HC Deb 20 June 1845 vol 81 cc1009-15
Mr. W. Williams

said, he would never again take the promise of any Gentleman connected with the Government. He was taken by surprise — he was regularly tricked. A distinct promise had been given that the Committee of Supply would not be proceeded with to-night. He had a Motion previous to going into Supply on the Paper, which he did not expect he should have had to go on with; but as a Committee of Supply had been proposed, he should, as an Amendment, move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Copy of the Correspondence between the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Mr.Twyford, the Police Magistrate, in reference to his commitment of Mr. Mayer, an inhabitant of St. Marylebone, to Newgate, for an assault, under circumstances of gross provocation, after his refusal to accept bail for him, although tendered to any amount. He had requested the right hon. Baronet privately to grant copies of this correspondence, but the right hon. Gentleman had refused to furnish the House with the grounds on which he censured the conduct of Mr. Twyford. He considered that Mr. Twyford had outraged the laws of the country in the person of a highly respectable gentleman. He would briefly state the facts of the case. A highly respectable gentleman of the name of Mayer, who had been elected a member of the vestry of the parish in which he resided, which contained in population of 140,000, had an only child, a daughter, who was seduced by his own brother-in-law. He must express his regret to the House that he was compelled to mention circumstances of so painful a nature. Mr. Mayer went to the house of the seducer and committed an assault upon him by striking him with a stick. It appeared from the depositions, a copy of which he had in his possession, that the surgeon who was called in to examine the injured man stated upon oath that the blow had been given above the temple, and that there was no fracture. This occurrence took place about nine o'clock at night. Mr. Mayer went home, and at eleven o'clock two policemen entered his house without a warrant and removed him to the station-house, where he was locked up the whole night, although two of his neighbours, highly respectable men, offered to be bail for his appearance the next day. He must beg the House to observe, that Mr. Mayer was taken from his home without a warrant or any authority whatever, so far as appeared from the evidence given before the magistrate. This, he contended, was a gross violation of the law. The next morning Mr. Mayer was taken before Mr. Twyford, the magistrate, and it appeared that on the preceding night the charge entered against him had been that of a felonious assault. The surgeon who attended the injured man declared at eleven o'clock in the day after that on which the assault was committed, that he was in no danger whatever. All the facts connected with the atrocious conduct of the party assaulted were brought before Mr. Twyford; and he must express his belief that no one possessing the feelings of a man would say, that personal violence committed under such circumstances was not to some extent justifiable; but, although the surgeon stated upon oath that the man was in no danger, Mr. Twyford committed Mr. Mayer to Newgate. Bail was offered for him to any amount that might be required, but Mr. Twyford refused to accept it, and Mr. Mayer remained in Newgate for three days, being associated for a portion of that time with felons. Proceedings were immediately taken to obtain an habeas: but those proceedings had occupied a period of three days. Mr. Mayer was eventually taken before Mr. Justice Coleridge, who, without any hesitation, admitted him to bail, himself in 100l., and sureties in 30l. each. The Judge did not for a moment consider that the assault was of such a nature as to require the refusal of bail. He said, therefore, that Mr. Twyford, under such circumstances of provocation, of almost unheard of atrocity, was not justified in refusing to take bail, which was tendered to any amount, for an offence that could be considered in no other light than as a common assault. The object of his Motion was to obtain a copy of the correspondence that had taken place between the right hon. Home Secretary and this magistrate. After the occurrence to which he had referred, a deputation, consisting of some of the most respectable inhabitants and members of the vestry of the parish of Marylebone, waited upon the right hon. Baronet, to request him to investigate the circumstances of the case. The right hon. Baronet consented to do so; and in answer to a question afterwards put to him in that House, he stated that he highly disapproved of the conduct of the magistrate, and that he had censured him. Now, he thought the public had a right to know on what grounds this magistrate justified conduct so directly a violation of his duty; for he did not believe that any other magistrate, under the same circumstances, would have refused to accept bail. Unfortunately, complaints of this kind occurred almost every week, owing to the acts of the magistrates being allowed by the Home Secretary to pass without censure. He thought they were entitled to know on what grounds Mr. Twyford had refused to take bail, and then they would be able to judge of the propriety of the course of the right hon. Baronet with respect to him. Judge-made law was one of the evils this country had to contend with; but police-magistrate-made law was worse still. Where was the redress for the public against these magistrates, if the Home Office refused to interfere? No action could be sustained unless malicious motives were proved, and how was it possible to prove them? The public press was the only resource of the public in such cases, and to the press the public were deeply indebted for their exposures of such cases as these. The Home Secretary was bound, as he conceived, to state to the House the grounds on which he acted. He was not placed in his high situation merely to please himself, but to discharge high and important duties. The hon. Member concluded with his Motion.

