Skip to Content

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

R. v. Hall (No. 5) [1829] NSWSupC 66

women defendants in crime - assault - sentencing discretion, women


Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 2 October 1829

Source: Australian, 7 October 1829

Jane Hall was indicted for an assault on the 30th ult. Upon the person of Mrs. Harriet Weaver who deposed that whilst enjoying a peaceful walk in company with her sister, Miss Elizabeth Reynolds, one Sunday last month, in the Government Domain, who should heave in sight but the defendant, accompanied by others of the sex, all advancing in a line abreast when as both parties approached, the defendant falling back a few paces, with her clenched fist levelled a violent blow at the complainant, adding to that insult a most opprobrious epithet, with the repetition of which we do not think fit to sully our pages.  Fortunately, by a dexterous movement complainant stated she was enabled to parry the coming blow; but this was not a solitary instance of violence on the part of the defendant, who had been in the habit of pelting her with insults continually for the last five years.  Miss Elizabeth, aforesaid, having corroborated her sister's evidence, and the case having closed on this side.

Mr. Garling, who was retained on the other, entertained the Court for some time most facetiously with an elaborate statement of facts, --- to support which he said he would call a witness, whose pedigree, and so forth, the learned gentleman proceeded to detail in a fall, yet concise and circumstantial way, --- when the torrent of his eloquence was momentarily checked by the learned Judge directing it to the necessity of adducing sworn testimony.  Mrs. Dunsha, a Mr. Campbell, and Miss Ann Hall accordingly took their stand severally and successively in the witness box, deposing to the reverse of what had been sworn before.  In summing up, Mr. Justice Dowling remarked, that the case had assumed a more serious aspect than he had expected at its outset, as on one side or the other there appeared to him to have been gross, wilful, and corrupt perjury committed, and he felt sorry that the gentlemen in the box should have to decide on which side of the case the truth lay - Not Guilty.[1 ]



[1 ] If she had been found guilty, it is unlikely that she would have been sent to a penal settlement.  In July 1829, Forbes C.J. is reported to have said that "it was not the wish of the Court to transport females to the penal settlement of the Colony, except in very extreme cases of guilt; knowing, as the Court did, that, from the character of those settlements there was very little chance in any of them for the reformation of a woman."  See Sydney Gazette, 7 July 1829.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University