Royal Commission report day 12 page 9

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The Royal Commission evidence for 13/4/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 12)

[[../../people/peU_Z/wyattMag.htm|'Alfred Wyatt, P.M. giving evidence']]

2400 You would communicate with an officer in your district first?— Yes.

2401 Had you any occasion to do so?— Never.

2402 Then I assume, if it was your duty, and you did not do it, that nothing occurred?— Nothing occurred but one thing.

2403 What was that?— It was in the matter of arrests. I felt so strongly the course the police took was wrong and totally indefensible in a British community, in keeping those men in custody in Beechworth on what proved ultimately to be no charges at all, that at last I came and said to Sir Bryan O'Loghlen the then Acting Chief Secretary- “You are doing a great deal of harm to your own cause there, and I beseech you to take some confidential officer from your own department and send him there to enquire into the cases against every man, and discharge every one against whom there is not a case.” As a matter of fact, seven or eleven men were discharged.

2404 Was not the action taken by the then Acting Chief Secretary and Attorney-General such as legally could only be taken under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act?— There was no suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act.

2405 But it would be solely legal if that was suspended?— It was not legal as it was.

2406 It would be legal under the Habeas Corpus Act?— No.

2407 Was the action of the Attorney-General illegal in the way that it was done?— No, contrary-wise; his action was the rectifying of the illegality-to arrest a man without a charge was illegal.

2408 Under whose direction were those men arrested?— Standish's, I believe.

2409 Do you know that of your own knowledge?— I cannot say to what extent I know it.

2410 You have stated now that you went and remonstrated with the Chief Secretary?— Yes.

2411 Did you with Captain Standish?— Yes, and Mr. Sadleir.

2412 Did you hear Mr. Sadleir say, in his evidence here, it was done contrary to his opinion?— I did, and I was much struck with that, for with proper official reticence he had never said so to me before.

2413 He could not well have expressed that opinion upon his officer's action?— No, and I would not have asked him. I used to say to the officers in speaking of these matters, “Do not tell me anything if you do not feel at liberty.”

2414 It has been stated in the public prints repeatedly that the police of the district-that is the subordinate police and sergeants, and so on-all seemed desirous that they should be led by Mr. Hare?— I never heard that.

2415 Did you read it in the paper?— I never read it.

2416 Do you get the papers in your district?— I do, but although I feel it my duty to subscribe to all the papers in my district, I fall in arrear in the reading sometimes. I may have a hundred papers in my room to read through, and cannot get through all. I feel it my duty to know all that is in the papers, although they call me over the coals sometimes, and very rightly.

2417 There is a paragraph here in the Rutherglen and Wahgunyah News, 14th May 1880, which says that in Superintendent Frank Hare the men have the most perfect confidence’ and so on-[reading the .paragraph]. —The question is this— Are you aware, from being two years in almost daily communication with the police, that they wanted to be led by Mr. Hare?— No, I cannot say that.

2418 You have no knowledge of that?— No. I am sure there is a very enthusiastic liking for him for his dash and frank manner. Altogether he is universally liked in the force, and without saying that the others are not, I think it is true that there is more partiality for him amongst the men.

2419 You are firmly convinced that the plan adopted by Mr. Nicolson when he was in charge was, in your opinion from your knowledge of the district and particulars of the case, the most likely to be efficient in the end?— I am firmly convinced of that. I think it would have led to their being apprehended-no man can say how soon; but I think it was a fortunate accident for Mr. Hare that they committed themselves shortly after he went there. I think they would have been bound to commit themselves shortly after that, even if Mr. Hare had not been there.

2420 Is it not a fact that you sent a communication to Captain Standish complaining that Mr. Nicolson and Mr. Sadleir did not take the steps necessary at the time of your meeting them at the railway?— No. I have stated that Captain Standish is wrong in saying that.

2421 Did you write a letter?— No. All my communications with this gentleman were verbal, and I merely wished to correct that; and when I said yesterday, in this room, that Captain Standish was inaccurate, owing to the bad light I was under the impression that he was sitting behind me and was present at the time.

2422 You stated just now you had information that the Kellys were getting sausages and other provisions from Gould. Is it within your knowledge that they got maintenance of that character in any other portions of the district-Benalla for instance?— I do not know of my own knowledge. I was not told by any individual. I know it merely from seeing it in newspapers, and general talk, that Kate Kelly was there, and at the shops. I did hear there were a vast number of threepenny pieces in circulation, which were supposed to be from the bank robbery.

2423 Did you hear of New South Wales notes?— No.

2424 Are you aware how the Kellys were armed-do you know they had police firearms?— I know that from what I have read.

2425 Did you receive any information, as being magistrate of the district, of the purchase of ammunition from Melbourne ?— I did......

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