HC Deb 19 June 1873 vol 216 cc1163-4

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been directed to the case of Samuel Mays, lately sentenced by the Halstead Magistrates to one month's imprisonment on the charge of deserting his wife and family, and leaving them on the parish; the statement on his behalf being that the man had gone to Durham to find work, had remitted some of his earnings to his wife, had spoken to his employer for a house, and was preparing to send for his family; and, whether he will make an inquiry into the matter?


Sir, I have inquired into this case, the facts of which are as follows:—Samuel Mays was apprehended on a warrant for leaving his wife and six children chargeable to the parish. It appeared that he had left his parish in Essex some nine weeks before his apprehension, and had gone to Durham in search of employment. This he obtained after the lapse of a week, and had during his absence sent his wife £1 16s., his wages being £1 a-week. He had, however, lost a week's work from no fault of his own, and his earnings had amounted to £7; he stated that he was in treaty for a house, but no evidence of this was offered. The offence of leaving a wife and children chargeable to the poor rate is punishable by three months' imprisonment; the magistrates sentenced him to one month's imprisonment, observing that the prisoner was quite right to go away if he could better himself, but if he did so he was bound to make arrangement for the support of his family in his absence. It is not easy to decide these cases satisfactorily. It would be a most dangerous position to assume that a man might leave his family to be supported by the poor rates on the chance of his obtaining employment elsewhere at some indefinite time. On the other hand, in cases where a man, as in the present instance, was unable to obtain a sufficient livelihood at home, and sought and obtained employment elsewhere, making remittances to his family, it was obviously desirable that the law should be leniently applied. I think that a less severe punishment would have satisfied the justice of the case. At the same time, I am satisfied that the imputation made elsewhere on the magistrate of personal feeling against the prisoner is unfounded. I have no doubt he did his duty impartially and according to the best of his judgment. The sentence has expired, and there does not appear to be any necessity for further inquiry.