Sir Redmond Barry in court
As a judge, Redmond Barry was unsympathetic to offenders and developed a reputation for harshness. He once sentenced a man to 12 years hard labour – two of them in irons – for stealing a few trinkets from a travelling salesman. As the media reported at the time:
So convinced is he of the hideousness of having the land overridden with fugitive convicts that he doles out to every bondman (ex-convict) that comes under his lash nearly one-half more punishment than he awards to those who, having come to the country free, have deserted the path of virtue.
– The Argus, 15 February 1853
Galbally, A 1995, Redmond Barry, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, Vic.
Barry's most famous trial was that of Ned Kelly, in 1880, where he sought to defuse the growing perception of Kelly as a hero. In court Barry said that in cases where:
... society is not bound together so closely as it should be ...' making heroes of criminals required society to condemn felons as beasts of the field with nowhere to lay their heads.
– Judge Redmond Barry
Jones, I 2003, Ned Kelly: a short life, Lothian Books, South Melbourne, Vic.
Barry then directed the jury to rule out the possibility of a conviction on the lesser charge of manslaughter for Kelly's role in the Stringybark Creek police killings years before, and a guilty verdict was handed down after just over half an hour.
Barry sentenced Kelly to death by hanging with the traditional: 'May God have mercy on your soul'.
Kelly replied: 'I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there when I go.'
Redmond Barry's reputation as a harsh judge may have been deserved, but Barry had always lived life by the rule of his own opinions, of which he had many. His role in Victoria's early criminal history cannot be forgotten.