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

R v Northwood [1833] NSWSupC 77

ship's crew - ship, discipline on

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 17 August 1833

Source: Sydney Herald, 19 August 1833[ 1]

Saturday. - Before Judge Dowling and the usual Commission.

Captain John Northwood, of the ship Tamar, was indicted, for that he, on the 3d Dec. 1831, on the high seas, within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, one league from the Island of Bravo, one of the Cape de Berd Islands, forced on shore Thomas Evans, he being a seaman of that vessel, against the form of the statute.

The second count charged him with wilfully leaving the seaman behind.

From the evidence on the part of Evans, it appeared that on a Saturday night, when the ship was in the position described in the indictment, some of the men became intoxicated with aquoedent, which they had procured from the Island of St. Nicholas, a disturbance ensued in consequence, when Evans caught a man named John Jones in his arms, and was carrying him forward out of harm's way, when the third mate came up, knocked him down, and kicked him, he still persisted carrying the man forward, when he met the chief officer, whom he told to keep clear of him, not minding this, he caught the mate by the collar, and shook him, the Captain the following morning had a black eye, which Jones said he had given him; the Captain sent a boat steerer to Evans, and told him and three others, that they must go on shore; Evans went to the  Captain, and asked him for his clothes, which he agreed he should have, but Evans refused to sign his accounts; he went ashore, although he sent several times to the Captain to let him remain on board, where he was obliged to remain four months, as two other ships which came in refused to take him, thinking that he had been sent on shore for a murder or robbery.  Evans wished to remain on board, but when he left, begged the Captain's pardon, and asked him to shake hands, which he refused.

The defence showed the case in a very different light.  The men had been getting drunk at St. Nicholas, when Evans and Jones, who were in the forecastle said, that they would go up and serve the --- out; they went up, and Jones struck the Captain between the eyes; the chief officer interferred, when Evans seized him by his cravat, threw him on the deck, and knelt on his body till the blood flowed from his mouth; they were put down below, and a watch was dept upon them during the night; the following morning being afraid that the Captain would proceed to England to try them for mutiny, they applied to the Captain to be put on shore; the Captain went on shore to ask advice, when one of the functionaries of the Island came off, and talked to the men; they then went into the cabin, and signed their accounts, when they came up they said they were very glad; they went to the Captain, and asked him to let them go ashore with him in his boat, this was refused, but subsequently the armourer went and procured the loan of one of the ship's boats for them; before leaving the ship, Evans shook the chief officer by the hand, and begged his pardon; as they were going ashore they cheered the vessel, and hoped it would be a full ship.

Judge Dowling, in summing up, observed that all the fine fellows who belonged to either the naval or merchant service, when they came into a court of law, would receive justice.  He said that as one of the King;s Judges.  They would not decide upon this case according to their feelings, but they would administer justice according to law.  This information was founded on an Act of Parliament, the 35th section of which enacted, that if any master of a vessel being abroad should force on shore and wilfully leave any mariner in any of H. M. Colonies, or elsewhere, he should be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, might be imprisoned at the discretion of the Court.  This Act was passed to protect seamen from the tyranny of masters of vessels, as from the nature of things they were invested with arbitrary powers over them; the relative situation of masters and mariner had been described as that of father and child, because he was invested with the proper treatment of the men.  The important question to be considered was whether the defendant had been forced on shore, or wilfully left behind, in any of H. M. Colonies or elsewhere, the prosecutor; but before they could convict the defendant, they must be satisfied that the leaving behind was against the will and express wish of Evans, but if it was voluntary on the part of Evans, and he had dissolved the connexion which existed between them, it was not within the meaning of the Act.  Forcing must be against the will, and the leaving wilful.  The Jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of not guilty.  Mr. S. Stephen for prosecutor; Mr. Wentworth for defendant.



[1 ] See also Sydney Gazette, 20 August 1833; Dowling, Proceedings of the Supreme Court, Vol. 87, State Records of New South Wales, 2/3270, p. 198.

In 1832, the New South Wales Legislative Council passed a new Act (2 Wm 4 No. 10) to deal with the relationship between masters and servants.  The short title made clear that its aim was ``for the protection of Masters and Ships from vexatious Suits in the said Colony."  See Sydney Gazette, 29 March 1832.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University