Thomas Wells (judge)

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Thomas Alexander Wells (c.1888–13 September 1954) was a judge of the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin, Australia. He was known for having misdirected the jury in a high-profile case in 1934, which was later overturned in an appeal in the High Court of Australia known as Tuckiar v The King .

High Court of Australia supreme court

The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the states, and the ability to interpret the Constitution of Australia and thereby shape the development of federalism in Australia.

<i>Tuckiar v The King</i>

Tuckiar v The King is a landmark Australian judgment of the High Court which was decided on 8 November 1934, after a two-day hearing on 29–30 October 1934. The matter examined the behaviour of the judge and lawyers in the trial of Yolngu man Dhakiyarr (Tuckiar) Wirrpanda in the Northern Territory Supreme Court a year earlier, and overturned the judgement which had found the appellant guilty and sentenced him to death. At the time the original case had stirred much controversy and caused a debate about the appropriateness of the Australian justice system for Indigenous Australians. It has become a case study in and raises many issues for legal ethics regarding instructions by Judges and the behaviour of defence counsel, as well as the treatment of Indigenous people before the Australian justice system.

Contents

Career

Wells was a court reporter for a Sydney newspaper. [1]

Sydney State capital of New South Wales and most populous city in Australia and Oceania

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,230,330 and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

He served overseas in WWI and on returning to Australia studied law in Sydney, where he practised at the bar for nine years after graduating. [1]

Bar (law)

In law, the bar is the legal profession as an institution. The term is a metonym for the line that separates the parts of a courtroom reserved for spectators and those reserved for participants in a trial such as lawyers.

In 1933 he was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, following the retirement of Justice Mallam (1878–1954). [1] [2]

He presided over some of the Territory's most high-profile trials, including the murder trial of Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda, a Yolngu man from Caledon Bay in Arnhem Land, who was convicted of murdering Constable Albert Stewart McColl at Woodah Island on 1 August 1933. This was part of a series of events known as the Caledon Bay crisis Dhakiyarr was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but seven months later this verdict was overturned in the Tuckiar v The King case. Several reasons were given for the success of the appeal, including that Judge Wells had misdirected the jury. [3] [4]

Caledon Bay is a bay in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia, at approximately 12.8° S, 136.5° E. It is perhaps most famous as the home of a group of Yolngu people who were key players in the Caledon Bay crisis, which marked a turning point in the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Arnhem Land Region in the Northern Territory, Australia

Arnhem Land is one of the five regions of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located in the north-eastern corner of the territory and is around 500 km (310 mi) from the territory capital Darwin. The region has an area of 97,000 km2 (37,000 sq mi), which also covers the area of Kakadu National Park, and a population of 16,230. In 1623, Dutch East India Company captain William van Colster sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape Arnhem is named after his ship, the Arnhem, which itself was named after the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands.

Woodah Island, also known as Isle Woodah, is an island in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia, lying in the mouth of Blue Mud Bay at 13.44°S 136.16°E. It is located 13.4 km east of Haddon Head on the coast of mainland Arnhem Land. It is 24 km long north-south, and up to 3.5 km wide.

He was more regarded more benignly for ordering the doors of Fannie Bay Gaol open following the Japanese air raids in 1942, rather than have them suffer should the jail receive a direct hit. [5]

Fannie Bay Gaol

Fannie Bay Gaol is a historic gaol in Fannie Bay, Northern Territory, Australia. The gaol operated as Her Majesty's Gaol and Labour Prison, from 20 September 1883 until 1 September 1979.

Bombing of Darwin Japanese attack on Darwin, Australia during World War II

The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin, on 19 February 1942 was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. On that day, 242 Japanese aircraft, in two separate raids, attacked the town, ships in Darwin's harbour and the town's two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasion of Timor and Java during World War II.

He was himself evacuated to Alice Springs following the air raids, returning in 1945. [6]

Later life and legacy

He suffered a stroke in 1951, and retired the following year. He died in Darwin Hospital in September 1954.[ citation needed ]

Wells Street, in the Darwin suburbs of Ludmilla and Parap, is named after him.[ citation needed ] [7]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 "N.T. Judge". Northern Standard (54). Northern Territory, Australia. 25 August 1933. p. 11. Retrieved 19 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  2. "An extraordinary man of wit and wisdom". NT News. 1 July 2017.
  3. "High Court of Australia: Tuckiar v. The King (n Appeal)". Northern Standard (92). Northern Territory, Australia. 23 November 1934. p. 3. Retrieved 10 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "High Court of Australia: Tückiar v. The King: Judgment of Mr. Justice Starke". Northern Standard (93). Northern Territory, Australia. 27 November 1934. p. 3. Retrieved 10 July 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "Mr. Justice Wells Dies in Darwin". The Advertiser (Adelaide) . 97, (29, 927). South Australia. 14 September 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 19 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "NT Place Names Register". NT Government. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  7. NOTE: Wells Street in the Litchfield area, Wells Creek and Mount Wells were named for the presumably unrelated Charles Frederick Wells (died 1896), a cadet surveyor with the Goyder Survey Expedition of 1869.( "NT Place Names Register". NT Government. Retrieved 19 January 2018.)