HC Deb 06 March 1885 vol 295 cc281-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to the prosecution of certain of the inhabitants of Saint Albans for pulling down the fences of an inclosure made upon a large strip of roadside waste or common land, in violation of what they conceived to be their rights; whether he is aware that the Bench of Magistrates inflicted fines upon these people, most of whom were working men, amounting, with damages and costs, altogether to a sum of £111 7 s. (of which £30 was subsequently remitted); whether he is aware that the fences have been re-erected at their own expense by some of the defendants; and, whether, under the special circumstances of the case, and considering that the defendants acted on behalf of what they believed to be public rights, he will advise the remission of the fines not yet paid, and direct the amounts already paid to be refunded?


I carefully inquired some weeks ago into this case. It is true that the fines imposed were large; but the Chairman of the Bench reported to me—and here I wish to draw special attention to the important words in the hon. Member's Question, "that the defendants acted on behalf of what they believed to be public rights"—that the judgment of the Court was based on the remarkable fact that the defendants were shown to have been given two legal opinions adverse to the mode of proceeding which they adopted. Therefore, the Court came to the conclusion that the defendants were not justified in the course which they took. Appeals were lodged on behalf of the defendants, but they have not been proceeded with; and, under those circumstances, I thought that I ought not to interfere.