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

R. v. Palmer and Palmer [1827] NSWSupC 34

stealing, Female Factory, women defendants in crime

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Trial, 29 May 1827

Source: Australian, 30 May 1827

John Palmer, and Elizabeth his wife, were indicted together, for stealing a quantity of property belonging to Mr. Barnet Levy.

John Skinner examined.  I am a conductor in the Sydney Police.  I was patrolling the streets on duty in George-street, on the evening of the third of May last, when I observed the prisoner, John Palmer loitering about the premises of Mr. Barnett Levy.  I suspected from his conduct that he had a design to rob those premises, and was resolved to watch the prisoner's motions.  I at last went up to where he was standing, and took him into custody.  This was at an outside gate of Mr. Levey's back premises.  The female prisoner was standing on the gate in the inner side of the premises.  She begged of me to let the man go, and offered me a dollar to do so.  I immediately alarmed Mr. Levy's family.  The woman then ran into the house; some servants in Mr. Levy's employ came out.  I pointed out to them where some property lay strewed about on the ground near to the gate.  It consisted of some earthenware, a candlestick, &c.  The male prisoner, on my approach, had a bundle under his arm, which he threw from him.  I was admitted into the house, and then saw the woman whom I had a few minutes before seen in company with the male prisoner.  She was in a bedroom, and on a sofa in the room lay a piece of cloth and a paper parcel.

Thomas Light, a constable, deposed, that he was in company with the last witness on the evening the prisoners were taken into custody for robbing the prosecutor's premises.  Within a few feet of where the male prisoner was surprised and taken into custody, lay a quantity of earthenware, some knives and forks, &c.  Saw this prisoner throw away a bundle over his shoulder.  He resisted Skinner, the constable, in attempting to take him into custody, and struggled for some time to get away.  The woman prisoner overhearing the scuffle, leaned over the gate on Mr. Levy's premises, and offered witness and the other constable a dollar to release the man.  On the door-step of Mr. Levy's house, witness found a white paper parcel, which was tied up.  The witness here produced it.

Mr. J.M. Duncan deposed, that the paper parcel produced was the property of the prosecutor.  On the evening of the third of May last, he recollected an alarm being given by the two last witnesses, that Mr. Levy's house was being robbed.  He saw the prisoner John Palmer in custody of the constables, whom they accused of being the thief; that prisoner begged hard to be forgiven, adding, that he was the lawful husband of Eliza Palmer.  Witness had never seen the prisoner before.  Light, the constable, said, he had seen the prisoner throw a bundle over the gate, and went to search for it.  He found a paper parcel in the yard; Eliza Palmer was enquired for at the instance of the constables; she was found in her bed-room, on a sofa; in that room lay a piece of cambric, and another paper of stockings, resembling those in the other paper parcel, which was found in the yard.  Witness knows the whole of this property belongs to the prosecutor, and had seen them in his shop on the evening of the day that these occurrences took place.

Mr. Barnett Levy identified the property produced to be his.

The prisoners merely denied the charge, but called one witness to speak to character.

The Judge summed up.

The Jury found both prisoners GUILTY.

Remanded.  To be brought up for sentence on Thursday next.[1]


[1] On 1 June 1827, they were each sentenced to transportation for seven years: Sydney Gazette, 4 June 1827; Australian, 6 June 1827.  Their sentences were commuted, John Palmer to three years transportation to a penal settlement, and Elizabeth Palmer to three years servitude in the factory.  The latter reference is to the Female Factory, which was simultaneously a prison, a barracks for female convicts, a factory, and a marriage bureau.  See A. Salt, These Outcast Women: the Parramatta Female Factory 1821-1848, Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1984.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University