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

R. v. Hughes [1829] NSWSupC 12

murder - manslaughter - domestic violence - provocation

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 6 March 1829

Source: Australian, 10 March 1829

This morning his Honor the Chief Justice took his seat on the Bench, when Arthur Hughes was arraigned for the wilful murder of Margaret, his wife, on the 18th day of December, at Windsor.[1 ]

The Attorney-General appeared for the Crown, and Mr. Rowe for the prisoner.

It was stated, by the several witnesses, that the prisoner and deceased did not generally live on the most friendly terms - that, on the day laid in the indictment, the deceased used language of a violent and provoking nature towards her husband, accompanied by blows - that, in consequence of repeated furious attacks, he was obliged to repair to a back-house to work, in order to be out of her way - that, thither the deceased followed, and threw a stone at him, exclaiming, "you murdering villain, are you there?" - on which the prisoner rose from work, laid hold of the deceased's arm, and said, "my dear, you had better go into the house."  This solicitation not being complied with, the prisoner attempted to force the deceased into the house, when she struck him a violent blow, which he resented by knocking her down, dragging her by the hair of the head along the yard, and, finally, throwing her on some logs. - This treatment was repeated, with the addition of certain opprobrious names, whereupon the deceased, seizing a tomahawk, ran towards the prisoner, and said, "you murdering villain, was I ever a w- to?"  The deceased, after some difficulty, was deprived of the tomahawk, and went into another room, where plates, &c. were all decomposed in the course of a very short time.  The prisoner again seized and knocked her down, her head coming with great violence against the surbase of the room, which he immediately left, saying, "I'll leave the house to yourself altogether."  The deceased followed, and, lifting a brick, threw it at the prisoner, who had then resumed his work in the out-house.  He then approached, which the woman perceiving, attempted to retreat and fell down, when the prisoner raised his foot, apparently with the intention of kicking her; but after viewing, for a few minutes, the deplorable state in which she was then placed, proceeded to another part of the yard.  When the deceased recovered a little, she expressed an intention to go to Mr. Bell, and complain of the ill usage she had met with.  At this time the woman appeared to be in a state of derangement, brought on by hard drinking; but, after returning from Mr. B.'s, she was more so still, and fell down on the floor in an apparently weak and exhausted state.

After death, the body was examined by Mr. Richardson, who gave it as his opinion, that the inflammation in the small intestines was the predisposing cause of death; but whether the blows caused the inflammation he would not say, altho' the internal appearances might have been caused by excessive drinking, without any external violence.

The evidence was summed up by the learned Chief Justice, at great length to the Jury, who, after a short deliberation, found the prisoner guilty of Manslaughter, recommending him to the humane consideration of the Court. - Remanded.[2 ]



[1 ] See also Sydney Gazette, 7 March 1829.

[2 ] He was sentenced to imprisonment for six months: Sydney Gazette, 7 April 1829.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University