HC Deb 03 April 1856 vol 141 cc387-428

said, that in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice, he considered that it was worthy of attention as concerning the state of crime in this country, and as involving the question whether the alarming increase in the number of criminal offences of late years was due to recent legislation or some other cause. The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had given notice of his intention to propose an Amendment upon the Motion. His (Mr. Scott's) Motion was for a Select Committee to consider how far and in what direction recent legislation, and the substitution of other punishment for transportation, had influenced the existing amount of crime. The right hon. Baronet's Amendment was for a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the Act 16 & 17 Vict. c. 99, intituled, "An Act to substitute in certain cases other Punishment in lieu of Transportation." He should have been glad if he could have adopted that Amendment; indeed, he would much rather, for his part, that the whole question had been in other hands than his own. But, as regarded the difference between the Motion and the Amendment, if the former were too wide in its scope, certainly the latter was much too narrow. The right hon. Baronet had limited his Amendment to the operation of an Act of Parliament which had certainly exercised a material influence upon the criminal jurisprudence of the country, but which might be expected shortly to expire; and his (Mr. Scott's) Motion, though wide, was neither vague nor indefinite. He would not now enter into a review of the operation of our criminal code of late years; but this passing remark he must make, that of late years the legislation and feeling of the country had universally tended to diminish the amount of punishment for crime, in the hope that by so doing they would diminish the amount of crime also. Unfortunately, however, he believed, that instead of crime decreasing with the diminution of punishment, the reverse was the fact; that crime had increased, and that, perhaps, the feeling of sentimentality in favour of the criminal, and the disposition to award a lighter punishment than the crime deserved, had tended rather to increase than diminish the amount of crime. Take in the first instance the case of juvenile offenders, and those who were subjected to imprisonment for the first time. He was inclined to think that a boy, when first imprisoned, was more likely to be encouraged than checked in his career of crime by the very briefness of the imprisonment; that, instead of becoming a reformed character he left prison, a confirmed offender, and that in that way the criminal list of the country became augmented. He had that morning seen, in one of the principal metropolitan prisons, a lad under fourteen years of age who was now in prison for the twenty-sixth time. His sentence was two months' imprisonment. He was employed in picking oakum, sitting all day long among some 150 others, and most probably teaching, rather than learning, bad habits to the less hardened criminals around him. It had been a great error in recent legislation with regard to crime, that all Committees of that House had carried on inquiries into isolated branches of the subject, and that the matter had not been taken up so as to enable legislation to embrace the whole question. But he (Mr. Scott) would, venture to say, that though many of those reports were valuable, there was not one of them of a nature to enable the House to legislate on the larger subject, the main question, as to the cause of the increase of crime in the country. He had consequently felt it to be his duty to bring that question before Parliament, more especially as no one else had proposed to do so, and as the Government were silent on the subject, and its object was to seek a wider range by which general legislation on that most important matter might be effected. Therefore it was that he thought a Committee ought not to be appointed to inquire into the operation of the 16 & 17 Vict. c. 99, solely, but to consider how far and in what direction recent legislation, and the substitution of other punishment for transportation, had influenced the existing amount of crime. In one prison—that in which the lad he had just spoken of was confined—there were 900 prisoners, of whom 600 were women; 200 of them being in one room, and 100 in one dormitory; in one room were congregated those stained with every crime, the worse contaminating the better till the whole were leavened, there was the doubly, quadruply, quintuply convicted felon associated with the little vagrant of fourteen years old. That was in Tothill Fields Prison, where there were three wards, in each one of which were 200 women, some of whom were felons, confined together with vagrant girls, knitting and picking oakum for employment. Besides the boy who had been imprisoned twenty-six times of whom he had spoken, there were others who had been convicted sixteen or seventeen times. The subject was one that ought to be brought forward with a voice of more authority than his, and which ought to meet with the attention of the Government. The Committees which had sat on the subject were endless. There had been Committees to inquire into prison discipline, Committees to inquire into the condition of convicts, Committees to inquire into the state of crime in the metropolis, in the agricultural, in the mining, in the manufacturing districts; Committees on criminal and destitute children; Reports and Returns on convict prisons, Reports of Prison Inspectors, gaol reports and returns. Every year there was some Report, or some returns, or some papers bearing on the question, but it had not been found possible to pick out of all those documents any result, although there were enough of minute details. A Bill was passed one year only to be amended by another the next, and all because none of our legislation dealt with the general subject; and when laws were enacted they were such as were opposed to the opinions of the Judges and other persons of experience in the matter. It was curious to observe the course which punishment for crime had taken of late years. With regard to capital punishments; happily, between 1829 and 1851 they had decreased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 460; but the real fact was that they were only 1 in 4,600; for only one in ten who were condemned to death suffered the extreme penalty of the law. In 1829, the number of persons suffering punishment of less than six months' imprisonment was 50 per cent, but at the present time it was 70 per cent; showing that out of 23,000 convictions only from 16,000 to 17,000 persons underwent imprisonment from six months downwards. These numbers comprised only the convictions on the graver charges tried at assizes and quarter sessions—nothing is known of the larger number of summary convictions and the increasing amount of brief periods of imprisonment. In all the data on which the consideration of the question was founded, in fact, you formed your judgment not on the whole amount of convicted crime, but on only 25 per cent of it, for summary convictions were not included, and they were 75 per cent of the whole number of convictions. The data on which you went with regard to the amount of crime were, therefore, most inefficient, and fallacious. They, were, also equally deficient in relation to the cost of crime. The estimates for criminal expenses had more than doubled within the last eight years. They were, in 1848, £1,440,000; in 1856, £2,650,000. That, however, was not all that the country paid; there arc charges for criminals, for prisons and police upon every separate county, city, and borough far greater than the Parliamentary Estimates. That was another reason why he (Mr. Scott) could not accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. Then there was another alarming fact. The increase of the population of this country, though rapid beyond any other country, except, perhaps, Holland and one or two more, was surpassed by the increase in the prison population; a most appalling fact after all that had been effected. There passed annually through the gaols of this country a greater number of criminals than the population of almost any one of the three counties first in alphabetical order in the list—Bedfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire; and in twelve years the number of criminals who had annually passed through gaols in Great Britain was equal to the popu- lation of the county of Middlesex. Now that was a state of things which demanded an immediate and rigorous inquiry. In 1826 a Committee of that House, which was presided over by the noble Member for London (Lord J. Russell), stated that the increase of crime from 1815 up to that time, as compared with the period from 1804 to 1815, was owing to the peace, which had brought with it a number of disbanded soldiers. But 1854 and 1855 were not years of peace, on the contrary, they were years of war; and if peace brought such disastrous results as those in 1816, it might be expected that war in 1854–55 would cause a diminution of crime. But 1854 showed an increase of 10½ per cent on crime over the preceding year, and of 7½ per cent over the average of the ten preceding years. It was incumbent, therefore, with another peace at hand—which be hoped would be lasting—to inquire without delay into the causes of the increase of crime, with the view to legislating promptly for its prevention. The prison population of 1854 was not less than 110,000 persons; and taking adults and juveniles at sessions and assizes, there were, in 1850, no fewer than 142,094 persons confined, exclusive of criminals and debtors. In point of fact, the prison population amounted to nearly one in 144 of the population of the country. With respect to ticket-of-leave men, the Act 99 of 16 & 17 Vict, came into operation when there was employment in the Army, the Navy, and the Militia open to them without much inquiry; and it might have been hoped that this facility would have exercised a material influence upon the decrease of crime in the country. But such was not the case. Lord Brougham in one House, and the right hon. Member for Cambridge University in the other, had suggested lengthening the period of surveillance; but that suggestion had not been adopted. The number of convicts entitled to be discharged under the Act in the four years from 1853 to 1857 was 6,750; and it might have been reasonably hoped that the Government would have been in a position to show that the state of things had been ameliorated, and that the working of the Act was satisfactory. He knew it was supported by the great authority of Colonel Jebb, the inspector general of prisons, than whom the Government or the country had not a more able, efficient, or zealous servant, but he thought that Colonel Jebb had been carried away with too sanguine expecta- tions. That gentleman had stated, that out of 3,829 convicts who had been discharged with tickets of leave, only 2¾ per cent had had their licences revoked, and that the Secretary of State for the Home Department having sent a circular to the visiting magistrates requesting that they would report every case of a licensed ticket-of-leave man who had been reconvicted, the number up to August, 1855, was 97; and up to October, 1855, it did not exceed 100 persons. But in calling on the visiting magistrates to report how many ticket-of-leave men were reconvicted, the Home Secretary gave the magistrates no means of knowing who were ticket-of-leave men, so that they had to grope in the dark, and had no means of making a proper return. Colonel Jebb added, in the same Report, that he believed a more rigid examination into the subject would establish the fact, that a far greater number than might be anticipated of these released convicts were doing well, because he was satisfied that the corrective training and discipline of the prisons had been attended ed with a marked success. What is the meaning of doing well—gaining an ample livelihood by any means, or gaining an honest livelihood?—the latter he greatly doubted. In a more recent Report, Colonel Jebb's statistics showed that about 8 or 9 per cent relapsed into crime; and he (Mr. Scott) was informed that the latest returns which the Government could supply would show that of 4,612 released convicts, only 258, or about 5½ percent, had forfeited their licences. He certainly thought that that was a rather over-sanguine view of the matter, because he know that in one county in Scotland it was stated that the reconvictions of prisoners amounted to nearly 100 per cent; while in France, Norway, and most of the English counties, the proportion was upwards of 30 per cent. He had written to the head constables of every county in England for information upon the subject. From three he had received no reply; five said that they were unable to furnish the information sought; and the head constable of a metropolitan county stated that, although he would be very glad to afford every information in his power, it was the policy of the Home Office to keep the constables in perfect ignorance upon the matter. The returns from other counties show that the relapses, instead of being 2¾, or 8, or 9 per cent, were actually 31½ per cent, which was, he thought, much more likely to be correct than the Gover- nment return. The Government, out of a feeling of consideration for the convicts, concealed their names; but when their names were concealed, how was it possible for the visiting magistrates to find them out? He believed, in fact, that they did not find them out, and that the return of 31½ per cent did not represent anything like the absolute number of ticket-of-leave men who again relapsed into crime. By the system pursued with regard to the ticket-of-leave men, the first knowledge that the police had of the release of a felon whom they knew had been prosecuted to conviction was, by accidentally meeting him at large. If the names of prisoners were concealed with the view of their being more easily absorbed in the population after their term of imprisonment was over, how were the visiting magistrates to know who were reconvicted or who not? and therefore any returns they could give were altogether fabulous. A wrong-headed system had been pursued in the legislation on this subject, for legislation had been carried on on a principle which was opposed to the opinion of all the authorities on criminal law. The law which was in operation had been abandoned against the opinion of the Judges, and another had been adopted which was also directly in the teeth of the opinion of those authorities; and that such a system should Lave resulted only in 31½ per cent of ticket-of-leave men being reconvicted was really astonishing. But the number of reconvictions was not 31½ per cent of all the ticket-of-leave men, but of all the cases that were known, for everything had been done to conceal those men from the notice of the police. The returns he (Mr. Scott) obtained were from the chief constables of the rural police, whose districts, as soon as ticket-of-leave men were known, they were forced to leave and go into the more crowded population of the towns. He had applied to the Metropolitan Commissioners of Police for a return of the number of ticket-of-leave men who were known in the London district and the number of those who have been reconvicted, but Sir Richard Mayne declined to give them; and it also appeared that no return was made to the Home Office of the number of ticket-of-leave men in the metropolitan gaols, as it was not wanted. With regard to the ticket of leave, the first thing a released prisoner did with it, after he received his gratuity, was to burn it, for it was to him a certificate of a bad and not of a good character, He (Mr. Scott) was acquainted with a ticket-of-leave man, and he knew that the first thing he did when he came out of prison, was to celebrate the event by a festivity in a public-house. He only did two days' work, and after that he got employed by a "fence;" and when the time came for him to receive the second instalment of his gratuity, the clergyman whose duty it was to pay it, said he did not like to give it him, for he knew he had not done a stitch of work for two months. But afterwards the clergymen stated that the man had come to church and taken to work, and that he had again hopes that the man would reform. He (Mr. Scott), however, thought that he only reformed sufficiently to entitle him to get the whole of his gratuity. The difficulty in dealing with this question was not so much with reference to the prejudice of the moral classes of society against ticket-of-leave men, as the feeling of the immoral classes against them. It was true that few, if any, persons liked to employ these men; but worse than that, there was a strong suspicion against them, on the part of their old associates, who did all in their power to lead them back into crime. It had been stated by the Governor of Parkhurst that a licensed boy stated that on his release his former associates in theft went to him, and would have compelled him to steal if he had not ran away, and joined a recruiting party, and enlisted for a soldier. That was fortunate for him; but there was now peace, and every man might not be able to go to a recruiting party. The system of keeping the police in the dark about ticket-of-leave men was a most unwise course, and was most unfair towards society, towards the police, and the ticket-of-leave men themselves. He believed that if the superintendence of the police over ticket-of-leave men was greater, farmers and other persons would more readily employ them. Besides, it was not expected by the country or Parliament that the law would have been carried out in the manner in which it was. That had been strongly urged by Earl Grey in a debate on the subject in the House of Lords, and he recommended a very different course to be pursued. The result of the system as it now existed was that the counties were increasing their police, and yet the amount of undetected crime was greater than in former years. To obtain some information on the question, he had inquired at the South-Western Railway of the amount of crime detected on their premises; and he found that, in 1853, there had been two criminals discovered; in 1854, six; in 1855, twelve; and in the months of January and February, 1856, the number was six; so that there were three times as many criminals in the first two months of the present year as there had been in twelve months two years ago. The duties of the police had been increased on account of the ticket-of-leave men, and, in fact, there had been distributed through the population a number of professors and teachers of crime. There had likewise of late years been an alarming increase of crime. He did not mean to say that that was the case with regard to crimes accompanied by violence, but with regard to felonies, such as larcenies and so on. He had before him some remarks of the late Mr. Serjeant Adams, written a fortnight before he died, who said that the public were not aware of the state of crime in the metropolis, or that the criminal population formed a distinct educated, well-trained class; that it was necessary that our criminal system should be reconsidered, since transportation had been done away; the consequence of which was that every ticket-of-leave man was a professed thief from the time that he was released. It would seem, then, that by this system you were rather inoculating and infecting the remainder of society with crime than reforming the ticket-of-leave men themselves. It had been lately announced that henceforth those who were sentenced since 1853, for a given term, should not receive their discharge at the end of the shorter period of penal servitude; but he thought such an alteration would inflict a relative injustice upon them as compared with others who had been sentenced, perhaps for the very same offence, to the same punishment, and who were allowed to go at large before the term expired. If it were true, as had been alleged, that the hope of having a part of his term of punishment taken off in consequence of good conduct was an effectual motive to induce the criminal to reform, why should the Government commit the inconsistency of excluding a number of criminals, in whose cases no distinction could be found, from the operation of a system which was asserted to have been successful? As for the difficulty which the ticket-of-leave men experienced in finding employment in the world, it was stated, at the interesting meeting held in St. Martin's Hall, of which some account had been given by Mr. Mayhew, that the ticket-of- leave men who appeared there were chiefly hawkers and costermongers. The poor fellows could not find any more regular occupation; for who would take a butler or a clerk from Pentonville, or a nurserymaid who came out of Millbank House of Correction? They were driven to that sort of quasi occupation, hawking things about, and they carried it on at some disadvantage, for it seemed their feelings were so tender, that a ticket-of-leave man would feel very much hurt if he carried a basket or a bag by the police attempting to see what it contained. In order to show the opportunities which offer, and the temptations incident to hawking, and the object for which the traffic may be pursued, he would mention what came under his own view. He (Mr. Scott) once met one of those hawkers with a basket of dishes and plates, or some such articles, coming into the garden of his house, and said to him, "You had better not come here; there are no customers here for yon." The man then turned towards the back of the premises, and he (Mr. Scott) said to him, "You will find no customer there but the bloodhound, and he is rather an ugly one." The fellow then went away, and a few days afterwards he (the hon. Gentleman) saw him again, when brought up before the magistrates; indeed, it was no other than Levi Harwood, who some months later was hanged for murdering a clergyman at Frimley. These were the hawkers; and it was not fair on the ticket-of-leave men that they should be obliged to resort to occupations in which they were constantly tempted by such opportunities to crime, prowling about people's houses, as they did, looking at the doors and windows, and seeing how they might break in. In Scotland, he believed, for two years past, hardly any great offence had been committed which was not to be traced to one of the ticket-of-leave men. There was a reciprocity between convicts; the ticket-of-leave man for Berwickshire, for example, would go into Northumberland to commit his crime, and send the Northumbrian to do the like in Berwickshire; the ticket-of-leave men going from one county into another, to practise their depredations more safely, because less known. It was, therefore, important that, if the ticket-of-leave system continued, the Government should obtain and afford the local constabulary the most accurate and detailed information of their habits and places of residence, and all their proceedings; and that the ticket of leave should be made a real security, as it ought to be, renewable from time to time, it might be every three mouths, instead of being issued once for all, as the custom was at present. It had been said that under the existing system the tickets of leave might be revoked whenever the convict was found in bad company; but he would ask the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary in how many instances had that been done? He believed that as yet there had been only two revocations of the ticket of leave, without a conviction of some fresh offence, out of the whole number of 400 or 500 tickets which had been granted. And in order to show the reluctance of Government to keep watch over these men, he could mention a case where a ticket-of-leave man was tried, but whom the jury did not convict; he got off by a flaw in the indictment, and the Judge who tried him wrote to the Secretary of State, saying that there could be no moral doubt of his guilt; and yet, against the Judge's recommendation, the ticket of leave was not revoked. There was an instance of revocation of licence from a man who harboured a murderer, but even that was not done until public remonstrances were made upon the subject. It was a man in Gloucestershire, to whose house an acquaintance, who murdered an old woman, had resorted shortly before the murder, and to whose case public attention was particularly drawn by a letter to The Times. It was only in these exceptional cases that the Government had revoked the ticket of leave without a conviction. He (Mr. Scott) trusted that he might have been misinformed as to the number of tickets which had been revoked; hut he was convinced that the Government did not exercise over this class of persons that surveillance which was exercised over criminals by the French Government, and without which it was not safe to allow such persons to be at large in a populous country. He objected to limit the inquiry as was proposed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), because there were, in his opinion, other causes of crime to which it ought to he extended. One of these was the influence of the ablebodied wards in our workhouses. He believed that a statement made by the chaplain of Reading Gaol, that the ablebodied women's wards were most contaminating places, was perfectly true. This opinion was confirmed by the statement of a master of a workhouse, who doubted if they were contaminating, be- cause all the women who came there were so had already, that scarcely two in fifty were otherwise. Another subject into which the Committee ought to inquire was the shortness of the terms of imprisonment imposed upon children. Eighty per cent of the young persons committed to prison were so committed for periods of less than a month's duration, just long enough to ruin their character and render them familiar with a gaol, without doing them any good. A further subject for inquiry was the labour performed by prisoners. Let the House contrast the cases of two labouring men, one in and the other out of prison. The latter had to work in all weathers for about 10s. a week, on which ho probably had to maintain a wife and family; while the former, if sentenced to a period of six months' imprisonment, had something like luxury within his reach. A special committee of magistrates on one of the metropolitan gaols reported, in the year 1854, that, during the winter, the prisoners usually passed fourteen hours in bed. The honest working man would, spend only six or eight hours in bed. Picking oakum, too, though not a pleasant occupation, was not such severe work as was often performed by honest labourers. But, then, what were we to do with our prisoners? On that subject the Committee might, he thought, properly inquire whether in this country other employment could not be provided for them than that in which they were associated in large bodies, as at present. In France convict labour was applied both to private and to public works, and he could not see why we should not apply it in the working of slate quarries, the working of iron ore, draining Irish bogs, and reclaiming waste land. With regard to private reformatories, he thought those institutions were of the greatest possible advantage, and did much to reclaim and reform the criminal population; but they alone were not sufficient. That brought him to the consideration—had we done right in abandoning transportation? For his own part, he thought it a great mistake on the part of the colonial authorities to have abandoned transportation, and at the present moment, when, from the disbanding of so many soldiers, a considerable increase of crime might be anticipated, it was very advisable that Parliament should reconsider the law on this subject. The Judges of the three kingdoms, as well as the Recorders of our cities and boroughs, were to a man oppos- ed to the abandonment of transportation. [Sir G. GREY remarked that it was not altogether abandoned.] Yes, the Government still maintained the system in the ease of those sentenced for fourteen years and upwards, but his belief was, that they had much better sentence to transportation those who were young in crime and who would help to build up an honest and moral population, instead of letting them loose again in this country to resume their old courses and become confirmed offenders. It was said, the Australian colonies would not take our criminals, but those who stated this did not reflect that Australia was very nearly as large as all Europe put together. Surely our criminals were not to be excluded from such an immense extent of territory. Nothing could be more satisfactory than the account given by the Governor of Western Australia of the capacity of that colony to receive them. That gentleman rather asked us to send out more convicts than to hold our hands, and he stated that, notwithstanding the number of convicts admitted there, the social condition of Western Australia might undergo comparison with any other part of Her Majesty's dominions. That state of things the Governor ascribed to the amount of liberty enjoyed by a ticket-of-leave holder so long as he conducted himself with propriety, and to the severity with which the magistrates dealt with those who relapsed into crime. The probation there was much more severe, and the surveillance, when a man obtained a ticket of leave, more accurate, than were thought necessary in our own densely peopled country; and that he considered was a point of much importance, and ought to receive consideration at home. Colonel Jebb, in a late Report, declared that under the present system of discharge the majority of juvenile offenders found their way back to their old haunts, undoing in a few weeks all the efforts made to eradicate their old habits during their period of confinement; and he regretted that circumstances had arisen which prevented those young men from recommencing their career in a distant colony. He (Mr. Scott) thought, then, that the Government ought to take into consideration the propriety of re-establishing transportation as regarded both women and those young offenders who were sentenced for a shorter period than fourteen years. They would also, he believed, do well to imitate the example so successfully set in Belgium, and establish a reformatory of their own. When they considered how large a criminal juvenile population existed in England, he thought every one must admit that the reformatory system in this country ought to be taken up by the Government. Government ought to adopt something like the institution he had alluded to, and not leave so important a social duty to be discharged by mere private benevolence. Reformatory schools should be established for minor offenders. It was well known that the county of Middlesex had obtained an Act of Parliament two years ago for the establishment of reformatory schools; but there had been such a laxity and such tardiness on the part of the county in carrying out the provisions of that Act, that he thought it the duty of Government to propose a measure of a more national and extensive character for the reformation of children convicted of minor offences. He feared he had detained the House much too long on the subject, though he thought they might occupy themselves with great advantage in discussing a question which involved matters of deep interest to the social well-being of the community. He had endeavoured to point out to the Government the line of duty they ought to take, and that it was incumbent upon them to establish reformatory institutions of a national character, whereby children who had neither parents nor guardians to protect them might be protected by the State in habits of honest industry rather than as offenders in gaols. He would now beg to thank the House for having afforded him the opportunity of bringing this important question forward, and should conclude by moving that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the substitution of other punishment for transportation.


