HC Deb 19 April 1875 vol 223 cc1208-10

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the case of John Langton, who was sentenced in March 1874 to eighteen months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in Salford Gaol, and who died in that prison on the 24th of March 1875; whether he is aware that the said John Langton was, during the whole time of his imprisonment, in delicate and failing health; whether a memorial, numerously signed, was forwarded to the Home Office in July 1874, asking for Langton's release (among other reasons) on the ground of his illness; whether another memorial was forwarded to the Home Office in March 1875, signed by 5,400 persons, and praying for the release of Langton on the ground of his serious illness; whether communications to the like effect were received at the Home Office from time to time from the Governor and Doctor of the prison in which Langton was confined; and, whether he will lay upon the Table of the House all documents and letters not private or confidential relating to Langton's health or release received at the Home Office during Langton's confinement?


Sir, my attention has been called to the case of John Langton. As stated by the hon. and learned Member, he was sentenced for the offence of personation at a municipal election, by the Court of quarter sessions at the date specified, to 18 calendar months' imprisonment. That seems to be a very severe sentence, no doubt; but the Court was presided over by a salaried chairman of very high standing at the Bar, of very great experience, and a man of very great intellectual capacity, and therefore we must assume that he gave great attention to the subject. I was not aware that during the whole of his imprisonment he was in delicate or failing health. Certainly, a memorial numerously signed was forwarded to the Home Office in 1874, asking for Langton's release; but that memorial rested almost entirely upon the ground of the conviction having been improper, which I could not attend to for the reasons I have named, and only the very last words of the document were the words "that he was in delicate health." As was stated, another memorial was forwarded to the Home Office in March 1875, signed by 5,475 persons, but that, like the former one, practically relied on the ground of the injustice of the original conviction. At the same time, it did state that the prisoner had suffered seriously in constitution by his imprisonment. I received a letter a day or two afterwards from the hon. and learned Member, and, of course, the usual inquiries were made, and an answer was received through the visiting justices. The kind of certificate necessary in order to ensure the release of a prisoner is perfectly well known; but the certificate that was forwarded to the Home Office, instead of stating that there was any danger to his health from the imprisonment, simply stated that the prisoner's bodily health was impaired, and that he was unfit for any hard work. I think there has been some mistake in this case. With respect to the further part of the Question of my hon. and learned Friend, I can find no trace in the office of any communication either from the governor or from the doctor of the prison, except the one which was sent by the order of the visiting justices in answer to my own inquiry, and therefore I have no Papers to lay upon the Table of the House. As regards, however, any others relating to the case, I shall be glad, as far as possible, to submit them to my hon. and learned Friend for his information.