Ned Kellys Charge Sheet

Assault and Robbery with violence

14th October 1869    

Highway Robbery  
Two counts, as an accomplice of BushRanger Harry Power     
5th May 1870                      

Indecent Behviour
30th October 1870
Convicted: 3 months imprisonment

Receiving a horse
16th April 1871
Convicted : 3 years imprisonment

Horse Stealing 
25th January 1876 
Arrest Warrant issued   
Case dismissed

Riding on the footpath, 
Resisting arrest
14th September 1877 
Convicted, Fined £3/1/-

Horse Stealing
15th March  1878 
Arrest Warrants issued

Murder of 3 Irish Policemen, Stringybark Creek 
26th October 1878 
Oulawed on November 1st

Armed Holdup and Robbery of National Bank, Euroa
10th December 1878 

Armed holdup and Robbery Bank of NSW, Jerilderie
8th February 1879

Murder of Aaron Sherritt
27th June 1880 

Armed holdup at Glenrowan, 
29th June 1880
Ned Kelly Captured,

Hanged for Murder :11th November 1880 

Given that there is supposed to be a debate about whether or not Ned Kelly was a criminal or a hero you might have expected to be able to easily find in the Kelly literature a simple List of  all the criminal charges that were leveled at him. After all, there seems to be no end to the parade of authors, commentators, movie makers, tour operators and souvenir sellers who seem to want to perpetuate this notion that  there is some sort of balance between the arguments for and against, and therefore one might expect in the interests of balance  equal time and space might be made for both sides of the argument. In fact, the public discussions are overwhelmingly about the Heroic Ned. It is of course a false dichotomy – a tactic aimed at trying to maintain a space for the Hero myth and at the same time diminish the influence of the historical truth about Ned Kelly, that he was in reality a Villain. 
So, in the interests of balance, I am going to remedy an obvious deficiency in the 20 year history of Ned Kelly online and list for discussion Ned Kellys Charge sheet, point by point.  Sympathizers will says its “anti Kelly” and that this is because I am a “hater”. But my interest is in historical truth, and unless Kelly sympathizers want to abandon their over used tactic of saying the argument is still unfinished they will have to agree that these discussions are a legitimate part of the debate.

Todays Post will be about the first two charges : Assault and Robbery with violence, and Highway Robbery, both of which were dismissed.

The first relates to an altercation between Ned Kelly 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! However he was chased down and arrested. In court, one of the witnesses was Annie a sister of Ned, another was a man who later married  Maggie, another  sister of Ned, and the third witness was 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, but understandably 
“ with apparent reluctance”, according to Ian Jones. 

As is so typical of stories involving Ned Kelly, the truth is hidden under a confusion of differing descriptions, suspicion of collusion between the witnesses, and by inconsistencies between Neds protestations of innocence and his actual behaviour. Ian Jones as he so often does, recounts the truths that sometimes must hurt him to report, but 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 what does this tell us about Ned and the Kelly story? This is clearly NOT a story of police corruption, of persecution  and harassment of the poor and innocent selector, of  a harsh Judiciary oppressing the  rights of hardworking farmers – A chinaman complained he had been assaulted and robbed, the Police did their job, the Courts did theirs and the case was dismissed. If Ian Jones is right it is in fact a story of a youth who has a problem with self control, a person who later bragged about how he liked to use his fists, who assaulted a disgruntled Chinaman, and of a family ready to lie to protect him. Can someone please show me whats Iconic or admirable or a role model in any of this? I hope Kelly supporters  don’t believe that family values includes lying to protect violent offenders.

Looking for the IO discussion on this important topic, Ned Kellys first appearance on a serious charge in Court, all I could find were  two inaccurate sentences – the magistrates name was not Wyatt but Willis, and he was arrested for assault and robbery with violence – but this is all they wrote:

” At the age of fourteen, in 1869, Ned was arrested for assaulting a Chinaman. He was kept in the Benalla lockup for 10 days and then reluctantly released when the magistrate, Alfred Wyatt, dismissed the charge.” 
I have talked before about the airbrushing of history that pro- Kelly writers are so fond of doing – this is a perfect example – a disgraceful episode in the life of a 14 year old Ned Kelly that  they want to forget about, and so, in their narrative it hardly rates a mention! In contrast to that, the same IO article devotes 5 times as many words to the heroic story of Ned at the age of 10, rescuing Dick Shelton from a flooded creek. Puberty had certainly wrought some nasty transformations in the mind of this former hero.

So what of the next charge on his Sheet, two counts of Highway Robbery in the company of Harry Power? Power was an escaped prisoner who became known as a Gentleman Bushranger, and 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 assistance 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 back-breaking 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, Bushranging had too much to offer – a glamorous wild life on horseback, easy money, short hours, travel…

In the end, after only a few months Ned gave it away for the second time because Harry was too difficult a person to live with. But when he returned to his mothers place, the police were ready for him and he was arrested in a dawn raid. By then, there was a reward offered for information leading to the capture of Power of 500 Pounds, the equivalent of 10 years labourers wages. It seems that in their eagerness to get Power, the charges against Ned were serially dropped as he provided them with information and assistance in their hunt for Harry. Later, they lent him money to pay for hotel accommodation and expenses and though he promised to repay it, he never did. 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, but in the end he returned to them, complaining that everyone believed it was he who had betrayed Harry Power, and so regarded him as “a black snake” In fact Jack Lloyd led Police to Harry, but the reward went to Jimmy Quinn, one of Neds uncles. The family were obviously prepared to work with Police when there was something in it for them!
So were these charges against Ned trumped up charges against an innocent downtrodden selector trying to look after his mother and her poor farm? Was this a case of an innocent person being persecuted by corrupt authorities, as the Kelly myth makers would have us imagine were the real basis for Neds unfortunate interactions with the Police? Clearly, the answer again is NO, emphatically NO.
Neds life was poor, but nobody forced him to become the associate of a wanted criminal did they? Isn’t it rather a case of a young man wanting to escape the drudgery and the hard yards of selector life, preferring the money and the glamour, the “ flashness” and the thrill of the life of a bushranger in the company of the admired Harry Power? It was nothing to do with Politics or the Republic or social injustice – it was simply an attempt that is motivated like most criminality, by a desire to find a short cut out of a hard life. The Law caught up with him and treated him leniently.

Ironoutlaws account of this episode makes light of it, and makes no mention of the support Ned received from the Police. But what Ned was involved in was robbery of innocent and terrified travellers at gunpoint. Again I ask can someone please show me whats Iconic or admirable or a role model in any of this?
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9 Replies to “Ned Kellys Charge Sheet”

  1. Frank Stipic says: Reply

    And those were just the things he got nabbed for.

    I'd love to hear Ned's explanation about what happened to his step-dad George King who vanished from the Kelly home in 1878.

  2. If the brethren will open their hymnals (McQuilton's "The Kelly Outbreak") and turn to Appendix 3 they will find the list of " arrests and convictions of the Quinn clan to 1880." It has an extra charge in 1870 of "robbery in company" to go along with the two "robbery under arms." Checking historical papers at Trove I find this to be true.
    The 1876 arrest for horse stealing is not included, though. That might be in reference to the Lydeker misunderstanding? Nor are the separate charges of holdups for Euroa, Jerilderie and Glenrowan listed, though they may fall under the all inclusive banner of "outlawry" that is listed.
    Also, the magistrate that Ned went before in 1869 for the Ah Fook case was Alfred Currie Wills, not "Willis." The other magistrate mentioned, Wyatt, was also named Alfred, so perhaps that is why confusion inadvertently set in? Wyatt is much better known to the congregation than Wills, who died in 1871.

  3. You got me laughing Sharon – the faithful and their Hymnals! And you are quite right about Wills – that was my mistake, a careless typo. As for that list in McQuiltons book, “Arrests and Convictions of the Quinn Clan to 1880" – it is MASSIVE! I wonder how many Kelly supporters would have a copy?

    But yes I have added to the list what you call the Lydeker “misunderstanding” of 1876 an incident highlighted in Morrisseys recent book, wherein he gives the lie to the oft repeated claim that for three years to 1877 Ned went “straight"

  4. Mike Lewis says: Reply

    Victorian parliamentary papers from the Police Royal Comission listed most of the Kelly convictions too. I find Graham Jones' book about Ned's Larrikin Years a more useful tool as Graham added descriptions drawn from newspaper court reports. There is no full listing of Ned's malefactions as yet.

    Maybe Sharon can provide one.

  5. McQuilton's list was compiled from "Police Commission, Appendix 10; Benalla court of Petty Sessions Case List Book (L.C.S.L.V.); Greta and Glenrowan Charge Book (R.S.P.A.); Police Files (P.R.O.)"

    I don't have the Larrikin Years book, but I do have the little green one about people, places and things in the Kelly story Graham Jones wrote, though I have currently mislaid it. I love those fun little anecdotes in it.

    Re me putting the time and effort in to attempt to do a full list of Ned's known crimes and misdemeanors, isn't that akin to asking an animal rights activist if they would like to share their favourite leg of lamb recipe?

  6. Mike Lewis says: Reply

    Yes, I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, Sharon!

    But I daresay your listing would have been meticulous!

  7. As far as I know, specific charges were never brought in regard to the two Bank Robberies, Aarons murder, sabotage to the Railway and the kidnappings and resisting arrest at Glenrowan, but I have listed them as if they had been. They were certainly crimes, as also of course was the theft of hundreds of horses admitted by Ned Kelly himself. The suggestion that Ned Kelly may have murdered George King is also a rather chilling possibility, and could perhaps also be added to the list. Any other suggestions would be gratefully received and added to the list.

  8. There's an intriguing tale of a man named Borrin who from what I understand knew George King.
    Borrin was supposed to have been the local bully when Ned Kelly was in his mid teens. Borrin had a habit of beating up ladies one of which was Ned's Aunt Bridie – Bridgett Kelly (may or may not have been related to the Kelly Quinn clan). Story goes that Borrin lived in the district in a dugout shelter which was to become his grave after Ned Kelly shot him there. In the book Glenrowan Vol 1, by Edna Griffiths Cargill, page 102 is a picture that shows a row of trees one of which was planted on the spot of Borrin's dugout. It would be most interesting if the current owners of the property would allow a forensic investigation.

    Author Edna Griffiths Cargill wrote a series on Glenrowan and ' The Children's World of Mr Kelly'. Mr Kelly was Jim brother of Ned. Edna grew up on the Kelly selection after it was purchased by the Griffith family after Ellen Kelly died. Having met and spoken to Edna, in her books she recalls stories heard as a child. She said as a toddler she often sat on Jim Kellys knee, She left Greta when she was 16 and so began a long carrier as a writer which she still is doing today. She lives not far from me and plan to visit her again soon.

  9. For many years lots of people have been playing whack-a-mole with this series of books by Ms Cargill. Every once in a while reference to it would pop up somewhere on a forum or elsewhere and the finder of the info would be gently but firmly dissuaded from taking too seriously much of what is between the covers. Even Brian McDonald in "What they said about Ned!" describes the books as "delightful stories but not for research."

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