in seconding the Motion said, impressed as he was with the great importance of the subject, he exceedingly regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had placed an Amendment on the paper, should not have taken a more enlarged view of the question and one which would have embraced the entire object which was sought to be attained by his hon. Friend, the Member for Berwickshire. At the same time he was sure that no one was more deeply impressed with the gravity of the subject than the right hon. Baronet. But if the labours of the Committee were restricted to an inquiry into the operation of the Act of the 16 &c 17 Vict., c. 99, which substituted in certain cases other punishment in lieu of transportation, he much doubted whether any practical good would result. The object of his hon. Friend (Mr. F. Scott) was not to institute an inquiry merely as to the operation of that Act, but to inquire as to what were the best means of preventing the increase of crime. He, however, hoped, that no division would take place on the present occasion, but that his hon. Friend would be induced by what might fall from the right hon. Baronet, to withdraw his Motion, and adopt the course which the Government suggested. He would trouble the House with a few statistics on criminal offences. Previous to the passing of the enactment he had alluded to, crime was increasing with rapid steps. The commitments from 1834 to 1840 were 162,502; from 1841 to 1847 they were 193,445, being an increase of 30,943. From 1848 to 1854, the commitments were 196,864. The increase in 1854 over 1853 was 2,302; which, added to the increase between 1840 and 1847, made a total increase of 33,245. The rate of increase of population was a duplicate in fifty-eight years; while crime doubled itself in this country in sixty-four years. So that crime and population nearly kept pace with each other, and unless something was done to arrest the progress of crime, the social condition of society would be deplorable. The Returns that had been made in the other House of Parliament established the fact that the ticket-of-leave system had been an eminent failure, and that there could be nothing more unhappily had recourse to for the end desired. Those Returns showed that since 1853 licences or tickets of leave had been granted to 5,052 convicts; 447 of those had been since convicted, or charged with subsequent offences; 179 of the licences had been revoked, and 554 had been refused or withheld for misconduct; so that no less than 1,180 convicts out of 5,152 had been found unworthy of tickets of leave. That Return was pregnant with matter in regard to the state of crime in this country. A few days ago an hon. Member stated that in one night four attempts had been made on his house by a ticket-of-leave man and two others—his coadjutors. If it were asked how it was discovered that the man was a licensed convict, that was answered by the fact that the party was taken up the very next day for another offence. Was such a system, he would ask, to be encouraged? Was every honest householder to be exposed to the nightly attacks of hardened men, who, after having perpetrated every description of crime, were let loose to renew their plunder on society? If, indeed, the Government were restricted in their means of employing convicts to the limits of this country alone the difficulty of the question would be very greatly increased; but that was not the case. There still existed the means of sending criminals abroad, if the law itself had not imposed any restriction. One object, therefore, of a Select Committee would be to ascertain to what places such criminals could be sent, and what were the best means of sending them to those places. But, even if it were not advisable to send convicts abroad, was it true that there were no means of employing them in this country? Let them be employed on public works, and let it be distinctly understood that a certain rate of remuneration would be made for their labour—part of it to be applied to their own sustenance while under sentence, and the remainder to accumulate to their advantage and to be received by them when the term of their sentence should have expired. By that system the principle of self-interest would be appealed to, and the best incentive to good conduct be afforded. But by the existing system a man, on the expiration of his sentence, was turned hack upon society a beggar, and his only resource was to seek his former associates and resort to his old vicious pursuits. Would it not be much better to devise, if possible, some means of giving useful employment to such criminals, that they might at least have a chance of again returning to society reclaimed and better men? In the hope that a Select Committee might be able to accomplish that most desirable object, it was with much pleasure that he seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a Select Committee be appointed, to consider how far and in what direction recent Legislation, and the substitution of other punishment for Transportation, has influenced the existing amount of crime.


