Saturday 18 February 2017

The Greatest Kelly Myth : Part 5.

Ten days before he was hanged Ned Kelly claimed that ill treatment and persecution of his family by Police were what drove him to behave as he did. He wrote :  “If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the Police are taught that they may exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away”. This is the central tenet of the Kelly story, the belief that ill-treatment and persecution ‘exasperated to madness’ and compelled Ned Kelly to take a stand because, as he claimed “There never was such a thing as justice in the English laws but any amount of injustice”

It is of course, quite common for accused or convicted criminals to claim to be innocent victims of a corrupt system, but examples of innocent people being wrongly convicted and even executed for crimes they didn’t commit are rare; they exist but they are rare - most such claims turn out to be wishful thinking. Ned Kellys audacious claim to be innocent is made even more outrageous by the fact that he openly admitted to stealing ‘innumerable’ horses and cattle, to robbing two Banks and to killing three Policemen, and attempting the railway massacre, hostage taking and siege at Glenrowan. Such extreme behavior couldn’t possibly be justified by petty or minor breaches of Protocol by local officials – extreme responses must surely require extreme provocation. To be in any way justified, such extreme behavior could only be a response to an equally audacious program of extreme persecution and corruption, which of course is what the Kelly legend claims was the case. But what is the evidence for such persecution?

In the previous four posts looking very carefully for the evidence of extreme persecution and corruption, what we have seen is that the actual historical evidence, the official records and the newspaper reports from the time thoroughly contradict this claim of Ned Kelly’s. Looking carefully at each one of the numerous interactions between the Kellys, the Police and the judiciary, up to  four years before Ned Kelly was hanged, its impossible to find evidence of any sort of systemic or routine persecution or ill treatment of the Kellys, let alone something extreme and harsh enough to justify the crimes of the Kelly Gang. Instead the pattern that emerges is of a system that frequently gave the Kellys the benefit of the doubt, dismissal or reduction of possible criminal charges, offers of sympathetic help, and surprisingly generous remissions of sentence. It was a system that when necessary the Kellys themselves had sufficient confidence in to make use of themselves in private actions. Moreover, when Ned Kelly was in Gaol, and later when he was allegedly ‘going straight’ for a couple of years, the record shows that the Police took no interest at all in the Kellys, leaving them completely alone. That, unequivocally is what the historical records show : zero evidence for  systemic corruption, Police persecution and ill treatment of the Kellys.

In this series of Posts I haven't yet discussed the last two recorded interactions between Ned and the Police before he took to the bush after Fitzpatrick was wounded at the Kelly household in April 1878. These incidents were the so-called Lydeker case from 1876, and Neds arrest in late 1877 for drunkenness. I wont discuss either of these cases here because I discussed the detail of both of these incidents a couple of years ago ( HERE and HERE ). Read them and see yet again, they provide absolutely no support for the poor persecuted Ned Kelly myth. The Lydeker case shows Ned once again being acquitted of something he almost certainly was guilty of because of the strict way the Law was followed by the Courts, making a mockery of his complaint that there was ‘never such a thing as justice  in the English laws but any amount of injustice’. Neds immature reaction to the arrest for being drunk resulted in the fine he had to pay being 60 times greater than it would have been if he had simply accepted the charge and the minor penalty. I cannot believe there are people who think that Neds violent behavior in this matter ( resisting handcuffs, and then claiming his drink was spiked ) is in any way consistent with a person capable of having high minded political vision about democracy and justice and a Republic. His behavior was typical of a drunken moron.

There remain a few other arguments that are advanced in support of the idea that the Kellys were persecuted, the first of which is the oft repeated claim that Supt Nicolson issued a directive that the Kellys were to be arrested, charged  and put in Prison for the slightest of misdemeanors “to take their prestige away from them”. Ian Jones wrote that “This opinion- which seems suspiciously like a directive – is often quoted as proof that there was an official policy of ‘persecuting’ the clan” Peter Fitzsimons wrote “From now on…it is official police policy to look for an excuse to put the family and their cohorts behind bars” Surely THAT statement is proof of Ned Kellys claim that there was a campaign of Police persecution?  Well, no it isn’t.! Its actually another of the myths perpetuated by Kelly supporters and repeated by followers who never bothered to read what Nicholson actually said. In any case, he said this in April 1877, much too late in the Kelly saga to give support to the idea that such a campaign was responsible for Neds anti-social behavior. By 1877 he had been in prison twice, and at that exact moment, though Nicholson may not yet have known it, Ned had already launched his criminal career of ‘wholesale and retail horse and cattle dealing’

