HC Deb 25 April 1856 vol 141 cc1564-85

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 (Where a Constabulary is not established for the whole of a county, quarter sessions to cause the same to be established).


said, he would move the Amendment on this clause of which he had given notice. The object of the Bill appeared to be the extension of the principle of the rural police. Now, the efficiency of the rural police entirely depended on the efficiency of the chief constable. And to find such a functionary as perfectly efficient as was desirable was a matter of no small difficulty. The result of the system had been an entire failure in the prevention of crime, and, for that reason, he objected to the compulsory extension of it. In 1854 the amount and character of crime appeared to be diminishing generally, and it was very remarkable that the system should have been introduced when crime was on the decrease. He should take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to certain statistics which had been furnished relating to the counties of Surrey and Hampshire, with respect to the working of this particular law in this country. These were the only counties with respect to which he could find any Returns dealing with the subject. The former had been furnished by the chief constable of the county, the latter from the evidence taken before the Police Committee. Captain Harris, the chief constable of Surrey, had now joined the metropolitan police, and he had no doubt that he was an able and trustworthy witness. It appeared from the Return lately made before the Transportation Committee, that the number of persons committed for trial, in 1854, were 29,000; and, in 1855, 26,274. The character of the crime had also changed for the better. It was marvellous, but it certainly appeared to be the fact, that in places where there were the most police there were the most offences committed, and the fewer number of detections. Captain Harris, in his evidence before the Police Committee, said that, taking the town of Gosport, and comparing it with this metropolis, it appeared that, in 1851, in London there was one policeman to 457 inhabitants, while in Gosport there was but one policeman to every 3,381 of the inhabitants. Now, let them see what were the convictions in London. With one policeman to every 457 of the inhabitants, not more than one offender in four was brought to justice. In Gosport, with one policeman to every 3,381 of the people, one was convicted on the average in every two and a half. Was that a state of things likely to induce the country willingly to accept such a measure as the present. Taking the particular crime of sheep-stealing—a common offence in agricultural districts, and calculated to test the efficiency of a rural police—he (Mr. Henley) would call attention to the evidence of Captain Harris, which was designed to show how the number of such crimes had decreased in Hampshire. But Captain Harris had not stated how many offenders he had been able to convict. The Criminal Returns, however, supplied that information. The number of offences did not necessarily tally with the number of offenders, as frequently several persons were concerned in the same offence. The number of sheep stolen had diminished more than one-half from 1847 to 1852. But the number of persons committed for trial for the offence of sheep-stealing—the whole number of offences during those six years being 312—was only forty-five. That was a very small proportion, especially recollecting that several persons were often concerned in the same offence. [Sir GEORGE GREY: And sometimes a good many sheep are stolen.] That is an event of rare occurrence, and would be specified when it happened. Now, how many of the persons committed for trial in Hampshire were convicted; one in five was acquitted; so that only thirty-six persons out of upwards of 300 offenders were brought to justice. Now, that certainly was no very pleasing result of a rural police; and in Oxfordshire, where it did not exist, the state of things was not so bad. He would now refer to the returns which had been furnished by Mr. Hastings, the chief constable of Surrey. That county contained, at the last Census, about 112,000 inhabitants, a very moderate, manageable population. If statistics were to be depended upon, the morality of Surrey was as satisfactory as its sanatorial condition. The chief constable's returns divided the criminal part of the population of the county into three classes, namely, those who lived wholly by violation of law; those who followed lawful avocations, but were known offenders; and those who were associates of thieves, "or otherwise suspected persons." The meaning of this latter expression was not explained. In the first class it appeared that only twenty-six females in all Surrey lived wholly by prostitution or plunder; and in the second class, only nine females were ranged; in the third, only one. The males in the first class were upwards of 520, out of a population of 112,000. Nothing could seem more satisfactory. But how many criminals were detected? In 1851, when the police was established, the total number of persons taken