The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 19 Oct 1875 1
MAITLAND CIRCUIT COURT.
This court opened yesterday morning at East Maitland, before His Honor Sir Alfred Stephen, judge by special commission. The barristers in attendance were Sir JGL Innes, Messrs Windeyer, Wisdom, Dillon, and Ritchie. Mr GWF Addison, police magistrate, represented the sheriff. The Crown Solicitor was represented by Mr Jackson.
Sir JGL Innes prosecuted for the Crown.
After the address of welcome to his Honor, elsewhere printed, the proceedings began by the Judge’s Associate, (Mr EM Stephen) reading over the usual proclamation against vice and immorality. The jury list was then called over.
John Pearse, Henry Augustus Smith, John Joseph Riley, Robert Studdert, and Riley William Moody, were sworn by his Honor as magistrates of the territory.
His Honor pointed out that the official letter to the gentlemen who had been sworn required them to take the oaths before a judge of the Supreme Court, a court of Quarter Sessions, or a Justice of the Peace specially empowered by writ. He was not a judge of the Supreme Court, but he saw, on reference to the statute, that the oaths of magistrates might be taken before a Circuit Court. He was therefore empowered the official letter contained the words be had alluded to.
Alfred Simmons [aka Simmonds], on bail, was indicted for having on the 12th day of June 1875, at Caunmore, near Dungog, committed an unnatural offence with a mare. The prison er pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr Windeyer, instructed by Mr RW Thompson.
The witnesses called by the Crown Prosecutor, after he had opened the case were James Hoare, Henry Hockham, Thomas Hockham, and Senior-constable O’Sullivan.
The prisoner is a lad of seventeen or eighteen years of age. According to the statements of the two first-named witnesses, boys of thirteen, he had been seen committing the alleged offence. There were, however, contradictions in their evidence upon material points of collateral testimony. For manifest reasons we can give no detail of the case. Thomas Hockham stated that a day before the preliminary hearing at the police court, prisoner asked him whether or not he should plead guilty to the charge, to which he (witness) replied that if he did plead guilty he would get into it. In cross-examination, the witness admitted that he had been before the court for drunkenness, stealing and obscene language. Her also admitted at a previous Circuit Court he had given evidence of an alleged confession made to him by a prisoner, who was acquitted. When the prisoner was served by O’Sullivan with the summons in the case, he said that he had seen the first two witnesses on the day named in the indictment, in the paddock they had described, and that he had a mare there, but that when he saw them, he was not near the mare, but going after some cows. There was some evidence of a quarrel having taken place between Henry Hockham and the prisoner, who was said to have beaten Hockham. Mr Windeyer proposed to put in a certificate of good character, signed by a number of magistrates and others in the district of Dungog.
After some conversation the document was admitted. His Honor said he thought such testimony should be appended to the depositions.
Mr Windeyer addressed the jury for the defence. He suggested that the contradictions in the evidence of the principal witnesses were so grave as to deprive it of any value. Incidentally, he argued that the publication by means of trial, of the beastly and offensive details of such a case, was cause of more injury to society than the offences themselves; and he expressed a wish to see the crime removed from the category of capital offences, and made liable to a lower punishment than death. Some reliance was placed upon the evidence as to a quarrel between one of the witnesses and the prisoner, in order to suggest that the charge was trumped up by this witness and the boy Hoare, in order to punish prisoner for the assault.
His Honor summed up. He described it as a perplexing case, in which the jury had to decide in which direction the balance should tend. They must give the prisoner the benefit of any reasonable doubt which the character of the evidence might create in their minds. He then reviewed the evidence. He did not think the case justified Mr Windeyer’s assumption as to the motives which had prompted the two boys to concoct so disgusting a story. He put the case to the jury as one which rested upon the credibility of the two boys.
The jury retired at a quarter to three o’clock. They returned in a quarter of an hour with a verdict of not guilty. The prisoner was discharged. His Honor said a few words, remarking upon the value of a good character: in this case, the prisoner had been indebted to the good character he had earned.
1 The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 19 Oct 1875, p. 3. Emphasis added.