(From Grimstone's “Southern Settlements of New Zealand.”)
No provision having been made for the administration of justice in New Zealand, the first colonists on their arrival entered into arrangements with the Sovereign chiefs, by which they elected their own magistrates. This temporary authority existed until the arrival of Mr. Willoughby Shortland, in June, 1840. From this date, a stipendiary police magistrate was established at Wellington, and a Commission of the Police was issued shortly after, but no provision was made for about twelve months for the cognizance of civil inquiries or actions, or for the punishment of offences beyond the summary jurisdiction of the magistrates. In June, 1841, the Legislative Council met, and some important changes took place in the provisions for the administration of the law. By ordinance 4 Vic. No. 1, the laws of New South Wales were declared to be in force in the Colony. By the 4th Vic. No. 4, courts of general and quarter sessions and of petty sessions were established on the English model. By the 4th Vic. No. 6, Court of Requests were authorised to be established by the Governor, with jurisdiction to the extent of $P$50. E. S. Halswell Esq. was appointed chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions, and Commissioner of the Court of Requests, on the 20th July.
The sessions sat for the first time at Port Nicholson on the 1st October, 1841. William Martin Esq., was appointed, in London, Chief Judge of New Zealand in 1840, and, at the same time, Wm. Swainson Esq. was appointed Attorney-General.
They sailed from London in the “Tyne” in April, 1841, reached Wellington on the 9th of August, and went on to Auckland. They were respectively gazetted on the 28th September, 1841.page 424
The Supreme Court ordinance was established in December, 1841. (Ses. 11, No. 1.) “County Courts,” ordinance ses. 11, No. 2, was passed at the same time. Police Magistrate jurisdiction extension was passed by Session 11, No. 4.
E. S. Halswell Esq. was appointed judge of the County Court of the Southern District on the 12th February. The first County Court was held at Port Nicholson on the 18th May, 1842; they were held monthly, except in April and October, until September, 1844. In March, 1842, the first sittings of the Supreme Court were held at Auckland, and in October, 1842 (Wellington having, in February, 1842, been proclaimed the seat of a circuit court, to be held on the 1st April and 1st October in every year), the first sitting of the Supreme Court took place in Wellington (English law). The New South Wales was abolished by the ordinance ses. 11, No. 19.
Henry S. Chapman Esq. was appointed a Judge of New Zealand on the 7th June, 1843. He sailed from England in the “Bangalore,” and reached Auckland on the 23rd December, 1843, and was sworn-in and gazetted on the 26th.
Previous to 1844, indictments had more the character of informations, it being sufficient that they were signed by one of the law officers of the Crown, i.e., the Attorney-General, or Crown Prosecutor, and all Crown prosecutions were conducted by them.
On the discontinuance of the office of Crown Prosecutor, the duty of prosecutions devolved on private prosecutors, as in England, and R. D. Hanson Esq., solicitor, was appointed Crown Solicitor in the law office of the Crown for this district.
The ordinance ses. 111, No. 8, repealed the County Courts after the 1st October, 1844, and Courts of Requests, with jurisdiction up to $P$20, were established. R. D. Hanson Esq. was subsequently appointed Commissioner of that Court. When Mr. Hanson left the Colony, R. R. Strang Esq., the Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court, exercised the duties of the office.
The administration officers of justice and members of the legal profession practising in Wellington in 1846 were:—Chief Justice, William Martin Esq.; Puisné Judge, Henry Samuel Chapman Esq.; Registrar of Supreme Court, Robert Roger Strang Esq. (Deputy); sheriff, Henry St. Hill Esq.; crier, Mr. W. H. Bottomley; members of the legal profession, Messrs. Daniel Wakefield, Hugh Ross, Robert Hart, Alfred de Bathe Brandon, John King, Charles Cator, Robert Suckling Cheesman. Barristers and attorneys practised coequally.
Supreme Court trials in Wellington from 1844 to 1846, were:—Number of indicments 60, number ignored 12; number of persons tried, 64 Europeans, 3 natives; number sentenced to imprisonment 32, and 7 to transportation. Number of plaints entered, summonses 206; number of cases in which issue made up 86, for trial 88; amount of sums sued for, $P$58,395 13s. 1d.; amount of fees, £726 5s. 0d.page 425
Fig. 254.—Mr. Justice Johnston. (See page 349.)
Fig. 255.—Mr. Justice Richmond. (See page 358.)
Fig. 259.—Ebenezer Baker, Esq. Sheriff, Supreme Court.
(Figures 254, 255, and 258 by courtesy Sir F. R. Chapman.)page 426
Cases disposed of at the police offices from 1844 to 1846:—460 cases, being 295 against the person and 165 against property. There were 226 acquittals and 234 convictions.
Court of Requests. 1845–1846:—There were 237 summonses issued on debts not exceeding 40/-; 156 on debts from 40/- to £5; 104 on debts from £5 to £10, and 103 on debts exceeding £10.