HC Deb 02 May 1889 vol 335 cc985-6
MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention had been called to the ease of Miss Sterling, a member of the Salvation Army, who was, on 17th October, 1888, sentenced in the Canton of Vaud, in Switzerland, to 100 days' imprisonment, for inviting children, without their parents' consent, to a Salvation Army meeting? Whether he was aware that it was stated in her defence that, on the occasion in question, the children were only allowed to enter the meeting on giving their word that they had their parents' consent, and that after Miss Sterling had undergone about half of her imprisonment she WAS liberated on bail, pending an appeal to the Federal tribunal as to the constitutional character of the law under which she was convicted? Whether his attention had been called to the judgment delivered by that tribunal on 15th March last, affirming the constitutional character of the law? Whether, under these circumstances, Miss Sterling was required again to go to prison for the 47 days still remaining of her sentence? And whether, considering the following sentence in the judgment of the Federal Court: It goes without saying that the Federal tribunal, whose functions are not those of a Court of Appeal in penal affairs, has not to do with the question of the application of the sentence pronounced, nor consequently to inquire whether, considering the circumstances of the case, the sentence passed on the applicant is not out of all proportion to the gravity of the facts brought to her charge, he would make inquiries as to whether a sentence of such severity had ever been pronounced for a similar offence in the Canton of Vaud, with a view of obtaining, if possible, from the Cantonal authorities some mitigation of the sentence on Miss Sterling?


Her Majesty's Government are well acquainted with the case of Miss Sterling, the general facts of which are as stated by the hon. Member. They were not able to interfere officially in it, while proceedings were pending in the Swiss Courts, but unofficial representations were made on her behalf, as her sentence was severe, and as she was said to be suffering in health from her imprisonment. Some years ago sentences passed upon Salvationists in Switzerland were carefully examined by Her Majesty's Government, and it was considered that we had no ground for interference, inasmuch as the law applied equally to natives and to foreigners.

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