HC Deb 10 August 1842 vol 65 cc1228-9
Mr. R. Yorke

wished to put a question to the Home Secretary of which he had not given notice. When speaking, in the earlier part of that day, upon the subject of the Chartist prisoners, he (Mr. R. Yorke) understood the right hon. Baronet to say that it was absolutely necessary that political prisoners should be treated with rigour. That being the right hon. Baronet's opinion with respect to political offenders, he (Mr. R. Yorke) now begged to allude to the recently tried case of " Browning v. Johnston," and to ask whether it was to be understood, as a recognised principle, that the Home Secretary should be empowered, upon ex parte statements, to release prisoners from confinement, for a consideration in money, where a sentence of imprisonment had been pronounced by a judge presiding in a court of justice.

The Speaker

intimated to the lion. Gentleman that the question, as he was putting it, might lead to a discussion, and was therefore irregular.

Mr. R. Yorke

trusted, then, that he might be allowed to put the question in another form. He wished to know whether it was understood that the Home Secretary was empowered to recommend a commutation of the punishment of imprisonment for a consideration in money, especially when the evidence upon which that imprisonment had been ordered by the judge, had not been in any material respect impugned.

Sir J. Graham

observed, that what had fallen from the hon. Member, consisted partly of statement and partly of interrogation. That part of it which consisted of statement was highly inaccurate. He had not that morning stated, that political offenders should be treated with rigour. He had drawn no distinction between political offenders and all other offenders; but what he did say was, that whilst he was most anxious that prison discipline should be conducted with humanity, and even forbearance towards offenders, still it was due to society that criminals in gaol should have the discipline of the gaol administered firmly, temperately, and even rigorously. He appealed to those who heard him, whether that was not the substance of what he had stated in the morning, and whether the misrepresentation of the hon. Member for York, was not somewhat unjust and hard. With respect to the question put to him by the hon. Member, he begged to state, that there was no limitation to the prerogative of mercy as exercised by the Crown, upon the recommendation of its responsible advisers. It was the pride and glory of the country, that the prerogative of mercy knew no limit. Any sentence, passed by any court, however severe, might be mitigated to any extent by the Sovereign, acting upon the recommendation of responsible advisers.