§ MR. STOREY
, Member for Sunderland, rose in his place, and asked leave to move I he Adjournment of the House, for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, "the illegal and un justifiable conduct of the police during the recent evictions at Silksworth, near Sunderland, and particularly on Wednesday, the 25th February, 1891"; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen:—
§ (4.50.) MR. STOREY
The circumstances I will venture to bring before the I louse took place within two miles of my own home, and the victims of the police were mainly constituents of my own. The right hon. Gentleman just now suggested to me that it was possible for the Joint Standing Committee of the County Council and the Magistrates of Durham to make an inquiry into this matter. I fully grant that that is so, but I would venture to point out to him that that is not sufficient under the circumstances which I shall be able to lay before the House. The precise facts as to the County of Durham may be discussed by the Joint Committee, but the constitutional question involved in the circumstances which occurred at the recent evictions is one which is not fit for a Committee to deal with, but one which should rather be dealt with by this House. I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland left his place just as I rose, because I wanted to assure him that he will find in these matters I am going to bring before the House plentiful proof of how the evil seed which he has sown in Ireland has already taken root, and brought forth fruit in our own country of England. I, of course, shall not 270 venture to trouble the House with the whole of the circumstances connected with these evictions. I can assure the House that I will utter no word, which would at all imply any opinion that I may have as to the rights or wrongs of these evictions. My only interest in the matter from the first has been to try to get a trade difficulty brought to an honourable settlement, and I will even venture to appeal to au hon. Friend of mine—whom I am glad to see opposite—I would say to him, "Let us leave on one side the whole of the circumstances connected with the trade disputes;" and I ask, when he has heard the statement of facts I am able to bring before the House, will he not join with me in pleading with the Home Secretary that some more notice should be taken of this serious question than would probably be taken by the Joint Committee in the County of Durham? I say in my Motion that the principal illegalities were committed on the 25th February, during what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was pleased to call "the batoning by the police of a riotous mob." I would venture just to inform the House, with a view to the understanding of the whole question, that the illegalities on the part of the police by no means commenced on the 25th February, 1891. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton asked a question here the other night as to whether the under-bailiffs who had been employed by the police to carry out these evictions had not been detained by the police. The right hon. Gentleman, I suppose—in fact, I know—acting upon information which he had received, unless I misunderstand his answer entirely, said that no person employed in these evictions had been illegally detained by the police. The right hon. Gentleman seems to contradict that. He is reported to have said so, and so I understood it. I am glad, however, to hear, even before I begin, that he does not intend to maintain the denial that he made to the hon. Member for Northampton the other day. I assert, and I wish him to understand that I assert, that the police and public officials of the community, paid by the community, deliberately kept men who wanted to escape from the work they were engaged in—this force in the ranks forced them to do work which they 271 expressed a desire to escape from. They took them under escort down the yard, and lodged them in a room in a house and kept them there, preventing them from leaving, though again and again they attempted to do so, and they prevented them by force. I make that assertion to the right hon. Gentleman, and I venture to think that when I give him the grounds on which I make the statement he will not for a second time reply in this House that no one was illegally detained by the police. I will interpolate this remark. I do not wish to make use of any strong adjectives, but I beseech the House to believe that whatever adjectives I use I shall be willing both in my place here and elsewhere to produce legal proof to justify. Will the right hon. Gentleman just listen to this statement I am about to make? I will read from a copy of the depositions made by the under-bailiffs or, as we call them in the North of England, "Candymen." These are copies of depositions taken by a Tory solicitor well-known in the North, and a thoroughly upright and hon. Member of the legal profession. I will only trouble the House with a few sentences which relate to the precise point upon which I am speaking. One of the men says—When I entered the first house it was occupied by a man and his wife, and others. I said, 'Here, Boss? we do not want to do this. Open the back door and let us out.' He was going to do so when two policemen prevented him.A little further on he says—Some of the men tried to get away on the road. I saw them try to get away, and I saw them dragged back by the police.A little further on he says—We were then marched off between the police. They said we should not leave, and I was afraid to break away.He also says—We were at the gates stopped by the police, who stretched their arms across and prevented us from leaving.I hope the House will understand who these men were. They were not pit men or riotous men from Sunderland, but they were men actually employed by the police to carry out the evictions, and I assert here in my place that they were illegally and with violence detained by the police, and locked 272 up and kept from exercising their perfect freedom. Here is another case. A second man says—I saw two of us trying to get away. A police constable dragged them back. I would have left but I was afraid of the constable. I tried to get out of the back door, but the constable stopped me by getting hold of mo.Then comes a third, who says—Barrill' (that is one of the superintendents) took me by the arm and shoved me two or three times towards the door to prevent me from getting out of the house I wanted to escape from. Another police constable got hold of me by the arm and said he would put me in an iron cage, that would do me good for a bit. We said we might as well be in gaol as doing the dirty work we were engaged in. I was thrown out into the middle of the road by two policemen.Another one swears—I saw several get away, but the police constables got them and brought them back down the back streets, and I saw Bradshaw try to go, but he was pulled back by a police constable.A fifth man says—When I got back I tried to get away from the gate, but a policeman stopped me. I said, I want to go home.' The policeman said, 'You had better go back again.' I said, 'I won't.' The policeman then shoved me away up the yard and locked the gate upon me.I shall be very glad to make a present of these copies to the Homo Secretary, and I will ask him to get up and say whether the police, whose only function there was to see the evictions carried out and protect the evictors, were acting legally and constitutionally and properly in forcing these men against their will to evict and in preventing them by violence from escaping. I would not have troubled the Home Secretary but that I know he is entirely misinformed by official statements, which give half the truth, but not the whole truth. If he makes an independent inquiry, he will find and, as a constitutional lawyer, he will admit that the liberties of these people were most improperly dealt with by those who ought to have been the guardians of those liberties. The spirit of illegality has been fostered among the police in certain quarters, and this spirit of illegality is not discountenanced by the Authorities, and this spirit led to the unfortunate incident to which I am now calling attention. The circumstances are in a nutshell. The police and "candy men"—a jocular term applied 273 to the eviction men—had done their brutal work, and were marching back to what will always be called "Candy Hall," which is on the road to Sunderland. When the police and "candy men" left, a great number of my constituents—not a mob, but a number of respectable men, with their wives and children—went with them. These people, when the evictions were over, walked beside the police towards their homes in Sunderland. They walked, laughing and talking together and with the police; and as they left, a number of stones were thrown. The right hon. Gentleman will not find me getting up and saying that the police had no pro vocation. I know, having been in the village, though I was not on the spot at the time, that the police were subjected to some provocation. Some stones were thrown—a considerable number of stones were thrown—but the police and these people marched on, the stones coming, as is always the case in such circumstances, from the outskirts of the crowd, and from a lot of wild young people in the fields; but around the police were some hundreds of men, women, and children accompanying them, and in conversation, some of them, with the police returning towards Sunderland. Half way up the road a sergeant broke into a field through the dyke, and caught three boys, and gave them a thrashing for throwing stones, and certainly, I think, they richly deserved what they got. I am not talking of the legality of the proceeding, no doubt anyone of us would have done the same under the circumstances. As soon as this was done, a number of girls and young men on the outskirts of the crowd took up clods of earth and stones—the right hon. Gentleman says bolts and rivets—but I do not find that was the fact——
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
Rivets, not bolts.
