HC Deb 18 May 1893 vol 12 cc1261-2
MR. BYLES (York, W.R., Shipley)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is acquainted with the facts in a recent case of mistaken identity at Oxford, in which a tutor of Mansfield College (Mr. Lewis) was arrested at mid-day, at the Oxford Railway Station, without warrant, on a charge of theft from a public-house, he being entirely innocent of the charge; whether he is aware that Mr. Lewis wrote a letter to the Principal of his college to prove his indentity and entrusted it to the police for delivery, and that, instead of delivering the said letter, they used it to endeavour to obtain further evidence against the accused, thus extending the time of his unjust detention; and whether the Home Secretary will think it his duty to take any action or make any inquiry into the matter?


I have received a Report from the Chief Constable of Oxfordshire, from which it appears that a barmaid employed at the public-house at Wolvercote, where a theft had been committed, was leaving Oxford for Wolvercote by the canal towing path, when she met Mr. Lewis, and thought she recognised him as the thief. She followed him to the rail way station and there gave him in custody, charging him with the theft. He was brought to the County Police-station, and as the Bullingdon Bench of Magistrates was then sitting, he was brought before them and remanded on her evidence for a week, the Bench offering to take bail. He then asked for a piece of paper to write to the Principal or Bursar of Mansfield College, asking them to he bail for him. This note was banded to the sergeant to deliver, but at that moment a friend of Mr. Lewis's came in and offered to fetch the Bursar. Mr. Lewis then told him not to trouble about the note, which was put down in front of Mr. Lewis on the table, and his friend fetched the Bursar. The sergeant, who had been told by Mr. Lewis where he lodged, went there to make inquiry, taking the paper with him to help to prove his identity. The inquiries he went to make were as much in Mr. Lewis's interest as in the prosecution's, and the time of his detention was not in the least extended by the action of the police. I think my hon. Friend will, after hearing this account, agree with me in thinking there appears to be no reason to impeach the conduct of the police in question, and I do not, under the circumstances, consider it my duty to take any action in the matter. If Mr. Lewis has sustained any legal wrong the remedy by action is, of course, open to him.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement of Mr. Lewis and his friends differs materially from that given by the police. Is if not their duty to protect the innocent as well as detect the guilty?


The statements do differ; but, as I have said, Mr. Lewis, if aggrieved, has his remedy in his own hands. I have no control over the Oxfordshire Police.