into custody were 684; in 1855, upwards of 940. That was not very satisfactory. But how many of those persons were rightly taken up? In 1851 more than one in three were discharged without prosecution. In 1855, out of 947 taken into custody, 310 were discharged without further proceedings. Now, that was a large proportion. It was important to see how many persons were shut up without reason. He was not what was called a "Liberal," nor did he talk much about liberty; but he thought those facts were rather strong as to the infringements on liberty, which took place under the police. [Sir GEORGE GREY: How many were taken up for drunkenness?] The right hon. Gentleman might search for himself in the Returns. But he would remark, that the district he was alluding to was a rural one. And the more the Returns were looked into, the more it would be seen that the proportion of arrests to committals, and of committals to convictions, was extremely unsatisfactory. He found that, in 1851, 314 persons were summarily convicted by the magistrates, 124 committed for trial, and only ninety-four convicted. In 1855, 322 persons were apprehended for indictable offences; ninety-nine of these were discharged by the magistrates. [An Hon. MEMBER: Where was this?] In Surrey. The population was 112,000 only. The chief constable classified the offences under the heads used in the criminal tables. First came the offences of housebreaking and robbery. In 1855 there were committed of those offences thirty-seven—not a very considerable number. There were of sheep and horses stolen twenty-one. No less than forty-seven cases of hen-roost breaking. These comprised the greater and lesser class of offences, amount- ing to 105 offences in the course of the year—not one of the thirty-seven house-breaking class had been apprehended. The cases of horse-stealing, &c., were twenty-one. Only seven, however, were apprehended; the magistrates discharged four, and sent three to trial, but the whole three were acquitted. Thus the country had the satisfaction of seeing persons apprehended and sent to trial, but no conviction followed. There seemed to be a pretty good crop of hen-roost stealing in Surrey—forty-seven "fowl" offences. There were only five apprehensions out of these forty-seven offences; the magistrates discharged three, and three were convicted. Out of the whole array of 105 cases only three cases of hen-roost stealing resulted in conviction. Such was the working of the system in the county of Surrey. A greater failure of justice or of bringing persons to trial he could not conceive. In sporting phrase, there was plenty of game, but a sad want of hounds to catch it. In crowded neighbourhoods there might be advantages in patrols; but in thinly-populated neighbourhoods the practice led to a system of false security. In fact, the thieves better knew where the police were than the police knew where the thieves were. He would now address himself on the subject of acquittals and convictions, upon which, he believed, there could be but little difference of opinion. On a former occasion he had referred to eight counties—four under a police system, and four under a superintending constable system. The results in five years, in counties which had a rural police, namely, Cambridge, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, were as follows:—In the five years ending 1844, there were committed for trial 11,094 persons; of these there were acquitted 3,380. In the next period of five years there were 10,208 persons committed, and 3,074 acquitted; and in the last period up to 1854 inclusive, there were 11,038 committed, and 2,934 acquitted, being 26 per cent of the gross number—in those five years the average of the fifteen years being 29 per cent. But how did the case stand in the other four counties? In the first period the number committed was 10,321, and the acquittals 2,883; being 27 per cent on the whole number. In the second period the commitments fell to 9,700, and the acquittals were 2,490; being only 25 per cent. In the following five years there was a decrease in the number; of acquittals, there being 10,316 commit- ments, and 2,531 acquittals, being as low as 24 per cent, and the average of the fifteen years being 25 and a fraction per cent. He did not know any other tests by which to reach this question, having sought information in every quarter. Opinion was to be got in abundance, but it was of importance to get at facts. The Reports concurred that parties desired the management of the police to be severed from the magistracy. Last year he had deprecated persons being locked up in this metropolis and discharged without being taken before a magistrate. It might be said that in London the Chief Commissioner was a magistrate, but he could not understand how in counties the magistracy could conserve the peace without having a direct control over the constabulary. He warned hon. Gentlemen representing boroughs that the attempt to force a particular system of constabulary in counties would in time trench on the boroughs. The boroughs might certainly have the privilege of being eaten up the last; but it behoved their representatives