HC Deb 27 February 1880 vol 250 cc1570-1

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the fact that on Wednesday last the magistrates at Stonehouse committed thirteen men (being the crew of the "Louisa Fletcher") to jail for fourteen days for refusing to go to sea in her, although four Board of Trade Surveyors declared her to be unseaworthy, and the bench is bound by Statute to be guided by their opinion; and, if so, whether he will order the immediate release of the men; and, further, if his attention has been called to the statement that the Falmouth magistrates have sent six men to jail, under similar circumstances, without having before them a Board of Trade Surveyor, although there was one in the town and the men were earnest in their request that he might survey the ship?


Sir, Notice of this Question was only given by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) last night, and it has been impossible for me to communicate with the magistrates of Falmouth and Stonehouse, so as to receive an answer before 4 o'clock to-day. I have communicated with the magistrates of both places, and a further inquiry will be made. In regard to the first case, the Question is hardly fair to the magistrates. In the first place, the men were not sent to prison immediately, but were fined 15s.each, and sent to gaol in default. But I have seen a letter from the gentleman—a clergyman, I believe—who took up the case, and employed a lawyer to defend the men, in which he states that at the first commencement of the case he thought the men had been hardly used; but in the course of the trial his opinion entirely changed, and he thought the men were in the wrong. All I can say at the present moment is that I have communicated with the magistrates in regard to both cases, and the question will be carefully considered.