HC Deb 19 May 1865 vol 179 cc591-3

said, he would beg to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether it is intended to provide asylums for dangerous lunatics and insane persons now confined in Gaols and Workhouses in lie-land and also whether it would not be advisable to give magistrates in Ireland the same power possessed by magistrates in England of committing dangerous lunatics to the County Asylum, instead of compelling them by law to commit them to gaol as at present? The hon. Member added that there were 16,000 lunatics in Ireland, 8,000 of whom were at large and 8,000 confined in gaols, workhouses, and asylums There were at present in the gaols 669 who had been committed a3 dangerous lunatics; and a very large proportion of these had remained in prison for a considerable period. The confinement of lunatics in gaols had been condemned by the Inspectors of Asylums and of Prisons; and the fact was that lunatics were not efficiently looked after in gaols, and the discipline of the gaols was much interfered with by having lunatics there, and the difficulty of management was increased. The last Report of the Inspectors of Lunatics recommended that the Irish system should be assimilated to that of England. It had long been expected that Government would bring in a Bill to remedy the evil; and in 1859 Lord Derby did bring in such a Bill, though he did not remain in office long enough to carry it. Last year there were 2,455 lunatics in workhouses, many of whom would no doubt be cured under the proper treatment to be had in an asylum. He knew that six asylums were now being built, but this would not cure the evil unless the magistrate had power to commit lunatics to those asylums.


said, that the Government was supplying, as fast as possible, the want of accommodation for lunatics in Ireland by building new asylums. They were building six in addition to sixteen already existing. It was very wrong to commit lunatics to gaols, but it arose from want of accommodation. Even under the present arrangement, whenever a lunatic was certified by the proper medical officers of the gaols to be dangerous, he was, if possible, at once removed to a lunatic asylum. The Mullingar case, to which the hon. Member had referred, where ten dangerous lunatics had been committed to the gaol, when there was accommodation in the asylum, could only have arisen in the ordinary course adopted in Ireland, which was to commit lunatics to gaol on the advice of a medical officer till the Government was communicated with, when the lunatic, with the least possible delay, was transferred by the Lunatic Inspector to an asylum. When the six new asylums were built the accommodation would be sufficient, except as regarded the Richmond district, in Dublin. Returns of the Ballinasloe district, which comprised the counties of Roscommon, Galway, and Mayo, showed that eighty-three lunatics were confined in the gaols at Galway, Roscommon, and Castlebar. In a short time the asylum at Castlebar would be open, and that would accommodate the counties of Roscommon, Galway, and Mayo. It was true that the magistrates committed lunatics to the gaol in the first instance, but on the Report being made to the Government the lunatics were transferred as soon as possible to the asylum in the district. The hon. Gentleman wanted magistrates in Ireland to have the same power as in England of committing dangerous lunatics to the asylum of the county to which they belonged; but in Ireland there was a want of accommodation which the Government were doing all in their power to repair, The course which had been adopted in Ireland, however, of committing a dangerous lunatic to gaol was cheaper for the counties than the process of sending him to the Sessions as a criminal lunatic. In their Report of last year the Lunacy Commissioners entered very fully into the matter, and he thought everything was now being done to remedy the defects of past years. In the course of two years and a half every one of these district asylums would be completed, and they would accommodate all the criminal lunatics now in gaol or that would be committed to gaol. In the Dublin district the Government had found some difficulty in getting the county of Wicklow to agree to their terms, and the matter was still under consideration.


said, he wished to point out the dangerous consequences which ensued from the committal of lunatics to prisons constructed for the separate system without a large common room in which different prisoners could meet together. He thought that, considering the importance of placing dangerous lunatics under proper treatment in the earliest stages of their malady, the magistrates in Ireland should have the power of sending them in the first instance to the asylum instead of the gaol. In some cases where there was plenty of room in the asylum these men were kept in gaol for a fortnight. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would have no objection to insert in the Bill which was to be read a second time for the regulation of such asylums a clause to carry out the views of the hon. Member for Meath.


said, he admitted that it would be desirable to give the magistrates in Ireland the same power as they had in England; but up to the present time this was impossible. When the new asylums were constructed the Government could bring in a Bill to assimilate the law of the two countries.