HC Deb 09 March 1880 vol 251 cc684-5

asked the President of the Board of Trade, If his attention has been called to the case of the ship "Harter," brought before the magistrates of Southport on a charge of overloading, and in which the magistrates inflicted a penalty of only five pounds; and, whether he will give instructions in future cases to press for a more adequate penalty, one which shall at least amount to the extra freight earned by the overloading complained of and proved?


Sir, I am informed by my legal advisers that this was not what is legally termed a case of "over-loading," an indictable offence which cannot be dealt with summarily, but a case of allowing "the ship to be so loaded as to submerge in salt water the centre of the disc," the penalty for which is one not exceeding £100. The crew had all been discharged before proceedings could be commenced, and the men, who left the vessel at New York, and upon whose complaint the Consul reported the facts, had not returned to the United Kingdom, so that the Board of Trade had only to rely upon the master's admissions, and could not press the case against him, as might have been done in other circumstances. It was, however, considered important to obtain a conviction, even with a nominal penalty. If it should be found hereafter that heavier penalties are needed to secure obedience to the law, I have no doubt that we shall press for a heavier penalty. But it must always be remembered that the amount of the penalty is in the discretion of the Court, and that pressing for a heavier penalty may in some cases lose a conviction. The management of these cases is one of discretion, and I can give no pledge whatever, except that I shall take such steps as I think most likely to secure that the law shall be obeyed, and that the intentions of Parliament shall be carried out.