The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 21 May 1879 1
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.
(Before his Honor Sir William Manning.)
The Hon the Attorney-General and Mr Armstrong prosecuted for the Crown.
Stephen Lafage, about thirty years of age, was charged with having committed an unnatural offence, [upon a dog, ]. Mr M Stephen prosecuted for the Crown. The prisoner was defended by Mr O’Ryan, instructed by Mr Cooke, and being French Mr Lemaire interpreted the evidence for him. The jury found him guilty of the attempt.
Mr HW Beechey said that since the prisoner had been in Sydney he had been a hard-working man, and nothing was known against him. About twelve months ago he arrived here from New Caledonia where he had served a sentence of over ten years for having received some stolen church property. It was placed in his room in Paris when he was a very young man, and he averred that he knew nothing about it. He was married in New Caledonia about nine years ago.
The Judge remanded the prisoner for sentence.
NEWS OF THE DAY.
The general sittings of the Central Criminal Court were resumed at Darlinghurst yesterday before his Honor Sir William Manning. The Hon the Attorney-General, Mr Armstrong, and Mr Milner Stephen prosecuted for the Crown. The Judge reduced from three years to twelve months the sentence of Thomas Brown, alias Elliot, who pleaded guilty last week to the larceny of a mare, a filly, a cart, and some harness. He had promised to do so if Brown could confirm his statement that he had suffered from sunstroke and insanity prior to the offence being committed. This Brown was enabled to do. William Wells, a middle-aged man, was charged with having murdered William Higgins at Grafton, on December 26. The evidence showed that the two men had crossed the Grafton ferry together, in the absence of the ferryman, and that Wells had returned and stated that Higgins had fallen into the river and got drowned. He also admitted that he had made no effort to save Higgins. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, and he was remanded for sentence. Stephen Lafage, a Frenchman, recently from New Caledonia, was found guilty of having attempted to commit an unnatural offence. He was remanded for sentence.
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The Evening News, Thu 22 May 1879 2
THE COMMUNISTS IN SYDNEY.
WE have made careful inquiry concerning the recent arrivals from New Caledonia, about 50 of whom are now residing at a restaurant in George-street North, and who may be seen wandering about our streets, clad in a way which at ones bespeaks their nationality, even were that not at once apparent from their faces and general bearing. The great majority of those men are, as above indicated, French by birth, and all have borne at least 10 years’ exile in the island from which they have just arrived. Most of them are somewhat undersized men, with the brown skin and the dark eyes of the Marseillaise, in whose veins runs Italian blood; but amongst them are a few natives of Italy, and one or two Dutchman—the last nation whom we would suspect of being coloured by Communism. From information supplied by the men themselves, and from those who should be perhaps more reliable authorities, we learn that Sir William Manning was the other day wrong in supposing that the 500 or 600 prisoners who are now being liberated, or about to be liberated, in New Caledonia are dangerous criminals. Most of those who find their way here, including the men now alluded to, are not criminals, but merely political offenders—men who, to use a French expression, have left their native country “in consequence of a difference with the Government on the subject of politics.” Not one of the arrivals by the City of Melbourne, we are most earnestly assured, left France in consequence of any quarrel with the Government on the subject of criminal law; and we may add that many of them have shown our representative a certificate from the Consul to that effect that “—– is a free man and ‘ancient’ political offender.” There are two classes of confinees in New Caledonia—transportes or criminals, and deportes or political offenders—who are known, known, when their “time” in finished, as libere and amnisties respectively. Amnisties—like the French passengers by the City of Melbourne—may go where they please immediately on finishing their period of exile; but a libere sentenced, say for five years, has, on completing that term, to undergo a further period of supervision, called, in France, doublage, corresponding to the institution known under our penal system as ticket-of-leave, during which it is necessary for him to report himself every evening at the police station, and until the expiration of which he is only free so far as liberty to roam about New Caledonia under certain restrictions is concerned. On finishing his doublage he can go where he likes, but if he returns to France he is still under police supervision. The amnisties, on the contrary, is not of necessity watched. Stephen Lafage, who was sentenced yesterday, and whose case formed the text for the Chief Justice’s remarks, was a criminal who had been convicted in France and sent to New Caledonia, where he had served his term of confinement, and also his doublage, and cannot in any way be regarded as a type of the more recent arrival.
Some misunderstanding appears to exist in regard to the convention between Lord Lyons and the Dac Decazes concerning the treatment of expires from New Caledonia, a copy of which was recently laid before Parliament here. In the document alluded to it is stipulated that the French Government “ne favoriserait pas” the introduction to Australia of deportes. The words quoted above have been, absurdly enough, translated into English in the copy laid before the House as “would prevent”—thus giving a positive meaning to a phrase which could at best fairly be made to bear only a negative construction, inasmuch as a prisoner, whether he were a political offender or a criminal must, if not sentenced to imprisonment for life, at some time regain his freedom and have the range of the world. The representatives of the French Government in Australia have, we are assured, always been, and still are, most desirous to prevent the importation of objectionable characters—that is to say, criminals—and are ready to give the local police every assistance in the event of expiree convicts finding their way here, as is sometimes (Lafage’s case, for instance) unavoidable. Theses men represent a variety of occupations, among their number being carpenters, masons, hatters, butchers, and ordinary labourers. One or two are men of good education, and many of them appear to be of high intelligence—perverted perhaps in days gone by by the teachings of the political apostles of Montmatre and Belleville. One describes himself as a clerk, and another as a scene painter. Five or six have obtained employment, and the only difficulty which places itself between most of them and a living is the fact that the majority speak not a word of English. The French authorities are, we believe, doing their best, in conjunction with the Inspector-General of Police, on behalf of these strangers, and are trying to get those able to do such work employment on the railway line. If they do not succeed in obtaining for them a fresh start in life, it is probable that their passages will be paid back to New Caledonia, whence they will be taken to France by Government vessels, and sent to their homes. As it would appear that the arrival of the men exposes the community to no special danger, we hope that the public will give them a fair chance, and that the French authorities will not find themselves under the necessity of sending back men who, in this free country, may prove themselves excellent colonists.