to prevent the counties being overpowered by a measure of this nature. Neglect the counties, and the boroughs would not long be kept out of the lion's mouth. The provisions of the Bill of last year showed that the object of the Government was centralisation. Once let the Government establish a uniform system of police in counties, and the days of the boroughs were numbered. Local Government in the boroughs would only be conserved by resisting this encroachment, and he was surprised that those who represented boroughs and were desirous of local Government, should suffer dust to be thrown in their eyes by the slight alteration that had been made in the Bill now before them. The Bill had been only slightly modified; and as sure as the sun at noonday, if the measure in its present shape were passed into law, the entire police force of the country would be as much in the hands of the Home Secretary as if the Metropolitan Police Bill were extended throughout the land. A great central action was contemplated. He deprecated centralisation, and although he was willing to give the Government extensive power in the case of gaols, he did not wish to see the local power broken down. He was willing to accept the principle which governed the boroughs, namely, that counties should be provided with an effective police; but the system was susceptible of improvement. If the Government could show that in those counties where a rural police existed there was less crime than in the others, then, indeed, they might be considered to have a strong case for compelling them to adopt this particular Bill; but in the absence of such evidence he must declare the measure to be arbitrary and impolitic. Nor could he help viewing the means they had resorted to of popularising the scheme as not very creditable to the Government. No doubt a plan which proposed to subsidise with a large grant of public money such counties and districts as had already established a rural police force was one likely to catch a great number of votes. Now he (Mr. Henley) was quite willing that those Gentlemen should enjoy the luxury of a rural police; but on the other hand, he claimed for those who shared his views the exercise of their discretion as to the kind of force they should establish. He therefore begged to propose his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, page 2, line 8, to leave out from the words "such county," to the end of the clause, in order to add the words— Under any existing Act or Acts of Parliament, the justices of such county, at the general or quarter sessions holden next after the passing of this Act, or at any adjournment thereof, shall appoint a sufficient number of fit men, who shall be sworn in before some justice of the peace having jurisdiction within the county, to act as Constables for preserving the peace, and preventing robberies and other felonies, and apprehending offenders against the peace; and the men so sworn, and also all Constables appointed, or to be hereafter appointed, under the provisions of the Act of the fifth and sixth years of the reign of his late Majesty King William the Fourth, to provide for the regulation of Municipal Corporations in England and Wales, or under the provisions of any other Act authorising the appointment of Constables in any county or town or district, shall, not only within such county, but also within every county and borough in England and Wales, have all such powers and privileges, and be liable to all such duties and responsibilities, as any Constable duly appointed now has or hereafter may have within his constable wick by virtue of the common law of this realm, or of any statute made or to be made, and shall obey all such lawful commands as they may from time to time receive from any of the justices of the peace having jurisdiction within any county, or borough, or town, or district in which they shall act as Constables, for conducting themselves in the execution of their office: Provided always, That it shall be lawful for the justices of the peace of any county in general or quarter sessions assembled, if they shall be of opinion that a distinction ought to be made in the number of Constables appointed to keep the peace in different parts of the county, to divide the same into districts, as shall appear to them most convenient, and to declare the number of Constables which ought to be ap- pointed for each district, and from time to time to alter the extent of each such district, and the number of Constables to be appointed for the same; and the expenses of the Police for each such county or district shall be defrayed by each such county or district in the manner provided by the Act passed in the third and fourth years of Her present Majesty, chapter eighty-eight, for defraying the expense of the Police for counties, or separate Police districts of counties, established under the Act therein recited, passed in the second and third years of Her said Majesty, chapter ninety-three; and so much of the said recited Acts, or any of them, as confers the appointment of Police Constables on the Chief or Superintendent Constable, shall be, arid the same is hereby, repealed.


