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

R. v. Jones (1829) NSW Sel Cas (Dowling) 783; [1829] NSWSupC 21

criminal libel, publication - Port Macquarie


Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., Stephen and Dowling JJ, 31 March 1829

Source: Dowling, Select Cases, Vol. 2, Archives Office of N.S.W., 2/3462

[p. 169] [Where the Editor of a Newspaper took a verbal statement of facts from the mouth of an informant and duped them up in his own language which was libellous, Held that a criminal Information could not be against the Informant or the Author and publisher of  the libel.][1 ]

March 31st 1829

Rex v F Jones

Wentworth shewed cause against a rule obtained by Kerr on a former day nisi for a criminal information against F Jones for a libel published in the Sydney Monitor imputing certain malversations to J Bowerman Esqr whilst he was acting as Deputy Assistant Commissary General at Port Macquarie.

The affidavits in shewing cause denies that the defendant was the author of the matter published in the Sydney Monitor.  The Deponent had stated certain facts to the Editor, which the latter had made use of in the matter published in the Sydney Monitor.  The Editor had taken down the facts from the verbal statement from the Defendant and published them with his own comments.

Under these circumstances the question was whether Jones was liable as the author of the libel.

[p. 170] Per Curiam  We think there is not a sufficient ground laid for granting the information against the Defendant as the author of the alleged libel.  If it had appeared that the Editor of the paper had written and the subscribed identical matter at the dictation of the Defendant then the defendant might in law be considered as the publisher of the libel.  But if the Editor had exceeded his authority and moulded the statement in writing according to his own will and fancy, giving a different complexion to it from what the Defendant intended, then we apprehend the latter would not be liable as for publishing a libel.

Rule Discharged.



[1 ] See also Australian, 3 April 1829.  Jones was assistant storekeeper in the Commissariat Department, under Bowerman at Port Macquarie but was dismissed after a dispute.  An inquiry was ordered, and the letter written to the Monitor was part of the dispute.  An affidavit before the court showed that Jones was only partially its author, said the Australian.  See also Sydney Gazette, 2 April 1829, which printed the letter.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University