15 November 1888
THE METROPOLITAN POLICE.
The House having gone into committee of Supply, the adjourned debate was resumed on the vote of 233,520£. to complete the sum necessary for the expense of the metropolitan police; and on Mr. Bradlaugh’s amendment to reduce the vote by 1,500£., the salary of the Chief Commissioner.
Sir W. BARTTELOT said he thought justice had hardly been done to Sir Charles Warren - (hear, hear) - and that the Home Secretary had not given the committee the full particulars to which it was entitled. He believed that Sir Charles Warren, so far as the efficiency and discipline of the force were concerned, had endeavoured most honestly to discharge his duties. - (Hear, hear.) It was an open secret that the force itself regretted exceedingly the course that had been taken. - (Oh, oh.) He had this on good authority. Unless implicit confidence was placed in whomsoever had the control of the police force, that man’s hands were tied, and he became unable to do his duty. When he was hampered, as he had been by the dual control, he was unable to carry out the great responsibilities placed upon him. If his right hon. friend the Home Secretary had been a little more determined as to the course of proceeding at one particular date, there would not have been so much discussion or the disturbances in Trafalgar-square. Everyone must see that the police force ought to be supported, because they looked to it for the protection of this great city. - (Hear, hear, and cries of "No, no.") When another appointment was made they ought to know exactly in what position the head of the police stood with regard to the Home Office.
Mr. C. GRAHAM asked the committee to believe that in censuring the conduct of the commissioner he was not actuated by personal spite. He believed Sir Charles Warren to be an honourable and straightforward man, and of his courage he had no doubt; but he also believed that he was the worst fitted man in the British Empire to fill such a position as that which he had just resigned. The hon. member complained of the interference on Tuesday evening by the police with a meeting held on Clerkenwell-green, called to express satisfaction at the resignation of Sir Charles Warren. He appealed to the Home Secretary to take the down-trodden poor under his protection, and to put a stop to what was going on before worse happened, and he asked whether the Government were determined to put an end to public meetings altogether in the metropolis.
Mr. BARTLEY protested against the representation that the people of London were becoming antagonistic to the police. - (Hear, hear.) It was incorrect. Demagogues had tried hard to work up such a feeling, but the relations between the police and the people of the metropolis were of a friendly character. Sir Charles Warren was sacrificed because, by his firmness in maintaining order, he had made himself obnoxious to demagogues, and his predecessor was sacrificed because he allowed the mob to have its own way. - (Hear, hear.)
Sir W. HARCOURT said that as he had, perhaps, a longer administrative acquaintance with the police force than any other member of the House, it would not be fitting that he should be altogether silent in the debate. The discussion was, to him, in many respects a painful one. The state of things which had arisen at Scotland-yard came to him as a painful surprise. It was entirely a new state of things. - (Hear, hear.) During the five years he was in office he had no experience of it; but the relations with the Home Office were perfectly harmonious. He had no wish to disparage the authority of the Chief Commissioner, which ought to be upheld at its highest point; but his view has always been that the relations between the Secretary of State and the Chief Commissioner should be those of confidential colleagues, working together with great responsibility for the preservation of peace and good order of the community. He had read with astonishment the correspondence given to the House last night, as he had never heard such a question raised as to how far a Secretary of State had a right to direct the Chief Commissioner, or how far he was bound to conform to the wishes of the Secretary of State. He believed that the Secretary of State who unduly interfered with the executive authority of the Chief Commissioner would be extremely unwise; but for the Commissioner to declare a condition of independence of the Secretary of State was a thing which he had never heard before. - (Hear, hear.) It would be absolutely intolerable to create in the metropolis an authority not responsible to either municipal government - (Opposition cheers) - or to the Home Secretary, but with absolute control of an army of 12,000 or more, at whose mercy the population would be. That state of things no statesman of any party could contemplate. It was the more remarkable that such a suggestion should have emanated from the Chief Commissioner, because in his article which he had published in Murray’s Magazine he gave an account of the origin of the force, and said it was established by Sir R. Peel in 1829 to act under the immediate authority of the Secretary of State, and as he should direct and