Sedition, violence, theft and disorder : crime, protest and the use of the criminal law in Wellington during the General Strike of 1913.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis investigates the connection between industrial protest and the crime committed in Wellington during the 1913 General Strike. The possibility that the ways in which the criminal law was implemented changed in response to the strike has also been examined. The crimes focused upon include violence, theft, anti-state actions, seditious utterances, verbal abuse, threatening behaviour and desertion. Crimes committed in Wellington during and in the two years before the start of the strike have been researched. In all, 1757 criminal charges for violence, theft or potential anti-state actions are studied. Some comparisons are made with violence, crime, prosecutions and policing during the 1890 Maritime Strike and the 1951 Waterfront Dispute. International research on crime, protest, prosecutions, policing and industrial disputes is also discussed to provide a basis for the New Zealand case study. Six hypotheses from the international research are tested against the data gathered on Wellington. Three of these hypotheses concern crime as protest by strikers. The other three hypotheses focus on the uses made of the criminal law during industrial disputes (through arrests, prosecutions, verdicts, sentences, the refusal of bail, and jury trials). Offences by strikers against their employers and against strike-breakers are found to have been surprisingly infrequent in Wellington in late 1913. Crime as protest by strikers and sympathisers against special constables was very common. There is no evidence, however, that theft was used as a form of protest during the strike. The response of the police to the 1913 strike and the related disorder was to intensify their efforts to control certain types of offences, in particular, socially threatening "crimes" associated with the strike. Overall, the police displayed a surprising degree of restraint in making arrests. The analysis of conviction and sentencing patterns indicates that the Wellington judiciary responded firmly to the period of disorder and heightened social tensions, but that this response was neither malicious nor indiscriminate. The criminal law was not used as a means to remove (through conviction and imprisonment) all "undesirables" or potential "troublemakers" from the streets of Wellington. Many of those who were convicted of strike related offences received longer terms of imprisonment and larger fines than were imposed prior to the strike. These sentences were intended to deter potential offenders and prevent further disorder, as well as to punish those caught. The penalties were firm but not as severe as the law allowed.