Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Reece v. The Queen, 1889

[debt recovery, assault]

Reece v. R.

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
30 July 1889
Source: The Times, 31 July 1889


LAW REPORT, July 30.




This was an appeal from a judgment and sentence passed upon the appellant on February 29, 1888, by the Acting-Consul of Her Majesty's Consular Court for the Bights of Benin and Biafra and the island of Fernando Po.

Mr. Percy Gye and Mr. Le Breton appeared for the appellant; the Attorney-General and Mr. R. S. Wright for the Crown.

It seemed that the appellant is the owner of a palm oil factory and storehouse, dwelling house, and other premises on the bank of the river Benin, Africa, and has for about eight years carried on the business of a palm oil merchant.  He sells English goods to the natives of the district of Benin on credit, who pay for them by delivering palm oil and other native produce to him.  In order to insure such payment by the natives to the merchants of the district who supply English goods to them there is a custom of the country recognized and acted upon both by the merchants and the natives known as "Trust," which is that whenever any natives are in debt to a merchant in respect of goods supplied to them, the merchant can seize oil or other products belonging to any members of the same tribe as the native who are son in debt and continue to seize such oil and produce until his debt is settled.

On February 23, 1888, the appellant was summoned to appear before the Acting-Consul at a Court held at Benin to answer to a charge of having unlawfully shot at several canoes containing natives on the Benin river, and having wounded and injured certain of their occupants.  The charges against the appellant were made in reference to proceedings taken by him in pursuance of the custom above mentioned for the recovery of a debt due from certain natives to the appellant.

The appellant denied that he unlawfully shot at the canoes, and stated that on the occasion in question several native canoes filled with natives came opposite to his factory and threatened him; that he approached the native canoe in his canoe for the purpose or seizing oil, when thr natives commenced to throw sticks and matches at him and his men, and he then fired the gun for the purpose of frightening the natives, and in doing so wounded two of them.  Witnesses were called on behalf of the appellant.

The Acting-Consul sentenced the appellant to pay a sum of £54 as a fine, and to pay to the Court in trust for the persons injured damages to the extent of three-and-a-half puncheons of oil, or the equivalent in money or goods of three-and-a-half puncheons of oil, calculated at the value ort L. 6 per puncheon, and was ordered to be deported from the Consular district of Benin and Biafra  for a period of ten years, and was ordered to pay the expenses of such deportation to an amount not exceeding £15.   The sentence purported to be passed under the provisions of Article 15, subsection 1, of the Order in Council known as the "West Africa Order, 1885." The appellant was not ordered or required to find any security for his future good behaviour, nor was any option of finding such security given to him as is provided and required by Article 15, subsection 1, of the "West Africa Order."

The appellant obeyed all that part of the sentence by which he was ordered to pay the fine and damages, and duly paid them.  The appellant submitted that the portion of the sentence ordering him to be deported was contrary to law, and ought to be wholly set aside.  It was contended on behalf of the appellant that no sentence of deportation could be passed upon any person under the "West Africa Order, 1885," unless the Court had first ordered such person to give security for future good behaviour to the satisfaction of the Court, and default has been mad in giving such security.  The appellant was not ordered by the Court to give security for future good behaviour, and no default in giving such security was made.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL, on the part of the Crown, said that the view he had taken in this case was that, unless their Lordships thought it was a mere matter of procedure which could be waived, he ought not to say anything on this appeal.

The LORD CHANCELLOR, in  delivering judgment, said, - In this case their Lordships will humbly advise her Majesty that the part of the sentence against which the appeal is brought cannot be sustained, as there was no power to pass sentence except in default of security, which for all that appears was never asked for or demanded.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School