Full descriptionThis 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).
Created: 1852 to 1985
Data time period: 1852 to 1985
Data time period:
Series date range : 1852 - 1975
Series in custody date range : 1852 - 1985
Contents in custody date range : 1852 - 1985
141,-34 142.91934,-34.1456 144.58213,-35.65923 147.74263,-35.87318 150.02422,-37.52904 150.2,-39.2 141,-39.2 141,-34
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- Local : VPRS 264