HC Deb 20 March 1888 vol 323 cc1848-68
MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

, in rising to call attention to the Memorandum issued by Sir Charles Warren to his subordinates reflecting upon the administration of justice by Mr. Baggallay, the police magistrate of West Ham; and to move— That this House regrets that the Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police should, in an official Memorandum read to his subordinates, have reflected on the administration of the Law by Mr. Ernest Baggallay, one of the Stipendiary Magistrates of the Metropolis, and is of opinion that such a course must tend to produce a most prejudicial effect, by weakening the authority of the Magistrate over the Police within his jurisdiction, said, he wished to direct attention to a matter which, to some extent, was parallel with the case which occupied some time of the House last Session, and in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Matthews), by the attitude he adopted—especially in its earlier stages—eventually involved the Government of which he was a Member in an ignominious but deserved defeat. He (Mr. Pickersgill) thought it would be a matter of some surprise to the House that the Government had so soon forgotten the salutary lesson which had been read to them. He had said that the case to which he now desired to draw the attention of the House had some features in common with that to which attention was called last Session. It might be a coincidence—it might be something more than a coincidence—that in the two cases of this kind in which Sir Charles Warren had come into the sharpest conflict with the public, he had bolstered two constables who, by evidence given in open Court, took away, or endeavoured to take away—that must have been, at all events, the effect of their evidence—the characters of two young women—young women, it was true, occuping a very humble position in life, but not on that account, he submitted, less entitled to the respect, and, if necessary, the protection of the House. Now, what were the facts of this case? On Wednesday, the 25th January last, a young woman named Annie Coverdale was charged at the West Ham Police Court with being drunk and disorderly by Police-constable Bloy. The policeman told one story, the girl told another. In order to save time he did not think he need trouble the House with either, because they did not appear to be relevant to the main purpose, and he now came to what was relevant—namely, the questions which were addressed to Bloy by the learned magistrate— Mr. Baggallay (to the constable): What makes you say she was drunk?—Constable Bloy: Her general appearance. Mr. Baggallay: What do you mean by 'general appearance'?—Bloy: Well, she could not walk straight, Sir, and she swore at MR. Mr. Baggallay: Do you know her?—Bloy: Oh, yes, Sir; I have known her two or three years. Prisoner: Sir, we have not been in Canning Town three years. Mr. Baggallay (to the constable): How long have you known her? Now, do be careful.—Bloy: Well I have known her 12 months, I am sure. Mr. Baggallay: You said just now that you had known her for years. Have you seen her out at night before?—Bloy; Oh, yes, Sir. Mr. Baggallay: How long?—Bloy: Every night, for the last three or lour months, up to 12 and 1 in the morning, walking, about with sailors or seafaring men. Different men, Sir, Then the prisoner burst in— It is false, Sir (bursting into tears); it is false, Sir. I am not a girl of that sort. I am respectable, Sir. I have been in two respectable situations in Southampton, and have references in my possession, Sir. I have been asked to go back to my last situation. If I was such a girl as the constable says, I should not be asked to do that. (Here she handed testimonials, which were perused by the magistrate.) She further said that when the constable took her into custody he struck her, and when they passed her house she asked him to knock at the door and tell her father; but he refused, saying, 'You do not live there. I know your father well enough.' Another policeman having stated on oath that in big opinion Coverdale was drunk, two independent witnesses and the prisoner's mother were called and swore that she was quite sober. The landlady of the house where prisoner's young man lodged said that Constable Bloy ran into her house and said he would arrest the young man for stealing, when really it was the other man. He was much excited, and treated the young woman very roughly. Then Mr. Baggallay gave his decision in the following terms:— There seems to have been a disturbance there, and a man undoubtedly was the worse for drink. There is no evidence at all that this young woman was the worse for drink, except that given by Bloy. I should be sorry to act upon his evidence, remembering the answers he gave. I do not think there is any ground for the suggestions he has made about the young woman being seen out with seafaring men. In fact, I do not believe his evidence at all, and (to the prisoner) I discharge you. Then, the report concluded— The young woman left the Court with her mother, the latter weeping bitterly. Well, this case attracted a good deal of attention, and much public sympathy was enlisted on behalf of the young woman. But on the 1st February the case had a new development. On that day, when Mr. Baggallay took his seat on the Bench he made the following observation:— On Monday morning last the Commissioners of Police, after a private inquiry into the case of Miss Coverdale—who was tried before me on the 25th January—directed a Memorandum in which the following passage occurs, to be read out to the constables of the K Division, Notice taken, that 40 Members were-not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said, the hon. and learned Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Addison) interrupted him at a very significant point. He had been just about to quote to the House the comments of Mr. Baggallay on this Memorandum of the Chief Commissioner, and his comments are as follows:— On Monday morning last, the Commissioners of Police, after a private inquiry into the case of Miss Coverdale—which was tried before me on 25th January—directed a Memorandum, in which the following passage occurs, to be read out to the constables of the K Division:—' The Commissioners have had the case under their consideration, and have decided to exonerate Bloy. They further regret that Mr. Baggallay came to so hasty a decision, and that he did not give the constable an opportunity to call the sergeant who was on duty at the station, and others who could have given corroborative evidence,' Mr. Baggallay then said— Although the contents of this document were communicated by the police to the Press on Monday last, and appeared in the evening papers on that day, my request made yesterday morning for a copy of it has not been complied with, and I am compelled to rely on the Press report, which I am told by the inspector is an accurate one. The Commissioners were perfectly justified in making an inquiry and forming an independent judgment on the conduct of the constable; but, as a police magistrate, I protest against the Commissioners making such an accusation against me in a Memorandum addressed to the police-constables in the borough over which I have jurisdiction, and still more do I protest against such an accusation being made after a secret inquiry, and without any communication with myself as to the accuracy of the statements upon which it was founded. If the Commissioners were informed that I did not