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

In re Inch [1839] NSWSupC 1

lunacy, inquiry into

Commission of Lunacy

Kinchela, Carter and Stephen, Esqrs, February 1839

Source: Australian, 5 February 1839


In the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

A commission, composed of John Kinchela, Esq., L.L.D., William Carter, and Sydney Stephen, Esqrs., and the following special jury -- Messrs Donaldson, Grose, Lee, Mitchell, How, Gardener, Fotheringham, Saul Lyons, Lord Gilchrist, Holt and Duguid, merchants, was held in the Mechanics' School of Arts, yesterday, in the matter of Jane Anne Inch, a reported lunatic.

The chairman (Mr Kinchela) opened the Court, when the jury were sworn, and he addressed them briefly, stating the nature of the enquiry they were called on to make, which was to enquire whether the person before the Court was of sane mind, and capable of managing her own affairs; also, to find what property she possessed, and make a return of it, so that the Court might have a proper controul [sic] of its expenditure.

Mr áBeckett addressed the jury very shortly, and Mr Foster called the following witnesses:--

Dr Bland knew Jane Ann Inch from her birth; had had frequent opportunities of seeing her latterly, and was decidedly of opinion that she was of unsound mind, and had been so for many years; saw her about a month since, preparatory to this examination, and found her utterly unfit to conduct her own affairs.

By Mr Kinchela. -- Witness had not seen her for the last month, but her state then was such as to render it impossible she could recover speedily. The formation of her head would not convey the idea that she was an idiot, but, from her general manner, it would appear that her faculties were in abeyance; witness put several questions to her, as tests of the state of her mind, which confirmed him in the opinion he had always entertained. She always appeared to witness to be almost an idiot, and quite unable to have any controul [sic] over her affairs; she would not be able to comprehend the meaning of the present enquiry; she displayed no feeling (although apparently attached to them) at the death of her parents. Witness had never witnessed a lucid interval with her. [Dr Bland retired into the room where the young woman awaited, and returned into Court]. He found her in the same state he had before described.

Dr Nicholson confirmed Dr Bland's evidence, having seen the young woman a few minutes before entering the Court.

Mr Wyatt was appointed guardian over Jane Ann Inch by the will of her father; he had known her about ten years, and considered her to be out of her mind. Her property is worth about £500 a year, and consists of four houses in Pitt-street, two in Castlereagh-street, a farm at Bumbury Curran, eight shares in the Bank of New South Wales upon which £840 is paid, and eight shares in the Bank of Australiaupon [sic] which £420 is paid. When the father died, he leftcattle [sic], which were sold by public auction, and part of the purchase money was given to the mother, and the other part laid out in the Bank Stock described; the deceased Mr Inch had a nephew and neice [sic] in the Colony, both of whom are prisoners; Joseph Inch and Mrs Styles of Bungonia, were son and daughter of the deceased Mr Inch, but not born in wedlock. At times, Jane Ann Inch has been exceedingly violent, and has been forced to be constrained; she is about eighteen years of age, and her father had very little more sense than she was; witness did not know who was the heir-at-law, nor to whom the property would go into the event of the young woman's death. He merely made this application to ensure her from being taken advantage of by any designing person who might be glad to get hold of her property, and afterwards get rid of her; he thought £500 a year was a great temptation.

At the request of some of the Jury, Miss Inch was brought into Court, and her demeanour and appearance put the question beyond any doubt.

The Jury, without any hesitation, unanimously made their report that Jane Ann Inch, then before the Court, was of unsound mind, incapable of managing her own affairs; and they found the amount of her property as described by her guardian, Mr Wyatt.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University