HC Deb 18 July 1864 vol 176 cc1646-51

said, he rose to call attention to the Report of the Inspector of Reformatories, on the state of the St. Bernard's Reformatory at Whitwick, in Leicestershire. In doing so he begged to assure his noble Friend the Member for Arundel (Lord E. Howard) and the other Roman Catholic Members of the House, that he was actuated by no invidious motives. Last year an outbreak had taken place in this Reformatory of so serious a nature that some of the police who were called in were nearly murdered by the boys who were engaged in the disturbance. The Reformatory was then under the management of the monks of St. Bernard; but as it was found they were not able to deal with such refractory youths, it was afterwards transferred to other hands. On the 19th of June, 1863, it was agreed to commit the management to a number of gentlemen, whose names were among the most respectable of the Roman Catholics of this country, and among them were two clergymen. On the 19th of June Mr. Harper, one of the committee of management, wrote a letter stating that the government of the institution was completely altered, and that rules had been formed by means of which the boys would be kept in the most perfect order. One of the rules was to the effect that no boy should be suffered to go out of the school without being under the supervision of one of the authorities. That rule the managers had no means of enforcing. Mr. Sydney Turner, the Inspector of Reformatories, wrote to the Secretary of State, informing him that the arrangements were complete; that the new system ought be allowed to go on for one year from the 1st of July; that during that interval the number of inmates would be limited to 100, and that the experience of twelve months would enable them to see whether the Reformatory could be successfully conducted. Within four months from that time the Inspector visited the institution again, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied with what he had seen, although he said there were 143 boys within the walls. It appeared, then, that as regarded the number of boys the arrangement which had been entered into with the Secretary of State four months before had been altered. At the end of the last year the chairman of the bench of magistrates in the neighbourhood of the Reformatory wrote to the Secretary of State, informing him that for several nights the police had been obliged to be in the institution; that between thirty and forty of the inmates, who had got loose, had been put into gaol for various offences; and that four of them had been committed to take their trial for burglary. The facts of the case were these—the boys had got up at night, tied the sheets of their beds together, let themselves down from the windows, a height of about nineteen feet, and so having escaped committed this burglary. Here was a body of nearly 150 of the worst young scamps to be found in the country, youths brought up to crime, who having the means of escape within their reach might commit any depredation they liked in the neighbourhood. When he was a boy at Eton the windows of the boarding house in which he lodged were barred, so that there were no means of getting out at night. Well, he should like to know whether boys who were notorious for vice were to be trusted in rooms where there were no bars to the windows. Things soon after arrived at such a pass that the police were several nights obliged to remain in the Reformatory to help to take care of those boys. His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary sent down Mr. Sydney Turner to investigate the facts. In his Report Mr. Turner stated that an effective staff of officers ought to be engaged. What he (Mr. Packe) had apprehended had taken place, and the authorities had shown that they could not manage the maximum of 150 boys. Mr. Sydney Turner was in error when he said that the number would be limited to 100. But this gentleman concluded his Report by stating that he believed there was no reason to fear their being taken by surprise in the future. Why they should have been taken by surprise between 1863 and 1864 he could not understand, as the authorities well knew the ferocious temper of the boys. When the new management was instituted an efficient staff of officers was to form part of the establishment; but the sequel showed how far the staff had been able to keep the boys in any kind of order. As an acting magistrate of the county of Leicester the point on which he wished to dwell had reference to the employment of the county police in aid of the management of this Reformatory. In Leicestershire they had no more police constables than were necessary to keep the peace of the county, and they could not, therefore, spare any part of the force to assist the authorities of that institution in maintaining order there. How was it that this Reformatory could not be managed without such extraneous assistance? The chief constable, in his letter of the 5th of June, said he trusted that arrangements had been made with Inspector Ward and constables for speedily calling in other assistance in case of need. But the police ought not to be made to stand sentry to a Reformatory. From a letter addressed to a local paper the other day, he found that Mr. Quick, the manager of that Reformatory, said he had sent for twenty of the London police, but he was referred to the police of the county, on whom he had to fall back. Mr. Quick was, he believed, a very respectable man, and a clergyman, who wished to manage these unruly lads by mildness and kindness; but he was deficient in firmness, and was really no more capable of managing such an institution than he was of being Governor of Newgate. These boys were principally Irish, from Liverpool and its neighbourhood. As matters at present stood, the conductors of that Reformatory did not find efficient men to restrain these felonious boys from committing depredations over the county; and he desired to impress upon the Secretary of State that the county of Leicester ought not to be called upon to furnish police to control this ill managed institution.