What Nicolson actually said was that in his opinion  that without oppressing the people or worrying them in any way, that he should endeavor whenever they commit any paltry crime, to bring them to justice and send them to Pentridge even on a paltry sentence the object being to take their prestige from them, which has as good an effect as  being sent into prison with very heavy sentences …and that is a very good way of taking the flashness out of them’ . The very clear instruction was not to do what Peter Fitzsimons carelessly repeats from every other Kelly source, and to look for excuses to put the family behind bars but rather Nicholson makes it plain that the Kellys are NOT to be oppressed or worried ‘in any way’. Nicolsons instruction regarding the Kellys is ‘do NOT provoke them, do NOT attempt to entrap them, do NOT set them up or frame them, do NOT persecute or oppress or worry them IN ANY WAY!. This is the absolute OPPOSITE of a campaign of persecution . However, given the known lawlessness of the extended family of Kellys and Quinns, Nicolsons view was that if they put a foot wrong, the full force of the Law should be applied.  What Nicolson is affirming here is the absolute rule of law. And as we have seen, when the Kellys didn’t put a foot wrong, the Police left them alone.

This observation of the fact that when the Kellys were not breaking the Law they were left alone, is exactly the opposite of what would be predicted if Ned Kellys claim about unjust persecution was true.

But what about the Royal Commission some will say? The Commission severely criticized Police for the way they behaved during the outbreak and some of them were censured and demoted or  recommended for early retirement and others were sacked. Isn’t that proof of what Ned Kelly claimed, that the Police were corrupt and waged a campaign of ill-treatment and persecution  against him and against his family? Such a question  demonstrates that the person asking it couldn’t possibly have read the Reports of the Royal Commsission and is simply repeating the myths about it created by a litany of Kelly writers  that goes at least as far back as Kenneally  and as recently as Ian Jones, Justin Corfield and Peter Fitzsimons. The answer to the question is an absolutely emphatic NO, because the Commission specifically addressed that question and answered it in their findings as follows :
“ It may also be mentioned that the charge of persecution of the family by the members of the police force has been frequently urged in extenuation of the crimes of the outlaws; but, after careful examination, your Commissioners have arrived at the conclusion that the police, in their dealings with the Kellys and their relations, were simply desirous of discharging their duty conscientiously; and that no evidence has been adduced to support the allegation that either the outlaws or their friends were subjected to persecution or unnecessary annoyance at the hands of the police.”

There is no ambiguity or wriggle room in this statement. The Royal Commission, which sat for more than six months and interrogated  64 witnesses, and even visited Mrs. Kelly in her home at Greta concluded there was no evidence to support what we now know is the greatest of the Kelly myths, that the Kellys and their friends “were subjected to persecution or unnecessary annoyance at the hands of the police”

There is perhaps one other response that sympathisers might have - they might say the absence of evidence is what you would expect from such corrupt and devious authorities, because  they completely covered their tracks and concealed all the evidence - in other words a conspiracy theory. If that WAS their argument, it would at least mean they had conceded that there was no actual empirical evidence for their ‘poor persecuted Ned’ theory. But, as I have written before, any theory advanced without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. 

The truth of the matter is that Ned Kellys claim that he was driven to crime by police persecution and ill-treatment is simply a lie. It simply didn’t happen. It’s a myth, and the biggest of Ned Kellys lies, yet another falsehood that he managed to trick many into believing was true, a lie which the Kelly descendants and their supporters perpetuate to this day. The idea that it was Police persecution that drove Kelly to crime is now utterly exposed as a myth, an excuse cooked up by Ned Kelly to direct blame away from himself, where it belonged, onto the scapegoat of the Victoria Police. Ned Kelly, the police made criminal is a myth whose time has ended, its a Kelly story that can safely be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Sunday 12 February 2017

The Greatest Kelly Myth : Part 4 1872 -1875

Beechworth Street and Gaol, 19th century

According to the innumerable descendants of the Kelly family and the Kelly gang members, their supporters and most of the authors of books, songs plays and films about Ned Kelly, he was a ‘Police made’ criminal. By this it is meant that Ned Kelly was an honest man who was ‘exasperated to madness’ – as Ned himself called it - by Police corruption, ill treatment and persecution, and who finally decided on behalf of his family and the selectors of the North East that they had all suffered enough and it was time to make a stand. Never mind that in the end he lost, and was hanged  - his brave act of defiance against the odds was an example of true heroism in the same mold as the miners at the Eureka stockade and the Diggers at Gallipoli.