control. It was as explicit as words could be, and the notion of declaring that the police should be independent of control was a doctrine so unconstitutional that no statesman could support it. He did not agree that there was a dual government of the police. The man who was responsible to the House was the Secretary of State - (Hear, hear) - and the commissioner was no more an independent authority of him than was the Under-Secretary of the Home Department. It was a matter entirely of discretion how far the principal responsible authority should interfere with the executive action, but the less he interfered the better. It was not his desire or business to cast blame on any one, but he had heard with regret of wars and rumours of wars at Scotland-yard - of differences between the Chief Commissioner and the head of the Criminal Investigation Department. It would be an enormous disadvantage that in both departments they must have men new to the work and unacquainted with the force, but they must meet it as best they could. He desired to speak with all respect of Sir C. Warren’s abilities, but his article in reference to the police force was conceived in an alarming spirit, and there was nobody so dangerous as an alarmist. Such persons generally created the perils which they feared. He believed that there was no foundation for an alarmist spirit in reference to the population. There was a criminal population they well knew, and it was a misfortune which he was afraid they would never get rid of, but nobody could have watched the statistics of the population of the country without feeling satisfaction at the rapid and marvelous progress which had been made in the diminution of crime. It was due to the excellent administration of the prisons department and to the admirable administration of the police. The notion that the police of the country or of London was an inferior force in reference to the detection of crime he believed to be entirely unfounded. He did not share the opinions held by some people that there was a floating mass of persons called dangerous. He did not believe in the existence of such class to any great extent, and a policy founded upon a fear of the dangerous classes was a foolish one. Public meetings had constituted a great part of the public life of the country, and he should be sorry if merely in consequence of a density of population that element of public life should be expelled from the metropolis. He thought the duty of the police in regard to such meetings should be to afford protection against any mischief arising amongst the people themselves and to others outside the meetings, and where that was done in good temper, and in a good-humoured spirit he had never known any harm come of it. Nothing but harm would come from regarding this vast population in a spirit of suspicion and animosity. No greater disaster could happen to the metropolis than if they were by any error of administration to interfere with the attitude of friendliness which should exist between the people and the police. He fully believed that the great mass of the people did regard the police as their best friends - (cheers) - and if by the introduction of what he would call a military as opposed to a civil spirit in the administration of the police they should put the police in the situation of a force facing the enemy rather than as a force mixing up with friendly people, they would do the greatest mischief to the preservation of order in the metropolis which it would be possible to accomplish. They would run great danger of that if they passed a policy of imposing upon the people restrictions to which they had not been accustomed, and of withdrawing from them privileges which they had enjoyed. - (Hear, hear.) He hoped in the House of Commons they should hear nothing of the demand for what was called vigorous measure. If they were going to have a gendarmerie, they would have to multiply the police by ten. Hence he appreciated the difficulties of the Home Secretary in appointing a new Commissioner of Police. It was much easier to get rid of a good man than to get a better man in his place. He advised the Home Secretary, in making his selection, to avoid too much of that active zeal which some people thought extremely desirous in the metropolis. If the Secretary of State wished to sleep at night he would not have a Chief Commissioner of Police who was too active and over-zealous. He also warned him to beware of reconstructions, which were the resources of weak men. The present system of police was excellent, and he advised the Home Secretary to hold hard by it. He entirely disapproved of the system of offering rewards for the detection of crime. It never led to any good, and often acted as a pecuniary inducement to false testimony. The attacks made on the police for not detecting the perpetrators of the East-end murders he regarded as unjust and unreasonable. They had done all that was in their power; they had used all the means at their command. Crime in every case could not be detected, but he had every faith that before long the police would succeed in capturing the perpetrator or perpetrators of those horrible outrages. - (Hear, hear.)
