§ MR. COLLINS
rose to call the attention of the House to the imprisonment in York Gaol of John Kenn, aged eighty-five, for costs in an action for slander; and to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, power should not be given to the Crown to remit in certain cases imprisonment for debts of this character? It appeared that this old man and his blind and almost equally aged wife lived in a cottage for which they paid 15d. a week at Knaresborough, where he had formerly been a cowkeeper, but for several years 769 past he had given up that occupation. They possessed an acre of land, and managed, by the help of their single cow and of the sum of 50s. paid them twice a year by Mother Shepherd's Charity, to keep themselves off the poor rates. Somehow or another, either he, or, as he said, his "missus" managed to get up a quarrel with one of their neighbours who, knowing them to be penniless, commenced an action for slander against him in one of the Superior Courts in London. Not having the money to engage a solicitor or a barrister in his defence or to come up to London in person, Kenn was obliged to allow judgment to go by default, and in September or October he was arrested and taken to the Debtors' Gaol at York for costs. Were not some means adopted for his release this old man would have to rot in gaol, and even if he managed to regain his freedom he would be placed in a most unfortunate position, because his only cow had been sold to pay his rent, and he was also in danger of being tried as a fraudulent bankrupt at the next Assizes. There seemed to be no means known to the law for effecting his release without payment of the money. He brought this case before the House in order to avail himself of the opportunity it would afford him of asking the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it was not desirable that the Home Office should have the power to interfere in cases of this kind, as in criminal cases, and remit the imprisonment.
said, it was very natural for a humane man like the hon. Member, when instances of this sort came to his knowledge, to wish for some short ready remedy for the grievance; but on the part of the Government he was not at all anxious to increase the powers of the Secretary of State for the Home Department relating to the remission of sentences. He might, however, add that he understood that the Bankruptcy Bill about to be introduced by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General contained a provision which would completely meet the case brought forward by the hon. Member.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.