HC Deb 23 July 1875 vol 225 cc1952-4

called attention to the system of primary detention in the Metropolitan Police District, to the condition of the police cells, and the cells attached to the Courts of the stipendiary magistrates. Great alteration had been made of late years, he observed, in the condition of the convicted prisoners, but there had been no amelioration of the condition of those who were still assumed to be innocent. In 1873 73,857 persons were apprehended by the police in the London district, showing the necessity for considering the state and condition of the cells in which persons were often confined from 16 to 36 hours before the charges against them could be heard and dispossd of. The cells, as a rule, were very well kept and ventilated, but he thought the drunkards' cell could be improved by putting a ledge on which to rest the head, instead of having to he with the head on the floor, and he suggested that their number should be increased. The question of bail also was one that required consideration with a view to its enlargement. He was glad to find that assaults had greatly diminished which the Inspectors of police attributed to drunkenness from drinking the deleterious compounds that were formerly sold for spirits. Since the power of analyzation under the Licensing Act, from the sale of purer articles, these offences had very much diminished. He suggested that at Bow Street, where the cells were numerous, and not used, one should be fitted up as a medical cell, for the use of the medical officer. The cells connected with the police courts were very small and insufficient in number, and prisoners of all grades and ages were crowded into them until their cases came to be heard. There was another question as regarded the police which merited serious consideration. For a body of men numbering 10,000 it seemed to him that a Commissioner and two assistant Commissioners were quite inadequate. An army of 10,000 men in battalions of 1,000 would have at least 300 regimental officers, besides an efficient staff. Of late years there had been an appalling amount of undetected crime, and he maintained that in the police there ought to be a larger number of educated men of high character and position, and if that were the case there would be a vast difference in the amount of undetected crime.


thought that a great deal of obloquy had been thrown upon a large body of painstaking public servants. In 1873 a Committee of the Social Science Association went round the police cells of London and made a report upon them, in which they said that they did not require material alteration. Since that time considerable improvement had taken place in those cells. In June of this year some gentlemen connected with The Lancet visited the police cells in the metropolis and reported even more strongly in favour of the condition in which they found them. When the hon. and gallant Baronet gave Notice of his Question, he made a point himself of visiting these cells without any previous notice to the police authorities, and he could state that the praise given to them by the hon. and gallant Baronet was fully deserved. With regard to the police courts, he could not go so far as he did in saying that a large number of them were not sufficiently supplied with cells, because in the beginning of this year the Secretary of State ordered an inquiry to be made upon them by Dr. Bristowe, and he reported that, whilst with respect to three of them—Westminster, Bow Street, and Clerkenwell—much improvement was needed, the other 10 were sufficient for the number of prisoners confined in them.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


resumed: He could find no ground for just complaint. The rules laid down were implicitly adhered to, and formed a sufficient safeguard against abuse. In case of necessity medical advice was always taken. If the hon. and gallant Baronet could point out any serious grievance connected with the detention of prisoners, he might rely that it would have the immediate consideration of the Home Office.