HC Deb 31 May 1820 vol 1 cc693-4
Lord Althorp

presented a petition from several persons who were confined in the prison of the Fleet for contempt of the court of chancery. One of these persons was a woman 81 years old, who had been confined for contempt 31 years. Another person was 64 years old, and had been confined 19 years; another was 60, and had been confined eight years. There was another person who would have signed the petition, but he was in a dying condition, partly, it was supposed, on account of his confinement. He presented this petition the more willingly, in order to show the necessity of extending the provisions of the Insolvent Debtors act to persons confined under contempt.

The petition was brought up and read. The petitioners prayed for relief, by being put on the same footing as other debtors.

Mr. Bennet

bore testimony to the severe suffering of many persons confined for contempt of the court of Chancery. He had known instances in which the parties had, after long imprisonment, endeavoured to purge themselves from contempt, but had no means of doing so, the parties being all dead, and the cause quite forgotten. The best mode of preventing this unjust suffering, would be that the noble lord at the head of the court, should bring all the cases under his review once or twice every year.

Mr. Lockhart

observed, that there would be an anomaly in bringing the persons committed for a contempt of a superior court under the review of an inferior judge; and this would be the case, if the persons thus confined were put in the situation of insolvent debtors. Some of the prisoners, too, were committed, not for non-payment of money, but for re- fusing to do certain acts—to answer bills, for instance—by which other parties were injured.

Ordered to lie on the table.