HC Deb 09 March 1853 vol 124 cc1340-6

Order for Second Reading read.


said, in bringing forward this Bill, he had to propose that it should be read a second time without any discussion, and committed pro formâ, with a view to the introduction of certain amendments which had been recommended by hon. Members opposite, with reference to dog carts, by which much cruelty to animals was inflicted. Should any objection be taken to the Bill, he reserved to himself the right of reply.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


, in order to give the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. Fitzroy) an opportunity of replying to the future statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury, would move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."


said, his object in introducing this Bill was, as the preamble stated, to give the right of appeal in all cases of conviction under the Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, instead of, as now, limiting the right of appeal to cases in which the flue was 40s. and upwards. Much hardship had been suffered under the present system, both in the metropolis and in the country; but he was prepared to state a specific case, in which such a power of appeal as he contended for was imperatively called for. A case had been brought under his notice in which a farmer named David Hill had been summoned before the magistrates at Penrith for alleged cruelty to some sheep. It appeared that these sheep, which had the rot, had been penned in a field belonging to the Rev. Mr. Milner, the vicar of Penrith, who, on discovering this, wrote to Hill, stating that if he did not pay him 4l. for the damage which he considered to be done in contaminating the field, the matter would be handed over to the rev. gentleman's solicitor. No notice was taken of this by Mr. Hill, who then (the Rev. Mr. Milner finding, perhaps, that nothing was to be done in this way) received a summons to appear before the petty sessions for having used cruelty towards his sheep by reason of having driven them whilst in a diseased state, where it was alleged that the Rev. Mr. Milner was present, and took so active a part in the proceedings as to warrant the belief that he was adjudicating in his own case. Mr. Hill was fined the sum of 1l. 19s. 6d. The bench, although pressed to do so by the defendant's solicitor, would not make the penalty another shilling, so as to give the right of appeal, and Mr. Hill being threatened with a prison if he did not pay the money, had no other alternative than to do so. Mr. Hill then made applications to the Lord Chancellors Truro and St. Leonards; but nothing was done by them in the matter, and repeated applications to the Home Office were also unavailing. He (Mr. Buncombe) had received from two of the magistrates concerned in the conviction, letters, which were not impertinent, perhaps, but which were certainly not very courteous; but he had received a petition to present to that House respectably signed, bearing out the facts as he had stated, and there seemed no doubt that if Mr. Hill could have appealed, the conviction would have been quashed. Besides giving the right of appeal in all cases—to the poor man as well as to the rich—he proposed by this Bill to extend the time allowed for entering an appeal to a week or ten days, instead of three days, as at present; and it was his intention at the same time to introduce other clauses with regard to dog carts, and two or three matters in which he thought it would be very desirable to have the law amended. Upon these points, however, it would be better to take the discussion in Committee, after the House saw the form in which it was intended to pass the Bill.


said, that as he was formerly Home Secretary, having been alluded to relative to the case of Mr. Hill at Penrith, he thought it due to the magistrates who had adjudicated in that case to say, that having received a memorial complaining of their conduct, he had instituted inquiries into the matter. In answer to these he had received a statement from the four magistrates who sat at petty sessions, in which they denied that the Rev. Mr. Milner had taken any part in the proceedings as a magistrate, that the fine was purposely imposed of such an amount as to take away the right of appeal, or that Mr. Hill or his attorney ever demanded that it should be increased to 40s.; and they asserted that the charge of cruelty in driving the sheep from Falkirk to Penrith was fully proved. He (Sir G. Grey) then thought that a perfect answer was given to the memorial; and he now found, by the statement of his hon. Friend (Mr. Duncombe), that two successive Lord Chancellors had concurred with him in that opinion. He thought that no necessity for an extension of the power of appeal in these cases had been proved. If it was right that that power should be given without any regard to the amount of fine, then it might possibly be right to introduce a more general measure, applying to other cases than those of convictions for cruelty to animals.


said, he thought that no adequate grounds had been stated to induce the House to agree to the second reading of this Bill, which had, in fact, been introduced to give Ids hon. Friend (Mr. Duncombe) an opportunity of bringing forward what he conceived to be the injustice of a case heard in the north of England. He thought, however, that the statement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had quite disposed of that case. With respect to the extension of the appeal in cases of conviction, under the Cruelty to Animals Act, he must remind the House that there was already a more extended right of appeal here than in almost any other class of convictions. Coder the Assault Act, 9 Geo. IV., giving the magistrates power to inflict 5l. fine, or two months' imprisonment, there was no appeal whatever; under the Police Act, 2 & 3 Vict., c. 71, there was no appeal where the fine was under 3l.; nor was there any appeal under the Scotch Cruelty to Animals Act. He did not therefore see the slightest necessity for extending the right of appeal to cases where the conviction was for less than 40s., especially as an appeal was allowed in all cases where imprisonment, even for a single week, was inflicted. He believed that any extension of this right would be advantageous rather to the rich than to the poor. With respect to the expediency of extending the time for giving notice of appeal, he offered no opinion, but he certainly thought that it was not worth while to pass an Act of Parliament fur so slight an object. The provisions with regard to cruelty committed by dog carts and in other ways were so foreign to the object of the Bill that he did not think they should induce the House to read the Bill a second time.


said, he could bear testimony to the high character of the Rev. Mr. Milner and the Penrith bench of magistrates.


