HC Deb 05 May 1817 vol 36 cc126-8

On the motion for the third reading of this bill,

Sir C. Monck

objected to the repeal of the last year's act, and the making such frequent changes in the law of the country without producing any substantial amendment. He could not see such a difference between the bill now proposed and that passed last year, as would justify the repeal of the former: besides which, there were many serious omissions in the measure now under consideration. No difference was made between the crimes of stealth and open robbery, and the same punishment was to be inflicted for entering into a preserve by night as for forcibly depredating by day. He hoped, therefore, the former act would not be repealed till some better digested measure could be substituted for it.

Mr. George Bankes

compared the different punishments, as proposed at several times by the legislature, for repressing the offence of poaching at night in armed bodies, and expressed his opinion, that transportation for seven years, as inflicted by the act of the last session, was not so severe as the discretionary power previously enjoyed by the justices of the peace, of sentencing offenders to serve for life in condemned regiments. The terror of this punishment, however, had not been found sufficient to deter persons from the offence, and the penalty of transportation was rather meant as a change than an increase of punishment. The efficacy of it had been already proved in Dorset and the neighbouring countries, which, previous to that act, were infested with poachers, but since a conviction under it of three persons, two armed with fire-arms, and one with a bludgeon, there was but one instance of a repetition of the offence. If that bill were altogether repealed, no power would exist of arresting offenders, nor would there be any means of punishing them, but by proceeding against them for the pecuniary penalties enacted by several statutes, and particularly that of the 13th of the king. He should not object to the third reading of the bill, but it appeared to him necessary to have it accompanied with a clause repealing the 39th and 40th of the king.—The bill being accordingly read a third time, the hon. gentleman brought up a clause to repeal the act 39th and 10th of the king, cap. 50, relating to rogues and vagabonds.

Mr. Lockhart

said, that if that act were repealed, persons might go about all night in any number, armed in every way for offence and the destruction of game, while no one could have authority to apprehend them, or any remedy exist for their outrages, but the tedious and uncertain process by action. Under Mr. Joddrell's act, any persons found with engines for the destruction of game; by night, might be forthwith apprehended; but it would be highly dangerous to repeal this act, and hold out to the poacher the possibility of going about by night without any danger of apprehension.

Sir E. Knatchbull

hoped the hon. gentleman would withdraw the clause he had moved. If he would do this, and bring forward his proposition by itself, he would give the subject his best attention.

Mr. Brand

hoped the hon. gentleman would withdraw his rider, and that the debate would be adjourned to some other time.

Mr. F. Lewis

supported the proposition of adjournment. He was an advocate for the repeal of the act of last session, because that act authorized magistrates to inflict too severe a sentence upon appearances not fully conclusive of a guilty intention; but yet he could not accede to the repeal of the act alluded to in the clause under discussion, because upon such repeal land-holders or their gamekeepers or other agents would not be allowed to seize men at night who had snares in their possession and were evidently engaged in poaching. Therefore he could not agree to the bill before the House if this clause were attached to it, or rather if a clause were not inserted distinctly authorizing the seizure of poachers at night. He concluded with moving an adjournment of the discussion until this day se'nnight.

Mr. W. Smith

supported this proposition. He regarded the whole question in a more serious light than some gentlemen seemed to do. The habit of poaching lead to the commission of more serious depredations, and ultimately carried on the offenders to robbery and even murder. This had been found to be the case pretty generally in many counties. The offenders soon proceeded to robbing hen roosts, &c. Two men were not long since brought to the gallows for burglary and murder, who ascribed their early misconduct to their habit of poaching. He wished the offence to be looked at in a more general view. The nature and degree of the punishment should be adapted to affect the moral feelings.

The House divided on the motion, that the debate be adjourned till Monday next; Ayes, 104; Noes. 21.