In 1829, Arthur noted that, although his police system had been introduced ‘chiefly with the view of controlling’ convicts, it also ‘necessarily operates upon the Community generally’ and he was ‘most vigilant’ in keeping the department, ‘as far as possible, free from imputations.’ He did this by correcting any abuses that came to his attention, as illustrated by the examples of three London policemen, who had been appointed in 1826 to set an example to the local constables and to report on their conduct. Their performance ‘dissatisfied’ Arthur: instead of ‘raising the character of our Police, they have rather degraded it.’ Rumoured to owe money, Joseph Hewitt appropriated for his own use property placed in his charge as a policeman and received money from a convict who had been charged with an offence. Arthur dismissed him. Richard Hinksman had been reprimanded for ‘habitual falsehood and insubordination,’ but he continued to act improperly, ‘abandoned’ his police work, was absent without leave and published a newspaper advertisement critical of the chief police magistrate. He was also dismissed.
To minimise ‘imputations’ against his force, Arthur periodically issued instructions on the kind of behaviour to avoid. For example ‘no fees, emoluments or perquisites, even of the most trifling kind’ could be accepted unless ‘expressly recognized by law or sanctioned under authority.’ Official instructions were no guarantee of good conduct, but they had a symbolic force in indicating that policemen must not abuse their powers and in gaining public acceptance of the police. In 1836, Forster drafted standing orders regulating the conduct of the police. These were based on those of the London Metropolitan Police and modified to incorporate colonial legislation. By giving each constable a copy of the standing orders, Forster hoped to establish a uniform system of conduct in every district and restore confidence in the police. These regulations advised constables not to make any unnecessary arrests, not to use unnecessary violence, and to use their powers with discretion.
John Glover, Mr Robinson’s house on the Derwent, c1838
This was too little too late. The police often used their discretion unwisely and allegations of corruption had been regularly levelled at the police since 1828. Much corruption arose from the enactment of numerous statutes designed to raise money for the treasury by licensing various trades and containing either fees or penalties for non-compliance with their provisions. Offering rewards, pardons, and part of the fines to informers for information on offenders had been an established practice in England since at least the seventeenth century. Although this practice encouraged more people to use the legal system, it also acted as an inducement to malicious prosecutions. In VDL, informers could gain half of the penalties for non-compliance and for the police these laws were ‘like so many gifts from Jupiter to Pandora.’ Required to supervise the various licensed trades, the police made the most of their opportunity to supplement their meagre incomes by exploiting and stretching the laws to their limit or by entrapping colonists in order to gain fines and rewards. Since this involved arresting normally law-abiding citizens for petty offences, it undermined respect for the law.
The obsessive application of fines was prevalent throughout the ranks. The chief constable of Bothwell allegedly prosecuted ‘the most trifling and inadvertent circumstance that can be construed into a breach’ of the statutes, and his constables preferred to seek fines rather than chase sheep-stealers and Aborigines. Arthur directed the assistant police magistrate, Captain Wentworth, to prevent constables from instigating ‘vexatious proceedings which may be productive of gain to themselves though altogether at variance with the spirit and intention of the Law, of which they avail themselves of the letter.’ Arthur also did not condone chief district constables laying information in their own name and receiving part of the fine when the actual informer was a petty constable, who was used as a witness. This practice, he thought, would deter petty constables from laying information and result in ‘very few convictions.’ Believing that constables should be rewarded for their good work, Arthur directed that the actual informers be granted their share of the fine.
The police exploited any statute allocating fines to an informer, but some statutes, such as the Dog, Impounding and Licensing Acts, were particularly lucrative and their vexatious enforcement intensely annoyed citizens. The Dog Act aimed to halt further increases in the numbers of dogs that roamed the colony ravaging sheep and annoying town residents. Owners who did not pay a duty on all dogs, failed to describe their dogs correctly, or failed to control their dogs, could be heavily fined up to £25, with a moiety of fines going to informers. In 1831, Captain Clark of Bothwell claimed a constable provoked a dog to break its chain, laid information against the owner for letting his dog off the chain, and secured part of the fine. A number of landed proprietors, stockholders, and inhabitants of Bothwell petitioned for the repeal of the Dog Act because of its misuse by constables. Colonial Secretary Burnett responded by directing the Bothwell police magistrate to take ‘strong measures’ against ‘improper and vexatious’ proceedings.
