HC Deb 31 March 1865 vol 178 cc562-3

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department a question respecting the reported mortality of children at Emneth, but before doing so he would read the fellowing article from the Lynn Advertiser of the 25th of March, 1865:— After the inquest was over the coroner directed the attention of the jury to the extraordinary mortality amongst children at Emneth. He was informed by the parish surgeon that it was something like 80 per cent of the population, which the surgeon attributed to gross and culpable neglect, the children dying from starvation. Fine, healthy children were seen daily to shrink, wither, and die without any disease, and simply because their inhuman mothers would not give them any nourishment. One woman, the coroner was informed, had had three illegitimate children, all of whom were strong and healthy, but died within six months of their birth. Unfortunately it was a matter of which he (the coroner) could not take any other notice than communicate with the Home Secretary, for unless he (the coroner) was set in motion by a magistrate, minister, or guardian of the parish, he held no inquest; but he wished it to be expressly understood that if, after this notice, a similar case came to his knowledge, he should order the body to be exhumed, and if the medical evidence was clear that the child died from starvation, he (the coroner) should know how to act. It should be known that the law was strong and powerful enough to punish the offender, whether her victim died by poison, violence, or starvation; and, depend upon it, if a conviction followed, the Judges of the land would make a severe example. The crime to which he alluded was on the increase, and must be put down by the strong arm of the law, and he should feel it to be his duty to lay the matter before Sir George Grey, who would probably send down a Commissioner to inquire into the matter. In the meantime he hoped the public press would take up the matter and that the police would be on the alert. He would, therefore, beg to ask the right hon. Baronet, If his attention has been directed to a statement made by the coroner at an inquest held at Emneth, in the county of Norfolk, last week, and reported in the Lynn Advertiser of the 25th instant, directing attention to the extraordinary mortality amongst children in Emneth, amounting to 80 per cent of the population, which the parish surgeon attributed to gross and culpable neglect, the children dying from starvation?


replied that he had not seen the report in question; but he had received, the day before yesterday, a letter from the coroner, stating his belief that there had been great mortality amongst children in the parish of Emneth, which mortality he attributed to the neglect of their mothers. He (Sir George Grey) I had forwarded that statement to the Chief Constable of the county, requesting that he would inquire into the subject and re-port upon it.