HL Deb 05 May 1865 vol 178 cc1531-3

in rising to call the attention of the House to the charges brought against Colonel Johnson, a magistrate of the county of Durham, said, that he regretted the absence of the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) who on a former occasion, in moving for correspondence on the subject of Mr. Dockrall's detention in the lunatic asylum, had, he ventured to say, adopted against Colonel Johnson an ex-parte statement. He was quite sure that no one in such a case would be more ready to retract the charges he had made than his noble Friend. All men were liable to errors of judgment, and he did not mean to say that his friend, Colonel Johnson, had not been guilty of an informality in signing the committal of the late Mr. Dock-rail to an asylum without having seen him on that particular occasion. But Colonel Johnson, in order to show how much he regretted that informality, was prepared to indemnify the unfortunate man for what he had done, for he offered a sum of £80, £30 as the costs of the suit which had been undertaken, and £50 for himself. The charge which his noble Friend had brought against Colonel Johnson was this—that he had sent to the lunatic asylum of Sedge-field Mr. Dockrall, a man who was perfectly sane, and who ought never to have been sent to such a place at all. Now, Colonel Johnson had known this man for years; his family were in the habit of dealing with him and the unfortunate state of Dockrall's mind was notorious, not only to Colonel Johnson but to every individual in the neighbourhood. But the worst part of the charge was founded upon a letter from the father of the man—namely, that Colonel Johnson had entered into a conspiracy with the wife of Dockrall, who was a bad woman, in order to keep him in prison. He knew Colonel Johnson to be an honourable man, and a magistrate of thirty years' standing, and their Lordships must agree that he was much aggrieved by the stigma cast upon him. At the last Quarter Sessions for Durham he (Earl Vane) moved a resolution, which was carried by the whole Bench, affirming that, however much the Bench might regret the informality which Colonel Johnson had committed, they were satisfied that he was only actuated by the kindest motives towards the unfortunate man.


said, he would merely observe that, as there was a pending action yet undisposed of against Colonel Johnson, he must wait until that was decided before he could take notice of the matter.


said, that having been acquainted with Colonel Johnson for forty years, he would affirm that he was a most honourable man both in his private and magisterial capacity, and he must express his belief that he had been actuated in this matter by the best and purest motives. He trusted that when the pending action should be disposed of the Lord Chancellor would consent to lay the correspondence before their Lordships, in order to clear the character of Colonel Johnson.


thought that his noble and learned Friend must be under some misapprehension in regard to the action said to be still pending. If he understood aright, an action of tort had been brought against Colonel Johnson—an action to recover damages. Such an action, however, died with the person, and could not be revived by the executors, and as this unfortunate man was dead, there could be no pending action at the present moment.


said, that in certain cases the representatives of the deceased would be entitled to revive the action for recovering the expenses. He was informed that a suit was now pending in the Court of Probate to determine to whom letters of administration should be granted. If they were granted to the father, the action might be revived. At present, therefore, he did not think it proper to take any proceedings to investigate the charges against Colonel Johnson.

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.