In Hobart Town, constables allegedly walked down the street, each with a bitch on a lead and a number of ropes with nooses, which they threw around the neck of any dogs that stopped to make acquaintance with the bitches. After thirty minutes, the constables had caught thirteen dogs. Their owners preferred to pay the constables £1 or £2 rather than appear in court, where they could not prove their dogs had been ‘seduced’ by the policemen’s bitches. Constables also enforced the provision that rewarded them with five shillings for every dog destroyed for indiscriminately killing valuable sheep and cattle dogs. Discovering that a few days elapsed between the expiry of a dog license and the recording of payment for a new one, constables charged owners for holding their dogs without a license. Some policemen, such as Constable Endger, known as ‘the dog seizing constable,’ was renowned for his detailed knowledge of the laws benefiting informers.
The Impounding Act of 1830 also proved a great temptation for constables and others to rob under ‘the cloak of law.’ The legislation was designed to stop cattle and sheep from wandering aimlessly in heavily populated parts of towns and country areas where they destroyed crops, were easy prey for thieves, and provided food for runaways, thus undermining convict discipline. In practice, the police sought out stock left unattended in any location as the penalty for seizing cattle was 5s each and for sheep 2s each. In Launceston, the police operated as follows. One on-duty policeman arranged with an off-duty colleague to drive cattle to a prearranged destination. The duty policeman reported the straying cattle to his district constable and drove them to a pound, making a tidy sum. In some areas, such as Westbury, the pound-keeper was the district constable and stock was usually impounded by his petty constables. In 1835, one Westbury stockowner lost £50 in three weeks from the ‘legalized plunder’ of impounding. To recover their losses, stockowners increased the price of stock sold to butchers, who in turn increased the price of meat to consumers. Neither this unfortunate consequence nor the rare conviction for illegal impounding deterred policemen from exploiting the law.
Wishing to reduce drunkenness, in 1828 Arthur brought liquor wholesaling and retailing under tighter regulation by, for example, the Sale of Liquors by Retail and Promoting Good Order in Public Houses Act and the Licensing of Wholesale Dealers in Wine and Spirits Act. Exploiting Arthur’s desire to reduce drunkenness, the constables set out to entrap publicans for selling spirits on Sundays by sending one of their number to order a drink. Two constables, Jonas Lancashire and Edward Visick, were allegedly employed by a district constable, who owned a pub under an assumed name, to visit unlicensed drinking holes and manufacture cases against the owners. The constables were paid from the proceeds of the fines. In Hobart Town, some of the worst pubs allegedly had policemen on their payrolls, and thus escaped fines and convictions, while other pubs were continually harassed on one pretext or another, usually for harbouring absconders. Yet other constables were paid hush money by the keepers of sly or illicit grog shops.
The Police Act of 1833 gave constables a moiety of the fines for convictions for drunkenness, and thus encouraged them to make more arrests than strictly necessary for public order. While the police supplemented their pay, the government did well too, deriving, somewhat hypocritically given Arthur’s temperance views, an estimated two-thirds of total revenue from liquor licenses, duties on spirits and tobacco, and fines for drunkenness and other statutory breaches. The wholesale wine and spirit merchant J.W. Bell represented many in the liquor trade in viewing informers with ‘disgust and abhorrence,’ criticising magistrates for assisting their ‘dirty and degraded calling’ and making no enquiry into the substance of their allegations.
Some commentators saw a role for informers. The Colonial Times thought informers who sought to stop crime or ‘flagrant and wilful disorderly conduct’ or promote ‘the public good’ were ‘a public benefit.’ But it also thought that informers who took advantage of ‘a mere legal quibble’ for ‘filthy lucre’ were a danger to society and quoted the law of evidence that no man’s testimony should be taken or received in a case where he was an interested party. Apart from increasing the pay of constables, imposing nominal fines, giving magistrates some discretion over the amount the informer should receive and giving all fines and penalties to the Crown were suggested as ways of reducing frivolous and vexatious prosecutions. But because gaining part of a fine was an inducement to vigilant police work, none of these options were taken up by the government and colonists remained prey to informers whether constables or others.