give the police an opportunity of calling any further witnesses, such information is absolutely untrue. In answer to myself, the constable stated that he had no other witnesses to call, and did not even suggest that anyone else could throw any further light on the case. I state most emphatically that the constable had every opportunity of calling any witnesses he chose, and that the charge of haste in my decision is entirely groundless. The magistrate's remarks were received with applause by a crowded Court. Now, in the first place, he (Mr. Pickersgill) would ask the House to observe how Sir Charles Warren treated this case. He exonerated Bloy, but he removed him to another district; and in answer to his (Mr. Pickersgill's) inquiry, the Home Secretary gave this—which seemed to him very extraordinary—explanation. The right hon. Gentleman said it was the custom of the Police Force, when a police officer was found fault with by the magistrate, to remove him out of the district of that magistrate's Court. He would ask the House to consider what that meant. It meant this, that if the police magistrate had occasion to censure a policeman for giving his evidence unsatisfactorily, the policeman was removed to a district where, in the ordinary course, he would never appear as a witness before that magistrate again; but he would, in the ordinary discharge of his police duties, appear before some other magistrate again. A magistrate might be glad to get rid of a policeman whom he believed to be untrustworthy; but how about the protection of the public? From the public point of view it would be a far safer course to leave the man whom the magistrate had pronounced to be untrustworthy in the old district, because then, when he came up to give evidence against a citizen, the magistrate would severely scrutinize his evidence; but what did Sir Charles Warren do? In Bloy's case he sent the man to another district, leaving him on police duty, so that in the ordinary course it would be necessary for him to give evidence in the box, and come up before a magistrate who knew nothing about his character, and who would, probably, attach to his evidence a credit which it did not deserve. He (Mr. Pickersgill) could hardly imagine a course that was better calculated at once to defeat the ends of justice and imperil the liberty of the citizen. What was the cause and root of it all? There was a fetish set up in Scotland Yard, which was "the credit of the force," and to that fetish, he was sorry to say, everything latterly appeared to be sacrificed—even the interests of the truth and the liberty of London citizens. Local public opinion, which in a matter of this kind was extremely important, had expressed itself in this case. On the 14th February last, a deputation of the ratepayers of West Ham attended before the Town Council for the purpose of expressing their concurrence in the action of the stipendiary magistrate in this case of Constable Bloy. A member of the deputation—Mr. C. C. Hutchinson—made these remarks— They appeared to urge an important matter on the Council's consideration—The recent action of the Police Commissioners towards the authorities of the borough in the execution of their duty for the maintenance of law and order. At the outset he would disclaim any intention to make party capital. He would also disclaim any sentimental notions, and the idea that they had any antagonism to the police; on the contrary, he would bear testimony as to the way the police discharged their onerous duties. The Commissioners had recently acted in such a way as to bring those responsible for decency' and public order into disrepute. It made no difference, in his opinion, whether Miss Coverdale was or was not all she should he, the action of the Police Commissioners was not only inconsiderate, but most discourteous. They hold an official secret meeting—if he were permitted he would call it a conclave of the deities of Scotland Yard—and the result was that the decision of the police magistrate was brought into contempt. The manner in which that decision was come to was calculated to rob the public of confidence in the decisions that were given at the Police Courts; and in face of the way in which Sir Charles Warren had ridden roughshod over the constituted authority, he would ask how 'law and order' was to be maintained in the borough? The deputation desired to know whether the best way would not be to endeavour to get the control of the police in their own hands. He ventured to say that if the police in West Ham had been under the charge of a Watch Committee, this scandal would not have arisen, and such an arrangement would secure the magistrates and police against official interference from the authorities of Scotland Yard. Another member of the deputation, Mr. C. Boardman, spoke of the universal satisfaction which the decision of Mr. Baggallay had given to rich and poor alike, and denounced the rule of Sir Charles Warren as a military despotism. Mr. Baggallay had not long ceased to be a Member of this House. He left them, he (Mr. Pickersgill) was sure, with the good wishes of them all, and it must be a satisfaction to all, whether political friends or political opponents, to find this testimony given of the fact that since his appointment to the judicial bench, he had held the scales of justice with an even hand, and had won the universal good opinion of the people over whom he had jurisdiction. Well, the Mayor of West Ham (Mr. George Hay) in replying, said— He felt in a rather peculiar position, and personally he would have preferred that this matter had not been brought under the cognizance of the Council. Those who had seen the reports of the proceedings in the House of Commons must feel that something would come out of it, and for this reason he wished the matter had come before them later on. There was one point, however, on which he thoroughly sympathized with the deputation, and that was the fueling that Mr. Baggallay had been shamefully treated by Sir Charles Warren. Every reasonable, straightforward man with any brains felt convinced that it was a most unfair action on the part of the Police Commissioners. The Mayor added that the matter was about to be brought under the notice of the House of Commons, and that, therefore, it should remain in abeyance for the present. So much for the expression of local public opinion. But the public opinion of a much wider area had also been expressed upon this subject. The matter had been treated by two journals. It had been treated pictorially in the columns of our venerable friend Punch, and it had been treated editorially in the columns of The Standard. He (Mr. Pickersgill) would not wound the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary by referring to the drawings in Punch. