HC Deb 13 July 1905 vol 149 cc558-9
MR. HAVILAND BURKE (Kings County, Tullamore)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the statement recently made by Sir Ralph Littler, in passing sentence at the Middlesex Sessions, to the effect that more than 3,000 policemen are incapacitated from duty every year as the result of violence done to them in the execution of their duty, and to complaints made by Judges, magistrates, and the police as to bands of persons who raise hostile mobs against the police, actively assist in assaults committed upon them, and by terrorism make the obtaining of evidence in arty subsequent prosecution difficult or impossible; and whether he will introduce legislation for providing the police with special powers in such districts, and for enlarging the maximum penalty which it is now within the power of Judges and police magistrates to inflict in such cases.


I have not seen the particular remarks referred to in the Question; but I am, of coarse, well acquainted with the great number of cases in which the police are injured by assaults, and I and my predecessors have repeatedly had to consider what action could be taken to protect them. The number of Metropolitan Police injured by assaults while on duty during the year 1904 was 2,799, and of these 276 were incapacitated for a week or more. I do not think, however, that any such legislation as the hon. Member suggests is necessary. The punishment which can be imposed under the existing law is already very severe—for an ordinary assault on a constable, a magistrate can impose a sentence of six, or, if it be a second offence, of nine months imprisonment with hard labour, and the Court of quarter sessions can impose two years; while for wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm far heavier sentences can be passed. I find that the maximum sentence which the existing law allows is very rarely imposed.


Is it not the fact that Sir Ralph Littler, in sentencing a man who had nearly murdered a policeman and had been helped in the attempt by a crowd, deplored the fact that he could not give him more than four years penal servitude.


I have not seen the report of that case.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of policemen incapacitated by violence from duty last year in London was exactly a hundred times more than the number in Ireland?


When the right hon. Gentleman says he does not propose to introduce legislation does he mean he dare not, or that it is not desirable?

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of assimilating the laws of England and Ireland on this point?


I have said I think the law in England on this matter is satisfactory.