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Colonial Cases

R. v. McOleverty, 1871


R. v. McOleverty
The Telegrano

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
14 February 1871
Source: The Times, 15 February, 1871

  (Present - Lord Romilly, Sir J. Colville, Sir R. Phillimore, and Sir L. Peel.)
  This case, which was commenced yesterday, was continued at the sitting of the Committee. The point was important, as to an alleged piratical vessel seized by the Government at Tortola, and released by the Vice-Admiralty Court of the Virgin Islands, on which the Crown appealed to Her Majesty in Council.
  The Attorney-General, the Queen's Advocate, and Mr. Archibald were for the Crown; Sir Roundell Palmer, Q.C., Mr. Semper (Attorney-General St. Kitt's), Mr. Short, Mr. G. Shee, and Mr. G. F. Blake were for the respondent.
  The vessel had been seized on the ground of piracy. The owner, Mr. M'Oleverty, entered a protest, and the Vice-Admiralty Court confirmed the protest, and ordered the restitution of the vessel. The Crown now alleged that the decree should be reversed, and that the protest should be over-ruled and the principal cause remitted to the Court for trial, on the ground that the Court had jurisdiction to entertain the cause. The owner, it was alleged on his behalf, had purchased the vessel at auction, and was the bona fide owner.
  The Attorney-General and the Queen's Advocate were heard for the Crown.
  Sir Roundell Palmer addressed the Court on the part of the respondent.
  Lord Romilly said their Lordships were satisfied that the taint of piracy did not follow a vessel when in the hands of a bona fide owner. It was necessary, therefore, to show there had been collusion in the alleged ownership of such a vessel.
  Counsel addressed their Lordships on the point raised.
  Lord Romilly intimated that their Lordships would look into the papers, and give their opinion on the point mentioned on Monday.

Source: The Times, 21 February, 1871

  This case, which was reported in The Times on Wednesday, was now decided. The appeal was on the part of the Crown against a decree of the Vice-Admiralty Court of the Virgin Islands, Tortola, releasing a steam vessel - the Telegrafo - which had been seized by the Government on the ground that it was a piratical vessel.
  The Attorney-General, the Queen's Advocate (Sir Travers Tweed, Q.C.) and Mr. Archibald were for the Crown; Sir Rondell Palmer, Q.C., Mr. Semper (Attorney-General St. Kitt's), Mr. Short, Mr. Shee, and Mr. Blake were for the respondent, the claimant of the vessel.
  The decree of the Court below was that they had no jurisdiction to entertain the case, and they allowed the protest of Mr. M'Oleverty, ordering the ship to be released without damages and costs. The point raised before their Lordships was whether the vessel could be seized, having been engaged in piracy, or whether the respondent was a bona fide purchaser at a public auction.
  Sir R. Phillimore gave judgment, in which he elaborately discussed the question of public and international law which was raised in the case. The sale of the vessel was by public auction, and was not seized by the Government until six months after the purchase. Their Lordships were of opinion that the taint of piracy did not follow a vessel when possessed by a bona fide and innocent owner, and they would, therefore, recommend to Her Majesty that the judgment of the Court below be affirmed.
  Their Lordships allowed the costs of the appeal, exclusive as to the point of damages and costs.
  The sittings, which have extended beyond the usual period, would have been concluded on the present occasion, but a long Canadian case occupied several hours and was not finished.

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