Mr. MATTHEWS said he had listened with the greatest possible pleasure to the able, temperate, judicial, and statesmanlike speech of the right hon. gentleman who had just addressed the House, and he did not know that he could offer the smallest expression of dissent from it. The Government had always expressed the opinion that it would be disastrous and unwise to express public meetings. There were places where public meetings could always be held without interruption, and with these opportunities for the expression of opinions, however hostile to the Government of the day, it was incumbent on the Government, looking at the unfortunate accidents that arose from public meetings held in the midst of public thoroughfares, to set their faces against that locality of meeting. - (Cheers.) The right of public meeting never met with hostility from the Government. He was glad to do the fullest justice to Sir Charles Warren, who was a man not only of the highest character and of great ability, but who, during his term of office, displayed the most indefatigable activity in every detail connected with the administration of the force. He by his vigour and firmness had restored that confidence in the police which had been unjustly shaken by the regrettable accident of 1886. He denied that Sir Charles Warren was sacrificed to demagogues; he was nothing of the sort; his resignation was accepted because the Government held it necessary to uphold the principle that in the ultimate result it must be the Secretary of State who was responsible for the action of the police. It would be intolerable if there should be a police force in such a large town with a commander holding irresponsible authority. As to the number of the police in London, he pointed out that they had special duties which the police in other large towns had not. It was estimated that public offices and the Houses of Parliament required 600; theatres, the regulation of public traffic, and other agencies also employed many policemen in London. Some 1,700 or 1,800 police were required for purposes different from that of towns like Manchester. He did not share alarmist views on the subject, and he did not propose any abnormal or unusual increase in the number of the police. He honestly believed that the police discharged their duties with efficiency, and that that was especially the case in the detective department. He did not contemplate anything like reconstruction; but there were small matters of detail that needed attention. By improvements in the distribution and management considerable additional service might be obtained from the existing force.
Mr. J. STUART contended that while the population of London had increased 20 per cent. the increase in the police had been 34 ½ per cent., and in the cost 44 per cent. He denied that the ratable value of London was a fair basis for raising the cost of police maintenance, because there was one-tenth of the ratable value upon which it was not fair to raise the cost of the police. Since 1878, however, the cost of the police had increased 44 per cent., whilst the increase of ratable value had only been 38 per cent., and the difference, seeing that the total maximum rate of 9d. was attained, was made up by borrowing. This he strongly depreciated, and said that unless something was done to check the rise going on very speedily an increase of rate would have to be obtained. A far better basis of expenditure was the population and not the rateable value. The cost of the police was raising more than its number, and more than the rateable value, and further, at twice the rate of the rise of the population.
Sir R. LETHBRIDGE was sure the metropolitan members would not agree in the condemnation of the recent administration of the police which had been expressed. They did not think there had been any introduction of the military spirit, or that there had been any of that objectionable temper or spirit displayed which had been so much dwelt upon. He denied that there had been any loss of confidence in the police amongst the loyal, peaceable, and law-abiding citizens of London. With regard to the cost of the police he contended that there could be no fairer measure of what should be the increased cost of the police than the rateable value of the metropolis.
Mr. J. ROWLANDS admired the self-possessed egotism of the hon. member who had just spoken, who seemed to think that he and his party were the only law-abiding citizens of London. - (Opposition cheers.) He maintained that there was a growing disaffection between the people and the police, arising not from dislike to individual policemen, but from the system set up and which the police merely had to give effect to. - (Hear, hear.) He denied that there was sincere regret throughout the police force at the resignation of Sir Charles Warren, whose administration he had information to prove had given anything but satisfaction to the men. With regard to the demonstrations in Trafalgar-square, there was no necessity for their being suppressed because a little forbearance on the part of the police would have peaceably effected the same purpose. They now had an opportunity of altering the existing condition of things, and he hoped the Home Secretary would give them an assurance that some gentlemen - a civilian, he hoped - of cool and calm judgment would be placed at the head of the police. - (Opposition cheers.)
Sir R. FOWLER wished to express his gratitude to Sir C. Warren for the way he had administered the police and suppressed disorder in the metropolis. At the same time he could but feel that, considering the correspondence which had taken place between Sir C. Warren and the Home Secretary, the Government had taken the only course open to them in accepting his resignation.
