HC Deb 05 July 1867 vol 188 cc1147-62

said, he rose to call attention to the conviction of two men, Henry Fulford and Mark Wellstead, for poaching, by the Salisbury bench of county magistrates, in March last, and to move an address for a copy of the depositions on which such conviction was based. He was not without hope that his Motion would be acceded to, as he would have no difficulty in proving his case to the House. If his case was an erroneous one, it was due to the magistrates whose conduct was impugned, to the administration of justice in this country, to the public feeling of the people in the neighbourhood where the alleged outrage on justice was committed, that its error should be fairly and fully established. On the contrary, if the case he brought forward could not be gainsaid or contradicted, it was due to those who had been aggrieved that they should not be left without the sympathy of the House. The gentleman upon whose authority he made his statement was the Rev. Richard Payne, vicar in the immediate neighbourhood where this affair took place. He had not the honour of Mr. Payne's acquaintance, he had never seen him, but knew something of him by report, and he could assert that as regarded education, social position, and what was at least as valuable—prudence and discretion—he could not possibly call into court a more creditable or satisfactory witness. It was due to this gentleman to say that he (Mr. P. A. Taylor) brought him forward on his own responsibility and from a sense of public duty. That gentleman had made no request to be brought forward in connection with this matter, and when communicated with he said it would be more agreeable to him to allow the matter to drop; but that if he (Mr. P. A. Taylor) thought it a matter of public duty to bring the case forward, he could say that he was unable to give him a single circumstance in mitigation of the facts. Now, the facts were these:—On the 26th of March last, George Pilgrim, a gamekeeper, took out summonses for poaching against George Fulford, Henry Fulford, and Mark Wellstead. About the first-named of these three men no question arose that he was guilty, and he absconded. Henry Fulford and Mark Wellstead, however, appeared and protested that they had been in bed the whole night. The gamekeeper swore that in the early spring morning, an hour before sunrise, he saw three men running away, and that defendants were two of them. This was all the testimony against them. On the other hand, it was sworn by the father of one that his son was sleeping in the same room with him at the time; and the father and mother of the other deposed that he was sleeping in the same room with them. The woman who appeared to be a remarkably conscientious witness deposed that she slept as usual that night, but she could positively testify that the prisoner was in bed at nine o'clock at night, and at five o'clock in the morning. Stephen Deer swore that he saw two men running away, and that the two men taken up were not those he saw running away. They had, therefore, the assertion of the gamekeeper on the one side; while on the other hand, they had in the one case two witnesses, and in the other three witnesses swearing in direct contradiction. One would have supposed that if the balance of evidence was not in favour of the prisoner, yet if there was a doubt the prisoner would have had the benefit of it. But— Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill. Things were indeed bad begun for these poor men when country gentlemen entered that court and took their seats on the bench against men who in point of fact were offenders against them. And the thing that was bad begun made strong itself by ill, because it predisposed the magistrates to weigh in a false scale the evidence produced before them, and to violate the first principle of English law, that a man was to be held innocent till he was found guilty. In this case the magistrates, in spite of the testimony which had been adduced in favour of the prisoners, found them guilty. Fulford was lightly treated, and only sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment, because his character had been hitherto irreproachable; while Wellstead received three months, because he had before been convicted of poaching. Now, the first thing which struck one in this case was, not merely the fact that the magistrates accepted as gospel truth the testimony of the gamekeeper, but they seemed to think him such an unquestionable witness that they did not think it was worth their while to cross-examine him. They refused even to cross-examine