said that, if the right hon. Gentleman had not repeatedly assured the Committee in the course of his speech that he acquiesced in the decision of the large majority of the House in favour of the principle of the Bill, he should have supposed that his speech was directed altogether against it. He was bound, however, to take the right hon. Gentleman's declaration that he acquiesced in the principle of the Bill, and he would proceed to discuss the Amendment. It consisted of four distinct parts, and it affected counties only. The first clause provided that in those counties in which a regular constabulary had not been established the justices might appoint a sufficient number of fit men to be sworn in as constables. The second clause of the Amendment proposed to give to constables so appointed extended jurisdiction, enabling them to exercise their functions in every county and borough in England and Wales. That subject was one which he (Sir G. Grey) thought well deserved the consideration of the Committee; but it would be brought more directly under discussion by another Amendment of which an hon. Member had given notice. The third clause of the Amendment gave magistrates the power of dividing counties into districts if they thought a distinction ought to be made in the number of constables appointed in different parts of a county, and to declare the number of constables to be appointed for each district; and the last clause of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment proposed, as well with regard to counties which had established an efficient police, as to those which had not established a police, to repeal altogether the provisions of the existing law which authorised the appointment of chief constables. The effect of the last proposition would be to throw the police force in those counties and districts in which a rural police had been established into entire confusion. The existing Act, which had been designated as of a most arbitrary character and as depriving justices of the peace of all control over the police, had been voluntarily adopted in twenty-four counties and in districts of other counties, and that Act contained a provision which enabled any county, if the working of the police force should be found unsatisfactory, at once to abolish that force and to return to the system of parish constables. In no one instance, however, has that power been exercised, but practical experience had shown the beneficial operation of the measure, and there had, in many cases, been a gradual increase in the number of the police with the view of increasing their efficiency. Magistrates were authorised by the Act to fix the number of constables necessary for the preservation of the peace of counties, the protection of the inhabitants, and the security of property; and they were also required to appoint a chief constable, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, such chief constable, however, being liable to dismissal by the magistrates at any time without any check or control on the part of the Secretary of State if they thought he did not adequately discharge his duty. The Act further provided that the chief constable, subject to the approval of two or more justices in petty sessions, should appoint the other constables and the superintendent constables; and although it was true that the chief constable had the absolute power of dismissing the men under his control, it must be remembered that he was to exercise that control "subject to the lawful orders of the magistrates." The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) seemed to have a strong objection to the appointment of chief constables who should exercise general control over the constables in their respective districts; but for his own part, he (Sir G. Grey) thought it was essential to maintain efficient, active, and energetic men in the position of chief constables, in order to prevent the rural police from degenerating into as useless a body as the existing parish constables. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the efficiency of a police force depended upon the person at its head, and yet, with strange inconsistency, he objected to the appointment of a chief constable, because it would be impossible, in all cases, to secure the services of the best man. So, in the case of a gaol, to which the right hon. Gentleman had also referred, what could be more absurd than to argue that, because the services of the best man could not be procured, therefore there should be no gaoler, but the prisoners should be left to take care of themselves? He would not follow the right hon. Gentleman into the statistics of the question, because in moving the second reading of the Bill he had stated a variety of facts which showed a disgraceful state of things in some populous and rich districts, where no police force existed; and on that occasion the House appeared to be satisfied that, with regard to those districts it was essential that an improved system should be established. The right hon. Gentleman would authorise the justices to adopt any form of police they liked; he made no provision for the government of the force, not even providing that the whole time of the men should be devoted to their duties as police; and the practical effect of the adoption of his. Amendment would be to leave matters, as regarded the counties very nearly if not quite in their present state. With regard to Surrey, he would refer to the Report of the chief constable, who stated that although the Returns showed an increase of seventy-three persons taken into custody, as compared with the preceding year, 1854, that was to be accounted for by the circumstance that last year there were 218 deserters apprehended by the police, whereas in the preceding year there were only fifty-three. Then he said that the amount in value of property stolen was less, and the number of persons committed for trial was also less, Then with respect to Hampshire, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the statistics of sheep-stealing in that county, with the view of showing how few persons were convicted compared with the number of offences committed; but no man knew better than himself that sheep-stealing was one of those crimes in which the difficulty was to identify the property stolen, and that the fact of an acquittal did not reflect blame either upon the policeman or the magistrate. Moreover, the statistics of crime in Hampshire had of late been affected by the existence of the camp at Aldershot; but if there was any force at all in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, it showed, not that the police had been less active, but that the magistrates had been more negligent in the discharge of their duties. With respect, however, to both Surrey and Hampshire, they had the testimony of all the magistrates in those counties to the benefits derived from the establishment of a police force; and the Reports of the chief constables of those counties addressed to the magistrates and justices of the peace, stated, not only that there had been a decrease in the number of offences, but that the character of the crime had been of a less serious description. In that opinion the magistrates and justices of the peace had expressed their concurrence, and he did not believe that the statistics of the right hon. Gentleman would induce them to dispense with the police force which had been established in the county. He hoped the Committee would agree with him that it would be far better to adhere to the existing Acts than to substitute for them the vague proposition embodied in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, as chairman of the Police Committee in the county of Surrey, he was able to testify to the benefits which had resulted from the establishment of a police force. Before that event neither life nor property was safe, and the magistrates were forced into action by a series of daring robberies and the perpetration of a dreadful murder; but since, there had been a degree of peace and security which never existed before. From the county of Surrey, returns had been received for 1855, showing that there were, out of a population of 120,000, no robberies with violence; larcenies from person, two; larcenies by servants, three; and simple larcenies, twenty-five; and out of these there had been twenty-three convictions. Those figures required no comment. The desertions from the army, however, were ninety-one; from the militia, sixty-six; from the navy, fifty-five; from families, eleven; and from service, seven. The statistics of the number of criminals in counties where there were no police had been produced in comparison with the number of criminals where there were police; but that was a false estimate, because it was well known that there were no correct statistics of crime where there was no police. In conclusion, he would give one practical illustration of the effect of the introduction of the police into Surrey. It was this:—when first he acted as a magistrate upon the bench at Guildford, there was hardly a day upon which the bench, could rise before four o'clock, and it was frequently kept till six; whereas, at the present time two hours was found to be ample for the discharge of all the business that came before it.


said, his first anxiety was to show that the allegation made on a former occasion by the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, "that the West Riding was in a most discreditable state," had no good foundation in fact. The West Riding magistrates, consisting of 300 gentlemen, had met and discussed the proposition to adopt the Constabulary Act three times; and on each occasion the proposition had been negatived by very considerable majorities. The magistrates were of opinion that a rural police were wholly unnecessary in the West Riding. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds had presented a petition from Mr. Jonathan Peel, who resided in Yorkshire, on the borders of Lancashire, and the petitioner complained very much of depredations in his neighbourhood. Now, in Lancashire there was a county constabulary maintained at a cost of £33,000 a year, but that did not prevent depredations. Mr. Peel had regularly attended at Wakefield at the meetings of magistrates, and had complained, but nevertheless the magistrates had judged for themselves. It was a singular thing, that though the constabulary had been adopted in many counties, it had not been adopted in any particular district of the West Riding, nor had there been, to his knowledge, any one application to the magistrates in quarter sessions to adopt it for any such district. He should have thought that where parties were annoyed by persons coming from other districts they would have applied for a police force, and he did not think there would have been any objection on the part of the magistrates, as there was a power to rate a district separately. The right hon. Gentleman also quoted from a statement made by Mr. Wilson Overend, the chairman of the quarter sessions at Sheffield. If the right hon. Baronet could prove that there was any good foundation even for this particular charge, he would admit that the magistrates of the West Riding had been guilty of a dereliction of duty. But what were the facts? The West Riding was divided into three districts for the purposes of quarter sessions. One of these divisions extended from Sheffield in the west to Goole in the east, and was about seventy miles long by twenty broad, containing about 200,000 inhabitants. At the last quarter sessions for that district forty-five persons were brought up for trial, and of those forty-five there were twenty-seven from the town of Sheffield itself, in which there was a police force of 145 men, the remaining prisoners having come from the district at large. These facts did not justify the charge which Mr. Wilson Overend had brought against the magistrates of the West Riding, or show that a general rural police was required. He found from the condensed digest of the census of 1851, that, in respect of pauperism and crime Yorkshire favourably contrasted with the other parts of the kingdom, and pauperism and crime generally went together. While there were in the south-eastern counties in every 10,000 persons, 133 paupers and thirty-nine criminals, there were in Yorkshire only thirty-two paupers and sixteen criminals. That was as regarded the county at large, but the West Riding stood still better. The West Riding had no rural police. There was such a force in Cheshire and in Lancashire, and yet there were in Cheshire thirty-nine paupers and twenty-one criminals in every 10,000 inhabitants; in Lancashire, twenty-seven paupers and twenty criminals; while in the West Riding there were only twenty-seven paupers and thirteen criminals. He quoted these figures to show that the population of the West Riding were not in that demoralised state they were represented to be; and he had to remind the right hon. Baronet that in order to make up the return of the criminals in Yorkshire, there were included from 400 to 500 convicts belonging to Government confined in Wakefield prison, who were no part of the population of that county. He found that in Yorkshire pauperism and crime were as low as in any part of the kingdom, and that was the reason why he had always opposed the introduction of a rural police, believing it unnecessary. Indeed, crime in Yorkshire was below the average of the other counties in the kingdom—less than Lancashire, with its police; less than Durham, with its police; and less than Nottinghamshire, with its police. Those were the counties which bordered on Yorkshire, and it might be supposed that they drove all their thieves into it. The returns which he had quoted showed that Yorkshire had still less than any other county in England. The noble Lord (Lord Lovaine) might say that in Yorkshire we did not catch all the thieves, but that was easier said than proved; for it was his (Mr. B. Denison's) belief that they were generally caught, as they all made their way into the large towns, in which there were strong bodies of police, and where they were sure to be apprehended. He confessed he saw no necessity for an alteration in the present Act, under which the county magistrates had abundant power of adopting a rural police, if they thought such a force requisite. There were in Yorkshire 320 magistrates, and they had on every occasion on which the subject had been brought before them rejected it, which they would not have done had they thought that the population was of a character to require such supervision.