I quite agree, Sir, with the hon. Gentleman who has seconded the Motion, in hoping that there will be no division upon this question. I think it very unnecessary that there should be a division upon it. My apprehensions, in reference to the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. F. Scott) have been fully confirmed by his speech and the speech of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. L. Davies). I was afraid, looking at the notice the hon. Member for Berwickshire had given, that, by assenting to the Motion we should commit ourselves to a very vague and indefinite inquiry, including an immense variety of subjects, probably occupying the remainder of the Session, and merely leading to the accumulation of a great mass of evidence, without any practical result. In addition to inquiring into the operation of the Act of 1853, which abolished transportation in a large majority of cases, substituted penal servitude, and authorised the granting letters of licence to convicts, or, as they are more commonly called tickets of leave, the hon. Member for Berwickshire proposes to inquire into the whole subject of reformatories, into the workhouse system, which he thinks has a great tendency to promote crime, and, indeed, into all collateral matters in any way relating to the criminal population of the country. Now, Sir, if a Committee was appointed with the views of the hon. Member for Berwickshire and the hon. Member for Cardigan, I do not see why they should not inquire into the licensing system, because nothing is more common and, I am afraid, more true, than the assertion that the number of public-houses and beer-shops tends to the increase of crime. There is scarcely a subject into which inquiry might not be made by a Committee appointed in the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member. I think, therefore, it is desirable to define and limit the inquiry, so that the labours of the Committee may have some practical object and result. But, in saying that, I have no wish to exclude from consideration subjects which really have reference to secondary punishment and the treatment of convicts. I do not think the Amendment which I shall propose will have that effect, but, if there be any doubt, I shall be very ready to enlarge its terms, and thus, I hope, obviate the necessity of any division. It will be much more satisfactory to have the details of the operation of the Act of 1853, regulating the present system of secondary punishment, in the form of a Report from a Committee, than in a speech delivered in this House; but I must be permitted to say that exaggerated notions as to the increase of crime seem to be entertained, which are not warranted by documentary evidence, and are inconsist- ent with fact. In the criminal returns prepared by Mr. Redgrave the total number of commitments for trial in each year for the last twenty-one years is shown, excluding summary convictions, but including, of course, the graver offences disposed of at sessions and assizes. In judging of the increase of crime, not merely the number of persons, but the nature of the offences should be borne in mind. I will not go through these figures year by year, but I will take one or two years at intervals. In 1834 the number of commitments was 22,451; in 1854, 29,359. There is certainly an increase of offences, but the important element of the increase of population is not stated. I will take the two years of the decimal census. In 1841 the number of commitments was 27,760; in 1851, 27,960; and in the interval the population of England and Wales increased more than 2,000,000. No doubt, last year, there was an increase of 2,000 in the number of commitments as compared with 1851, but that increase is explained in detail in the Report of Mr. Redgrave, who, in the course of it, observes that it is a satisfaction to know that offences attended with violence have, on the whole, decreased. With regard to the increase of expense now incurred in the punishment of criminals, as compared with former years as alluded to by the hon. Member for Berwickshire, it should be borne in mind that while the Act of 1853, abolishing transportation in many cases, required the erection of buildings, and the creation of new establishments, those expenses, once met, will not again recur to the same extent. No doubt the detention of criminals in this country does cause considerable expense; but that is a necessary result of the change of the law. It should also be borne in mind that comparisons of the expense now with the expense ten or twenty years ago are not fair, unless the transfer to the Consolidated Fund of the charges for the maintenance of all convicted prisoners and for prosecutions be taken into account. The hon. Member for Berwickshire objects to the limitation of the inquiry to the operation of the Act of 1853, because he says that Act is an expiring Act, and that as transportation is abandoned the licences will gradually diminish and finally be altogether extinguished, I would remind the hon. Member that the main object of the Act of 1853 was not to enable the Crown to grant limited and qualified par- dons, under licences, to convicts sentenced to transportation, but to abolish transportation in all cases in which the punishment was less than transportation for fourteen years. The great majority of sentences passed at assizes and quarter sessions were sentences for less periods; and, consequently the Act of 1853 did practically abolish transportation in six-sevenths or more of the cases before liable to transportation. Well, Sir, what has been the result? In 1854, in England, Ireland, and Scotland, 399 persons were sentenced to transportation; whereas, in the year preceding the enactment there were no less than 3,059 persons so sentenced. I think that a most important change, but I collect from the speeches both of the hon. Mover and the hon. Seconder of the Motion that they wish to revert to the system of transportation instead of adhering to the system of penal servitude. The hon. Member for Berwickshire says the system of transportation was hastily abandoned, without regard to the opinion of the Judges, who, before a Committee of the House of Lords, unanimously expressed their sense of its value and importance. So far from its being hastily abandoned, it was absolutely impossible for the Government to adhere to the system of transportation without becoming involved in a serious quarrel and contention with some of our most important colonies in Australia. In the statement that transportation to Western Australia is almost abandoned, I can assure the hon. Member he is totally mistaken. Every convict fit to undergo hard labour is sent to Western Australia, the colonists being most anxious to obtain their services in the erection of public works and the making of roads, with a view to render the colony more inviting to free settlers. A great inconvenience in administering the law arises from the large number of criminals who, from their previous habits of drunkenness and debauchery, or from other causes, have so worn out their constitutions that they arc really unfit for hard labour, and are obliged to be treated comparatively as invalids. They are not capable of that labour which is alone useful to the colony and is the only inducement to the colonists to receive them, and, we have not been able to send out a sufficient number of ablebodied convicts to meet the present wishes of that colony. I do not think it likely we shall revert to the sys- tem of transportation as it existed before 1853, but it is quite clear that, under the terms of my Amendment, the Committee will be able to consider the expediency of the change. The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. L. Davies) has misapprehended the result of the return of the number of convicts who have received tickets of leave. He says that of 5,152 ticket-of-leave men 1,100 or 1,200 had been found unworthy of the privilege. The 447 convicts who, after receiving letters of licence, have been convicted of or charged with subsequent offences, comprise all whom we know to have been committed for trial. There may, no doubt, be others who have brought themselves within the same category and who ought to be classed accordingly, but who may have escaped observation. Where ticket-of-leave men are again convicted of crimes which render them liable to sentences extending beyond the term of the former sentence, the licences are not revoked. Such a revocation would be superfluous, for, when the new sentence is passed, the old is merged in it as a matter of course. The 179 described in the return as convicts whose letters of licence have been revoked are included in the 447. They are prisoners who have been convicted of assaults, petty larcenies, and minor offences, and sentenced to terms of imprisonment shorter than those of their original sentence. Their licences, or tickets of leave, are of course withdrawn, and after enduring the punishment due to their subsequent offences, they are remitted to their former sentence. The number of convicts whose licences have been refused or withheld is 554. These are convicts from whom, owing to bad conduct in prison, their tickets have been withheld beyond the usual time, and who have never been at large. It should be remembered that there is a fixed period at the expiration of which the convict who has received a favourable report from the prison authorities is held to be entitled to a letter of licence, as was the case under the Australian transportation system. The period of imprisonment is proportioned to the length of the original sentence. It is a mistake to suppose that licences or tickets of leave (as they are usually termed) are awarded upon proof of reformation. Such an opinion is often entertained, but is wholly without foundation. They are withheld in cases of very bad conduct, but the grant of them must not be taken as a necessary indication that the recipients are reclaimed. In the great majority of cases convicts, unless they have transgressed the prison regulations and acted in such a manner as to incur an unfavourable report from the prison authorities, are, after a stated period of imprisonment, entitled as a matter of course to a ticket of leave. The reason is obvious. As long as a man is confined in a prison, where he is denied the opportunity of getting drunk and of associating with those who might lead him into temptation, he is evidently so circumstanced that it is impossible for him to afford the means of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion as to whether his reformation is genuine or not. No doubt the earlier returns laid before Parliament with respect to ticket-of-leave convicts were necessarily defective, owing to the want of accurate information; but I last year sent a Circular to the governors of all the prisons in the Kingdom, directing them to forward to the Home Office a Report of every case in which a man with a ticket of leave is again committed to prison, by which means more accurate information is obtained. An impression has gone abroad that it is usual to set the police on the track of these men, but this idea is altogether erroneous. The object of granting the licence is to give the convict a chance of obtaining an honest livelihood, and I am happy to say that since the Bill passed the demand for employment has been such that there has been no great difficulty in an able-bodied man getting honest occupation somewhere or another. In the metropolis the police have orders not to interfere with the ticket-of-leave men when there is reason to believe that they are sincerely desirous of procuring an honest livelihood. In cases where the police know a man to be the holder of a ticket of leave, and see that he is leading a suspicious life and associating with known bad characters, they have orders to warn him of the consequences to which he renders himself liable. The usual practice is to revoke the licence only in cases of conviction, but there have, no doubt, been cases where it has been withdrawn from men who associate with notorious thieves and are evidently leading a life of crime. It has been alleged that there is an injustice in giving a ticket of leave to a convict sentenced before the Act of 1853 to transportation, and in withholding it from one sentenced to a similar offence to penal servitude since the Act; but those who made this objection forget that the sen- tence in the former case may have been transportation for ten years, and in the latter only penal servitude for four. To have given the same privilege of conditional liberty to each of these offenders, so differently circumstanced, would have been manifest injustice. The sentence of penal servitude represented that portion only of a sentence of transportation which was spent in this country before the removal of the convict to a colony with a ticket of leave. The views of the Government which introduced the Act are so clearly expressed in the speech of the Lord Chancellor on the 11th of July, 1853, that I cannot do better than read an extract from it:— The usage has been that a great portion of the persons sentenced to transportation have not been, in fact, transported. A person who is now sentenced to transportation for fifteen years may be kept on public works for the fifteen years if the Executive think fit, though in practice that has never been done. Carrying out this practice, and sanctioning by legislative enactment what has been practically done, I have thought, in conjunction with my Colleagues, that a reasonable course would be to impose on persons who might now be transported a sentence as nearly as possible conformable to what would have been done by the Secretary of State in cases where the sentence of transportation has been pronounced but has not been carried into effect. The ordinary course has been this—that, where a party has been sentenced to transportation for seven years, he has been ordered to be imprisoned for two years, being kept during a part of the time in separate confinement, according to certain reformatory principles; then he has been sent for a year, a year and a-half or two years to public works at the hulks, or to Dartmoor, Portland, Pembroke, or other places; and then he has been transported for three or four years with a ticket of leave. This last part of the sentence we cannot, unfortunately, execute any longer; but what we may endeavour to do is, to adopt as nearly as possible what has actually been done in the case of those prisoners who, though sentenced to transportation, were not transported. We propose that, in those cases where a convict is now sentenced to be transported for seven years, he shall be kept in penal servitude for a term of four years. Of course the Crown will be able to remit a portion of the time on account of good behaviour or other circumstances."—[3 Hansard, cxxix. 12.] Such were the opinions of the Lord Chancellor on this question. He proposes as a substitute for transportation for ten years, penal servitude for six; for transportation for fifteen years, penal servitude for eight; for transportation above fifteen years, penal servitude for ten. It is clear that tickets of leave could not be granted to all classes of convicts indiscriminately without defeating the object the Government had in view. Lord Brougham suggested that it would be better to equalise the periods of transportation and penal servitude, it being understood that the duration of the penal servitude was to depend on the behaviour of the convict undergoing the sentence. I was not a member of the Government at the time the Bill was passed, but I believe the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) made a similar suggestion in this House, although the Government did not deem it expedient to adopt it. Any hon. Gentleman, however, who refers to the Act will see that the terms of penal servitude substituted for terms of transportation were of comparatively short duration, and represented only that period of punishment which was previously passed by convicts in this country. Parliament clearly intended, as I understand from the debates on the subject, that in the case of convicts sentenced to transportation tickets of leave should be given in this country instead of in the colonies, and that, in the case of prisoners sentenced to penal servitude tickets of leave should be granted only in particular and exceptional cases, the general rule being that the sentences should be fully carried into effect. The hon. Member for Berwickshire has referred to the difficulty experienced by convicts after their liberation in obtaining employment. That is undoubtedly the most difficult part of the question; and the difficulty arises from our having substituted for transportation a punishment carried into effect altogether in this country. The punishment of transportation, looking at it from our own position, had great advantages. It was advantageous to this country, because we got rid of a large number of criminals, who, after being sent to the colonies, scarcely ever returned here on the expiration of their sentences. The advantage to the convicts themselves was also very great, because men who had either obtained a qualified pardon or who had served out their sentences in the Australian colonies, found themselves in a quarter of the world where labour was in great demand—where, if they were so disposed, they might easily obtain an honest living, and where they speedily merged into the general mass of society. The colonists, however, regarded the system with very different feelings. Loud and no doubt just complaints were made of the evils which resulted from the dispersion of criminals among a colonial population which was advancing in wealth, intelligence, and numbers; and it was owing to these remonstrances, the justice of which to a great extent it is impossible to deny, that we felt ourselves called upon to sacrifice the advantages we had previously derived from transportation, in deference to the wishes of the colonists. A convict, when he leaves a prison in this country, whether with or without a ticket of leave, finds, under ordinary circumstances, a difficulty in obtaining work, owing to the competition for employment. Although, therefore, when he has quitted the prison he may be desirous of avoiding his old associates, he is in many cases thrown back upon crime as the only means of gaining a livelihood. During the last two years there has been great demand for labour in this country, and I think most of those convicts who have been honestly disposed have had the opportunity of obtaining work. I freely admit, however, that this is a part of the question which well deserves consideration, and under the Amendment I have to propose it might be made the subject of inquiry. I must say I dissent entirely from the suggestion which has been made during this and former debates, that after convicts have been discharged from public works at Portsmouth, Dartmoor, or elsewhere, with tickets of leave, they should be collected together and employed upon public works at a lower rate of wages than that which prevails in the ordinary labour market. I believe such a plan would be not only objectionable but impracticable. The convicts could not be shut up at night; they must live in the vicinity of the works upon which they are employed; and no doubt very strong and very just remonstrances would be made by the inhabitants of any neighbourhood in which it was proposed to form such an establishment. Then, again, the very association of these criminals would be most injurious. I think the great object should be to disperse them as much as possible throughout the country, to isolate them from their former associates, and to afford them every facility for losing the stamp of crime, instead of continuing them as a marked class employed upon public works, under the surveillance of the police. You would have no power to compel them to accept such employment, and by affording it to them I fear you would occasion very serious evils. I have before said I thought it desirable that, in some cases, convicts having tickets of leave should not be allowed to return to the places where their crimes had been committed. The general practice has been to allow holders of tickets of leave to go where they pleased within the kingdom, but in the case of thieves, for instance, who have been convicted two or three times, it has been thought desirable, in order to prevent them from returning to their former associates and becoming instructors in crime, to limit their tickets of leave, so as to prohibit them from returning to the scenes of their former crimes. This course, however, has been resorted to only in the case of convicts who, there was reason to believe, were habitual criminals. I hope the hon. Member for Berwickshire is now satisfied that my object in giving notice of an Amendment was not unduly to limit inquiry; I trust that without any division we may agree to refer the question to a Committee which may lead to practical and beneficial results.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "to" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "inquire into the operation of the Act 16 & 17 Vict. c. 99, intituled, 'An Act to substitute in certain cases other Punishment in lieu of Transportation,'" instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