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman saw it. Even if he had not happened to see it himself, some good natured friend would have been sure to point it out to him. It would, however, be worth while to read one or two lines from the article which appeared in The Standard. That newspaper said— Nobody knows better than himself that the public confidence in the honesty and intelligence of the police force in connection with duties which imperatively demand both, is not exactly what it was, and he ought to have been exceptionally careful, in any fresh case that might arise, to do nothing that was calculated to re-awaken these feelings of distrust, The case of Constable Blov has served to revive and to intensify them; and by withholding from the public the grounds on which he came to a conclusion adverse to that of the magistrate, who had heard both sides of the story, the Chief Commissioner has, we think, committed a grave error of judgment, which is much to be regretted. We cannot allow that either the delinquencies or the excesses of policemen should be withdrawn behind the veil of official privilege, adjudicated upon with closed doors, and the result announced to the world with the curtness proper to a court martial. If the authorities at Scotland Yard have one test of truth, and the police magistrates another, we have a right to know wherein they differ, if not to say which of the two shall be preferred. It is a serious mistake to attempt to regulate the police on a military model, or to try to make a little Horse Guards out of Scotland Yard. The two institutions stand on a totally distinct footing. Both the Army and the police are, in one sense, servants of the public; but the police, Sir Charles must remember, are so in another, and a very different, sense from that in which the Army is. The former, it cannot too often be repeated, are employed in a class of services which bring them into a close relation with our privacy, and admit them to be spectators of our faults, our follies, and our vices, almost as much as if they were in the position of domestic servants. There were two objections which might possibly be raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to the Motion he (Mr. Pickersgill) had brought forward to-night. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman might say that they had not the Memorandum before them. That was quite true; but he (Mr. Pickersgill) asked whose fault was that? He had asked the right hon. Gentleman to lay the Memorandum on the Table, but he had declined to do so. But although they had not the Memorandum they had the copy of it, which was read in open Court by Mr. Ernest Baggallay on the 1st of February, certified to be correct by the police inspector, and remaining uncontradicted to this moment; and every sensible man would see that if the terms of the Memorandum itself, if laid on the Table, would put a different and a better complexion on this matter, there could be no reasonable doubt that the Memorandum would have been produced. Then there was another possible objection—namely, that the Chief Commissioner was bound to institute an inquiry in consequence of the remarks which the magistrate had made. He (Mr. Pickersgill) was quite willing to admit that that was so; but what was the nature of the inquiry which the Chief Commissioner instituted? He undertook to re-hear the case; but what did he do? He examined police witnesses only. He heard one side of the case only; and then he came to a conclusion different from that of the magistrate who had heard both sides of the case. Having done this, the Chief Commissioner exonerated Constable Bloy. The reputation of Bloy and the reputation of the girl were so mixed up in this case that to exonerate Bloy took away the character of the girl. He (Mr. Pickersgill) maintained, therefore, that for the Chief Commissioner to exonerate Bloy without communicating with Mr. Baggallay, was showing a great want of courtesy to the learned magistrate. But the Chief Commissioner did not stop there. He actually went out of his way to make a grave reflection on the conduct of the case by the magistrate. He charged him with having given a hasty decision; he charged him, also, with having excluded evidence which he ought to have received. Well, he (Mr. Pickersgill) submitted that, next to corruption itself—next to charging a magistrate with being bought by money in his office—there were no charges more odious than those which were brought by Sir Charles Warren. And then came the additional aggravation that these charges were read out to the constables serving within the jurisdiction of Mr. Baggallay. What, in the opinion of any reasonable man, must be the effect of that course? Surely it must be this—to teach to the policemen this pernicious lesson, that the censures of the magistrates were of no account provided only they could retain the good graces of the Commissioner, who heard only one side of the case. Perhaps he (Mr. Pickersgill) might be permitted to say that he had been disappointed with the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in reply to two or three questions which he had addressed to him on this subject. It was really the Cass case over again so far as the Home Secretary was concerned. He had not, by a single word, expressed his censure or his disapprobation of what had been done by Sir Charles Warren. What he did say was this. He said— I have tendered to the magistrate—I hope to his satisfaction—the explanation which I thought was called for. Two or three times the right hon. Gentleman had said he trusted his explanations had been satisfactory. It was to be observed that the right hon. Gentleman had never gone the length of saying that his explanations had been satisfactory. But even supposing that they had been satisfactory to Mr. Baggallay, with all respect to that Gentleman, that would not be enough. It was not enough to soothe the wounded feelings of the magistrate. What was wanted was to restore the confidence of the public, and the confidence of the public could alone be restored by proceeding in a manner which was open and above board. He (Mr. Pickersgill) protested against this policy of hugger-mugger. He believed that a Government of dark corners would never retain, as it certainly did not deserve to retain, the confidence of the country. The people who sent Members to this House had just as much, right to information as any hon. or right hon. Member of the House. Indeed, if it came to that, it seemed to him that they had a better title—a better and a higher title because their title was original and the title hon. Members had was simply derived from them. It would be equally averse, both from his intention and from his policy, to say anything which, could be regarded ns personally offensive to the Home Secretary, but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman could not but be aware that people outside were saying that he was afraid of this terrible Chief Commissioner. However that might be, this House, at all events, was not afraid of him, at least not yet. He quite believed that Sir Charles Warren was a sort of spurious Cromwell, who would even order his myrmidons to remove the "bauble" from the Table of the House with very little compunction, but in these days sham Cromwells, wherever they were found, were simply mischievous anacronisms, and they were especially mischievous at the head of the Metropolitan Police, which ought to be purely a civil force. He would, therefore, ask the House to check this military and militant Chief Commissioner, and at the same time vindicate the learned magistrate who seemed to have enjoyed in a very eminent degree the confidence of the people who lived within his jurisdiction. He begged to move the Motion standing in his name on the Paper.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House regrets that the Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police should, in an official Memorandum read to his subordinates, have reflected on the administration of the Law by Mr. Ernest Baggallay, one of the Stipendiary Magistrates of the Metropolis, and is of opinion that such a course must tend to produce a most prejudical effect by weakening the authority of the Magistrate over the Police within his jurisdiction.—(Mr. Pickersgill.)


