HC Deb 26 February 1862 vol 165 cc741-6

Order for Second Reading read.

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


said, he had thought it his duty to communicate with the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill, and point out the objections which he entertained to his measure. The hon. Gentleman had two objects in view by his Bill. One was to take away from the visiting justices the power they possessed under the existing law of inflicting corporal punishment upon refractory prisoners alter due inquiry upon oath. The other object was to require that in every case where juvenile offenders were sentenced to corporal punishment, the number of strokes, and the instrument with which they were to be inflicted, should be specified in the sentence. Now he (Sir George Grey) regarded the first proposal as very objectionable, though the hon. Gentleman had sufficient grounds for calling the attention of the House to the subject. Although in convict prisons there were regulations as to the infliction of corporal punishment upon refractory prisoners, no such rules existed in ordinary gaols. The attention of the prison inspectors had, however, been called to the subject, and they were now drawing up regulations which would be promulgated under the authority of the Secretary of State. It would, in his opinion, be undesirable and unsafe to take away the power of inflicting corporal punishment on prisoners guilty of numerous offences against discipline, and of repeated act8 of insubordination; and he thought that the object desired would be better attained by these rules than by legislation. In reference to the second object of the hon. Gentleman's Bill, the House was aware that in the Acts for consolidating the criminal law last Session, it was provided that in sentences of corporal punishment the instrument by which the punishment was inflicted, and the number of strokes given, should be specified. Those Consolidation Acts, however, did not include the Acts relating to juvenile offenders. He (Sir George Grey) thought that both should he put on the same footing. That, however, would not be efficaciously done by the Bill before the House, as it only referred to one Act on the subject of juvenile offenders, whereas there were other cases not included in that Act which ought to be provided for. He would, therefore, suggest to the hon. Gentleman the withdrawal of the Bill, and he (Sir George Grey) would undertake to assist him in framing a new measure.


said, he was exceedingly obliged to the right hon. Baronet for his suggestion to which he would willingly accede. He would, however, remark that whilst in twenty-two counties of England and Wales no flogging was inflicted by order of the visiting justices, in Manchester the flogging was enormous. That was also the case in Liverpool. During three years it appeared from the return 1,746 boys had been flogged in those places. One boy of tender age had received twenty strokes for stealing an orange, and others had been punished in a similar manner for stealing apples and buns. He confessed that on going through the list he was perfectly horrified. At Wakefield, the visiting justices of prisons never inflicted corporal punishment at all. It was not punishing crime when they flogged children under fourteen years of age for stealing a trifling article—it was punishing poverty. It was the children of the poor who were punished, but they never heard of the children of the rich being punished for stealing an orange. Such punishments were inconsistent with the spirit of an age in which they had 350,000 Sunday-school teachers, teaching 3,000,000 of children, and, as he was proud to say, without a single stroke of the cat.


said, he thought that the hon. Gentleman opposite had acted prudently in assenting to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and he would have acted more prudently had he done so without making a speech. He could assure the hon. Gentleman, from his personal experience, that what he stated with regard to children of the rich and poor was not true. He (Mr. Sotheron Estcourl) was the son of what was called a rich man, and he had certainly undergoue that castigation. He thought that the hon. Gentleman hardly did justice very often to his real character, which he believed was one of kindness and consideration; and he (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) must assure him that observations which drew a distinction in regard to the proceedings in social life between rich and poor very often offended those whom he did not intend to offend, and presented a picture of our society which was not, according to his (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt's) experience, conformable to the true state of things.


said, he also thought the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) had acted judiciously in adopting the suggestion of the Secretary of State; but that he would have done better to omit the latter part of his speech with reference to the different treatment of the children of the rich and poor. He (Mr. Kinnaird) could assure the hon. Member that at all public schools any conduct of the kind to which he had alluded would be visited with a severe corporal castigation.


said, he felt that if the first clause of the Bill were passed into a law, we might as well shut up our prisons, as discipline could not be maintained. To the second clause he had not so strong an objection; but he considered that the surgeon who saw the boy stripped, was a better judge of the amount of punishment he could bear than the magistrate who merely saw him at a distance in the dock.


said, he thought that before the House was again called upon to legislate on the subject, the regulations which, as had been stated by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the inspectors were drawing up, should be laid before the House.


explained, that those regulations would not apply to the subject of the Bill, the introduction of which he had recommended.


said, that in moving for returns on the subject two years before, he first directed the attention of the House to a very great abuse. He thought, however, that the regulations about to be introduced by the Secretary of State would prevent the recurrence of what was a disgrace to the country.


said, he was glad to find that the Secretary of State had taken the matter up. He was horrified to see in a recent return that a child under ten years of age had been ordered to be flogged with a cat, and another to receive fifty strokes with a birch rod—sufficient, if they were real strokes, to cut the child in halves. He thought the time had come when these practices should be put under some regulation. If they did not, the effect would be to set people against a punishment which, under due reserve, might prove a salutary means of punishment. He did not think that the power of inflicting corporal punishment upon refractory criminals in gaol could be advantageously taken away, for there were some men who could be reached in no other way. At the same time, he believed that in well managed prisons there were few cases in which it would be requisite to inflict it. He rejoiced to hear that the Secretary of State proposed to put the exercise of the power under regulation.


said, that the result of a long experience in the army convinced him that the lash did very little good. He had been for ten years in command of a regiment, and during that period not a man had been flogged. The return of cases in which the lash had been inflicted had filled him with perfect horror. It mentioned one case of a child of three years of age being flogged with a birch rod, but he trusted that was a mistake. In some counties there was no punishment of that kind. In Cumberland, for instance, the lash had not been inflicted in the course of three years, during which time in Lancashire 8,479 lashes had been inflicted.


said, that it might appear harsh to inflict severe corporal punishment upon young children for trivial offences; but in these cases it frequently happened that the child had previously a bad character, and it was for that, as well as the particular offence with which he was charged that the punishment was inflicted.


said, he considered that in most cases where there was whipping there ought to be no imprisonment. If boys convicted of trivial offences had a slight castigation at the police station, and were then sent home, it would be far better than by sending them to prison to diminish the terrors of the gaol.


said, he would recommend his hon. Friend to bring forward a Bill for the total abolition of whipping. Individually, he had no personal experience of the subject. It had been stated over and over again that prison discipline was more perfect in Ireland than anywhere, and in Ireland flogging was almost unknown. Something had been said about flogging in schools. Since last Session, a poor boy had been flogged to death by a schoolmaster, and he thought the House might fairly consider whether flogging should not be altogether abolished.


said, there was a general impression that the case referred to by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) of a child three years old, which had been whipped with a birch, was attributable to a misprint, and hoped that means would be taken to ascertain how the fact really stood. He was glad to find that in the gaol of the county which he represented the returns showed that no corporal punishment had been inflicted.


said, the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Sheffield deserved the support of every friend of enlightened legislation. In the course of an experience of forty years as a magistrate he had never witnessed a case in which corporal punishment was expedient or necessary. Its infliction so degraded the recipient that any hope of subsequent amendment or reformation was out of the question.


said, he wished to explain that the case referred to by the hon. Baronet opposite appeared to be a first offence.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.

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