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

Williams v Keane [1831] NSWSupC 12

assault - ticket of leave - bushranging - convict rights

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 2 February 1831

Source: Australian, 4 February 1831

Williams v. Kean. - This was an action to recover damages for injury to the plaintiff, by stabbing him in the arm with a sword cane, to which defendant, who has been the officiating clergyman at Bathurst, pleaded in justification, that finding the plaintiff on his premises at night, in a suspicious attitude, and conceiving him to be one of the bushrangers, then prowling about the country, he therefore charged the man with sword in hand and pistol; but it appeared in evidence that defendant cut at the plaintiff, when he had had reason to be undeceived, more than once, enforcing his blows by adding some very opprobrious epithets, mingled with spiritual threatenings to the effect, that if he did not retreat without looking either to the right or to the left, he (the defendant) would blow out his brains, and send his soul to the Devil!  At these expressions, a general buz of surprise and disgust ran through the crowded Court.  After an ingenious defence by Dr. Wardell and Mr. Therry, the learned Judge, put the case to the Jury, who brought in a verdict for the plaintiff -- damages £10.


Source: Australian, 4 February 1831


To the Editor of The Australian.

``Had the lion been the sculptor, he would have been represented standing over the man."

SIR, - I was present yesterday in the Supreme Court, at the trial of a cause, Williams versus Keane, before Mr. Justice Dowling, and a special Jury.  I will briefly state the facts, as they came out in evidence, and then offer a few comments on the result.

The plaintiff, Williams, is a sawyer, holding a ticket of leave, in the employment of Thomas Rayne, Esq. of Sidmouth Valley.  In the evening of the 22d June last, in the vicinity of Bathurst, on his return to his master's residence, he lost his way, and made up to the nearest house he could discover, to request directions.  This happened to be the residence of the Reverend E. Keane, the chaplain at Bathurst.  Williams leaped the fence separating Mr. Keane's premises from the main road, and entered the backyard, calling aloud to attract the attention of the inmates.  This latter fact renders absurd the imputation of any felonious design.  A servant opened the door, and sallied out, and while in conference with Williams, who was unarmed, and totally defenceless, he was followed by Mr. Keane, armed with sword and pistol, and who, with a random blow of the former, nearly wounded his own servant, and before any explanation could be offered, repeated his blow, and inflicted three wounds on the left arm of Williams, whom he then commanded to march before him to a small gate, opening from his premises into the road.  Here he inflicted another severe wound on the right shoulder of Williams, and applying a pistol to his ear, ordered him to decamp, without looking to the right hand or to the left, or he would blow his brains out, and send his soul to the Devil!  The wounded man proceeded to another house, which proved to be that of Mr. Blackman, the chief constable, who, like the good Samaritan, bound up his wounds, and conveyed him, covered with blood, and in an exhausted state, to the district hospital.  It was proved by Mr. Rayne's overseer, that Williams is a man of very good character, which he established during nine years confidential employment, in the service of Mr. Lowe, the Magistrate at Bringelly.  The overseer also deposed, that Williams's wounds disabled him for several weeks from his usual work.  Such were briefly the facts in proof.  The Jury, under direction of the learned Judge (whom I was sorry to hear, in the slightest degree, palliate Mr. Keane's language or conduct) returned a verdict for the plaintiff, with the paltry and inadequate damages of £10.  Admitting the former wounds to have been inflicted in a moment of agitation and alarm, the last and most severe wound was palpably given with .... .... .... .... .... ....  Williams, at worst, committed only a trespass, an involuntary trespass, or rather a compulsory one, from his peculiar situation, and for it, was severely cut and maimed by a Reverend Member of the Church Militant.  Captain Moir shot at and wounded a voluntary and contumacious trespasser, not mortally, but the man subsequently died of a locked jaw!  Captain Moir, a military man, was hanged; Mr. Keane, a minister of the gospel of peace, is fined £10.  Such is the difference of estimation, .. .. .. .. .. .. in offences.  What offences have the chaplains, Wilkinson and Middleton committed, (I would ask our Venerable Archdeacon), at all comparable .................... to this ........ exhibition of sanguinary ferocity by Mr. Keane? THEMIS.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University