§ MR. STOREY
Well, there is no substantial difference. But, I say, according to all independent information obtainable on the spot, the statement is not true. But, however, these clods of earth and stones were thrown from the outskirts of the crowd, and then the Superintendent halted his men, faced about, and, without any warning to the people, ordered 274 the police to charge. Now, I wish the House to realise the state of things at the moment. It was a narrow road, with rather high hedges on either side, and a crowd of respectable, decent, quiet people were close to the police when the latter were ordered to charge. Now I understand, at least it is the general practice when the military are present to put down anything in the nature of a riotous disturbance, there is considerable hesitation and warning before the military are launched against the people. In many cases the Riot Act is read, and due notice given by Magistrates and officers, so that people may go out of the way; but the police recently, it seems to me, not only in Ireland, but in England, have claimed the right, on being stoned or attacked in any way, to turn on the people, and with batons, which in strong hands are more deadly weapons than swords, beat the people in the most violent fashion. Now, this is a serious matter, and unless the fullest justification can be shown it behoves every lover of liberty in this House to make a diligent inquest as to how it is, and under what conditions, the police exercise such power. If the officer in charge had formed his men across the road in line to prevent the people from coming further, separating the crowd and dividing his force—I believe there were some 150 or 200 police—if he had left the decent, quiet people to go on in front, they would have been able to get out of the scrimmage. Was it not the duty of the police to separate themselves from the people near them in order to get at the stone throwers? But this is what did occur: The police in the front rank rushed down the hill, batoned, struck, and kicked the people immediately near them, while others broke through the hedges on either side and did most unmercifully beat men, women, and children with their staves. Now this is a bold assertion, and I shall be required to bring sufficient evidence to justify such a serious allegation. I happened to arrive on the scene immediately after this business. I wish I had been there at the time. I venture to think I would either have been knocked down by the police or have taken some effective measure to prevent the brutality that occurred. One particular I should mention, the people did 275 not resist the charge, there was no attempt at resistance, the people ran hither and thither like sheep before wolves. The police formed up and marched up the road. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Durham, who was there, will be able to state what part he took in the matter, but the people of the village had never left the village. The people from Sunderland were scattered hither and thither, but the people of the village were standing in the village; and I admit that when I arrived there were growlings and cursings amongst them, because the wounded men and women were being brought up from the scene of the attack. No doubt there was a great deal of feeling displayed. My hon. Friend tried to pacify the men, and while he was doing this the police, 250 yards up the road, formed again and charged down upon the villagers who were standing in a crowd. It was then that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Durham, in a most self-sacrificing way, rushed through the crowd towards the police with outstretched arms, begging the police to stop—uttering words which the informant of the right hon. Gentleman has twisted into commendation of the action of the police. Nothing of the sort. He said—Men, you have had provocation, and I admit you have behaved well to us in the village, but for goodness sake do not charge the people again. Keep quiet and leave us to clear the streets.It is on this simple statement the imputation is conveyed that he expressed approval of the action of the police. Well, he did pacify the people, and the whole thing ended for the time being. Naturally I shall be asked for my proofs of this serious accusation against the police, and I will give the Home Secretary, not my own statement, but a copy of the depositions made by persons before this respectable Conservative solicitor—persons of good repute and well known in Sunderland. The right hon. Gentleman in his answer seemed to minimise the number of people hurt.
