HC Deb 20 April 1858 vol 149 cc1401-5

said, he rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to promote and regulate Reformatory Schools for Juvenile Offenders in Ireland. His object was to secure for Ireland the benefits of that Reformatory School system which had been already established in England and Scotland with great advantage. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) when Chief Secretary for Ireland, had brought in a Bill for the introduction of these schools into Ireland, but bad subsequently, for some cause or other, withdrawn it. The subject had excited great attention in Ireland, and there was a great desire to obtain the benefit of similar measures with those which bad been passed for Scotland, and he could cite, as an instance of the necessity of such a Bill, that large sums had been subscribed in the county of Cork for the purposes of a reformatory institution, but those endeavours were nugatory without the assistance of the Legislature. The main object of the Bill was that all juvenile offenders, under sixteen years of age, convicted of any offence requiring or justifying imprisonment, before a Judge of assize, a court of quarter sessions, or a divisional justice of the peace in Dublin, might be sent to a reformatory school, the managers of which had qualified it under the provisions of het Bill. The English Bill gave the power of sending the child to a school to two justices; whereas he proposed that it should in Ireland be possessed by one. The House might differ from him on that point, but that was no reason for refusing to allow him to introduce the Bill. Careful provision was made that no child should be sent to a school which was not under the exclusive management of persons of the same religious persuasion as the parents or guardians; and he had thus guarded against these institutions being used as instruments of proselytism. As regarded the machinery of the Bill, he proposed that it should be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant, through the medium of the Inspector General of Prisons, or of some other person specially appointed for that purpose, to subject reformatory schools to the most rigorous inspection, and that a certificate of such inspection should be a condition precedent to their enjoyment of the benefits and privileges of the Act. With respect to schools which had obtained the approval of the Government, he proposed to empower grand juries in the case of counties, and town councils in the case of towns, to raise money in aid of voluntary contributions by means of an assessment on the rates of the county or borough. In this respect he was following the procedent of the Middlesex Industrial Schools Act. He proposed also to confer on grand juries and town councils, power to contract with the managers of reformatory schools for the maintenance of children; and he further proposed to give the Treasury the power which they possessed under the English Act, of allowing a certain sum, not exceeding 5s. a week, towards the expense of maintenance. The Bill provided also, in exactly the same manner that the English Act did, for the recovery of the sums spent in the maintenance of juvenile offenders from such of their parents as were in a condition to afford it. There was another provision, which was not contained in the English Act, namely, a provision for enabling the managers of a reformatory institution to place a child before the period of discharge had arrived, out at service, if any person was willing to take him—an arrangement which had worked very well in connection with the Mountjoy Convict School in Dublin. The Bill had been submitted for the approval of several eminent authorities, among others of Mr. Hill, the recorder of Birmingham. There might be some points of difference with regard to the details of the Bill; but they must be all agreed as to the object, and he did not think, therefore, the House could reject the Motion. He would therefore conclude by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to promote and regulate Reformatory Schools for juvenile offenders in Ireland.

MR. GREER, in seconding the Motion, suggested that, as there was a great deal of accommodation in the Irish workhouses which was not required for the paupers, it would be convenient and suitable, and certainly economical, if such portions of these buildings could be rendered available for the reformation of juvenile delinquents. He believed that, under a judicious system of management, such institutions as his hon. Friend's Bill proposed to establish would be found exceedingly beneficial and useful.


said, it was not the intention of the Government to offer any opposition to the introduction of the Bill. On the contrary, he thought the subject was worthy of the most careful consideration; and he could assure his hon. and learned Friend that the Government would give it that consideration in the most impartial manner. His hon. and learned Friend would admit, however, that the question was surrounded with many difficulties. As he understood the proposal, it was intended to apply solely to children under seventeen years of age, who had been convicted at assizes and quarter sessions, and by the magistrates of the city of Dublin. Now, he could not state exactly the number of children under that age who had been convicted before the magistrates of Dublin; but the number convicted at assizes and quarter sessions was very small indeed. By a Return which he held in his hand, he found that in the year 1857 there were convicted at assizes and quarter sessions in Ireland, of males and females, felons and misdemeanants, altogether only fifty-nine children. This fact showed that the evil which his hon. and learned Friend proposed to deal with was hardly of sufficient gravity to justify a special Act of Parliament, though he was sure the House would be always too glad to consider any measure that had for its object the arrest of juvenile delinquency.


said, that the hon. and learned Member who had moved the introduction of the Bill had alluded to the benefits which had been derived from the establishment of Reformatory Schools in this country. He (Mr. Palk) was not prepared to agree with him in that respect. The question was open to very great discussion, and he was yet to be convinced that the system which had been adopted here was attended with success. If it had not succeeded in England, there was still more reason to doubt its success in Ireland. The establishment necessary to render a reformatory school effective must be upon an extensive scale, and he would remind the House that in England they had thrown upon the counties the expense of lunatic asylums, gaols, and police, and that the county rate was now become one of the great sources of taxation in the country. He would throw it out as a suggestion for the hon. Gentleman, therefore, whether in Ireland, which was almost a greater agricultural country than England, those counties which were purely agricultural could possibly support the expense of Reformatories, which, whether for the maintenance of a greater or lesser number of children, must necessarily be very expensive. It would be worthy of consideration whether it would not be better to wait and see what were the effects of the reformatory movement in England, so far as it had been carried, before the hon. and learned Gentleman took steps for burdening his own country with the cost of that of which he (Mr. Palk) must say he doubted the success—namely, reformatory establishments conducted upon the same principles as those in England. Any measure that had for its object to reduce crime, whether expensive or not, was, of course, entitled to the considera- tion of every humane person; but he much doubted, and always had doubted in his own county, whether the system of Reformatory Institutions was the best adapted for stemming the current of crime; and he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman might more hopefully turn his attention to the measure which was passed last year for the establishment of Industrial Schools, which he was inclined to think would eventually prove a more real success than the other.


explained, that he did not propose to make the taxation for the support of Reformatories compulsory, but to leave the matter optional with the grand juries and common councils whether they would tax their constituents for the maintenance of those institutions or not.

Leave given.

Bill to promote and regulate Reformatory Schools for Jnvenile Offenders in Ireland, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Serjeant DEASY and Mr. BAGWELL.

Bill presented, and read 1°.