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Colonial Cases

R. v. Cunningham, 1886

[stabbing, sailor]

R. v. Cunningham

Supreme Court for China and Japan
Jamieson AAJ, 4 September 1886
Source: North China Herald, 10 September 1886

Shanghai, 4th September 1886
Before George Jamieson, Esq., Acting Assistant Judge.
  John Cunningham, a sailor of the s.s. Kent, was brought up for trial on an indictment in two counts, he first charging him with having stabbed a sailor named James Bulger with intent to murder him, and the second with stabbing the man with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.
  Mr. A. Myburgh, in the absence of the Crown Advocate, appeared to prosecute.
  The Prisoner, when called upon to plead, said - I am guilty of using a knife - in self -defence.  I did not try to murder him.
  His Lordship (after explaining the two charges) - Do you plead guilty to the second charge?
  Prisoner - Yes Sir, I am guilty of using the knife.
  His Lordship - That amounts, I think, to a plea of guilty on the second count.
  Mr. Myburgh said he would withdraw the charge of attempted murder; and a plea of "Guilty" having been entered on the second count, HIS Lordship informed the jurors that their services would not be required.
  His Lordship said before passing sentence he should like to hear the evidence of Dr. Burge.
  Dr. Burge was accordingly recalled.  In answer to Mr. Myburgh he said the wounded man, James Bulger, had up to the present exhibited no bad symptoms, and although it was rather early to express an opinion, he thought he could safely say that the man was out of danger.
  His Lordship, in passing sentence, said - John Cunningham, you have pleaded guilty to a count of the indictment charging you with wounding James bulger with intent to do him grievous bodily harm. From the notes that were taken of the evidence given at the preliminary examination, it appears that you made a brutal and savage attack on your shipmate with a knife.  I am happy to say that among British seamen cases of assault with knives are very rare; but when we do meet with them we are bound to take serious notice of them,  I am willing to accept your plea that you did not intend to kill him; but as a matter of fact you very nearly did it.  You struck him a blow with such violence that had it been a little to the right or left it would probably have caused death, and you would now be standing on a charge of murder.  The lowest sentence I can pass is that you be imprisoned for nine months with hard labour, and as far as your wages go, they will go to defray the costs of the prosecution.,

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