HC Deb 10 March 1881 vol 259 c725

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether in the Colony of British Guiana English subjects, including indentured Coolies, previously unconvicted of any offence, are liable to receive thirty-nine lashes in addition to three months' imprisonment, with hard labour, for the offence of stealing one pennyworth of plantains, or any other common fruit of the country; whether these punishments can be and are, as a matter of fact, mostly inflicted by stipendiary justices without the intervention of a jury; and, whether any such laws prevail in the other West Indian Colonies?


"Yes" will be my answer to all the three Questions, provided that, in spite of the turn which my hon. Friend has given to the first, it is understood that the maxim "De minimis non curat lex" is accepted in all countries. In Guiana predial larceny seems to be punished by whipping oftener than in the West India Islands. In 1879 there were in that Colony no less than 1,043 cases of predial larceny of sufficient gravity to be reported to the police. I need hardly say that plunder of their provision grounds and gardens is the greatest calamity with which the industrious negroes have to contend. Of the 1,043 cases 89 were prosecuted to conviction, and in 32 cases whipping was inflicted. The depredators on the gardens of the negroes, chiefly negroes themselves, not coolies, often go about in gangs, and commit much violence.