Royal Commission report day 3 page 14

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The Royal Commission evidence for 25/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 3 )

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence

This is my letter in reply to him:-

MEMO Police Department, Benalla,4th August 1879. In reply to the Chief Commissioner's minute M7787, 1/8/79, I beg to refer to the attached report, of 2nd instant from Superintendent Sadleir, and also to the amended return furnished in consequence of changes made since the 19th ultimo. I beg to remind the Chief Commissioner of the reductions made recently in this district, viz., fifty two constables and twenty three soldiers, in all seventy five men, and which do not include the detachments of military also lately withdrawn from Seymour and Avenel. The attached return shows what is left in each station in this district; and I must respectfully protest against any further diminution of strength, excepting where constables are employed watching the banks shall be replaced by suitable men at the expense of those establishments. The question appears to resolve itself into this: -Is it desirable to prevent further outrages by the Kelly gang? I submit that it is desirable to prevent further outrages. There is no doubt that their success has given them prestige, and that together with the amount of money they obtained, has procured them assistance, and has acted as an antidote to the high reward offered against them. I have reason to believe that the above effect is gradually becoming weaker, in consequence of their money being nearly all expended. There is also the bad moral effect which could be produced should they make another successful raid especially if blood is shed. ' The mere loss of money to any banking establishment is, I consider, of the least importance in this matter It is not advisable to speak, at present, of the prospect of capturing the outlaws. But I trust that the existing state of things will not last much longer in the North Eastern District; and I hope that the present strength will not be reduced, and that as little attention as possible will be drawn to the subject. C. H. NICOLSON, Asst. Commissioner Police.

874 The date of that letter is 4th August 1879?- Yes.

875 Then that was the month after you resumed duty on the second occasion?- Yes, I had to go down to Melbourne once or twice to remonstrate about that; and my whole time, as witnesses will prove or a great deal of our time at that time, with all this trying work hanging over us, was taken up in that way; there was not a month or two months passed without something of this kind to distract us from the business we had in hand.

876 When was that?- The whole time till the time I was superseded.

877 This is the communication you sent a month after you resumed duty?- Yes.

878 Was there any answer from Captain Standish?- Yes.

879 Have you it?- No, I have not, but the amount of men and the strength of the system I was to pursue was known to Captain Standish before that. The reason I repeated was, I found it necessary to repeat in matters of duty of that kind, to make it as plain as possible to Captain Standish.

880 Did he reply to that, explaining why the number of men had been reduced?- I have no recollection; probably he did.

881 Do you complain that, in reply to that, he reduced the men further, or did he send you more?- My reply to that is, that my force was never kept up to the mark. When I did get men to supply the places of those men, I had sick men and invalids sent up to me in that district.

882 He did not assist you after that remonstrance?- He may have sent one or two men. I can get the exact reply.

883 I recollect, at that time, there was a long talk in the House of the outlay, about the large expenditure, and the money would not be voted-perhaps there was some reason?- There was no increase to the estimates, to the number of the police force at all, so that there was no increase with the number of men with this Kelly raid; those extra men in the North Eastern District were taken from other districts.

884 As the answer to that letter would be of an official character, is it likely to be in the press copies of the department? -I hope to find it in that; but during that time the strength of the force was never made up; and when I left the office, I used always to keep that and other memoranda before me on my writing table in the office. There was a list of the men who were missing on the table or above the chimney. I had been short of men even at Cashel, that most important place, where most serious outrages might have been committed, where we had no telegraph station.

885 Will you supply the Commission with the force in the North Eastern District at the time that you left charge in 1880?- Yes, I will do so. Captain Standish alluded to my business habits, and my agents. I do not wish to take any notice of that, but I just wish to show the mode of my settling up, and, for that purpose I will quote my report to the Chief Commissioner with reference to one of those agents. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that the essentials have been complied with. In the first instance the man does not make his appearance for a certain date, but I had arranged he was to be paid off on the day previous to that. I did not pay him after that, because I communicated with him in the channel which he chose himself. I next make sure I part with him on good terms, and not send him away to do us harm. [The witness handed in the following paper:]-

"Benalla, 26th February 1880. - Memo. -Confidential. -

1. The attached claim is for services principally rendered last year, that is from 1st November 1879 to beginning of February 1880. Claimant made a charge up to yesterday's date, but, as I had sent him notice on 3rd February that his services were no longer required, I have only allowed to the 5th, as any delay which occurred was his own fault, my notice having been sent to him through a channel of communication chosen by himself.

2 Of course I have taken care to satisfy him that he has been treated fairly, and he is ready to take service again if required.

3 He has been employed watching Brien and his orangery, and working between that place and Greta.

4 His observations and information obtained are valuable.

5 Will the Chief Commissioner be good enough to cause the amount to be drawn through the attached form H and sent to this office, so that £5 advanced to him can be stopped."

I was most particular in paying away money to the same class of people as the outlaws. I used to get receipts from the office here, and have them witnessed by Mr. Sadleir; and my expenses did not mount up; for one man and the service of his horse it amounts to only 15s. and £1 per week whilst I had him employed. The poor man lost by it, but it just so happened by the arrangement he made he thought he could gain by it. But the total expenditure of mine of that kind was very small indeed. I have finished my statement. ..

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