§ MR. STOREY
Yes, I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman is the victim of misrepresention in the matter, but let me assure him that though it is 276 quite true that 30 people had their wounds dressed in the Sunderland Infirmary, at least a dozen others did not get to Sunderland at all, and as a matter of fact, some of these were very seriously wounded. Some 50 persons were hurt, and of these 47 were wounded behind, showing that they were violently struck while trying to get out of the way. Who were these people? I admit if they were part of the "riotous mob from Sunderland," a phrase some hon. Members cheered as if we kept that sort of article in Sunderland—Isay, if these had formed part of a riotous mob then all I could say would be that they had met with the consequences of their action. But these were respectable people, and I will give the right hon. Gentleman briefly their depositions and names so that he may verify them. What does the right hon. Gentleman think of a case like this? Here is a statement of William Burlinson, of 12, Williamson Terrace. Monkwearmouth:—I am a tradesman on my own account—a painter. I went to Silksworth to deliver an estimate for some painting for a builder who had written to me. I saw the police coming. I walked along the road with them. One of the police, James Ware, was a friend of mine. I was talking with him as we went down front the chapel into the 'slack.' About half a dozen stones were thrown, not more. When we were about half way up the bank one of the sergeants dropped behind, went through the hedge into the field, caught three hoys who were throwing stones, and gave them a thrashing with his stick. When he did so I saw a number of persons, mostly girls, right behind, who threw dry earth and stones at the police. The Superintendent called 'halt,' and faced the men round. I was close to the Superintendent, and I never heard him tell the people to go away. My friend said to me, 'Skip out of the road, Bill, there's going to be a row.' I stepped to one side with my hands in my pockets. The police rushed straight at where I was and thrashed me all over the body with a great number of blows so that I am black and blue all over. I was just about losing my senses, and was lying in the ditch, when one of the policeman lifted his baton to strike me. At this moment another policeman running by said, 'Look out Dryden here's another.' Dryden looked round, and then turned and struck me as I lay. He brought his baton down with the full force of his arm on the hack of my head which I had raised, split my head open, and the blood spurted all over me. He said, 'Hush you—take that.' I turned up my eyes to him and saw him distinctly. I was lying in the ditch helpless. I got up and crawled on my hands and knees a few yards further on the road towards Sunderland. The Superintendent was then gathering the men back into the ranks. I had 277 dropped on my knees on the roadside, being weak with loss of blood and the blows. Three or four police passed and kicked at me, one of them ran at me and gave me a kick in the hip and said—no, I cannot bring myself to repeat the filthy language used, whatever it was, let it be marked with a dash—'You—take that,' Some women came along and one of them lifted my head up and proceeded to bind it up with her apron; while doing so, another policeman lacked her and kicked me. Some other women lifted me into the 'bus and I was brought away to the Infirmary. My head was split with a wound 2½ inches each way. The doctor dressed my wounds.I may tell the Home Secretary that this man, after being out of the Infirmary some days, had to go back again, and is considered to be in a rather critical condition by the doctor who has attended him from the first, I may add, farther, that Mrs. Richardson is prepared to testify that the policeman did strike the man and did insult and strike her while she was engaged in her act of mercy. Now let me give the Home Secretary another instance from the five or six typical cases I select, to show how unjustifiable was the conduct of the police. Here is the case of James Ranigan, of 31, Potts Street, Millfield. Being idle, he says he went to Silksworth on Wednesday and was returning at the same time as the police escort. When the police charged without a moment's notice, he was about ten yards behind the main body. They soon come up to where he was. Though he made every effort to get out of the way, he was knocked down by a blow on the head and tramped upon. He managed to crawl into the dyke with au old man. The first charge was then over. Two superintendents were standing near, and one of them said to him, "Your men from Sunderland are the instigators of this disturbance." He made no reply. A policeman then walked up and struck him twice upon the head, although he was already bleeding. He was also bruised about the arms and body. He then said to the old man: "We had better get back to Sunderland as quickly as we can." To do this they had to go through the policemen. The old man did not attempt this, but Ranigan did and got safely through until reaching the last lot, when an officer said, "Charge him he has not had enough." One constable then struck him on the Lack. A gentleman, wearing a light suit, was 278 standing near at the time. Ranigan ran and the officer ran after him and struck him again on the side and back. He is unable to identify any of the officers. Now the Home Secretary said no women were hurt, and only one little girl. Now I saw the little girl, and I do not envy the feelings of that policeman who maltreated her. But there were women struck and kicked. Here is the statement of an elderly woman, the wife of John Southern, of Garden Cottage, Fulwell. She, with her husband and son, had gone out to see the evictions and were in the crowd, peaceably walking along near the police when the charge was made. Her son, a young man of 22, was talking to a constable whom he knew, just before the charge. A constable struck her husband on the back four or five times with a baton. Just as he got out of the road of one, another came and struck him. Five policemen were upon him at one time. The same with her son, who was attacked by six policemen at once, and left on the ground in a pool of blood, as she thought, dead. The sight quite unnerved her, and even to speak of it again brought tears to her eyes. As a boy her son got five stitches in his head, and the beating he got on Wednesday opened them all out again. Dr. Stobo is attending him now. He is able to walk about but is weak from loss of blood. Here again is the experience of an invalid named Thomas Fletcher, of 17, Whitburn Street, Monkwearmouth. Five months ago, whilst working at Messrs. Blumer's shipbuilding yard, an accident befel him which smashed his right elbow so that his arm remained stiff and he could not bend it. He was advised by the surgeon attending him to take plenty of exercise, and in an evil hour for him he, on the Wednesday, walked out towards Silks-worth. He was sitting by the dyke-side, this man with the lame arm who could not have thrown a stone had he wanted to, when the charge was made, and this happened to him: He was struck by half a dozen policemen. His head was broken, the shoulder of the wounded arm was bruised and became swollen; his legs have marks of violence, and there can be no doubt he received very severe treatment. The old wound for which he had been treated for months was brought back to its old state from the damage he 279 received. And this innocent man was one of those who formed what is described to the Home Secretary as "a riotous mob from Sunderland." Here is another account from Mr. Ralph Parker, and I am glad to say that I can personally speak as to the respectability of Mr. Ralph Parker, as indeed I can of others who give this evidence. He says he recently belonged to Silksworth, but now lives at