This understanding of the life of Ned Kelly is the core teaching of the Kelly legend, and though it is the most central, almost sacred belief of Kelly followers and sympathizers everywhere, not one of them has been prepared to defend it. I’ve shown, in the preceding three Posts to this Blog that this central belief, what I have called the Greatest Kelly myth, is indeed a myth because it is completely contradicted by the historical evidence. It is a fantasy, a fairytale constructed out of the lies told by Ned Kelly. But no-one has dared utter a single word in its defense, least of all the group who so openly boast about their connections to the story, to be descendants of gang members and who so prominently argue in Public for the right to tell the Kelly story, or to host the artifacts and historical memorabilia of the Kelly outbreak. Maybe they think that because attacking me hasn’t worked, ignoring me, and banning me from their Facebook pages will make me go away. Maybe they think that after 130 years, their version of the Kelly story doesn’t need defending because its been set in concrete and nothing can tip it over. Maybe they are shocked into silence by the realization that  until now nobody told them the whole story and they’ve been fooled in to believing Ned Kelly’s lies. Maybe the ordinary Kelly believers are wondering why their leaders, so quick to attack and pillory any author or commentator who doesn’t agree with them, have gone quiet over this exposure of the greatest Kelly myth of all.

But the expose is not complete yet.

The Kelly legend is that the Kelly family was persecuted and ill treated by the Police. So what happened during 1872 and 1873 while Ned Kelly was in prison? If the legend is correct we would expect that the campaign against the Kellys would continue, so what do we find leafing through Kelvyn Gills Definitive Record for those two years?

In September 1871, Dan and Jim are charged with illegally using a horse.  There was no doubt they took it and had to be chased down to get it back.  I discussed this case  in detail HERE – as usual the Kelly apologist version is wrong and leaves out important facts – but in any case the charges were dismissed. Ill-treatment? Persecution?  Only if you think horse owners shouldnt complain to the Police when kids take off with their property! VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION

Next, in October Ellen wins her case against William Frost for maintenance and is awarded 5s a week for two years with  £7.2s costs. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION.

A week later Ellen and the Murdochs , Annie Gun and William Skilling are charged with ‘furious riding’ on three separate occasions. I discussed this in Part 3. They were all discharged on a technicality. Of interest to those who know the whole story, on December 16th.   Antonio Wick, NOT a Kelly sympathizer, was convicted and fined 5/- for the same offence : furious riding. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION

IN 1872, the Police Stable at Glenmore  was destroyed by fire ‘under circumstances which justfy the  supposition that the fire was willfully caused’

In April, James Quinn was found guilty of a very violent assault on John Page and in a separate hearing, of ‘wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm’ to Margaret Quinn, wife of his brother Patrick. The  Court report of his assault on his brothers wife makes sickening reading : he climbed naked and drunk into her bed early one morning, where another woman, Jane Graham was also sleeping in place of Margaret’s husband who was away. Margaret objected to the advances he made on Jane, told him to get out and so, according to Jane he ‘knocked her down and she became senseless. I ran away outside leaving her in the room with her. I came back in half an hour or an hour. Mrs Quinn’s face was a good bit cut and bleeding, but not a great deal’. For this he got 18 months hard labour (Page 58 The Definitive Record, transcript from O&M Advertiser)

I mention this case because there will be some who might be tempted to say the persecution was not just of the immediate Kelly family but continued against the extended family of the Kellys. Well those two cases are not Police persecution of the Kellys but examples of the lawless, some might say feral behavior of the extended family – violence, drunkenness, loose morals, assaults on women. These incidents are never mentioned in the Kelly legends because they destroy the saccharine image of the Kellys and their relations as attractive examples of good selector stock. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION

Later that year, another extraordinary Court Case occurred in which the same Jane Graham was charged with Ellen Kelly of receiving a saddle ‘knowing it to have been stolen’.  The saddle disappeared when its owner, a Mr George Reid, a labourer at Benalla was at the Winton Races. He recovered it from Mrs Kellys house when he went there with the Police. Jane Graham claimed it was hers. In Court  in November the Magistrate Mr Butler said no evidence was provided to show that the ‘prisoners’ received the saddle ‘knowing it to be stolen’. In a fantastic skewering of the Kelly persecution theory he said “ This must be shown, and whatever the character of the accused may be, that did not alter the case’. He concluded, “You are discharged. There is no case against you”. In other words what he said was that just because we know these people have been in trouble with the Courts before, they are still entitled to the benfit of the doubt. Such a statement is an almost cast iron proof that a campaign of Kelly persecution simply did not exist. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION.

