Site icon Legal Vidhiya


Spread the love
CITATION(1884) 14 QBD 273, DC
DATE OF JUDGEMENT 9TH December, 1884
COURT Royal Court of Justice (Queens Bench Division)
CASE TYPECriminal (Murder Case)
RESPONDENTDudley and Stephens 
BENCHLord ColeridgeLord JusticeMr. Justice GroveMr. Justice Denman Lord Pollock Lord Huddleston
REFERREDNecessity is no defence for a crime.


  1. There was a yacht in which four men were in it namely, Stephens, Dudley, Brooks and a 17 year old boy Richard parker.
  2. They were sailing in the northwest of the Cape of Good Hope.
  3. There were some circumstances because of which they lost all the outside help and also they are left with little amount of food and fresh water.
  4. After a few days all the leftover fresh water and the food was finished, they caught a turtle from the sea and they ate that and drank the blood too, they use to drink the seawater at that time too.
  5. Because of the seawater they were getting ill,  they used to drink their urine too for their survival.
  6. One day the 17 year old boy got ill and went into a coma, Dudley said that we have the family waiting for us at home, he said to Stephens that we should kill the boy because he was probably going to die because of the diseases and he will not survive. So we should kill the boy for our survival.
  7. Brooks did not agree to this, but Dudley and Stephens however succeeded in their plan and killed the boy and ate the flesh of the boy and drank the blood too.
  8. They three fed themselves from the body of the boy Brooks and Dudley ate the most of it while Stephens consumed the least.
  9. They killed the boy before his natural death and within a week they all were rescued.



In the 19th century the act of cannibalism was very prevalent between the voyagers during their long journeys. 

Dudley and Stephens tried to prove themselves innocent but the jury member Charles made up his mind and dismissed their plea. From the statements of both it was clear that they knew their scary deed. Charles didn’t suppress the facts that happened in the yacht and recommended the last appeal. Huddleston wanted to give the verdict of guilty and wanted to close the case once for all. Now the jury had to decide whether the facts which were presented in front of them if it is equivalent to crime or not. The judge decided that the case will be settled by the authority of the bench. And also Collins will be getting the opportunity to present his side. During the sitting of the bench they asked for various and different witnesses in front of them and they called the Brooks too. Collins stated that the Parker may have died already. Collins pressured on one word which is a necessity in his closing speech to the jury. The judge presented a special verdict in which it indicates that the four men may have died eventually unless they killed one of them and ate him as their food. The final verdict was whether it is necessity or not but the prisoners were found guilty and sent to the Queen’s Bench.


On 4th December the case was presented in front of Queen’s Bench Division under the Lord Coleridge. In the beginning the report was read out and the attempt of challenging the verdict by the Collins was rejected.

The appellant side, Charles presented in front of the court that there is no laws to support the defence of the necessity to murder.

Collins responded by citing the case of United states v. Holmes. 

The judges withdrew and said they will give their judgement in writing. On 9th December the court delivered the judgement and the reason too. They found that there is no defence on the murder charge on this basis of legal precedents and also not on the basis of moral and ethics.

It is the duty of the captain to give his own life to save the other crew members. Further the judges said that who gives you the authority to decide who should live and who should die. The temptation should not be excused in the name of necessity, it is a crime so yes it’s a crime. The temptation cannot change the legal definition of crime and cannot weaken and change in any manner.

Dudley and Stephens were sentenced to death with the recommendation of mercy. Later it was decreased to lifetime imprisonment.


This article is written by Anugrah Kurre of Guru Ghasidas University, intern at Legal Vidhya.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are intended solely for informational purposes. Accessing or using the site or the materials does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information presented on this site is not to be construed as legal or professional advice, and it should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Additionally, the viewpoint presented by the author is of a personal nature.

Exit mobile version