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2-004 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Sydney Gazette,un
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Decisions of NSW Supreme Court
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John Laurie was indicted for stealing a boat, the property of William Ternan, at Sydney, on the 2d of June, 1824.
The Attorney General stated the case. The charge against the prisoner was for stealing a boat, so long back as June, 1824. The circumstances under which it was taken, would perhaps raise a point of law for the consideration of the Court, as to whether, supposing the original intention of the prisoner, in possessing himself of the boat, to be innocent, whether the subsequent wrong conversion constituted merely a trespass, or a felony, as charged in the indictment. The boat, which was the subject of the prosecution, was hired by the prisoner and others for a day, and was not returned until forcibly taken possession of by a person, not the owner, but having his authority. It was for the Jury then to consider, whether the original taking, under all the circumstances which would be brought before them, was innocent; or whether, at any time after, supposing the first taking to be innocent, there was an improper conversion. On the 1st or 2d of June, 1824, a person applied to the owner to have his boat for a day, and on the following morning some persons, among whom was the prisoner, came and took possession of it, with every appearance of preparation for a day's excursion in the harbour; but, in place of being applied to the avowed purpose for which it was obtained, it was shortly after used in getting water on board a small vessel called the Fame, which lay out at some distance in the harbour. The water was all got in by the evening, and on the following morning the vessel set sail, towing the boat at her stern, and which was no more seen until subsequently found in the possession of the prisoner at Two-fold Bay, a considerable distance on the south coast of New Holland. The sloop itself was regularly cleared out for Newcastle, which circumstance clearly demonstrated a fraudulent purpose, as it would be shewn that she was not driven to the situation where she was found; and that, in fact, there was no intention whatever of proceeding to Newcastle. There were other circumstances also, which would serve to mark the nature of the transaction; the owner's name, which had been painted on the stern of the boat, had been erased, and the cargo which had been put on board the Fame, under pretence of goods for Newcastle, was in reality stores for a sea voyage of some considerable length. These facts would be proved by the testimony of witnesses, against whom no objection could be raised, and also by others, which the Jury might think were involved in the transaction, but they would however be obliged to receive in evidence, and listen to it only so far as it should be supported by testimony, against which there was not taint.
Mr. Robert Crawford deposed, that an application was made at the Secretary's Office, for a clearance for a vessel called the Fame, on the 19th of May 1824, which was obtained.
Cross-examined by Dr. Wardell - An application for a clearance to proceed on a coasting voyage, is granted as a matter of course; it is directed to another officer, who makes the necessary examination and muster on board.
William Ternan deposed, that he lived in Sydney, and keeps boats for hire; on the 1st or 2d of June, 1824, in the afternoon, a man named Oldfield came to witness, and hired a boat from him to go shooting in the harbour on the next day, and for which witness received two dumps, which was the regular hire; on the following morning Oldfield came, and witness delivered to him 2 oars, and carried the others himself, and proceeded with him down to the shore where the boat lay, in Cockle-bay; the prisoner was there waiting with 2 others and his son; he entered into conversation with witness, and said to him "old man, that's a fine boat of yours, have you got the dumps?" Witness observing that the party were well dressed, said to Laurie that he had better take one of his (witness's) men to pull, when Laurie replied there was no occasion, as they would be back by seven o'clock. The prisoner and his son, Oldfield, and a man witness did not know, then went down the harbour in the boat, which witness did not again see until November, when she was brought up to Sydney by Captain Griffiths, and restored by him to witness, upon paying £2.
Cross-examined. -- Oldfield hired the boat the preceding day; there were sails to the boat, which he left behind, upon witness telling him that the wind was contrary; witness has mentioned the circumstances to Mr. Wentworth, to Captain Griffiths, and to the sailors belonging to the Glory; has never mentioned it to any one else, except merely saying that he had lost his boat; witness gave a history of the transaction in the Paper, which he thinks corresponded with what he has now stated; never said to any person that it was to Oldfield alone that he had hired the boat, and to him only would he look for her return; never said to any one that all he looked for was for the hire of his boat while she was away, and that he did not think she was stolen; never told Laurie himself, nor any other person, that he did not think he had any thing to do with taking away the boat; Laurie did not hire the boat at all, it was delivered to Oldfield, and the oars were handed to him; witness would have given it to Oldfield if Laurie had not been there at all, and would have looked to him for it; Laurie said they would return at 7-o'clock, but persons do not always return to the time; many causes might prevent them; witness would not have though