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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Francis [1827] NSWSupC 69

murder, manslaughter, boxing match

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Trial, 24 November 1827

Source: Monitor, 29 November 1827

SATURDAY.  SUPREME COURT. - James Francis, was put to the Bar, charged with the wilful murder of James Rourke, at Patrick's Plains, on the 5th of July last.[1 ]  The case arose out of a pugilistic contest, between the prisoner and the deceased respecting an axe.  The deceased challenged the prisoner out to fight, which after some hesitation the latter complied with; and after about six or seven rounds, (in the two first of which the prisoner was successively knocked down) the deceased fell, and after having been raised for a few minutes upon his second's knee, he suddenly fell to rise no more !!!  It was the belief of the witnesses who deposed to this last fact, that deceased died while falling the last time, as he was never seen to struggle in the least, but on sinking to the ground, turned his eyes up in the action of a dying man.  His Honour in charging the Jury coincided with Mr. Williams, (who conducted the prosecution in the absence of the Attorney General,) that although contests of this kind were by no means warranted by law, still, while no foul play was allowed to take place, there was an absence of that malice which is necessary to constitute a charge of murder.  The Jury retired for about two minutes, when they ACQUITTED the prisoner both of the charge of murder, and of manslaughter.  He was accordingly discharged by proclamation.

Monitor, 3 December 1827

FRANCIS, whom we stated to have been acquitted as well of murder as manslaughter, was only cleared of the former; he was convicted of the latter offence.


[1 ] See also R. v. Kelly, 1827.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University