HC Deb 27 April 1826 vol 15 cc719-20

Mr. Tennyson moved the third reading of this bill.

Mr. N. Calvert

objected to one of the clauses, which in its present form would have this effect, that, in the case of a man burglariously breaking into a house, and being shot by a spring gun, the party about to be robbed would be liable to an action for a misdemeanour, on account of keeping a spring gun in his house.

Sir G. Chetwynd

objected to the bill, on the ground that if it passed into a law, a person setting a spring-gun in his dwelling-house, garden, or hot-house, might be found guilty of manslaughter, and banished for life; and would likewise be liable to a civil action for damages. There was a manifest distinction between setting guns in woods or forests, and setting them in warehouses, dwelling houses, hothouses, and gardens. In most cases the guns were not actually set, but the threat was held up in terrorem to frighten thieves and poachers.

Mr. R. Colburne

objected to the bill; but protested against the supposition that lie, and the rest who opposed the measure, were deficient in humanity.

Mr. Secretary Peel

concurred in the measure. If a spring-gun was to be defended as a punishment for a trespass, a man might also defend the springing of a mine, by which a whole gang of poachers might be destroyed at once. He for one could not approve the power of punishing with death a trespass, which, even if a man were convicted, would only bring upon him a punishment of three months' imprisonment. If persons were anxious to preserve game, let them keep a physical force sufficient for that purpose. He was a game preserver, and he always kept a sufficient number of persons for that object. At the same time, he would wish to make a distinction between spring-guns set for the preservation of game, and for that of walled gardens. In the case of game, a man might be only a trespasser, but, in the other, a man might enter with the intention of committing a felony. He could wish that the bill had made an exception in favour of gardens; on which, in many cases, a man's whole subsistence depended.

Mr. W. Horton

said, he would have no objection to the bill if it were to last for only one year; by which time he hoped that some law would be passed for legalizing the sale of game; but he did not, without such a measure as that, wish to see this bill made permanent.

Mr. G. Lamb

said, that the only objection he had to the abolition of spring-guns was, that they sometimes shot those who had set them. He could wish to see the bill more perfect than it was; but still he would give it his support.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that he would support the bill, if it embraced the amendment of last year; namely, that the prohibition of the use of spring-guns should be limited to woods, under-woods, or open fields.

Mr. J. Smith

was in favour of the bill. He, for one, would wish to see the experiment made by an hon. friend of his (the member for Lewes) more generally adopted. It was that of behaving so kindly to his poor neighbours as to put an end to the necessity of poaching on their part.

Mr. Wynn

would vote for the third reading, and also for the amendment of which his hon. friend had given notice.

Captain Gordon

said, he would support the bill. It had been said, that the law of Scotland did not require such a measure. If that were the case, it would be unnecessary to include that part of the kingdom in it; but he could wish that some member, who knew the law of Scotland, would state what it was on this subject.

Mr. J. P. Grant

gave his assent to the bill, but objected to the clause, making death by a spring-gun manslaughter.

The House then divided; For the bill, 24; Against it 25; Majority against the bill 1.