Skip to Content

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

R. v. Mitchell [1841] NSWSupC 88

forgery - sentencing discretion - reception of English law, forgery

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J., September 1841

Source: Sydney Herald, 13 September 1841


George Mitchell, a native of the Colony, was given in charge to a jury for forging and uttering on the 10th of July last, at Maitland, a warrant and order for £2, dated of the 9th of July, and purporting to be drawn by Robert Pringle on the Bank of Australasia, in favor of John Smith, or bearer, with intent to defraud Joseph Cohen.

Mr. PUREFOY appeared for the prisoner, who was a young man of about 17, and bore a most exemplary character.

The jury without leaving the box found the prisoner guilty of the uttering, but strongly recommended him to mercy on account of his previous excellent character.

Mr. Justice STEPHEN said, that he only had it in his power, according to law, to sentence the prisoner to transportation for life.  The Legislature of this Colony had omitted passing the mitigated law of England with respect to forgery, although it had adopted that law with respect to all other criminal offences; it was [not] for him to say whether or not the Colonial law was expedient or just, he had only to administer it as it was; but, however, he would recommend the case to the merciful consideration of the Governor, who might perhaps mitigate the sentence; had the prisoner been a convict he might have been sentenced to be worked in irons for the offence, but as he was a free man the law ordained for him only one punishment.  The learned judge then sentenced the prisoner to transportation for life.

The moment the sentence had been pronounced, a female in Court screamed and continued sobbing for some time in an awful manner.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University