Gaol Records - Alice Hanson, Darlinghurst Gaol

After researching some old gaol records, I have come across some very interesting, albeit often tragic events, that lead to the incarceration of those on trial. There were a variety of offences that constituted a range of sentences and charges. Examples such as, indecent language, riotous behaviour, drunkenness, theft, or vagrancy, usually incurred imprisonment of weeks, to months, at a time. Crimes considered more serious such as rape or murder, generally received years and occasionally, death.

Alice Hanson was a woman who had been sent to Darlinghurst Gaol on two occasions. The first in 1896 was for ‘attempting suicide’. Alice explained in court that she decided to poison herself following ‘some cross words with her husband’. After swallowing a quantity of ‘oxalic acid, partly by mistake and partly with intent’ to kill herself, she was found in her bed by Sergeant Brennan. Brennan induced vomiting and reported that ‘the accused’ would survive, therefore she was ordered to be imprisoned until the ‘rising of the court’.[1]

Alice, who was a nurse, was back in court for performing three abortions in 1907. At the time, it was illegal to terminate a pregnancy as it contravened the ‘Offences Against the Person Act 1861’. Alice was charged with ‘unlawfully using an instrument, with a view to procuring a certain event’. Unfortunately for Alice’s patients, two became seriously ill as a result of septicemia.[2] There was an application for bail but this was refused as Alice’s previous suicide conviction came to the fore. It was believed if she was released, she might try to harm herself as she had done so previously.[3] Therefore, Alice was ordered to serve 18 months and upon the completion of her sentence, she was instructed to find a fifty pound surety to ‘keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years’, otherwise she would be sent back to prison.[4]

[1] The Inquirer and Commercial News, 24 Jan. 1896, p.15.

[2] The Australian Star, 25 Jan. 1907, p.6.

[3] SMH, 22 Jan. 1907, p.11.

[4] SRNSW: Photographic Description Books Darlinghurst Gaol (1818-1930), NRS2138, Roll 5112.


SRNSW: Photographic Description Books Darlinghurst Gaol (1818-1930), NRS2138, Roll 5112.