Royal Commission Appendix 20 for 10 October 1881

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Story of the KellyGang - the Royal Commission

Minutes of Proceedings

The Royal Commission

(full text transcription)



MONDAY, 10th OCTOBER 1881 .


Mr. LONGMORE in the Chair;

Mr Anderson, Mr Dixon

Mr Hall, Mr Levey

Mr Fincham

Minutes of previous meeting read and confirmed

Mr. Levey moved, Mr. Dixon seconded:—That in the management of the notice in the North-Eastern district Mr. Nicolson Assistant Commissioner, evinced great zeal, and underwent considerable hardships, which told severely upon his constitution.

The Commission are, however, of opinion that on several occasions the conduct of Mr; Nicolson was not characterized by judgement and discretion. They would recommend that Mr. Nicolson do not return to duty as Acting Commissioner, but that, in consideration of his services, he be allowed to retire upon the same superannuation allowance as though he had attained the age of 55 years.

Mr. Hall moved as an amendment, Mr Anderson seconded:—That Mr. Nicolson, Assistant Commissioner, has shown himself in many respects a capable and zealous officer throughout his career in the force, but he labored under great difficulties through undue interference on the part of Captain Standish, and the jealousy occasioned by that officer's previous favoritism exhibited towards Superintendent Hare. The want of unanimity existing between these officers was the means of preventing any concerted action in important matters, and the interests of the colony greatly suffered thereby. In view of these facts, the Commission do not think that the force would be benefited by re-instating Mr Nicolson in the office of Acting Chief Commissioner of Police. Further, we recommend that in consequence of his age and impaired constitution, which suffered through hardships endured m the late Kelly pursuit, Mr. Nicolson be allowed to retire on his superannuation allowance.

The motion was put and negatived, the voting being as follows:—For—Mr Levey, Mr Dixon, Mr Gibb. Against—Mr Longmore, Mr Fincham, Mr Anderson, Mr Hall

The amendment was put as a substantive resolution and carried. The following was the voting:—For—Mr Longmore

Mr Anderson, Mr Fincham, Mr Hall. Against—Mr Levey, Mr Dixon, Mr Gibb. Mr Hall moved, and Mr. Anderson seconded:— “That Superintendent Hare's services in the police force have been praiseworthy and creditable, but nothing special has been shown in his actions that would warrant the Commission in recommending his retention in the force, more especially when the fact is so patent that the 'strained relations' between himself and Mr Nicolson have had such a damaging influence on the effectiveness of the service. This feeling is not likely to be mitigated after what has transpired in the evidence taken before the Commission; and we would therefore recommend that Mr Hare be allowed to retire from the force as though he had attained the age of 55 years, and, owing to the wound that he received at Glenrowan that he receive an additional allowance of £100 per annum, under clause 29 of the Police Statute, No. 476.

Mr. Dixon moved as an amendment, That all the words after “creditable,” in the second line, be struck out, with the view to inserting the follow:— “That during the time he was in charge of the North-Eastern district he displayed great zeal in his endeavors to capture the outlaws, and by the prompt and active steps taken by him on receipt of the news of the murder of Aaron Sherritt the gang were destroyed, and their leader, Ned Kelly, brought to justice We therefore recommend that Superintendent Hare be allowed to return to duty.”

The amendment was put and negatived. The voting was as follows:—For—Mr Dixon, Mr Levey, Mr Gibb. Against— Mr Longmore, Mr Anderson, Mr Fincham, Mr Hall.

The original resolution was declared carried.

The following resolutions were also agreed to:—

“That the evidence discloses that Superintendent Sadleir was guilty of several errors of judgment while assisting in the pursuit of the Kelly gang ; that his conduct of operations against the outlaws at Glenrowan was not judicious or calculated to raise the police force in the estimation of the public. That the Commission are further of opinion that the treatment of Senior-Constables Kelly and Johnson, by Superintendent Sadleir, was harsh and unmerited, and the Commission recommend that Superintendent Sadleir be placed at the bottom of the list of superintendents when the changes necessitated in the force by the recommendations of the Commission have been carried out.”

