HC Deb 18 May 1854 vol 133 cc569-71

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Imposes a penalty of 20l. or imprisonment for three weeks, upon persons apprehended for giving false names and addresses).


said, he should move the omission of certain words, with the object of making it compulsory upon the magistrates to impose imprisonment, and taking away their power to exercise a discretion as to the infliction of a fine instead of such imprisonment.


said, he understood the object of the hon. Member to be this—that whereas the clause, in its present shape, authorised the magistrate to punish any person found under certain circumstances, and giving a false name and address, either by imposing a fine, or by sending him to prison—he wished it to be so amended as to take away the option, and to make it compulsory to impose imprisonment. He was quite aware that this was a very important clause, and that nothing would have a more salutary effect in deterring persons from frequenting these dens of iniquity than the certainty that they would be compelled to give their real name and address, or would be liable to severe punishment. But, on the other hand, he could not help thinking, that as in these cases detection was a matter of some difficulty, and could only be brought about by great industry and activity on the part of the officers, it would be more expedient, and would be found more effectual, to give the officers an interest in pursuing the parties, by making the penalty a pecuniary one, and awarding them a certain portion of it. It was quite clear that, where the punishment was merely imprisonment, the officers had no interest in finding out the parties by whom false names and addresses had been given. It must be remembered, also, that young men who went to these places were very often looked upon only as dupes, and that all the indignation was directed against the keepers of these establishments, while the visitors, when they were young, were sympathised with rather than otherwise. On the whole, he thought the alterations which the hon. Member had proposed, instead of doing good, would do harm.


said, he had reason to believe that the keepers of gaming-houses looked upon the provisions of this Bill as a dead letter. The time required for disposing of the implements of gaming was not more than the tenth part of a minute, and men who were in the habit of hazarding hundreds every night were not likely to care for a penalty of 10l. or 20l.


said, he was happy to say, in opposition to the remarks of the hon. Member, that, having been in communication with the police, he was assured that the keepers of gaming-houses did entertain a most serious apprehension as to the effect of this Bill, and especially of the clause which enabled the magistrate to take some of the parties and make them witnesses against the rest. As a proof of this he was glad to be able to state that since he had obtained the sanction of the House to the introduction of this Bill, and had stated what would be its provisions, out of fourteen gaming-houses which used to be open nightly for these practices, nine had been closed.


said, he should support the clause as it stood, and he begged to bear testimony to the efficiency of the hon. and learned Attorney General's Bill against "betting" houses, which had been so successful in putting those places down, that he did not know in the borough of Southwark—nor, as far as he had heard, in any of the metropolitan boroughs—any betting shop which had not been suppressed.


said, he should support the Amendment. A penalty of 20l. was nothing when compared with twenty days' imprisonment. He hoped the hon. and learned Attorney General would take this matter into consideration, for he was sure his object was to put down these places, and the only way to do it, with those who were above the value of money, was to make them the subject of imprisonment.


said, hon. Gentlemen did not seem to be aware that a discretionary power was vested in the magistrates to inflict either the fine or imprisonment. If, therefore, the magistrates found the infliction of a fine merely did not answer the desired end, it would be open to them to have recourse to imprisonment. He was willing, however, to increase the fine, by substituting 50l. in lieu of 20l.; and then, in order to make the two punishments more on an equality, he must also make the term of imprisonment one month instead of three weeks.

Amendment withdrawn; Clause agreed to; as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed.

Bill reported as amended.