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2-006 (Text)

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author,male,Australian, The,un addressee
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Decisions of NSW Supreme Court
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2-006-plain.txt — 3 KB

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Jonathan Leitch, Master of the brig Atalanta, was indicted for violently assaulting one Abraham Blaxland, a seaman on board that vessel. 
The indictment contained two counts - charging two separate assaults - the first committed on the 18th of Feb, and another on the 18th of May last.
The defendant pleaded Not Guilty. The Attorney-General stated the case. The defendant was charged with a common assault, admitted on the high seas. By the New South Wales Act, jurisdiction was given to the Supreme Court of that Colony, over offences like the present, which might be committed at sea. The possible defence which would be made to that charge, was that discipline should be kept up on board a vessel by a master among his people. It, however, was a question entirely resting with the Jury on the evidence which should be adduced; it was for them to decide whether the violence alleged to have been exercised by the defendant, was more than commensurate with the faults of the men. If it were, the defendant, in law, was criminal. The Master was certainly vested with some degree of power, to inflict punishment; but then, in the exercise thereof, it must be of that nature as not to border on harshness or severity, when the occasion did not require it. The present case was not one of that description - he believed that nothing approaching to a violent resistance, of the Commanding Officer's orders or the least particle of insubordination, had been manifested among any one of the crew. From the depositions then before him, a clear case of assault appeared to have been committed, without any justifiable reason for doing so, whatever.
ABRAHAM BLAXLAND sworn - examined. Is a seaman belonging to the brig Atalanta. The defendant is Master of that vessel. Witness shipped at Rio de Janeiro, in March last, and acted in the vessel from thence, till her arrival at this port, in the capacity of cook. On the 18th day of the same month, sometime towards evening, he was employed in the ship's galley, in preparing some heated water for the cuddy. Witness had occasion to leave the galley, a few minutes, and on his return found that the kettle had "capsized," and the contents run out - he thereupon took the boiler, for the purpose of getting it re-filled with water, when defendant met him, and on hearing of the disaster, said, witness was drunk, and immediately laid hold of the fore-sheet, which he laid about him for some moments. Witness endeavoured to escape from defendant's fury, by running over to the other side of the deck; defendant then left the rope, and caught hold of a pair of iron fire tongs; with which weapon he was also repeatedly struck. Witness was much injured in the body, in consequence of the violence. There were several of the crew on deck at the time. On another occasion, the 8th of May, defendant came into the galley, and accused witness of being drunk - on being about to reply to this charge, defendant knocked a knife out of witness' mouth, and then took hold of a piece of iron, used for the purpose of breaking coal, with which he inflicted many blows on his head and other parts of the body. The iron instrument was about two feet in length, and two inches in circumference. Witness cannot say how many blows he received; but knows, they were "very many." He was nearly deprived of sense, in consequence of their violence. Defendant swore on this occasion, that he would take his (the witness's) life. Had not drank any thing in the way of spirits, that day, beyond the usual allowance of grog.
Cross-examined. - The first assault took place on the 18th of of