§ SIR W. CLAY
, seeing the Attorney General in his place, wished to put a question to him, which was of considerable importance not only to his constituents, but to the inhabitants of other portions of the metropolis—he alluded to the damage done to property by the recent riots. Window-breaking was carried to a great extent; and as the glass broken was generally that in shop windows, the damage perpetrated amounted to a considerable sum. He wished to ask—first, whether the persons whoso property had been thus destroyed possessed any claim for compensation upon the county or elsewhere; and, if so, what was the proper legal course to adopt to recover the amount?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
would state, as shortly as he could, the law on this subject. The House was aware that before the recent Act was introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, remedies were given against the hundred by several statutes; but by the Statute 7 and 8 George IV., cap. 27, the Statute of Winton, the Riot Act, the Black Act, and other statutes relating to remedies against the hundred were repealed; and other provisions were introduced by the Statute 7 and 8 George IV., cap. 51. The Acts which related to the question were the 7th and 8th George IV., c. 27, and the 7th and 8th Victoria, c. 31. The first section of that Act gave a remedy against the hundred, where the house, shop, or other building mentioned in the Act, was feloniously broken or begun to be broken, pulled down, demolished, or destroyed, wholly or in part. But to come within the section of the Act, the offence should be complete according to the provisions of the 7th and 8th George IV., 3. 30, sec. 8, which made it felony wantonly to force into, demolish, or begin to demolish, the buildings specified. Now, the question to be satisfied in order to the bringing of the offence within the meaning of the Act, was, what was the beginning to demolish which would suffice in order to give a right to the remedy against the hundred? And that was a question solely for a jury to decide. The jury should say that the parties had either demolished the 539 building or began to demolish it, and that they would have demolished it if they had not been prevented. There were some cases in which decisions had been given. He would mention two. One was that of Reed and Clarke (7 Term Reports), in which the parties broke the windows and the shutters of the house, in order to compel the proprietor to illuminate. The ease was tried before Lord Ellenborough, under whose direction the jury found for the defendant, the act not being a beginning to demolish with intention to complete the destruction. So, also, in another case, where the parties broke all the windows of a house, and then retired of themselves, it was held that that was not a beginning to demolish, they having shown no disposition to carry the demolition fully out. So that there was no remedy provided except where the house was demolished, or the parties had begun to demolish it with an apparent intention of destroying it but for their having been prevented. Of course his hon. Friend did not expect him to state whether the parties to whom he had alluded might be made liable. Their poverty might render them safe from civil liability; but although, in consequence of their poverty, they might not be responsible, they could be held criminally responsible, the criminal law providing a punishment for them.