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

R. v. Chigwidden [1857] NSWSupCMB 13

insanity, fitness to plead

Supreme Court of New South Wales, Moreton Bay

Milford J., 1 August 1857

Source: Moreton Bay Courier, 4 August 1857, p. 1S


William Henry Chigwidden was brought up on a charge of stealing a decanter and glass from Mr. Warry.

The Crown prosecutor stated that he had been given to understand that there was some doubt as to the prisoner's sanity, and it would therefore be necessary to take evidence of this, before going on with the charge.

The jury was then empanelled to ascertain whether the prisoner was sane.

Dr. Milford, sworn: I have examined the prisoner, and consider him to be a confirmed and dangerous lunatic; he made a blow at me while I was examining him; his answers were incoherent; he stated he had half a million of money in his pocket. He did not appear to be feigning insane.

Dr. Cannan, sworn: I saw prisoner in gaol; he was on the sick report; I did not think him insane, but merely feigning mad; he spoke a deal more than necessary; he said he had a fall and was bruised, which was not the case.

Mr. George Keys, sworn: I am acting jailer; I know the prisoner; I do not consider him to be a man of strong intellect. After he had been a few days in gaol he ran at the prison lamp and broke it; he said he did it because he had nothing else to do; he several times jumped up in the night and screamed murder.

Rev. Mr. Piddington, sworn: I know the prisoner; he used to work for me; I believed him to be not right in his mind; I could always make him understand; he was in a destitute condition.

George Keys recalled: Prisoner appeared to understand what he was doing; and when he did wrong, he always said he would never do so again.

Edward Dolan, sworn: I was lately Chief Constable at Drayton; I know the prisoner; I always looked upon him as a lunatic. He was forwarded to Brisbane from Drayton for medical treatment. He was considered insane.

His Honor addressed the jury. It was for them to say whether the prisoner should be put on his trial or not. If they considered he was not capable of understanding the evidence brought before the court he could not be tried, but would most likely be forwarded to Tarban Creek.

The jury decided that he was not capable of understanding the evidence. Remanded for instructions from Sydney.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University