said, he would willingly bear testimony to the respectability of the persons who had signed the memorials complaining of the decision of the Penrith magistrates. If the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) having inquired into, had adjudicated upon the matter, no one could have questioned his decision; but neither the right hon. Baronet nor the two Lord Chancellors had ever returned any answer to the memorials addressed to them. For his own part, he would take away appeals in all cases, and let cases be settled at once; but still, if there were to be any appeals at all, he thought that there should be no limitation to them. On what principle should a fine of 40s. give an appeal, and 39s. 6d. not? The injury to the feelings was the same in both cases. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Fitzroy) said that the right of appeal was limited in other cases by much more stringent regulations; but he thought that was so much the worse for the law. He should, support the Bill because he did not think that on the difference of 6d. in the amount of a fine should depend the question whether a man had or had not a right to appeal.


said, he had received letters from two attorneys present on the occasion of the hearing of Mr. Hill's case, who both confirmed the statement that the Rev. Mr. Milner did not act as a judge on the information which he preferred. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Buncombe) said he had received not very courteous letters from two of the magistrates. But he (Mr. Hildyard) held in his hand a copy of a letter from the hon. Member to one of those magistrates, dated February 19, 1853, in which he stated that he enclosed a copy of the Bill, and he added, "Should it pass, I trust it will prevent a recurrence of that flagrant injustice which I consider was inflicted on Mr. David Hill." He thought it was an abuse of the privilege of a Member of Parliament to write to a magistrate whose conduct had been arraigned, and who had been acquitted of blame, and to tell him that he had committed a flagrant injustice. As a lawyer, he would tell the hon. Member, that if the magistrate in question were disposed to act in the manner for which the hon. Member apparently gave him credit, and if he were to bring this letter before the Queen's Judges, he would find that he had addressed a libel to this magistrate, and that although in the privilege of speech he was protected in that House, yet that nevertheless he was not justified in casting a libellous imputation upon gentlemen in the discharge of their magisterial duties. He should vote against the Bill, which he could not help fancying was brought forward to enable the hon. Member to represent this grievance.


said, that it was his intention originally to have moved a clause prohibiting the use of dogs in dog carts in the country, as well as in London, giving greater facilities for the feeding of animals while in pound, and for the recovery of any expenses which parties might be put to for so doing; but as he saw that clauses of that nature came scarcely within the scope of the present Bill, he did not moan to persist in that determination. He was bound, however, to add, that no sufficient case had been made out for the introduction of the Bill.


said, he was afraid that the Bill of his hon. Friend (Mr. Duncombe) was too much founded on a single isolated case, which would not justify the House in interfering with legislation based upon anything like sound principles. He believed that it would be most undesirable to introduce a right of appeal in cases where the fine was lower than what the law at present allowed. On the contrary, he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby), that it would be better to do away with the right of appeal altogether, than extend it to the class of cases supposed by the Bill. Such a right, in his opinion, would only work against the poor; for it would enable the rich defendant to crush and oppress by heavy costs the humble prosecutor. And though there was something in the uniformity of practice contended for by the hon. Member for Cockermouth, still he much preferred the line of demarcation which the law at present drew.


said, he had intended originally to support the Bill of his hon. Friend; but on coming to look at its provisions as introduced, he was forced to come to the conclusion that its effect would be anything rather than to diminish cruelty to animals.


, in reply, said, as for what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Hildyard) had said would be the consequences if his letter were carried before the Judges of the land, he did not believe a word of it, for he had no faith in the law of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He was ready to meet the Rev. Mr. Milner in a Court of Justice, if the latter thought proper. He had made his statement upon the authority of sixteen or eighteen farmers and yeomen, friends of Mr. Hill, and who were quite as respectable as the Rev. Mr. Milner himself. But he had also stated, it seems, that he had received two impertinent letters from a gentleman connected with those proceedings. The first said that he (Mr. Duncombe) had been pleased to assert that "one David Hill"—the House would mark, "one David Hill," just as if he was not quite as respectable and quite as upright a person as the writer—but it went on, that he had been pleased to assert that flagrant injustice had been done by the conviction of the said David Hill; and he begged to ask him (Mr. Duncombe) what he meant by such statements? Now, seeing that this letter was from a clerical gentleman, of course it would not bear such an interpretation, but if it had proceeded from any one else, he must say that its aspect would have been remarkably hostile. However, the reply which had been denominated so impertinent—and, perhaps, it was meant to be impertinent—was to the effect that he (Mr. Duncombe) in his discharge of his public duties had brought in a Bill to prevent cruelty to animals, and that the rev. gentleman was at liberty to draw any conclusion he liked from that fact. But his rev. correspondent was not content with that reply, so he (Mr. Duncombe) had another letter from him, which was a compound of bad grammar and nonsense. Mr. Hassell said, "I call upon you to answer the simple question whether or no"— there's grammar for you—"you include me in the charge of injustice? I require a distinct answer to the question." Whether or no! Why, David Hill himself could not have done worse than that. Now, it appeared to him that "Whether-or-no's" question was not a straightforward and candid one. He wished to know its object, and therefore he wrote to Mr. Hassell, saying— I am at a loss to know whether your inquiry is founded on a desire to have my Bill amended. If so, I shall he happy to receive any assistance from you, especially if you should have an amend- ment to propose for the purpose of prohibiting persons in holy orders from officiating as magistrates. I believe that such an amendment would give universal satisfaction to the country, by conducing to that peace and goodwill among men which it is the duty of your office to promote.

He did not hear again from Mr. Hassell.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 91: Majority 74.

Words added.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.