Skip to Content

Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Bent [1830]

contempt - press, contempt by

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land
Pedder C.J., 6 February 1830
Source: Tasmanian and Austral-Asiatic Review, 12 February 1830 [1]

The Solicitor General then addressed the Court nearly as follows:--
"It is with much regret that I find myself compelled to call the attention of the Court to a circumstance of the very utmost importance, connected with the administration of Justice. I have before me three Newspapers, the Colonial Times of the two last weeks; and the last number of the Launceston Advertiser. In these Newspapers there are articles inserted in reference to the case which has been just under consideration, Kennedy v. Bent, reflecting upon the Court, upon the Plaintiff, and what is of less consideration upon myself as the Counsel in the case. I shall forbear one word of comment upon these articles. I shall merely read them to the Court, and leave it to the Court to do with them as may consider fitting in the exercize of its judgment."
Mr. Stephen then produced the Newspapers he mentioned, stating that there was an affidavit annexed that the two numbers of the Colonial Times had been purchased of Mr. Bent himself. In respect to the Launceston Advertiser, it appeared that the certificate of the Colonial Secretary, was not given in precise form, required by the Act of Council; in consequence of which, (the three Newspapers being attached to one affidavit,) and of the lateness of the hour, it being then 9 o'clock at night, and the Court having sat uninterruptedly from 10 in the forenoon, the Solicitor General seemed disposed to defer his motion until the sitting of the Court on Tuesday.
The Chief Justice. - I have received a communication from the Attorney General, as to his intention of making a motion upon what I now suppose to be this subject. But his other important avocations have prevented his attendance to-day.
The Solicitor General. - It was the intention of the Attorney General to have himself brought the subject before the Court, and it is only in consequence of his unavoidable absence, that the unpleasant duty has fallen upon me.
The Chief Justice. - After what has taken place, unless you proceed now, I shall certainly send to the office of the Colonial Secretary for these Newspapers, that I may see how far the protection of the administration of Justice requires my interference, and shall then act myself as I shall consider to be my duty. As there is a defect in Mr. Burnett's certificate, as respects one of the Newspapers, can you not detach it from the rest?
The Solicitor General. - After what has fallen from the Court, of course I shall proceed.
Mr. Stephen then detached the Launceston Advertiser from the rest, and read an affidavit to the effect, the two numbers of the Colonial Times produced, had been purchased by Mr. Bent himself. He then read the articles complained of, being we believe the leading articles of the Colonial Times of the 29th Jan. and the 5th Feb. He made little or no comment upon them, stating merely that the Court would adopt whatever measure it should consider necessary, for the proper protection of itself, and of those who came into it to seek Justice.
The Chief Justice desired the Newspapers to be handed up to him, and stated that he should shortly make known his decision thereupon.


[1] See also Colonial Times, 12 February 1830; Hobart Town Courier, 13 February 1830; and see Kennedy v. Bent, 1830; and Hobart Town Courier, 12 June 1830 (concerning Fawkner of the Launceston Advertiser). This appeared immediately after a report of the hearing in Kennedy v. Bent, 1830.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania