Royal Commission report day 37 page 17

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The Royal Commission evidence for 20/7/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 37)

[[../../people/peD_G/fosterMag.html|Mr William Henry Foster]] sworn and examined

13336 By the Commission— What are you?— Police magistrate and coroner.

13337 You have been for some time in this locality?— I have been here nearly three years and a half.

13338 I think you heard those cases that were tried of the Kelly sympathizers?— I did.

13339 Did you form at that time any strong opinion as to what was the cause of the Kelly outbreak in this district from the evidence that came before you?— As far as the sympathizers were concerned, during the time they were there, there was scarcely any evidence taken at all. It was merely sufficient to justify a remand in the first case, and then that was repeated from time to time for three or four months, I think.

13340 In passing through the country as you have been, and learning a good deal of the feeling of the people, have you formed any opinion as to the cause of the outbreak?— I have heard it frequently attributed to the occurrences that took place at Ned Kelly's hut at the time of the shooting of Fitzpatrick.

13341 Do the public generally understand that the Kellys and Byrne belong to what may be termed the criminal class?— I think so.

13342 Had they been concerned in trials for cattle stealing?— I think so, and together, I think. It must have been for some time, for I had not been here long before I heard their names connected with the criminal classes, and the Sherritts also. Aaron and others were before me at the police court.

13343 We have it in evidence here that Aaron Sherritt was brought to the court on warrant for having stolen a horse from Byrne?— I think I heard the case myself.

13344 That case would hardly justify you in looking upon him as a horsestealer?— No, I think not that alone. It was by general rumour that I formed the opinion more than by any actual knowledge on my own part, that the family generally were considered loose characters.

13345 I suppose you do not know anything whatever of the state of the district before the Kelly outbreak?— No, I have not been in the district for twenty years except a very short time.

13346 We have it in evidence that one or two police stations were closed–Glenmore and Greta; do you think if those stations had been kept open it would have prevented an outbreak?— It certainly would have been well if they had been kept open, in my opinion.

13347 You think the police would have had a better command of the district?— Yes, I think so.

13348 We intend, when we enquire into the management of the police force generally, to go into the question of whether it would be better under general government or local government. Have you formed an opinion whether the police might be more efficient under local supervision than being under the general head in Melbourne ?— I think decidedly the latter. I understand you to mean a constabulary under the control of the municipal bodies as compared with a constabulary under the Government control.

13349 Yes , that they should form boards of the several municipal bodies, to take police districts for instance?— I think the administration of police should be under Government, as opposed to municipal management.

13350 Of course the telegraph is through the whole colony, and information can be sent to head-quarters very quickly. Have you formed any opinion whether there is at all likely to be another outbreak?— 1f I were to offer an opinion, it would be nothing but my own ideas to go on. I would say, if a gang were formed, that it would be probably with the object of swooping down on some bank; but I do not imagine they would ever go to the length the Kelly gang did.

13351 Do you consider that the fact of the Kellys having obtained the plunder tended to keep them in the field so long?— They could not have remained so long without the money; to have secreted themselves and evaded the police for such a length of time must have cost a great deal of money.

13352 You have heard a good deal of the police movements after the Kellys : do you consider they were specially active and energetic after the Kellys ?— I think the best was done that could be, as far as my observation went, which was not very great. I may add to that, that I have never seen any reason to suppose otherwise than that the police had every desire to effect their capture.

13353 I think that is the general feeling, only we have very important evidence here, given by the police themselves, that some of their officers could not be got out at all after the outlaws?— I merely speak of my own experiences.

13354 Do you think the system that was adopted was the best under the circumstances?— The circumstances of the case were so exceptional that it was very difficult for anyone to map out a direct line of conduct; but I am satisfied the efforts that were made were made with an earnest intention to effect the capture of the men. But the conditions of the case were very exceptional; it was difficult to say how best to go to work.....

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