said, he could not help feeling that the hon. Member had given undue importance and significance to this case. Mr. Baggallay was a gentleman whom he had himself appointed to the magisterial bench, and although he never made an appointment on which he congratulated himself more, he was perfectly certain that Mr. Baggallay would give satisfaction on the magisterial bench of the Metropolis. Therefore nobody ought to suppose that anything he had done or said, or might do or say, in reference to this case, implied the slightest censure on Mr. Baggallay. On the occasion in question the learned magistrate had before him one of those cases which occurred in scores in every Police Court in the Metropolis—the ordinary case in which the prisoner was charged with drunk and disorderly conduct. The Police-constable Bloy, who arrested the prisoner, seemed, so far as he could judge from the reports in the newspapers, to be a bad and unsatisfactory witness, and he was disbelieved by Mr. Baggallay, who, moreover, told Bloy in open Court that he did not believe his evidence at all. No doubt Mr. Baggallay had full ground for coming to the decision he did, and he (Mr. Matthews) did not presume to find fault with him for having done so; a magistrate was entitled to state the impression that a witness's evidence produced upon his mind. Nobody, however, could deny that an observation of that kind falling publicly from the bench was of the most serious moment to the person against whom it was made, and especially to a member of the police force. If it was sustained and well-founded the man's career in life was at an end and he was a ruined man, and therefore, while fully admitting Mr. Baggallay's perfect right to make what comments he thought fit, the hon. Member would himself see that the Commissioner of Police was bound, after the scene which, occurred, to make full inquiry into all the facts. The hon. Member complained that in the course of that inquiry the Commissioner examined none but the members of the police force. That was true in the first instance, but the Commissioner proceeded further and made an elaborate and careful investigation in the neighbourhood where the young woman lived, and he also saw the father of the young woman.


