HC Deb 16 November 1852 vol 123 cc198-200

said, that seeing in his place the noble Lord the Under Secretary of the Foreign Department, he wished to ask the question of which he had given notice. Although it was most desirable that British subjects should be protected in foreign parts, they ought at the same time, when complaints were made, to endeavour to ascertain as fully as possible the circumstances that caused those complaints. In the month of June last a letter was written by the father of the individual to whom the present inquiry had reference, making certain charges against the officials in a public department at Verona; and he (Mr. Hume) begged to ask whether any inquiry had been instituted into the complaints of Mr. Henry Robert Newton, who in June last was arrested in Verona, imprisoned, and treated with great indignity, and all explanation then and there refused; and whether any apology or explanation had been offered by the Austrian Government?


Sir, in answer to the question of the hon. Member, I have to confirm, in the first place, what he has stated, namely, that in the month of June last a British subject of the name of Newton was arrested at Verona, and detained under circumstances of considerable hardship. The circumstances of the case were these: Mr. Newton was arrested on suspicion of sketching the fortifications, he being at the time, as he stated, and as we have reason to believe, not so engaged; but it is fair to say, that the suspicion was not unreasonable, inasmuch as Mr. Newton bad at the time a book and map spread open before him. I merely mention these trifling circumstances to show what, indeed, Mr. Newton himself acknowledges, that as regards his original arrest, he has no ground for making any charge against the authorities. The city of Verona was at the time in a state of siege, and there is no reason to suppose that he was treated, so far as the original arrest was concerned, with exceptional harshness or severity. Subsequent to the arrest he was taken to the guard-house, orders were given that his papers should be examined, and that if, on their examination, nothing was found tending to criminate him, he should be set at liberty. These were the orders that were given, but unfortunately they were not obeyed. The search took place, and nothing was found of a criminatory character amongst his papers. When the search concluded, it was late in the evening, and by a gross neglect of duty on the part of the officer of police in whose charge Mr. Newton was, instead of releasing him, when nothing was discovered against him, he detained him all night, and did not liberate him until the following morning. Mr. Newton unfortunately, in my opinion, did not immediately proceed to put the case in the hands of the British Consul General at Venice, but preferred applying for redress in person, and without communicating with the Consul. He did not succeed in obtaining any satisfactory explanation from the authorities, and having so failed, he then put his case into the hands of Mr. Dawkins, who took it up with great energy and promptitude. Shortly afterwards complaints were made to the Foreign Office by Sir William Newton, the father of the complainant, and a letter was written by him, dated 16th July, stating the particulars which I have related. Immediately on that letter being received, a full account of the circumstances as they were stated by Sir W. Newton to have occurred, was sent to Lord Westmoreland our Ambassador at Vienna. An inquiry was instituted, and there being some discrepancy between the different accounts, a correspondence of some length took place; but the end of that correspondence has been that a full and ample expression of regret has been obtained from the Austrian Government, accompanied by a promise that, in future, care shall be taken to prevent British travellers from being ill-treated in a similar manner, and to see that the regulations in force in Austria are carried out with no unnecessary hardship on individuals. That expression of regret having been obtained—the original charge of misconduct having been against a subordinate officer, and the promise I have mentioned having been given by the Austrian Government, it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that, under the circumstances, nothing more could be expected or required.

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