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Colonial Cases

The Ricardo Schmidt, 1866


The Ricardo Schmidt

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Source:The Times, 3 November, 1866

(Before Lord Westbury, Sir E. V. Williams, Sir J. Colville, and Sir L. Peel.)
  This was an appeal from a decision of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Sierra Leone by Bartolomeo Casanova, the master, and others the owners of the Ricardo Schmidt, which had been seized by Lieutenant Dunlop, in the harbour of Sierra Leone, in the name of the Government, on the ground that she was engaged in the slave trade. At the Court below the vessel was ordered to be released, but no damages or costs were allowed, on the ground that there was reasonable ground for the seizure. The vessel, it was alleged, was engaged in Italian commerce, and entitled to the protection of the Government; and, further, it was alleged, there was no pretence for the allegation that she had in any manner been connected with the slave trade. The appeal was to reverse the sentence of the Vice-Admiralty as to the order on damages and costs. The case was commenced yesterday, and after a brief deliberation with closed doors their Lordships, by Lord Westbury, gave judgment.   Dr. Deane, Q.C., and Mr. V. Lushington were for the appellants; the Queen's Advocate and Mr. Hannen were for the Crown. The seizure of the vessel was made on the 26th of September, 1864, in the harbour of Sierra Leone for an alleged breach of the 5th of George IV., cap. 113, as a vessel equipped for the slave trade.  The Judge of the Court below had released the vessel, and the point now raised was whether Lieutenant Dunlop was justified in making the seizure or whether the appellants should not be awarded damages for the detention of the same and the loss sustained.
  Dr. Deane and Mr. V. Lushington contended that there were no grounds for the seizure or detention, and that the fact of the empty casks on board had nothing to do with the slave trade. The appellants were engaged in Italian commerce, and entitled to protection.
  The Queen's Advocate and Mr. Hannen, on the other hand, justified the seizure, and prayed their Lordships to affirm the decision of the Court below, referring to what were considered the suspicious circumstances in the case.
  After hearing Dr. Deane in reply their Lordships consulted.
  Lord Westbury gave judgment, referring to the points raised, and deciding the case on the 5th of George IV., cap. 113. Their Lordships were of opinion that the vessel was engaged in Italian commerce, and not connected with the slave trade, and, therefore, the seizure was not to be justified. Their Lordships would advise Her Majesty that so much of the sentence of the Court below as to damages and costs be reversed, and that damages and costs be awarded to the appellants.

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