HC Deb 12 May 1858 vol 150 cc520-3

Order for Second Reading Read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said the number of English Reformatories was forty-six, and the total number of inmates 2,356. The number of Scottish Reformatories was twenty-two, and the number of inmates 813. The benefit derived by the majority of the inmates was undoubted, and there were the same materials for the beneficial operation of similar institutions in Ireland. Indeed the last report of the inspectors of prisons in Ireland strongly urged the necessity of extending these institutions to Ireland. In 1856 the number of persons under seventeen who were convicted at assizes and quarter sessions in Ireland was 315, and the number convicted summarily in the same year was 4,214. Of those numbers 22 per cent. could read and write, 19 per cent. could read and write imperfectly, 6 per cent. knew their alphabet, and 53 per cent. were wholly illiterate. With regard to their religion, 6½ per cent. were Protestants, less than I per cent Presbyterians, and 92½ per cent. Roman Catholics. After the passing of similar measures for England and Scotland, he did not see that there could be any objection to extending to Ireland the benefit of these institutions. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had on a former occasion complained of the limited operation of the measure in regard to the class of juveniles to be dealt with, and to meet the noble Lord's objection he proposed in Committee to introduce a provision similar to those contained in the Bills for England and Scotland. He proposed, that the magistrates should have power to send to the Reformatories, with a right to appeal. He proposed also to give power to the grand juries to assess a sum for the support of these institutions, as the country had already to support these persons in gaol; but if that were objected to he would not press it. If they went into Committee he would be ready to make such other changes as might be thought likely to improve the Bill, and in the meantime he hoped the House would consent to its being read a second time.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."


said, he would not object to the second reading of the Bill, especially as measures of a similar kind bad already been introduced both in England and Scotland; but he would remind the House that the Bill conferred on magistrates a very extraordinary power—that of committing a mere child, for a very trivial offence, to an institution which was neither more nor less than a gaol. He was not quite convinced that the system had been long enough in operation in this country to enable them to judge what the ultimate effect would be. The result would be watched with the greatest anxiety, but in the meantime he did not see why the system should not be extended to Ireland. At the same time he did not think the same necessity existed in Ireland for those institutions as in this country, for there was not the same amount of juvenile crime there. The number of criminals under fifteen years convicted at all the assizes and quarter sessions throughout Ireland was only fifty-nine in one year. He had great doubts as to the propriety of extending the Bill to vagrants, lest it should have the effect of inducing persons to call themselves vagrants with the view of getting into these institutions. In regard to contributions for these schools, the Bill gave power to grand juries and town councils to give money, not merely for the maintenance of the children, but for the erection and maintenance of the buildings. The effect of this would be to throw the whole cost of these establishments on the local rates, instead of leaving the charity to voluntary and charitable efforts. He should therefore propose to confine the contributions from the local rates solely to the maintenance of the children. He was afraid also that the power to compel parents to contribute towards the maintenance of their children in these schools would be nugatory, and that much was not to be expected from that quarter. He would add that he feared this was, after all, beginning at the wrong end. They had not yet exhausted the means of checking juvenile crime in Ireland. He was bound to say that the condition of many of the small gaols and Bridewells of Ireland was most deplorable, and, indeed, little better than schools for the propagation of crime. This was clearly shown in the report of the Inspectors of Prisons, and he would impress on the House the necessity that existed for a reform of these institutions. The mixing up of the young and inexperienced with adepts in crime was productive of the worst consequences; but he believed that if there was introduced into the county gaols a proper system of separation there would be very little need for reformatory institutions. If all the local authorities were to take this subject into serious consideration, and set themselves to improve the gaols and establish a system of classification, he believed they would be able at very little cost to encounter the evils with which the hon. and learned Gentleman wished to grapple in his Bill. He made these remarks to call public attention to this important question, and not to discourage the hon. and learned Gentleman in his benevolent exertions.


said, he must deny that the reformatory schools were to be looked upon as gaols. The reverse was the case; they were intended to supersede the gaols. As to the remarks of the noble Lord about gaols, he contended that, though, bridewells might be indiffer- ently managed, yet the condition of the county gaols was admirable.


There is hardly one of them where the separate system is introduced.


did not understand that the noble Lord referred to any system, but to the general management. He was obliged to the noble Lord for permitting the Bill to be read a second time, and he could assure him there would be every disposition on the part of the promoters to meet the noble Lord's views in Committee.


said, he could bear testimony to the accuracy of the noble Lord's description of the gaols and bride-wells in Ireland, not so much from the mismanagement of the governors, as from the unfortunate system employed, by which criminals of all ages and degrees were mixed together. He did not think it was altogether fair to class the reformatory schools as prisons, though it was clear that some restraint of the children was necessary.


said, he would not object to the second reading of the Bill, though be agreed with the noble Secretary for Ireland that it would require several amendments in Committee.


said, he thought they ought to insist on the necessity of the separate system being carried out to a much greater extent than it was at present.

Motion agreed to—Bill read 2° and committed for Thursay 17th June.

House adjourned at Five o'clock.