Monkwearmouth Colliery. He went up to the former colliery for the purpose of looking after his friends. He was going quietly along the road, and when he saw what was occurring he endeavoured to get out of the way. Whilst doing so he received three blows which knocked him down on the road. A woman ran up to him to lift him up, and was about to take her apron off to dress the wound when another policeman said, "If you don't leave off, you," calling her by the foulest epithet that can be addressed to a woman—" I'll knock you down." The woman fled. Now let me give the evidence of a gentleman who was fortunate enough to escape injury, but he gives an account which I commend to the attention of the Home Secretary. This gentleman, Mr. Edgar Thompson, an Insurance agent, was returning from Silksworth at the time the police were coming from the village, and he saw the charge of the police. Because some persons on the outskirts of the crowd threw stones at the police, they immediately charged the crowd, batoning 300 or 400 persons, and seriously wounding 50 of them, none of whom had taken any part in the stone-throwing. There was no attempt at resistance, no attempt to arrest the stone-throwers, not a single stone-thrower was reached, but because some stones had been thrown the police fell to work with their batons mercilessly beating constituents of mine, in finitely more respectable than the police men who did this dastardly deed. Probably the Home Secretary will say this was done in the heat of passion, they were young fellows, and it is not pleasant to have stones rattling about your ears. But, I say these are men under discipline, and even if they did temporarily get out of control, yet suppose after the men had been brought back into the ranks and half an hour had elapsed, that some of them left the ranks and fell to beating and kicking Her Majesty's subjects, 280 would not that be conduct deserving the severest condemnation of every decent man and respector of order? Here is what occurred, and it can be proved by 10 witnesses who, if the police can be identified, are prepared to state these facts. Here is the statement of Robert Brewis, of 51, Hedley-street, Sunderland—I am a miner at Silksworth Colliery, but I live in Sunderland. On Wednesday, February 25th, I wag up at Silksworth, I was in the shed being erected to house the furniture when the charge occurred—I may tell the House that I am absolutely certain the man was there and not in the mêlée, because I was there talking to him, and I know he did not leave the shed until I left, and when I arrived at the scene all the row, or riot, was over and things had quieted down. He started to go home. He fixed the time at ten minutes past two.When I left the village there were five Superintendents of Police.I am not sure whether he is quite correct; at any rate, there were five police officers there—One of them said to me, as I was passing, 'If you Sunderland fellows come up to-morrow you will get your heads cracked.' I said, What for? I have as much right on the high road as you.'That is the sort of men we breed in Sunderland; they are not afraid of the police—I went towards Sunderland, and when I got up to Davison's public house—exactly 400 yards from Silksworth—a body of police were standing. I walked past. The police shouted 'You shipyard b——s,' and made signs as if they would thrash them. I ran. Four of them came out of the ranks and ran after me. On" of them struck me on the side of the head as I ran, and knocked me down on my face in the road. When I was down, he kicked me twice; when I got up, he struck me right and left, and knocked me into the hedge. I got up again, and ran for my hat; another policeman struck me; his number, I believe, is 481. I got up and said: 'Mind, I have your number; you will hear from me about this.' I then walked away.Unfortunately, the man wanted the number of the second policeman who had hit and kicked him. He went to the Superintendent, who declined to give his name, though he knew it.
§ MR. STOREY
Superintendent Oliver, who called the men back to the ranks and ordered the sergeant to take their names. The Superintendent, when I applied personally, refused to give the names, and referred me to Colonel White. I did not propose to write to Colonel White, feeling it was the duty of the Superintendent to disclose the names of the officers who were charged with assault. But the point to which I wish to call attention is this—All this occurred 40 minutes after what the right hon. Gentleman calls a riot. No less than six persons saw the whole of the circumstances, and can prove that the man did not interfere with the police, and that the police made a brutal and deliberate assault upon him. After the details I have given, it will be believed that there is a great deal of feeling both in Sunderland and in that part of the City of Durham. I do not think the Home Secretary would read another answer as he did the last, in a tone which implied, amidst approving cheers opposite, that this was a riotous mob from Sunderland. There never was a riotous mob from Sunderland—["Oh!"]—save in the old days, when Sunderland was Tory. There was no riotous mob from Sunderland that day. What rioting and stone-throwing there was occurred among those who struck on the outskirts of the crowd, yet the Superintendent and his men fell upon and batoned and kicked respectable persons who had a perfect right to be on the high road. For that reason I felt it my duty to move the adjournment of the House, feeling certain that, although there are political differences, hon. Members opposite will not yield to us in seeing that the liberties of the English subject are preserved, and that the power of the police shall be kept in absolute legal control, and under the authority of those who represent the public. I beseech the right hon. Gentleman, when he gets up, not to say that this is a case for inquiry by the Joint Committee. I think I have made out a sufficient case to justify the Home Secretary in granting a public inquiry. I know he will suggest that we might have gone before a Magistrate. That will be done in one or two cases; but the House will readily understand, in the dust of a mêlée that was all over in 282 two minutes, how difficult it was to fix upon particulars officers. I venture to submit that we should have such an inquiry as will first of all establish the facts, and, secondly, as will lead to the framing of some rule under which the police shall be restrained from these baton charges, which are common in another country, but which have not heretofore been common in ours. Many a time, when I have heard Members for Ireland describing these baton charges by the police, I have thought that there was some degree of exaggeration, due to their fervid imaginations; but, from what I know has taken place here, I am not prepared to disbelieve anything almost that Irish Members may say as to the conduct of the police in Ireland. I submit that, I have made out a case for independent inquiry, so that the truth may be known and a better system established.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ (5.40.) MR. MATTHEWS
I do not in the least complain of the action of the hon. Member, or of the manner in which he has presented his case to the House; but I take it that it is perfectly clear that many of those who are his constituents have suffered injuries which are usual when such mêlées occur. Of course, the hon. Member is perfectly justified in making these occurrences known at the earliest possible time to the public through this House. At the same time I cannot help pointing out that the course is open to grave objection. The hon. Member, as understand, was not himself a witness of the great bulk of the facts he has described. He has spoken of depositions, but I do not know that it adds to their weight that they were taken by a Tory solicitor.
