Royal Commission report day 5 page 11

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The Royal Commission evidence for 30/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 5 )

Stanhope O'Connor giving evidence.

1209 As a matter of fact you know there was a child hit?- I know there were one or two persons hit.

1210 They were not situated in that part that was in your view?- I believe they were in the front.

1211 You were not cognizant of that?- No.

1212 You were in charge at the time?- I was certainly in charge as a sworn in officer of the Victorian police. I have heard statements since that the authorities here say that I was not; because I had left, but it was on the understanding that once being an officer here when I was asked to go back and resume my work I still occupied the same position; but I believe, from a very fair authority, that is one of their police, that I had nothing at all to do with it-that I went up there simply as a volunteer.

1213 You went up at Captain Standish's special request?- Yes; and was not it worthy, after he had done that, of being acknowledged?

1214 And did not that show jealousy on his part?- If you follow the evidence throughout you will see the matter culminated in that point.

1215 Why did he ask you to go back?- Because he knew the outlaws would get away, and the police would be the laughing-stock of the colony. It was against his wish, but Mr Hare recommended it. You see the time he took to do it-when he saw the country and all would be at him he reluctantly did it. If it was not for Mr. Ramsay, who believed in the trackers, I firmly believe he would not have sent for me at all.

1216 Is it in evidence when Captain Standish received that telegram?- I think he said early in the day. What I say is this-taking merely one instance, I most decidedly admit it would not be borne out-but I contend that I have always labored under the disadvantage of his jealousy and discourtesy. But to understand that you must take the events all through from the commencement, from the time I stated he would endeavor to take the outlaws without us. Then there is the fact of his meeting me and saying, "What the Dickens have you done here; you have done nothing"; and I can bring out a great deal more in evidence.

1217 He stated you were brought contrary to his recommendations?- That, I think, is very conclusive.

1218 There was no jealousy between you and Mr. Hare?- Certainly not; not the slightest as far as I know, while I was up there, and the Police Department, as a body, worked most harmoniously together excepting Captain Standish; that was the only case that would be injurious to the public interest.

1219 During your experience with the police, did you see any want of efficiency on the part of the men?- As policemen or what?

1220 In any way?- As bushmen, certainly, there was a want of efficiency.

1221 You were here when Mr. Nicolson gave his evidence; he alluded to several instances of men in the police service where they were unable to know the proper use of firearms-in some cases, never having shot a single shot from any gun-did you meet with any men to lead you to suppose they were so thoroughly ignorant and unfit for that particular class of duty as that?- There were several cases. I cannot recall names or times, but I know there were men sent to Benalla who did not know what a breech-loader or a cartridge was, and they had to be thoroughly instructed; and Captain Standish objected to this, and wrote to discontinue this wasteful extravagance; but I mean as police constables they were a fine body of courageous men. I state that all those that came under my notice could not be better; they were a splendid body of men.

1222 Not lacking in courage?- No.

1223 But in discipline?- No; in discipline they were splendid. I never heard of a case where a man was called up and reprimanded.

1224 But they were no bushmen and not used to arms?- I do not say all of them, but a few. As to their capacity as bushmen, Mr. Hare will bear me out that on one occasion, in going to a certain place, we suddenly came across a road, and there were eight or nine or ten men, a great many of them thought they knew the country thoroughly, but they had no more idea than the babe unborn where they were. They had to send a constable a few miles down to find out where they were. There were no guides amongst the police, showing the actual necessity for some outside assistance, such as spies, who knew the country. I was out with Mr. Sadleir, with a party under Senior-Constable Flood, a most good and able man; he was able, but even he showed he did not know the country. After proceeding till four o'clock, instead of being at the place we thought we would, he told us he had gone the wrong way, that he thought the road led one way and it led another.

1225 Were they better adapted for town police than for a service of that kind -No, I did not say that. I say we wanted guides, we could not do with the police solely, some men (Mr. Hare and Captain Standish) never had guides, which I want to maintain Mr. Nicolson made it his first duty to get. ...

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