HL Deb 26 July 1885 vol 300 cc236-7

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether, seeing that certain members of the Metropolitan Police Force have been committed by the stipendiary magistrate of the Marlborough Street Police Court for trial at the approaching sessions of the Central Criminal Court for unlawfully assaulting certain members of the International Club, and seeing that, owing to want of funds on the part of the prosecutors, the prosecution is likely to fall through, Her Majesty's Government will take such steps as may be necessary to prevent a possible miscarriage of justice? said, the facts of the case were already well known to the public. He had been asked by some working men's clubs to take the matter up, and he did so. The International Club, though it might be a Socialistic body, was, as long as its members obeyed the law, as much entitled to the protection of the law as Brooks's, the Carlton, the Reform, or any other club frequented by the rich. He applied to the Home Secretary to have the police who had been committed for trial by Mr. Newton prosecuted at the public expense, and the Home Secretary informed him that the matter was no longer in his hands, and that there was a Public Prosecutor, whose right it was to determine whether there should be a prosecution, and if so, whether the State should pay the expense of it. He then applied to the Public Prosecutor, and the answer he received from that gentleman seemed somewhat inconsistent with the statement of the Home Secretary. [The noble Earl read the answer, which was to the effect that the Public Prosecutor had received instructions from the Home Office that he was to undertake the prosecution of the summonses taken out by the police, and, should the necessity arise, to defend them.] Now, he made this appeal to the Government on two grounds. One was the confidence which the public had in the police. It was well known how admirably they did their duty, and how seldom one heard of any charge being brought against them. But the public ought to know that there was no divinity which hedged round the policeman if he mis- conducted himself. His other ground was the justice of the case. This club stood on the same footing as the Carlton or the Reform, and there should be equal justice for the poor man and the rich.


said, his answer would be very simple. The matter was considered by the Home Office very carefully in May last, and the late Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) then instructed the Public Prosecutor to take up the case on behalf of the police and to defend them. He did not see any discrepancy between the statement of the Secretary of State and the answer given by the Public Prosecutor, who very naturally was reluctant to do something which would have the effect of reversing the action he was instructed to take in May last. The noble Earl put his appeal on the ground of equal justice. Put their Lordships would be very much surprised if the police made a foray upon the Carlton or the Reform, that the Secretary of State should be called upon to prosecute them at the public expense, on the ground of equal justice to rich and poor. They were told that the members of the International Club were poor men. As individuals, no doubt, they might be poor; but when they were considered in the aggregate there could not be any serious difficulty in their procuring funds for conducting the prosecution. Therefore, he did not think that the allegation of injustice was borne out by the facts of the case. The matter had been considered by the late Secretary of State, and it had also been carefully considered by the present authorities at the Home Office, and they had not been able to satisfy themselves that there was any reason why they should adopt the unusual course of undertaking the defence of the police on the one hand, or, on the other hand, of paying the expenses of this prosecution. The circumstances must be most exceptional and unusual to justify a course like that, and the Secretary of State did not feel himself called upon to adopt the very unusual course suggested by the noble Earl.


said, that the case was now different from what it was in May, as the police had been committed for trial.

House adjourned at a quarter past Eight o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past four o'clock.