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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Personal Volume

Progressive Masterton. The District's freedom from crime. An address by the Chief Justice to the grand jury at the opening of the Supreme Court in Masterton on September 10th, 1917

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Progressive ..Masterton..

The District's Freedom From Crime.

An Address

By The Chief Justice (Sir Robert Stout)

To the Grand Jury

At the opening of the Supreme Court in Masterton on September 10th, 1917.

Masterton Printing Co., Ltd.

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Comments by Chief Justice.

In his charge to the Grand Jury at the opening of the criminal sittings of the Supreme Court in Masterton on September 10th, 1917, His Honour the Chief Justice (Sir Robert Stout) said:—

The last time I presided at the sittings of the criminal court at Masterton was on September 20, 1915, I then referred to the great progress your town and district had made since I had previously visited it in 1912. I am glad that I can again congratulate you on the progress of Masterton and its surroundings. I have visited the outlying parts of your town and I see many signs of progress. Many neat and artistic cottages have been built. Your streets are well kept, many of them asphalted, and many more have asphalted footpaths and sidewalks. I am also much impressed with the cleanliness of your town. In no town have I seen more attention paid to the keeping of the streets clean.

I do not know what your social conditions are, but your district has made a name for itself in the large sums you have given to help our Empire in its great struggle for freedom. The state of your district so far as crime is concerned, merits hearty congratulation. I have been examining the records, not only of convictions but of charges brought before the courts, and that is, some criminologists consider, the best test of the crime in a community. But whether the charges that have been made or the convictions of those who have offended against our laws are considered, the result is equally gratifying.

I have taken the charges of all kinds brought before the Magistrate's Court at Masterton for the years 1906 up to December 1916. In the first 2½ years your district was a licensed, or, as it is popularly termed, a "wet" district. Since June, 1909, the Masterton electoral district has been a "dry" district, and whatever the cause of the decline of criminal charges may be, the fact is, and cannot be gainsaid, that offences have greatly lessened. In the figures I give first the year, then the total charges made, including all offences, both large and page break small, then the cases of drunkenness, then all other charges not of drunkenness.

Total Charges Drunkenness Other Charges.
1907 457 256 201
1908 499 302 197
1909 325 155 170
1910 105 39 66
1911 104 34 70
1912 125 32 93
1913 143 51 92
1914 133 49 84
1915 136 50 86
1916 128 68 (a) 60

(a) Of 26 of these 8 were arrested off the Homewood and Tenui coaches, 12 at the railway station, and 6 on arrival of motor car from Carterton.

I have the charges made and heard in the other towns situated in the Wairarapa electoral district during the past five years, and I give them:—
1912 1913 1914 1915 1916
Carterton 211 203 329 357 348
Drunkenness 62 66 128 141 127
Featherston 70 89 66 238 210
Drunkenness 13 17 13 134 141
Grey town 52 74 62 92 141
Drunkenness 9 11 9 30 19
Martinbmough 73 105 48 63 59
Drunkenness 19 25 13 11 16
Eketahuna 73 53 27 7 5
Drunkenness 7 10 4 0 2
So that there may be a fair comparison the returns from Eketahuna must be added to the Maston totals. The result, then, will be total charges in five years in the dry district of Masterton, in—
  • 1912—198, drunkenness 39
  • 1913—196, drunkenness 61
  • 1914—160, drunkenness 53
  • 1915—143, drunkenness 50
  • 1916—133, drunkenness 70
In wet district, Wairarapa electorate:
  • 1912—406, drunkenness 403
  • 1913—471, drunkenness 120
  • 1914—505, drunkenness 163
  • 1915—750, drunkenness 316
  • 1916—758, drunkenness 303
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It will be noticed that drunkenness has increased in the Wairarapa electorate. The increase is mainly in Featherston. It has increased from 13 in 1914 to 141 in 1916. This may have been caused by the fact that two military camps are near Feathers ton. That does not imply that the soldiers were charged. It may have been the camp followers. Seeing what has happened, and what has happened in Wellington, might not the Defence Department give leave to the soldiers in Masterton? The cost of the railage from Featherston to Masterton will be much cheaper than over the Summit and due provision could no doubt be made in Masterton for the entertainment of the soldiers here, and for giving them amusement and pleasure. I feel sure Masterton would make every proper provision for them.

To sum up, in the wet Wairarapa district there were 2890 cases brought before the Courts, and in the dry 830. Of drunkenness the charges were in Masterton for the five years 273, in the wet Wairarapa 1005. Suppose we eliminate 1915 and 1916 when the soldiers' camps were in the Wairarapa, we have for 1912, 1913, and 1914 the charges of drunkenness in the dry Wairarapa district 153 and in the wet Wairarapa 386. It is also, I believe, correct to state that many soldiers who have indulged in excess in liquor have not been charged.

Another consideration is that many charged in Masterton have come from wet districts and have become intoxicated before reaching Masterton. I have given details for the year 1916. Out of 68 charges in Masterton for 1916, 8 were arrested off Homewood and Tenui coaches, 12 arrested at the railway station, and 6 arrested on arrival of motor cars from Carterton. If these were deducted, and it may be others also must be deducted, the 68 charges of drunkenness would be reduced to 42 or a lower number.

The lesson that can be drawn from these figures need hardly be stated. Where liquor is openly sold offences against our laws in a population about the same size are about four times as numerous as in a district where there are no licensed houses.

I may give some further figures regarding serious crime, that is crime that comes before the Supreme Court at Masterton. I have not the cases page break that have been sent from the Wairarapa districts to Wellington for trial or sentence, but there are few eases.

Taking the last 7 years 1910 to 1916, only one person residing in the Masterton Electoral District in all these years has been sentenced to imprisonment by the Supreme Court sitting at Masterton, and that was a native of the Celestial Empire in 1910. There have been two other convictions, but one was fined and the other granted probation.

Now Masterton Electoral District has about one eighty-seventh of the population of the Dominion. In these seven years there have been over two thousand persons sent to prison by the Supreme Court. If all the Dominion were like Masterton, one gaol would be all that would be necessary for the Dominion, instead of eight large gaols and several police prisons.

It may be asked, what are the charges of serious crime for the past seven years that have come before the Supreme Court sitting at Masterton? There have been in all 26 persons charged : 6 came from Masterton, 4 from Pahiatua, and 16 from the other Wairarapa Electorates. In whatever way the criminal statistics are viewed they speak well for the dry district. I am sure no distinction can be made between the people in the Masterton Electorate and in the Wairarapa District. Both are of good stock. In the one district, however, there is the temptation of the open saloon, in the other the temptation is not present, and it is for our people to consider whether that fact explains the figures T have given.

The fall in the crime in the Masterton District I have already alluded to. There were in the licensing days of Masterton, that is in the two years 1907 and 1908, 956 charges, whilst in 1915 and 1916 the charges numbered only 264—a little more than one-fourth. The people have not so changed in 8 years to cause this difference in charges. How, then, is the change to be explained ?

I have thought it necessary to pass these remarks as it is the function of a Judge in addressing a Grand Jury to deal with the position of the district from which the Jury comes, sc far as law and order are concerned. And you, gentlemen, and your district, may be congratulated on the good position you hold amongst the many Judicial Districts of our Dominion.