him, and although they did not go so far as to charge the woman by implication with perjury, they intimated that she possibly might have been mistaken, and that although she saw her son in the bed-room at nine and at five, yet, in the interval, he might have gone out when she was asleep and done his little bit of poaching. If they had taken the trouble to cross-examine Pilgrim the gamekeeper, they would have found that he deposed to seeing the men at a quarter to five, one mile away from his home. Either, then, the men were innocent and the gamekeeper had made a mistake, or the father and mother had perjured themselves. But Pilgrim the gamekeeper was not altogether an irreproachable witness; for on a previous occasion there had been a conviction on his evidence, in which he had been proved to be wrong; and singularly enough the clerk of the magistrates urged that in his favour, because he said that having made such a mistake once before, he would be likely to be more careful on a future occasion. If that was the idea of justice these persons entertained one could not but be filled with admiration at the entire harmony and homogeneity which characterized all the surroundings of this case, both with respect to the magistrates and their clerk. As was the magistrate so was the clerk, and as was the clerk so was the only witness. Pilgrim, indeed, said that he had another witness, but when asked why he did not bring him forward, he said, "Oh, the magistrates would be satisfied with his word;" and so the clerk said to Mr. Payne— If you are dissatisfied with the conviction, appeal to the Home Secretary; he will refer to the magistrates, and the magistrates will report; implying that their Report would end the whole matter, and the inference being that the clerk would put the reply into his pocket, and they would hear no more of it. But while the magistrates and the clerk affected to believe the men guilty, all the neighbourhood knew they were innocent; and they knew it for the reason that they were perfectly cognizant of who had committed the offence. Mr. Payne says— I did not willingly interfere in this matter; but it was too much for any man with any sense of justice, or self-respect, to put up with. He then goes on to say— For some time I heard unpleasant rumours; but, in what I now think a misplaced confidence in the administration of justice, I made no inquiry; at last I was forced to do so, and was put into communication with one of the real culprits, Charles Moody, who told me the whole truth of the matter. He was thoroughly convinced that George and Mary Wellstead were thoroughly trustworthy witnesses; and, moreover, the men in question had confessed that they were the real offenders. The House would perhaps be of opinion that upon this fact coming to the knowledge of the magistrates, they would at once hasten to undo the wrong of which they had been guilty, and that the post and the telegraph would alike be set in motion to secure the men's release. Mr. Payne took the man who had made the confession before Mr. Hinxman, one of the committing magistrates; he confessed himself to be the real offender, and showed his knowledge of the other. This offender was Stephen Deer, who swore that the prisoners were not the men; but also swore falsely, being unwilling to commit himself, that he did not know who the real offenders were. Mr. Payne naturally thought that the magistrates would have done the men justice, and have applied to the Home Office to release them from prison; but, to his surprise, on the 20th of Maybe received a letter from Mr. Hinxman that he had heard from Lord Folkestone, and that after a careful consideration of the evidence and otherwise, they must decline taking any further steps in the matter. The House would observe that those magistrates who sit on the Bench to administer justice supplement the evidence by the words "and otherwise." Did that "otherwise," which apparently weighed so strongly in the consideration they gave to this case, mean vague rumour, or evidence that might have been called? He believed that it would be found to mean that a man named Sherwood saw the men running away, attempting to disguise themselves; that he recognized one of them as George Fulford, but could not recognize the other two; and he it was who told Pilgrim, the gamekeeper, that he thought he was not far wrong. It turned out afterwards that these men were Stephen Deer and Charles Moody; and Moody being a remarkably little man, when that description was given to the gamekeeper, he rushed at once to the conclusion that it must be Wellstead, because