HC Deb 10 July 1837 vol 38 cc1856-9
Mr. William Gladstone rose

, in pursuance of notice, to call the attention of the House to the petition of certain electors for the combined counties of Ross and Cromarty, which he had the honour to present a few evenings ago. The petitioners set forth, that at the last election for the combined counties of Ross and Cromarty, which was contested between Thomas Mackenzie, of Applecross, Esq., and William Mackenzie, of Muirton, Esq., one John Gibson, farmer, was an elector; that on the day preceding the election, a messenger came to inform him that Captain Hugh Clark wished him to come immediately to the house of Mr. Watson, of Cromarty, as the captain was desirous of paying him a sum of money which was due to him. Gibson crossed the ferry that evening, and at the house of Watson met Clark, and two other persons named Reid and Smith, the latter being a surgeon of Cromarty. The parties supped together, and afterwards had a jug of toddy; but before drinking any of it, Gibson asked Clark to settle with him; but Clark said he could not do so then, but would the following day. Gibson drank about three glasses, when he became insensible, in consequence, as it was presumed, of some drug having been mixed with his drink. Between one and two o'clock on Friday morning, a boat's crew came to Watson's house, and with the assistance of Watson, Clark, and others, took Gibson, who was all the time in a state of insensibility, across the Nairn. A chaise was then hired by Watson and others, and into which Gibson was forcibly placed and carried towards Grantown. In the morning Gibson awoke, and found himself in the chaise with Watson, and on observing that he was in a strange part of the country, and asking where he was, Watson replied, "God knows! I was asleep as well as yourself; it is now Saturday morning." And on Gibson expressing his surprise, Watson said, "It was easy for Dr. Smith to make you and me sleep for eight days." Gibson then forced himself out of the chaise, but was soon retaken and put into the chaise again, and was then taken to an inn at Ardclach, about eleven miles from Nairn. They represented Gibson to be out of his mind, who certainly appeared stupid and foolish, and asked the landlady what day of the week it was. Watson and Gibson proceeded to breakfast, and afterwards Gibson laid his head down on a table and pretended to be asleep, and heard Watson go out of the room and call for the driver of the chaise. The driver having come in, Watson and he went to the corner of the room, and Watson pulled a letter from his pocket, and said to the driver, 'This is a letter which I have from my friend Muirton,' (meaning William Mackenzie, of Muirton), and desiring me to try to get Gibson out of the way, as he is 'the cock' of the Tories. Watson further added, ' You will watch the door below, and I will lock the door here, and put the key in my pocket.' Watson then undressed himself and went to bed, and, having fallen asleep, Gibson took the opportunity of forcing the lock of the door with a knife, and went down stairs. Gibson met the driver in the passage, and desired him to put the horses to, and he would walk on before him. Watson afterwards got up and looked after Gibson, and informed the landlady that Gibson was a most respectable man, and that it was not for his vote they cared, but for those of three others. Gibson walked about a mile on the road to Calder, when he was overtaken by the driver without the chaise, who insisted on his return to Mrs. Falconer, the landlady. Gibson returned, got into the chaise, and was drawn to Calder with Watson. On inquiring on the road, Gibson discovered it was then only Friday, although he had previously been informed that it was Saturday. They arrived at Calder about six in the evening, and about an hour afterwards were overtaken by John Strachan, messenger, in Tain, and a person of the name of Mackay, who arrived there in a chaise, and took Gibson back with them to Cromarty the same night, notwithstanding the opposition of Watson, who insisted that Gibson should proceed with him. Gibson was thereby enabled to give his vote the next morning for Thomas Mackenzie, of Apple-cross. On his return to Cromarty, he discovered that his coat had been torn, his hat destroyed, and his face much cut and swollen; his shirt was covered with blood, and he was in a very weak state from the usage he had received." He thought that these facts amounted to a forcible abduction of Gibson, and called for the attention of the House. He was aware, that under ordinary circumstances, the proper course would have been to move, that the parties be committed to the custody of the Sergeant-at-arms; but at the present moment, this course was wholly inappropriate. He had, therefore, determined to move, that a humble Address be presented to her Majesty, praying her Majesty to give directions that there be laid before the House copies of the depositions and declarations taken by the officers of the Crown concerning the forcible taking away of John Gibson, from Cromarty to the parish of Ardclach, in Scotland, on the 13th of April last. The hon. Member then concluded by making a motion to the effect he had just stated.

The Lord Advocate

said, that the circumstances of this case had already been investigated by the officers of the Crown; and it was considered that no further proceedings were necessary to be taken. Very serious imputations were thrown by the petitioners on individuals who had no opportunity to defend themselves. It was a question deserving the serious consideration of the House, whether petitions were to be made the means of attacking the characters of individuals by the insertion of imputations which it was admitted formed no essential part of the proceedings on which the petitioners founded their complaint. If the person had been, subjected to the injurious treatment set forth in the petition, it was competent for him to prosecute the parties inflicting-the injury, but the present complaint was on the part of certain electors of the county of Ross. What injury was it that had been done to them? Had they lost the vote of Mr. Gibson? Not so; because it was admitted in the petition that Mr. Gibson voted on the second day of the election. The electors of Ross, therefore, had no ground of complaint. With respect to the motion before the House, he begged to state to the hon. Gentleman that the uniform practice on the part of his (the Lord Advocate's) predecessors had been to consider it to be inconsistent with the proper course of criminal procedure that any communication of the result of a private inquiry on the part of the Crown, should be made to other parties. As far as regarded the fact, that no further proceedings had been taken on the part of the Crown in this case, he was quite ready to hold himself responsible for that course.

Motion withdrawn.