§ MR. STOREY
What I meant roughly was that these statements were not made in the hurry of the moment, but were serious legal documents.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I do not understand that they were made before any Court of Justice, but in a solicitor's office. While I do not disparage the statements of the various persons, it is quite impossible that I can deal with them, or say anything of their truth one way or the other. The Hon. Member 283 might, I think, have taken the course I which, I think, would have been the right one, of going to the Head Constable first—who is responsible for the conduct of the officers, and whose duty it is to maintain discipline among them—because he has means, which I have not, of getting at the constables implicated. I understand that the hon. Member, on some ground or other, declined to see Colonel White. On the other hand, I can tell him my solo informant is Colonel White. ["Oh!"] I would like to know what other informant I could possibly have. I will read what the Chief Constable wrote.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I know nothing about whether Colonel White was or was not there. I am now going to give the evidence of another witness. Colonel White in his letter said that all went quietly at the evictions until Wednesday the 25th February, when "there was a large and riotous crowd, chiefly from Sunderland." The hon. Member will understand that I am not asserting this to be true; it is the statement of a responsible officer. The letter goes on—The crowd continued to shout and pelt the police with stones and small rivets of iron from the ship yards, hooting many of them, until the Superintendent in charge of the party"—I believe, from the newspapers, it was Superintendent Oliver—"an old and experienced officer, halted them, and loudly cautioned the mob to desist or he would drive them away by force, but as none of them paid attention to his warning, he felt compelled to charge the mob with drawn batons. It had the desired effect of dispersing the riotous mob, and during the conflict some thirty persons were more or less injured, but none dangerously; and only one female, a little girl, supposed to have been crushed by the mob.Colonel White goes on to say that the riotous mob which followed and assaulted the bailiffs came chiefly from Sunderland, and did not consist of Silksworth men. He adds that he does not apprehend any renewal of the disturbance, and that if he sees any reason for such apprehension he will communicate with 284 the Magistrates of the district. I think the hon. Member will at least acknowledge that in the answer I gave to his question a short time ago I was giving him, as, of course, I was bound to do, the exact substance of the information I had received. I quite admit that the depositions which have been read by the hon. Member, and as to which, of course, I knew nothing, give a different account of the transaction from that furnished by Colonel White, although in some respects I think the absolute contradiction rests more on the statement of the hon. Member than on the documents he read. The hon. Member has stated that that there were no rivets thrown.
§ MR. STOREY
I did not want to trouble the House with an unnecessary repetition of statements, but I asserted, and I can, I think, prove, that there were no rivets thrown. If my statement is contradicted, I want to have the contradiction from some one who was there, and who can say he saw what went on. I know that what the right hon. Gentleman asserts has been said in some of the newspapers, but against that I put the testimony of those who were present.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I can only say what I am told by those who give me information on this subject; but I would point out to the hon. Member that if he wants all these things cleared up he has it in his power to institute a much more satisfactory inquiry than I could direct. He has mentioned the name of one policeman and the number of another, and I do not hesitate to say that if the statements he has read describing the conduct of those policemen can be proved, those men grossly exceeded their duty, and would be liable to proceedings for assault in the same way as any other subject of Her Majesty.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Before whom? Why, before any Magistrate of the land. I commend the suggestion to the hon. Member and to this House, that it would be much more satisfactory that these facts should be sifted and ascertained in a Court of Justice, where there could be full cross-examination of the witnesses, than by means of any inquiry I could offer, unless under statutory enactment, which I hardly think would be asked for in such a case as this. The hon. Member has told us that Superintendent Oliver— 285 an officer who has discharged his duty with credit, and who is a man of character and respectability in the Sunderland Police Force—declined to give the names of the four policemen who, upon the statement of Mr. Brewis, behaved with scandalous disregard of what was proper and right for policemen to do, who committed an unprovoked, an unnecessary, and a brutal assault upon Mr. Brewis. I do not think I am using language too strong in so describing the conduct charged. But I submit that before the hon. Member comes and asks for an inquiry it is his duty to go to the Magistrate and charge the policemen; if he fails in getting redress, then, perhaps, he might come possibly to the person who is in some sense responsible for every thing that goes wrong-in this way throughout the country. I beg again to point out that these police are not in my hands. I have no authority to order them to do this, that, or the other, nor have I a right to call upon them, except as a matter of courtesy, for any account of their transactions. I believe the Chairman of the Joint Committee for the County of Durham is in the House, and I trust we shall hear from him whether there is any probability that that Committee will refuse to do justice and make a proper inquiry in a case in which brutal misconduct is charged against the police under their command. I would make this general observation. I have no hesitation in saying that the police are no more justified than any other subjects of Her Majesty in using weapons of offence, and they are no less. The batons of the police are weapons of defence and not of offence, and the police ought to have perfect self-command and self-control. If the statement of the Chief Constable be correct, there can be no doubt that a large crowd of roughs, no matter whence they came, surrounded the police in charge of the party of bailiffs, and for a considerable time pelted them with stones and pieces of iron, hitting and wounding many of them. This being so, I can have no doubt that the officer in command of that detachment was perfectly justified in ordering the police to charge for the purpose of dispersing the crowd. When their charge was made and the purpose of defence had been answered they should have 286 held their hand. At the same time, at the risk of stating a truism, I would add that the police, in my experience, are. like other human beings, apt to give way to feelings of excitement and anger under circumstances of provocation and difficulty, and he would be hypercritical who would blame them too severely for giving way to over-excitement and going a little beyond the line of their legal rights. I hope the hon. Member will not understand me as defending or excusing any acts on the part of the police which go beyond their strict line of duty; but, at the same time, although I cannot excuse such acts, I think every just man will remember how difficult, if not impossible, it is in cases where strife begins to keep even disciplined men under absolute control. Until it is proved that the Local Authorities have not done their duty in inquiring into these allegations, I do not feel justified in granting the inquiry asked for by my hon. Friend.
