HC Deb 29 July 1807 vol 9 cc1005-7
Colonel Wood

presented a petition on behalf of W. Spurrier, who was committed into the custody of the serjeant at arms, for his conduct on the subject of the Poole Writ; stating that he had been guilty of a breach of the privilege of the house, and thereby incurred its serious displeasure; and being now fully sensible of his misconduct, most humbly begged pardon for it, and he threw himself on the mercy of the house, humbly hoping that this his contrition might be accepted, and that the house would forgive him, &c. The petition being read, colonel Wood moved, that the petitioner be brought to the bar to-morrow, in order to be discharged.

The Secretary at War

called the attention of the house to the case. The petitioner had kept possession of the writ for 17 days. His son was at first a candidate, and then another in his interest, so that he had very interested motives on this occasion. He acted with a view of turning the election in favour of his family. He had no wish to prevent the lenity of the house being extended to this gentleman, but this was a very bad example. He trusted some provision would be made to prevent a recurrence of the offence.

Mr. Fuller

agreed in the sentiments the right hon. baronet.

Mr. W. Smith

thought this case more serious in its nature than that of Mr. Brundrett; the one being a mere agent, the other a sort of principal in misconduct. This gentleman stated, that he paid 30 guineas for having the writ, and that his object was only to keep it in safe custody. It was impossible to credit this assertion. There had hardly ever been so bad a case as this before the house, upon a subject of this nature, although there was one about 40 years ago something like it. He Wished a stop to be put to such practices in future. He would not oppose any lenity which gentlemen wished to shew in this instance, but the case was really a serious one.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

admitted the offence of the petitioner to be serious, but he could not help wishing that the hon. gent who spoke last had expressed his disapprobation of it when the case of Mr. Brundrett was before the house, when nothing but lenity was talked of on that side of the house. He had no objection to a parliamentary enactment to prevent such practices in future, but he saw no particular reason for being rigorous in this case.

Mr. Rose

said, he should certainly Feel himself disposed to inflict a more severe degree of punishment both on Brundrett and Spurrier, had he not been well assured that a bill was about to be brought into parliament, that would prevent such shameful and abusive practices. It should be enacted, that as soon as the clerk of the crown had made out the writs, they Should be immediately transmitted by post to the different sheriffs, under a certain penalty.

Lord H. Petty

thought the house justified in the lenity it shewed on the last occasion when the subject was discussed, nor had he any objection to the lenity now proposed. He wished the house to proceed to the immediate adoption of some measure to prevent this mischief in future.

Mr. Barham

admitted the impropriety of the practice in which this petitioner was concerned; but reminded the house that too many of its own members were intimately acquainted with, if not implicated in something of the same kind; but he,wished the house to stand well with the public, which it would never do by wreaking its vengeance on an individual, for doing only that which was well known to attach to others, and had so long passed unnoticed. If the house wished to continue in possession of the public confidence, and without it the country could not be saved, it would not be rigorous upon an individual for that sort of conduct which although reprobated in the house, was too often practised out of it. If members wished to be strict in this business, let them begin with themselves. He made these general observations from his feelings, without reference to any individual: of Mr. Spurrier he knew nothing; had never spoken to him, but he loved an impartial administration of justice.

Mr. Pole Carew

cautioned the house as to attempts to remedy this evil, and reminded it of the fate of former efforts of that kind.

Mr. Bingham

expressed himself extremely glad at the lenity of the punishment that was inflicted on the prisoner, and the more especially, when he considered the character of that high tribunal before whom the prisoner stood; they were both the judges and the jury in the case, and they acted worthy of their high character in administering justice with mercy.

Mr. Lushington

moved an amendment, that instead of the petitioner being brought up to-morrow, he should be brought up tomorrow se'nnight.

Mr. S. Thornton

thought this case the most extraordinary he had heard of in the course of the 24 years he had sat in parliament. He should vote for the amendment.

Mr. Windham

thought rigour the less necessary in this case, as the house was about to provide a remedy against this evil occurring in future: for the great object of punishment was the prevention of crimes.

Mr. Wilberforce

was disposed to vote for the more severe punishment, on account of the answer which the petitioner gave to the house yesterday; but on account of his age and infirmity, he should not oppose any lenity which might be proposed to be shewn to him.

Mr. Lockhart

thought the house had been somewhat remiss in not promulgating the law upon this subject, and was therefore disposed to be lenient in the present instance.—The house then divided. For the original motion 45; for the amendment 29; majority 16.