he also was a little man. Well, notwithstanding that all this evidence was procured and forwarded to the Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman declined to interfere in the matter. It would be impertinent on his part to attempt to guess why the right hon. Gentleman declined to interfere; but he conceived that he must have been animated by one of two reasons. He had either looked into the evidence upon which the magistrates had decided the case, and come to the conclusion that those magistrates were right, or he declined to look into the evidence at all. If the former was the case, he could only say that the Home Secretary's mode of weighing evidence was as peculiar as that of the magistrates themselves; and if the right hon. Gentleman never looked into the evidence at all, then the result was that the public were bound hand and foot, and were absolutely in the power, and at the mercy, of these county magistrates, and they might do as they liked without an appeal to the Home Secretary. It was somewhere before the 29th of May that Mr. Payne wrote to the magistrates, and afterwards sent the information to the Home Secretary, stating that this unhappy case never stood upon more than one leg; and now that the evidence of the gamekeeper had broken down, it had no leg left at all. The people of the neighbourhood were quite of that opinion; for a petition signed by great numbers, from the vicar, churchwardens, and inhabitants of Downton, was prepared, praying for a reversion of the sentence. How much this may have influenced the Minister I know not, but on Tuesday, June 17th, orders were sent down that Wellstead should be released. Now, this man was released because he was not guilty; and Mr. Payne thought that, at least, the justice would be done of releasing his bail from reponsibility; and, accordingly, on the 18th of June, he wrote to the Home Secretary stating that it was hard enough upon the poor man to have suffered an unjust imprisonment; but it would be still harder on him if his bail were not released; but it was almost incredible that no answer whatever had been received to that application. This was the case which he had to present to the House. They sometimes heard it charged against Reformers that in their speeches they endeavoured to set class against class; but was there ever a case more likely to set the peasantry against the squirearchy than the one which he now brought forward? Let hon. Members try to bridge over the abyss that separated them from that class—put themselves in their position, and imagine what would be their feelings if subjected to the gross wrong and injustice to which these men had been subjected. He was quite sure that hon. Gentlemen would feel most indignant if, under such laws as the Game Laws, they were wrongfully accused, and sent to prison upon the oath of a single gamekeeper, counter-proved by evidence upon evidence. Indeed, he was not quite sure that the feelings of what had been called by a high authority the "wild justice of revenge" would not enter their minds. What must be the feeling of hopeless insecurity among the people of this neighbourhood, not one of whom was sure that they might not be made the victim of some serviceable rascal anxious to procure a conviction which he knew would be pleasant to his master, and whose oath would be held to weigh more than any number of witnesses that they could bring, especially when the charge was knocking over a hare which happened to be nibbling his cabbages, crossing the road, or nibbling on his master's pasture. He did not hesitate to say, that, even if there had been no evidence brought forward to rebut the evidence of the gamekeeper, the evidence of the latter was not sufficient to have convicted these men. He would ask the House seriously to consider for one moment how such a state of things affected these poor people? He would say that in this case and in all similar cases—he said in all similar cases—because they all knew that this was a sample of scores and hundreds occurring through the length and breadth of the land. He said that in this and similar cases a terrible wrong was done, a reckless denial of justice was perpetrated—a wrong which, were not the peasants the mildest and kindliest people on the face of the earth, did they not carry forbearance and meekness almost, if it be possible, to a fault, no class, however powerful, would dare to inflict on any portion of their fellow-countrymen, however humble. He begged to conclude by moving an Address for a Copy of the Depositions on which this conviction had been based.

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 Depositions on which the conviction of two men for poaching by the Salisbury Bench of County Magistrates in March last was based,"—(Mr. Taylor,) —instead thereof.


said, that, as one of the Salisbury Bench, he wished to say a few words on the subject. With reference to the last observation of the hon. Gentleman, he could not help remarking that, if hundreds of such cases were occurring, it was strange the House of Commons did not hear of them when there were so many hon. Gentlemen who would be willing to take them up. As to the particular case itself, he had very little to say, because he was not present on the occasion of the conviction. But he was intimately acquainted with the two magistrates who presided at the hearing of the case, and he knew that no more honourable men could be found. With reference to the sneer of the hon. Member for Leicester as to one of them being a game preserver, he might observe that the gentleman referred to was no game preserver at all. The other (Lord Folkestone) was the son of a most able magistrate, and such was the reputation of the noble Lord himself, that it was likely he would be the Chairman of the next Quarter Sessions. He thought that no suspicion rested on the magistrates. The evidence which the House had heard that night was all on one side—the evidence of mothers, fathers, and other relatives of the accused; while, on the other hand, there was, no doubt, considerable inconsistency in the evidence given before the magistrates, who would, he felt assured, have never wilfully injured any persons, however humble.


said, that the hon. Member for Leicester had taken a course on this occasion which he hoped he should never see followed in that House. No doubt, honour, virtue, and integrity would die with the hon. Member, and not be found elsewhere. He had presumed in a tone as unjustifiable as any which had ever been heard in that House to speak of the magistrate who had acted in the case. Those gentlemen were no acquaintances of his; but he must protest against the hon. Member for Leicester speaking of them as men who had the baseness to convict two persons on evidence which they knew to be false, simply because the witness against them was a gamekeeper. If the hon. Member knew anything about what passed in Criminal Courts, he must know that mistakes as to identity occurred in other cases as well as those in which the accused were charged with breaches of the Game Laws. He disdained to answer the charge which the hon. Member had brought against himself. From the first he had been perfectly disinterested in the matter; and, when the circumstances were brought before him, he took the course which appeared to him to be the correct one. It appeared to him, on a careful review of the facts, that there was so much doubt in the case that it was his duty to release the men. One of the men, Henry Fulford, had completed the term of his imprisonment six weeks before the case was laid before him, and during the six weeks no remonstrance had been made by, or on behalf of—that man as far as he was aware of no remonstrance had been sent in to the Home Office. It must be remembered, too, that those persons had an opportunity of appealing to the Quarter Sessions if they thought that they had been wrongly convicted. Henry Fulford remained in prison for the full period of his sentence, and when the case was brought under the notice of the Home Department a number of statements were made, and he received several letters on the subject of the conviction. He knew from his experience at the bar how difficult it was to arrive at a proper conclusion as to evidence without having the witnesses before you face to face. Without affecting, therefore, to come a strict conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the parties—because he knew how difficult it was to come to a sound conclusion in cases of alibi—yet, believing there was much doubt in the case he thought it was better to let the man who was still in prison be discharged. At the same time he gave directions that the men should be set free from their bail. If that had not been done, it was not his fault. In the first instance this case had been taken up in a very different spirit. It had been brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond. How had it fallen into the hands of the hon. Member for Leicester? He did not handle it in the same spirit as that displayed by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond had spoken of the magistrates in the eulogistic terms which had been applied to those gentlemen by the hon. Member for Salisbury. He did not say that a mistake had not been made. He should not have allowed the man to be released if he had not thought that there was great doubt in the case; but game prosecutions were not the only ones in which persons were convicted on the evidence of one witness. The cases in which there were convictions on the evidence of one witness were numerous. There had been a prosecution in which seven persons were convicted on the testimony of one witness, though several alibis had been set up. Afterwards the prisoners indicted for perjury the person who had sworn against them; but they failed to prove that the case which had been made against them was not perfectly right. In spite of all these alibis a jury which saw these men face to face, and saw them examined and tested in a proper way, came to the conclusion that they would believe the one man against all the witnesses who supported the alibis. If evidence were to be estimated by the number of witnesses rather than by its own weight, as the hon. Member for Leicester seemed to think it should, we should come to most unjust decisions. The hon. Member remarked that one of the magistrates had said something about "evidence and otherwise." The new evidence adduced in support of the alibi on the part of one of the defendants, except that of his father and mother, was all "otherwise;" it was not given on oath before the magistrates, but sent subsequently to the Home Office. Therefore, what the magistrate referred to was the result of inquiries he had made, which he supposed confirmed his decision. Without discussing whether it was right or wrong, he believed it was fairly, honestly, and justly given, because the magistrates believed the evidence adduced. There was no cross-examination, nor was it the duty of the magistrates to make such a cross-examination as the hon. Member supposed. The hon. Member's idea of cross-examination was an extraordinary one. He had said the witness Pilgrim was not cross-examined as to what Stephen Doer had said about seeing some man running away a mile off. It would have been a most extraordinary thing to have asked Pilgrim about what Stephen Deer had seen a mile off.