Mr. PICKERSGILL said if anything were clear it was that the system upon which the City police was conducted was diametrically opposite to that upon which the metropolitan police had been conducted, and consequently the eulogium passed by Sir R. Fowler on Sir C. Warren’s administration amounted to a condemnation of the City administration. Whilst he and those who thought with him had done what they could do to deprive the City of certain of its privileges, yet he could assure the hon. baronet that they should guard with the greatest solicitude the privilege which it enjoyed of managing its own police. He warmly deprecated the order issued by Sir C. Warren curtailing the opportunity of promotion in the force to a certain age, and expressed gratification that they had that day heard from the Home Secretary the death knell of the system of miniaturization in the police of which they had complained. He believed the present prevalence of undetected crime was due to the system of disorder in the streets which had arisen under this system. The condition of the metropolis in respect of crime for the last year of Sir E. Henderson’s administration contrasted favourably with the condition of crime in the last year of Sir C. Warren’s administration, particularly in regard to burglaries, which had increased by 27 per cent. during 1887 as compared with 1885. During the past year there was a matter for grave anxiety, and it would be no matter for surprise, when violence was resorted to by the police, if the ruffianism of the metropolis ill-used individual policemen whenever they had the opportunity of doing so.
Mr. MATTHEWS, interposing, said he wished to make a brief statement in regard to the question addressed to him earlier in the day by Mr. C. Graham. He had made the best inquiry he could from the chief constable of the district of Clerkenwell, who had reported that there was not the slightest attempt made by the police to disperse the people met at Clerkenwell-green, either at the meeting or afterwards, and that no collision whatever took place between the police and the people, but that at the conclusion of the meeting there was a rush of persons in the direction of the carriage road - not disorderly in the slightest - but a rush of people such as is usually occurred at a meeting at which there was a large gathering - and some mounted police got in the throng and their horses became restive. No attempt was made to interfere with the persons leaving, and no collision took place with the mounted police. The only thing which did occur was that some mounted police followed the procession, as was the usual practice, but there was no disturbance, and no information had reached the police that anyone had been injured.
Mr. C. GRAHAM said that his question was based upon the double testimony of an article in a morning paper and of a number of men who came to him that morning and complained, but he was bound to say that they absolutely refused to go to a police-court.
Mr. R. G. WEBSTER said the hon. member should have verified his facts before making an attack upon the Home Secretary. He complained that the feeling engendered was due to the action of a body of demagogues because during the Jubilee celebrations the police were generally called "our heroes in blue." - (Laughter.)
Mr. PICTON said that Trafalgar-square was so constructed that it was intended as the forum of the metropolis, and he could assure the Home Secretary that the people had not been driven from their right to meet there. This matter was not to be settled by the aristocracy of the West-end, but sooner or later it would be settled by the toiling millions of the East-end, who would persist in their right of meeting.
Mr. W,. H. SMITH appealed to hon. members to curtail their observations as much as possible, in order that the vote might be taken.
Dr. CLARK wished the Home Secretary to distinctly say whether he intended to allow meetings in Trafalgar-square under conditions to be laid down by the Chief Commissioner, or whether his "game" was to prevent all meetings under any circumstances whatever.
Mr. CREMER said if this matter had not been closured on a former occasion there would have been no necessity for two sittings of the House being occupied with its consideration at this time, and if any further endeavour was made now to prevent hon. members from expressing their sentiments, he warned the First Lord of the Treasury that the question would be raised by other opportunities. He suggested that the Horse Guards parade should be devoted to the purpose of public demonstrations.
General GOLDSWORTHY said it was correct to say that the speeches delivered in Trafalgar-square were pernicious, and on one occasion he actually heard a speaker advising the mob to come down and turn the members out of that House. - (Laughter.) He was no admirer of the Home Secretary, and never had been. - (Loud laughter) - but he thought their thanks were due to him for having prevented the occurrence of riots.
Mr. CONYBEARE protested against the compromise suggested that they should give up their right to meet in Trafalgar-square if they were allowed to meet on the Horse Guards parade.
The discussion was continued by Mr. Hunter, Mr. Pickersgill, Mr. Nolan, and Mr. Bradlaugh.
At half-past five o’clock the committee divided, when Mr. Bradlsugh’s amendment, reducing the vote by 1,500£., the salary of the Chief Commissioner, was negatived by a majority of 207 to 91.
On the question that the vote be agreed to,
Mr. PICKERSGILL said before the vote was put he desired to know -
Mr. W. H. SMITH interrupting - I claim to move "That the question be now put." - (Opposition cries of "Oh, oh.")
The committee immediately divided -
For the closure ………………….. 198 Against ………………………….. 89 Majority …………………. -109
Another division followed, when the vote was carried by a majority of 198 to 67.
