Skip to Content

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

R. v. Baxter [1827] NSWSupC 50

stealing, by government official, Female Factory, military defendant in crime

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Trial, 15 August 1827

Source: Monitor, 16 August 1827

Wednesday. - Sergeant George Baxter, of the R. N. S. V. Corps, and Storekeeper of Parramatta Factory, was indicted for stealing 500 lbs. of soap, and 1000 lbs. of salt, the property of our sovereign Lord the King.  The facts of the case were as follows.  After the appointment of the prisoner to the above post, it appeared that some arrears of the above articles remained in the Commissariat stores undrawn, which he conceiving to be a kind of surplusage, and offered for sale to a dealer in Parramatta; the bargain was struck and the soap, and salt, were delivered over by the Commissariat Storekeeper Gordon, to the prisoner, without any attempt at concealment, but in the open day, publicly in a cart, the whole was driven to the house of Harvey.  The defence therefore was, that the prisoner viewed the surplus goods in the light of a perquisite, and acted rather through mishapprehension than dishonesty, he committed the deed for which he stood indicted.  Capt. Robinson, Cammanding officer of the N. S. W. Corps, spoke to the prisoner's character, and stated that he had been discharged from the 95th Regt. bearing the most unexceptionable character, in the discharge of his duty as paymaster's Clerk, receiving the highest pension ever bestowed on a non-commissioned officer.  That he the witness had entrusted him with the entire money for equipping and paying the Corps, (amounting to several thousand pounds,) and had never found a single error; that he believed it was the intention of Government to have provided handsomely for him; that at the request of the Governor he was transferred to the civil department; and that from time to time the utmost satisfaction had been expressed at his conduct in his late capacity.  He was of opinion that in the present instance he must have believed that the stores in question were his perquisite. - One of the Jury (Lieut. Sweny) spoke to the same effect.  The Attorney General also admitted the excellenty of his character.  The Chief Justice in a most luminous charge to the Jury, observed that the fact of the misappropriation was indubitably proved, the point for their consideration was whether the prisoner believed the articles were disposeable by him for his own private emolument.  Greater allowance must be made for the natural bias of self interest, than a lawyer sitting on the judgment seat, would in all probability be disposed to make.  Nevertheless, looking at the experience the prisoner must have had, it could hardly be supposed he could have thought himself entitled to appropriate the stores issued for the public service to his own use.  The character given of him was certainly of the highest order, and it was most creditable to him.  The Jury must however form their judgment upon the evidence, at the same time allowing a just weight to the representations in the prisoner's behalf.  The Jury without hesitation returned a verdict of Guilty.[1]

Notes

[1 ] The Monitor, 16 August 1827, concluded with the following observation: "This verdict gave great satisfaction to the public, so far as the inflexible integrity of our military Juries was once more evinced - but many think Baxter might have conceived he was entitled to the goods; and many hope he will yet receive clemency.  Ed."  See also Sydney Gazette, 17 August 1827.

Baxter was back in court in 1829, concerning the legality of his sentence of transportation for seven years: R. v. Baxter, 1829.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University