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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

In re Sinclair [1827]

R. v. Gray

contempt of court - duelling - Launceston

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land
Pedder C.J., 15 October 1827
Source: Tasmanian, 18 October 1827

Mr. Rowlands moved that a writ of attachment should issue against John Sinclair for a contempt of Court, in posting placards on the door of the Court-house, reflecting on the character of Mr. Rowlands, in consequence of certain expressions made use of by that Gentleman while discharging his professional duties during the trial of James Lovell, on the affidavits of Capt. Ritchie (the foreman of the jury), the said Mr. Rowlands, Edward Bailey, James Wood, and John Strange. Rule granted. - Attachment issued. The Judge intimated that he could not take bail.

Pedder C.J., 16 and 22 October 1827
Source: Tasmanian, 25 October 1827

John Sinclair appeared in Court in custody of the Under-Sheriff, and was admitted to bail, himself in £200, and three other gentlemen in £100 each, his case was then put off till Monday the 22nd. inst. ...
Oct. 22nd. - Mr. Sinclair appeared in Court this day, when his Honor, in a speech of great length, and replete with sound judgment, animadverted on the enormity of the offence of which Mr. Sinclair was guilty, and on the conduct of those who led him to the error for which he must now pay the penalty. He observed, that, unless a Counsel in the honourable discharge of an honourable duty, supported in a proper and consistent manner, justice must cease to reign; - that if there was one particular case, where a proper discretion had been exercised by Counsel, it was the case where allusion had been made to Mr. Sinclair's defect of person; and Mr. Rowlands had since, when called upon, expressed that he did not wish to distress or annoy Mr. Sinclair's feelings, and his Honor, in most emphatic terms, expressed his opinion of that diabolical mode of proceeding, duelling. His Honor also adverted, in strong terms, to the mode in which the defendant had obtained his information; in the affidavit of the defendant, he appears to have been deceived (in regard to what he alleged against Mr. Rowlands, to have taken place out of Court) by Mr. Gleadow; that if Mr. Rowlands had mentioned the circumstance out of Court, it was very indiscreet, but still, Mr. Sinclair could, under no circumstances, have justified the destroying a fellow-creature. His Honor concluded by sentencing Mr. Sinclair for the contempt of Court, to one month's imprisonment, and a Fine of £20.
We are sorry our news from Launceston came so late this morning, as to preclude us from giving more that the outlines of his Honor's judicious, feeling, and eloquent speech. ...

SUBSTANCE OF THE CASE ROWLANDS versus SINCLAIR,
Promised in our last.

It appears, that in the cross-examination of Parish, the prosecutor in the trial of J. Lovell, in the Court, at Launceston, some questions were put, or expressions used by Mr. Rowlands, as Counsel for the prisoner, in which the name of Mr. Sinclar [sic], was used in such a way as caused a laugh, which the latter gentleman thought of a disrespectful nature; and therefore sent a friend to call on Mr. Rowlands, requiring a written apology. Mr. Rowlands felt surprised at the requisition, and expressed his regret that any thing should have been said, by him, in the discharge of his professional duty, calculated to wound the feelings of Mr. Sinclar [sic], whom he did not know, and consequently, against whom he could not possibly entertain any such intention. This however, did not satisfy Mr. S. who wrote Mr. Rowlands a letter, demanding an apology, or the satisfaction required by one Gentleman from another; Mr. R. who had, also, consulted a Friend, declined any further communication or correspondence with Mr. Sinclar [sic], and in consequence of which, Mr S. thought proper to placard Mr R. in the most public places in Launceston, not omitting the Courthouse door, containing the following languish:-
"I hereby declare Thomas W. Rowlands Attorney, to be no Gentleman, and a mean contemptible coward.
Launceston 5th Oct. 1827, JOHN SINCLAIR."
This contempt of Court, and breach of the peace could not be encured [sic]; Mr. Bartly the under Sheriff, took the placard off the Court-house-door; Mr. Rowlands complained to the Court, proved the facts by Affidavit, and a Writ of Attachment was issued - (Vide our, last week's report of the Court proceedings at Launceston.)

Pedder C.J., 27 October 1827
Source: Tasmanian, 1 November 1827

Mr. D.W. Gray applied to plead to information, in carrying a challenge to Mr. Rowlands the Solicitor, from Mr. Sinclair. He pleaded guilty; but, on the recommendation of His Honor, withdrew, & pleaded not guilty. Affidavits to be corrected, and the case remains to be decided on.

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