On the motion that the report of supply be taken,
Mr. CONYBEARE and Dr. TANNER raised objections, the later hon. gentleman moving the adjournment of the debate.
Mr. JACKSON and Mr. W. H. SMITH appealed to hon. members not to press their opposition, which must lead to great inconvenience and the obstruction of public business.
Dr. TANNER withdrew his amendment, and the report of supply was agreed to.
The House adjourned at a quarter-past six o’clock.
Mr. Wood, deputy coroner, held an inquest at Woolwich yesterday on the remains of an infant found in a mutilated condition at 3, Ogleby-street, Woolwich.
Mary Pearce, 2, Ogleby-street, whose husband is employed at Woolwich Dockyard, said that she went to No. 3 (of which she is landlady), and in the front room on the basement observed a box. The room being unoccupied she opened the box, and found the mutilated remains of an infant, the head, and arms being missing. She communicated with the police, and Police-constable 234 removed the remains. Police-constable Rogers, coroner’s officer, said he received the remains on Monday. They were wrapped in a canvas apron, and he took them to the mortuary. Steps were then taken to find the young woman named Smith, who had occupied the tenement where the body was found, and she was now under remand on a charge of concealment of birth.
Dr. Alfred Sharpe, divisional surgeon, said he saw the remains for the first time that afternoon at the mortuary, and found them much decomposed. The head and limbs had been severed from the body and were missing. From the post-mortem examination he came to the conclusion that the child was stillborn. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.
The police were busily occupied yesterday in endeavoring to obtain a clue to the identity and movements of the man with whom the woman Kelly was last seen, and a detailed description of whom has been published. Various statements have been volunteered to them on the subject, but up to last evening their inquiries had not resulted in any definite information. An arrest was made in the Old Kent-road in the evening, but the man, whose movements excited suspicion, does not answer to the description of the person who is wanted. Attention was drawn to him by his leaving a shiny black bag at the "Thomas á Becket" public-house. The police were communicated with, and on the bag being examined it was found to contain a very sharp dagger, a clasp-knife, two pairs of very long and curious looking scissors, and two life-preservers. Meanwhile the man had gone to a pawnbroker’s, and when he emerged from the shop he was taken into custody in order that inquiries might be made.
Last night a black sailor, while in company with several other seamen, was handed over to the police on suspicion by some women, but so far as inquiries have gone, the police attach no importance to his detention. The statements which have been lodged in great numbers during the past few days with the police by numerous persons who were anxious to assist the police in tracking the murderer, considerably diminished in number yesterday, as have also the letters purporting to be written by "Jack the Ripper." The police attach much importance to two of five anonymous threatening letters which have been received since Tuesday by Mr. J. Cohen, the proprietor of the "Paul’s Head" Tavern, Crispin-street, Spitalfields, a gentleman who has taken an active part in the organisation of the Vigilance Association.
The deputation from the Spitalfields Vigilance Committee which was to have waited upon Mr. Matthews by appointment at the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, to urge him to reconsider his decision regarding the offering of a reward, received an intimation early in the morning from Mr. Baram, the president of the committee, to the effect that Mr. Matthews had postponed the interview which been arranged for by Mr. Montagu, M.P. The date and place of the funeral of the murdered woman, whose body still lies at the Shoreditch mortuary, has not yet been decided.
The correspondent of the Independance Belge at Berne sends the following remarkable communication: "A curious coincidence taken in connexion with the London murders is now the topic of conversation at Lucerne. A possible author for the Whitechapel horrors has been discovered. It appears that some sixteen years ago the population of Paris were greatly excited by the murderous exploits of a mysterious assassin who chose his victims amongst the class of demi-mondaines. He was finally discovered, and turned out to be a certain Nicolas Wassili, of Russian origin, who was born at Uraspol in 1847. He had received an excellent education at the University of Odessa. The murderer was examined by a council of physicians, who declared him insane. He had committed his horrible crimes under the influence of religious fanaticism. Wassili was consequently placed in an insane asylum, from which he received his discharge only last January. The question is, whether this religious maniac has gone to London and recommenced his curious method of saving souls."
