HC Deb 11 June 1824 vol 11 cc1202-4
Mr. Hume

presented a petition from Richard Carlile, at present confined in Dorchester gaol for the publication of blasphemous works. The petitioner complained that he had been prevented from paying the fine which he had been sentenced to pay. In consequence of the non-payment of the fine, he had been detained in prison after the expiration of the term of imprisonment to which he had been sentenced. He was now a Crown debtor; but, notwithstanding, the usual indulgences granted to Crown prisoners had not been extended to him.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, it was quite clear that the petitioner was not entitled to be treated as a Crown debtor, but ought to be subject to the rules of the gaol which applied to his original imprisonment. The petitioner had, from time to time, made complaints to him, of the ill-treatment which he received in the gaol. He had instituted inquiries on the subject; and he felt it due to the magistrates of Dorset to state, that, under the greatest provocation which it was possible for them to receive, he could not conceive that any persons could have acted with more forbearance. The petitioner complained of the restrictions to which he was subjected; but when the House heard, that his object was, to corrupt all his fellow prisoners, they would easily imagine that the magistrates were compelled to take precautions to prevent the contamination. Personal restrictions likewise became necessary, in consequence of the menaces which the petitioner had made use of Carlile had posted in the gaol a regular written notice, that after a certain day he would consider his imprisonment illegal, and would feel himself justified in' killing the first keeper he might see. Carlile had sent a similar notice to him. Out of regard to the lives of those persons whose duty it was to ensure Carlile's safe custody, and from regard to Carlile's own safety, he (Mr. P.) had declared, that he thought the magistrates were right in taking measures to prevent him from committing the crime which he meditated. He was satisfied that no person, under the circumstances which applied to Carlile's case, could have been treated with more indulgence than he had been. He would take that opportunity of stating, that Mary Anne Carlile, the sister of the petitioner, had received a free pardon, and was discharged from gaol.

Mr. Hume

said, he did not stand there to defend the petitioner's conduct, which had always been eccentric, and in the instance alluded to very violent. But the question was, whether the petitioner had not been prevented from paying his fine, by the act of the law itself, which had taken away his property.

Mr. W. Smith

said, that the case of the petitioner involved a question of much greater importance than any thing that could regard him personally; namely, whether an individual was to be subjected to excessive imprisonment for non-payment of a fine, when his incapacity to pay it was evident.

Mr. Peel

observed, that in no instance was a person kept in permanent imprisonment who was incapable of discharging his fine. Prisoners in such a situation were always discharged by the Crown, after they had undergone a term of imprisonment which was considered commensurate with the fine which they had been sentenced to pay.

The petition was ordered to lie on the table. On the question that it be printed.

Mr. Portman

resisted the motion, on the ground that it contained false charges of excessive cruelty against the magistrates of Dorsetshire.

Mr. Hume

said, that the petitioner did not complain of any particular persons, but merely of general ill-treatment. He, however, would not press the motion for printing the petition.