said, he had seldom the misfortune to differ from his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), but he must confess that he thought that the suppression of crime was the only object which the Government had in view in the proposed measure, and he saw no difference in the meaning of the words in the original clause, and in the Amendment which his right hon. Friend proposed. It was the meaning of both that an efficient force should be established, but the test of efficiency was that the object for which the force was established was obtained, and that could never be the case, unless the rural police was uniform and continuous throughout the country. His right hon. Friend had used arguments which actually supported the opposite view of the subject to that which he himself entertained. He had alluded to Gosport, to show that the absence of crime was coequal with the absence of police; but Gosport was a fortified town, and did not admit the growth of that class of population among which criminals were for the most part found. He had also said that in Hampshire itself there had been 312 offences, forty-five committals, and twenty-six convictions. Now the only result derivable from that argument was that a continuous police force was required. With regard to Surrey, he had fallen into the mistake of supposing that increased capture was increased crime, whereas it only showed the efficiency of the police in detecting crime, and so much was that appreciated, that no county, which had as yet adopted this system, was willing to give it up.


said, that the petition which he had presented had been adverted to by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. B. Denison), who was quite mistaken in thinking that it was merely the petition of Mr. Jonathan Peel, for it came from several magistrates who, residing on the borders of Yorkshire and Lancashire, were able to judge of the condition of each of those counties. Those gentlemen alleged that there was in Lancashire more good order and less undetected crime than in Yorkshire, and prayed that the same advantages which Lancashire enjoyed in its police might be given to Yorkshire. The hon. Gentleman had stated that, although the question of adopting the system of rural police in the West Riding had been frequently considered, it had been always rejected by the West Riding magistrates. In answer to that, he (Mr. Baines) would ask the Lancashire magistrates if, after sixteen years' working of the system, they wished to rescind the resolution by which they had adopted it—and he was sure they would reply in the negative, for the public opinion of Lancashire was in favour of the force. The hon. Gentleman, however, said that such was not the case in the West Riding; but there, too, a change was taking place in public opinion. The first time the proposition was made it was rejected by a large majority. Two years ago it was brought forward a second time, when there were nineteen in favour of it, and thirty-three against it. The last time it was brought forward was during the past autumn, when there were thirty-three for it and forty-three against it, so that there was a continuous increase in the minority which was in favour of the system. So much for public opinion in that important county, With respect to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), it would appear that he was for any system, or for no system, rather than adopt that which had been tested by twenty-four of the counties of England. That right hon. Gentleman also quoted figures in support of his views from a book which he (Mr. Baines) never saw before, but he had sufficient experience of the House to know how easy it was by figures to prove any proposition, unless those figures were thoroughly sifted. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not use figures disingenuously, but he suspected that his own predisposition in favour of his views led him to see corroboration of them in figures, in which there was really nothing corroborative of them. Facts, however, out weighed such statistics, and it was a fact that, although the Act gave the magistrates the power of rescinding the resolution for the adoption of the police system, they had never in one instance availed themselves of that power, and the experience of magistrates in those counties in which a rural police existed was not only in favour of its being retained there, but also in favour of its being introduced into other parts of the Kingdom. The right hon. Member said that the Government had the intention of substituting a borough for a county police, but he (Mr. Baines) had no knowledge of any such intention on the part of the Government. The simple question was, whether they should introduce into the rest of the counties of England that system, which, from the experience of some sixteen or seventeen years, had been tested in many of the counties, and had been found to be highly satisfactory.


said, he had come down to the House with the intention of supporting the Motion, but he had no expectation that the history of his own county, since 1851, would have been so particularly adverted to. He had learned something new respecting his own county, however, during the evening. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire had told the Committee that the county of Surrey was distinguished for the morality of its inhabitants and for the salubrity of its air. Now, the salubrity of the county might be supposed to have been always the same; but if they were to believe the noble Lord the Member for North Northumberland, its morality must be dated from the year 1851, that memorable era when a rural police was first established there. For the noble Lord had said that before that year neither life nor property was safe in the county of Surrey. Now, he (Mr. Evelyn) himself had lived in the county for some years anterior to that date, and he had been quite unaware of the dangers to which he had been exposed. [An hon. Member: Frimley.] Yes, he would allude to Frimley, and he would say that a very unfair use had been, made of the circumstance of the burglary at Frimley that took place in the year 1850. Upon that lamentable occasion, a clergyman was murdered in his bed at the dead of night. But they could not argue from an isolated instance. The dreadful event that took place a short time since in Rupert Street might as well be cited to argue in favour of abolishing the metropolitan police. In the case of every burglary, it was an accidental matter whether it was accompanied by murder or not. Every burglar was morally a murderer. In the case of the Frimley murder, the man who committed the crime was not the most guilty of the three, but the man who did not fire the shot set the other two on. The facts brought out by the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had clearly proved that they could not expect to diminish crime by means of an organised police. Then there was the question of expense to be considered. The statement of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary was rather calculated to mislead the House with respect to the success of the new system. He said that the magistrates had the power of rescinding the appointment of rural police, and yet there was no one of the counties, in which the police had been established, in which recourse had been had to that step. Unless he (Mr. Evelyn) were much mistaken, such was by no means the case. The Home Secretary could put his veto upon any such step, and it was certain he would exercise that veto, and would not allow a system so favoured by the Government, when once established, to be set aside by the magistrates of any county. So that no body of magistrates, whatever their opinion might be, would be likely to think it worth their while to come to a barren resolution which could lead to nothing. It had been said that the magistrates in Surrey were greatly in favour of the new system. That might be true, of the majority of the magistrates; but he (Mr. Evelyn) was not quite sure that the ratepayers generally were of the same opinion. He believed that the conservation of the peace was, by the laws of England, reposed in the people themselves, and not in a standing army of policemen, separated from the people and acting under central control. Before sitting down, he felt it due to the Surrey rural police to say that they were as efficiently organised and as well commanded as it was possible for such a force to be. He (Mr. Evelyn) had found fault with the system and not with the men. He (Mr.Evelyn) would candidly state to the House that he believed the majority of the magistrates were in favour of it, but he did not think the ratepayers were.


