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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

Gunby v Richards [1827]

ship's crew - ship's captain - assault

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land
Pedder C.J., July 1827
Source: Hobart Town Gazette, 28 July 1827 [1]

Gunby v. Richards. - This was an action by Rd. Gunby second officer of the ship Tiger from England to Van Diemen's land, of which the defendant Thomas Richards was commander, for a wanton and brutal assault on the plaintiff on the 3d. of February last. The evidence of Mr. Rowlands, a passenger, proved that some water having been spilled (not by the plaintiff) on the deck of the vessel, the Captain seized the opportunity of dismissing the plaintiff from his situation, and ordering him before the mast, never inquiring who had spilled the water, or endeavouring to ascertain how it had been spilt, and that defendant had previously expressed his determination of having the carpenter taught to take the sun, and getting rid of plaintiff --- that in consequence Mr. Vallence one of the passengers, acted as second officer. Mr. Coombs, another passenger, proved that defendant came forward and ordered plaintiff to take a broom and sweep the decks, which he declined in a respectful manner, saying "that he was always read to do his duty as second officer, and that it was the duty of the boys to sweep the decks" - that defendant thereupon beat the plaintiff in a most wanton and brutal manner, knocking him down twice and striking him when down - that witness then interfered and the Captain went away. This was corroborated by another witness.
The Solicitor General, for the defendant, took some objections to the pleadings, no fact in favour of the defendant having been elicited to the course of a very able and minute cross examination of the plaintiff's witnesses.
The Judge summed up most impartially, directing the Assessors to consider whether the captain had properly dismissed the plaintiff from his situation --- that should they believe the evidence, he had not done so, as he took no pains to ascertain if circumstances would bear him out in the hasty measures he adopted - that he considered the plaintiff entitled to a verdict, and recommended moderate damages to meet the justice of the case.
Verdict for the plaintiff --- Damages £80, and 40s. costs.


[1] See also Colonial Times, 27 July 1827.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania