HC Deb 16 February 1866 vol 181 c597

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the employment of Police Constables in plain clothes at night in the suburban districts of the Metropolis, and to the serious results which have already occurred, and are likely to occur in consequence; and especially to the recent case at Sydenham, when Police Constable Maddock was severely wounded on the highway by a man named Joseph Ferguson, now confined in Maidstone Gaol, but who at the time of the assault believed that he was only defending himself and his property against the attacks of a robber?


said, in reply, that he did not know anything of the particular case to which the noble Lord had referred, and, consequently, he could give no information in regard to it. With respect, however, to the general question as to the employment of policemen in plain clothes in the metropolis, he might state that the practice was adopted in 1862 in consequence of the number of garrotte robberies which had taken place in London, and it has also been followed in certain districts where numerous burglaries had been committed. It was ascertained that those robberies were committed during the absence of the ordinary police constables in uniform, who were watched on their rounds till they were away from the spot. It was necessary, in order to put a stop to such robberies, to employ constables in plain clothes. The report of a recent trial showed that a certain class of thieves very closely watched the movements of the police.