The Argus at KellyGang 19/10/1881 (2)

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(full text transcription)

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Mr GRANT laid on the table the second progress report of the commission appointed to inquire into the organisation of the police and the conduct of the force in the pursuit and capture of the Kelly gang.

The report was ordered to be printed.


The second progress report of the Police Commission was yesterday presented to His Excellency the Governor. The document, which is voluminous, deals exclusively with the circumstances antecedent to and attending upon the pursuit and extermination of the Kelly gang.

In the introduction it is stated that the commissioners from the date of their appointment in March, 1881, to the present time have held 66 meetings and examined 62 witnesses, besides visiting the various centres of population in the disturbed districts respecting the scenes of the outrages, and taking evidence upon the spot in relation to the more exciting incidents.

The following are the findings of the commission :-

1. That immediately prior to the Kelly out- break, and for some time previously, the administration of the police in the North- Eastern district was not satisfactory, either as regards the numbers and distribution of the constabulary, or the manner in which they were armed and mounted, and that a grave error was committed in abolishing the police station at Glenmore, and in reducing the number of men stationed at Stanley, Yackandandah, Tallangatta, Eldorado, and Beechworth.

2. That the conduct of Captain Standish, as chief commissioner of police, as disclosed in the evidence brought before the commissioners, was not characterised either by good judgment, or by that zeal for the interests of the public service which should have distinguished an officer in his position. The commission attribute much of the bad feeling which existed amongst the officers to the want of impartiality, temper, tact, and judgment evinced by the chief commissioner in dealing with his subordinates, and they can not refrain from remarking that many of the charges made by Captain Standish in his evidence before them were not sustained in his late examination, and were disproved by the evidence of other witnesses.

3. 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.

4. That the charge made by Superintendent Hare in his official report, dated 2nd July, 1880 - viz , that "Mr Nicolson, assistant commissioner, gave me (Hare) no verbal information whatever when at Benalla" - has been disproved by the evidence.

5. 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 effective- ness 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 per annum under clause 29 of the Police Statute (No 476).

6. That the evidence discloses that Superintendent Sadleir was guilty of several errors of judgment while assisting in the pursuit of the Kelly gang , that his conduct of operations against the outlaws at Glenrowan was not judicious or calculated to raise the police force in the estimation of the public. That the commission are further of opinion that the treatment of Senior-constables Kelly and Johnson by Superintendent Sadleir was harsh and unmerited. Your commissioners there-fore recommend that Superintendent Sadleir be placed at the bottom of the list of superintendents.

7. That a most favourable opportunity of capturing the outlaws at a very early period of their career of crime, namely, on the 4th November, 1878, was lost, owing to the indolence and incompetence of Inspector Brook Smith. Your commissioners consider that Inspector Brook Smith committed a serious blunder in not having started in pursuit of the outlaws immediately upon receiving information of the gang having been seen passing under the bridge at Wangaratta, and also in not having properly followed up the tracks of the outlaws in the Warby Ranges, a proceeding which would have warranted your commissioners in recommending his dismissal from the force. Your commissioners, however, having in view his former services, recommend that Inspector Brook Smith be called on to retire on a pension of £100 per annum.


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