HC Deb 13 March 1885 vol 295 cc1080-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If his attention has been called to a statement in The Daily News of Tuesday last, to the following effect:—Two labourers, James and Thomas Wilson, were engaged in cutting wood, when they were taken into custody by a gamekeeper and a policeman, and one of them charged before the magistrates at Ashford (Kent) Petty Sessions with "going round as if to see if there was anybody about, and then taking up a rabbit." According to the evidence of the witnesses, Thomas Wilson had no hand in the business, and was at work when his brother James found the rabbit, which he does not hesitate to declare was placed there by the gamekeeper or the policeman, or by both. The Bench sentenced the two men to twenty-one days' imprisonment, with hard labour; and, whether he will cause inquiries to be made into the circumstances of the case, and will state whether policemen, who are paid by public money, can be legally employed to act as gamekeepers to private persons?


who was indistinctly heard, stated that he had just got the facts of this case; but they did not correspond with those recited in the Question at all. First of all, these men were not taken into custody, but were summoned in the ordinary way; and, in the next place, they were not sentenced primarily to imprisonment. They were fined £1, and imprisonment in default, and they were given a month, at their own request, to find the money. Then, with reference to one of the persons, Thomas Wilson, the report made to him was that he was convicted once of larceny, four times of assault, three times for being drunk and disorderly, and once for malicious injury to property. Therefore he could not entirely accept his testimony when he "declared that the rabbit was placed there by the gamekeeper." These men were imprisoned for this offence in default of payment of the fine; and he thought that the length of time that they should be kept there in default of payment of the fine was a proper matter of consideration for the Home Secretary.


asked the right hon. Gentleman to answer the Question that as regarded one of these men there was no evidence at all, the witnesses admitting that he was at work at the time the offence was committed; and would he also say whether the punishment was for past offences, or whether it was three weeks' hard labour for taking a rabbit, supposing the rabbit to have been taken?


said, he had already stated that the fine was imposed for an offence against the Game Act, and that in default of payment of the fine the punishment had to be inflicted, a month being given for the payment of the fine. With reference to the man whom the hon. Member asked about, he had given a record of his for- mer convictions, and he was present on this occasion. Whether or not the evidence was sufficient to justify the assumption that, being present, he concurred in the act was a question he should like to consider.


gave Notice that he would put a further Question to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject.