§ MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been directed to the sentences passed by Sir Peter Edlin, at the Clerkenwell Sessions, on Saturday, 10th January, on three men, Lillington, Nicoll, and Brooks, for the offence of distributing bills outside the shop of a tradesman, named Haill, in the Harrow Road, calling upon the public not to deal with him because he refused to close at 5 o'clock on Thursday, as the rest of the shopkeepers did; if he is aware that Chief Justice Jeune decided in the High Court of Chancery, on Wednesday, 7th October, that the issue of a similar bill, and the distribution of it, was perfectly legitimate, and not an offence againt Common Law; if he is aware that the fines inflicted, the defendants being imprisoned until paid, were liquidated by public subscription; and, if, taking into consideration the difference in judicial opinion, he can see his way to inquire into the application of the Law of Conspiracy in this and similar cases?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
The prisoners mentioned in the first paragraph of the question were convicted at Clerkenwell Sessions, not for the offence of distributing bills, but for unlawful assembly, obstructing the highway, and watching and besetting contrary to the Statute, and were fined in respect of the third offence. There was no count for conspiracy. I gather from a newspaper report that Mr. Justice Jeune did not decide that the issue of a bill, advocating the boycotting of a certain tradesman, and its 1646 distribution were perfectly legitimate and not an offence against the Common Law; but that the learned Judge refused an application for an injunction to restrain the issue and distribution of the bill because no cause of action had been made out. He reserved, however, the question of costs, pointing out that the whole matter would be more fully discussed at a later stage. I have no information as to the third paragraph of the question. The cases would have no bearing on the Law of Conspiracy.
§ MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM
How may one arrive, on a question like this, at a conclusion as to what is an unlawful assembly?
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN (Monaghan, N.)
Does this not illustrate the doctrine of conspiracy that two or three men may not do collectively what may be done by one?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
If hon. Members seek further information on the facts of the case I must ask them to give notice of their questions.