observed that when this question was first raised, the right hon. Gentleman distinctly informed him that only police witnesses were examined.


said, that it was perfectly true that in the first instance only police witnesses were examined, but the Commissioner afterwards continued the inquiry, and made it much more full and complete by the examination of a number of witnesses not in the police force. That was after the Answer he gave to the hon. Member. He felt some difficulty in dealing with the case, because he was most anxious not to drop one word calculated to give pain to the family concerned, and therefore if he spoke with great caution he hoped the hon. Member would not suppose he had not matters to allege which would be of great moment in coming to a conclusion on the whole of the circumstances. The hon. Member complained that the inquiry was secret. It was, no doubt, a secret inquiry, but it was impossible that such inquiries could be other than secret, in the sense that the public were not admitted. In the first place, the persons examined were those members of the police force who knew about the facts. There were, he thought, three policemen who were witnesses of the girl's arrest and two more who saw her at the station when the charge was taken, and, in particular, at the station there was a superintendent who was highly respected in the force and whose veracity was unquestioned. Having made such inquiries as seemed fit in the first instance to throw light on the facts, it would not be disputed that the Chief Commissioner was bound to act on his own conclusions. Whatever respect one would pay to the impression Mr. Baggallay formed and expressed from hearing Bloy give his evidence in Court, the hon. Member himself would not deny that, in justice to Bloy, the Commissioner was bound to make up his own mind according to the information he collected. He heard the evidence of several members of the police force whom Mr. Baggallay did not hear, through no fault of his own, but simply from the shape the proceedings in Court took. The Commissioner having made this inquiry, which he was bound to make, and having received evidence which satisfied him that the charge against the girl was not an unfounded charge, and, more than that, that Bloy had good warrant for asserting what he had asserted, was bound not to conceal or modify his opinion simply because it happened to be at variance with the decision of the magistrate. He (Mr. Matthews) hoped he might be allowed to put it in that way without seeming to say anything that pressed against the girl. It would have been a most cruel thing to punish Bloy in view of the Commissioner's decision; and here he might say that Bloy himself was far from wishing to make against Annie Coverdale the grosser imputation which undoubtedly his words seemed to convey to the magistrate's mind, and which, apparently, they conveyed to the hon. Member's mind. According to the inquiry it was clear that Bloy had no intention to make any imputation of the sort. Before he passed away from this point he desired to add that in consequence of the sort of public outcry that had been raised in reference to this matter, as well as for his own satisfaction, he directed the Solicitor to the Treasury—a gentleman of great experience, to whom no taint of partiality could apply, and whose fairness was unquestioned—to inquire into this matter. That gentleman had inquired into the matter, and without entering into the details of that inquiry—which he did not think it would be right or fair to enter into—he might say that that gentleman in his report had found that Bloy was justified in the evidence he gave. He had no desire to enter into the question whether the Solicitor to the Treasury was right in the conclusion at which he had arrived, or whether the Chief Commissioner of Police was right in the conclusion at which he had arrived; he merely wished to place before the House the judgment at which those gentlemen had arrived as the result of the inquiry they had held, which exonerated Police constable Bloy from the charge which had been made against him. The Chief Commissioner of Police having arrived at the conclusion he had indicated, it was the duty of the Chief Commissioner to communicate that conclusion to Police-constable Bloy and to the other constables who had been connected with him in the matter. The Memorandum of the Chief Commissioner, which was addressed to the superin- tendent of Bloy's district, was in those terms:— I beg to inform Police-constable Bloy and others in your division connected with this matter that after full inquiry I have come to the conclusion that Police-constable Bloy spoke the truth upon the occasion in question, and that I regret that the magistrate should have doubted his veracity without giving him an opportunity of calling the superintendent who took the charge and others who could have spoken on the subject. The Memorandum, therefore, did not contain the expression "that the magistrate had come to a hasty decision." He quite agreed that it was a want of decorum and of good taste in any way to refer to the magistrate's decision, but it was evident that it was the desire of the Chief Commissioner to explain that he had arrived at that conclusion which differed from that of the magistrate on grounds which were not before the magistrate. It was no fault of the magistrate that he had not heard the whole of the evidence, neither was it the fault of Police-constable Bloy. Explanations had been offered to Mr. Baggallay, Sir Charles Warren had communicated with the learned magistrate, thoroughly deprecating—being a magistrate himself—any supposed disrespect to a magistrate on the bench. Coupled with this explanation he (Mr. Matthews) had sent Mr. Baggallay a full and complete expression of regret and apology for what had occurred, and for that Mr. Baggallay had thanked him. This being the case, it was not desirable that that House should, on the slight evidence before it, either agree to this Resolution or reject it, either of which courses might be supposed to amount to a Vote of Censure upon one or other of the parties, and he, therefore, begged to move the Previous Question.


, on rising to propose that Question, addressed the House as followeth:— The Right honourable Gentleman proposes to move the Previous Question. If I were to propose that Question in the customary form, the terms of the Motion would be "That that Question be now put," words which are almost identical with the words of the Motion for the Closure of a Debate. Moreover, hitherto, when a Member moves the Previous Question, he votes against his own Motion. I therefore think that the present occasion affords a good opportunity for establishing a precedent. I therefore propose, if I should obtain the full sanction of the House to my suggestion, to adopt instead of the present form of the Previous Question, the words "That the Question be not now put.

And, the general assent of the House being signified,

Question proposed, "That the Question be not now put."—(Mr. Secretary Matthews.)

MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

said, he thought it was most extraordinary that the Commissioner of Police should have power to revise decisions of magistrates. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews) had said that the evidence of Bloy had been to some extent corroborated, yet Bloy denied his own assertion. The constable said he had known this girl for years; but afterwards admitted that he had only known her for mouths. The good character of a girl was so precious to her, that a police-constable guilty of injuring it ought to be immediately cashiered. The Home Secretary said it was a very grave thing for a constable to be censured. No doubt it was; and he recognized at once the great difficulties of the Metropolitan Police. But, after all, to censure a police-constable for giving wrong evidence before a magistrate was a very small matter compared with the ruination of the character of a girl. He hoped the Home Secretary, who was responsible, to a very great extent, for the conduct of the police in London, would see that greater care was exercised by police-constables in giving evidence in Courts of Justice. A similar case to the one under consideration occurred not very long ago—only a few months ago. The case came under his knowledge; but he would not designate the district in which it occurred too minutely. A police-constable said, in regard to a certain respectable married lady, that he had seen her at a particular railway station. She was almost turned out of that station in consequence of the assertion of the constable. Happily for her she had ample evidence to prove her innocence. She took the case to Court, and there she got damages against the man who originally made the statement reflecting upon her character. Had there been no circumstances connected with the case which enabled the lady to refute the charge made against her, her character might, have been ruined before her husband and her children. It was of the utmost importance that police-constables should rather tell less than the truth than more than the truth; and if the bringing forward of the Bloy incident to-night resulted in some action being taken by the Home Office to warn the Metropolitan Police against exaggeration before Police Magistrates a great deal would be gained.

