§ The House having resolved itself into a committee on this bill,
Mr. S. Worthy
, upon the clause providing for the punishment of night poachers and persons found with guns by night, moved, that after the word" game," the word "rabbits" be inserted; which amendment was agreed to.
observed, that in the case of the trial of these poachers, there was a prejudice, that the justices of the peace, being themselves sportsmen and game preservers, would strain the law in order to punish poachers. He therefore wished to take away a suspicion so injurious to the administration of justice. He had intended to transfer the jurisdiction, in all trials for the third offence (which subjected the poacher to transportation), to the justices of assize and gaol delivery, instead of the quarter-sessions. It had been objected, that many prisoners would rather be tried at once by the quarter-sessions, than lie in gaol till the assizes. He should, therefore, give them the option and would move an amendment to the following effect:—"Provided, that any person to be tried for such offence, shall, at the choice or option of such person, be bound over to be tried either at the general quarter-sessions of the peace, or before the justices of assize and gaol delivery."
Mr. S. Wortley
appreciated the object of the amendment, and thought that, if any impression of a want of justice on the part of the magistrates existed, it would be well to remove it by transferring the jurisdiction to the judges of the land; confident, as he was, that the latter 390 would see the necessity of repressing those who made a habit of preying nightly on their neighbours' property.
§ The amendment was agreed to.
Mr. S. Wortley
said, that as the law stood at present, no person was allowed to appoint a gamekeeper but the lord of the manor. Now, he thought every proprietor who had land enough to make it worth his while to do so, ought to have this privilege. The quantity of land so to entitle him, he would fix at 500 acres; a quantity for which he found a precedent in an act that passed some time since, permitting the nomination of gamekeepers under certain circumstances, in Wales. The hon. gentleman then moved a clause to that effect.
was sorry to hear his hon. friend propose this clause, which, like some others in the bill, had thrown round it a great deal of unpopularity. It might now be fairly objected, that there would be ten lords of the manor for one. As to his hon. friend's precedent, the fact was, that in Wales there were large tracts of land that were not included in any manor whatever, and it became necessary to take care, by the appointment of gamekeepers, of the game upon them. For his own part, he believed, that at present there were no greater poachers than the gamekeepers themselves, and that so far from preventing poaching, they supplied half the game that was sold in London. The consequence of this clause would be, that every farmer of 500 acres, would nominate his own son his gamekeeper, and thus spoil a good farmer, and perhaps make a determined poacher. He saw no necessity for the clause.
§ Mr. Monck
thought, that if the committee were aware of the extensive powers that were vested in gamekeepers, they would decidedly oppose this clause. The 5th of Anne had very properly confined the power of nominating these keepers to the lords of manors. The statute of Charles enabled them to seize guns and dogs, and search houses; but after that act, came the 4thand5th William 3rd, by which gamekeepers were expressly authorised to resist all nightly offenders, in the same manner as if the offence had been committed in an ancient forest. Now, that enactment expressly referred to the oppressive law, 21 Edward 1st, by which it was declared, that if a tres- 391 passer in a forest did not stop when desired by the gamekeeper, he might be killed, and the gamekeeper should not be troubled. And this act, be it remembered, was still in force. He himself knew of a case in which, under very similar circumstances, a gamekeeper had fired at a mere trespasser, and so wounded him as to make him a cripple for life.
Mr. S. Wortley
observed, that the power of the gamekeeper was limited by the first clause of the bill, yet he had no objection to withdraw the clause, as it seemed to be the wish of the committee.
The next clause was, that no person except gamekeepers should set snares for game.
objected to the clause, as it was at present worded. It would give the owners of small parcels of land contiguous to large estates, an opportunity of killing the game of their neighbours. He would propose, that the privilege of setting snares should be limited to persons possessing 100 acres, or entitled to the game on that quantity of land.
Mr. S. Worthy
said, that at the end of the clause there was an exception in favour of persons using snares on their own land. The clause only went to prevent the use of such snares on lands not belonging to the parties, they not being appointed as gamekeepers on such lands, and to empower parties to seize any such snares, except they were set by the owners of the land, or by his or their permission,
Mr. S. Wortley
said, the principle of the bill was, to make game property, and that being the case, it was but natural that the owner of the land should have the power of destroying the game on his own grounds. In some cases, this would no doubt be productive of inconvenience, but it was but just that the poor man, whose small parcel of land was contiguous to a great preserve, should have some means of remunerating himself for the injury done to his land by the game of his neighbour.
§ Sir J. Shelley
said, he had objected to the principle of the bill, because he thought its effect would be to destroy all the game in the country; but the privilege of setting snares would precipitate that destruction, and was therefore peculiarly objectionable.
Sir J. Sebright
denied that farmers were always remunerated by lower rents for the destruction caused by game. He wished those who fed the game, to have the property of it, and therefore hoped the clause would not be given up.
§ Mr. Peel
thought it erroneous to suppose that game would be destroyed by the effect of this clause. He had no doubt, that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the effect of it would be, a composition between the rich preserver of game and his poor neighbour, by which the former would give something for the injury done to the latter, and for the right of following and killing game on his land.
The proposition of colonel Davies was negatived, and the clause was agreed to, with some verbal amendments. Several other clauses were then agreed to without discussion, and the House being resumed, the report was ordered to be received on Wednesday.