Sir, the question of secondary punishment is at all times one of the highest public interest, but it becomes peculiarly interesting at the present moment in consequence of the system recently introduced of granting tickets of leave to convicts. I therefore think the House ought to feel deeply indebted to the hon. Member for Berwickshire for having called their attention to the subject. I think, also, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), on the part of the Government, has exercised a most wise and judicious discretion in acceding to an inquiry. I am disposed to agree with the right hon. Baronet that the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Berwickshire are somewhat too wide and comprehensive, and on the other hand, until I heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet, I conceived that the terms of his Amendment were rather too limited; but, after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, I trust there will be very little difference between us. I must, however, leave it to him to judge whether he thinks the terms of his Motion sufficiently comprehensive. I am disposed to think that the question of the policy or impolicy of transportation ought by no means to be excluded from the consideration of the Committee. I do not now wish to express any opinion on that important subject, but it is impossible to deny that a very strong feeling exists in the public mind against the retention of all our criminals in this country, and I think it would be highly imprudent to debar the Committee from entering into the question. I have failed to gather from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, whether he holds that the Committee would be at liberty not only to inquire into the operation of the Act of 1853, but also into the terms of that Act. For myself, I am by no means satisfied with them; and, even should the Committee decide—as is by no means unlikely—that transportation ought not to be revived, it would be all the more necessary, in my opinion, to reconsider that Act. It was passed by an exhausted Parliament, at the end of a long and laborious Session, almost without debate; and I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet will be of opinion that the Committee ought to have full liberty to enter into a consideration of its terms. I wish also to ask upon what principle the Government carry on the transportation which yet remains? In 1852, it was decided by the Government of Lord Derby to put an end to transportation to the extent to which it then prevailed; not that I claim any credit for the Government of Lord Derby for that decision, because all the public men of the day were of opinion that transportation, as it was then carried on, was no longer practicable; and whatever Government had been in office that must necessarily have been their decision. The right hon. Gentleman has to-night very much understated the force of the reasons which led to that decision. He has insisted solely, on the desire of the colonists of Van Diemen's Land that transportation should be done away with; but there was another ground of no less weight, which, even had the colonists petitioned in favour of it, must have led the Government to put a stop to the system. That was, the immense discoveries of gold in the Australian colonies. From the moment those discoveries assumed such immense magnitude, it became obviously impossible that this country should send her convicts for punishment to those auriferous regions whither a large part of our population was hurrying with the idea of en- riching themselves. Had the Government of Lord Derby remained in power, it would have devolved upon my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary (Mr. Walpole) to propose to Parliament a substitute for transportation; as it was, it became the duty of the present Prime Minister. I have been led, not only from the extent to which I happened to be officially connected with this great change, but also from the fact that I had always taken a deep interest in the subject, to devote my attention to the substitute which ought to be provided for transportation whenever it should be abolished. In the year 1852 I drew up a memorandum on the subject, from which, with the permission of the House, I will read a short extract or two in order to show what were my own individual opinions. I expressed myself thus:— I do not propose to put an end to transportation for the gravest crimes short of those which are now punished by death; it should remain, and in some part of Her Majesty's dominions places for the reception of convicts so sentenced must in this case be provided; but, in the present state of our convict colonies, we cannot continue to send them out there, as we do now. In a subsequent passage I said— I propose that long imprisonment should be substituted for sentences of seven and ten years' transportation, and that all criminals sentenced to more than ten years' transportation should be sent for the present to Western Australia. To some extent it would appear, that the practice of the Government concurs with the opinions I have here expressed. They have substituted long imprisonment for shorter periods of transportation, and they have also retained transportation to some extent. I confess I retain my opinion that, to whatever extent you continue to resort to transportation, it ought to be regarded as a gradation—a stage in the scale of punishment, coming between the extreme punishment of death and the longer periods of imprisonment which are substituted for short periods of transportation. When the noble Lord now at the head of the Government laid on the table of the House the Bill which is now the law on this subject, its first clause led me to believe that that was the intention of the Government. The first section of the Act runs thus:— After the commencement of this Act no person shall be sentenced to transportation who, if this Act had not been passed, would not have been liable to be transported for life or for a term of fourteen years or upwards; and no person shall be sentenced to transportation for any term less than fourteen years. I was in hopes that the Government took the same view of the subject which I did, and that transportation would be the chief secondary punishment. I called on the noble Lord to answer that question, and from the answer I received I gathered that no such distinction would be recognised, but that it would be open to the Home Office either to transport the graver class of criminals who had been sentenced to transportation, or to detain them in penal servitude. From that time to the present I have never understood upon what principle these sentences of limited transportation have been carried out, and my impression now is that, when a sentence of transportation is passed in our courts of law, no precise or definite meaning is attached to it. The last occasion on which such a sentence was passed was the remarkable case of Paul, Strahan, and Bates, the bankers, who were sentenced, I think most justly and wisely, to fourteen years' transportation. Am I right or wrong in thinking that the sentence so pronounced did not convey any intelligible meaning as to whether the prisoners were to go to Western Australia, Gibraltar, or Bermuda, or whether they were to be detained here in penal servitude, either at Portland or Dartmoor? I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman state that the sentences pronounced by our Courts should be precise and intelligible to all; for, in my judgment, nothing could be more desirable than that the Judge who passes sentence, as well as the prisoner who receives it, should not have the slightest doubt as to its real purport and effect. Passing to another branch of the subject, I did not say in 1853, as the right hon. Gentleman has represented, that I thought sentences of penal servitude ought to be for as long periods as the sentences of transportation for which they are substituted. But I do entertain the opinion—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take the question into his serious consideration and agree to refer it to the Committee—that the sentences of penal servitude are very much too short. For example, four years' penal servitude is no equivalent for seven years' transportation. Everyone acquainted with our Criminal Courts knows with what horror both the prisoner himself and his friends and relatives regarded a sentence of transportation, even for the comparatively short period of seven years. An expatriation for that time was looked upon as a complete severance from home and kindred, compared with which a sentence of penal servitude for four years in England, at the end of which time the prisoner knows that he will be able to return to his friends and his old habits of life, must appear to a young man—for it is important to recollect that the great majority of those who were sentenced to seven years' transportation were persons under twenty-five years of age—as a very slight punishment indeed, and cannot have that deterring effect at which we all aim, especially if, by granting a ticket of leave, you still further diminish the time during which the prisoner is to be separated from his friends and relations. As we go on in the scale of punishments, we find still wider differences between the old and the new systems. For transportation not exceeding ten years' penal servitude for not less than four years, or more than six years, has been substituted, and for transportation for fifteen years' penal servitude for not less than six or more than eight years. In my humble opinion, imprisonment in England for seven or eight years is not to be compared for a moment with expatriation for fifteen. Some of the very gravest offences in the list of crime—those which are ordinarily committed by our most hardened criminals—horse stealing, sheep-stealing, and housebreaking—offences which a few years ago were punished with death—were, for some time prior to the Act of 1853, punishable by transportation for fifteen years; and it is plain that if, instead of passing such a sentence, you tell a prisoner that he is to be shut up in his own country for seven or eight years, and then liberated in the midst of his friends and connections, you miss the object of all punishment. For sentences of transportation for twenty years and for life, which were passed upon offenders of the deepest dye only, the Act of 1853 substitutes penal servitude for not less than six years—the minimum being the same as in the case of transportation for a shorter period than twenty years—or more than ten. Nobody, I think, will venture to say that imprisonment for ten years, taking the maximum fixed by the Act, is at all equal in severity to transportation for life. Here, surely, is a great anomaly, and one which never would have arisen had the Act of 1853 been properly discussed, and the opinion of competent persons been expressed. I will now say only a few words on the question of tickets of leave, with respect to which the right hon. Gentleman has anticipated some inquiries which I intended to make. Up to the present time, as a matter of necessity, tickets of leave have been granted only to those whom the new law found under sentence of transportation, and I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he does not intend to apply the principle to those who are sentenced to penal servitude. [Sir G. GREY: Not as a general rule.] This is a very difficult and important question, and one, moreover, immediately connected with the views which I have expressed as to the terms of penal servitude, because if you are to discharge prisoners before the end of their periods of imprisonment it becomes more than ever desirable that those periods should not be too short in the first instance. I must confess that my opinion has undergone considerable change with respect to tickets of leave. I have alluded to the part taken by the Government of Lord Derby in doing away with transportation; but certainly we never contemplated the introduction into England of the ticket-of-leave system, which, whatever be its merits or demerits, is the child of the noble Lord now at the head of the Administration. It was regarded at first by the great majority of the public with disapprobation and apprehension. The question has been raised tonight whether or not that apprehension has been justified by the event. I must say that I have very considerable doubts whether the facts, as they stand, justify us in expressing an opinion that the system has failed. I understand from Colonel Jebb that, up to the end of December last 5,152 tickets of leave had been granted, and that out of that number some 5½ per cent had been again brought to trial. The Return would, in my opinion, have been more complete if it had applied only to persons brought to trial "and convicted;" because being "brought to trial" merely, really does not constitute guilt. We cannot conceal from ourselves that the great question at issue is whether criminals who are convicted of grave offences are to remain in this country or not. If they are, it becomes a consideration whether it is best to discharge them upon the public entirely free, or under that check which the ticket-of-leave system undoubtedly imposes. On the whole, I believe that the wisest and most prudent course would be, not to abandon the ticket-of-leave system, but to extend the period of punishment for which criminals are now sentenced, continuing to the Home Office the power which it at present possesses of holding out to convicts every possible encouragement to return to honest and industrious courses. I have to thank the House for the attention with which it has listened to me, and I hope that the House and the Committee will approach the consideration of the subject with a consciousness that this is one of the most difficult problems which we can be called upon to solve.


Seeing, Sir, that there is so little difference of opinion as to the appointment of a Select Committee, or as to the scope and object of the proposed inquiry, I should not trespass for a moment on the attention of the House but for some questions put by the right, hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to which the Government ought to give an answer. The right hon. Gentleman asked, in the first place, whether the Government were really of opinion that, under the terms of the reference proposed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, any Amendments to the Act of 1853 might be recommended. Now, Sir, I have no hesitation in saying that, under the terms of the reference, the Committee will have the fullest possible powers of inquiry—not only into any Amendments of the Act of 1853, but into the whole subject of secondary punishments. If, however, there be the least ambiguity in the expressed intention of the Government, I would propose the insertion of the words "and effects" after "operation"—[Sir J. PAKINGTON: Say "provisions" also.] Very well; introduce that, so that the Resolution will read "to inquire into the operation, provisions, and effects of the Act of the 16 & 17 Vict. c. 99." The right hon. Gentleman says that there is great difficulty in discovering on what principle transportation is carried out, so long as it remains on the Statute Book and is yet practically rescinded. The course which the Government has taken upon this subject is very simple. There is now only one colony to which the punishment of transportation is applicable, and that is the colony of Western Australia. In sending convicts to that colony, however, it is necessary to consider whether they will be useful and acceptable there; and subject to that limitation, I believe I may say that all convicts sentenced to transportation will be sent to Western Australia. The fact is that very few persons are now so sentenced; and the effect of the operation of the present law, coupled with the limitation that we shall only send out healthy and able-bodied persons, is, that the number of criminals sent out is so restricted that the supply is not sufficient to meet the demand which is made for them in that colony. I must warn the House, however, against running away with the notion that the colony can, under any circumstances, be much longer available for the reception of this class of the community. The conditions on which a colony receives convicts are evident and palpable. The first essential evidently is, that a colony must be willing to receive them; but before a colony can be willing there must be a demand for labour. Under the present restricted system, transportation to Western Australia has, no doubt, worked most satisfactorily, but it must not be supposed that the present limited practice could be very suddenly increased. At present I fear that there is very great difficulty in finding employment for convicts in Western Australia. Free emigrants even have been thrown upon the general community for support; and this shows how necessary it is to be careful, because the great body of employers have been quitting Western Australia to proceed to Victoria, or to other parts where the attractions of the gold diggings are held out. These considerations will, I fear, for some time prevent Western Australia from being the receptacle for a large number of convicts. I trust that the Committee will inquire into the whole subject in all its branches in the same spirit in which it has been discussed to-night; and my belief is, that an inquiry so prosecuted will produce the best results—that it will dispel some of the exaggerations which prevail in the public mind with respect to the operation of the present system, while it will point out any defects that really exist. I can only add, in conclusion, that the Government will faithfully and cordially co-operate with the House and with the Committee in applying a practical remedy to any evil which may be discovered to exist.


