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Colonial Cases

R v. Bayton [1865]

[maritime offences]

R v Bayton

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: Press (N.Z.) 2 September 1865

I[From the "Times" Correspondent.]

The Consular Court has inflicted another of those light sentences which show how difficult we find it to look on a breach of Chinese regulations in the same light as we should an offence against the laws of our own country.  The British steamer Mercury, Bayton, commander, was discovered by the Ningpo revenue cruiser in a suspicious position amid the Chusan Archipelago.  She was warned at the time, and on her return to Ningpo a formal complaint was laid before her Britannic Majesty's Consul.  Bayton, however, was let off with an admonition, on his explanation that he had been hired by some Chinese to protect fisheries in which they were interested from pirates, and on his distinct promise not to venture again into forbidden waters.  Immediately afterwards the Mercury cleared for Foochow; but when the Revenue cutter again visited the same neighbourhood she found the steamer in the old position, and learned that it had in the meantime fought an action, in which it had captured several junks and killed several of the crew.  Bayton, of course, asserted that the junks were pirates, but the trial has not shown distinctly whether or not such was the case.  However this may be, the Commissioner of Customs ordered the Mercury to be arrested and brought to Ningpo.  Bayton, however, without actual violence, contrived to avoid surrendering his vessel when called upon to do so, and went to Foochow.  On his subsequent return to Shanghai he was arrested, and has now been tried on the distinct charge of resistance to the Customs' officers in the execution of their duty, and of having contravened the ninth article of the treaty by visiting ports not open to foreign vessels without a passport.  At first, his trial for piracy and murder, in consequence of the action I have spoken of with the junks, was spoken of as likely; but this was subsequently allowed to fall through, and the lesser faults alone brought forward. Bayton's only excuse was a denial of violence on avoiding the Customs' officer, and a plea that he returned a second time to the spot, when he was arrested, to get a sum of money due to him by the Chinaman who had engaged his services; that he was fired on by the junks, and returned their fire.  The sentence of the Court was six months' imprisonment on the first charge, dating from the time of arrest, several months ago; and on the second no penalty.

See also: Timaru Herald (NZ), 4 October 1883

... Re Hong Kong:

Now, to make matters worse, we hear an extremely ugly affair has cropped up at Canton.  An Englishman has murdered a Chinaman, and the British Consular Court, we presume, bearing in mind, no doubt, the necessity for Englishmen setting an example of humanity and Christian gentleness in Pagan lands, sentenced the offender to the severe penalty of seven years' imprisonment.  The Chinese community, well knowing probably, that this sentence would never be carried out, and eager for any cause of strife, have taken it into their pigtailed heads that the [penalty is not severe enough, - as if a Chinaman more or less, were either here or there to anybody, - ..... and if we had our choice we would almost rather take our chance with the much injured Mr. Logan in his dungeon at Canton, that share the harried sufferings of the Vice-regal occupant of the palace of Hong Kong.


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