Policemen also generated revenue by seeking bribes or unofficial fees. It was rumoured that constables patrolling the Launceston wharves levied a small charge on merchants for packages left unattended and for the use of public scales. In Launceston, some alleged that an accused could be released from the watch-house without appearing before a magistrate by tipping a constable £3. In Hobart Town, Constable Rickie arrested a ticket-of-leave man in a pub just after 8 p.m. and on the way to the watch-house accepted £1 to let him go. It was also sometimes alleged that convict police were responsible for midnight robberies. Two convict constables at Campbell Town allegedly did no police work, but ran a butcher shop and lived on government land next to the public pound, using the yard for their stock rent free. It seems hard to believe police magistrates would tolerate such practices, but they, too, were also accused of dubious acts. One was said to use his police to deliver parcels to friends, chop his wood, dig his garden, and clean and exercise his horse. Settlers in the district did not complain lest the magistrate prevent them from obtaining assigned servants and injure them in other ways. This was an effective way of stifling complaints from the interior.
Rewards or indulgences offered for the arrest of criminals and absconders also stimulated corrupt practices. In August 1834, the improbably named Constable Howell of Bothwell was consigned to Port Arthur for three years imprisonment with hard labour for inducing a convict to abscond from a road party so he could obtain the reward for his arrest. When a felony was committed, alleged the Colonial Times, the convict constables endeavoured ‘to get up a case to convict some one or other,’ who could plausibly be accused of the crime. Perhaps the most blatant example involved the murder of Captain William Sergeantson at Campbell Town. Constable Drinkwater tried to pin the murder on an innocent free man named Taylor and obtain a free pardon for himself, but was undone when an accomplice revealed his plan to a magistrate. Drinkwater was sentenced to two years hard labour at Port Arthur that the Cornwall Chronicle thought inadequate for ‘conspiring against the life of a free British subject.’
Charges of false or unnecessary arrest were regularly made by free citizens. In 1835, a respectable tradesman called Augustus Kramer was accused by two constables of exposing himself as two women were passing, saying ‘can you do anything with this?’ As the women and other free witnesses testified that neither Kramer nor his companions spoke to them or exposed themselves, the case was dismissed. The memoirist James George remembered his arrest when a young boy for stopping to watch a crowd surround a New Zealander and not moving on when directed by a constable. George was knocked down, hit with a baton, handcuffed when he struggled, dragged to the watch-house, and locked up for the night. He was convicted of helping to create a riot and bound over for future good behaviour. On the day Arthur left the colony, George, now a young master baker, joined the crowds celebrating on the streets, was arrested, and charged with striking a policeman. Although he denied committing the act, George did not specifically deny the policeman’s claim that he had called out ‘pigs, pigs, pigs,’ a derogatory term for a policeman used since 1811. George, who was fined 40 shillings, saw constables as ‘a fearful lot of wretches,’ keen to arrest anyone for money, promotion, or from spite, especially at night.
The night police in Hobart Town and Launceston deserved George’s label and were often cited for brutal behaviour. In April 1834, two respectable businessmen, both named John Brown, saw a constable subdue a drunken convict by excessively beating him over the head with his staff. Seeing the convict covered in blood, the Browns separated him from the constable and returned him to his master’s house. The constable charged the Browns with ‘rescuing a prisoner from the custody of a constable.’ But after the constable gave contradictory evidence, the case was dismissed, with the magistrate lamenting the repeated failure of the public to assist the police. The Browns’ lawyer responded that constables were ‘too fond of what is technically called club law’ and alienated the public.
