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On Sunday afternoon, 31 August 2008, just on six years ago now, I conducted a seminar at the Pride History Group, at Glebe, a Sydney suburb. The seminar was divided into two parts; before the afternoon tea break I presented details about the recently completed three volume, 2,200 pages, Unfit for Publication (UFP). After the break there was a question and answer session.

Having explained previously that I believed that I had collected as much NSW data as I possible could, seeing that the lower court Quarter Sessions – depositions – had not survived a fire on 22nd September 1882 which destroyed the Garden Palace, situated Sydney Domain, which according to the NSW Police Gazette contained, amongst others “ …Government Archives.” A smart alick in the front row at the seminar self-assuredly lamented ‘that their would be newspaper reports of the cases for which depositions had not survived’.

SRNSW: NRS2467, [3/60- 89], State Penitentiary photographic description book, 9 Apr-2 Jul 1915. Photo: Peter de Waal
SRNSW: NRS2467, [3/6089],
State Penitentiary photographic
description book, 9 Apr-2 Jul 1915.
Photo: Peter de Waal

This revelation spurred me on to make UFP even more complete!

The starting point and initial resource for UFP was the NSW Police Gazette. All the entries were checked in newspaper reports to explore if further details were available. A number of entries described in the Gazette as indecent assault, after examining newspapers, were found to be indecent assaults on females. Since the number of these cases was small the decision was made to retain them as part of UFP.

Over three-hundred metropolitan and country newspapers were examined for court proceedings coverage to supplement details for some 1,750 cases.

Projects evolve and grow as research continues. So it was with the following:

Photographic gaol description sheets, more commonly called, gaol photos, provide much useful biographical, physical, and other details, apart from the photo, of previous offences committed by convicted and gaoled perpetrators. The gaol photos facilitated following up previous or subsequent offences committed (not necessarily sexual ones) by quite a number of offenders through newspaper searches. 

Nearly 1,200 gaol photos are included in this second edition, starting from as early as 1872 and continuing to the mid 1930s.

The gaol photos are kept in various formats at State Records NSW: Firstly, the fragile photos have been microfilmed and are only accessible by viewing the films; secondly, the less fragile ones are available, in bound volumes, for examination; finally, some volumes have been dismantled and are thus available as individual sheets.

SRNSW: NRS2467, [3/611- 9], State Penitentiary photographic description book, 5 May-7 Oct 1927, No. 22345, p. 99. Photo: Peter de Waal
SRNSW: NRS2467, [3/611- 9], State Penitentiary
photographic description book, 5 May-7 Oct 1927, 
No. 22345, p. 99. Photo: Peter de Waal

The condition of the paper to which the photos are adhered, for the latter two categories, is somewhat brittle. Often the sheets are bent where the photos have been attached, presumably caused by the kind and age of the glue used.

In order to make a reasonable flat image of the ‘curly’ photo sheets small paper-weights were required.

To contain the overall budget for the second edition, and in particular the gaol photo costs – images of originals provided by SRNSW cost $25 each – the author has photographed a considerable number himself using the paper-weight method as described above.

This edition of UFP also includes around three hundred and fifty relevant illustrations consisting of: a sketch or drawings of the crime locations; a hand written page and cover of judge’s notebook; court deposition covers; sketches of penal institutions and other noteworthy locations; mastheads of early newspapers; one page of a four page ‘love’ letter; and numerous historic and current photos of public buildings, including those of NSW courthouses; and many other ones.

While searching various sources a number of offenders’ divorce proceedings emerged; in some instances divorce court transcripts were found while for others only newspaper reports could be obtained. Similarly, a number of offenders had served in WWI and a National Archives of Australia link has been included so that their war service can be examined.

Accordingly, the initial printed three volume 2,200 pages version, also called the first edition of UFP, has grown to over 7,000 pages made up of almost 4 million words.