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

R v Hewitt [1831] NSWSupC 78

counterfeit - currency - forgery, Spanish dollars

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 14 November 1831

Source: Sydney Gazette, 17 November 1831[1 ]

Owen Hewitt was indicated under the Act 32 Geo. III., cap. 126, on three counts, the first charging him with making, coining, or counterfeiting, on the 19th day of October, ten pieces of coin called dollars, with intent to resemble the foreign coin called dollars; the second count with forging, coining, and counterfeiting the same, with intent to pass them; and the third count with having the same in his possession with intent to pass them.

Mr. Moore conducted the prosecution.

James Harper - I am constable at Bong Bong; in consequence of information received, I went on the 11th of October to search Mr. Hoddell's Government team, for some property that had been stolen from Mr. Throsby; I found in a bag thirteen dollars, imitating Spanish dollars; I asked the driver whose bag it was, he said Hewitt's; I brought the team into Bong Bong; Hewitt came before the Magistrate, and owned the bag as his; it was a seal-skin bag, enclosed in another, and that again in a larger one; the dollars were tied up; I searched the prisoner, and found on his person two dollars exactly resembling those in the bag, except that the edges of the latter were in a rough unfinished state; I found also in his box two false shillings imitating British sterling money; on questioning the prisoner how they came into his possession, he said he had taken them from some person, but did not know who it was; he had a small key which he said he had made; I searched his box, and found therein a crucible in which was some metal in a molten state, also six pieces of metal, and a die, for dollars; in one of the bags were some farthings that had been washed with something resembling silver [the articles were here produced and identified by the witness]; I have known the prisoner as one of Mr. Hoddell's party; he represents himself to be a whitesmith, but I have seen him work as a blacksmith.

Michael Byrne - I am a constable at Bong Bong; I accompanied the last witness and searched the dray; the prisoner was not present; we found some dollars; as I was taking the team in, I met the prisoner, who asked for his bag; I watched him close all the way to Bong Bong, where he was examined before Mr. Dunbar, and some money found on him.

Cross-examined by the prisoner - You could not have thrown away any thing you were afraid of on the road, as I watched you too closely.

Mr. - May - I live on Mr. Throsby's estate at Bong Bong, and know the prisoner at the bar; there was a box of his at Mr. T.'s stores: I saw the box opened the day after it was deposited there, by Harper, the district constable; there were in it some base metal, a die, and a crucible; these are they now produced; the constable took them into his charge.

The prisoner in his defence stated, that he had been several years in the country; his master had given him permission to work a little for his own benefit, in which manner he had become possessed of the two dollars found on the dray, it was as likely for any body else to place them there as himself, and he knew nothing about them, appealing to the Court whether he had any chance, constantly living in a distant part of the bush as he did, to pass false money.  He then handed in a certificate from Mr. Hoddell, the Surveyor, under whose charge he is, giving him a good character.

The learned Judge, in summing up, stated, that this was an information laid under an Act providing against the coining and counterfeiting a foreign coin, not the coin of the realm, and by which any person so offending is rendered liable to transportation for seven years.  It was, however, provided by the Act, that unless an impression so forged was so far resembling the true and genuine, as to be likely to deceive those persons to whom it should be offered, no conviction could be had; and it would be for the Jury to say, whether the pieces of metal now produced were of that description; and next, to weigh the evidence, as it tended to show whether or not the prisoner had them in his possession with a felonious intent to pass them.

The Jury retired for a quarter of an hour, and returned a verdict of Guilty; and the Court adjudged him to be transported for the term of seven years.

Notes

[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 21 November 1831.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University