Another example of police brutality, combined with an invasion of privacy, occurred in Launceston in November 1834. A band of constables burst in on a dinner held in the private room of a tavern and, when asked to leave, indiscriminately bludgeoned the male guests and injured the mistress of the tavern and two other females. Believing the constables’ charge that they were assaulted in the execution of their duty, the magistrate fined two of the male diners £5 each. According to the Cornwall Chronicle, respectable citizens willingly assisted the police in exercising their ‘lawful duty’ but all reprobated ‘an undue exercise of authority’ and found it increasingly difficult to tolerate ‘shameful acts of oppression’ by the convict police. Equally objectionable was to subject individuals of ‘all ranks, high and low, the knowingly culpable and the unintentionally negligent, to the same painful ordeal of a police summons, and a humiliating interrogation from the magistrate.’ Colonists preferred constables to warn any individuals seen ‘unwittingly infringing’ new laws rather than ‘vexatiously’ dragging them to court for the sake of a fine or exulting in their power to march ‘a respectable well dressed person through the streets with prisoners in irons.’ All too often magistrates accepted the evidence of the constables, ‘even when contradicted by free, respectable persons.’ Indeed, Solicitor-General Alfred Stephen was reported to have said in open court that he could get ‘sufficient evidence in this Colony, with no trouble,’ to convict any man of any offence of which he might choose to accuse him.
Another culpable practice was to confine free men for a night in the watch-house on a false charge of drunkenness or obscene language. Even if the case was dismissed, detention cast a slur on the man’s character, while the constable was merely reprimanded or fined for his perjury. Some argued that the detention and certainly the conviction of a master weakened his moral authority over his servants and helped to subvert prison discipline. On the other hand, Arthur probably approved of arrests for immoral conduct because this showed that such behaviour would not be tolerated and set a good example for convicts. According to the True Colonist, Chief Police Magistrate Forster cared little for the liberty of free subjects and he protected policemen by hearing all charges against them without listening to evidence from the complainants. The True Colonist suggested that respectable men should take turns spending a night at the watch-house and be endowed with special authority to scrutinise charges brought by constables, dismissing charges if the arrest appeared false or taking bail if the case was doubtful.
Of course, not all police sought financial gain from dubious practices or enjoyed harassing free citizens or convicts with their arbitrary powers. Constable Robert Fleming refused to manufacture cases. James George recalled that a Constable McCann let parties off if they bought him half a pint of beer, but would arrest them if he found them offending again. According to one convict at Pittwater, District Constable Laing was ‘the prisoner’s friend’ and often let convicts on the streets after 8 p.m. pass without arresting them. In Launceston, similar leniency was in evidence. In 1832, the Launceston Advertiser complained that convicts roamed the streets at night ‘at nearly all hours’ and that to ask for their pass was ‘to be laughed at in some cases, and in others to excite surprise.’ It might be that convict constables wanted to restore friendly relations with their erstwhile colleagues or to show that they had the power to ignore laws directed at convict discipline. Even the anti-Arthur Colonial Times conceded that not all policemen were unscrupulous villains in disguise. It cited the example of two constables who, finding a drunken sailor in the streets with eleven sovereigns in his pockets, took him to the watch-house with his money intact.
Arthur’s political enemies sometimes exploited the abuse of police powers to undermine confidence in his government. They claimed that Arthur’s ‘vindictive’ pursuit of opponents encouraged convict constables to seek government favour by manufacturing charges against them. There were also allegations of more clandestine practices. Some charged that magistrates, constables, public servants, assigned servants and neighbours reported private conversations with colonists to Arthur and that he used their reports to determine who deserved his patronage. This resulted in distrust and treachery in the community, making friends wary of speaking openly to each other. For the Launceston Independent, this system was redolent of ‘the reign of terror’ induced by the lettres de cachet during the French Revolution and was ‘incompatible with the genius of Britons.’ According to the Colonial Times, the constables who policed the streets were supplemented by ‘a secret Police on a small scale, somewhat resembling that carried on in France under the celebrated Fouche.’ There was, of course, a certain amount of hyperbole, if not paranoia, about these claims, but it is clear that some convicts did become the secret agents of government for specific purposes, the best known being the Danish adventurer and one-time British agent Jorgen Jorgenson.
In 1834, the wealthy and prominent settler, William Bryan, was implicated in cattle stealing, attempting to pervert the course of justice, bribing a policeman and browbeating a magistrate. After Arthur withdrew his assigned servants and removed him from the commission of the peace, Bryan turned the allegations into a political issue to divert attention from his actions and left for England to pursue his cause with influential men. According to Bryan, no man was safe in VDL because convict policemen would say anything to receive pardons, tickets of leave, or other indulgences or to avoid penal stations, chain gangs, extra years added to their sentences, or the loss of indulgences. Bryan’s nephew Robert, who stayed in the colony, was sentenced to capital punishment, later commuted to six years at the Port Arthur penal settlement, for sheep stealing. Robert Bryan levelled various allegations against the convict police. Convicted on the evidence of convict constables, he claimed that they ‘planned and carried into execution a Conspiracy’ against him to obtain rewards from the government. But despite a long campaign by William Bryan and his clique, Lord Glenelg absolved Arthur of wrongdoing though the campaign may have led to Arthur’s recall.
