HC Deb 15 February 1821 vol 4 cc687-9
Mr. Warre

rose, in pursuance of notice, to make a motion, which was in fact for information only, in the manner in which he meant to put the case. It was true that be meant to ground upon this information an ulterior measure, in the hope of obtaining some compensation for parties who had suffered such unmerited punishment. The circumstances to which he was about to call the attention of the house had been already familiar to the public—he meant the case of a family of the name of Bowditch and others, who were tried nearly three years ago at the assizes at Taunton, for the forcible abduction of Miss Glenn. Upon the evidence of that young lady, the parties were convicted; but at a subsequent period the statement given by Miss Glenn was found so inconsistent with truth, that she was prosecuted, and convicted of perjury in the evidence she gave which led to the conviction of the Bowditches. In consequence of that conviction, immediate steps were taken to obtain the mitigation of the unexpired part of their sentence; Mr. Harmer, a professional gentleman, was employed to prepare a memorial to the Home department, setting forth the new situation in which the Bowditches were placed, by the verdict against their prosecutrix. Notwithstanding the presentation of that memorial to lord Sidmouth, the Bowditches were detained in custody until the full expiration of their sentence. It was the circumstance of their detention between the period of Miss Glenn's conviction and the termination of the full sentence, that he complained of, and after the fullest consideration of the whole case, he felt it necessary to call for an inquiry into the particulars of the full imprisonment of the family to which he alluded. The mother of the Bowditches, although sixty-eight years of age, was suffered to remain in prison for the space of twenty months; her son, who also endured his full imprisonment, and who was a farmer, would have been ruined had it not been for the kind assistance of his friends, who looked after his affairs while in prison. Taking into view the whole of this case, he had hardly heard of one more entitled to compensation for the parties who had suffered, owing to the unfortunate credit which was given by the jury to Miss Glenn's evidence. So powerful had the influence of that testimony been, although it was afterwards clearly proved to have been false, that the judges refused the application of the defendants for a new trial, and stated that they saw no reason to touch the conclusion to which the jury came upon the trial. What in his judgment peculiarly required explanation was, why the Bowditches should have been detained in prison after the verdict of perjury found against their prosecutrix. He concluded by moving, for M a copy of the petition to the Home Department in behalf of the Bowditches."

Mr. Clive

highly applauded the motives of the hon. gentleman, and was willing to afford him every information in his power; from which he believed he would find that the petition had not been neglected by government. In the subsequent trial alluded to by the hon. gentleman, the case of perjury against the prosecutors of the Bowditches was so clearly made out, that the lord chief justice, who presided at the trial, drew up a memorial to the Home department on the subject. This memorial was presented in October last, the original trial and sentence of the Bowditches having taken place in 1819. In consequence of the representation of the lord chief justice, Mrs. Mulraine was released from prison, upon the royal pardon being extended to her. One of the Bowditches had already suffered his term, and the sentence of the other two then in gaol did not appear to be at all affected by what transpired at the subsequent trial in question. It did not therefore appear necessary or proper to interfere with their punishment. The evidence was still strong against them as having forcibly carried away Miss Glenn.

Mr. Warre

said, that had he known a distinction had been taken between the defendants upon a subsequent review of the case, he should not have made his motion. His only desire was to obtain an explanation, and that being given he had no desire to press it farther.

Lord Castlereagh

said, the question at issue appeared to be with respect to the three remaining prisoners. One woman had been released at the instance of the lord chief justice; but he did not see that because he had made application in behalf of that one, it at all affected the other prisoners.

Mr. Bennet

said, that the explanation given did not satisfy him; for if Miss Glenn, upon whose testimony the Bow-ditches were convicted, had perjured herself, then he was entitled to say, that the crime had not been committed which she swore to at first; and it followed that the parties ought not to have been continued in custody.

Mr. Bankes

assured the hon. member, that from private information, which he unfortunately possessed respecting the whole transaction, the view taken of the matter at the Home-office was the just one.

The motion was then withdrawn.