Series VPRS 264
Capital Case Files
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1852 - 1975
  Series in Custody 1852 - 1985
  Contents 1852 - 1985
Public Access: Part Open
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
 
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1852 - 1975 Attorney-General's Department (previously known as the Law Department) VA 2825
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1852 - 1992 Attorney-General's Department (previously known as the Law Department) VA 2825
1992 - cont Department of Justice VA 3085
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    Individual case files are listed in the consignment details by the surname of the prisoner. Researchers should note the overlaps between the P0 and P1 consignments.

  • Function / Content
    This series consist of files compiled to assist the Governor in deciding whether the royal prerogative of mercy should be applied to persons convicted of a capital offence and given the mandatory death sentence (although some offenders, notably those under 21 years of age were sentenced to the Governor's pleasure).

    Although the Governor possessed the power to use the royal prerogative and thus commute the death sentence to a lesser one (usually life imprisonment), the final decision was based upon the advice of the Executive Council (also known as the Governor-in-Council) which in turn had formally approved the decision as made in Cabinet. These files were retained by the Law Department, the agency responsible for advising Cabinet through the Attorney-General. Some files in this series relate to subsequent applications made by persons whose sentence had been commuted, or by their relatives, for their early release.

    Files to about 1870 typically took the form of a report submitted to the Governor written by the trial judge. Occasionally other material was attached. Those files were also minuted with details of the eventual sentence. Most files after that date will contain a letter sent by the trial judge to the Attorney-General officially to notify him of the sentence and a copy of the judge's case notes and trial transcript. Other items variously found include reports (e.g., prison, psychiatric, etc.) written by various agencies as to the suitability of the person for mercy, copies of Executive Council minutes (taken from VPRS 1080), any letters, petitions, telegrams or other correspondence received, police photographs of the person and newspaper cuttings related to the case. The size of files varied considerably reflecting the degree of action taken and the publicity the case may have attracted.

    Relationship between VPRS 264 and VPRS 1100 Capital Sentence Files

    To all intents and purposes, the files in this series and VPRS 1100 Capital Sentence Files are part of the same sequence. The difference between the two series lies in the ultimate destination of the files. The files in VPRS 1100 were retained by the Governor's Office and were stored in a cabinet in the Executive Council chamber while the files in this series were sent from the Governor's Office to the Law Department. From about 1870 these files were allocated a Law Department inward correspondence registry number. The inward correspondence registers (VPRS 251) show that these files were stored separately from the correspondence.

    Series (VPRS 264) ended in 1975 when the death penalty was abolished under the Crimes (Capital Offences) Act 1975. Legislation relating to the prerogative prior to this date was successively contained in:
    * An act to Substitute other Punishments in Lieu of Transportation (NSW)
    * An Act to Remove Doubts as to the Power of the Governor to Commute the Sentence of Death 1861
    * Criminal Law and Practice Statute 1864 (s.319)
    * Crimes Act 1890 (s.541-542) (and successive Crimes Acts).

  • Recordkeeping System
    Despite being controlled by VPRS 251 Registers of Inward Correspondence since 1870, the registry number was not applied as a basis of arrangement. The files were placed in chronological order according to the year in which the final decision was made.

    An alphabetical card catalogue created by the Public Record Office Victoria listed the name and year of final decision of this series and VPRS 1100 (1889 to 1957) can be consulted at the reading rooms on microfilm as part of VPRS 4325.

    Related Records:

    Other information pertaining to the Governor's decision may be located in VPRS 7583 Register of Decisions on Capital Sentences 1851 to 1975. For details related to the original court case, VPRS 30 Criminal Trial Briefs should also be consulted.

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Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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Date Range Series Title Series Number
1852 - 1925 Index to (1) Civil Servants Named in VPRS 29 Port Phillip Expenditure Accounts, 1841-1851; (2) Index to VPRS 30, 1841-1853; (3) VPRS 264 & VPRS 1100, 1852-1956 (Microfilm Copy) VPRS 4325
Controlled SeriesControlled Series
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Previous SeriesPrevious Series
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Subsequent SeriesSubsequent Series
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List/s of records in this seriesList/s of records in this series
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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0000 1852 - 1925 Open 30
P0001 1884 - Circa 1975 Part Open 66
Indexes and RegistersIndexes and Registers
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Date Range Series Title Series Number
1852 - 1925 Index to (1) Civil Servants Named in VPRS 29 Port Phillip Expenditure Accounts, 1841-1851; (2) Index to VPRS 30, 1841-1853; (3) VPRS 264 & VPRS 1100, 1852-1956 (Microfilm Copy) VPRS 4325
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