HC Deb 13 November 1888 vol 330 cc1026-7
MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)

, asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he is aware that recently in different parts of the country the police have interfered with, and warned, and in some cases prosecuted, members of the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Bodies, and of the Church and Salvation Armies and other religious communities, under the Highway Act, for causing a general obstruction of public highways, but without alleging or proving any particular instance of the obstruction of any individual, or of inconvenience to any particular person; whether his attention has been called to the case of a member of the Salvation Army at Rugby who, on the 9th of October, was summoned before the County Bench and fined for obstruction in holding a service in Sun Street, at its junction with Cambridge Street, in that town, although all the inhabitants (with one exception) in Sun Street and Cambridge Street signed a Memorial in favour of such services being held, and no person complained of being annoyed or obstructed by them; whether he is also aware that on the 23rd of October the captain of the Rugby Salvation Army was convicted and fined (or in default three days' hard labour) upon the sworn evidence of the police that he took part in the service, although, as a fact, he was not present, but ill at home; and, whether the Government will take steps to amend the law, so that, in future prosecutions, it shall be necessary to prove an actual and particular case of obstruction of some individual?


There are no Papers in the Home Office which enable me to say positively whether the facts alleged in the first paragraph of the Question are true. I have obtained a Report from the Rugby Justices as to the two cases quoted. In the first case, the Memorial was not entertained by the Bench, on the ground that, in the opinion of the Bench, the persons signing had no right to authorize an obstruction of a public thoroughfare. In the second case, I am informed that the defendant was defended by counsel, and that nothing was said in the hearing of the Bench, or has come to their knowledge since, that he was ill at home. There was no attempt to prove an alibi, and the Bench were satisfied with the evidence that the defendant was present. I cannot give the hon. Member any pledge as to an amendment of the law relating to obstruction.