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Goulburn Police Force (south-west) 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..” .

Friday June 5th.1835.
T. A. Murray, Esq., J. P, brought in and examined.;
I am a member of the Bench of Magistrates at Goulburn: but I am very seldom situated there, as I hold Police Courts at my own residence (25 miles southwest of Goulburn), where a constable and a scourger are situated.
The population of the district in which I Act as magistrate appears, by an estimate of the strength of the establishments from which cases are sent to me, amounts to about eight hundred. I reside at a greater distance from Sydney, in a south-westerly direction, than any other magistrate. All the police business from the nearest part of the Limestone Plains, part of the Murrumbidgee country, Maneroo and Molongle, is brought before me.

Complainants have to traverse sometimes eighty, and even one hundred miles, to my court, with cases where in a single magistrate is competent to decide, and they frequently bring serious complaints before me, rather than go a still greater distance to Goulburn for the decision of two magistrates.
There is no public lock-up house near my residence: I am, therefore, obliged to confine all prisoners in a strong room on my own premises. The court is also held in one of my own rooms.
The weekly average of cases brought before me is about seven or eight, scarcely a day passes without one. Generally speaking the proportion between free and convict cases is about equal.
I think that two more constables are necessary to enable me to carry on the police business of the district efficiently. At present it frequently occurs that both constables and scourger are absent on duty at the same time; and on these occasions one of my
own men is obliged to serve as special constable.

There are several parties of squatters in my neighbourhood.
I detected, not long since, three men at one of their stations in the Act of slaughtering one of my own cattle. I have strong reason to suspect that these people are, in general, illicit sellers of spirits. I had occasion to search one of their huts some time ago, at a considerable distance from my own place, and found in it many signs of its being a ‘grog shop’ such as an empty keg, empty bottles, and measures (the latter, however, might have been used for ordinary purposes as well as for measuring spirits), together with a number of orders drawn by overseers of large establishments in the neighbour-hood on the proprietors for small sums of money, but amounting in all to about £100, the owner of the hut had no ostensible means whatever of getting these orders honestly. I can, of course, say nothing of this mans character from my own observation I having never seen or heard of him before, but I have not the slightest doubt, judging from the circumstances observed on this occasion, of the correctness of the common report of his being a ‘notorious grog-seller’.

Many of the small settlers are also in the habit of selling spirits: but it is most difficult to obtain a proof against them.
The squatters are in general, very serious nuisances in the neighbourhood. We have no means of getting rid of them; and it is almost impossible to convict them of the crimes which they are in the habit of committing.
I consider that the greater part of the crimes committed in the interior arise from the sale of spirits: many persons dispose of it in quantities of not less than two gallons at a time;
thereby avoiding the penalty of retailing without a license. This large quantity is obtained by a number of convicts and other servants clubbing together for its purpose.

There are four unpaid magistrates in the Goulburn district, exclusive of Yass. I do not know what the strength of the police force of the district is, there are no mounted police stationed nearer to me than Goulburn.
Considerable difficulty is experienced in my neighbourhood in procuring proper persons for constables. I consider an expiree as unfit for the situation as if he were still a prisoner; next to men who have come free to the colony, I would choose ticket-of-leave holders for constables.
A great portion of time of the constable and scourger attached to my police court is occupied in serving subpoenas and warrants for the Supreme Court and Court of Quarter Sessions. Before I left home lately, they were employed a whole fortnight in this industry.

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