In March 1907, Perth’s acting Coroner, James Cowan, held an enquiry into the death of 5-month-old Ethel Booth. The baby had been in the care of Alice Mitchell in Edward Street prior to her death. The inquest took place in the coroner’s court, located in what is now referred to as the old Police Court building on Beaufort Street, Perth.
At the time, this building was quite new, having been completed in 1905. It was built with dressed stone from Donnybrook, in the state’s south west. Many buildings in Perth were faced with Donnybrook stone, but the Police Court was unusual in being constructed entirely of stone. The mansard roof was said to be “in French regency style”, while most of the interior furnishings were of local jarrah. Hillson Beasley, the state’s acting chief architect, designed the building.
The court formed part of a complex, with separate police barracks facing James Street, and a yard for stabling horses. Four cottages, which housed police officers and their families, also stood on the site. The cottages were replaced in the 1970s by the new Art Gallery of WA. The gallery now incorporates the old Police Court building and uses it to display works from the state art collection.
When the court was opened on 17 July by Police Magistrate Roe, the newspapers noted that it was a vast improvement on the “dingy and malodorous surroundings” of the previous court building in Barrack Street. The first person to be tried that morning, James Walker, had his charge for drunkeness dismissed by Mr Roe in honour of the occasion.