HC Deb 07 July 1817 vol 36 cc1304-6
Mr. Bennet

presented another report of the committee on the Police of the Metropolis. The committee he stated, had made great progress in the discharge of the duty committed to it, though a considerable part of it still remained unfinished. The committee had classified its labours under different heads. The first of those was, the system of licencing public houses, its opinions on which were already before the House. The report which he had now to present related to the system of rewards on convictions, commonly called blood-money; to the increase of juvenile delinquency, and the transportation system. As to the system of rewards, or blood-money, the witnesses had been unanimously of opinion that it ought to be abolished; instances had been adduced in which persons had forsworn themselves for the sake of the rewards. In the last year there had been three trials for conspiracies to produce convictions for the sake of the rewards; and to show the extent to which the system of obtaining these rewards had gone, it was stated that officers had made a practice of swearing persons to be vagrants, for the parliamentary reward of 10s. each, and it was so easy a way of getting money, that some of them doubted whether it was not better than catching felons.—As to the increase of juvenile delinquency, he should state a few facts. In 1813, there were committed to Newgate 62 boys under 16 years of age, of whom one was 6 years of age, 3 of 10 years, and 3 of 11 years. In 1814, 98 boys under 16 were committed; 4 of them of 9 years, 8 of them of 10 years, and 12 of them of 11 years of age. In 1815, 98 boys under 16 were committed; and in 1816, 116 of the same age. In 1816, there were committed 1,683 persons under 20; of these 1,281 were of 17 and under, and 957 of those of 17 years of age and under were committed for felonies. From the 25th of August 1814, to October 1816, 200 boys had been in custody. Of these 23 had been in custody for the first offence; one aged 16 had been 40 times in custody, and another had been 80 times in custody; and 170 of them had been from 8 and 4 to 20 times in custody, for different offences. Of these 200, there were convicted 141; 26 of them capitally, the youngest of these was 9£ years old; 42 were transported, the youngest of whom was 11; and 73 were imprisoned for different terms. Of these 200, two-thirds were under 14 and down to 8 years of age. The remaining one-third were from 14 to 17 years of age. Of these 200 miserable beings, two-thirds could neither read nor write.—On the subject of transportation, it appeared that since 1812, 4,659 persons had been transported to Botany Bay, of whom 3,978 were males and 681 females. Of these, 1,116 were under 21; of whom 5 were of 11 years, 7 of 12 years, 17 of 13 years, 32 of 14 years, and 65 of 15 years of age. Of the 4,659 persons, 2,055 were transported for life, 726 for 14 years, and 1,916 for 7 years. Of 2,038 who were on board the hulks in 1815, there were 111 under 20 years of age, amongst whom one was of 11, two of 12, and 4 of 14 years of age. The expenses of New South Wales from 3 798 to 1813, were 2,435,325l. The hulks in the same period had occasioned an expense of 948,613l., and had increased from 30 or 40,000l. to 93,695l. which it was in 1813. The total expense of the two establishments in the fifteen years were 3,383,938l. or 225,588l. a-year. Though the expense of this system of punishment was so great, it answered no good purpose, and moreover occasioned great injustice, and an increase of punishment never contemplated by the judges who passed sentence. The persons who were transported for seven years had no means of returning, and their punishment was thus equivalent to transportation for life. Women who wished to return to England, prostituted themselves to obtain a passage, and those who did return were not at all improved in morals or habits. He hoped, during the recess, that members would turn their attention to this important subject.

Sir S. Romilly

hoped that the important matters contained in the report would receive the serious consideration of the House. It would be a reproach to parliament if some steps were not taken to remedy the abuses which had been pointed out. As to the subject of transportation, it should be remarked how large a proportion of the persons transported were for seven years. Many of these were transported when a large portion of their term had expired. Thus, to the term of their punishment was added the whole time which must elapse before they were able to obtain a passage in return to this country. On these subjects, and on the increase of young offenders— the conspiracies to recover rewards—the public-houses, the notorious resorts of thieves—known as such by the police-officers, but not known (for so it appeared) to the magistrates, the House was called on to adopt some effectual measure, as there was no subject more important to the morals of the whole country than the police of the metropolis.

Mr. Butterworth

bore testimony to the extraordinary zeal and diligence evinced by the hon. chairman of the committee who was entitled to the thanks of the country at large. He hoped the subjects of the report would be taken up in another session. An instance had come to his knowledge, in which, for the purpose of obtaining the parliamentary reward of 80l. police-officers had paid counsel to prosecute persons who had entered into a squabble in the street without any malicious motives.