§ (6.1.) MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
As I was a spectator of these occurrences I can perhaps give the Homo Secretary the information he desires. I am very sorry that disputes between employers and employed have taken place, but I should like to correct an impression which exists, that in the present instance the blame is to be attached to the workmen. The inception of this affair did not be with the workmen, and if their advice had been taken this sad occurrence would never have been brought under the notice of the House. I should like to give a review of what actually took place, as it has been my lot, as agent for the men, to take part in the evictions, and to try to adjust matters. As to the general conduct of the police I have nothing to say, except as to their interference with myself when I was taking-the candy men away from the works. I was told by Superintendent Oliver that the men were under contract, and that they had no right to go away; but I replied that a man is entitled to leave his employment whenever he likes if he is prepared to take the consequences of breaking his contract. As to what has been called the riot of the 25th February, it would be untrue if I were to say that no stones were thrown, because I bear the mark of one on my own forehead. I and others endeavoured to persuade the 287 villagers to remain quiet, because we felt sure from the temper, manifestations, and expressions of the police that a collision between them and the people would be a serious tiling. The people of Silksworth observed our recommendation, except three or four of them; and when the policemen got about 200 yards from where we left them we saw them scattering the people right and left. The policemen formed themselves into a square, and charged at the double-quick. I agree that some of the policemen were hurt by the stones; but, at the same time, I believe they would have effected their purpose quite as efficiently if they had charged without drawing or using their batons. I certainly never praised the police for making that charge, as has been suggested. The hon. Member for Sunderland in his statement said that most of the people injured were those who had not thrown any stones. With that I agree. Those who throw stones are most cowardly people, and are always ready to run away. They hang on the outskirts of the crowd, and those who do not throw stones are therefore taken quite unawares by the attack, and are in many cases very seriously injured. I should like to impress upon the Home Secretary the desirability of holding an inquiry for the sake of the police constables as well as for the sake of the people. Here was a serious dispute in a large industrial centre, and if the impression remains that the police charged a crowd without any cause whatever, or any sufficient cause, a great deal of bad feeling will exist between them and the people of Durham. If, however, witnesses are called on both sides to give evidence before some proper tribunal as to the stone throwing and attack by the police, I believe this irritation will be at an end. I think it is right we should know on whose side the fault really lies. I have no fault to find with the police as regards the manner in which the evictions have been carried out. I am aware it is an obnoxious duty, and I believe the police felt, with others, that it was hard to see people turned out of their homes when there was no one else to put in them. That is a doglike way of conducting things to win in a trade dispute, and is not one which will settle on whose side lies the right. I feel 288 bound to say that had the police charged without drawing their batons the crowd would have been dispersed quite as effectually, and no violence would have been necessary.
§ (6.15.) MR. WHARTON
The House must, I think, feel it has just had au honest, straightforward account of what occurred from the hon. Member who last spoke, and will thank him for giving it. I should not myself have risen to say a word on this subject if I had not been alluded to as Chairman of the Joint Committee for the County of Durham, and if I had not been many years before Chairman of the Police Committee of the Magistrates. I want to see justice done to two men who have been referred to, the Chief Constable for Durham and Superintendent Oliver. With respect to Superintendent Oliver, if there is one in the whole Force whom I would have picked out as a man of forbearance and one to be thoroughly trusted it is that gentleman; and unless I hear on sworn authority before a competent tribunal that he was guilty of the acts attributed to him, I shall refuse to believe the allegations. As for the Chief Constable, he is a man whose moderation and courtesy are known in the whole county, and it is a matter of regret to me to hear the hon. Member for Sunderland sneer at the Chief Constable.
§ MR. STOREY
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I did not sneer at him. I only said that as far as I knew he had not been applied to.
§ MR. WHARTON
If the hon. Member had applied to the Chief Constable, he would have found him to be a man of great ability and of the greatest possible courtesy. The Government are asked to have an inquiry, but of what kind? If there is to be an inquiry, let it be an inquiry before a competent authority and upon sworn evidence; do not let us have the tittle-tattle of newspapers. If the allegations are that the police have exceeded their duty, it is well that they should be tested before a proper tribunal, and the proper tribunal is the tribunal of the Magistrates. Now, I have heard the hon. Member for Sunderland in this House speak very generously of the Magistrates of the County of Durham, and therefore to-day I was sorry to hear him throw doubt upon their impartial 289 action. Who are the Magistrates the hon. Member doubted? Is it the Magistrates of the County Bench at Sunderland? There is, believe, no more efficient Bench in England. The Magistrates constitute the proper tribunal to investigate these charges; they can have sworn testimony before them. I can only say, on behalf of the Chief Constable and of the Joint Committee, that as far as any informal inquiry can be held this matter will be investigated.