said, he was not surprised that the hon. Gentleman, as a Member for the county of Leicester, should have called the attention of the House to the disturbances which had recently taken place in the St. Bernard's Reformatory. The facts of the case were all contained in the papers which had been laid on the table, and from them it appeared, that although the Reformatory some time ago was certainly not managed in a way which could be regarded as in any degree satisfactory, yet its management had been greatly improved during the past year. The gentlemen in whose hands the management of the institution had been placed last year had exerted themselves to the utmost in reforming it and placing it on a better footing. At the same time, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that sufficient energy had not been shown by the rev. Mr. Quick, who was, no doubt, anxious to do his duty, but who was not a fit person to have the control of lads of such a class. But since the late outbreak, which certainly did take the officers by surprise, he was given to understand that the managers had determined to increase their staff materially, by which means the attendance of the police would be dispensed with. It was not reasonable that any large number of the county police should be obliged to abandon their ordinary duty elsewhere, and to go to the neighbourhood of that Reformatory. He was informed that there would be associated with Mr. Quick a lay manager, who had been accustomed to the discipline of the army, and who would be better able to control these lads than a clergyman. It should be mentioned also that this wa3 not the only case of outbreak in a Reformatory. There had been outbreaks of a similar description in other Reformatories, which were under Protestant management; but he hoped that the precautions now taken would prevent any recurrence of these disturbances. [Mr. PACKE: The windows should be barred.] If such disorderly proceedings were continued, it would be absolutely essential for the peace of the neighbourhood to withdraw the certificate from the institution; but it would be difficult to avoid doing more harm than good by its immediate withdrawal, because the lads would no longer be in legal custody, and would, perhaps, be guilty of acts more mischievous and calculated to excite greater alarm than if they were detained in the Reformatory, A ship had been assigned by the Admiralty to be placed in the Mersey for the reception of hoys of that class; and although the lads now at St. Bernard's Reformatory might not be transferred to that ship, yet, by using that vessel as a means of exercising an efficient discipline over all the boys who might hereafter he committed to a Roman Catholic Reformatory from that part of the country, the necessity of sending any more of them to the St. Bernard's Reformatory would be obviated. At all events, unless every ground of complaint was effectually removed, the permission to send boys to this Reformatory would not be continued. But, although the alarm which had been excited in this case was in a considerable degree well grounded, he hoped the House would not discourage the efforts now being made—which were certainly well meant—for the improvement and good management of this Reformatory.


said, the House could not be surprised that very considerable interest had been excited in the neighbourhood of this Reformatory by the proceedings which had taken place, and he believed he might say that the feeling was unanimous that the Reformatory ought to be removed. The boys placed there had been brought from a great distance, and it was quite clear they had been placed under a management which was not capable of conducting an establishment of that description. The whole neighbourhood had been kept in constant apprehension, and even the monks themselves were quite as anxious as others to be freed from the neighbourhood of these refractory lads. The right hon. Baronet had detailed the steps which had been taken for improving the future management, and as representing that part of the county he must say he should be very glad if those measures did succeed; but if another outbreak should occur he hoped the certificate would not be extended; that the boys would be sent to the ship at Liverpool; that measures would be taken to free Leicestershire from the evils to which the county had in no way contributed, and that they would hear no more of these most serious and unpleasant outbreaks.


said, the alarm which prevailed on this subject had been somewhat exaggerated in the newspapers and elsewhere; still, as he lived in the immediate neighbourhood, he must say he could not look with indifference at repeated out-breaks of this character. The right hon. Baronet, however, had exercised a wise discretion in not withdrawing his certificate, as a very great improvement had taken place in the management. These outbreaks were to a large extent attributable to the number of boys crowded together being greater than could well be managed in one reformatory; and a Report to that effect had been made two years ago by the Inspector. The reconvictions almost always came from reformatories where the largest number of boys were collected together. With re- ference to the increased expenditure which these outbreaks had occasioned to the county, it was quite true that two or three policemen had for some time after patrolled the neighbourhood; but the expense, even if it had not been repaid, which it was subsequently, had been insignificant. He hoped the change which had been made in the government of the Reformatory would lead to a better state of things, and that the right hon. Baronet would recommend a smaller number of boys to be kept there in future.


expressed his hope that no establishments of this kind would be set on foot for the future.