HC Deb 02 June 1892 vol 5 cc450-2
SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the reports of a prize fight, which took place on Monday, 30th May, at the National Sporting Club; and whether any proceedings have been taken against those participating in, aiding, or abetting the encounter?


My attention has been called to a report of what is described as a glove contest at the National Sporting Club on 30th May. The manager of the club was cautioned by the police before the contest took place, that he must be held responsible if any breach of the law occurred. A case of a somewhat similar character took place in 1890, between Slavin and McAuliffe, and a prosecution was instituted by the police which ended in an acquittal; and the Commissioner of Police has no evidence to enable him to take the present case out of the category of athletic sports, and the police in the present case do not intend to prosecute. I have requested the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether there is any material for justifying a prosecution.


Are we to understand that these proceedings took place under the superintendence of the police?


No; the hon. Baronet is not to understand that. I have said nothing of the kind.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if there were any police present?


Is it not the fact that where proper gloves are used, and the usual precautions are taken, these contests are perfectly legal?


I do not think it turns entirely upon the question of whether there are gloves or not. I think there may be a prize fight even with gloves. It turns upon whether the matter is really in the nature of athletic sports, an exhibition of skill, of training, and manly strength in the art of self defence, or whether it is a malicious contest with intent to do harm. That is a question of fact for a jury; and I think the case of Slavin and McAuliffe was much stronger for the prosecution than this case; and yet it failed. The jury held that there was no evidence.


Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether, at the athletic contest he speaks about, after one of the men was beaten, he was struck by the other man till the blood spurted out on the people sitting in the front row, and two men's shirts were so covered with blood that they had to be carried away from the place?


I have not read the long report which the hon. Baronet has read containing all the sanguinary details.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any police were present at this encounter, in view of the fact that the police attend the meetings of the Irish Nationalists in Ireland?

MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, I should like to ask him whether he will allow it to be understood that the same law which applies to Lord Lonsdale and his "pals" in London will also apply to the poor people down in the country: and if he is going to allow prize fights under the protection of the police in London he will not let the police interfere with them in the country?


The statement which has been made by the hon. Member appears to me to be utterly unwarrantable. No prize fight takes place under the protection of the police.


In the presence of the police.


No; "under the protection of the police" were the words which the hon. Member used. I have answered his question. The police do their very utmost to put down prize fights; but the police cannot take the law in their own hands. It is for a jury to decide; and when they have decided that no prize fight has taken place, the police cannot alter that. In answer to the hon. Member below the Gangway (Dr. Tanner), I cannot tell at present whether any police were present. I think not, but I will make inquiries.