§ (6.20.) MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
I quite agree with what fell from the hon. Gentleman who last spoke as to the extremely high character of Superintendent Oliver, and as to the great capacity and extreme urbanity of the Chief Constable. I have long known both gentlemen, and am, satisfied that they endeavour to perform their duties satisfactorily. My real motive in intervening in this Debate is to urge upon the Home Secretary the strong advisability of instituting an inquiry. If I may say so, I do not quite agree with the accuracy of his statement that in the past there have only been two Departmental Inquiries. As far as my investigations have gone, there have been more than two inquiries info occurrences such as these. And, again, with regard to Mr. Bridge's inquiry at Cardiff, I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman he was not quite right in saying it was conducted at the instance of the Local Authority, for I believe the Home Office authorities were the first to suggest that a special investigation should be made. The hon. Member for the Ripon Division said that to order an inquiry before Justices of the Peace was a proper and legitimate course to pursue. I do not deny that, generally speaking, it would be the proper course; but the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for pointing out that at an investigation at Petty Sessions the inquiry is limited to the circumstances of the particular case before the Committee, and the investigation is controlled by the ordinary rules of evidence. Now, such an inquiry as that which was held at Cardiff must result in eliciting information which could not be adduced before a Court of Petty Sessions; and I am sure that the sending down to Durham of a Metropolitan Magistrate to investigate this 290 matter would give satisfaction not only to the hon. Member for Sunderland, but to the whole county. There is another matter to which I should life to refer ft is perfectly well known to all who are familiar with these unfortunate evictions that the great source of exasperation was the employment of a number of disreputable and dissolute characters know as candymen. They were employed not by the police, but by the owners. They were the scum and scouring of the streets of large towns, such as Leeds and Bradford, and they were regaled liberally with intoxicating liquors. I would point out to the Homo Secretary and to my hon. Friends that there is no power on the part of the police to allow the owners and agents to employ candymen for the purpose of carrying out the evictions. The proper course to pursue if the police are not in sufficient force to carry out the evictions is that they should engage assistance, for they are really exercising-the functions of the Sheriff. Had they done that, and had they continued to show the spirit of forbearance and consideration which had characterised their conduct up to the time of these unfortunate disturbances, I am confident these riotous proceedings would have been avoided. I have but little to add. I have made inquiries of all classes, and of people living in Sunderland and adjoining districts, and the testimony has been almost unanimous that the police in the charge used a considerable amount of unnecessary brutality. I have no doubt they were excited and irritated, and that up to the moment of the charge they showed great forbearance; but I expect that careful inquiry will show that individual policemen did commit grave outrages. I therefore hope that the Home Secretary will do as former Home Secretaries have done, and order an inquiry. As to an investigation before Justices of the Peace—to whose fairness and general integrity I desire to beat-testimony—I hold that such an inquiry, limited, as it would be, to particular cases, would be inadequate for properly ascertaining whether or not the police exceeded their duty.
§ (6.30.) SIR H. DAVEY (Stockton)
I am rather disappointed we have not received some assurance from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for 291 the Ripon Division that there will be some inquiry by the Standing Joint Committee into the charges made by the hon. Members for Sunderland and Mid Durham. I do not wish to throw any doubt on the competence of Colonel White. No doubt that gentleman deserves everything the hon. and learned Member for the Ripon Division said about him. I believe the County and Borough Benches of Sunderland deserve all he said about them, but what we want is to be satisfied that some inquiry will be held into the charges made. I admit that there is great force in what the Home Secretary has said—that the use of County Councilsand Local Authorities is to investigate a question of this kind without the necessity of calling the attention of the House of Commons to it; but we do not wish to be sent from one authority to another, from one official to another, while making an endeavour to probe the incident to the bottom. The statements which have been made by the hon. Member for Sunderland are not, strictly speaking, evidence: they stand no higher than what some of us are familiar with, the proofs of witnesses which we are furnished with before witnesses are sworn. But we have the distinct admission of the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for the Ripon Division that if these statements are proved by proper legal evidence the police exceeded their duty, and were guilty of excessive violence. I quite admit it would be more satisfactory to have an inquiry on sworn evidence, but we cannot get it, and for the reason that the complainants cannot obtain the names of the police who maltreated them. No. 481 kicked the man Brewis when he was down, but what we want to get at is the name of the man who first knocked Brewis down. I appeal to the hon. Member for the Ripon Division to use his influence with the Committee over which he presides to direct an inquiry into the allegations made with respect to this matter; or to use his authority to induce those in command of the police to furnish the hon. Member for Sunderland with the names of the policemen who have been concerned in this affair.
§ MR. WHARTON
I have not been quite understood. I stated that I considered the proper course to be taken was, having got at any rate two policemen 292 connected with this affair, first of all to cause an inquiry to be made before a Magistrate—that the men should be charged with assault, and the witnesses brought forward and subjected to cross-examination. Speaking for myself, and as far as I can do so for the Standing Joint Committee, I think there is no doubt that an inquiry will be made by them into the affair. We have no power, however, to take evidence on oath; and evidence on oath is far more satisfactory than statements not on oath. The Standing Joint Committee is composed of 24 members, and. 24 Judges or Commissioners form a somewhat cumbrous body, but as far as we can I think we shall inquire into this matter.
§ (6.36.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I think the question raised by the Motion of my hon. Friend is a much more important one than can be satisfactorily dealt with by any inquiry before a Magistrate. It is a question not merely of one or two assaults by police constables; it is a question of the growing tendency on the part of the police here and there to regard their batons as instruments of punishment rather than as instruments wherewith to defend the law. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen seem to question that, but over and over again the hon. Member for Sunderland told us of cases in which flying men were pursued and beaten on the back. What right has a policeman to use his baton under such circumstances? It cannot be denied that the same thing has been done in other parts of the country. There is another reason for asking for a more important and solemn and responsible inquiry than can be obtained in the locality. We have observed during the course of this Debate that whenever the energy and vigour of the police has been referred to it has been enthusiastically cheered on the other side. The statement of my hon. Friend, that the police might have done everything that was necessary by threatening to charge, was scouted and sneered at by hon. Gentlemen opposite. When we were told how the police rushed down and violently batoned these unarmed and helpless people there were loud cheers. In those cheers there is very considerable reason for not being satisfied with any local inquiry. The hon. and learned Member for the Ripon 293 Division seemed to think we slight and slander the Standing Joint Committee if we say we are not quite satisfied with them as a Court of Inquiry. I take it that body is mainly composed of gentlemen such as those who sit opposite, and who admire, above all things, vigour, energy, and physical force on the part of the police. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always cheer violence; they cheered flogging in the Army; they heard with satisfaction of a sentence of 150 lashes passed on a burglar; they cheer all kinds of revival of torture. It is not to a body composed of gentlemen of that temper we would commit such an inquiry as we ask for. There is a dangerous tendency on the part of some portion of the police. I myself, when going home late at night from this House, have had occasion to observe the temper in which some of the police occasionally discharge their duties. They are not satisfied with keeping order; they try to punish disorder without even bringing people before a Magistrate. Such a tendency ought to be discouraged, and it would not exist amongst the police unless those in authority were ready to condone, or even to encourage this action on their part. I do not think we ought to be satisfied with a. mere local inquiry in this instance, but we ought to insist upon the Government undertaking to look into the circumstances.