 AOT GO 33/6, Arthur to Murray, 30 November 1829, HRA, Resumed Series III, Vol. 8, pp. 757-758.
 AOT GO 33/1, Arthur to Bathurst, 3 July 1825; AOT GO 1/4, Bathurst to Arthur, 14 December 1826; AOT GO 33/2, Arthur to Bathurst, 25 August 1827.
 AOT GO 33/5, Arthur to Twiss, 30 April 1829, HRA, Resumed Series III, Vol. 8, pp. 336-337; AOT CSO 37/1, Burnett to Arthur, 6 November 1829; AOT EC 4/1, 465-67, 11 November 1829; Hobart Town Gazette, 13 December 1828, p. 210, 21 November 1829, p. 271.
 The third officer, Richard Newman, appears to have been appointed chief constable at Port Arthur in May 1833. See Heard, Dora, (ed.), The Journal of Charles O’Hara Booth: Commandant of the Port Arthur Penal Settlement, (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), 1981, pp. 257 n. 262. But earlier he seems to have been dismissed: ML: Tasmanian Papers 265, Police Office Hobart Letterbooks 1831-32, Forster to Burnett, 8 and 29 February 1832 and Hobart Town Gazette, 24 August 1832, p. 454.
 Ibid, Forsyth W.D., Governor Arthur’s Convict System: Van Diemen’s Land, 1824-36, pp. 53-54.
 AOT POL 318/4, memo by Forster, 9 June 1836.
 For the regulations, see ibid, Report from the Select Committee on Transportation, Vol. 2, Appendix, pp. 326-31.
 Some of the Acts were listed in True Colonist, 14 May 1833; Launceston Advertiser, 10 July 1832.
 Gaskill, Malcolm, ‘The Displacement of Providence: Policing and Prosecution in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century England’, Continuity and Change, Vol. 11, (1996), pp. 348-349.
 Hay Douglas, ‘Prosecution and Power: Malicious Prosecution in the English Courts, 1750-1850’, in ibid, Hay, Douglas and Snyder, Francis, (eds.), Policing and Prosecution in Britain, 1750-1850, pp. 343-395.
 Morning Star, 23 December 1834.
 AOT CSO 41/1, Burnett to Wentworth, 18 February 1831, re allegations by Captain William Clark.
 AOT POL 318/3, memo by Forster, 18 June 1835.
 AOT EC 4/1, 494, 21 December 1829; Hobart Town Gazette, 20 February 1830, p. 62; Morgan, Sharon, Land Settlement in Early Tasmania: Creating an Antipodean England, (Cambridge University Press), 1992, pp. 62, 118.
 AOT CSO 41/1, Burnett to Wentworth, 18 February 1831, Burnett to Police Magistrate, Bothwell, 4 March 1831; AOT EC 4/1, 634-65, 14t March 1831.
 Eldershaw, P.R., ‘Burnett, John (1781-1860)’, ADB, Vol. 1, pp. 182-183.
 AOT CSO 41/1, Burnett to Police Magistrate, Bothwell, 4 March 1831.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 12 December 1835.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 12 December 1835; emphasis in original.
 True Colonist, 22 April 1836.
 Tasmanian, 5 May 1832.
 Colonial Times, 15 September 1835.
 Hobart Town Courier, 10 October 1829; Hobart Town Gazette, 10 April 1830, pp. 107-118; for a succinct account of the general evils of impounding, see Colonial Advocate, 1 May 1828; Melville, Henry, The History of Van Diemen’s Land From the Year 1824 to 1835, (Horwitz-Grahame), 1965, pp. 88-89.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 24 December 1836, letter by ‘A Poor Bullock Driver’.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 30 May 1835; see also Hobart Town Gazette, 1 March 1828, 10 October 1829.
