HC Deb 05 August 1867 vol 189 cc871-6

rose, pursuant to Notice, for the purpose of calling attention to the recent grant of a free pardon to Edward Greenland, late manager of the Leeds Banking Company, who was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment for perjury, and to move for the Correspondence on the subject. He said the remission of Greenland's sentence had occasioned great surprise in Leeds and the neighbourhood. The main facts of the case were these—six months ago Greenland was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment on a charge of perjury. He had been manager of the Leeds Banking Company, which had failed two years and a-half ago, and the specified charge on which he was convicted was that of having falsified the returns it was his duty to make to the Board of Inland Revenue of the notes issued by the bank. Up to the time of its failure the bank occupied a high position; and its failure was due, not to the ordinary chances of commerce, but to reckless management. When the bank suspended payment its deficiency amounted to £500,000, and few events of the kind had caused such extensive ruin. Of 243 shareholders at the time of the failure, little more than fifty were now able to meet the calls made upon them; twenty-five had died, some from distress of mind, some by suicide; while some of the shareholders had lost their reason, and were now confined in lunatic asylums. After the failure the inhabitants of Leeds, feeling that the case was one which cast discredit on their town, applied to the Board of Inland Revenue for the purpose of ascertaining whether they intended to prosecute Greenland for the forgeries it was believed he had committed. The Board replied that they did not intend to prosecute; but that they would assist those who might undertake a prosecution. Some of the inhabitants undertook the duty at a heavy cost; and the presiding Judge expressed his surprise that the prosecution of the case had fallen on private persons. The Judge also said that had it not been for the advanced age and bodily infirmity of the prisoner he would have sentenced him to penal servitude. As soon as Greenland went to prison he was placed in the hospital for three months, but in consequence of a report received by the visiting justices he was removed to one of the cells. The visiting justices were, therefore, greatly astonished when they afterwards received intelligence that Greenland had obtained a free pardon. As far as he could understand, the solicitor of Greenland addressed a memorial to the Home Office, asking for a remission of the sentence on the ground of the prisoner's health, and on receipt of the memorial instructions were sent from the Home Office to the gaol directing that inquiries should be made respecting the state of Greenland's health. The concluding portion of the surgeon's certificate was as follows:— Under these circumstances he was placed under careful supervision, and precautions were taken during the cold weather against a return of these affections. In consequence his health at first appeared to improve, the only evidence of declining health being a gradual though steady loss of weight, amounting now to twelve pounds, point of considerable importance in the case of a man seventy-two years of age. Since he has been placed in closer confinement he has become more depressed in spirits, and his mind less able to bear up under the influence of his late reverses and present imprisonment. He supposed no person in prison would be likely to improve in health; but he could not think that such a report from a surgeon was sufficient to justify a free pardon, particularly as the surgeon had thought Greenland so little ill that he had not recommended the visiting justices to place him in hospital. He thought it important to call attention to the case, because the facts, without explanation, might give rise to certain impressions which would have a most mischievous effect. Doubts would arise whether, in the administration of justice, distinctions were not made between different classes. It was difficult to believe that a poor man who had no solicitor would have received a remission of the greater part of his sentence, because he was in a state of health which, in the opinion of the surgeon, did not justify his removal to the hospital. He therefore asked for some explanations on the subject from the right hon. Gentleman. If it were contrary to the usual practice to produce the Papers connected with the case, he should not press that part of his Motion.


