HC Deb 01 July 1811 vol 20 cc774-6
Mr. Chaplin,

after some prefatory observations, in which he said that he had received a letter from the under sheriff of Lincoln, declaring that Mr. Finnerty had offered money for other apartments; as also a statement from a magistrate, in contradiction of what had been advanced by Mr. Finnerty, presented a Petition from Mr. Merryweather, the gaoler of Lincoln Castle, setting forth

"That a Petition having been presented to this House by Peter Finnerty, a prisoner in the said castle of Lincoln, containing gross and scandalous misrepresentations of the misdemeanor ward of the said prison, in which he is confined, and of the cruelty and oppression he labours under from the Petitioner and the visiting magistrates of the prison aforesaid, most humbly requests the House will make such enquiry into the conduct of the Petitioner towards the said Peter Finnerty as to their wisdom way seem meet; the Peti- tioner not having acted cruelly and oppressively towards the said Peter Finnerty, who was enjoying the unrestrained liberty of air and exercise in a part of the court yard and private garden of the Petitioner, of above three acres in extent, until the Petitioner discovered that the indulgence so granted him was abused by an attempt to seduce his upper turnkey from his duty, by offering him money to permit him to be criminally connected with a female convict in the said prison, and also, while taking exercise in the part before mentioned, offering money to three female prisoners employed in cleaning the County-hall, for them to let him come in at the window for the above improper purpose, and which more fully appears by the depositions of the parties."

Mr. Whitbread

was glad that this Petition of the gaoler had come forward, as it contained a specification of the charge against Mr. Finnerty. But, supposing it true, it was not therefore proper that Mr. Finnerty should be kept five or six weeks from air and exercise, at the discretion of the gaoler. He had a letter from Mr. Finnerty, however, purporting that the turnkey had made the offer to him for a bribe, and on his refusal had told this story in order to be before hand with him. Then there was no answer given as to the stench in Mr. Finnerty's cell. The hon. gent had said, there was no stench when he was there. That might well be, fur it often happened that the prevalence of stench in any particular place depended on the direction of the wind. He hoped the prayer of the petition would be complied with; but it was clear a gaoler ought not to have the power of increasing or mitigating a sentence of a court of justice at his discretion.

Mr. Chaplin

defended the conduct of the gaoler, who had given Mr. Finnerty the liberty of walking in his garden, and shewed a disposition to grant him every indulgence consistent with his situation, till his own improper conduct rendered a closer confinement necessary. As a proof that no political motive influenced the gaoler, lie had only to advert to the satisfaction expressed by Mr. Drakard at the manner in which he had been treated.

Mr. Brougham

said that no answer had been given to the charge of solitary confinement. He knew that Mr. Drakard had been well treated; but this only placed in a stronger light the injustice done to MR. Finnerty. The sentences were the same, and why should the punishment be different? If the gaoler "had thirteen rooms in his house, Mr. Finnerty ought not to be confined in a felon's cell.

Mr. Chaplin

said, it was not a felon's cell; bat designed for those confined for misdemeanors.

Mr. Secretary Ryder

utterly denied the charge of solitary confinement, which was not even alledged in Mr. Finnerty's petition. As to the gaoler having thirteen rooms in his house, they took that from Mr. Finnerty's petition. But supposing it to be so, the gaoler's house was his freehold, and he was not bound to give up any part of it to the prisoners. It ought to be recollected that he gave a large security to the sheriff for the safe custody of his prisoners. He had been making ail the inquiry he could; and the result was a conviction that for some pans of the complaint of Mr. Finnerty there was not the slightest ground, and that the rest had been excessively exaggerated. The apartment assigned to him was 22 feet by 11, and 16 feet high, and raised above a yard of some extent, of which Mr. Finnerty had almost the exclusive use. But if there was a stench, or any other real grievance in the case, steps had been taken to remove them.

Mr. Brougham

said, that facts had been stated which amounted to solitary confinement, though these words were not used.

The Petition was then laid on the table.