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Goulburn Police Force 1835 – Report


The following is a copy from the news report of the government inquiry into the conditions of the police services in Australia in 1835.

The Committee (consisting of the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, Mr Berry, H. H. M’Arthur, and Mr Bell ) was appointed to “..enquire into and report upon the establishment and strength of the Police Force and all it’s branches, to what extent it may be expedient to maintain it, and the expense it will occasion, and to enquire into the capacity and condition of the Gaols in the colony, and to report what additional buildings appear to be required, and the probably expense of providing them..” .

Tuesday 2nd of June 1835.
Lachlan McAlister, Esq, J. P, called in and examined:
I was between four and five years acting as Police Magistrate at Goulburn; that district consisted of the whole country southward of the districts of Bathurst and Bong Bong; its population amounted to at least four thousand person.
There were then four constables in the district, one of whom acted as lock-up keeper, nineteen mounted policemen.
When I took charge of the district, I found in it a stone lock-up house, twenty six feet by ten, that building before I left the Bathurst district, became a heap of rubbish, in consequence of its very bad construction, although not built before 1827 or 1828.There is
now a small log building in its place, in which the prisoners are confined; an average twenty persons are usually confined in that prison, but I have had as many as thirty in it at one time.

I did not consider the nineteen policemen sufficient; from the exceedingly harassing duty they had to perform over a country extending more than two hundred miles south and west of Goulburn. I am of opinion that thirty mounted policemen would enable me to control the whole of the district. I would also require a clerk of the Bench, six constables, one of these to act as chief constable, with a higher salary, and two scourgers in addition.
I would strongly recommend that the mounted police should be made a permanent force, by retaining if possible, the efficient men of that body, when their regiments leave the colony, as a period of eighteen months or two years sometimes elapses before a recruit is
qualified to perform his duty efficiently, and more especially before he can attain such a knowledge of the country as to enable him to traverse the bush safely and expeditiously.

These observations apply to the officers as well as the men.
I would also recommend that the mounted policemen should be armed with rifles instead of carbines, which have been found insufficient in practice. In various encounters which I have had with bushrangers, I always found that muskets gave them a great advantage over the police men armed with carbines, which do not carry sufficiently far or true.
My pay at Lieutenant of the mounted police was eleven shillings and six pence per day, two and sixpence a day for forage allowance, and fifty pounds when unprovided with quarters.
In recommending that the two scourgers should be stationed in the Goulbourn district, I should mention that one should be mounted and always accompany the officer in command of the mounted police.

I am quite of opinion that much mischief occurs from escorts being partly composed of constables and soldiers, from an opinion amongst the latter, that no responsibility rests with them, even if prisoners escape, provided they obey the orders of the constable who
has charge of the party, however ill calculated these orders may be for the safe custody of the prisoners.
It sometimes happens that the civil officer, under whose orders the party is placed, is a scourger only. I have always avoided mixing the escorts in this manner; and in consequence no instance has occurred of a prisoner sent by me under escort having made his escape. The insecurity of the lock-up houses between Campbelltown and Goulbourn is so great, that I have been obliged also to send the mounted police to escort prisoners, with orders not to deliver them into the custody of any lock-up keeper between those two stations.

The most harassing duty of the mounted policemen, when I had charge of them in Goulbourn, was serving subpoenas for the Court of Requests. On one occasion, for the purpose of serving subpoenas on parties whom they had themselves previously apprehended on a charge of horse and cattle stealing, they had to travel an immense distance, in consequence of these people being vagabonds wandering through the country without any fixed residence. The subpoenas in question were for the purpose of recovering the fee of the attorney who had defended them on their trial in Sydney for the above mentioned crime.
On another occasion, I was called upon at Bathurst to serve a subpoena from the Supreme Court, at a distance of seventy miles, when I only had one man in Barracks.

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