Last updated:

August 12, 2021

What do I need to know?

The name of the individual on trial. 


How do I search?

Enter the full name into the search box below.


About these records

Once the prosecution of the individual on a capital charge was finalised, the trial judge was obliged to inform the Governor that the accused had received the mandatory death sentence.

These files document the process that followed, in which the death sentence (and not whether the accused was guilty) was reviewed to determine whether a recommendation should be put to the Governor to commute the sentence to a prison term or indefinite detention subject to the Governor's will. The final decision was made at a meeting of the Executive Council.

The file for the bushranger Edward “Ned” Kelly is not held in these series.  Refer to the page on Kelly for information on finding that file online.

These records are subject to closure under the Public Records Act for a period of 75 years.

Who created these records?

The capital case files were created by the Law Department (VA 2825).

The capital sentence files were created by staff of the Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851-1855 and Governor's Office)

Next Steps

Once you have found records of interest to you, order them to view in our Reading Room.

What are in these records?

  • reports (e.g., prison, psychiatric, etc.) written by various agencies as to the suitability of the person for mercy
  • copies of Executive Council minutes (taken from VPRS 1080)
  • any letters, petitions, telegrams or other correspondence received on this matter
  • police photographs of the person, and
  • newspaper cuttings related to the case.

The contents and size of these files will vary significantly according to each individual, reflecting the extent of the review undertaken and the degree of publicly the case might have attracted at the time.

Files will usually contain some form of documentation from the trial judge who imposed the mandatory death sentence informing the Governor that it had been imposed. 

Other records that might be found in these files can include:

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples