HC Deb 02 July 1896 vol 42 cc535-6
MR. F. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether his attention has been called to the sentence, on the complaint of the Parks Committee of the Corporation of Manchester, of one month's imprisonment passed on the 19th of June inst., by Mr. Headlam, the stipendiary magistrate for the city of Manchester, on Mr. Fred. Brocklehurst, B.A., for having simply spoken to a public meeting, which was orderly and without obstruction, held in a public open space on the outskirts of the city, known as Boggart Hole Clough; whether he is aware that Mr. Brocklehurst is being treated in all respect as a common criminal, put to wear prison clothes, and compelled to pick oakum; whether he is aware that there is no bye-law or statutory authority whatever prohibiting the holding of public meetings in the Clough; whether he will direct the immediate release of Mr. Brocklehurst, and also of Mr. Leonard Hall, who is imprisoned in the same circumstances, as being unlawfully detained; and whether he will consider their claim to compensation?


I have made inquiries and understand that Mr. Brocklehurst was convicted of breaking one of the bye-laws for the regulation of the park by causing annoyance in the park, and was sentenced to pay a fine of £5 or, in default, to one month's imprisonment. He is treated as a convicted prisoner not sentenced to hard labour, and is required to wear prison clothes, and has oakum in his cell to pick, as provided in the Prisons Act of 1865. An alteration in the classification of prisoners is not possible without fresh legislation; but, as I stated last week, proposals for legislating on the subject are engaging my attention. It is true there is no bye-law or statutory authority expressly prohibiting the holding of meetings in this park, but the magistrate found as a fact that the meeting caused annoyance and convicted the defendant accordingly. I cannot interfere with the decision of the magistrate in either case.