MR. ADDISON (Ashton under-Lyne)

said, he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) that it was of great importance that policemen should give their evidence carefully, and with a due sense of responsibility. The hon. Gentleman's experience, no doubt—[A laugh.]—Perhaps he ought not to say that. The hon. Gentleman had not given his experience of the police; but had merely narrated one anecdote of a married lady who seemed to have fallen under the suspicion of an odd policeman. But he was sure the hon. Gentleman would agree with him that, as a rule, the way in which police-constables gave their evidence was very highly creditable to them. His (Mr. Addison's) experience had been a very extensive one. He had come across the police as often as most Members, but he had always found that they had been strong in their duty. In Courts of Justice he had been amazed at the fairness with which, as a rule, constables gave their evidence; he did not think that any other body of men, even a body of young curates, could give their evidence better. He was very astonished at one remark which was made by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green. The hon. Gentleman said that a policeman ought to be so careful about the truth that, ii possible, he ought to tell a little less than the truth.


said, he stated that police constables ought rather to give less than the truth than more than the truth.


Rather less than more than the truth. He only remembered one occasion on which he heard a similar remark, and that was some years ago. Having reason to doubt the evidence which it was suggested to him would be given by a young gentleman, the young gentleman's father, a very respectable Hebrew, said—" Oh, you need not fear, Mr. Addison, as to what this gentleman will say. I have brought him up so carefully to tell the truth that he would rather, if possible, go on the other side." He hoped, however, that the police would not altogether bear in mind the admonition of the hon. Member, but would be careful to speak the whole truth, nothing but the truth, and the entire body of the truth. The hon. Member had also stated that it was an unwise thing for decisions of the Bench to be reviewed by the Chief Commissioner of Police in the Metropolis. He quite agreed with that view, and he agreed that if this could be fairly called revising the decisions of the Bench there would be a great deal of force in the last words of the hon. Member's (Mr. Pickergill's) Motion, namely:— That such a course must tend to produce a most prejudicial effect by weakening the authority of the magistrate over the police within his jurisdiction. But, whilst he was quite of that opinion in theory, he thought in practice there was a great deal to be said on the other side. He might point out to the House another growing evil which tended very much to weaken the authority of Judges. He desired to speak with all respect of his learned Friend, Mr. Baggallay. No one was better pleased than he was when he heard that Mr. Baggallay had obtained promotion at the hands of the Home Secretary. But Mr. Baggallay in doing what tie did, though he did not go very far, was following the example which was too often set in Courts of Justice by Judges even more distinguished and occupying higher positions than his (Mr. Baggallay's) own, and it was tills—that instead of confining themselves simply to deciding the cases which were before them, after listening to them with that impartial care and attention which they ought to give, they were in the habit of making speeches in which they thought it right to bestow praise or blame, condemnation or approval, upon the witnesses who appeared before them. In this particular matter no one could have questioned the decision of Mr. Baggallay if he had simply given that decision and said nothing more, but he thought it right to go out of his way to express his opinion of the conduct and the evidence of the policeman Bloy. Mr. Baggallay said that he could not believe a word that the policeman said. That being so, the Chief Commissioner had a duty forced upon him. Sir Charles Warren was told that a member of his force was a person who could not be believed at all. What was he to do? Why, the only thing he could do thereupon was to institute some sort of an inquiry. He (Mr. Addison) appealed to hon. Members as to what they would do supposing they were in a similar position. Supposing some servant girl, someone connected with them, had occasion to appear as a witness in a Police Court, and the magistrate, going beyond the decision in the case, which probably no one would question, said—" This is a person unworthy to be in respectable employment," would not hon. Members have held some sort of an inquiry, to see whether there was any foundation for the statement of the magistrate? All the Chief Commissioner had done was his duty. It was a duty he could not shirk. He was compelled to do it. No one suggested he did it improperly or partially; no one suggested that he did not take all the means within his power to arrive at the truth—that, in fact, he did not make an honest inquiry. Having made an honest inquiry, he came to a decision in favour of the policeman. He had before him materials of knowledge and means of ascertaining the policeman's character in general which probably the magistrate had not. If the Chief Commissioner's opinion was couched in terms at all disrespectful to Mr. Baggallay, then they knew that an ample apology was made. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) suggested that part of the evidence in the case was that the policeman had known the girl for years, whereas he had only known her for four months. Anyone who had been in Courts of Justice knew that nothing was more common than for a witness to be confused as to time and dates. He (Mr. Addison) might, if he were asked, say he had had the pleasure of knowing hon. Members of the House five years—whereas it might be 10 years—and very probably, if that fact were called to his attention, he should say—"Bless my soul, how quickly time has passed." Sometimes witnesses said what was not exactly what they meant, and it was quite possible for a policeman to get a wrong impression of matters. Mr. Baggallay, upon imperfect informa- tion, came to one view of the evidence before him, and the Commissioner, who was compelled to institute some inquiry, came to another view. In common fairness and honesty to the policeman, the Chief Commissioner could not do more than ray—" So far as my inquiry has gone, I think that a mistake has been made, and you are an honest man." Was not that a right thing to do? That was really the sum and substance of this matter. The Chief Commissioner discharged a duty which the observations of the magistrate compelled him to discharge; but he in no way constituted himself a Court of Appeal. No one said that Sir Charles Warren had discharged the duty dishonestly; but, on the contrary, they had the Home Secretary stating that his inquiries proved to him that the Chief Commissioner had done everything that was right. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Addison) was glad to find that the police were in the right. One was always glad to find that the police discharged their duties well. If there was a black sheep amongst them he ought to be punished. They ought to be glad there were few black sheep amongst the police, and that the particular person concerned in this case had turned out not to be one of them, but that he had every right to enjoy the confidence of the community.

