Series Details

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Series ID5646
Previous System LocationSRS5646
TitleBook of Trials
Parent Series
This series does not have a parent series.
Start Date Circa 1/7/1835
End Date 28/2/1842
Date Statement N/A
Date Notes N/A

Record of trials held at Moreton Bay Penal Settlement

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Items Total Items: 1
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Departmental NumbersN/A
System of Arrangement Chronological by date of trial
How To Use Series N/A

Creating Agencies

Agency IDTitleFromTo
2753Commandant's Office, Moreton Bay 1/7/1835 28/2/1842
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Access and Restrictions

Access Category0 Years
Access Procedure 
Agency Now Responsible
Agency ID: 168
Queensland State Archives
Restriction DetailsAccess to this series is refused under s.18(3)(a) of the Public Records Act 2002 - Access to original is detrimental to its preservation. Where possible, a copy of the item will be provided.
Regulation Details
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Copyright Status


A copy of this book is located in the Public Search Room
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Information Sources

(1) J.B. Steele, Brisbane Town in Convict Days 1824 - 1842, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, p.3.
(2) B. H. MacPherson, The Supreme Court of Queensland 1859 - 1960,
Butterworths, Sydney, 1989, p. 4.
(3) Steele, p. 295.
(4) Ratcliffe Pring, ed., Statutes of the Colony of Queensland to the present time, Vol. 1, Government Printer, Brisbane, 1862, p. 577.
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This book records details of trials held at the Moreton Bay penal settlement. Governor Brisbane's original instructions of 1824 required the Commandant to maintain a "Register of Offences" . (1) This book, however, also acts as a record of court proceedings.

The format varies throughout the book but entries may include the date, the name of the prisoner, evidence in the form of sworn statements, the prisoner's defence, the opinion, the sentence and the signature of the Commandant. From 10 July 1837 - 8 July 1839, there is no signature - only the word "Commandant". From 25 July 1839, Commandant Gorman added J.P. (Justice of the Peace) after his name (in 1832 a military commandant was vested with the "custody and management" of a penal colony by a statute [3 Wm IV, No 3, s 8] also constituting him ex officio a justice of the peace). (2) In 1841 and 1842 some hearings were also before two non-military Justices of the Peace, Francis Forbes and Arthur Hodgson. These hearings sometimes include the statement " in petty sessions assembled" (for example, pp. 245, 254). Forbes and Hodgson were Darling Downs squatters. (3)

Offences mostly included absconding, disobedience, insolence, insubordination, neglect of work, and stealing, for which the punishment was 25 lashes to 150 lashes (the lowest number recorded in the book is 12 lashes and the highest is 300 lashes for absconding and stealing, absconding for the 7th time, and violent assault of a constable). From 1839 punishments for such offences also included being admonished, solitary confinement on bread and water, or imprisonment with hard labour. Vagrancy by "free" convicts incurred a sentence in the House of Corrections for a period. A more serious offence of theft and "being illegally at large" resulted on 14 February 1839 in 4 convicts being committed for trial in Sydney.

At the back of the book there is a one page listing with the heading: Police reports of all offences committed at Moreton Bay from and after the 20th day of July 1839 as brought before Owen Gorman Esq. J.P. The page is then divided under the sub-headings: Dates: (25 July - 14 October 1839), Prisoner's Name and Ship, To what Department assigned, Offence, Finding and Punishment, Entered at Page.

The book begins at page 13 - earlier pages are obviously missing.

NOTE: It appears that more than one type of court may have been in operation since some of the entries are headed "New South Wales To Wit" (not Crown Prisoner's name and ship etc.), and refer to the Commandant's position as a Justice of the Peace. These cases include inquiries into deaths or serious crimes such as the murder of Surveyor Stapleton. The various courts may have been: "one justice of the peace exercising a summary jurisdiction"; Courts of General Quarter Sessions; and later, Courts of Petty Sessions. These courts were regulated in a statute [3 Wm IV no. 3] .(4)

This series comprises part of a collection which is inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register (The Convict Records of Queensland 1825 - 1842).
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Preferred Citation

Queensland State Archives Series ID 5646, Book of Trials
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Last updated 9 September 2016
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
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