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

R. v. Potts [1842] NSWSupC 41

assault - attempted rape - Wilberforce

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Burton J., 10 January 1842

Source: Sydney Herald, 11 January 1842 [1]

            This prisoner stood indicted for an assault on the body of Matilda Colcroft, with intent, &c., at Wilberforce, on the 26th September, 1841.

The Attorney-General stated that the prisoner at the bar was an assigned servant of Mr. Colcroft, resident at Windsor; and that the offence for which he stood at the bar was committed on the person of Matilda Colcroft, the daughter of the prisoner's master, as she was returning from church on a Sunday evening to her grandmother's house.

The daughter being called and examined by the Attorney-General stated that she lived at Wilberforce at her grandmother's, that she was between fifteen and sixteen years of age, and on the evening in question when returning from church, she found she was being followed, she was then within about half-a-mile of home, and on a bye-road. There were no houses near, but one other person was in sight, a blacksmith. The prisoner came up to her, and without speaking, knocked her down. Whilst struggling with the prisoner, the blacksmith came up, and the prisoner then desisted from his violence, and went away. Witness then went home to her father's. Prisoner had not spoken to her at all, from the time he first came up. After several questions put to the witness in cross-examination by the prisoner.

The Attorney-General called Richard William Colcroft, the father of the last witness. He stated that on the morning of the day in question, the prisoner had left his service, without leave. That witness and his daughter had been to church on the day on which the offence was committed, the daughter was returning to her grandmother's house. Witness was at home when his daughter came to his house in the evening; she was crying, and her clothes appeared disordered; she said she had been ill-used by the prisoner. Witness afterwards went to the spot, where he saw marks as if produced by struggling.

William Ashley stated he was a blacksmith at Wilberforce; on the evening in question he was walking on the road between Wilberforce and Windsor, when he met the first witness who was crying very hard, and her clothes appeared as if she had been rolled in the dirt.

The constable proved the apprehension of the prisoner, who acknowledged that he was a runaway from the Colcrofts.

His Honor summed up, and the Jury returned a verdict of guilty. His Honor, in passing sentence, said, that the prisoner had been found guilty of an assault on a young woman, who, for aught that appeared to the Court, was a person of good and unblemished character. His Honor regretted that the present state of the criminal law in the Colony did not permit of the prisoner being sent to a road-gang; his offence being one for which his Honor thought the law could award scarcely an adequate punishment. The prisoner's sentence was that he should be imprisoned for two years in Sydney Gaol.


[1] See also Sydney Gazette, 11 January 1842.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University