HC Deb 25 July 1870 vol 203 cc870-2

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department Whether, in the case of Mr. George Maw, who, while undergoing a sentence of fourteen days' imprisonment in the Durham County Gaol, received twenty-four lashes of the cat-o'-nine-tails by order of the Reverend Canon Greenwell, and into whose case he recently made some inquiry, Messrs. Bowser and Ward, the Solicitors acting for a Committee appointed by a public meeting of upwards of five hundred inhabitants of Bishop Auckland, did not inform him that they had evidence to show that Mr. Maw was labouring under an attack of delirium tremens during a part of the time of his incarceration, and was discharged from prison in a most deplorable condition both in mind and body; and, whether the evidence, the existence of which was thus brought to the Home Secretary's knowledge, had not been disregarded, and the inquiry confined to the gaol officials?


Sir, I had received and considered the memorial sent to me by Messrs. Bowser and Ward before answering the Question relating to the punishment of George Maw, put to me some weeks, ago by the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease). The answer of the visiting justices and the evidence with which they supplied me satisfied me that there were no sufficient grounds for further inquiry by the Home Office into the circumstances of his punishment. The facts are these—In the absence of the visiting justices, Mr. Canon Greenwell was called in as a magistrate to adjudicate on an assault committed by Maw upon a warder on the 28th of April. The assault was a most violent and brutal one. Without any provocation, Maw, in the words of a witness, "struck the warder violently in the face with his clinched fist, kicked him on the body, seized him by the hair of his head, pulled him on the ground, and kicked him when on the ground. He then struck the witness with great violence and cut his lip and ear." The assault is not denied; but it is stated that the prisoner committed it under the influence of delirium tremens. Into that statement I also inquired. It appears from the statement of Mr. Boyd, the surgeon of the Durham County Prison, that he saw him on every day from the 20th of April to the 28th, the day of the assault, and that "on neither of the said days, nor at any time during his incarceration, did he exhibit any symptoms whatever of being afflicted by any mental or bodily disease;" that he carefully examined him on the 29th, the day he was flogged, and he found "that he was perfectly free from delirium tremens, or any other mental or bodily disorder, and was in a fit state to undergo corporal punishment to the extent of 24 lashes." Mr. Boyd was present when the sentence was carried into execution, and says that there were "no symptoms exhibited to show that there was any danger in carrying it out." I also received evi- dence which proved to me that there was no necessity to resort to delirium tremens as an explanation of the unprovoked violence of the prisoner, for he was represented to me as a man known for the outrageous violence of his temper; and, in confirmation of this statement, I received proof of his convictions at various places on no less than six different occasions between 1862 and 1870 for assaults, besides being convicted on several other occasions for being drunk and disorderly, for obstructing an Inspector of Nuisances in the execution of his duty, and for wilful damage to property. Taking all these circumstances together, I certainly did not and do not think that I should have been justified in directing further inquiry into the case.