... part of the KellyGang story
Full text of article
THE POLICE COMMISSION
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS
Sir,-I have read from time to time in your columns, with feelings akin to amazement, the letters and leading articles written upon the proceedings of the Police Commission. The former, to my mind, exhibit personal malignity, and the latter an amusing ignorance of the most patent facts adduced in evidence, I should be glad if ignorance were the strongest term applicable, but I fear pre- judice and partiality are the ruling motives in the present case. Your journal is not alone in this matter, for other Melbourne and country journals have been misled, and an impression has been created that the commission acted unfairly, with bias and foregone conclusions, while the officers and men - the subject of their recommendations - were the victims of gross injustice. As one well acquainted with the circumstances connected with the proceedings, and one who was seldom absent from the meetings of the commission, I contend that you have been either wilfully or inadvertently misled, doubtless by interested parties.
You allege that the report should be cast aside as illogical, contradictory, and as not supported by facts; and you assume the role of Mentor to the Government to such an extent that one feels disposed to exclaim, like the queen in "Hamlet," "The lady doth protest too much." Truly your opinion of the present Ministry must have sunk to a very low degree, if, as you think, our report is worthless, that you have to repeat your advice time after time in your columns, as though afraid the Government would give force to the recommendations of the commission after an impartial perusal. Your advocacy of Mr Hare's qualifications has outstripped all considerations of an impartial judgment. Almost all your leaders on the Police Commission report have been written to suit his case, while the others have only been touched upon to throw discredit on the commission. This leads me to think that you suffer as the commission did, an the police force did for years, as the authorities did, (and which was the cause of much unseemly scandal) from an incessant agitation kept up in all quarters and under all circumstances, with a view to influencing the opinions of those who could serve one individual.
When the time comes, this widely extended influence - which, mind you, I do not assert is accompanied by anything of a corrupt nature - will be exposed, and the public will better understand the secret spring, at work during the inquiry, and with which the commission had to contend..
Now, what are the facts? The officers were mutual accusers, and although they started with a pretence of friendly feelings towards each other, Captain Standish brought a series of charges against Mr Nicolson. He was seconded in this by Mr Hare, who said enough in his official report to crush and ruin his brother officer, and the man with whom he swears he had been on the most cordial terms of intimacy. Of all these charges, with the exception of a few comparatively trifling errors of judgment, Mr Nicolson was acquitted. A court martial or an ordinary tribunal, under such circumstances, might thereupon have pronounced an honourable acquittal, and allowed the accused to return at once to duty. But the functions and constitution of a Royal commission are different. The Police Commission, acting for the public welfare, had no power to do more than express an opinion and make a recommendation; but in this particular they were allowed to go further, and declare what was likely to prove advantageous or otherwise to the public.
Thus came about the decision respecting Mr Nicolson's retirement. It was not for anything that he could be accused of directly, but simply because it was felt that two such officers as Mr Nicolson and Mr Hare could no longer with benefit to the public service be permitted to remain in the same department. It will be said was not this unfair to Mr Nicolson? I confess I thought so, but the friends of Mr Hare would be satisfied with nothing less, and to avoid a deadlock a compromise was arrived at, that the fairest mode of settling the difficulty was by allowing both to retire under honourable circumstances, and well provided for. Although Mr Hare's allowance was the best, yet he seemed resolved to have nothing less than the chief commissionership, and it was his ambition to that position, and the zeal of his friends in backing up these pretensions, that caused mischief in the force for years, and brought about confusion, if not ill feeling, in the commission. Where does the want of logical conclusion and consecutiveness of thought arise here? Both gentlemen are admitted to be useful officers, but their "strained feelings" did in the past interfere with the working of the department, and would be attended, probably, by worse consequences in the future. Therefore the majority of the commission recommended that both should retire.
Their withdrawal was deemed necessary for the good of the public service. There never was any animus against Mr Hare on the part of the commission that I could ever detect in the slightest degree. In travelling he was frequently in the same carriage with the members of the commission, and often sat at the same table and joined freely in the conversation. I do not remember any other officer being treated in the same free manner. But had the proceeding been reversed, find Mr Nicolson taken up by the commission similarly, a howl might have gone up from fashionable and official quarters. As far as I am concerned I could with little difficulty justify my vote regarding the other officers, but as 1 believe your deepest interest is in the fate of Mr Hare, and that the other portions of the recommendations are simply brought in for appearance sake, I need not touch upon that part of the matter here, yet I am somewhat surprised to find you have such sympathy for the cowards who sneaked behind a bed, and used a woman's body to protect them from the bullets of the outlaws.
Your crowning effort has been the attack upon the secretary of the Police Commission, of whom I can speak personally, and whom I know to have discharged his duties throughout with tact and honesty. The letter upon which you have based your unjust attack upon him must, I presume, have been furnished by one of the officers, and furbished up by some friendly scribe so as to avoid libel, and thus prevent the secretary from seeking legal redress. I would not have replied to your numerous attacks upon the commission but that I notice your persistency in driving into the Government the fact that they must pay no heed to the report of the commission, and I thought it well to furnish you with a few facts that you seem to have entirely overlooked in your eagerness to thrust forward the one idea. -I am, &c.,
G WILSON HALL,
M»mber of Police Coinmission
East Melbourne, Feb. 16
This document gives you the text of the report about the KellyGang for this day. The text has been retyped from a microfiche copy of the original on the National Library of Australia's system. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors.