11 JULY 1987, Page 13

One hundred years ago

THE good and the bad quality of the new House of Commons came out strongly on Tuesday night. Members of all parties united to censure the Home Secretary because he had, as they thought, refused justice to a milliner's forewoman. That was right, but the House, we fear, was moved by a surge of emotion at least as much as by reason. Miss Cass, forewoman to a Mrs Bowman, a milliner, was walking in Regent Street at half-past 9 on the 28th ult., when she was arrested by a police- man and charged at the Marlborough Street Station as a prostitute, with annoying gentlemen by solicitations. On the following day, the policeman was the only witness; but he swore that he had noticed her for six weeks. The poor girl was vouched for by her em- ployer, and seems to be past question an innocent workwoman who had only been three weeks in London, and was out on her own proper business. The Magistrate, however, Mr Newton, with grave indiscretion, failed to swear Mrs Bowman, believed the policeman's un- supported story, and dismissed the case with words which meant, 'Go, and sin no more.' Those who read the case thought — justly, as far as we can see — that the girl was oppressed, and the Home Secretary was last week asked to interfere. Mr Matthews refused, and the refusal was bitterly commented on all over England, the idea being that the policeman either made a careless blun- der as to identity, or intended to levy black-mail, and that the Magistrate's language was an abuse of his position.

The Spectator, 9 July 1887