Commissioner for examining and reporting on Grants of Land 25/08/1856-18/05/1857
Master in Equity, Supreme Court of New South Wales 01/04/1857-10/05/1866
Chief Commissioner of Insolvent Estates 01/07/1865-02/01/1887
Acting Supreme Court Judge 12/08/1887-28/12/1887
Judge in Bankruptcy, Supreme Court of New South Wales 03/01/1888-08/11/1889
George Hibbert Defell was born on 30 May 1819 in London. He was the son of John Henry Defell (merchant) and Elizabeth Mackenzie. He was educated at Harrow (1832-1837), and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1842, MA 1845). He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1839 and the Bar on 20 November 1846. (1)
George Defell arrived in New South Wales with his family on 6 January 1856 in the 'La Hogue'. He was admitted to the Bar of the New South Wales Supreme Court on 4 February 1856. (2) On 25 August 1856, he was appointed a Commissioner for examining and reporting upon Grants of Land, until succeeded by Edward Butler on 19 May 1857. Deffell was appointed Master in Equity of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 1 April 1857. On 1 July 1865 he took up his appointment as Chief Commissioner of Insolvent Estates, while continuing to be Master in Equity until 10 May 1866. (3)
In 1884 the 'Supreme Court Appellate Jurisdiction Act' (48 Vic. No.13) decreed that no Supreme Court Judge should hear an appeal of their own judgements and that appeals should be heard by three judges. By 1887 this decision, the absence of one Judge overseas and the workload that came with an increasing population saw a backlog, that was not relieved by the appointment of a sixth Supreme Court Judge (50 Vic. No.35). An Act was passed in July 1887 to empower Deffell as Chief Commissioner of Insolvent Estates to sit and act as a Supreme Court Judge but only for the 15 trial motions and appeals mentioned in the Act (51 Vic. No.12). He was appointed on 12 August 1887. When another Judge became absent through illness, Deffell was unable to hear all the appeals. An Act to amend and extend the provisions of the 'Supreme Court Appeals Act of 1887' was assented to on 22 November 1887, allowing him to hear other cases with all the powers of a Puisne Judge until 28 December 1887. Defell's expertise in Bankruptcy law, and his advocacy of reform to the legislation, resulted in his appointment as the first Bankruptcy Judge to the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 3 January 1888 under the Bankruptcy Act of 1887 (51 Vic. No.19). (4)
He retired due to ill health on 8 November 1889 and that same month he and his wife returned to England on the 'Arcadia'. George Defell died at Tunbridge Wells, England, on 21 September 1895. (6)
(1) HTE Holt, 'Deffell, George Hibbert (1819-1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB), Online edition, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A040040b.htm cited 11 January 2008.
(2) Ibid.; Supreme Court; NRS 13664, Roll of Barristers and Solicitors, 1824-1876; SR Fiche 852, p.6A.
(3) New South Wales Government Gazette, No.128, 26 August 1856, p.2273; No.51, 3 April 1857, p.815, No.140, 30 June 1865, p.1436; Colonial Secretary, Blue Book, 1856, p.554; 1857, pp.412, 444; Public Service Lists (Blue Books) 1865, p.38, 40; 1866, pp.38, 40.
(4) New South Wales Government Gazette No.445, 12 August 1887, p.5240; No. 1, 3 January 1888, p.1; 'Supreme Court Appeal Act of 1887' (51 Vic. No.12), assented to 13 July 1887; 'Supreme Court Appeal Act of 1887 Amendment Act' (51 Vic. No.16), assented to 22 November 1887; ADB, op.cit.
(5) ADB, op.cit., Public Service Lists (Blue Books) 1889, pp.94, 209.