said, that it was very difficult to tell what was the opinion of the ratepayers of counties, be- cause they had no voice in the management of their affairs. He conceived that in this matter counties stood upon a footing quite different from that of municipal corporations. The magistrates were persons appointed by the Crown, and not responsible to the ratepayers. If the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) proposed that the justices should have the same powers as the watch Committees of boroughs, he ought to give them the same responsibility to the ratepayers. He (Mr. Gibson) was surprised that Her Majesty's Government in throwing upon counties a new expense, had not recollected that they had made a distinct promise that they would introduce a measure which should by means of financial boards give the ratepayers of counties a control over the expenditure. He hoped some Member of the Government would state that there was a disposition to redeem that promise. With respect to the measure now before the Committee he preferred the clause as it stood to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley). He did not think that there was any necessity for meddling with the police in municipal boroughs. The police force, which was established some years ago in Manchester, under a Commission appointed by the Home Office, had been replaced by a body of police under the control of the municipal authorities, and the latter system had worked far more satisfactorily than the former. It was true that since the withdrawal of some clauses to which they objected, the corporation of Manchester had given a qualified assent to the Bill, but he believed the population of that city were generally adverse to the measure, that they looked with some jealousy upon a proposition to place them unnecessarily under Government control, and that they objected to the payment of any portion of their police expenses from the public funds. Although he would not go the length of voting against the Government on the present occasion, he should oppose the clauses of the Bill which affected the borough police.


said, that some fifteen or sixteen years ago, when the rural police were established in Worcestershire, many petitions were presented to the magistrates from the ratepayers against the continuance of the system. The magistrates, however, refused to comply with the request of the petitioners; the police were maintained, and only a year ago several petitions were presented from the ratepayers, praying that the police might be continued. He thought that on t the present occasion they had been led too much into a discussion upon the principle of the Bill. He would not enter into any consideration of the statistics to which his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire had referred, for it appeared to him that they did not establish anything; but in reply to those statements he would venture to assert that no quarter sessions occurred in any county in which a rural police had been established at which numerous criminal cases were not tried which would not have been detected but for the vigilance and activity of the rural police. The object of the Amendment seemed mainly to be to vest the appointment of the police in the magistrates, but he (Sir J. Pakington strongly deprecated any measure which would have such an effect, and he blieved that in Worcestershire there were not half-a-dozen magistrates who would desire to exercise the power.


said, that when the establishment of a rural police force in Nottinghamshire was proposed, the proposition was only carried by a majority of one; but he believed there was now scarcely a single magistrate in the county who would not admit that the system had worked satisfactorily.


said, he objected to the Bill, because it was intended to force upon counties a system to which they were averse, and besides it was his belief that in the three divisions of the county of Lincoln a rural police was quite unnecessary. He also protested against counties being compelled to establish a police force, and should support the Amendment of his right hon. Friend, because it would render the Bill less onerous than at present, and would not impose an unnecessary burden upon reluctant ratepayers.


said, the subject of establishing a county police had been long ago brought before the magistrates of Somersetshire. Its plan had been rejected, but last year it was adopted by sixty to one. The magistrates found it impossible to go on under the unpaid system. He therefore avowed himself a convert to the system. He had examined the charge sheets in different districts. He had found in Bedminster that out of sixty-eight charges only eighteen were pressed, at Bath only eight out of eighteen. There never had been in the country so large an amount of undetected crime. It was not true, as far as his county was concerned, that the ratepayers were averse to the establishment of a rural police; on the contrary, they had largely petitioned for it. He heartily supported the Bill, as placing the police of the country under one uniform system in the hands of the Government. He could not therefore agree in the Amendment, which was in fact a new Bill, and he thought, in a police that unity of action was the chief thing to be desired, and with that view he preferred even the Bill as it was originally introduced. As a convert he heartily thanked the Government for the introduction of the Bill.


said, that the ratepayers in Dublin county were almost unanimous in favour of the adoption of a rural police.


said, that the statistics of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire had not been answered. In reply to the figures of the hon. Member for East Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) he begged to state that crime in East Somerset had diminished in the last three years, and had been diminishing steadily for twenty years. Summary convictions had diminished in the same way, and the improvement had been gradual for many years.


stated, that the ratepayers of Leicestershire were, almost to a man, in favour of a rural police.


said, he would beg to express his approval of the Bill now that it had been altered, and he should give it his support.


in reply said, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had argued that the system worked well, because there had been no attempts to get rid of it wherever it had been established, but, on the contrary, the rural districts were petitioning for an additional force. He believed that the fact was this:—The counties started with a certain number of policemen; the system was not found to work. It was then said that the reason was because there were not policemen enough; and the consequence was that people petitioned for more. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was wise in his generation; but he (Mr. Henley) feared that his hon. Friends near him were not wise, and he warned them that directly the Bill became law, county financial boards would follow.

