HC Deb 11 May 1876 vol 229 c368

asked Mr. Attorney General in reference to the sentence of Mr. Paget at the Thames Police Court on the Captain of the ship "LockeslyHall, Whether the Captain acted legally or illegally in confining and putting in irons the mutinous seaman who refused to do his duty when required?


If I felt myself at liberty to answer the Question put to me by the hon. Gentleman I could not do so absolutely, for the legality or illegality of a captain's conduct does not depend upon any hard or fast rule, but upon the special circumstances which prevailed at the time he committed the act alleged to be wrongful. I must say, however, that by the Common Law all mariners on board ship are bound to obey the master's commands in all lawful matters relating to the navigation of the vessel and the preservation of good order; and in case of disobedience or disorderly conduct of any member of the crew, the captain may correct him in a reasonable manner. In my opinion it would in many cases be quite reasonable for the master of a ship to correct a seaman by putting him in irons, and keeping him in irons for some time. In all instances, the question must be whether the punishment inflicted by the master was excessive; and, in dealing with this question, it should always be borne in mind that as the captain is responsible for the safety of the ship, and for the lives of those on board, it is frequently absolutely necessary for him to exercise his power with considerable severity.