Skip to Content

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

R. v. Hazard

"man of colour" criminal defendant - stealing, by servant

Supreme Court of New South Wales, Port Phillip

Willis J., 15 July 1841

Source: Port Phillip Patriot, 19 July 1841

Richard Hazard, a man of colour, was indicted for stealing one key, value one shilling, and a quart of rum, value four shillings, the property of his masters, John Hunter and James Watson, on the 22 nd June. The second count was for a common larceny, not in the capacity of a servant.

The Crown Prosecutor, in stating the case, observed, the public must look with great scrutiny and care in cases of robbery by a servant; it frequently, and indeed inevitably, happens, that masters are compelled to confide in the integrity of their servants, and the law has wisely provided a much heavier punishment to be inflicted on the person found guilty of the offence with which the prisoner now stands charged. This case would depend in some measure on circumstantial evidence, and therefore required the most serious attention; he (the Crown Prosecutor) would, with these observations, leave the case in the hands of the jury, hoping they would give justice to the prisoner and the community.

From the evidence of the prosecutor's storekeeper it appeared, the prisoner was a house servant in the same employ; on the 3 rd of last May some rum was missing from the store, and also a key that opened the store from a closet. Suspicion falling on the prisoner, he was watched, and on his taking off a pair of trousers they were searched by witness, and the key charged in the information was found in one of the pockets; on a further search being made some rum was found concealed in a teapot. Guilty.

His Honor---in passing sentence, said, masters must be protected from the pilfering of their servants; by common law, formerly it was not a larceny for a servant to carry off his master's property, but from the reign of Henry the Sixth, to the present time, it was not only a felony, but one that was more severely punished than other offences---and properly so, because of the confidence generally reposed in servants when committing property to their care; the offence was therefore much greater, and must be suppressed by additional punishment. Since he (Judge Willis), had the honor of sitting on that Bench, he had tried several cases of this description, which had from humane considerations, been brought forward as common larceny only. The sentence he was about to pass upon the prisoner he trusted would deter others from crime, which was, that he be transported for fourteen years.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University