At the meting of the Shoreditch Board of Guardians yesterday, Mr. Winkler said he should like to ask a question of the clerk concerning the expense of burying the body of the poor woman who was murdered in Miller’s-court, Whitechapel, on Friday last. He wanted to know whether any liability was cast upon the Shoreditch ratepayers in consequence of the body of the unfortunate creature being removed from the place where the crime was committed into the parish of Shoreditch, and the inquest being held there.
Mr. Robert Clay, the clerk, said he had not heard of any application being made to the relieving officers of Shoreditch with reference to the matter, but in the event of such an application being made, they would refuse to undertake the burial of the body. It should be clearly understood that it was not the relieving officer’s duty to see to the burial of a body under such circumstances, but it was the business of the vestry, as the sanitary authority of the parish. Unless the friends of the deceased woman were in a position to pay the expenses of the funeral, the coroner would issue an order on the sanitary authority of the parish for the interment of the body.
Mr. Alabaster said he understood that the funeral expenses would be defrayed by the relatives and friends of the deceased, and that consequently there would be no necessity to appeal to the parochial authorities.
During yesterday several persons were detained by the police on suspicion of being concerned in the Dorset-street tragedy, but these were, after a short detention, allowed to go away. During the afternoon a City constable had an uncomfortable walk along the Commercial-road. The officer, who was in mufti, and was wearing a low broad brim hat, of rather singular appearance, was quietly walking along the road in question, when suddenly some person called out that he was "Jack the Ripper." Within a few seconds some hundreds of people surrounded the unfortunate constable, who tried to evade them by increasing his pace, but the quicker he went the faster the mob followed, until he was hemmed in on all sides. The result might have been serious for him had not some constables of the H division come up, and the man making known his identity to them was got away from the mob.
Thomas Edwards, 29, hawker, of 9, Brook-street, Holborn, was charged at the Clerkenwell Police Court yesterday, before Mr. Lushington, with fraudulently obtaining one penny from John Street, by calling false news at Compton-buildings, Clerkenwell.
The prosecutor, a printer, said that at about ten o’clock on Tuesday night the prisoner came to Compton-buildings selling newspapers, and calling out, "Whitechapel Murderer! Capture of the murderer, Jack the Ripper!" Prisoner went up to him, and asked him if the paper really contained this news, and Edwards assured him that it did. Prosecutor then bought the paper for a penny, at the same time stating that if the paper did not contain what the prisoner represented, he should "collar" him. On examining the paper the prosecutor found that it contained nothing about the arrest of "Jack the Ripper," and, in fact, there was no further news in it than he had read at six o’clock.
The prisoner, in defense, said he could not read. He had been selling the papers in company with another man, who had told him what to call out. The other man had run away when he was arrested.
Mr. Lushington, after examining the paper, observed that it contained an account of the arrest of a man who was supposed to be the Whitechapel murderer, and in these circumstances the prisoner could not be convicted of the charge made against him. He therefore dismissed the case.
At Hampstead Police Court yesterday Joshia Neill, master chimney-sweep, of Back-lane, Hampstead, was charged, on a summons, before Messrs. Smith, Fletcher, and Powell, with using abusive and insulting words to Eliza Brunt, wife of a laborour, of New-end, Hampstead, whereby a breach of the peace might have been occasioned.
Complaintant and her witness, a married woman named Shotter, gave evidence to the effect that about a quarter-past eleven on the night of the 31st ult. they were returning homewards up Willow-road, a dark road by the side of Hampstead-heath, when the defendant suddenly appeared at their side, and called Mrs. Brunt a disgusting name, and annoyed her by his insulting language, which had some reference to the Salvation Army.
Defendant said that he was returning from seeing his brother off by the last tramcar from Hampstead, and, as he got near to complaintant, she turned round to her friend and exclaimed, "My God! Here’s Jack the Ripper!" The two women ran off, and he ran after them and said, "I’m not Jack the Ripper;’ I’m Joshia Neill, of Back-lane." He spoke to a constable, and told him what had happened.
Complaintant and her witness both denied that anything was said about "Jack the Ripper." Complaintant said that defendant had been drinking, and had insulted her before.
The bench fined defendant 10s., including costs, which was paid.