The Argus at KellyGang 3/3/1882

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(full text transcription)

The Police Commission report was dealt with by the Cabinet at a protracted sitting held yesterday. It was decided to appoint Mr Chomley to be chief commissioner of police, and to reinstate Assistant Commissioner Nicolson and Superintendent Hare pending their appointment at an early date as stipendiary police magistrates. Superintendent Sadleir will also be reinstated, but he is to be censured for his imputation of cowardice to Senior-constable Kelly, because that officer requested not to be sent to Greta. This minute was ordered to be cancelled.

Inspector Brooke Smith's case was not entered upon, as that officer was about to retire, in consequence of extreme ill-health. Detective Ward was reduced to the lowest position in the grade in which he is now classed for having misled his senior officers. A board is to be appointed to deal with the accusation against Sergeant Steele that he deliberately fired at Mrs Reardon and other innocent persons at Glenrowan. The three constables Duross, Dowling, and Alexander, who were in Sherritt's hut on the night he was murdered, are to be dismissed the force. The other portions of the commission's report will be dealt with subsequently.


The Cabinet held a special meeting yesterday to consider the report of the Royal commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the Kelly outbreak and the conduct of the police in connexion therewith.

The members absent were Mr Burrowes, who is now in Sydney, Mr Young, who is at Hamilton, and Mr Graves, who declined to take part in the deliberation, inasmuch as he had been a member of the commission, and had also occupied a prominent position in relation to the inquiry. The consideration of the report occupied the attention of the Ministers almost the entire day, a brief interval for the transaction of business in the Executive Council being the only interruption to the sitting. It was decided at the outset that it would be desirable to deal only with those portions of the report which affected officers who are either under suspension or whose conduct has received unfavourable comment from the commission. It was thought that the remaining recommendations – those dealing more particularly with administration – could be more satisfactorily dealt with at a subsequent stage.

The appointment of a chief commissioner in place of Captain Standish (retired) was considered, and it was agreed that that office should be conferred upon Mr H M Chomley, superintendent, and present acting chief commissioner. This gentleman was regarded as the officer in the service who is most suited for promotion to the post, and it was further resolved that he should be requested to immediately undertake the duty of reporting upon the present organisation of the force, and the reforms which it will be necessary to carry out in order to improve its effectiveness. Mr Chomley joined the police as a cadet on the 21st September, 1852; he was promoted to a lieutenancy on the 3rd May, 1853; to the office of sub-inspector on the 1st February, 1854; to be a second-class inspector on the 1st January, 1855 ;a first-class inspector on the 1st January, 1859; a second-class superintendent on the 26th September, 1863; a first-class superintendent on the 19th of August 1871; and made acting chief commissioner on the 20th March, 1881, in the room of Mr Nicolson, who was relieved from duty (in common with other officers) at the request of the Police Commission during the progress of the inquiry.

Mr Nicolson, assistant commissioner, and Mr Superintendent Hare were dealt with alike, the Cabinet feeling that it would not be just to either of these gentlemen that any discrimination should be exercised between their respective positions. In reference to Mr Nicolson the commission recommended:–

"That Mr Nicolson, assistant commissioner, has shown himself in many respects a capable and zealous officer throughout his career in the force, but he laboured under great difficulties through undue interference on the part of Captain Standish and the jealousy occasioned by that officer's favouritism towards Superintendent Hare. The want of unanimity existing between these officers was frequently the means of preventing concerted action on important occasions, and the interests of the colony greatly suffered thereby. In view of these facts, the commission do not think that the force would be benefited by reinstating Mr Nicolson in the office of acting chief commissioner of police. Further, your commissioners recommend that in consequence of his impaired constitution, caused by hardships endured in the late Kelly pursuit, Mr Nicolson be allowed to retire on his superannuation allowance as though he had attained the age of 55 years.

Concerning Mr Hare, the commission reported:–

"That Superintendent Hare's services in the police force have been praiseworthy and creditable, but nothing special has been shown in his actions that would warrant the commission in recommending his retention in the force, more especially when the fact is so patent that the 'strained relations' between himself and Mr Nicolson have had such a damaging influence on the effectiveness of the service. This feeling is not likely to be mitigated after what has transpired in the evidence taken before the commission, and we would therefore recommend that Superintendent Hare be allowed to retire from the force as though he had attained the age of 55 years, and that owing to the wound he sustained at Glenrowan, he receive an additional allowance of £100 under clause 29 of the Police Statute (No 476)."

The two officers were thus practically regarded alike by the commission, and in considering their cases the Cabinet considered that to a great extent the recommendations of that body concerning them were sound. It was conceded that each had rendered signal service to the colony, but at the same time it was felt that it would not be advantageous to the force, or likely to promote its thorough administration, if they were permitted to return permanently to their respective offices. The Cabinet, however, did not concur in the recommendation that these gentlemen should be superannuated, and it was agreed that they should be formally reinstated in their former positions. This rehabilitation will be but a nominal proceeding, as neither gentleman will be expected to undertake active duty. Each will be retained in his position pending his appointment as a stipendiary magistrate, which will be made in a few weeks, and the action decided upon yesterday was merely in recognition of their claim to be retained in the public service.


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