 Hobart Town Gazette, 14 December 1832, 11 January 1833; Launceston Advertiser, 8 November 1830; Hobart Town Courier, 17 May 1833.
 HRA, Resumed Series III, Vol. 7, pp. 528-545, 556-559.
 Colonial Times, 8 September 1835.
 Launceston Advertiser, 7 March 1832.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 6 February 1836, letter by J.W. Bell.
 Colonial Times, 21 September 1831, 4 May 1834.
 Launceston Independent, 28 September 1833, 22 November 1834, letter by ‘Observer’.
 True Colonist, 29 January 1835.
 Colonial Times, 27 May, 17 June 1834
 AOT POL 321, memo by Forster, 11 August 1834; Hobart Town Gazette, 15 August 1834, p. 563.
 Colonial Times, 21 July 1835.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 2n January 1836.
 True Colonist, 11 September 1835; Colonial Times, 15 September 1835.
 AOT NS 1044/1, Reminiscences of James George, pp. 108-116.
 AOT NS 1044/1, Reminiscences of James George, pp. 190-195. George was apparently one of many arrests on the day of Arthur’s departure. See Colonial Times, 1 November 1836.
 For uses of the term ‘pig’, see Partridge, Eric, The Wordsworth Dictionary of the Underworld, (Wordsworth), 1995, p. 511.
 Hobart Town Courier, 25 April 1834.
 Launceston Independent, 15 November 1834.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 21, 28 May 1836.
 Hobart Town Courier, 25 April 1834; Launceston Independent, 22 November 1834, letter by ‘Observer’.
 Cornwall Chronicle, 2 January 1836, letter by ‘A Colonist’.
 Rutledge, Martha, ‘Stephen, Sir Alfred (1802-1894)’, ADB, Vol. 6, pp. 180-187.
 Tasmanian, 14 January 1832; Colonial Times, 3 November 1835.
 Hobart Town Courier, 4 May 1834.
 True Colonist, 8 January, 26 February, 22 December 1835.
 AOT NS 1044/1, Reminiscences of James George, p. 167.
 AOT NS 1116/1, The Alexander Laing Story, p. 22.
 Launceston Advertiser, 24 July 1832.
 Colonial Times, 24 September 1833.
 True Colonist, 11 September 1835.
 Launceston Independent, 3 November 1832, letter by ‘A Ghost of the Celebrated E B’, 12 January 1833, 11 January 1834; Colonial Times, 7 June 1836; The Colonist, 24 December 1833; Launceston Advertiser, 23 May 1832.
 Tasmanian, 18 June 1831. The theme of distrust has been considered by MacFie, Peter, ‘Dobbers and Cobbers: Informers and Mateship Among Convicts, Officials, and Settlers on the Grass Tree Hill Road, Tasmania 1830-1850’, Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, Vol. 35, (1988), pp. 112-127.
 Launceston Independent, 11 January 1834.
 Colonial Times, 1 November 1836; see also the True Colonist reference to ‘a regularly organized body of spies in every district’, 1 July 1836.
 True Colonist, 27 November 1835; Jorgenson, Jorgen, A Shred of Autobiography, (Sullivan’s Cove), 1981, pp. 61-63, 85-88; Clune, Frank and Stephensen, P.R., The Viking of Van Diemen’s Land: The Stormy Life of Jorgen Jorgenson, (Angus and Robertson), 1954, pp. 339-40, 370-386, 421-422. See also, Dally, James, ‘Jorgenson, Jorgen (1780-1841)’, ASB, Vol. 2, pp. 26-28.
 ‘Bryan, William (1801?-1837)’, ADB, Vol. 1, pp. 172-173.
 CO 280, Arthur to Hay, 6 March 1834, Arthur to Stanley, 24 October 1834, Arthur to Hay, 28 October 1835; AOT GO 1/22, Glenelg to Arthur, 23 June 1836, Bryan to Grey, 20 June 1836; AOT Solicitor General’s Department (SGD) 4/1, Ross to Arthur, 27 November 1833.
 AOT GO 33/24, petition from Robert Bryan, 7 June 1835; CO 280, Macdowell to Montagu, 29 December 1835; AOT POL 779/1, Booth to Forster, 28 May 1836.
 AOT GO 1/25, Glenelg to Franklin, 1 January 1837.