The following year, 1873, was the year Ellen took up with George King. There were only two relevant items in The Definitive Record: the first was the sentence of five years that James Kelly received for two charges of cattle stealing. There seems little doubt that James, aged 14 and his accomplice Thomas Williams, 17 did indeed steal and on-sell several head of cattle. They pleaded not guilty but after conviction Jim blamed Tom and Tom blamed Jim for having led him into it. He was released 8 months early, in August 1876. VERDICT: NOT PERSECUTION

The other case was yet another conviction of James Quinn, one of Neds uncles , this time for an assault on William Skelton that had taken place in 1865. Skelton was left with brain damage and epilepsy, and returned to England where he underwent some sort of operation on his skull, but he returned to Victoria. Quinn was already in Prison, but had another 2 years added to his sentence. Needless to say this appalling episode that left a man incapacitated for life is also not mentioned in Ian Jones book, Peter Fitzsimons book or even in the Ned Kelly encyclopaedia. VERDICT : NOT PERSECUTION

And so we come to 1874, approaching Neds release from prison. In the previous two years, while Ned was in prison, there were only 4 incidents involving the Kellys and the Courts : one was Ellens own action, which she won, two involved Dan – he was convicted on one and the charges were dismissed on the earlier one, and the furious riding charges were dismissed on a clever technicality. How on earth can the Kelly apologists manufacture a campaign of anti Kelly persecution out of those slim pickings? In fact there is still  no evidence from the records of the time, of a campaign of Kelly oppression, ill treatment and persecution, but maybe it was scaled down while Ned was in Prison.

The amazing thing is, over the next two years, 1874 and 1875 with Ned out of gaol, the so called quiet years when Ned was supposed to be going straight, there were even fewer such incidents – in fact there were none! Now the Kelly apologists have to answer this puzzle : why did the Police campaign against the innocent Kellys stop when Ned Kelly was going straight? Doesn’t this complete absence of any kind of police interaction with the Kellys when Ned was going straight after 30 months in prison put the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the innocent Kellys were being picked on by the police? That period of two years of Ned going straight is the exact moment in history when the Police campaign of corrupt ill treatment and persecution of the Kellys would have been exposed for what it was. Instead, because Ned Kelly was going straight, the Police left him and his family alone, the exact opposite of what the Myth would have predicted, and would have us believe was the case.

Part 5 will follow in a  few days.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

The Greatest of the Kelly Myths Part 3 : 1871

If the defenders of Ned Kelly ever point to what they think is actual evidence of Police corruption and the unfair persecution of Ned, the incident they are most likely to refer to is the one where they say, for being caught riding a horse someone else had stolen, Ned got double the sentence that the thief himself got - eighteen months for Isaiah Wright, three years for Ned. Up to that point everything on record supports the view that the Kellys received a fair go from Police and Judiciary. However, on the face of it that sentence certainly does look unfair, but if it is, it’s the first ever example of something which looks like Kelly persecution.

For Kelly supporters there are two problems with this story: the first is that if it does turn out on close inspection to be some sort of corrupt action by Police and the Judiciary, it cant be used as an explanation of why Kelly became a criminal because he already was one. If this is the first example of police corruption its way too late in the story to be cited as a cause for Kellys rebellion: hes already been in Court over three charges relating to highway robbery, one of indecency, two relating to assault of local hawkers, and hes already done time in gaol. The notion that Kelly turned to crime because of Police persecution doesn’t fit the historical sequence of events.

The second problem is that when you carefully analyze what happened, as Morrissey did in his recent book, you discover there’s a whole lot more to this episode, a back-story that demolishes the idea that the court treated Ned unfairly. It provides an explanation that makes sense of the whole episode, and provides answers to two issues that the myth about this incident fails to answer: why the Judiciary, having previously dealt fairly with the Kellys would suddenly decide to be manifestly unfair ( it didn't) , and why Wild Wright wasn’t prepared to come to Neds aid in Court (Ned betrayed him).

So what did happen?

