HC Deb 22 August 1833 vol 20 cc834-9
Mr. Cobbett

, in rising to bring forward his Motion relative to the Report of the Committee on Dean's Petition against Popay, the spy, said, it was not his intention to say anything that might irritate or annoy his Majesty's Ministers. The people ought to be, and he believed were, satisfied with the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers, as far as related to the inquiry upon that petition, at least, as far as the matter had already gone. But it ought not to stop at the point of inquiry—the Ministers were expected to do something more. Every allegation in the petition had been proved to the satisfaction of the Committee, and, as the members of that Committee would declare, the witnesses in support of the petition bad behaved in the most correct and proper manner, it must be in the recollection of the House, that Sir Charles Worsley had been imprisoned and lined for using words much less seditious than those used by Popay, and certainly with no such base and despicable intention; and yet this Popay—this criminal—was walking about the streets, apparently without the slightest fear of punishment. The people would naturally ask whether this were proper or just; and if this man ought not to be prosecuted for sedition? If he were not, justice would not be done, and the Solicitor-General would not do his duty. If he were not prosecuted, the people would say that the Government was anxious to screen these wretches, or was afraid to proceed against them, lest they should reveal something which might affect the Government. The crime could be proved—the witnesses were ready—and why not have the criminal brought before the Jury? Before the Committee he had made such a shuffling defence, that every member was convinced of his guilt. If, then, this man should escape, what would be the opinion of the people? This was all he should say on that subject; but leave his Majesty's Ministers to do what, after such statements, they might think was right. But Popay was not the only man who should be punished. The superintendent, Mr. M'Lean, had been guilty of the greatest prevarication before the Committee. At first he denied having paid the spy any money, but was afterwards obliged to confess that he had paid him money. His evidence was a shuffle from beginning to end. This was the superintendent who dismissed a cowkeeper very cavalierly, when the latter complained, that a police serjeant had feloniously stolen his milk. A pretty sample this was, of what might be expected from these worthies forming a rural police. Why, they might as well send down as many milk maids into the country; for there would not be a cow left unmilked by these precious rural guardians. It was all too much of a piece in these police matters; for Popay was unpunished, and M'Lean and the felon who stole the milk still retained their situations. He could not, however, sit down without mentioning the case of Mr. William Dean. In doing this, be must say, that the Commissioners had not conducted themselves before the Committee in the manner that was expected. It was they who brought up the name of Mr. Dean in the Committee; for Mr. Dean had nothing to do with the Committee. The Commissioners introduced his name by saying, that they had dismissed him, after two years' service, for some observations he had made relative to the Cal thorpe-street affair. Mr. Dean might have acted indiscreetly in what he had said; but the Commissioners acknowledged that they had dismissed him from the Police, into which he entered with a most excellent character, and after he had satisfactorily fulfilled the duties of serjeant, without putting him upon his defence, or confronting him with his accusers. This he considered to be most indefensible partiality; for if the man who stole the milk was kept in the Police, surely this respectable man ought not to have been dismissed, for a hasty, inconsiderate, or indiscreet expression. The hon. Member concluded, by moving for a Copy of the Order dismissing W. Dean from the Police.

Colonel Evans

, although he had great objections to the system of police, felt it his duty to bear testimony to the unimpeachable characters of both the Commissioners, especially Colonel Rowan, with whom he was personally acquainted. As to the case of the spy, which had been adverted to by the hon. member for Oldham, a clearer case had never been made out, and he could not believe that the superintendent was ignorant of the man's proceedings. He hoped that Government would take into consideration the propriety of visiting this man's conduct with something further than dismissal. With respect to Mr. M'Lean, he did not consider him fit to hold his present situation, for he was in the habit of employing as many as twenty persons in plain clothes. Such conduct could not be too strongly deprecated, and he must say, that it tended greatly to increase the prejudices against the police-system. The expense, too, of the system was much greater than that of the old. The whole expense of the watch, in the districts where the police were now stationed, was 137,000l.; the police force, however, during the last year, had cost no less than 215,000l. There was no doubt great objection to the old system, but, in his opinion, it only required modification. Such a course had been adopted in the city of London, and had been productive of the best effect. There was also very just complaints with respect to the viligance of the police; robberies were continually being committed, the perpetrators of which could not be discovered, and the servant of a friend of his was the other night robbed near St. Martin's church, when no policeman was to be found. It would be well worthy the consideration of Government, whether a modification could not take place in the force, such for instance, as giving some control to the local authorities.

