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

R. v. Collard [1837] NSWSupC 1

child, evidence by - oaths - rape - sexual assault on child - Windsor

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Burton J., 2 February 1837

Source: Australian, 7 February 1837[ 1]

Charles Collard was indicted for an assault and rape on the person of Mary Coleman, a girl about Fourteen years of age, near Windsor, on the 6th of October last.  On the girl being brought forward to give evidence, His Honor Mr. Burton interrogated her as to her knowledge of the obligation of an oath, when the following conversation took place:-

Mr. B. - How old are you, my girl?

Witness. - I don't know - no one ever told me.

Mr. B. - Where do you live?

Witness. - At Vinegar Hill.

Mr. B. - Do you know anything of the nature of an oath?

Witness. - No.

Mr. B. - You know, of course, that there is a God?

Witness. - No one ever told me so.

Mr. B. - Do you go to church, or any place of worship?

Witness. - No.

Mr. B. - Do you ever say your prayers?

Witness. - No.

Mr. B. - I suppose you have been taught some prayers, and your catechism?

Witness. - No, I have not.

Mr. B. - Did you never hear your father pray or read the Bible to you?

Witness. - No, I have no father.

Mr. B. - Does no clergyman ever come to your mother's house?

Witness. - No.  I have seen a priest there several times.

His Honor enquired for the mother, who stated that the girl was foolish - that she had used every means in her power to instruct her in the principles of religion, had taught her the prayers and the creed, which she had by heart, but thought it very likely that she had not retained them in her memory.  His Honor could not think of allowing the girl to give evidence under such circumstances against a man on trial for his life.  The evidence of several other witnesses were taken, but no case could be made out by them, and His Honor directed them to find the prisoner Not Guilty.




[ 1] See also The Sydney Herald, 6 February, 1837; Sydney Gazette, 4 February 1837.

See also R. v. Winberry, Sydney Herald, 20 November 1837; Sydney Gazette, 16 November 1837, in which the defendant was found not guilty of ravishing a girl under 10, but guilty of assault.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University