The Kelly myth is that as he rode through Greta one day,  Kelly was arrested, after a violent struggle by senior Constable Hall and then was charged with having stolen the horse. Ned Kelly said the horse wasn’t stolen but belonged to Wild Wright but in fact, the horse belonged to the Mansfield postmaster, George Newlands.  In Court, when it was shown Ned couldn’t have stolen it because he was still in Beechworth prison when the horse disappeared, Wild Wright was charged with the theft and Ned Kelly with ‘feloniously receiving a horse’. Both were found guilty, and Ned received three years with hard labour, but Wild Wright only got 18 months. J.J.Kenneally says of Wilds sentence: “The Loaded Dice was not used against him”

Much is made of Neds protestations of innocence but why, if he believed he was innocent did he so strenuously attempt to avoid arrest?  Another fact not usually discussed was  the manner in which Ned came into posession of the horse : Wild had stayed a night at Neds place and though in the morning the horse couldn’t be found, once Wild had gone, telling Ned he could use the horse if he found it, Ned did indeed find it! Theres a similar story from years earlier, of Ned when he was 11 claiming a reward from the Sheltons for finding and returning a horse of theirs that was ‘lost’.  Was the horse really lost or just hidden? Nobody knows.

The most significant part of the saga that the Kelly mythmakers avoid discussing is the role of James Murdoch, a labourer and petty criminal who lived in Greta. He told the Court that Ned approached him at home in the afternoon of April 15th and they discussed a plan to sell the chestnut mare along with some other horses they planned to steal.  Murdoch declined to get involved, worried that Ned and Constable Hall might be trying to entrap him. In the Jerilderie Letter Ned wrote ‘he (meaning Hall) got James Murdoch who was recently hung in Wagga Wagga to give false evidence against  me but I was acquitted on the charge of horse stealing and on Hall and Murdochs evidence  I was found guilty of receiving’  J.J.Kenneally repeats this same claim “It is alleged that one James Murdoch who was afterwards hanged for murder at Wagga Wagga NSW received £20 from Hall to give evidence against Ned Kelly” . Justin Corfield and Peter Fitzsimons both repeat Neds allegation about payment, and also his claim that Murdoch was later executed. 

Why then is James Murdochs involvement in this saga completely ignored by Ian Jones? Perhaps he realized that there is no evidence to support the claim that Hall bribed Murdoch, suspecting it to be another of Ned Kellys lies and he probably also knew that Ned was mistaken in claiming Murdoch had been hanged for murder : he wasn’t. As Morrisseys careful research revealed, Murdoch was still around long after Ned had been hanged, and was himself  in gaol for housebreaking  at Benalla in 1884. Ned Kelly confused James Murdoch with his brother Peter, who was indeed hanged  for the murder of one Henry Ford at Wagga Wagga in 1877.

The other telling information highlighted by Morrissey that undermines Neds allegation against James Murdoch is that a few months later, by which time Ned Kelly was in gaol, Murdoch and his wife were part of a close group of friends that supported Ellen Kelly in her claim for maintenance against William Frost. It seems highly unlikely that Ellen would have been close friends with a man whose perjury resulted in her son being sent to prison. Later, after the Court decided in Ellens favour this group celebrated with such exuberance over several days in Benalla that four, including Ellen and Murdoch were charged with ‘furious riding’. They were all acquitted, the Police Magistrate  accepting Ellens lawyers claim that Benalla had yet to be formally gazetted as a Township, and therefore its streets could not legally be termed a ‘Public Place’. 

These episodes further undermine the notion that the Kellys were the subjects of a campaign of ill treatment and persecution by the Police and the Law because  firstly Ellen expressed her confidence in the system by taking Frost to Court, secondly, she won the maintenance she sought and lastly and most instructive  of all, she was acquitted of the charges of furious riding on a legal technicality that a corrupt system  could easily have ignored. 

So how do these facts about Murdoch’s involvement alter the story of the stolen chestnut mare? Well for one they explain why Isaiah Wright didn’t come to Neds aid in court and accept all the blame for what happened to that horse. He realized that Ned had double crossed him and was planning to sell the animal. It also explains the difference in their sentences, because the crime  Wright was convicted of was not of STEALING the horse as is so often wrongly claimed by Kelly devotees, but of  ‘illegally USING a horse’, which is a much less serious one than stealing it, and much less serious that the one Ned Kelly was convicted of : ‘feloniously receiving a horse’. “Using” a horse was a not too uncommon petty crime, wherein eventually the horse would be returned to the paddock from which it was taken. Wild Wright had apparently “used” this same horse in that way on other occasions. Ned however, intended to sell it, illegally. Morrissey writes (p38) “The crucial distinction to be made here is between borrowing without permission and ‘receiving’ which legally implied theft. It’s the difference in modern terms between joy riding or fun and car stealing for profit”. Writers, such as Jones who want to  inflate the idea that Neds crime was a minor one typically list it as just "receiving", which makes it sound quite benign rather than "feloniously receiving" which denotes the 'felonious' or criminal intent of the 'receiving'. This is another illustration of the deceitful way in which Kelly myths are manufactured, by only telling half of the facts.