said, that the inquiry, even after being extended by the addition of the proposed words, would, after all, be an inquiry but into part of a subject which would need a more extensive investigation; but he thought it a wise course to deal with, one part at a time. The feeling throughout the country was, that some inquiry was necessary, and he was glad to find that the same feeling pre- vailed in that House, though there might be some difference of opinion as to the exact scope and limit of the investigation. The inquiry proposed had reference to the operations of the Penal Servitude Act, but the special provisions with respect to which the country desired information had not come into operation, except in the case of men under sentence before the Act passed, and, therefore, following strictly the words of the Motion, the result of the inquiry would be nil. The country wanted to know in what way the Government intended in future to make use of the power given them of liberating prisoners by licences to be at large in this country under surveillance. When the Bill passed 6,000 persons were under sentence of transportation, and the alarm said to exist in the country on the subject, must arise from some notion of the effect of this system of tickets of leave given to those under sentence of transportation at the time the Bill passed. That alarm he felt to be exaggerated, if not wholly unfounded; for it was clear, as many of the sentences of transportation were for short periods, that if the tickets of leave had not been granted at all, the convicts would, after the expiration of their sentence, have returned to, and have been at large in, this country, and some would not have left this country at all. He did not, however, mean to say that there was nothing to inquire about. Three years had elapsed since the passing of the Bill. What was wanted to be known was, what were the present intentions of the Government with respect to sentences of transportation from that time forward, and with respect to penal servitude sentences, and the use of licences in mitigation of them? He agreed with those who thought that penal sentences should be matter of certainty, and he thought that on that particular point all uncertainty should be removed.


said, he must beg to explain that he had already read a passage from a speech of the Lord Chancellor, showing that the desirable object of making punishments certain and not uncertain, would be fully carried out, unless in some few special cases.


said, he also wished to know what was to be done in the use of licences to be at large with those persons sentenced to transportation and penal servitude since 1853?


said, he had stated that all the able-bodied had been or would be sent out to Western Australia.


said, he feared from what the right hon. Gentleman had previously stated, that, as the capacity of Western Australia to receive them was limited, there might not be room there for all; and he thought that the Committee to be appointed would do a service if it made the country fully cognisant of all the facts connected with the subject. Dissatisfaction had been expressed that, though they were perpetually altering the law, the official returns showed little difference in the amount of crime, but they expected too much from the penal law if they expected it to make a great diminution in the amount of crime. Such a result must be anticipated, not from penal legislation, but from preventive measures—from the effect of education, from the deterring influence of the police, and from dealing with the nurseries of crime by means of the reformatories now springing up throughout the country. The modifications which had been made in the criminal code had produced good effects, if their effect had been to keep crime stationary, and it would be for the Committee to consider if the existing system could not be made more uniform throughout the country, and it would also be its duty to consider the various suggestions which were before the country upon the subject of prison discipline. As in all professions, so in that of the law, the professors were the persons least to be trusted in matters of reform, and lawyers had been in the habit of looking upon transportation as synonymous with secondary punishment, and now, directly objections were raised to the new system, they only thought of reverting to colonial transportation. When the colonies objected to receive convicts, their behaviour was said in this country to be monstrous, but directly it was proposed that something like the same system should be established at home an outcry was made. He was, however, perfectly satisfied that anything like a return to the horrors of the old system of colonial transportation was utterly impossible. The evils of that system were not confined to the lives of the convicts sent to a colony, but the bad influence, as stated in a dispatch of Sir Henry Young, the present Governor of Tasmania, was felt in succeeding generations, and no colonists would ever consent to a revival of the system. The only question, therefore, to be considered was, how the criminal population could be most advantageously dis- posed of at home. Up to the present time the only question which had been considered was that of dealing with those persons who formerly would have been transported; but, in his opinion, no such distinction should be made, and the object of legislation should be to establish an uniform system for all criminals. One subject which would be discussed by the Committee would be the possibility of the revival of transportation, and he was not prepared to say that some system of transportation might not be established. He did not, however, mean that any system of colonial transportation could be revived, but there was a system in Prussia, called internal transportation, well worthy, he considered, of the attention of the Committee. In Prussia a convict, after undergoing his term of imprisonment, was released, but he was then removed to a different part of the country, and commended to a voluntary and benevolent agency, by which he was enabled to begin anew an honest life elsewhere. Another question well worthy the consideration of the Committee was, whether it would be possible to banish a man from this country at the expiration of a certain period of imprisonment, and allow him to go wherever else he pleased. Now, the subject divided itself into two parts—the first relating to the treatment of the prisoners within the walls of the prison; and the latter, and the most important, to their treatment upon their discharge. The present Motion applied to the latter part of the subject, and it originated in the alarm and misgiving felt by the country with regard to the ticket-of-leave system. If the Government had desired to abandon that system, something else must be substituted for it. In order, therefore, to make the principal object of the inquiry about to take place more distinct, he would suggest the addition to the right hon. Baronet's (Sir G. Grey's) Amendment, after the words, "An Act to substitute in certain Cases other Punishment in lieu of Transportation," of the words, "and how far its provisions relating to the discharge of prisoners may be susceptible of improvement."


said, he thought that the addition of the words suggested by his hon. Friend would not have the effect he intended. The Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary comprehended those provisions of the Act to which the words proposed by his hon. Friend referred, and the effect of adding those words would be to introduce a doubt as to whether the other provisions of the Act were to be excluded from consideration. The question of whether those provisions which related to the discharge of prisoners were susceptible of improvement would come legitimately within the scope of the inquiry of the Committee.


