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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Strange Scenes in Courthouse

Strange Scenes in Courthouse

An attempt at abduction took place in the courthouse in the presence of Mr. Wardell. A native couple who wished to be married were followed by a man who was determined that the woman should become his wife. The woman clung to Mr. Wardell in terror, imploring him to protect her. According to the Hawke's Bay Herald, “the scene that ensued was magnificent, for the magistrate (notwithstanding that his clerk went to his aid), the would-be bride and bridegroom, the intending abductor and one-or two others all ended up rolling on the floor together.”

On another occasion Mr. Wardell was called upon by a pakeha and a fine-looking half-caste girl from the Coast who wished to be married. Among those who witnessed the ceremony was a police-sergeant from an outside district. As it was proceeding he recognised the bridegroom as a military deserter and contrived to handcuff him. The other witnesses began to laugh boisterously. When the position was explained to the bride after the ceremony she sprang on her horse, and, gaily bidding her lover farewell, galloped off back to her home.

The trial of cases by the natives at their own tribunals proved a great handicap to magistrates in some districts. Towards the close of 1856 the Government appointed native assessors to sit with them when cases affecting a native, or natives, were set down. To assist Mr. Wardell, Paratene, Kahutia and Rawiri were selected. However, the natives still regarded his court as a “pakeha” court. A system of native local government was introduced in 1862. In each district there was to be a European magistrate as Native Commissioner, together with a native council of twelve members, native assessors and native police. Some delay occurred in replacing Mr. Wardell, who had been transferred to Wellington. W. B. Baker (postmaster at Rangitukia) became Native Commissioner for Waiapu.

Much of the crime in Poverty Bay in the early 1870's was investigated by members of the Armed Constabulary, of whom thirty, under Major Pitt, were stationed at Ormond. Frequently it became necessary for some of them to do duty in Gisborne. Armed with pistol and sword, they revelled in the task of maintaining order. There was a spirited protest in April, 1873, when the police strength at Gisborne was reduced to a single policeman In the following month the roll was again increased to a sergeant and three constables. [The new sergeant was Edmund Pattricks page 202 Joyce, who remained in the position until 1876. Three years later he built the original British Empire Hotel. He became prominent in local politics.]

Early Gisborne's lock-up (the blockhouse) had no terrors for its inmates. Some prisoners were allowed to sleep in the constables' rooms. As there was no fence, prisoners made a practice, in summer, of sauntering down to the beach for a swim during exercise periods. In 1874 the supplier of meals went on strike, because payment to him was so much in arrears. Prisoners were then given only bread (1½ lbs. daily), together with water ad lib. Following upon a public meeting of protest, a cookhouse and conveniences were provided and the blockhouse was fenced. The practice of permitting prisoners to sleep in the constables' rooms was then required to be discontinued.