1841 - Gipps to Russell; Administration of Justice.
"The Supreme Court of Sydney is composed of three Judges, and on they exercise Jurisdiction in every branch of Law or Equity. One of the Judges (at present the Chief Justice) is specially appointed to hear, in the first instance, all suits in Equity; another, by an arrangement amongst themselves, generally takes all the Insolvent or Bankrupt cases; and the Chief Justice Is, by special Commission, a Judge of Vice Admiralty.
Circuit Courts are held in three different places, namely, Bathurst, Berrima and Maitland; and. in the District of Port Phillip, there is a Resident Judge, who is of equal rank with the Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court, and exercises all the powers of that Court within his District.
The Jury Laws are now assimilated to those of England; but, in the early days of the Colony, Juries were composed of Military or Naval Officers; and Military Juries were not entirely abolished until the year 183t>; (Local Act of the Governor and Council, ."4d Viet.. No. 11).
The power, however, is still retained of trying, with the consent of the parties, all Civil actions by a Judge and two Assessors, a mode of triaI which generally gives great satisfaction, and is much used in the Colony.
Quarter Sessions are established in Sydney, and in six different places in the Country. The Chairman, though annually elected by the Magistrates, is a salaried officer of the Government.
The powers of these Courts are the same as in England, as also is the method of proceeding in them, with the sole exception, that persons actually serving in the Colony under sentence of Transportation are tried without a Jury.
All Crimes throughout the Colony are prosecuted on the information of the Attorney General, though, in the Courts of Quarter Sessions, a power is lodged in an officer, called the Crown Prosecutor, to file informations in the Attorney General's name; and the same power, in respect to all Courts held within the District of Port Phillip, is held by another officer, called the Crown Prosecutor of that District.
There are no Grand Juries in the Colony, the Attorney General performing in fact the functions of a Grand Jury.
Courts of Request. in which sums to the amount of £10 may be recovered, are established in Sydney and in all the principal places in (he Colony.
The Magistrates of the Colony, whether acting singly or in Petty Sessions, have, in respect to the Population in general, the same powers as in England ; and an additional jurisdiction over Convicts, under a Local Act (3d Wm. IV, No. 3) which extends to the infliction of fifty lashes by a single Magistrate, and of one hundred by two or more acting in Petty Sessions.
Besides the ordinary or unpaid Magistrates, there are also numerous stipendiary Justices, called Police Magistrates, who act in their respective Districts as the Agents of Government.
In the unsettled parts of the Colony, or in the Districts beyond what are called the Boundaries of Location, these Stipendiary Magistrates are called Crown Commissioners, or more properly Commissioners of Crown Lands, and their chief duties are to exercise a control over the very numerous grazing establishments, which have been formed in these Districts under Licences from the Government, and to prevent collisions between the men in charge of such Establishments and the Aborigines of the Country. These Commissioners also collect the fees payable on the Government Licences, as well as a small assessment on Cattle and Sheep. authorized by an Act of the Colonial Legislature, 2nd Vict., No. 27.
Departments of Government.
The Chief Departments of Government are those of the Colonial Secretary, Treasurer, Auditor and Surveyor General, all of which are under the immediate control of the Governor.
The Customs Department is also a principal one, but is not so Immediately or entirely under the Governor's control.
The other Departments of Government are those of Public Works. Post Office. Port or Harbour Master, Storekeeper, Government Printing Establishment, etc.
The Heads and other officers of all the Departments are generally efficient; but the Executive Government labours under some disadvantage in respect: to the services of its Officers, which it would not be proper in a report of this sort entirely to overlook.
Many of the older Officers of Government are either proprietors of land, or of flocks and herds in the Colony, the care of which naturally occupies a. part of their attention; and those, who may not yet have possessions of this nature, look forward to the time when they may acquire them.
The very high rent of houses in Sydney causes many of the Officers of Government to live in the Country at an inconvenient distance from their offices; and. until very lately, the subordinate places in most of our Public Offices were filled by men, who only held them, until they could find some more lucrative employment or engage in some speculation, such as that of Shoe]) farming, more congenial to their tastes. The late influx however of respectable Immigrants, and of young men of education, is fast removing this latter inconvenience.
The Convict Department is not, strictly speaking, a Colonial one; for, though entirely under the control of the Government, the expence of it. is defrayed by the British Treasury.
The Police and Gaols of the Colony were formerly considered branches of the Convict Establishment; but, since 1834, the whole expence of their maintenance has been thrown upon the Local Government.
The Ecclesiastical Establishments of the Colony are supported out of the general funds of the Government. All denominations of Christians are equally entitled to the assistance of the state, a perfect religious equality having been established by an Act of Council. passed in the year 1830 (6 Wm. IV, No. 3). (Note: this privilege was only for Christians, and not for the Aboriginal peoples)
The demands on the Public funds for salaries under this Act have proved to be burthensome; but, in other respects, its operations been salutary, and it. has given general satisfaction in the Colony."
[Gipps to Russell, 14 Sept. 1841, Historical Records of Australia]