Page:History of West Australia.djvu/252

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200

WEST AUSTRALIA.



were partially consumed by fire, and valuable records were destroyed. A smaller fire occurred in the registrar's office in May, 1865.

The convicts under the immediate control of the Establishment in 1868 were dispersed on public works, thus:—

Fremantle ... 532 men
Perth ... 241   "
Murray ... 35   "
Plantagenet ... 165   "
Sussex ... 43   "
Swan ... 203   "
Toodyay ... 59   "
Victoria ... 101   "
Wellington ... 104   "
York ... 87   "
Total ... 1,570

The statistics for 1861-8 exhibit an increase of crime over the 1850-60 period. Considering the class of men in the colony, serious crime was still slight, but the magistrates' courts were kept busy. The returns for 1861 (Blue Book) announce thirty-five convictions at the Court of Quarter Sessions, and 2,773 at the Court of Petty Sessions. In the latter list, 1,256 were for drunkenness, 256 for breach of ticket-of-leave regulations, and 156 for straying cattle. Of course in that and following years the convictions of voluntary colonists swelled the lists considerably. After the abolition of the conditional-pardon certificate, and when the foundation of the convict system became impaired by an immature ruler, the number of convictions increased. Thus, in 1866, there were thirty-three in the Supreme Court, among whom were seven free, thirteen expiree, seven conditional-pardon and three ticket-of-leave men, with three Imperial prisoners. Their crimes were, tabulated:—Murder, 3; arson, 1; wounding, 3; burglary, 1; manslaughter, 1; housebreaking, 2; cattle stealing, 6; larceny, 9; forging, 3; assault, 2; and robbery by convicts, 2. The convictions at the Court of Petty Sessions totalled 3,524, including 832 free men. Their offences were set down as:—Absconders, 105; assault, 193; breach of ticket-of-leave regulations, 386; burglary, 24; breach of contract (Masters and Servants Act), 105; cruelty to animals, 1; cattle straying, 166; drunkenness, 1,527; robbery from the person, 28; misdemeanours, 78; petty larceny, 227; abusive language, 55; profane language, 111; and other offences, 518. In 1867 there were thirty-six convictions at the Supreme Court, and 3,408 (852 free men included) at the Court of Petty Sessions. In 1868 the convictions at the Court of Petty Sessions reached 4,137, in which are included 1,788 cases of drunkenness. The police force in 1861 comprised ninety-eight men, including seventeen native constables. Mr. W. Hogan was the superintendent; Mr. F. Panter, inspector; and Mr. W. H. Timperley, sub-inspector.

Only a few more convict items for 1861-8 remain to be chronicled—the more serious offences, escapes, and most notable careers. In 1861, Robert Palin, a convict, entered the house of a prominent resident in Fremantle for purposes of burglary. In one room he encountered a lady, and clutched her arm with such strength as to make heavy impressions with his fingers. He was arrested and charged with burglary, attended with violence. His antecedents were said to be of a fearful character, although his conduct in the Establishment had been good. He was executed in July. An escaped convict named Rogers for months robbed and threatened on the Victoria Plains. No one could capture him, until in March, 1862, he was found asleep. He awoke as a constable bent over him, and while the latter was unbuckling his belt to get at the handcuffs, Rogers bounded to his feet, seized the belt, and belaboured his antagonist with it. The policeman fired and hit Rogers in the side, who thereupon ran to a shepherd's hut, evidently bent on procuring a gun that was there. The constable was more fleet, and intercepted him. The owner of the hut proceeded to help the convict, and threatened to shoot the constable. Rogers, in rushing to a heap of stones, fell, and was quickly handcuffed. The shepherd made off. The convict was not seriously injured, and received a heavy sentence. His friend, the shepherd, was also arrested.

Four convicts engaged on a road party between Guildford and York left their quarters one night and attacked some carters who foolishly camped near by: The carters were seized and their goods, including intoxicating liquids, broached. The convicts sat by and drank until they were inebriated, when they were arrested by their keepers. They were all sentenced to death. Two were immediately reprieved, but were ordered to be incarcerated in the Establishment during Governor Hampton's tenure of office. A petition in favour of reprieving the remaining two was widely signed in Perth and Fremantle and presented to the Governor. Their sentences were commuted to penal servitude for life within the prison walls.

Several escapes from road parties, and the prisons at York and Fremantle were attempted in vain. Lilly and Gray (a notorious bushranger) were among the number. In 1863 a convict was hung for murdering an inoffensive old man. While the Merchantman, with 260 prisoners, was coming to the colony in 1864 several convicts, whose appetites dominated their discretion, cut their way from their quarters to the ship's storeroom and helped themselves to beer, cheese, and other delectables; then they were placed in irons and flogged. Runaway convicts robbed several shepherds in country districts in the same year. In March, 1864, a convict named Graham shot at and wounded Mr. Quartermaine, an old colonist. Graham then pursued a short but busy course of bushranging. In April Sergeant Finlay and a native constable captured him between Albany and Esperance Bay and he was subsequently sentenced to penal servitude for life. Later in the year he, with three companions, scaled the prison walls at Fremantle but was quickly captured. Among other crimes in this year was the attempt of one convict, engaged on public works, to kill another with an axe.

Brooks and Duffy, bushranging convicts, shot a shoemaker at Northam, on the night of the 6th October, 1865. The shoemaker had harboured them for some time, but, after robbing several houses of brandy and other articles, they got on a drinking bout, and returned their host's hospitality with murder. Within these few years bushranging was the ordinary occupation of escaped convicts. They held a whole district in fear that they would at any moment descend upon lonely settlers. Great care had to be taken in protecting everything valuable. Several colonists have experienced the sensation of having a gun or revolver placed in unpleasant proximity to their heads. There was now more opportunity for the escapee to elude the police for months. He was sometimes harboured by expiree men, settlement extended over a much larger area, and he could make constant raids to provision himself; if he be in good fortune, he might even influence the men on a foreign whaling vessel to take him away. This last was occasionally done. Nearly as often, however, the police succeeded in ferreting the fugitive out of dark places on whaling ships. While a few old convicts would harbour him, there were many free men and natives who