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

R v Ross [1833] NSWSupC 37

contempt of court

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 24 May 1833

Source: Sydney Gazette, 28 May 1833[1 ]

Immediately after the conviction of the wretched man Edward Green, for the murder of Edward Edwards,[2 ] Lydia Walker, who had given evidence on the part of the prosecution came to claim the protection of the Court from the assaults of a person named George Ross, by whom she had been upbraided on her quitting the Court for having given her evidence.  His Honor directed an indictment to be immediately filed, and George Ross was put to the bar, charged with a contempt of Court.  Several witnesses, amongst whom were two gentlemen of the jury, at the instance of one of whom the prisoner was taken into custody, deposed to prisoner having made use of insulting expressions to the witness, upbraiding her with having given evidence against the prisoner Green.  The prisoner denied the charge, and stated that the witness had made illiberal observations on his having, from feelings of humanity, knowing the destitute and friendless situation of Green, sent him a dinner ever since his confinement; he had certainly made some reply on the unfeeling remarks of the witness, but had made no observations whatever reflecting on her for what she had done; Green was an entire stranger to him, and he was solely influenced in what he had done from charitable motives, for which he had been tauntingly reproached by the witness on her leaving the Court.  He hoped that one or two of the many persons who must have witnessed the whole of the transaction would have the integrity to step forward and speak the truth, when he had no occasion to apprehend unpleasant consequences from his present situation; the witness had been the offender and not him. Two witnesses stepped forward on his behalf, who were not able to speak as to the precise words which had been made use of by the witness and Ross, but they deposed that the offensive terms which had  been ascribed to the prisoner had actually been made use of by a man having a seaman-like appearance, who was standing near the prisoner.  After a minute consideration of the evidence on both sides the case was submitted to the jury, who returned a verdict of guilty.

His Honor, in proceeding to pass the sentence, observed that the offence of which the prisoner had been convicted, was one of the most unpardonable character, one which struck at the very root of justice.  If witnesses who had been brought forward by the process of the law to give their evidence were to be subjected to insult and contumely, there would be an end to all justice; and he therefore felt it his duty to inflict such a punishment on the prisoner as would be calculated to have the effect of deterring persons from a like offence.  He wished the public to understand, that it would be competent for the Attorney-General to file an indictment against parties offending in this way, not only when committed within the precincts of the Court, but in any other place, and at any time subsequent to the case on which evidence had been given.  Witnesses would be supported by the law; the slightest intimidation held out to the, active or passive, would subject the parties to punishment.  His Honor taking into consideration the reputable character of the prisoner, as a tradesman, sentenecd [sic] him to pay a fine to the King of 40s. intimating that a second offence would be visited with the full penalty prescribed by law.



[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 27 May 1833.

[2 ] See R. v. Green, 1833.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University