Question put, "That the words 'under the said Acts of the second and third and third and fourth years of Her Majesty' stand part of the clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 268; Moes 94: Majority 174.

On the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill.


said, he objected to words of restriction, and would suggest that power should be given to establish a sufficient police force in a county, inclusive of any districts in which constabulary force might be already established.


said, he would look into the matter, but thought the clause as it stood fully carried out the object of the hon. Gentleman.


said, that in the hope that the Government would omit the second clause altogether, he would suggest that the hon. Member for West Norfolk should move the addition of his proviso to the first instead of to the second clause.


then moved to add the following words:— That after the passing of this Bill the number of constables appointed and paid shall never, at any time, be less than one per 2,000 of the inhabitants of every county or police district, or one per 1,000 of the inhabitants of every city or borough throughout England and Wales according to the last Parliamentary enumeration of the population for the time being. Taking the average number of the population, he did not think that could be considered too large a minimum, and without some minimum were stated no additional security against the commission of crime would be obtained. It was most desirable to have a uniform system of police, for at present those counties where there was no police were harbours of refuge for thieves from counties where there was an efficient force.


said, that, as the proviso of the hon. Gentleman referred both to counties and boroughs, while the operation of the clause was confined to counties, it was hardly in its proper place. He, therefore, would suggest that the proviso should be brought up as a distinct clause.


said, he would accede to the suggestion, and the proviso was withdrawn.


said, he wished to ask what effect the Bill would have in the town of Huddersfield?


said, Huddersfield would continue under the power of the existing Act.


said, he would beg to put the same question with regard to Brighton.


said, Brighton was an incorporated borough, and had its own police under the Municipal Act.


said, there was a portion of the town not under the Municipal Act, and the inhabitants of that portion of the town were apprehensive of being put under the county constabulary.


said, there was already a county constabulary in Sussex; consequently that would not be affected by the Bill.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 2 (Her Majesty may, by Order in Council, require separate police districts to be constituted in counties).


said, he wished to know why this clause, which would give the Secretary of State a compulsory power with regard to the division of counties into districts, had been proposed? Such divisions had already been made for purposes of police in several counties, and he thought the local authorities were the persons best qualified to determine the extent and limits of those divisions.


said, that on introducing the Bill he had fully explained the reasons which had induced him to propose this clause, which had been inserted in conformity with the recommendations of a Committee of that House. He was, however, ready on the Report to introduce words into the clause providing that police districts should not be formed without an opportunity being afforded to the local authorities of expressing their opinions on the subject.


said, the clause would destroy the jurisdiction of the justices.


said, he thought the clause ought to be expunged. Though a strong advocate for local administration, he should vote for the first clause, because he believed the counties had been overridden by the ratepayers.


said, he would ask the right hon. Baronet to withdraw the clause, and reintroduce it, in order to enable the Committee to consider the modifications ho had proposed.


said, if the clause were likely to be agreed to, he should have no objection. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that the clause compelled the county magistrates to divide the counties into districts.


said, he thought the clause was very clumsily drawn.


said, there had been many counties already divided into districts, and always with perfect harmony between the magistrates and the Secretary of State.


said, that the only objection to the clause was that the power originated with the Secretary of State. By the words suggested to be added it would come from the county magistrates.


said, that if the Bill was to pass, the object should now be to limit the power of the inspectors. Their efforts could only be intended to establish a police ministry, and he hoped the clause would be withdrawn.


said, he knew something of these matters as the son of a lord-lieutenant, and he would appeal to any magistrate who knew the comparative number of magistrates coming from different parts of the country, whether the number of magistrates was not wholly irrespective of the rating.


said, he was of opinion that in large counties, differing greatly, in respect to one portion being manufacturing and the other agricultural, there ought to be some security that the manufacturing part did not swamp the other. This clause was intended to carry this principle into effect, and he should therefore support it.


said, he was most anxious to uphold local authority, but the purport of the clause was to put the power into the hands of a small minority, and he could not vote for it.

Question put, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 198; Noes 62: Majority 136.

House resumed:—Committee report progress.