HC Deb 02 May 1879 vol 245 cc1672-3

Order for Second Reading read.


said, the House was entitled to an explanation with regard to this Bill. There was nothing in the civilized world which would compare with the atrocious character of the Game Law Act of George IV., under which, if three or more men went out to poach rabbits, they were guilty of a misdemeanour, and liable to imprisonment with hard labour; but who, if they happened to be armed, were liable to seven years' transportation. He could not understand the manner in which the Sheriff was to have power to mitigate the penalties; but, however that might be, he asked why that mitigation was not to be extended to England?


said, that the mitigation proposed by the present Bill had been brought about by the conviction and consequent incarceration of a farmer in Scotland, who had gone out to lay a snare at night for a rabbit in a roadside hedge, close to the boundary of his own farm. The Home Secretary, thinking that the Night Poaching Act was too severe in its operation in that particular case, liberated him from prison; and this Bill was introduced with the object of providing that if any person guilty of such a petty offence by night could establish, to the satisfaction of the Judge before whom he might be brought, the fact that he was, at the time the offence was committed, unarmed, and without any intent to commit violence, the Judge should be entitled to inflict the same penalty as if the offence had been committed in the daytime. That was not a mitigation of the Act in the sense represented by the hon. Member.


pointed out that the learned Lord Advocate had not answered the question of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) as to why the Bill, which was in mitigation of the Night Poaching Act, should not be extended to England, and why it should be limited to Scotland? If the House allowed it to be read a second time, it should be upon the understanding that the Government should extend its application. Why should poaching at night without arms be in England an act of an entirely different kind to what it was in Scotland?


Of course, I shall communicate to the proper quarter, and in the proper form, the observations which have been made upon this subject.


said, that the feature in the existing law which authorized a conviction upon the evidence of one witness was strongly objectionable, inasmuch as there was reason to believe that it offered undue temptation to gamekeepers interested in procuring a conviction.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.