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3-158 (Original)

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author,male,Therry, J.,un addressee
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Bennett, 1979
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2. In your capacity as a judge, you have had frequent opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of the slate of the magistracy in the colony? Yes; I have had considerable opportunity.
3. And what is your opinion of the body, generally? There are some very good, useful, and competent magistrates; but, I think, there are some who do not merit that character.
4. Have you been of opinion for some time that it is desirable, as a body, that the magistracy should be reformed? I think there is much need of revision and reformation. I think the mode of appointment is not satisfactory. I believe the mode of appointment of magistrates is embarrassing to the Government and unsatisfactory for the purpose of a judicious selection. It is, moreover, an increasing embarrassment, because under the present state of our Government - the Ministers having the power and right of appointment, it is with great difficulty they can refuse an application enforced by the recommendation of their political supporters. I say this of course with indifference as to whether one party or not is in power. I think it is difficult for any party in power to refuse applications that may be thus pressed upon them.
5. Do you think the slate of the magistracy about ten or twenty years ago was better? I think it was much better . . . I believe, from what I can recollect, that the appointments were considered more satisfactory, and inspired more confidence, although, no doubt, from the vast power the magistrates had formerly, there were many things to disapprove of. I think greater care and attention was paid to the appointments and they inspired more confidence in the community.
6. Do you think - suppose we take the days of Sir Richard Bourke - that the magistracy was in a more satisfactory state? I think it was; and also in Sir George Gipps' time. General Darling and Sir R. Bourke had opportunities of making very good selections from the many experienced military officers who were scattered in detachments over the colony. These advantages subsequent Governors did not possess. I think Responsible Government has increased the difficulty of the Government in appointing men eligible for the office, solely on account of their fitness for the office.
7. Do you think the magistracy declined in character during the administration of Sir Charles FitzRoy? I do.
8. From your observation of the working of the magistracy, do you think there has been any improvement since Responsible Government was introduced? I cannot say there has. A great number of the adherents and friends of those who have been, or are in power, have been placed in the Commission (of the Peace: that is, appointed as magistrates). The Committee must bear in mind, that in general estimation to be in the Commission of the Peace is considered a decisive test of belonging to the rank of a gentleman. .
9. Have you had an opportunity of observing at all what effect some of these appointments have had on the great mass of the population in the country districts? Great distrust in the Benches on which such magistrates appear; the consequence is, that parties endeavour to settle their disputed matters as best they can amongst themselves without appealing to the proper tribunal.
10. The confidence in minor courts is thus destroyed? Yes; and I have heard such expressions used as "I would go anywhere rather than before such or such a Bench of Magistrates". [100]
51. With regard to the apparent want of confidence felt by the people generally in the decisions of the Benches of Magistrates in the interior, do you think the appointment of Police Magistrates has remedied the evil or restored the confidence of the people? I think the Police Magistrates are very useful and indispensable in some places. They generally inspire confidence, and are mostly well-selected.
52. Should you not think the position of a Police Magistrate, considering his appointment, and his not having local influences or connexions - should you not think, in general, that Police Magistrates would occupy a position that would render them of necessity more generally impartial than unpaid magistrates? Yes. I am of that opinion.
53. In that case you would consider that it would effect the objects of the committee of rendering the appointment of Police Magistrates as general as circumstances would permit ? I think so.
54. You think it would have a good effect? I think so. They are always on the spot and acting, as far as my observation of them has gone, from a sense of duty. They are paid for their labour, which stimulates them to perform their duty at all times and seasons. One is always sure of a Police Magistrate in the interior, but the other magistrates, who are obliged to attend to their local business, are not so constrained to attend to their magisterial duties. Besides, they have their pastoral or agricultural interests to attend to. I think the Police Magistrates are a very useful body of men, and have been always found to be so.
55. Would you not say, from the circumstance of their position, that their legal knowledge would be superior to unpaid magistrates? Yes, their study and business naturally make them so. It is their duty to be more acquainted with the law than unpaid magistrates.
56. Do you think it desirable to substitute unpaid magistrates by paid magistrates? Certainly not. I should always like a gentleman to have the weight, influence, and position, his rank and the respect of his neighbours inspire.