Royal Commission report day 1 page 15
The Royal Commission evidence for 23/3/1881
139 Is it under 30 miles?- I should think about 30 miles.
141 On the report you made certain recommendations. "I have therefore the honour to request that an enquiry may be instituted by the Government," and before that you say "the conduct of the members of the force has been, according to some, characterised by an inconceivable disregard of human life, and according to others, by an absence of that courage and dash which every good constable should possess." Now is it your opinion there is the least want of courage or dash in the constables or sergeants of police?- I do not think so.
142 Do you believe there was supineness or apathy in these men as a body or in individual cases of constables shirking their duty, or in bringing the murderers to justice?- I believe all the police employed in the North Eastern district were most anxious to catch the outlaws and would have endangered their lives to catch them.
143 That is your evidence as the head of the department, and after being six months with them?- Yes, I do not say that in the force every man is a hero; there may be some perhaps who have not much courage, but as a body I cannot speak too highly of the men under me for the six months I was at Benalla.
144 You were in constant daily communication with the sergeants, constables, and men at Benalla?- I was
145 Did you ever see the slightest reluctance at any time or period of the day or night to go out at once to perform their duty?- No, on the contrary, a laudable anxiety.
146 According to that, you approve of the conduct of those police who allowed the men to escape after the shooting of Sherritt. was that courageous conduct?- My firm belief is that if they had left the house every one would have been shot dead.
147 You ask that "the enquiry may be full and impartial, and open to receive the evidence of all persons, whether members of the force or not, who may have information on the subject to communicate" -of course, that the country expect-but you say "that the proceedings should not be open to the press, for though the full details of what the police have been doing should be known to the Government, it would be obviously contrary to public policy that they should he published for general information." I suppose you are aware that all the members on this Board are more or less identified with the public, Members of Parliament, or otherwise; that they receive no remuneration; that they have been severely criticised on this Board; and do you think it would be fair to them that the press should not be present?- My only objection to the press being present has been entirely laid aside by the remark made by the Chairman on the first meeting of the Board which was to the effect that those portions of the evidence which may bring certain men into positions of annoyance and danger may not he reported by the press.
148 Your number two recommendation you consider unnecessary now, provided what the Chairman said is carried out?- Certainly; I have not the remotest objection to it; the only thing is, I hope the Commission will be good enough to exercise a certain amount of discretion to prevent the names of people being admitted into these proceedings to whom the consequences may be serious or even fatal.
149 Then you wind up your report with this remark-"The report of the gentlemen making the enquiry should, l think, be all that should find its way into the hands of the public." Now, provided that the names of the parties who would suffer in their persons or their property by giving information or evidence here are protected by the discretion of the Chairman, do you consider it at all desirable that the public should not have the fullest information upon it?- I think; not. Might I be allowed to suggest that some names I mentioned to-day should not appear upon the records.
The Witness mentioned the names of several people named in his evidence which he wished to be left blank.
The Chairman requested the shorthand writer to comply with Captain Standish's request.
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