§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
wished to ask a Question of his right hon. Friend the 1388 Secretary of State for the Home Department. He had not given Notice of it; but he had written to him yesterday morning, forwarding a memorial signed by 2,500 persons in the borough with which he was connected, with reference to a child 10 years old, who had been sentenced to a month's imprisonment for breaking a window, and begging him to consider whether he could not pass the child to some industrial school, rather than suffer it to undergo the degradation of a public prison for such an offence. The child was only eight years of age, and the Home Secretary had not replied to that memorial. He wished to impress on his right hon. Friend the necessity of giving an answer to a question of that kind without further delay. The child was in prison. ["Order!"] He was aware he was out of order in making any observations; but he could easily put himself in order if he pleased. It was only in the interest of the 2,500 persons who had signed the memorial that he asked the question—Whether, there being no home for the child, his right hon. Friend would not send it to an Industrial School rather than allow it to remain in prison?
said, in reply, that he thought his right hon. Friend might have done him the justice to recollect what he had not stated—that, although he had not answered his last letter, he had written to him very fully on the question the day before. The facts were not such as had appeared in print, or as his right hon. Friend had stated them, so far as he was informed by the very respectable magistrates who had dealt with the case. The story as represented was that the child of eight years old was sent to prison for having broken a pane of glass in throwing a stone at a bird; but the facts as stated to him were that the child was 11 years old—that the child was throwing the stone at a girl and broke a pane of glass worth £2. The child had lost its mother, and the father was a very disreputable person, constantly becoming an inmate of the poorhouse. The magistrates had made strict inquiries, and considered what was best to be done for the interest of the child. Of course, the child was sent to prison for a period which, to him, seemed a long one; but the magistrates wrote to the governor and chaplain of the gaol recommending the child to the special 1389 care and instruction of the chaplain. He did not think it was the duty of the Secretary of State on all occasions to act simply on his own opinion as to whether a sentence was a correct one. When he was satisfied that the magistrates had thoroughly and carefully considered the subject, acting on the best of their judgment, and when their decision was not flagrantly opposed to justice and good sense, he thought it would be wrong in the Secretary of State to interfere with their discretion. He should be only too glad, if he had the power which his right hon. Friend suggested, of remitting the remainder of the sentence in order to send this child to an industrial school; but he had no such power. What he had suggested was, that when the child was released, and when, through the misconduct of the parent, he returned to his evil ways, he should be committed under the Industrial Schools Act. In that way he might be trained to better habits.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he desired to say one word in explanation. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to raise a laugh by saying that a letter having been written to him yesterday, he had answered it the day before. In fact, he had written on the 13th to the Home Secretary, who took five days to answer the letter. Yesterday he sent him the memorial signed by 2,500 persons, and to that he had received no reply. He requested an answer to that memorial.
would only say, in reply to his right hon. Friend, that he had done what was always done under such circumstances. He referred the complaint to the magistrates, and the moment he received their answer he not only made a formal official minute on the subject, but wrote privately to the right hon. Baronet. The reason why he had not written to him a second time on the receipt of the memorial was, that it contained, no fact which had not already come under his consideration.