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said, that the facts of the case were very simple, and there was no dispute about them. He regarded the question as one of internal discipline in the Police Force. The Chief Commissioner, in the exercise of his duty, instituted not a judicial, but a disciplinary inquiry into the conduct of the police-constable, and no blame could be attached to Sir Charles Warren for holding such an inquiry. But then there came the publication of the Chief Commissioner's decision, which was practically a reflection on the decision of the Judge. There were two principles which they must bear in mind—first, that an inquiry of this kind was not, and could not, be that of a Court of Appeal from any properly constituted tribunal; and, secondly, the House must be very careful to preserve the very broad line of distinction between the judicial and the executive with reference to police matters. He thought that the Home Secretary had met the case very fairly, ad- mitting that Sir Charles Warren had committed an error of taste and judgment. Sir Charles Warren had also practically apologized through the Home Secretary to the magistrate for what he had done. He therefore asked the hon. Member to consider that his Motion was, practically, a very grave and serious censure of the House of Commons. If the Resolution was passed, Sir Charles Warren must send in his resignation to-morrow morning. He contended that the censures of the House of Commons on public officials ought not to be pronounced on light grounds. Having, therefore, heard the statement of the Home Secretary, he asked the hon. Member whether he would not be satisfied with the judgment which the right hon. Gentleman had pronounced, resting assured that an error of this kind would not occur again. He suggested that the hon. Member should withdraw his Motion.


said, he desired to correct a statement which had been made by the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman had blamed him for not taking the trouble to ascertain the terms of the Memorandum. Now, on the 13th of February last, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to lay a copy of the Memorandum on the Table of the House; but his reply was that it was not usual, and that he did not think it would be to the public advantage to lay the documents on the Table.


said, that what the hon. Gentleman asked for was the Correspondence.


said, he asked for a copy of the Memorandum and for the Correspondence. He did not receive any intimation from the right hon. Gentleman that there would be no objection to lay the Memorandum on the Table. He certainly thought that at that time the right hon. Gentleman had decided objections to lay the Memorandum on the Table. However, an appeal had been made to him, an appeal to which he was not unwilling to respond. He thought he had, at all events, succeeded in eliciting from the Home Secretary a stronger expression of opinion with regard to the action of Sir Charles Warren than any previously made in the House of Commons; and he only desired, by the indulgence of the House, to add a very few words more. On the 13th of February, according to the right hon. Gentleman's statement in the House, only police witnesses had been examined in this matter. It appeared that subsequently independent witnesses were examined; but for the life of him he could not understand how testimony, however valuable in itself, obtained subsequently to the 13th of February, could in any way affect the propriety of a step which was taken on the 29th of January.

Motion for Previous Question and Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.