Henry Hilton Chief Constable, Charged with Drunkenness

The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser

29 June 1850


Court of Petty Sessions; Present Henry Bingham, Esq., J. P.; Archer Broughton, Esq., J.P., and Frederick Wheler Vyner, Esq., J.P.

Three cases were brought before the above Court to-day, which will, or perhaps ought to convince Magistrates of the impropriety of appointing persons to situations in the constabulary force, or recommending their appointment to the Government, without having fully ascertained their fitness for such situations; had such a course been followed we should not have heard of the following disgraceful conduct on the part of two chief constables, and one ordinary constable.

The first case brought before the Bench was an information laid under Mr. Nichols' Vagrant Act, against Samuel Norton, chief constable of Gundagai, for using disgusting and obscene language to a Mr. Anderson. The defendant upon being called on to plead to the charge, raised one or two technical objections to the information, which being allowed by the Court, the case against him was dismissed without its merits or rather demerits having been gone into. The defendant, it appeared, is something of a bush lawyer, and came to the Court bringing the Act of Council under which the information had been laid against him, together with one or two law books to support the validity of his objections. Upon the termination of the charge as above mentioned, the defendant stated his willingness to have had the case fully gone into "had the evidence in support of it not been so overwhelming;" he however, admitted that his language to the prosecutor had been highly improper, and tendered him an apology.

The next case was a charge against Henry Hilton, chief constable, at Tumut, for being drunk: the defendant thinking "discretion the better part of valour," put an end to the matter by tendering his resignation (which was accepted by the Bench) very likely thinking at the same time "That he who fights and runs away May live to fight another day." and hoping perchance that some good natured J.P.'s may be found to recommend him as a "fit and proper person" to hold a similar situation somewhere else.

The third and last case, against these miscalled preservers of the Peace, was one in which ordinary constable James Adams was charged with drunkenness and indecent conduct to two respectable young women. The charge was clearly proved, and he was ordered to be dismissed. The defendant called the immaculate Samuel Norton, already mentioned to give evidence in his defence, but notwithstanding this worthy showed every inclination to screen his brother constable from the charge that had been made against him, his evidence rather tended to confirm that of the witnesses for the prosecution than otherwise. Apropos as to the fitness of the constable Adams to fill his last or any other situation under Government, I must tell you that he was fined twenty shillings by the Gundagai Bench some time since, upon some charge to which he pleaded guilty. Notwithstanding which circumstance, four out of the five Magistrates usually attending the Tumut Bench have lately signed a memorial, drawn up by Adams, to his Excellency the Governor, applying for some better situation.

P.S. The charges against Hilton and Adams would, in all probability, never have been submitted to judicial investigation had not a representation of their improper conduct been made to one of the Tumut Magistrates, who, regardless of mob popularity, and mindful of the motto, "Fiat Justitia ruat coelum," immediately took steps to have the matter investigated. George Shelley, Esq., J.P., having previously allowed Mr. Anderson, who had complained to him of the defendant's conduct to withdraw the charge, thinking it of no public importance.  

Tumut, June 20, 1850.