said, that it appeared to him that modern politicians wilfully laid themselves under an incapacity; they grasped at every new and untried experiment, but objected to all process of renovation of former systems, however beneficial they had been proved; however manifestly practicable the remedy for the abuses, by which such systems had in time been overgrown. Any new idea with regard to penal legislation was sure to find a thousand advocates, all of whom declared that it was impossible to revert to that system which for years had been found adapted both to this country and to the colonies. They forgot that our great colonies had originated in penal settlements, and that our criminals, by banishment to those settlements, had been removed from their old haunts of vice; and they said it would be impossible to revert to the system of transportation because it had given rise to abuses; instead of attempting to remedy the abuse, they abandoned the system. Our penal colonies had, as the sphere for the reception of convicts had been rapidly contracted, by the abandonment of transportation to several of the colonies in succession, and by the establishment of new penal settlements having been neglected, become overcrowded with convicts. Hence the evils for which transportation was denounced. But this country was not larger than some of these colonies, and Parliament had been asked to perpetuate the infliction of the evils of which the colonies had complained, upon the people of this country. He knew the case of a man who in 1838 committed a felony, and was sentenced to seven years' transportation; in 1846 he was tried for felony and acquitted; in the same year he was convicted of poaching; in 1847 he was again convicted of night poaching; in the same year he was tried for murder, and escaped by a flaw in the indictment; in 1849 he was convicted of sheep stealing; in 1854, being a ticket-of-leave man, he was again convicted of felony; and this man had now returned to his parish, within a circuit of ten or twenty miles of which he had committed those crimes. This man's family had been provided for, but since his return he had led his son into the same course he had himself pursued, the result being that he had been twice committed for poaching. Would it not be much better that the old sentence of transportation should be carried out in such a case, and that such a man should enter a new sphere, instead of returning to the scene of his former crimes and to his former associates, to pollute the parish in which he lived, and to bring up his family in vice? A comparison had been made between the severity of imprisonment and transportation, and the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) said that transportation was the more severe punishment. It was more severe in one sense, and more merciful in another. If a prisoner were sentenced to an excessive term of imprisonment, it was necessary to mitigate his punishment, or he would be driven mad; and it was no easy task to mitigate modern imprisonment in proportion to each man's powers of enduring it. Severity in the form of inflicting mere suffering was pure revenge, and was unjustifiable, but the removal of a convict from his native country had a deterring effect upon others by the spectacle of his separation from his friends. Yet transportation was really merciful to the criminal, because, when he was detached from his former associates and pursuits, he might be treated with leniency, and might be won back to an honest course of life. On the grounds of mercy to the individual, as an example to others, and as a means of relieving our dense population from its mass of crime, he thought that transportation ought, instead of being given up, to be renewed, and he rejoiced that the Committee were to be at liberty to consider the renewal of a system which had heretofore formed the foundation of our penal system and the foundation of prosperous colonies. Let him not be told that within the vast limits of the British Empire there could not be found spots to which these convicts might be sent. If the expense were a grievance, let the expense be transferred from our penal establishments at home. The House ought not to be too proud to follow the example of those who had gone before them. He heard the remarks of the Judges of the land in favour of transportation spoken of as if they were mere bigoted professionalists, and their valuable opinions were to be set aside because the Government had either yielded to mere political expediency, or had neglected to consider whether our convicts could not be sent to some other colonies besides those which were overcrowded. He protested against Parliament thus laying itself under an incapacity which it was too childish any longer to endure.


said, that the aspect of the question had undergone a change since the commencement of the discussion. The discussion at first was whether the Committee which was to be appointed should take into its consideration the expediency of a return to the system of transportation; and the feeling which operated on the mind of the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. F. Scott), who brought forward the Motion, was the same with that which pervaded the mind of the country at large—namely, the necessity of considering what had been the effect of that portion of the Act of 1853 which related to licences allowing convicts to be at large in this country. What had fallen from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, however, had materially altered the question as it affected that part of the Act of 1853. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the provision which had given the greatest alarm to the country had become almost, if not quite, a dead letter. He (Sir S. Northcote) believed that the country would be very much relieved from the apprehensions it had entertained by the explanations given in the House that night; and the question as to whether the Government would allow the Committee to be appointed upon such terms as would embrace the consideration of the re-establishment of the system of transportation had been set at rest, not only by the legitimate construction of the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman, but by the unanimous expression of opinion in the House that that was a question which would fairly come under the consideration of the Committee. There was, however, another question upon which he wished to have a clear understanding. Were the Committee to pursue the inquiries to which his hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had referred, as to the mode in which they were to deal with convicts on their discharge? Nothing could be more obvious than that when the Bill of 1853 became law, the clause which they were now told was to be almost a dead letter was an essential part of the principle of the Bill. The circumstances were these:—The sys- tem of transportation had been undergoing a steady reform. Fourteen years ago the system was bad in the extreme, but great improvements had been effected by the Earl of Derby and Earl Grey, and also by recent Administrations. The system of sending convicts out to the colony to undergo their punishment, and then to be set loose, had been superseded by a better system, which consisted in punishing them here for a certain term, and in afterwards sending them out to the colony with permission to be at liberty during the remainder of the term of their sentence. That school of jurists, therefore, who believed that the best mode of punishing was to punish with a view to the reformation of the criminal, were thus carrying into operation an excellent system of penal discipline, but their exertions were suddenly cut short by the reluctance of the colonies to receive a convict population, and by the discovery of the gold-fields adverted to by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington). The Government, however, feeling the advantage of the principle, endeavoured to introduce it into this country, and the Act of 1853 contained that clause which empowered the granting of tickets of leave within the United Kingdom instead of, as previously, in the colonies. As far as the convicts themselves were concerned, the change of system was anything but gratifying to them. Colonel Jebb, in his Report, stated that the first announcement to the convicts working out their time, that transportation would be discontinued, created a ferment of discontent, and rendered them far more difficult to manage; and it was to supply the means of reformation and amendment by holding out advantages to be attained by good conduct and application to work that the Government introduced the clause in question. But if they now took away that element, what was to supply its place? If they said, "We will punish those who subject themselves to the penalties of the law, and not trouble ourselves with the question of reform," of course the present system would be quite right. Subject them to the term of their servitude, and then turn them out of doors and say, "We have done with you." How long, however, would it be before they found their way back? If they were not prepared to insist on a strict adherence to that section of the Act of 1853, it would become a question for the Committee whether some other provision ought not to be added to that Act to make up for the deficiency; and in his opinion the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had done good service by directing the attention of the House to the subject; because, unless a distinct understanding wore come to, they might be told hereafter that the consideration of places of refuge and employment for prisoners was something wholly beyond the powers of the Committee. Very good reasons might be given for the course which the Government intended to take with respect to that section of the Act. No doubt the apprehensions in the minds of the Judges, as to the effect of their sentences, had good foundation, and the Government were quite right in announcing that the sentences passed would certainly be carried into effect, because when a contrary impression prevailed it was the practice in some cases to give longer sentences than would otherwise have been given, with the express view of ensuring a certain amount of punishment; and he himself recollected being on one occasion on the bench when it was determined to adjudge a man to four years' penal servitude, but it was suggested, "Oh, if you give four years, he will not get more than two," and the sentence was altered to six in consequence. Probably, when such questions as those came before the Committee, they would wish to make some valuable suggestions, and it would be very unfortunate if they should be stopped by being told that the matter was not in the terms of the reference. He, therefore, thought it would be very desirable that all the points of the question should be taken into consideration by the Committee.


said, he thought that if the Committee were to inquire not only into the system of secondary punishment as it now existed—not only into the operation of the Act which had substituted penal servitude for transportation—but also into the various methods of treatment proposed for convicts after they had worked out their sentences, the inquiry would be far too wide a one, and they would be in danger of losing the advantages which ought to accrue from such an investigation. He took it, that the Committee would endeavour to ascertain whether the substitution of penal servitude for transportation had really been productive of good, and whether it was not desirable to recur (though, probably, in a modified form) to that system of transportation which in an unhappy moment we had abandoned. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had dwelt upon the evils which he said arose from transportation—an obsolete and objectionable system, he went on to say, to which it was impossible we could recur. Now, if he (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) thought it impossible to revive transportation without also restoring the evils of the system, he should quite agree with the hon. Gentleman; but that he conceived was exactly the question for the Committee to inquire into, namely, whether it was not possible to renew transportation in such a shape and under such circumstances as would not lay it open to the objections that used properly to be urged against it? Without seeking to inflict the system upon our great colonies, which were opposed to its renewal, a proper subject for inquiry would be, whether there were not localities where transportation might be revived with great advantage both to the colonies and to the mother-country? Transportation was not only a punishment singularly calculated to deter persons from crime, but it gave the offender the best chance of reformation, for he was sent to a spot where, when his sentence expired, he was most likely to obtain honest employment and so to redeem his character. Instead of that, however, they had resorted to a punishment which was confessedly not half so efficacious in deterring from crime, and which at the same time placed the offender in a position where it was almost impossible for him to obtain an honest livelihood. After the explanation given by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, that the Committee would inquire into the present system of secondary punishments and into the desirability of reviving transportation in a modified form, he hoped the House would adhere to the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and not adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for North Staffordshire.


said, he hoped that, as the House appeared almost unanimous on the subject, the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. F. Scott) would consent to withdraw his Resolution, and allow the Amendment he had moved to stand as a substantive Motion. If the hon. Gentleman would agree to that proposal, he intended to add the words "and provisions" to the Amendment, which would read thus:—"Select Committee to inquire into the provisions and operation of the Act," &c.


said, he did not care what form of words were employed provided the object he had in view were attained. The manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had moved his Amendment, and the explanation he had given of it, were entirely satisfactory to him. With reference to transportation, he would only say that, in his opinion, the great advance of the Australian colonies was mainly due to the convict system. He did not wish to see that system revived with all its old abuses, but he entertained a firm belief that those abuses were owing, not to the system itself, but to its maladministration.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Select Committee appointedTo inquire into the provisions and operation of the Act 16 & 17 Vict. c. 99, intituled 'An Act to substitute in certain cases other Punishment in lieu of Transportation.'