said, what he had stated was that Pilgrim ought to have been cross-examined as to when and where he saw the three men running away.


said, the mother had sworn that her son was in bed about five o'clock, and the keeper had said he saw the man between four and five o'clock between one and two miles from the cottage in which he lived. The magistrates knowing how indefinite evidence as to time frequently was, believed from the evidence before them that there was time for the man to have got from where the gamekeeper saw him to the house where he lived, at the hour stated, without imputing perjury to the father or mother. It was clear that there was a case of poaching, and Stephen Deer said that George Fulford, who had absconded, was one of the men, and he did not know who the others were. This man Deer had been convicted several times for poaching, and the magistrates did not rely much on his testimony. He had subsequently said that he himself was one of those who were running away, and that a man named Moody was the other; but when he appeared before Mr. Hinxman, the magistrate, he was believed by that gentleman to be drunk, and the magistrate's mind was not much affected by what he said. He must say that nothing could have convinced him more than the manner in which this case had been brought before the House of the impropriety of bringing up in the House, as a Court of Appeal, such cases. After the tone and spirit of the speech that had been made by the hon. Member for Leicester, he must say that he never heard any one attempt to enter upon a judicial investigation in so unjudicial a manner. The hon. Gentleman had treated the magistrates in this case worse than the magistrates would have treated any witness who had been known to have perjured himself on a former occasion, and had assumed, that because the case was one of poaching, the magistrates had dealt with it in a different manner to that in which they would have treated any other case. He might just as well have said that in any ordinary case of robbery magistrates had so deep an interest in protecting their neighbours' property that they would believe any charge that was brought before them. One of the magistrates, it appeared, was not a game preserver, and he ought at least to be regarded as a disinterested person. However, it was not for him (Mr. Hardy) to defend the magistrates. He believed most firmly that the bench acted upon their sense of what was right, that they weighed the evidence, and further, he believed that the gamekeeper himself committed no wilful error. He (Mr. Hardy), however, thinking that great doubt had been thrown upon the case, ordered the man to be set at liberty; but he repeated that he did not think that the magistrates had done anything to subject them to censure.


said, that since he had the honour of being a Member of that House he had never heard so unjustifiable an attack made upon any Member of it, as that which had been made on his hon. Friend by so high a functionary as the right hon. Gentleman. That right hon. Gentleman had not shaken a single word of the statement which had been made. The right hon. Gentleman had only misstated what his hon. Friend had said, being too angry to attend to him. The right hon. Gentleman said the magistrates believed the evidence given before them to be true; but the whole strength of the case was that the tendency of magistrates was always to believe the evidence of gamekeepers. Whether that was so or not, it was the general opinion, and this was an extraordinary and emphatic corroboration of that opinion. It was not denied that Pilgrim had made an unfortunate mistake as to identity before, and that on his evidence this person was found guilty, notwithstanding the other evidence and that the error was not corrected until evidence had been produced in addition—namely, the self-crimination of other persons. One would think it was the imperative duty of the magistrates to sift the matter to the very bottom, and to take care that the whole should be perfectly understood, so that they might be sure that they were not continuing to perpetrate a great injustice. As to appealing to Quarter Sessions, persons in the labouring class in the rural districts were not likely to appeal from magistrates to magistrates; they were too much afraid, and too much cowed to do that; and, besides, they had not the pecuniary means. The only other thing they had heard, was that one of these magistrates was likely to be appointed chairman of Quarter Sessions, in which office he would have to perform some of the most important judicial functions that could devolve on any person in these dominions, with the least amount of responsibility. They might be honourable men; but honourable men were sometimes singularly prejudiced, singularly un-judicial, and singularly disposed to believe in the sufficiency of evidence in a particular kind of charge.


