HC Deb 05 August 1869 vol 198 cc1294-5

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the case of a cattle-drover named James Bell, who, wrongfully convicted at the Middlesex Sessions of March 1868, on a charge of sheep stealing, was sentenced to five years' penal servitude; whether it is not the fact that his innocence of the alleged offence was fully proved after he had suffered six months of his sentence, and that the guilty parties were detected and punished; whether Bell has not Memorialized the Home Office, praying for an investigation into his case, and for the expenses incurred by his relatives in their prolonged efforts to prove his innocence, and bring the real culprits to justice; and also for some compensation for his own sufferings of mind and body during an imprisonment of six months, previous to his receiving a free pardon; whether the expenses of a Mr. Guerrier, who interested himself in Bell's case, have not been paid by the Crown; and, if so, on what ground were the expenses of Bell's relatives refused to be paid; and, whether the evidence which led to an innocent man's conviction was not that of three members of the police force?


said, in reply, that the case of James Bell had been decided by his predecessor. James Bell, a cattle-drover, was convicted at the Middlesex Sessions of March, 1868, and sentenced to five years' imprisonment, on the evidence of three policemen, who swore to his identity. There could be no doubt they were mistaken. The matter was taken up by Mr. Guerrier, a cattle salesman in London, who expended a large sum in investigating the case. The innocence of the man was proved to the satisfaction of his (Mr. Bruce's) predecessor, and a free pardon was granted. Mr. Guerrier's expenses were paid by the Government. He was not aware that any application was made by Bell's relatives for the payment of the expenses incurred by them; but, if so, they would have stood in the same position as Mr. Guerrier. With regard to compensation to Bell for his wrongful imprisonment, it belonged to a class of cases unhappily large and of a painful character. It had never been the practice of the Government to grant compensation to an unfortunate man for the result of a mistaken verdict. If the principle were applied to criminal cases it must be extended to civil cases where loss and suffering had been inflicted. Numerous applications of a similar character had been made to the Home Office and refused. The case of Barber was an exception, to the general rule, as it was investigated by a Committee of the House of Commons, and a special Parliamentary Grant was made.