HC Deb 07 May 1888 vol 325 cc1444-5

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in reference to a communication addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the 15th of December last, by Mr. Bennett, editor of The Hackney Standard newspaper, Whether inquiry has been made from the French Government as to the case of James Williams, of Hackney, alleged to have been wrongfully imprisoned in France, and who was after wards released on the intervention of the late Lord Lyons; and, if so, what is the result of such inquiry?


James Williams was convicted on March 1, 1886, of complicity in an attempted robbery in Paris, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. It was represented by the prisoner's friends that he was innocent, and would have been acquitted had he not been mistaken at the trial for one William Chapman, who had been condemned in 1872 to three years' imprisonment for a similar offence. After appeals from Her Majesty's Embassy at Paris in his behalf, the prisoner was released on November 14, 1887, on the ground of his bad health and complete prostration, of his satisfactory conduct in prison, and in consequence of Lord Lyons's recommendation. But the French Authorities considered that Williams was guilty of the offence with which he was charged; and, although he was at first mistaken for another man of bad character, they denied that the severity of his sentence was thereby increased. Inquiries in this country showed Williams's former character to be bad, and that he had been imprisoned three times in previous years.