said, he thought that the hon. Member for Leicester in bringing forward what he believed to be a gross case of magisterial misdeeds, had been rebuked by the Home Secretary in a tone which ought not properly to be adopted.


said, he could bear his testimony to the character and position of the two magistrates whose conduct had been attacked. There were no more honourable men to be found, or men more capable of discharging judicial functions. The subject had been brought forward in a style and tone which reflected infinitely greater discredit on the hon. Member than any remarks he had made could do on these magistrates. He hoped the House would not allow the Motion to be withdrawn, but express their sense of it by rejecting it by a large majority.


asked the Home Secretary if he intended to produce the depositions? [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY said there were none.] He had rather supposed that was the case. He regretted the magistrates were unable to give the grounds upon which they made the conviction. He would, therefore, move to add to the Motion that the right hon. Gentleman should give the Correspondence that had taken place between him and the magistrates. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but he (Mr. Forster) could not understand why he should refuse to produce the Correspondence. If no notes were taken he was at a loss to know where the right hon. Gentleman got the information on which he acted. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed his surprise that notice had been taken of this matter. It was not a case that could escape being noticed. The right hon. Gentleman released the man that was convicted, and thereby he admitted that injustice had been done to the man. His own speech showed that it was necessary to take notice of the case.


said, that, as a Wiltshire magistrate, he was surprised to hear what had fallen from the Home Secretary with reference to the depositions. He had never known a case where notes were not taken, which were called depositions. If none had been taken by the clerk to the magistrates, all he could say was that the practice was most reprehensible. He was intimately acquainted with the two magistrates referred to in this case, and it would be useless for him to add anything to what had been said in their favour on both sides of the House, as men of honour and men who would not have convicted any man unless they thoroughly believed at the time that the men were guilty.


said, depositions were distinct things, and well known to the law. They were taken down, read over, and signed by the witnesses, and they became formal documents that could be produced when required. In summary convictions it was only usual to take short notes.


said, that these men had suffered punishment at the hands of the magistrates who were evidently interested parties. There could be no doubt the gentry and magistrates in this county were game preservers, but they held in Scotland that it was inexpedient that game preservers should adjudicate in cases of this kind, and they were endeavouring to substitute the sheriffs of the county for such interested judges. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the hereditary judicial mind of one of the magistrates connected with this case. They might have a hereditary Legislature, but a hereditary judicial mind was something remarkable. As this matter had attracted a great deal of public attention, he thanked the hon. Member for having brought it forward. When we obtained a reformed House of Commons, cases of this nature would obtain larger proportions in the Legislature than hon. Members imagined.


said, the hon. Member for Perth had given the sanction of his high approbation of the moderate course pursued by the hon. Member for Leicester, that moderation being that, without one title of proof, he had asserted there were hundreds of cases like this. The hon. Member for Bradford was not justified in saying that the Home Secretary had admitted that wrong had been done by these magistrates. The Home Secretary most carefully avoided making any such admission. He said there was a conflict of evidence, and he determined to give the convicted man the benefit of the doubt. All men were liable to mistakes, but they were not all open to the charge of having done so wilfully. They had been told by the Home Secretary that he entertained some doubts about this case, and that being so he had given the prisoners the benefit of them and discharged them. He never heard a case which showed more than this how unfit a tribunal this House was to have such cases brought before them. The hon. Member for Westminster, wishing to approach the case in a judicial spirit, had been seeking information on which to form an opinion, and he had been going all over the town whooping and making inflammatory speeches to large masses of his countrymen on this case, and now he came there, and sought to treat the question like a Judge. He (Mr. Henley) held that the men could and ought to have appealed if they felt themselves unjustly treated; but it was impossible that the magistrates could discharge them, as the hon. Member had demanded. The hon. Gentleman must have known, or ought to have known, that the magistrates had no power to discharge. It had been properly stated that in cases of summary conviction there were no regular depositions; short notes were taken by the clerks, and it was his opinion that more mischief than good was done by the practice. The magistrates might convict on points not written down by the clerk; notes were not read over, and he would venture to say that not one magistrate in fifty knew what his clerk took down. Both parties were convicted by an imperfect record; and it should not be forgotten that Courts of Petty Sessions were not Courts of Record. He thought this case afforded a striking proof how unfit the House was for a tribunal of appeal.


