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..” .
Thursday 4th.June 1835.
Robert Scott, Esq., J. P, called in and examined:
The district of Patricks Plains extends from Jerry’s Plains to the west, to Black Creek on the east, and from the Wollombi on the south, to Captain Black’s station on the north – and contains about four hundred square miles at the least, and the population amounts to about two thousand individuals and is increasing rapidly,
besides being a great thoroughfare to the upper districts.
The police of the district at present, consists of one lock-up keeper, who is a trustworthy man, and acts a chief constable also, six ordinary constables, and one scourger. There are no mounted police in the district. There is one lock-up house, which has been erected at the expense of the Government, in the township of Darlington, containing three rooms, and is surrounded by a high paling, against which the keeper has placed a ‘lean-to’ for his own residence.
It is, in my opinion, very insecure, though a good building of its kind, but wholly insufficient for the purposes of the district; there are not any cells, and when the women are detained, we are obliged to put them into the room which is used as a store-room.
Besides this lock-up house, there are two private ones, built by private individuals, and sanctioned by the Governor – one at Glendon, and the other at Dulwich, to each of which a constables is attached, who has a room appropriated for his own use in the same building. Mr Blaxland has now nearly completed another lock-up house under the same circumstances, but a constable has not yet been appointed to it.
The weekly average of cases at the Patricks Plains Bench is about eighteen, of these nine tenths are convict cases.
I am of the opinion that two more lock-up houses are absolutely necessary, one at Black Creek, where the road crosses, and which I understand His Excellency has in contemplation to erect immediately, and the other at the mouth of the Wollombi, in which neighbourhood there is a great number of small settlers.
These would be of great benefit to escort parties, as affording places of security for their prisoners at convenient stages, and also for many other purposes.
The expense of building a proper lock-up house, with three rooms, one for a constable, one with a brick or stone chimney in the centre sixteen feet by sixteen, and two strong rooms each eight feet by ten, with fastenings, would amount to about Â£50.
If the two lock-up houses, which I consider so necessary, should be erected, two constables attached to them would be required, and in addition to these, two more constables, one of whom to be chief constable, would be amply sufficient for the district provided a party of military, consisting of a corporal and three or four men, were stationed in the district to perform the escort duties.
Suitors, at the Patricks Plains Bench, have to travel a distance of eighteen to twenty miles, and it may be even sixty, if crime be committed on the old Mountain road at Windsor.
There are four unpaid magistrates in the district, three of whom attend court regularly in turn, the fourth, not acceding to this arrangement, attends only when he pleases. The Court of Petty Sessions is held twice a week, and oftener when extra business demands it. We have frequently sat in Court from ten o’clock to sunset.
The Court it held in a public house, in consequence of which, scenes of drunkenness and disorder often occur, and particularly during the musters of ticket-of-leave holders. Witnesses frequently come before the court in a state of intoxication. There is no place
of accommodation either for the witnesses or prisoners near the court-house, the Government lockup house being about a mile and a quarter distant, and away from the inhabitants, on the opposite side of the river Hunter, which cuts of all communication with it in times of flood. The other lock-up houses are from seven to ten miles off, in different directions and Mr Blaxland’s will be eighteen or twenty.
The house in which the Court is held at present is eligible both as regards situation and accommodation, and may, with seventy acres of land, be purchased now at a cheap rate.
The clerk at the Bench at Patricks Plains has a salary of Â£90 a-year, he is also the district post-master, from which source he derives about Â£20 a-year.
The constables are frequently employed in serving summonses and warrants from the Supreme Court, Court of Quarter sessions and Court of Requests. We have hitherto found no difficulty in procuring as many fit men for constables as required for the district; the
men whom I decidedly prefer for this office are ticket-of-leave holders.
The present police magistrate, who is a captain in the army on full pay, receives a salary of Â£200 a-year, he had no other allowances that I know of.
The greatest inconvenience and evil we have to complain of, is the necessity of sending under escort of constable, all prisoners who are sentenced to received more than fifty lashes to Maitland, (twenty seven miles), and on their way to Newcastle (forty five miles)
to be punished; and also all persons sentenced to confinement.
These evils would of course be obviated by the erection of cells in the district and the appointments of a medical officer.