HC Deb 18 March 1889 vol 334 cc8-10
MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the evidence given by Mrs. Grundy, landlady of the "Green Man Inn," and the remarks of Mr. Justice Stephen thereon (as reported in the Nottingham Daily Erpress of 6th March), at the Nottinghamshire Assizes, on the 5th March, in a case where James Low was indicted for killing Joseph T. Taylor at Nottingham on 21st February:— The learned Judge, in summing up the evidence, said that if the jury believed that prisoner killed Taylor by throwing him down in the course of a struggle it was manslaughter. The witness, Mrs. Grundy, landlady of the 'Green Man Inn,' was recalled, and asked by his Lordship whether beer had been given to these people who were in the house on the night in question? Witness: Yes. His Lordship: How much? Witness: 36 gallons. His Lordship: Who gave it them? Witness: The landlord. His Lordship: Out of his own pocket, I suppose? Witness: Yes. His Lordship: Who is the landlord? Witness: Mr. Robinson. His Lordship: Who is Mr. Robinson? Witness: A brewer Do you (witness) mean to say that 36 gallons of beer were supplied without stint to all people?—Witness: Yes. His Lordship: I think it is a most improper thing. Have you a licence?—Witness: Yes. His Lordship: I think it is a matter which should be brought before the licensing justices. I think it is a very discreditable proceeding. I think a person In a superior position of life, who has the opportunity of distributing quantities of beer to a number of labouring men going into a public house of that kind, acts with great want of common sense and real good nature to the people whom he supplies in this way with liquor. This is the kind of way in which a thing of that kind is not unlikely to end, Whether the Mr. Robinson referred to is at present Sheriff of the borough of Nottingham; and whether he proposes to make any investigation into or take any action in the matter?

SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

also asked whether the attention of the right hon. Gentleman had been called to a trial for manslaughter before Sir FitzJames Stephens at Nottingham on March 5th, where, according to the accounts in the Nottingham papers, the Judge made severe comments on the conduct of Mr. Robinson, Sheriff of the county of the town of Nottingham; whether his Lordship described the conduct of the Sheriff in Distributing quantities of beer to a number of labouring men going into a public house as a very discreditable proceeding, and added that he considered the person who supplied the ale gratis to be greatly responsible for what occurred—namely, the manslaughter; whether, if this be the case, the right hon. gentleman intends taking any steps towards censuring or otherwise dealing with the Sheriff for what the Judge described as his very improper conduct; and whether it is the case that this Sheriff of the county of the town of Nottingham owns upwards of 100 public houses in the town of Nottingham?


The facts are correctly stated. The case occurred at a time when there were general festivities, incidental to Mr. Robinson's son coming of age, and the Sheriff, wishing not to exclude the poorer classes from a share in the rejoicings, distributed refreshments gratis at certain places. All the facts were not known to the learned Judge when he used the expressions quoted, and when the circumstances were made known to him he took occasion on a subsequent day, as no doubt both hon. Members are aware, to express publicly his sorrow at having spoken as he did, and thereby given pain to a gentleman whose real wish was to be kind and friendly to his neighbours, and especially his poorer neighbours. The learned Judge informs me that, had he known the facts, he would have considerably softened the severity of his remarks, and while he is of opinion that the distribution of beer was incautious, he cannot say on reflection that it was directly connected with the offence in question. After this expression of opinion by the Judge, I do not intend to take any steps towards censuring or otherwise dealing with the Sheriff, whose only fault was a mistaken kindness, and who, I am sure, must regret the deplorable fatality which marred the general rejoicings. The Sheriff informs me that he owns 37, not 100, public-houses in the town of Nottingham.


Did not the learned Judge, in the explanation to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, use these words— I still think, and I cannot withdraw the words I used, that to take the course of distributing beer to a set of labouring men who entered a public 'house in the ordinary way was misdirected benevolence.


In the report I have of the Judge's expression those words occur. I may observe that the hon. Gentleman, when he put his question without noticing the expressions of the learned Judge, was aware of them.


Oh, I was quite aware of them.