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

Stephen v Joyce [1831] NSWSupC 24

imprisonment for debt, maintenance - groats

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., Stephen and Dowling JJ, 1 March 1831

Source: Australian, 4 March 1831[1 ]

Stephen v. Joyce. - This was an application by the defendant, as a pauper debtor, for his gro[a]ts, to which the learned counsel on the other side (Mr. Sydney Stephen) said it appeared by a st[ate]ment, that Joyce had, a day or two previous to his arrest, sold property to a considerable amount, and could not ad interium have made away with the money so accruing.

Chief Justice - As the party has sworn that he has no means of subsistence, he must be allowed a maintenance.  The question is not what he was in possession of, but whether he has now the means of keeping himself from starving.  If you should discover, and be able to prove that a fraud has been practised, a remedy is open for you to punish him.  The usual dollar or 5s. per week in lieu, granted.[2 ]


[1 ] See also Stephen v. Joyce, 1829.

On 23 December 1831, the Australian, in reporting the number of insolvencies in England, commented: "This is one of the fit occasions for repeating that the whole system of arrest for debt, serves no other purpose than to maintain pettifogging attornies, to cherish indolence and inattention to sellers, to keep alive the breed of swindlers, to foster tricks, lying, and extravagance, and to impose a heavy burden on the honest and punctual part of the community."

[2 ] Immediately following this report in the Australian, 4 March 1831, was another of Barnes v. Bateman, in which maintenance in gaol was refused until proof was given of due notice to the creditor.

The Sydney Herald, 16 May 1831, noted that the debtors in gaol were so outrageous that some of them had been lodged in the "black hole."

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University