Mr. Lamb

said, that, with regard to the case alluded to by the hon. member for Oldham, he was of opinion that it called for the interference of the Secretary of State. The proof of Popay being a spy was certainly complete, with the exception of that part of the assertion which related to the recommending assassination, but he (Mr. Lamb) had been advised that he could not succeed in prosecuting him in Court, unless he relied on the odium that generally attended spies—for that reason he did not think it his duty to prosecute him, but he wished it to be known that Popay was dismissed from the police. With regard to Mr. Wm. Dean, whose offence was that of having expressed very strong opinions respecting the Calthorpe street meeting, where he was not present, when he was examined, his language was so violent as to induce a belief that his mind was affected. As to what had been said by the gallant Officer, about policemen being employed in plain clothes, it certainly did appear that twenty of them had been so employed at different times, for the purpose of detecting felonies, but the twenty had never been employed all at one time. It was to be recollected, that before this force was formed at all, all the officers that were employed were nothing more nor less than policeman in plain clothes. It had been very much considered by Sir Robert Peel, whether they ought to wear uniform or not; and, upon the whole, it was considered better that they should wear uniform. Although this had been so decided, it would be impossible for them to leave off wearing plain clothes altogether. As to the ex pence of the police, the accounts were regularly laid on the Table, and it was to be hoped the rates in future would not press so heavily as to be the source of any prejudice against the police.

Mr. Warburton

thought, the hon. member for Oldham was entitled to the thanks of the House, for bringing forward the Motion. He considered Mr. M'Lean's conduct to be such as to deserve severe censure; and he doubted much whether he ought to be continued in the service. With regard to the conduct of the Commissioners, in their peremptorily dismissing any person from the police, it was but proper that they should have such a power; and, looking at Dean's conduct, he could not say that he had been improperly dismissed. The hon. member for Oldham had certainly proved a strong case of espionage against Popay, and he was very properly dismissed. The reports which that man was constantly making to his superiors, ought to have convinced them that he was greatly exceeding his duty, for it appeared that he reported the speeches of one of the hon. members for Southwark, and another for Middlesex, at public meetings, and he ought to have been checked long ago.

Mr. Hawes

said, the House and the public ought to feel indebted to the hon. member for Oldham, for the manner in which he had brought those proceedings forward. There was no doubt that Popay well deserved the appellation of a spy, and he thought that the superintendant was very remiss in his duty, for not exercising proper vigilance over Popay, who, it was proved, had attended meetings of the National Union. With respect to the Commissioners, he knew of no two men of more honourable character. As to the expense of the New Police, the hon. and gallant officer (Colonel Evans) had underrated the real amount of the old police, for the Trustees of the Roads paid the expense of watching those roads formerly, and that the public did not know the amount of; whereas these roads were now watched by the New-Police.

The Solicitor General

approved of the dismissal of Popay, against whom such a case had been established, that it would be disgraceful to continue him on the police. Whether any further punishment should be inflicted upon him or not, was a different thing. The House should recollect what a flagellation he had got from the hon. member for Oldham, and he hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would think that all-which it was necessary to do had been done.

Lord Hotham

said, that without involving other cases in the present, he thought the police force of the metropolis and its vicinity highly valuable, and he would, therefore, add his testimony to that of the hon. member for Lambeth. The only object of the Commissioners must be to carry into effect the intentions of the Legislature and the directions of the Executive Government. The more the system was inquired into, the more the public would be satisfied that great praise was due to those individuals, in the discharge of a duty equally invidious and laborious. He did not deny that the system might be improved; but it was to him, and, he believed, to others, a matter of surprise, that so little cause of just complaint had been discovered during the existence of the police establishment.

Mr. Cobbett

wished only to say a few words in reply, particularly on the charge of prevarication he had formerly brought against the Commissioners. By prevarication he meant shuffling, and it was established by the testimony taken before the Committee. In their conduct, as regarded Popay, he attributed to them nothing more than laziness; he charged them with not making themselves duly acquainted with facts; for had they known them, they could not have kept such an odious wretch in their employ. He was convinced, that a bad impression would be produced on the minds of the people, unless a fit degree of vigilance were kept up, in order that criminals and persons unworthy their situations might be dismissed from the force.

The hon. Member withdrew his Motion.