“That a most favorable opportunity of capturing the outlaws at a very early period of their career of crime, namely, on the 4th November 1878, was lost, owing to the indolence and incompetence of Inspector Brook Smith. Your Commissioners consider that Inspector Brook Smith committed a serious blunder in not having started in pursuit of the outlaws immediately upon receiving Information of the gang having been seen passing under the bridge at Wangaratta, and also in not having properly followed up the tracks of the outlaws in the Warby Ranges, a proceeding which would have warranted your Commissioners in recommending his dismissal from the force. Your Commissioners, however, having in view his former efficiency, recommended that Inspector Brook Smith be called on to retire on a pension of £100 per annum.”

“That, in the opinion of the Commission, Detective Ward, while he rendered active and efficient service during the pursuit of the gang, was guilty of misleading his superior officers upon several occasions, more especially in connection with Mr. Nicolson's cave party, Superintendent Hare's hut party, and the telegram forwarded to Senior-Constable Mullane by Mr. Nicolson when the latter was superseded on the 2nd of June 1880. The Commission therefore recommend that Detective Ward be censured and reduced one grade.”

“That in the opinion of your Commissioners the conduct of Sergeant Steele was highly censurable in neglecting to take action, when, on the 4th November 1878, he received reliable information that the outlaw had been observed on the previous morning passing under the One-mile bridge at Wangaratta. Although despatched on special duty, there seems no reason why, having under his command at the time a large body of troopers, he should not have gone immediately in pursuit. The tracks were plainly discernible; the men observed were undoubtedly the outlaws, and had they been then followed they must have been overtaken in the Warby Ranges . Sergeant Steele had full power to act upon his own discretion, and there can be little doubt that, had he exhibited judgment and promptitude on that occasion, he would have been the means of capturing the gang, and preventing the lose of life and the enormous expenditure of money incurred subsequently in the extermination of the gang. Your Commissioners therefore recommend that Sergeant Steele be reduced to the ranks.”

“That the constables who formed the hut party on the night of Aaron Sherritt’s murder, viz.: Henry Armstrong, William Duross, Thos. Patrick Dowling, and Robert Alexander, were guilty of disobedience of orders and gross cowardice, and that the three latter—Countable Armstrong having resigned—be dismissed from the service.”

“That the entries made by Superintendent Sadleir in the record sheets of Senior-Constables Kelly and Johnson be cancelled and the Commission recommend these members of the force to the favorable consideration of the Government for promotion.”

“That the Commission approve of the action taken by Constable Bracken when imprisoned by the Kelly gang in Mrs. Jones's hotel, at Glenrowan, and recommend him for promotion in the service.”

“That in consequence of the reprehensible conduct of Mr. Wallace, the State school teacher, during the Kelly pursuit, and his alleged sympathy with the outlaws, together with the unsatisfactory character of his evidence before the Commission, lead your commissioners to think it very undesirable that Mr. Wallace should be retained in any department of the public service. We therefore recommend his immediate dismissal from the Education department.”

“That the conduct of Mr. Thos. Curnow, State school teacher, in warning the special train from Benalla to Beechworth on the morning of the 28th of June 1880, whereby a terrible disaster, involving probably the lose of many lives, was averted, deserves the highest praise, and the Commission strongly recommend that his services receive special recognition on the part of the Government

“The Commission desire to record their approval of the conduct of Mr. C. H. Rawlings during the attack upon the outlaws and consider that his services deserve same consideration at the hands of the Government.”

“The Commission desire also to express their approval of the assistance rendered to the police at Glenrowan by the member of the press present.”

“That your Commissioners desire to record their marked appreciation of the courtesy and promptitude displayed by the Queensland Government in forwarding a contingent of native trackers to Victoria to aid in the pursuit of the outlaws. We take this opportunity of expressing our approval of the services of the black trackers as a body, and deeply regret that any misunderstanding amongst the officers in command of operations in the North-Eastern district should have led to unpleasant complications.

The Queensland contingent did good service, and your Commissioners trust the Victorian Government will not fail to accord them proper recognition.”

The Commission adjourned until the following morning, at Eleven o'clock

11/10/81 .



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