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The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 22 May 1879 3
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.
(Before his Honor Sir WIILIAM MANNING.)
Mr Lee prosecuted for the Crown.
Stephen Lafage, found guilty on the previous evening of having attempted to commit an unnatural offence, was brought up for sentence. On being asked if he had anything to say why the sentence of the Court should not be passed upon him, he said that he was innocent of the charge against him, and had been a victim to circumstances. His Honor said that the jury had believed that the prisoner was guilty. He would not pass a long sentence upon him; but he would make it severe while it lasted. He would sentence the prisoner to be sent to Berrima gaol to be kept to hard labour for 12 months, and to be kept apart from other prisoners there.
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Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Fri 23 May 1879 4
THE NEW CITY DANGER.
At the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday morning his Honor Sir William Manning, in passing sentence upon Stephen Lafage, an expiree from the French convict settlement, for an attempt to commit an abominable offence, said that he considered it to be his duty to take public notice of the danger to which this community will be exposed if free and indiscriminate admission is to be given to expirees from the convict settlement in New Caledonia. He thought it necessary that the attention of the Government should be called to the subject, in the hope that some provision might be made, corresponding with these of certain neighbouring colonies, to prevent the accession to this colony of a very undesirable class of persons. He was the more induced to make these remarks because he had been informed on the authority of the police, since this man’s conviction last evening, that a considerable numb er of criminal convicts had lately arrived in Sydney from New Caledonia. That a very great number, 500 to 600 it was said, were about to be released by the French authorities, he considered it obvious that the comparatively close proximity of this colony, and the attractions it offered for colonisation, were likely to determine the flow of such expirees largely into our midst, and the more so as they would be excluded from Victoria and, he believed, from South Australia also. His Honor also observed that transportation to Australia had long since been prohibited in respect of our own people with the most beneficial effects in elevating these provinces, and it would indeed be lamentable if the obliquy which we have so carefully removed should be revived within this particular colony by our shores being thrown open to all the convict expirees from the adjacent penal settlement of New Caledonia. Lafage was sentenced to twelve months’ hard labour in Berrima gaol, and was ordered to be kept apart from all other prisoners.
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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Sat 24 May 1879 5
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.
(Abridged from the SM Herald.)
MONDAY, MAY 19.
TUESDAY, MAY 20.
Stephen Lafage, charged with having committed an unnatural offence has [sic] found guilty of the attempt. Mr WH Beechey said that since the prisoner had been in Sydney he had been a hard-working man, and nothing was known against him. About twelve months ago he arrived here from New Caledonia, where he had served a sentence of over ten years for having received some stolen church property. He was married in New Caledonia about nine years ago. He was remanded for sentence till the following day. On being brought up on Wednesday, in answer to the charge, the prisoner said he was innocent; he was the victim of circumstances. His Honor said he would not pass a long sentence upon him; but he would make it severe while it lasted. He would sentence the prisoner to be sent to Berrima gaol to be kept to hard labour for 12 months, and to be kept apart from other prisoners there.
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Stephen Lafage, Gaol photo sheet 6
Gaol Photo Sheet - Transcribed Details
No. on Gaol Register: 129/77
Date when Portrait was taken: 7th March 1879
Prisoner's Name: Stephen Lafage
Native place: France
Year of birth: 1830
Arrived Ship: Egmont
Trade or occupation
Religion: R. C.
Education, degree of: R&W
Colour of hair: Dark brown
Colour of eyes: Brown
Height: 5' 5"
Weight On committal: 140
Marks or Special Features:
Where and when tried: Sydney Criminal Court
Offence: Attempt to commit an unnatural offence
Sentence: 1 year HL Berrima Gaol and to be kept part from all other men.
Remarks: 10th June 1879. To Berrima Gaol
(No. of Previous Portrait ... )
|Where and When||Offence.||Sentence|
Has served a sentence of 10 years in N[ew] Caledonia.
1 The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 21 May 1879, pp. 5, 7. Emphasis added.
2 The Evening News, Thu 22 May 1879, p. 2. Emphasis added.
3 The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 22 May 1879, p. 6.
4 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Fri 23 May 1879, p. 2.
5 The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Sat 24 May 1879, p. 12.
6 SRNSW: NRS2138, [3/6043], Darlinghurst Gaol photographic description book, 1879-1881, No. 2054, p. 15, R5100.