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Colonial Cases

R. v. Delano and others, 1820


R. v. Delano

Source: The Times, 1 April, 1820

Malta Government Gazette, Feb. 2.
Thursday, Jan. 27.
CHARLES CHRISTOPHER DELANO, THOS. THOMPSON, BENJAMIN WILCOCK, JOHN SMITH, JOHN LEWIS, REUBEN MARSHALL, JOHN WEBB and JOHN CURTIS, were put to the bar, charged with having feloniously and piratically assaulted the brig Helen, on the high seas, with having forcible entered into the said vessel, put the master and mariners in fear of their lives, and with having taken therefrom sundry bale goods, and other articles, as specified in the indictment. The prisoners all pleaded "Not Guilty."
  The Crown Solicitor, having stated the case for the prosecution, produced his evidence, which consisted principally of the seamen, belonging to the brig Helen, and who were on board when the piracy was committed, of Lieut. Hobson, and a Mr. Mills, midshipman, under his command, who  went in search of the William to Smyrna, and who seized her on her being identified by the two seamen, above identified, who pointed the William out instantly on seeing her amongst many other vessels, as the pirate which had plundered the Helen; of various written confessions made by the prisoners on the voyage down from Smyrna, and while in quarantine at Malta; and, lastly, of two of the accomplices in the piracy who had  been allowed to turn king's evidence.
  The examinations lasted two whole days, and the Court adjourned each night between 9 and 10- o'clock, when the petty jury were shut up for the night in the tapestry-room of the palace, which had been prepared for the occasion, and proper officers were placed in attendance over them, to prevent very species of communication.
  On the third day, about noon, the evidence on the part of the Crown closed, when the prisoners were put on their defence. The Capt., in his defence, although warned frequently by the Court of the folly of such a proceeding, persisted in acknowledging the fact of the piracy, but stating that he had been an unwilling agent on the occasion, having been confined the whole time in the hold of his vessel by his own crew.
  The Mate and the crew handed in written defences for their counsel to read, which consisted in denying the fact, and in asserting the insufficiency of the evidence produced against them.
  The only witness called on the part of the prisoners were to character.
  The defence of the prisoners closed at about 2 p.m., when Mr. Wright, at the solicitation of his Excellency the Governor, and the other Commissioners, summed up the evidence, and made a charge to the Jury on such points of law connected with the evidence as required explanation.
  The jury retired about 7 p.m., and, after a consultation of three hours, returned into Court with a verdict of Guilty against all the prisoners at the bar. The Court then adjourned (it being Saturday night) to Monday morning.
  At 9 o'clock this morning the prisoners were again brought to the bar, and the sentence of the law was passed upon them.
[We subjoin the concluding part of the Judge's address to the unfortunate criminals.]
  To you, Charles Christopher Delano, I more particularly address myself, in the name of this court - to you, who have been the guilty mover of this dark conspiracy. We should be loth to aggravate the bitterness of those feelings which you must suffer when you look upon these unhappy victims of your criminal activities; but we feel it our duty, in these last words which we can ever address to you, to awaken you to a sense of the complicated nature of your guilt. Let your contrition be in the same degree lively and sincere.
[Long and detailed address to other prisoners, and account of their execution.]

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