This understanding  of the story also much better accounts for the reason Ned and Wild Wright had that boxing match after Ned got out of gaol three years later : if the sympathiser story was correct Ned could hardly blame Wild Wright for variation i their sentences, so fighting him makes no sense. However the fight was more likely initiated by Wild because he learned in the court that Ned had tried to double cross him, sell the horse and leave Wild as the likely suspect. 

In contrast to the involvement of Murdoch which is either dismissed or ignored altogether by Kelly supporters, there is another aspect of this episode which they never fail to mention in their quest to construct their case for Police persecution of the Kellys, and that’s the unnecessarily violent way in which Senior Constable Hall arrested Ned. I wrote in detail about this HERE and suggest you read it again. There are two important points to make about the arrest:  Neds violent resistance to being arrested doesn’t fit with his claim to have been innocent - if he had gone quietly there would have been no violence. Secondly, Halls dreadful behavior doesn’t constitute proof of a campaign of ill treatment against the Kellys. In every Police force there are individual officers whose temperament makes them unsuitable for frontline duty, but systemic corruption and a campaign of persecution are something altogether different and its absurd to argue that the existence of the former is proof of the latter. 

So, after close examination of the Kelly supporters ‘best case’ in their argument for Kelly persecution, what all the evidence shows is that it’s a misrepresentation to claim it was in some way a miscarriage of justice.  Ned Kellys lies in the Jeriderie Letter once again mesmerised all the Kelly supporters who were already under the Kelly spell and repeated the 'poor hard done by Ned' sob story for decades. Morrissey exploded it, at long last. And by the way the final proof that this case doesn’t provide evidence of the unfair persecution of the Kellys is that Ned was released 6 months early. Such terrible ill treatment!

Wednesday 1 February 2017

The Greatest of the Kelly Myths Part 2 : 1866-1871

Ned Kelly often robbed people at gunpoint : its a terrifying experience for the victim. 
I ended the last Post with these words “What has to be accepted, because that is what all the evidence shows, is that at least while Red Kelly was alive, his family were not the victims of Police persecution, or being “exasperated to madness by ill treatment.” I then wrote that in this post I would examine what happened between the Police and the Kellys after Red was gone: “Maybe there we will find the proof of what Ned claimed...So in this Post I am going to continue to examine what we actually know about the interactions between the Kellys and the Police, and see what evidence exists for Ned Kellys claim that it was ill treatment by Police that drove him to do what he did.