said, he was not present when the hon. Member for Leicester made his statement; but he gathered from what he had heard in the course of the debate that both sides of the House found fault with him, not for bringing it forward, but for the style, and tone, and manner in which he had done it. He contended that any man who had much experience in such cases must be satisfied that, on the whole, substantial justice was done by the magistracy both in England and Scotland, and if they were dissatisfied with the system, the only remedy would be to abolish the unpaid magistracy altogether.


said, he had been rather surprised at the excitement which had been displayed in the course of the debate, as it seemed to him that the case was a very plain and simple one. Two men appeared to have been convicted for poaching by two magistrates, against whom personally nothing had been objected; although some very irrelevant remarks had been made as to the father of one having a judicial mind. The evidence was the unsupported statement of a gamekeeper, who had been mistaken in a previous instance, and that evidence had been deemed insufficient by the Secretary of State.


said, he had not made this statement. The evidence taken before the magistrates might have been perfectly sufficient.


said, he was anxious to keep within perfectly fair limits; but it was at least evidence which required to be supplemented, and which, according to the right hon. Gentleman's ultimate decision, left the matter in doubt. The case had been taken up by a neighbouring clergyman, and after some delay, for which the right hon. Gentleman did not appear responsible, the men were discharged. If the matter had had no reference to the Game Laws the House would have heard nothing of it; but considering the excitement in the country which it had occasioned, it would be only reasonable that any Papers on the subject should be produced. In Yorkshire the notes taken at a magistrate's court were held to be public property, as undoubtedly they were. He thought it would be very unfortunate, after the debate that had occurred, if the Government refused to produce the Correspondence between the magistrates and the Home Office, and he would suggest to the hon. Member for Leicester to alter the terms of his Motion to that effect—merely asking for copies of the Correspondence.


said, that one would suppose from the tone of the debate that the Home Secretary had in some tyrannical manner imprisoned one of Her Majesty's subjects; the fact being that the prerogative of mercy had been exercised on behalf of the imprisoned men by the advice of his right hon. Friend. His right hon. Friend had been subjected to a great many reproaches for having performed in the discharge of his office an act of a most generous character. The Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester was virtually to ask the House to form itself into a Committee to inquire under what circumstances he had exercised the prerogative of mercy. That was a most unusual proceeding. They ought to be satisfied that they had the happiness of living in a country where there was such a prerogative, and where there were Ministers who would recommend their Sovereign to exercise it. It was surprising that such conduct should be criticized. The hon. Gentleman had also moved for documents which did not exist, and it was notorious that in cases of summary jurisdiction, and in Courts which were not Courts of Record, depositions were not taken, but only notes, and the form of taking those notes varied in different districts. The Motion for the Correspondence was unprecedented. The Home Secretary was constantly corresponding with magistrates, and it was utterly impossible to assent to the production of Correspondence in the present case. If it is the opinion of the hon. Member for Leicester that there has been any miscarriage of justice or any oppression, there are means by which redress can be obtained; but it is not by bringing such a Motion as this before the House of Commons that redress can be had.


thanked the hon. Member for Perth for his expression of the opinions entertained by Scotchmen on the subject of game. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, with his usual easy assurance had endeavoured to put those opinions aside. But there was another opinion which Scotchmen entertained with equal tenacity, and that was that the Bill introduced by the noble Lord on the subject of game was an imposture and a sham. He hoped the hon. Member for Leicester would divide.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 31: Majority 39.

Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn,"—(Mr. Otway,)—put, and agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock, till Monday next.