Western Australia - Interim period: 1901-1917.
Telegram fraud - the Dolton case.

It is sometines difficult to put together the procedures which were actually followed at a particular time and what items were being used for what purposes. Nothing helps to clarify details than a good trial in the Courts of Justice.

Sush a case was that of Frank Lewis Dolton. Details of the charges and hiscommitment to Trial were written up in many nespapers.

They show:

The Daily News (Perth) 27 November 1905:

"At the City Police Court this morning the postal official, Frank Lewis Dolton who, on Saturday, was remanded for eight days on a charge of having, on July 12, fraudulently uttered a false document purporting to be a Western Australian £1 postage,appeared to answer two further charges.

The first was that, on or about November 24 at Perth, he, being employed in His Majesty's Post Office, stole postage stamps to the value of £500.

The second charge was that, on or about November 21, accused stole 22 telegraph books of stamped telegraph forms, valued at £2/2/.

The accused, who appeared perfectly calm and collected was defended by Mr. M. G. Lavan. Sergeant Thomas asked for a remand for eight days Mr. Lavan asked that bail should be allowed. Last Saturday Dolton was before the court on another charge, and bail was allowed, but immediately he left the court he was arrested on two other charges. Consequently the action of the justices in allowing bail was of no avail. Such procedure savored of persecution rather than prosecution. Dolton was well-known in the city, and it was necessary that he should have liberty so that he might take steps to answer the charges preferred against him. Sergeant Thomas formally opposed bail being granted. The bench remanded accused for eight days, bail being allowed him-self in £400, and two sureties in £200 each".

Part 2: The commitment

The Daily News (Perth) 21 December 1905


The hearing of the four charges preferred against Frank Lewis Dolton, late officer in charge of the telegraph despatch office, Perth, of having stolen Government property which came into his possession by virtue of his employment, was commenced at the police court today.

Mr. A. E. Barker (Crown Solicitor) appeared for the Crown, and Dolton was represented by Mr. A. S. Cannning August Stang, check clerk in the Post and Telegraph Office, Perth, said that accused was suspended from his duties on November 24. He was appointed officer in charge of the telegraph despatch office on June 28 last. Prior to that date he was clerk in the check office, where the telegrams were checked.

Between February 28 and April 27 of the present year, Dolton was away from his usual duties and was acting as clerk to Mr. Young, the expert who inquired into the working of the office. His principal duties in the check office were to tie up telegraph statements and sort and bag original stamped telegrams. A new system in regard to cablegrams, which required them to be stamped, was initiated in April. Cables from outstations were kept in the Perth office and arrived by post. When they arrived, cables were examined so that they were properly stamped and were then filed. Cables from outside stations were telegraphed to Perth, and the original vouchers followed by post. Since April the original cable messages received by witness would bear obliterated stamps.

The accused sorted out and tied up the April cables, but subsequently another clerk performed that duty. Up to June 28 accused had access to the original cables. At the time accused was transferred from the check office nothing wrong was noticed in regard to the cables. After the cables had been removed to the crypt witness had occasion to refer to the cables received subsequent to April. On November 17 witness received a report from the officer examining them, which caused him to order that the whole of the original cables received from April should be examined.

This was done, and it was found that out of those received during May, 93 cables, bearing stamps to the value of £215 were missing; out ot those received during June, 210 cables with stamps to the value ot £517 affixed, were missing; the July bundles were complete; out of the August bundles, 46 cables, with stamps of a value of £113 were gone; from September to date the stamps on the cables were punched (and so rendered valueless and these bundles were found to be complete.

He reported the matter in writing on November 23, and accused was arrested on the following day. Further evidence was given by this witness concerning the accused's connection with the stamps and his alleged irregularities. Other evidence was then tendered. Evidence as to the value of the defaced stamps, and the departmental methods of dealing with stamps was then given.

Detcctive Condon stated that as a result of interviews with post-office officials, he went to accused's house at Clarence Street, North Perth, at 1 p.m. on Friday, November 24. He told accused that he had a search warrant to search the premises and to save ransacking the house, if he had any £1 postage stamps he had better produce them. Accused, in reply, said he had a lot of stamps belonging to a Mr. Stacey who was in the east. Accused then went to a bookcase from which he took two stamp albums. Witness took from the bookcase a cigar-box which contained 7 bundles of 100 £1 postage stamps and one bundle of £50. After witness had found some other stamps accused produced three boxes containing thousands of stamps, the greater number of which were £1 stamps. A large cardboard box found in the bookcase contained mutilated cables and stamp statements. On the accused, witness found a cigar case containing portions of cables with stamps affixed. There was also a steamboat ticket to Adelaide for Mrs. Dolton and two children. Subsequently witness arrested accused on a charge of uttering a false document purporting to be a £1 W.A. postage stamp.

On the way to the lock-up accused said "This is hard luck. You know the things would be of no use; they would be burned. They would be of considerable value to me, getting a small screw. Do you know you are taking away at least £1,000 with you. One pound stamps are worth 8/- each in Melbourne and Sydney". Witness said "To my mind taking stamps is not the worst feature in it. The charge is using cut £1 stamps for the purpose of defrauding the Department". Accused replied ''Oh there is nothing in that at all. I have never done anything of the sort. I know I have done wrong in taking the stamps away, and I will have to put up with the consequences". A little later accused said "I had a prestiment all was not right and I intended to come home and burn everything, so a little later you would have found nothing".

This concluded the evidence for the prosecution. Mr. Barker said that for the present he would abandon the charge of uttering a false document but asked for a commitment on the three charges of having stolen postage stamps valued at £500; having stolen 22 books of telegraph forms valued at £22; and of having stolen a large number of pieces of paper bearing original messages for transmission. Accused, who reserved his defence, was committed for trial".