Red died at the very end of 1866. Up until then, apart from that lapse in the last year of his life, neither he nor any member of his growing family had been in trouble with the Police. However within two months of Reds death, on February 19th 1867 Ellen Kelly was convicted  of assault and fined 40 shillings with 5 shillings costs. In mentioning the case, Ian Jones reports an ominous detail about the sentencing Police Magistrate: 12 years earlier he had cut down ‘an innocent and helpless digger named Henry Powell after the  Eureka Stockade battle’ So is this the person who began the Police persecution of the Kellys ?
In fact the case was mounted by Ellen Kellys sister-in-law, Anne Kelly, and was an entirely domestic issue. I wonder why Jones included the irrelevant detail about the Magistrate - was it to introduce a subtle hint of something corrupt going on and to encourage the myth to grow? A few months later Ellen was before the court yet again in yet another civil matter – this time she was convicted of using abusive and threatening language - but again it was nothing to do with Police, but a dispute with her landlord and even though Ellen was fined another 40s, (£2) the Landlord was fined £5, and both were ordered to keep the peace for six months; again, nothing here to support the myth of Police and the privileged such as landlords, persecuting and corruptly oppressing the Kellys.
Ellens next appearance was a long three years later, in 1870, at the Wangaratta Police Court on May 9th when she was charged with selling ‘sly grog’. William Thomas was a ‘Liquor License Inspector’ who told the Court that he went to Ellen Kellys house and paid 2s for a glass of Brandy. Ellen, needless to say, did not have a Licence. Surely, if there was a campaign of police harassment and persecution against the Kellys, here was a perfect opportunity to catch her out? In fact, when questioned Mr Thomas “would not swear that the woman in court was the woman who served him with liquor” and so the case was dismissed. Justin Corfield says in his Kelly encyclopaedia that ‘of the 8 people charged for selling alcohol illegally that day, Ellen Kelly was the only one acquitted’ This case can only be regarded as evidence that at least in 1870 there still was NOT a campaign of Police persecution of the Kelly family – if there had been, the informer wouldn’t have hesitated to identify her, and she would have been convicted and punished along with the other 7 who were. But no such thing happened – she went home a rather lucky and free woman, no harassment, no ill treatment just due process by a Court that treated her by the book. And yet there was no doubt someone had taken 2s off the Inspector for a glass of Brandy served to him at Ellens place. So did the Inspector mount a campaign of harassment and repeated visits till he finally trapped her again? Theres no record anywhere that he did. No harassment. No ill treatment.
By this time, May1870, her son Ned had also begun making appearances in Court.  Lets look at them and see if they are the exasperating 'ill treatment' that made Ned Kelly into a criminal.
The first one in October 1869 related to an altercation between Ned Kelly, now aged 14 and a Chinese Hawker named Ah Fook.  Following Ah Fooks complaint  that he had been beaten and robbed the Constabulary arrived the following day to arrest Ned, but he bolted out the back door and headed for the bush- as any innocent person would!  He was chased down and arrested. In court, the three witnesses were Neds sister Annie, a future brother in law, and an employee of Ellen Kelly! One can hardly have expected these witnesses not to back Neds version of events but because they all contradicted Ah Fooks version the charge was dismissed, though according to Ian Jones “with apparent reluctance". Ian Jones quotes Beechworths “Advertiser” which wrote:“ It is impossible to avoid coming to any other conclusion that the charge of robbery has been trumped up by the Chinaman to be revenged on Ned Kelly, who had evidently assaulted him”. Jones than adds: “That may well have been true though it means that the Kelly witnesses also lied” Jones also quotes the Benalla Ensign: “The cunning of Ned and his mates got him off”
So just to be clear about it, this was an argument between Ned Kelly and a Chinese hawker who complained he had been assaulted and robbed by Ned, but when it went to Court, the charges were dismissed on the evidence of witnesses with a rather obvious conflict of interest.  Is there a reader who thinks anything at all about this case looks like Police ‘ill treatment’ of Ned? If anyone got a raw deal it looks to me as if it was the poor chinese hawker. (The sinister end to this story, pointed out recently by Peter Newman is that Ah Fooks body was found a few years later, ‘strangely mutilated. An inquest jury returned a verdict of willful murder’  The murderer was never identified)
The next charges on Ned Kelly’s record are three counts of Highway Robbery in the company of Harry Power, an escaped prisoner on the run. As even Kelly sympathisers agree, Ned became his accomplice in mid 1869 for a short time and then again for a few months at the beginning of 1870.  His first spell as Harrys assistant ended in humiliation for Ned when they were discovered and shot at, and as a result of Ned panicking, they were nearly caught. A clue to why Ned accompanied Harry in the first place, and why despite the humiliation he returned a few months later is provided by Ian Jones who says that after the first episode Ned “returned empty handed to the winter world of boggy tracks and swampy paddocks and the day-to-day drudgery of 88 acres”
In truth working a selection was a long, difficult backbreaking slog, there was no glamour or excitement in it, and it was almost impossible to make a living from it, especially in the early years. By contrast, Bush ranging had much to offer a young man - a glamorous wild life on horseback, easy money, short hours, travel, excitement...and of course some risks that certain personality types would be attracted to. 
In the end, after a few more months Ned gave it away for the second time. As Powers 'apprentice' Ned Kelly had learned how to intimidate people and take what he wanted off them by sticking a loaded gun into their faces, but he left before he had learned the subtleties of the art, of how to intimidate sufficiently to obtain submission but not so much that he would provoke retaliation and precipitate a murderous gunfight. (As a result his first attempt to put into action what he had only partly learned from Power was the disaster at Stringybark Creek) He left because Harry was too difficult a person to live with, and he returned to his mothers place.

