The case against John Paul Carolin

JP Carolin trod a grey line for much of his life and he got away with much of it, but in 1882 things finally caught up with him. The Kyneton Observer had shadowed his movements for some time promising to “never spare that man”. While observing the Barry v Carolin case George Sands, the owner of The Kyneton Observer and the Kyneton Chronicle, seized his chance to expose JP Carolin once and for all.

On the 4th April 1882 JP Carolin served The Kyneton Observer with a writ for £1,000 damages for libel with regard to the editorial piece against him with regard to the Carolin v Barry Case.1

This was the very moment that George Sands had been waiting fifteen years for. “There were matters which he wanted cleared up and he did not care for an action (against him)”

The stage was finally set for a ding-dong battle in the Sandhurst assize court in front of the Chief Justice and a twelve-man jury, with wide-ranging scope, between John Paul Carolin and George John Sands with a packed gallery and the whole town abuzz. At 10am on 17 July 1882 they commenced arguments and it was an elegant, articulate and entertaining spectacle indeed. They proceeded over the next two days to argue, outlay and examine in-depth the circumstances and character of John Paul Carolin.

JP Carolin disliked The Kyneton Observer, when the paper pointed out his fudging of the books when he was a collector for the Kyneton Hospital. The animosity between John Paul Carolin and George John Sands, began when George Sands was a member for Dalhousie and appointed Sergeant Drought to the Crowns Lands Bailiff. Carolin said that Sands had thrown him aside and the quarrel began.

There was subsequently a subscription for “The G J Sands testimonial committee” which Carolin was the Secretary of and he stated this was in effect an out right bribe to George Sands and released the subscription list to the Kyneton Guardian who published it. George Sands subsequently brought a libel action against the paper for defamation.

George Sands was a justice of the peace and his rival Armstrong owned the Kyneton Guardian newspaper. During their libel action Carolin testified on behalf of Armstrong and subsequently George Sands was struck off as a Justice of the Peace. Sands later said, “Carolin had done him an injury by swearing something which he afterwards admitted was untrue and that Carolin had declined to make a written declaration the it was untrue and in consequence he would let the Sandhurst people know what Carolin’s history was as he had known him.”

Next there was some candid admissions John made during a council meeting about the members he represented when discussing the erection of the clock tower in Kyneton. It became serious with the messy ructions that JP Carolin had with Cr Chanter and the appointment for the position of President of the Licensing Bench. It never improved from then and at every opportunity they could each of Carolin and Sands tried to score points against the other.

An unwanted saddle, dodgy subscriptions & forged letters

In 1866 JP Carolin selected land which he later relinquished with the help of Mr Tucker. Soon after JP Carolin sent a saddle to Mr Tucker anonymously. Mr Tucker wasn’t playing ball though and took out an advert in The Kyneton Observer on the 13 December 1866 that said:

“The undersigned wishes to know the name and address of the person who recently sent him a saddle, in order to communicate with him as to his intentions in sending the same. Unless such information is furnished within fourteen days from the date hereof, the saddle will be sold and the proceeds given to the Kyneton Hospital.— R.B. TUCKER.”

George Sands sent JP Carolin’s subscribed newspaper with the advert circled for his attention. JP Carolin didn’t let on though and so the saddle was raffled in mid-January 1867.

During this time JP Carolin was employed by the Committee of the Kyneton Hospital as a collector earning commission that varied between 10-50% depending on the time of year of collection. In January 1867 The Kyneton Observer pointed out that that JP Carolin was falsifying his accounts by placing sums collected in January 1867 in his December 1866 list of contributions and thus earning the 50% commission instead of the 10% that is paid for the start of the year. Included within his accounts was one for £12, which were the proceeds of the raffle for the saddle sent to RB Tucker. Carolin escaped censure from the Kyneton Hospital Committee by the deciding vote of the chairman.

