HC Deb 09 June 1873 vol 216 c639

Sir, I have received a Report from the clerk to the visiting justices of the county gaol at Oxford on the complaints of Mary and Elizabeth Pratley as to the insufficiency of food for themselves and children, and general neglect and ill-treatment during their imprisonment, and the absence of inquiry by the visiting justices and other prison authorities as to the sufficiency of their food. I am informed that Mr. Hammersley, the Chairman of quarter sessions, and two other visiting justices visited the gaol on the 24th of May, two days after the admission of the prisoners, and they state that all the women were asked by the Chairman in the presence of the governor and the matron, whether they had any complaint to make, and that they answered they had not. Two surgeons who attended the prison saw these women, and state that they were healthy, received sufficient food, and although asked if they had any complaint to make, made none. The matron of the prison states— Both the mothers and children were healthy on their admission, and also on their discharge. They were furnished with the same diet as all other prisoners with babies have been during the 12 years I have been in the prison, where I have had many such under my charge, and according to the rule and dietary table which has been always found to be sufficient, and has never occasioned any complaint. Each child was supplied every morning and every evening with a full half-pint of new milk, and also with six ounces of bread each day, usually allowed for babies. In addition to the above diet, I made some sop with sugar for Elizabeth Pratley's child each day, as she told me her child had been accustomed to have sugar. I asked each prisoner every night at supper, whether they had got all they required for the children, and they always answered in a satisfactory and contented manner that they had. The prisoners did not on arrival complain of any cold or damp, and during their imprisonment did not complain to me of anything, excepting that Mary Pratley, two days after admission, complained of rheumatism, when I asked her if she would see the doctor, but she did not think it was necessary to do so. Each prisoner slept on a wooden bedstead and straw mattress, and was supplied with a rug, a sheet, and two blankets. I was present when the three visiting justices saw the prisoners, and I heard the Chairman inquire whether they had any complaint to make, and they answered they had not. I never noticed that Mary Pratley's child had a cough, and I must have observed or heard it if it had been so; and certainly I never found or saw her child suffering on Sunday from a cough, as she has stated.