Vice admiralty court

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Vice admiralty courts were juryless courts located in British colonies that were granted jurisdiction over local legal matters related to maritime activities, such as disputes between merchants and seamen. Judges were given 5% of confiscated cargo if they found a smuggling defendant guilty. This gave judges financial incentive to find defendants guilty.


The first vice-admiralty court established in Australia was in the colony of New South Wales in 1788. The first Vice-Admiral was Arthur Phillip and the first judge was Robert Ross. The court was abolished in 1911 when the Supreme Court of New South Wales was granted the admiralty jurisdiction of the court.


A vice admiralty court was formed in Nova Scotia to try smugglers and to enforce the Sugar Act of 1764 throughout British North America. From 1763–1765, when American smugglers were caught, they were tried by corrupt judges who received a percentage of the confiscated goods if the defendants were found guilty; therefore, defendants were less than likely to be found innocent.

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