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

R. v. Williams, Sullivan and Kirby [1828] NSWSupC 7

robbery in dwelling house, West Indian defendant, death recorded

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Trial, 18 February 1828

Source: Australian, 20 February 1828

James Williams, a West Indian black,[1 ] Dennis Sullivan, and Thomas Kirby (the latter being a private in the Royal Veteran Corps) were severally indicted, the first as a principal, and the two others as accessaries, in a robbery in the dwelling-house of Francis Moran, Esq., Pitt-street, Sydney.

Dr. Moran stated, that on the morning of the day laid in the indictment, upon rising at his usual hour, he discovered that a gold watch chain and seals, which he commonly deposited in a dressing table in his bed-room, before retiring to rest over night, had been abstracted.  On looking further about the bed-room, he also discovered that a trunk in which the key had been left over night, had been plundered of a considerable quantity of wearing apparel, &c.  Dr. M. immediately enquired for his servant, Williams, who was not to be found.  The prisoner Williams had access to every room in the house.  Dr. Moran lost no time in making the robbery known to the police authorities, and constables were promptly deputed in pursuit of the black man, Williams.

Fitzpatrick, a constable, deposed, that he apprehended the prisoner Williams in the street.  On taking him into custody, the prisoner Kirby followed witness, abusing him for taking the man without a warrant.  Kirby introduced himself into the watch-house, when the gates were closed upon him, and both prisoners put into the same cell.  A few moments after prisoner Williams was searched, and dispossessed of various articles forming part of what had been abstracted from the possession of Dr. Moran.  On the other prisoner was found a valuable gold watch, chain, seals, &c. which Dr. Moran identified to be his.

Mr. Jilks, chief constable, searched the prisoner Sullivan's house, where he found some more property belonging to Dr. M.  All three prisoners were found Guilty.[2 ]


[1 ] The Sydney Gazette, 20 February 1828, said he was from St Domingo.

[2 ] On 29 February 1828, Williams was sentenced to death recorded, and Sullivan and Kirby to transportation for two years: Australian, 5 February 1828.  Death recorded meant a formal sentence of death, without an intention that the sentence would be carried out.  Under (1823) 4 Geo. IV c. 48, s. 1, except in cases of murder, the judge had considerable discretion where an offender was convicted of a felony punishable by death.  If the judge thought that the circumstances made the offender fit for the exercise of Royal mercy, then instead of sentencing the offender to death, he could order that judgment of death be recorded.  The effect was the same as if judgment of death had been ordered, and the offender reprieved (s. 2).

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University