Sir J. Graham

said, after Mr. Speaker had been in the Chair until half-past two o'clock that morning, having sat for ten hours successively during the three preceding nights, he appealed to the House whether it were not too bad for an hon. Member to speak against time for three quarters of an hour, because he stood alone in his desire to obstruct going into Committee of Supply at half-past ten o'clock. He was at all times ready to give information to any hon. Member as to his public conduct; but this transaction had already been before the House on three several occasions—once when the hon. Member for Montrose asked a question respecting it, the answer to which he had understood was satisfactory to the hon. Member, and also to the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone. As, however, the hon. Member called for an explanation, he was ready to give it a second time. It was certainly true that the provocation given to Mr. Mayer was of the most harassing nature, but at the same time it was his duty to add, that the outrage he committed was very deliberate. Mr. Mayer left his own house in Oxford-street, after dark, armed, not with an ordinary walking stick, but with a bludgeon. He knocked at the door of his brother-in-law, by whom the door was opened, and Mr. Mayer then immediately struck him to the ground with a severe blow on the temple from the bludgeon. The hon. Gentleman said that the temple was no more than skin and bone; that might be very true; but all heads might not be equally thick. Mr. Mayer was with difficulty prevented from repeating the blow by the interference of the police. [Mr. Williams: There were no police.] By the bystanders, who interfered to prevent a repetition of the assault, and then Mr. Mayer used most violent language, menacing the life of his brother-in-law. In the meantime, the gentleman assaulted was removed, and medical advice was obtained, when it was discovered that concussion of the brain had taken place, and his life was for some time considered in danger. He was insensible, and sickness ensued. The charge afterwards made against Mr. Mayer was that of a felonious assault with intent to kill; and on such a charge, it being felony, the police were required to apprehend the party, which they did. It was not possible to take him before the magistrate till the following morning, but on the following morning he was taken before Mr. Twyford. The assault was then proved; all the circumstances of provocation were not admitted, and Mr. Twyford did not think it right to investigate the provocation which Mr. Mayer said he had received. Under these circumstances, Mr. Twyford refused to accept bail. On the case being brought before a Judge, upon a writ of habeas corpus, bail was immediately admitted by the Judge. He might state, then, as he had stated before, that he thought Mr. Twyford had exercised an unsound discretion in refusing bail; and also, though he (Sir J. Graham) was not quite so sure upon this latter point, he thought that Mr. Twyford was not discreet in refusing to hear as evidence the circumstances of provocation. At the same time, Mr. Twyford had given an explanation of all the circumstances connected with the case, which he (Sir J. Graham) believed he had accurately stated to the House; and he would repeat his deliberate opinion that Mr. Twyford, though he had erred in judgment, had yet acted on the whole to the best of that judgment, though an erroneous one. There was no pretence for saying that he had been actuated by any improper motives; and as he (Sir J. Graham) did not wish to place on record a censure of Mr. Twyford's conduct, which would render his removal from the magistracy necessary, he must oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bernal

was far from saying that the public press should not always be wide awake to the conduct of stipendiary magistrates; but, at the same time, he did say that there had been a run, and a most severe run, against Mr. Twyford. Daily and weekly, there were the most violent attacks upon him in the public press of this country—attacks exceeding in severity anything that he had witnessed before. He (Mr. Bernal) had known Mr. Twyford for many years, and he had asked him about the circumstances of the case; and from what that gentleman had mentioned to him (Mr. Bernal) he was bound to confirm the statement of the right hon. Baronet opposite; and he should wish the House to remember, in addition, that until recently the magistrate had no discretion as to whether he should take bail in the case of felonious assaults; that discretion was only given to him by the 5th and 6th of Victoria. There was also one other point to which the right hon. Baronet had not referred, and that was, that Mr. Mayer said he was prepared to commit the same assault over again. As he understood, Mr. Twyford conceived, if he accepted bail in the case, and Mr. Mayer should strike the complainant with a stick upon the head, and death should ensue, that he (the magistrate) would thereby be placed in an extremely delicate position. He would only further add, that in the vestry of the parish of St. Marylebone, he believed that the opinion was, that the case had gone far enough. He therefore thought, with all deference to the judgment of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Williams), that it would have been far better if he had suffered the present matter to have rested.

Sir C. Napier

confirmed the statement of the hon. Member for Weymouth (Mr. Bernal), that the Marylebone vestry were of opinion that enough had already been done in the matter; and for that reason he had not thought it necessary to interfere further in it.

Amendment negatived.

On the Motion being again put, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply,

Mr. T. Duncombe

complained that he had been prevented bringing forward his Motion relative to some false Returns made to that House by the Post Office, by the Supply Motion being brought forward when no Notice of Supply had been given. He strongly objected to entering into Supply after eleven o'clock at night.

Mr. Cardwell

denied that no notice had been given of bringing on Supply. What he stated on the preceding evening was, that he hoped he should not be asked to pledge himself not to bring on Supply on any Monday night, or any Friday, at this period of the Session. With regard to the hon. Member for Finsbury, he was surprised that he should complain of having no opportunity of bringing forward his Motion, when several opportunities had already presented themselves without the hon. Member availing himself of them.

Mr. S. Crawford

moved that the House do adjourn.

Mr. Duncombe

seconded the Motion, and proceeded to say, that it was rather unusual for a Member of the Government to state, as had been stated by the hon. Gentleman on a former occasion, that a stranger was waiting in the House for his (Mr. Duncombe's) Motion. There was present, on that occasion, one of those miserable creatures of the Post Office, waiting to prime the hon. Gentleman with materials for opposing his Motion. He told that Gentleman, that his presence might be dispensed with; and yet now he was accused of not bringing forward his Motion.

Mr. Cardwell

assured the hon. Gentleman he had no intention whatever of taunting him with respect to his Motion.

Mr. Williams

thought it most unreasonable to attempt to vote away the public money at that hour of the night, particularly as he believed every Gentleman present was in the House at three o'clock that morning.

Sir R. Peel

said, he would relieve the hon. Gentleman by not pressing the Estimates.

Committee of Supply postponed.

House adjourned at half-past twelve.