HC Deb 12 May 1873 vol 215 cc1783-4

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the following statement in the last Report of the Inspector of Constabulary for the Southern Counties:— That in the borough of Devonport the Head Constable cannot take any complaint against a publican before the Magistrates, without submitting the complaint for investigation by the Watch Committee, in which are persons interested in public houses; and, whether such a regulation, if it exists, is according to Law?


Sir, the powers of the Watch Committee, who are appointed by the Council, are defined by Sections 76–77 of the Municipal Corporation Act. It is their duty to appoint a sufficient number of fit men as constables, who must obey all the lawful commands they may receive from the justices having jurisdiction in the borough. The Watch Committee may also frame such regulations as they shall deem expedient for preventing neglect or abuse, and for rendering constables efficient in the discharge of their duties, and they, or two justices, may dismiss any constable whom they think negligent or unfit for his duties. It seems to me that these sections do not confer on the Watch Committee the power of deciding in what cases the police ought to lay an information before magistrates; and that if the police require advice on such matters, the proper persons to give it would be either the justices or the town clerk. I have received a communication from the Mayor of Devonport, who informs me that All Reports of the police against persons not in custody are laid before the Watch Committee, and that after seine years' experience as a member of that Committee, he has found them to be invariably actuated by a desire to treat all cases brought before them without regard to any private interests.