In February 1867, Carolin forged a letter, dictated to and penned by William Payn, a solicitor, posted at the Woodend post office under the name of William MacQueen to The Kyneton Observer. It was published:

“To the Editor of the KYNETON OBSERVER.— Sir,—Having read the remarks of your various correspondents on the above subject, I think you deserve the confidence of the subscribers to the Hospital for the impartial and spirited manner in which you have exposed, and have been the means of exposing, what appears to me a most flagrant abuse in connexion with the institution. I have had an opportunity of seeing a copy of the report for 1866, and to my surprise I find my name put down for £1, whereas l gave the collector £2. I intend to lay the matter before the Committee, and if they do not take more decided steps with reference to Mr Carolin’s conduct, I shall try other means. “Before concluding my letter, I beg to assure you that I fully concur in your last remarks on this subject, especially those in which you particularly criticise the conduct of the President, Mr William Thomson, in giving his casting vote in favour of Mr Carolin.—I remain, your obedient servant, WILLIAM MACQUEEN. Woodend, February 27th, 1867.”

Upon seeing the letter published, JP Carolin appeared at The Kyneton Observer’s office and demanded to see the letter’s handwriting and left saying that he would bring legal action against the paper for damages claiming, “I’ll make you sweat for this”.

Afterwards The Kyneton Observer conclusively proved that JP Carolin had written the letter, the Kyneton Hospital Committee investigated the matter and JP Carolin denied all knowledge and signed a declaration stating the same. However the evidence was so overwhelmingly against JP Carolin that he was dismissed from their service.

An assault with a long handled shovel and perjury

In 24 September 1873, between 8-9am, JP Carolin became sick of a dispute with his neighbours the Sheehan’ s over a drain that was blocked and flooding his yard. With extreme violence he leapt the fence between them and struck Mrs Sheehan with a long handled shovel three times across the shoulders and arms and leapt back over the fence again. Mrs Sheehan was cut to the bone on the knuckles of her hand and had bruises on her arms and shoulders.

At this stage JP Carolin was a councillor and it soon became a case of one sides evidence against the other with the verdict decided against JP Carolin and he was fined £10 with £2 costs.

JP Carolin immediately brought a perjury case against Mrs Sheehan over technicalities within her testimony which he won with the deciding evidence being that given by JP Carolin himself. Mrs Sheehan was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to serve some time in jail.

The Kyneton Observer at the time stated, “the evidence was very conflicting and persons in Kyneton who know the prosecutor and accused can best form an opinion as to the justice of the verdict of the jury, which we may add was accompanied by a recommendation to mercy.”

The assault by David Barry

On 12th December 1881, in the Junction Hotel at Kyneton, Carolin was canvassing the electors for Mr Stanbridge. An excited Sands came in and addressed Carolin, “you are an infernal scoundrel. You are guilty of all the crimes in the calendar”. Carolin lunged for Sands but was held back. John Barry, the publican was heard to utter, “My god Carolin will get it the night”.

At about 8:30pm an inebriated David Barry spotted JP Carolin getting into a cab outside the Hotel and struck him in the left eye, knocking him down. Carolin called out “You coward, you assaulted me; I will make you pay dearly for that”. Barry came at him again and punched him in the mouth knocking him against the house where he slumped and loosening his front teeth. Barry then kicked him in the leg. Mr Barry was motivated by what he said against Dean Geoghegan prior to the previous council election.2 Barry was looking at doing some serious time for the assault.

Mr Purves was the lawyer acting for David Barry and he cross-examined JP Carolin to test his credibility and he was willing, relentless, methodical and impassioned. Carolin became very uncomfortable indeed and before he was pressed too much further and a rather abrupt arrangement was made. Carolin would accept an apology from Barry and reduce the charge to common assault on the condition that Mr Purves suppressed the details fo his cross-examination. Barry was give 7 days jail and fined £10. 

The Kyneton Observer made quick and pointed accounts of the proceedings: 

“While awaiting to be called on, Mr Carolin was unable to disguise his feeling that the heaviest penalty should be inflicted, that the law would allow on Mr Barry. It was only when he was smarting under the severe cross-examination of Mr Purves, and damaging admissions were being wrung from him, that he showed any signs of relenting. It was clear to every one present, that Mr Purves had got Carolin’s measure, and meant to brand him as a liar, and one whose testimony should never be received in any court of law. 

