HC Deb 25 March 1812 vol 22 cc183-7

On the motion of Mr. Eden, Mr. Dan was called to the bar, and examined by the Speaker. Mr. Dan stated, that he was an attorney, that in consequence of his orders Hindson, the sheriff's officer, had been instructed to arrest Mr. Campbell; that after the arrest, Hindson came to him with a paper, which he said, Campbell offered as his protection from arrest; that the paper shewn to him by the clerk (the order of the Committee for Mr. Campbell's attendance as a witness) was that paper; that he conceived it was a trick to facilitate escape; that he also doubted, if authentic, whether it was an essential protection; because Mr. Campbell was arrested, not in going to the Committee, but on his re-turn home; that the Committee was not described in the paper as a Committee of the House of Commons, and that the residence of Mr. Campbell was not specified. Having withdrawn,

Mr. Eden

said, that Mr. Dan's statement had been so satisfactory, that he was sure the House would agree to his motion for discharging that gentleman from any further attendance.

Mr. Dan was accordingly discharged, as was also Hindson, the sheriff's officer.

On the motion of Mr. Eden, Mr. Palmer was then called to the bar, and examined by the Speaker.

Mr. Palmer stated, that he was ordered to attend the Committee on Monday; that he was arrested a little after four in the afternoon of that day, having left the Committee a little before four; that he lived at Limehouse: that he was arrested in Black-friar's-road, going to call on his brother-in-law Mr. Campbell; that Grace, the she-riff's officer, arrested him, that he shewed Grace the order for his attendance on the Committee; that Grace said, he was obliged to take him, although he expressed no doubt of the authenticity of the order; that he told Grace he was going back to the House of Commons for a letter from the Chairman of the Committee; that he had been instructed by the Committee to go to Mr. Campbell, who was in custody in the neighbourhood of Blackfriars'-road, and to return to the House, where he would find either the Chairman of the Committee or a note from him; that while acting under these directions, and returning from Mr. Campbell, he was arrested: and that he had in vain stated all these circumstances to the officer.—The Witness having withdrawn,

Mr. Eden

observed, that before he moved to call in Grace, he would state to the House, the object of the Committee, in sending Mr. Palmer to Mr. Campbell. During the examination of Mr. Palmer be-fore the Committee, that gentleman received information, that his brother-in-law,. Mr. Campbell, had been arrested on his way to attend the Committee as a witness. They conceiving it to be their duty, in maintenance of the privileges of parliament, to bring the fact before the House, requested Mr. Palmer to go to Mr. Campbell, and to prevent him from endeavouring to procure his discharge by bail.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, on this statement, was inclined to think that Mr. Palmer, when arrested, could not be considered as a witness, but as a messenger, and doubted whether under those circumstances he was entitled to protection.

Mr. Eden

argued by analogy, from the practice of courts of law, that Mr. Palmer was entitled to protection, and stated two cases in support of his argument. The one was of a person whose cause was put off early in the morning, but who, not returning home until evening, was on his return arrested; the other was of a woman, whose cause was decided on a Friday, but who, waiting until Saturday for a stage in which to return home, was arrested in getting into the stage. In both those cases the courts decided, that the individuals were entitled to protection.

Mr. Wynn

said, that this was a novel case; but the inclination of his mind was, that Mr. Palmer ought to be protected. He had been ordered by the Committee to do a particular act before his return home, and was therefore not released from his attendance at the time of his arrest.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

doubted, in the first place, the power of a Committee to appoint a messenger. If, however, they had that power, his protection ought to describe him as a messenger, not as a witness. Otherwise a sheriff's officer might be involved in endless perplexities. For suppose a sheriff's officer met a man against whom he had a writ, going to Hampstead, and that man were to tell him, that he was sent on a message by a committee of the House of Commons, although the letter, which he might shew as his protection, was merely a summons as a witness before that committee, it would be hard to impose on the sheriff's officer the necessity of believing such a statement. It might perhaps be expedient to postpone the further consideration of this case, in order to afford time for deliberation.

The Speaker

observed, that if the case were to stand over, it must be on the principle alone. No new circumstances could appear. In old times, even before the Revolution, it had always been held to be the undoubted right of the House of Commons to protect from arrest, witnesses summoned either to the House, or to a committee, in coming, staying, and returning. In his view of the present question, the character of Mr. Palmer as a messenger, seemed to be a secondary consideration. The House must first dispose of his quality as a witness; that he had been in attendance as a witness before the Committee, was clear: that he was not to re-turn to the Committee in the capacity of a witness was also clear. The question for the House to consider was, whether Mr. Palmer was bona fide on his return home when he was arrested. If he had not taken a more than lawful latitude—if his departure from the direct line of his return was satisfactorily accounted for by the intervening act which had been described—the House would have to decide whether in that case they would cut short his protection, and by doing so, forbid their witnesses from returning home by any other than the straight course.

Mr. Stephen

was of opinion, that had the suspension of Mr. Palmer's return home been his own choice, he would not have been entitled to the privilege of protection; but it was evidently the act of the Committee.

Mr. Eden

also trusted, that the House would consider the deviation of Mr. Palmer from the straight line of his return sufficiently accounted for, and that they would give him the benefit of protection,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

, if such were the wish of the House, expressed his entire acquiescence in it.

Sir J. Newport

thought it enigmatical that two brothers, summoned to attend the same committee, should be arrested on the same day, and on writs issued by two different attornies.

Mr. Wilberforce

bore testimony to the character of Mr. Campbell. He understood that Mr. Campbell was a man of great worth, and considerable property. He had been a settler in New South Wales, but had been compelled, about eight years ago, to come over to this country to give evidence on a trial, and had since been involved in difficulties by the conduct of his agent. He repeated that he had un-doubted authority for stating, that Mr. Campbell was a man of most unblemished character.

Sir A. Piggott

thinking it desirable, that Grace, the sheriff's officer, should be called in,

He was accordingly called to the bar, and being examined by the Speaker, stated; that on Monday, at about half past four o'clock, he arrested Mr. Palmer in Charlotte street, Black-friars-road; that Mr. Palmer came to his house to enquire for Mr. Campbell; that he directed him to Hindson's; that he followed him to Hindson's; and that on coming out he served him with a writ; that Mr. Palmer shewed him a letter, requiring his attendance as a witness before a committee of the House of Commons, but that never having seen such a thing before, and the writ being of such a nature as to expose him to the greatest risk, in the event of Mr. Palmer's escape upon a false pretext, he had been compelled, with a view to his own security, not to allow Mr. Palmer to go.—The sheriff's officer having with-drawn,

Mr. Eden

moved, that the privileges of the House be granted to Mr. Palmer, and that he be discharged from arrest.—Ordered.

He then moved, that Grace, the sheriff's officer, be discharged from further attendance; which was also agreed to.