, in seconding the Motion, expressed his concurrence in the statement of facts submitted by the noble Lord who had brought the matter before the House, and stated with reference to the failure of the Leeds Banking Company, that it had been attended by some of the most frightful consequences that had ever been known to result from a similar catastrophe. Many deaths had taken place, and hundreds of families had been reduced from a state of prosperity to absolute destitution. It was believed that all this was owing to a long course of reckless extravagance, and even criminal proceedings on the part of Greenland the manager. But it was not for this long course of misconduct that he was tried and convicted; it was for perjury he was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment. Two memorials had been presented. The first he had been requested by his solicitor, a very respectable man, to present to the right hon, Gentleman, and he had done so. There was an end of it, so far as he was concerned. The second memorial was not presented through him. The solicitor came to London and requested an interview with the Home Secretary. He then stated that since the former memorial had been presented the case of Greenland as to health had become much worse—in fact he had been shocked with the rapid deterioration in his appearance and condition. The first memorial only asked for removal from the cell to the hospital. The second went much further, and stated that if life or reason were to be preserved the sentence of imprisonment must be abridged. The next he heard of the case was that the right hon. Gentleman had found it consistent with his duty, under all the circumstances, to grant a free pardon. He would only further say that, as he thought the case liable to the inferences mentioned by the noble Lord, he hoped the whole Papers would be laid before the House. At the same time he must be allowed to add that not the slightest imputation was meant to be thrown on the conduct, least of all on the motives, of the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Copy of the Correspondence on the subject of the recent grant of a free pardon to Edward Greenland (late manager of the Leeds Banking Company), who was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment for perjury,"—(Lord Frederick Cavendish,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he did not think that any great advantage could be derived from discussions of that description before any inquiries had been made or any explanations had been given. He would not enter into any examination of the offences with which Greenland had been charged; but he should observe that the specific accusation on which he had been convicted was one of perjury. In a Petition signed by the Chairman of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce it was stated that the offence of which Greenland had been accused was insignificant as compared with the greater crimes of which all Leeds knew that he had been guilty; that was to say, the petitioners attributed to Greenland not only perjury, but an acquaintance with the forgeries which had contributed to the ruin of the bank. But no evidence of any of those additional crimes had come before him (Mr. Gathorne Hardy); and on looking over the report of the trial he perceived that the jury while finding the prisoner guilty, recommended him to mercy, on account of his extreme age and the loose manner in which the business of the bank generally appeared to have been conducted. Mr. Richardson, whom he had not at the time known to have been the solicitor to Greenland, had presented to him a memorial praying for a remission of the sentence on the ground of the declining health of the prisoner; and that application was accompanied by a report from the surgeon of the gaol, which, as it seemed to him (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), was of a more serious character than the noble Lord appeared to imagine. On receiving that statement he thought it his duty to consult the Judge who tried the prisoner, and he recommended that if the prisoner's illness should continue it would be right to remit part of his sentence. A Minute to that effect was made on the Papers for the remission of part of the sentence. Subsequently he saw Mr. Hamilton Richardson, with whom he had been previously acquainted. Mr. Richardson confirmed the statements in the memorial, and spoke of the great change which had taken place in the appearance and condition of Greenland. Coupling that with what had been stated by the Judge—that if the prisoner's health was not improved part of his sentence might be remitted—he did not think it his duty to try how much more the prisoner, a man seventy-two years of age, could bear, and he did not think that he exceeded his duty in permitting him to be discharged altogether. In these cases he could only act from the best of his judgment, and under the circumstances he had taken upon himself to remit the whole of the sentence. Taking into consideration the recommendation to mercy by the jury and the illness of the prisoner, he did not think he had acted improperly in permitting this old man, dishonoured as he was, and for ever prevented as he would be from regaining his former position in society, to go at large.


said, he thought it was desirable that questions of this kind should be brought forward, if it were only for the purpose of strengthening the hands of the Home Secretary for the time being from the importunities of those criminals who might happen to be in a wealthy condition of life. After the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, he confessed he did not see how the right hon. Gentleman could have done otherwise than he did; but he must remind him that though the crime of which Greenland was convicted was an act of perjury, yet this had been committed month by month for twenty years together. As he was residing in the West Riding at the time, he recollected the feeling of indignation which was expressed there at the light sentence Greenland received. It was true he was then an old man, over seventy years of age, but it was to be recollected that when he began his career of perjury he was a hale, hearty man of fifty. The Leeds Chamber of Commerce had, very much to its credit, taken upon itself all the expense and unpopularity of the prosecution—for, strange to say, it was actually said they were prosecuting an old man—and it was so important that there should be no suspicion as to the motives which had actuated the Government that he felt glad the matter had been brought forward, and that the Home Secretary was able to give the explanation he had done; but he could not help thinking that if Mr. Greenland had not had an able solicitor like Mr. Richardson, and if he had not possessed wealthy and influential friends, he would have been left to serve out the whole of his lenient sentence, instead of undergoing a sentence of only six months.


said, he should be happy to show the noble Lord the Papers, but it would be contrary to the usual practice to produce them publicly.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.