HC Deb 21 June 1906 vol 159 cc365-7
MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the proceedings at Marylebone Police Court this morning, when Miss Theresa Billington was fined £10, or two months, on a charge of assaulting the police; whether the alleged assault was only committed this morning, and, as a consequence, the accused was unable to make provision for being legally represented; whether the sentence is not extreme; and whether he will stay the sentence till he has made an inquiry, in consideration of all the circumstances involved.

MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R.,) Elland

On the same subject, may I ask whether my right hon. friend is aware that up to as late as this morning the Metropolitan Police had been unable to deal with the riotous behaviour of certain women in Cavendish Square; whether he is aware that this method of trying to promote the cause of women's suffrage meets with the deepest and most outspoken disapproval of the mass of the advocates of that reform, both women and men; and whether he is satisfied that the measures now taken by the Metropolitan Police are sufficient to preserve order?


I desire to ask whether it is in order for an hon. Member to bring a charge of riotous proceedings against persons who are not present to defend themselves.


I did not catch the hon. Member's first Question; the second seemed to be out of order, and the third seemed to be in order.


In answer to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, I received his letter only five minutes ago, and I have therefore no information to enable me to answer his Question. I therefore suggest that he should put it down for Monday. In regard to the Question of my hon. friend, my attention has been called to the circumstances of this case. I am not quite sure how much of the Question is in order. All I can do now is to say that I am informed that the police did take proceedings this morning against certain women, and I trust there will be no renewal of the disturbance.


In view of the fact that this lady has been sent to prison, will not the right hon. Gentleman cause inquiries to be made, so as to be able to reply to a Question which I shall put to him to-night on the Motion for the Adjournment? The matter is one of urgency. Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider two months' imprisonment a most excessive sentence for such a trivial offence?


I have no power at all to interfere with any judicial decision, except when I am of opinion that the prerogative of mercy should be used. I cannot interfere as the hon. Member suggests, and I can hold out no hope that I shall be able to answer the hon. Member's Question on the Adjournment.


Inasmuch as the alleged offence took place at ten o'clock this morning, and the trial between eleven and twelve, so that the accused person had no opportunity of preparing a defence, will the light hon. Gentleman say whether such procedure is customary in the police courts?


It is customary in cases brought before the London police-courts summarily, where the magistrate considers they ought to be dealt with summarily.