§ Mr. Wakley
wished to know from his Majesty's Attorney-General, under what Act of Parliament a man named Cleave had been convicted for selling unstamped newspapers; and under what Act of Parliament the officers were justified in seizing those papers which were in his possession: and, lastly, how were the magistrates justified in sentencing him, in addition to imprisonment, to the punishment of the silent system?
§ The Attorney-General
had inquired into the circumstances since the same question had been put to him before, and had ascertained that the man had been convicted under the 16th of Geo. 2nd, which provided, that any person carrying unstamped papers might be arrested, brought before a magistrate, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment. On the 4th day of the present month he had been found in a cab with thirty-three quires of The Police Gazette, an unstamped newspaper; was arrested, brought before a magistrate, and under the Act to which he had referred, sentenced to three months' imprisonment. With respect to the treatment he had experienced in confinement, it had been very indulgent indeed; and so far from his being condemned to the punishment of the silent system, he had been appointed teacher of the boys in the prison. It only remained to answer the hon. Member's question as it regarded the seizure of the papers on his person. His (the Attorney-General's) notion was, that the law could never mean that these papers should be restored to the party upon whose person they might have been found, to be redistributed in direct opposition to the law. The law, he presumed, would recognise no property in these papers; and if the hon. Member thought it would, he might bring his action of trover for the recovery of the property, and thus take the decision of a jury and the opinion of a Court or the question.
§ Mr. Wakley
had never advocated a violation of the laws, but 400 persons had been arrested for the sale of a newspaper, which the Court of Exchequer had decided not to be a newspaper.
§ Mr. Roebuck
wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman another question relating to another transaction of the same nature. It appeared that a man named Reeve had been stopped by some police constables, with a bundle in his possession. He was asked what it contained, but refused to answer. It was then taken from him, and was found to contain legally stamped papers. He was brought before a magistrate, fined, and not paying the fine, was sent to confinement, stripped of his clothes, and the flannel next his skin taken off, to the very serious detriment of his health. Now he wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether this was in accordance with the feelings of the people at large, or consistent with the spirit of the English laws?
§ The Attorney-General
would not trouble the House with his opinion as to whether this conviction was in accordance with the feelings of the people at large; but as to its being consistent with the spirit of the English law, he should leave the House to judge from the facts of the case. From the information which he (the Attorney-General) had received, it appeared that the individual in question had been met by a constable, and asked what a bundle which was in his possession contained; his reply was, to knock the constable down. Such was the information he had received, and he believed it was correct. Under the 27th section of the 9th Geo. 4th he was brought before a magistrate, who fined him, as the Act authorised the magistrate, five pounds, and the fine not being paid, he was committed, according to the provisions of the Act, "either to the common gaol, or the house of correction;" in the present case, to the latter. Having been asked his opinion, he did not hesitate to say, that Reeve having been, under the Act, committed to the House of Correction, was subject to the discipline of the House of Correction. There was therefore, he apprehended, no ground for complaint, so far, at least, as the question of the hon. Member referred to a deviation from the law, in the course which had been adopted in this case.