HC Deb 27 March 1848 vol 97 cc1019-20

On the Order of the Day for the Committee on the Property Tax Bill,


rose to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary to a case of great oppression. It was the case of Mr. Charles Pollett, a clerk to the Brighton railway, who had been summoned in the White-chapel county court for a debt of 2l., and, being unable to pay, was committed under an execution to the House of Correction. In the statement which he had laid before him (Mr. Cochrane) he represented, that on reaching the prison, he was placed in a lock-up and searched—that two hours after the governor came round and asked him what he was there for; he replied that he was sent there, because he had been unable to pay a debt, by the Whitechapel court—that the governor said, "Nonsense, you are here for contempt of court—you are here for correction, and correction you shall have;" that he (Mr. Pollett) was about to speak, when the governor said, "Silence, you are not allowed to speak here;" and he pointed to a board; he (Mr. Pollett) said he was not a felon: but he was locked up, served with a dinner of gruel, like the other prisoners, and at night he was conveyed to a cell, in which was an iron bedstead and a bed of straw, where he was locked up until six o'clock next morning, when he was put with the other prisoners in the yard; that he was then put into a bath, and received a prison dress, and ordered to pick oakum; that he had his hair and whiskers cut close, and his chin shaved, against his will; that he underwent the treatment of a felon for three days, when he became ill, and a surgeon was sent to him, to whom he mentioned his case; and on the fifth morning he was taken before the governor and discharged, the governor saying, "Forty-one, you may go"—that he inquired of the governor the reason why he had been treated in so degrading a manner, which had ruined his character: the governor said he had been committed for contempt—that he (Mr. Pollett) had asked for a copy of the commitment, which was promised, but he had not received it. Mr. Pollett was respectably connected; but he had lost his employment, and, with this stigma upon his character, he would have some difficulty in procuring another situation. He had inquired into the case, and into the character of Mr. Pollett, which was excellent; and it was inexplicable to him how a person could have been treated in such a manner for non-payment of a debt of 2l.


said, he had received no complaint from Mr. Pollett; but having seen the statement which the hon. Member had read, in the Daily News of the 17th of March, he had written to the justices of the prison, directing them to inquire into the allegations contained in that statement. Not having received any reply on Friday, when the hon. Member mentioned to him his intention of bringing the subject before the House, he had written another letter, calling for an immediate report.

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