“The volume of the OBSERVER with the reports of the proceedings of the Hospital Committee, at the time when Carolin was dismissed from the collectorship, lay upon the table of the Court in front of Mr Purves, and we think that this fact contributed largely to the ‘generous forgiveness’ of Mr Carolin. 

“It is refreshing to find Mr Carolin, a Justice of the Peace, admitting in his cross-examination by Mr Purves, that the evidence he gave before the Hospital Committee in reference to sending a forged letter to the OBSERVER, was a deliberate lie. The admission bad to be wrong from him, and counsel remarked that ‘it was fortunate for him that he did not get a few years on the roads to keep him in remembrance of it.’

The plaintiff was guilty of forgery, and that the plaintiff had given false evidence in the witness box, whereby the plaintiff was inured in his business and in his character and reputation as a justice of the peace.

There is another point which cannot escape notice, and that is Carolin’s evasion and prevarication when cross-examined as to his remarks in reference to Dean Geoghegan. He denied having called the Dean a “rascal” and having offered to erect this notorious monument to his memory, or having used any words to that effect, and then, when His Honour referred to this point he withdrew what he had already sworn.

How, this man, Carolin, is entitled to write the magic letters “JP” after his name, and takes his seat on a magisterial bench from time to time. The very essence of the position is, that it should be filled with men of pure minds and unblemished reputation, and above suspicion ; but out of his own mouth Carolin has undoubtedly proved that he is absolutely destitute of any one of these necessary attributes, and no one could feel assured that in any court in which he adjudicates, honesty and justice are allowed to have their sway. For our own part we may say that a greater blot on the constitution of the Victorian Magistracy, than Carolin’s name on the list, cannot possibly exist, and if the Government, after becoming acquainted with his own version of his own history, do not strike his name off the roll, an undoubted wrong will be done to the community, and the very name of honesty will be insulted.”

John Paul Carolin quietly resigned his position as Justice of the Peace for the Midland Bailiwick.12 13 Prior to the court case he moved from Kyneton into Sandhurst, which was later renamed Bendigo.

The verdict

The summing up itself lasted a whole day including one and a half hours from the judge and the verdict was arrived at at 10 pm on the Saturday. The jury came in favour 10-2 of George Sands. The legal costs to JP Carolin were in the order of £800 to £1000.

Ultimately this was about settling scores between two characters of Kyneton, but it finally revealed in clarity and without ambiguity the lengths to which JP Carolin went to create wealth, get his way and force his will upon others. He certainly mellowed later in his public office and became a much more esteemed politician, but in his early days in Kyneton he was as ruthless with his use of power and favour in the district as the time allowed.


  1. Mount Alexander Mail (Vic) Wed 5 Apr 1882 Page 2, ITEMS OF NEWS
  2. The Kyneton Observer Tue 26 Jul 1881, Page 2, MR CAROLIN AT LAURISTON
  3. The Kyneton Observer Thu 17 Oct 1872, Page 2, OUR REPRESENTATIVES
  4. The Kyneton Observer Sat 21 Feb 1874, Page 2, No Title
  5. The Kyneton Observer Sat 21 Feb 1874, Page 2, CASTLEMAINE CIRCUIT COURT
  6. Kyneton Guardian Wed 1 Oct 1873, Page 3, KYNETON POLICE COURT
  7. The Kyneton Observer Thu 2 Oct 1873, Page 2, POLICE
  8. The Age (Melbourne, Vic) Mon 17 Jul 1882, Page 2, NEWS OF THE DAY
  9. The Kyneton Observer Sat 22 Jul 1882, Page 2, SANDHURST COURT OF ASSIZE
  10. The Argus (Melbourne) Sat 22 Jul 1882, Page 10, THE KYNETON LIBEL CASE
  11. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic) Sat 22 Jul 1882, Page 1, CAROLIN v. SANDS
  12. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic) Fri 21 Jul 1882, Page 3 ,CAROLIN v. SANDS.
  13. The Argus (Melbourne) Thu 20 Jul 1882, Page 9, A KYNETON LIBEL CASE
  14. Mount Alexander Mail (Vic) Wed 26 Jul 1882, Page 2, ITEMS OF NEWS
  15. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic) Wed 9 Aug 1882, Page 2, GOVERNMENT GAZETTE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s