However the police were ready for him and he was arrested in a dawn raid and  three charges were laid against him in May 1870. Does anyone think it is harassment or persecution or ill treatment for the Police to arrest and charge someone thought to be involved in highway robbery of innocent travellers at gunpoint?  And does anyone think Ned was being badly treated and persecuted when the first charge, Robbery in company at Kilfera was dismissed because the witness could not clearly identify Ned; or when the second, Robbery under arms at Seymour was also dismissed when the Police could not locate the principal witness, or when after a couple of remands the third was also dropped because it seems Ned provided the Police with information about Harry Power? Where is the Kelly sympathizer who thinks this is the sort of ‘ill treatment’ by Police that would drive a man to madness, who thinks this episode is what drove Ned Kelly to become a criminal? Later, the Police lent Ned Kelly money to pay for hotel accommodation and expenses and though he promised to repay it, he never did. In addition, according to Ian Jones an offer was made to help Ned resettle out of the district and away from the criminal environment of his extended family – on what planet is any of this harassment and persecution? Surely if the Police were engaged in a corrupt campaign of harassment and persecution of the Kellys, witnesses could have been ‘found”, deals for providing information could have been made and then broken once the necessary intel had been extracted, convictions would have been obtained one way or another and certainly free hotel accommodation and loans would not have been provided.
By now Ned Kelly might have been tempted to start thinking he could get away with anything. I find it curious that these various episodes of fair and lenient treatment by the Police are never mentioned by Kelly in the story he told of his life in the Jerilderie letter, but the next one, just a few months later in 1871which results in his first conviction is recounted in great detail as Ned tries to explain away his guilt. He was found guilty of  the assault of another hawker and handed a sentence of three months imprisonment. There was also a £10 fine or an added three months hard labour for Sending an Indecent Letter and sureties totaling £60 to pay. This incident was called ‘a grubby adolescent lark’ by Peter Fitzsimons, and ‘a silly squabble’ by Ian Jones, but both of these authors glossed over the fact that it was actually an entirely gratuitous violent assault by an impudent youth on a man whose wife he had earlier insulted in a most offensive manner. It is also an early example of the type of person Ned targeted : a ‘hawker’ is not a rich gentleman landowner, a squatter,  or a member of the upper class but a working class salesman – Ned targeted everyone.
Read my earlier post about it this ‘grubby lark’ HERE and realize yet again that there is nothing in this incident that could be regarded as ‘ill treatment’ by Police. Instead it’s the sort of thuggish behavior that Ned had been observing, and now copied as he grew up in the extended family of his mother, the Quinns and their associates. Red Kelly, Neds father had  tried to shield his children from the negative influence of these people, and it was much more likely that it was their example and their influence on Ned rather than that of the police that caused him to go ‘mad’ and become a career criminal. None of them offered to help the poverty stricken Ellen with Ned’s £10 fine, not even his uncle Jack who had recently been paid £500 for dobbing in Harry Power, so Ned had to do the extra three months.
So Ned went to prison for the first time, into the Beechworth Gaol exactly 10 years to the day before he was finally hanged for murder, and as a further sign of how much the Authorities wanted to oppress Ned Kelly and of how corrupt they were, they let him out 5 weeks early, on March 27th 1871 – and not only that, he received a genuinely friendly visit back at home, from Constable Bracken, apparently in a vain attempt to encourage Ned to mend his ways.
At this point in the Kelly story, 1871, its very plain what the problem the Kelly defenders now have in relation to their core belief about the origins of Ned Kellys criminality. They say, and so did Ned Kelly himself that the Police drove him to it, that he had to take a stand because he couldn’t take any more of their corruption, their persecution their ill treatment of himself and his family. The massive problem the Kelly apologists have in early 1871 is that up to this point, all recorded incidents were the result of acts of lawlessness deliberately undertaken by the Kellys themselves, and none of them involved any kind of police harassment or persecution. Furthermore, in responding to these acts of lawlessness, the evidence is that the Police and Judiciary were lenient and more than fair. How can any sympathizer say otherwise when he knows for a fact that Ned was Harry Powers accomplice, and DID participate in numerous armed robberies with him, and yet he went free.
The idea that Ned Kelly’s family was persecuted, so he turned to crime is contradicted emphatically by the actual historical facts that show that long before there was anything that could in any way be termed Police persecution, Ned Kelly was immersing himself in a world of active criminality and lawlessness.  There are no ‘alternative facts’; these are the ACTUAL facts, not a version or an interpretation or a theory but the actual historical reality.
Is there any Kelly apologist, Kelly descendant or Kelly keyboard warrior who reads these words who would dare to still assert that Ned Kelly turned to crime because the Police drove him to it? The only people who could continue to assert that would be people who are ignorant of the historical facts. If there are relevant facts about Kellys life up to 1871 that Ive missed, please point them out.
But there are more to come in Part Three.