HC Deb 18 November 1908 vol 196 cc1202-3

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the method by which he drew the attention of a magistrate who had ordered the imprisonment of eleven ladies for offences arising out of the suffrage agitation, who were placed by his order in the third division, to the fact that these ladies belonged to the class of prisoners for whom the second division was intended, with the result that the magistrate removed these prisoners from the third to the second division; whether there is any, and, if so, what, other instance of a member of the Executive Government communicating with a magistrate; and whether he will explain his reasons for determining to advise the Crown, in the exercise of its prerogative, to order the transfer of these ladies from the third to the second division, instead of bringing pressure to bear on a magistrate to modify his sentences in accordance with the I suggestions of the Executive.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) I communicated with the chief magistrate, who drew the attention of the convicting magistrate to the fact that these prisoners belong to the class for whom the second division is intended. I frequently have occasion to communicate with magistrates throughout the country to remind them of the responsibility placed on them by Parliament for the choice of the divisions in which prisoners should be placed, and have done so both by Circular and in particular cases. As I have already explained, it would in my opinion be unconstitutional to use the prerogative of the Crown for the purpose of overriding, with regard to a whole class of cases, the discretion given to the Court by statute. I need hardly say that no pressure of any kind was brought to bear upon the magistrate in this case.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, having regard to the fact that the Commissioner of Police in London is under his control and jurisdiction, he accepts responsibility for the institution of proceedings against ladies by the police authorities, in relation to matters arising out of the suffragist agitation, in which they have been summoned to police Courts to enter into recognisances to be of good behaviour with the alternative of imprisonment in default of entering into such recognisances into which it was publicly stated by them they would decline to enter, and that by this method these ladies have been sentenced to imprisonment in the second division which is not regarded at law as conviction of any offence with power of appeal to a higher tribunal; and whether these proceedings have his sanction; and, if so, on what grounds does he base their justification.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) I accept full responsibility for the proceedings taken by the Metropolitan Police. The adoption of preventive measures for the preservation of order in the streets was, in my opinion, amply justified by the circumstances of the case.