HC Deb 10 August 1896 vol 44 cc380-1
MR. H. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty—(1) whether he has investigated the case of William Arthur Filce, sailor, employed as stoker on Board H.M.S. Charybdis, Sheerness, who, on the 21th day of June last was arrested at midnight, at his home at Balham, for over-staying his leave from ship, and, notwithstanding a medical certificate that he was ill, signed by Dr. Cannock of Balham, was locked up in a police cell all night, without production of any warrant, and next day (Thursday 25th) was taken before a police magistrate who committed him at once, as a deserter from the Royal Navy, to Holloway Gaol, where he was kept under prison discipline and made to wear the prison dress for nine days, no report being made to his ship and no attempt made to deliver him until after he had been in prison a week, namely on Wednesday 1st July, when his wife went to the Vice Admiral at Sheerness and told him the story, upon which the Admiral signalled to the Charybdis, and the answer came back that they did not know where the man was, whereupon the Admiral courteously promised to look into the case; (2) whether it is in accordance with the regulations of the Navy, and with the law, that a seaman can be so arrested and without warrant, and so confined and treated, or what is the explanation of the matter; and (3), whether the same man had deposited £12 with the paymaster in or about Easter to purchase his discharge, which money was retained until the above occurrences, and then returned to him without any reason being given to him; and what was the reason?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square

The hon. Member has omitted a most material fact in his Question, namely, that the man, after sending in a certificate that he was ill from vertigo, i.e., giddiness, and was unable to travel, was absent when the police, at the request of the Captain of the Charybdis, called at his house to verify the man's statement. They accordingly telegraphed this information to his captain, from whom they received a reply, ordering them to arrest him, which they did at midnight, finding him on his way home from the Canterbury Music Hall. The action of the police was strictly legal under Section 9 of the Act 11 and 12 Vic. c. 62, and the man being an absentee was properly charged by the police before a magistrate, who committed him as a straggler. The police did not give notice to the Captain of his ship, but in the usual course informed the Admiralty of his committal, and they had no knowledge of the facts or of the identity of the man. Some delay occurred at the Admiralty in tracing the man's papers, his identity, etc., but when this was established in the usual manner, the police were directed to take Filce to his ship. In answer to the last paragraph, the man had deposited £12 with the paymaster against the hitter's receipt, the necessary step under the regulations preliminary to the investigation as to whether the discharge can be granted or not. The decision to refuse it was communicated to the port on the 17th June, and to the man on the 19th or 20th, so that he knew it before going on leave on the 22nd, and this decision could not therefore have been influenced in the slightest degree by the subsequent action of the man.