HC Deb 24 June 1889 vol 337 cc553-4
MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will state to the House the reason for his refusal to recommend to Her Majesty any mitigation of the sentence of five years' penal servitude passed on George Harrison, a stonemason, belonging to the North Lambeth Progressive Club, for assault in Trafalgar Square on 15th November, 1887?


I have consulted the learned Judge who tried the case, and he informs me that the two charges of unlawfully wounding one policeman and wounding another with intent to disable him were clearly proved. In his opinion, the sentence was a lenient one under the circumstances. I am, therefore, unable to advise any mitigation of the sentence.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will give attention to the memorial which has been sent in, and especially that part of it which points out the very unsatisfactory character of the chief witness who gave evidence in reference to the use of the oyster knife? I will also ask him whether this lad had not hitherto led a blameless life; and, whether the references which have been given as to his character are not most satisfactory?

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the question, I should like to ask whether these cases did not occur at a time of great excitement; and, whether, now that order has been perfectly restored, the Government may not with propriety exercise the prerogative of mercy?


May I ask, also, whether the policeman who is alleged to have been assaulted, and on account of whom this lad has been sentenced to five years' penal servitude, was only off duty for a week altogether?

MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

Has the right hon. Gentleman received information that the principal witness against Harrison is not a man of good character?


I do not think it is possible for me to discuss in the House general matters of this kind in reply to questions. I may say, in answer to the hon. Member who put the original question, that all the facts have received my most careful consideration, and that I have weighed and re-weighed the evidence submitted to me. The learned, Judge who tried the case says that the verdict and sentence are perfectly satisfactory to him. In reply to the question of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), I can only say that his suggestion is full of weight; but in view of the fact that one policeman was stabbed in the back and another subsequently attacked and wounded with intent to maim, the offence is a grave one. It is impossible, as a rule to exercise the prerogative of mercy in such offences. I quite admit that this young man had previously to this occurrence a good character.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his serious attention to that part of the evidence which related to the oyster knife? The witness was a most unreliable man. Of that fact I have satisfied myself, as I have already stated to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman; and I therefore appeal to him to reconsider the case, especially taking into account the very severe sentence which has been passed, and the great public excitement which prevailed at the time.


Am I to take it that the Government will not be indisposed to consider further the case of this young man, with a view to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, considering the excitement which prevailed?


I am afraid that I can, give no pledge at all.


Are the House and the country to understand that this young man, George Harrison, has been rightly convicted of stabbing a policeman in the back?


If hon. Members will put general questions to me I cannot help it if the answers they receive are not favourable to the persons in whose behalf they put them.


Has not the right hon. Gentleman confounded two distinct cases? Harrison was not the person who stabbed the policeman in the back?