduct and apparent motives of the prosecutor, in preferring a capital charge against his own relatives, supported as this had been ... ."  It then went on, as did the Australian, to say that Stephen A.C.J. read the clause from the Act, and ordered Joseph Ward to stand trial for perjury.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University