HC Deb 30 May 1845 vol 80 cc1094-6
Mr. Hume

rose to put a question to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, respecting the committal to prison and subsequent release of a man named Dean, who had been convicted in Berkshire of selling pheasants and pheasants' eggs. That unfortunate man, it appeared, had been committed to Reading gaol for four months. Now, he wished to know whether they had at the Home Office copies of his conviction? whether the right hon. Baronet had taken that conviction into his consideration? whether he thought it legal? and whether, in point of fact, the man had not been released?

Sir J. Graham

said, that taking into consideration the consequences that arose out of convictions of this nature, it was a rule at the Home Office not to go into the merits of those convictions with any view to disturb them, otherwise than upon very special grounds, unless when it appeared upon the face of the proceedings that there had been allegations of distinct offences, when in fact there was only one, or when cumulative penalties were inflicted. The case to which the hon. Member referred had been gone into, and one month's imprisonment, it appeared, had been imposed upon Dean for one of the offences charged, and three months for the other, and fines imposed upon him, amounting in the whole to 10l. 11s., which, if paid on the instant, would have relieved him from further imprisonment. As it appeared that he had been subjected to two terms of imprisonment, the Crown remitted one of them, namely, the imprisonment for one month.

Mr. Hume

inquired if the right hon. Baronet had any objection to producing the record of the case?

Sir J. Graham

said, that at the Home Office they had nothing except the conviction and the order for committal.

Mr. M. Gibson

said, that the conviction was illegal—that the penalties were cumulative and excessive. It appeared that Dean had suffered only one week's imprisonment, and that the public were indebted to the hon. Member for Athlone for his release, that gentleman having taken upon himself to pay the penalty. He thought that the buyers of poached game were greatly in fault, and that, instead of doing anything to prevent poaching, they were only too ready to encourage the supply of too great quantities of that sort of game.

Sir J. Walsh

said he was not in that part of the country at the time when the occurrence in question took place.

Mr. Horsman

observed, that there was a strong distinction between the case of a man taken in the fact of committing an offence against the game laws, and that of a man who merely committed offences, and was subjected to cumulative penalties in the manner that had happened in Dean's case.

Sir J. Graham

said, that the man whose case had been referred to petitioned the Crown for mercy, and one portion of his imprisonment had been remitted.

Mr. Collett

wished merely to state to the House that the man having been proceeded against in the name and at the suit of Prince Albert, he (Mr. Collett), entertaining strong opinions upon the subject of the game laws, wishing to see those laws relaxed, deeply commiserating the condition of the poor man who had suffered this injurious imprisonment; he, on the 24th instant, wrote the following letter to Dean:— I observe by The Times of to-day, that you have been sent to prison and to hard labour for four months, at the suit of Prince Albert, for having offered to sell some pheasants and some pheasants' eggs. As I disapprove of game laws, and of all proceedings under them, I will release you by paying the fine of 10l. 11s. if you will let me know how I can forward it to the proper quarter. Deeply commiserating what I consider an act of tyranny and injustice inflicted upon a poor man. I am, &c. Subsequently, he sent down his servant to Reading, and had the money paid. Dean's daughter-in-law, when replying to his letter, stated, that the man who had been thus convicted of poaching was treated as a felon, that he had been placed in solitary confinement, compelled to wear a felon's dress, employed in picking oakum and pumping water, and that he could not eat the food which had been supplied to him. In The Times of this morning an article had appeared respecting Dean's imprisonment, and he intended to send to the editor the letter which he had just read, accompanied by one from himself.

Subject at an end.