§ (6.43.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says that the question of real importance raised by the Resolution is the great tendency on the part of the police, who are the guardians of order, to use more force than is absolutely necessary for their purpose. I thought the hon. Gentleman and his friends had already decided that the remedy for any improper conduct on the part of the police was to entrust them to a Local Authority. At all events, that has been their argument with regard to the Irish police. Now, however, it appears that these hon. Gentlemen have no confidence either in the police or in the Local Authority, and that on the first occasion on which a complaint is made against the police force which is under the control of a Local Authority, these gentlemen come down and declare that the one person in whom they have confidence 294 is the Home Secretary and the Department he administers. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Leicester has had any practical experience of local government. I do not think he has; but I confess I was surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland should have taken up the line he has done, because I know that he has been a great advocate of the dignity and authority and power of local government, and has himself taken a very active part in local work; and having been Mayor of Sunderland, he probably knows as well as anyone in the House how far a Watch Committee or a Committee entrusted with the control of the police may be trusted to make all necessary inquiries when the Police Force misbehaves itself. I regret that my hon. Friend, whom I have always counted as an advocate with myself of the privileges of local government, should now, as it appears to me, throw doubt on our Local Institutions. What is the state of the case? Here is a primâ facie case made out by the statements of my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Mid Durham—in his most temperate speech—a primâ facie case against the police. But who has made out a case either against the Local Magistrates or against the Local Authority, the Standing Joint Committee? They have not been tried. Surely it is a perfectly monstrous thing before these gentlemen have acted, and when there is no proof whatever that they will not act satisfactorily and do full justice in the case, to put them aside and to ask this House to interfere. I protest in the name of local government, and I say that if the Home Secretary—I am not speaking of the present occupant of the office more than any other—were to make it the rule when ever there is a row in any locality, without waiting for the action of the Watch Committee or other Local Authority, to interpose an inquiry from the Central Department, he would certainly be the most unpopular Home Secretary who ever filled the office. I have one further objection to the unfortunate precedent which has been cited by my hon. Friend behind me. One of the objects, have been told, of the extension of local government—one reason why we should give the police of Ireland 295 to Local Authorities in Ireland—is that we should relieve this House of a great deal of unnecessary business. Here, on the very first occasion on which a dispute arises in that particular district which is represented by my hon. Friend, he comes down and takes up the time of the House for two hours or more, when it has other and more important business to attend to, and seeks to put the Local Authority aside. Under these circumstances, how can he himself with any reason ask us to hand over the police of Ireland to Local Authorities on the ground that we should save Parliamentary time? We should have all the difficulty we have now just as much as ever. We should have the nominal control in the Local Authority and the real control in the Central Authority; and if the Local Authority is to be supervised, put into leading-strings and swaddling-clothes in the way my hon. Friend suggests, I submit he will be making a very strong argument for giving all control of the police of England to that Central Authority which apparently he considers to be the only adequate one.
§ (6.50.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
The right hon. Gentleman says he protests in the name of local government. I think he rather protests in the name of coercion in Ireland. He is so accustomed to praising in this House batoning in Ireland, that he cannot refrain from praising the Home Secretary for refusing to interfere in this case. So far as I am concerned, I have listened with a perfectly judicial mind to what has been said, and I have come to the conclusion that there is a primâ facie case against the police of the County of Durham. We have had all these depositions read. The Home Secretary thinks everybody must be bound to tell a he if he does not swear to his statements over and over again. For my part, I believe in the depositions, as I believed in those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham on a former occasion, and voted for them.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
No, your Friends opposite complained that they were not yours, and they complained that they were not true. In this case 296 we have, putting aside the depositions, two hard facts, which make a primâ facie case that the police acted improperly. We have the fact that 50 persons—the police say 30—were seriously injured by the attacks of the police, and a very great number were taken to the infirmary. Can the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary tell us of one single policeman who was really so much injured by stone-throwing that he was taken into the infirmary? The other strong point is, that when Superintendent Oliver was asked to give the names of two policemen who were alleged to have attacked individuals, he refused to do so. I hold that a policeman has a number in order that persons may see it, and that any superintendent or other police officer ought, when asked, to give the numbers or names of men against whom charges or misconduct are made. We are asked to refer this matter to the Standing Joint Committee of Durham. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) says that hero we have a case for local government, and we want to drag in the Home Secretary and to show our confidence in him. For my part, I say, with all respect for the right hon. Gentleman, I have no confidence in him. What we want is a public inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman forgets that we have not got any local self-government in Durham. What is the Standing Joint Committee? Why, it is packed with County Magistrates.
§ MR. WHARTON
I believe, Sir, that two members of the Standing Joint Committee are on strike at the present time.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Well, that is quite enough to leaven the mass, and leaven it most injuriously. This is what the right. hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham calls an independent local self-government—a Committee of which half the members are elected and half are nominated by the Lord Lieutenant. It is because we have no local government, in the real sense of the word, in the county, and because the Conservative Government refused to 297 give the control of the police to elected representatives of the ratepayers, that we object to going before this Joint Committee and ask for a public inquiry. There was an inquiry in Cardiff, and there might be a similar one here. The right hon. Gentleman says the Town Council of Cardiff asked for an inquiry. Well, my hon. Friend, who is Member for Sunderland and a Member of the Town Council, asks for one. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think he has answered the question when he says the men came from Sunderland, and, therefore, were roughs, and, therefore, ought to have had their heads broken. He cannot expect my hon. Friend to accept that. We say we ought to have an inquiry. If the right hon. Gentleman will grant such an inquiry as took place at Cardiff, it will not be necessary to divide; if not, I hope my hon. Friend will go to a Division.
§ (7.0.) The House divided:—Ayes 121; Noes 205.—(Div. List, No. 73.)