HC Deb 04 August 1873 vol 217 cc1516-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to the late fatal catastrophe in the private lunatic asylum of Doctors Finch and Lush, near Salisbury, whereby the life of Mr. Robert Skeffington Lutwidge, Her Majesty's Commissioner of Lunacy, an old and valuable public servant, has been sacrificed; whether he has read the recent charge of the learned Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer to the grand jury of the county of Wilts, in which his Lordship is reported to have said as follows:— He meant to throw no imputation upon anybody, but that a great misfortune appeared to have arisen in consequence of a lunatic in an asylum not being sufficiently watched and guarded, and of sufficient means not having been taken to prevent him obtaining possession of anything by which bodily injury could be inflicted. The case was too familiar to all of them. It was matter of notoriety not only in the county, but throughout the Kingdom, that a lunatic possessed himself of a nail of sufficient length and strength, by which he was enabled to inflict a wound, which resulted in the death a few days afterwards of a Commissioner in Lunacy, a gentleman who was respected and esteemed by all who knew him: and, whether the Secretary of State has taken means to prevent such an occurrence happening again in a private lunatic asylum; and, also, if he can explain to the House how it was that a criminal lunatic, for whom ample provision is now made in the Government Criminal Lunatic Asylum at Broadmoor, where additional precautions are supposed to be taken, was allowed to be an inmate of a private lunatic asylum for a period of upwards of twenty years, the owners of which failed to discover that he was a dangerous lunatic, though it is admitted in evidence that he constantly threatened everybody?


in reply, said, the attention of the Home Secretary had boon drawn to the subject contained in the Question of the noble Lord, and the right hon. Gentleman had been in communication with the Commissioners of Lunacy on the subject. The asylum in question was, it appeared, one of the best conducted lunatic asylums in England, and the lunatic who killed Mr. Lutwidge was not a criminal lunatic, his sentence having expired. After the termination of his sentence he could be no longer kept in confinement in the Government Criminal Lunatic Asylum at Broadmoor, and he was therefore transferred to the private asylum near Salisbury. The Commissioners had visited the latter asylum annually, and on each occasion they had seen that particular lunatic; but they had not found this man to be a dangerous lunatic, nor recommended special precautions to be taken with regard to him. It was, doubtless, to be regretted that his real character was not previously ascertained; but, of course, accidents of this kind must sometimes occur in lunatic asylums.