HC Deb 08 June 1880 vol 252 cc1497-506

in rising to draw attention to the inconvenience of sending Criminal Lunatics to County Asylums; to the necessity for making separate accommodation for Idiots and for Chronic Lunatics now in County Asylums; and to move— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Laws relating to the custody and maintenance of Criminal Lunatics, of Idiots, and of Chronic Lunatics; said, he would acknowledge that there was some inconvenience in asking the House to proceed with a debate on a subject so nearly analogous to that in which they had been just engaged; but the point which he wished particularly to raise could not be dealt with as it deserved in the late discussion. The time was past for the treatment of the insane by the seclusion of the dark cell, the restraint of the strait waistcoat and iron fetters, by severity of discipline, and a diet of bread and water. Science had stepped in and told us that insanity was nothing more nor less than a disease. He desired particularly to draw attention to that fact, because it was upon it that he largely based the argument which he was about to present to the House. Our great lunatic asylums were no longer what they were considered in other days; they were no longer prisons or houses of detention for the safe-guarding of lunatics, but hospitals for the care and the cure of those who were afflicted with a particular disease. Looking at the matter in that way, he had good reason to complain that persons were sent to county lunatic asylums in which there was no special accommodation for them, and who were not fit to be there. The class to whom he alluded were the criminal lunatics. Persons in any way tainted with crime ought not to be sent to our county asylums; their example was bad, their whole tone had a disturbing and deteriorating effect upon those with whom they were associated, and, in fact, they were the worst of all possible people who should be sent there. This question had been forced upon the attention of the people in the county of Somerset in a very remarkable way. Very recently a military prisoner of a specially dangerous character had been sent from the State prison to the county asylum in charge of three warders, and the man rejoiced in saying that if there had not been three warders he would have brained those who brought him part of the way. The man escaped and he had to be captured. It afterwards turned out that he and another military prisoner were both malingerers, having shammed insanity, and had no business to be there at all. There was every inducement for malingerers to sham insanity in order to receive better diet and more lenient treatment than they would in prison. His contention was that all who became insane during the period of their sentence, whether in a State prison or undergoing penal servitude in a convict prison, should be maintained in separate prison asylums. Prisons were now State prisons, and no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the counties. So long as prisoners were under the control of the Visiting Justices they never would have sent to them prisoners of this class. He objected even to sending prisoners to county asylums after the expiration of their sentences. He would have a prison asylum to which all prisoners should be sent before the expiration of their sentence, and also a special asylum where such lunatics subsequently might be cared for after completion of their sentences. Criminal lunatics, just as lunatics after completion of sentence, could better be looked after in separate institutions, and from this point of view the interests of society should be considered. There was a careful precaution taken in the case of pauper lunatics which was neglected in the case of criminal lunatics. Whenever a pauper lunatic was sent to an asylum, the law required that the medical man who certified should specify the acts of insanity which he had himself observed. The criminal lunatics were sent by the warrant of the Secretary of State, and the Visitors of the county asylums had nothing to do but to accept his fiat. Those lunatics ought clearly to be a charge on the State. Whenever a prisoner, undergoing a sentence, was found to be insane, an endeavour was made to ascertain his settlement. He was sent to the Union in which the charge was, and if the settlement could not be found, he was then sent at the charge of the county in which he happened to be confined as a prisoner. He thought this was entirely indefensible. There were other classes of the insane known to the law; there were those, for instance, who were found to be, by the verdict of a jury, insane at the moment of their offence. He suggested Amendments in the Broadmoor Act. He was aware that, in now asking for a Select Committee, he might be told that recently a Select Committee had inquired into the subject of the Lunacy Law, and that it had reported only a very short time since. That Committee, he might observe, was presided over by a right hon. Gentleman a Member of that House who had been long and much respected, and whose loss he was sure they all deeply deplored. He alluded to the late Sir Stephen Cave, a man of unusual zeal, earnestness, and ability, and one who had performed valuable services to his country. That Committee, however, was appointed for a different purpose from the one to which the Committee he was now proposing would address itself. The former Committee had referred to it the special branch of the Lunacy Law which had regard to the securities afforded against the violation of personal liberty, and it certainly reported strongly in favour of a consolidation of the law. But another Committee, to investigate the points to which he had himself now alluded, would, he believed, render useful service. With respect to adult idiots, they could, he thought, be better treated in an asylum by themselves. That remark applied still more strongly to the case of idiot children, who, if taken by the hand in their earlier days and carefully trained, might have their dim and latent intelligence so improved as to make them happier members of society, and in a great degree self-sustaining. That was shown by the experience of the excellent institution at Earlswood. It was highly desirable that power should be given to counties to combine for the purpose of setting up special and separate asylums for idiots. Unions now possessed such a power, but counties did not. With regard to chronic lunatics, at present they were entering the asylums faster than they were going out; but that fact was greatly owing to the circumstance that the science and skill and care of the present day helped to prolong the lives of those poor creatures far more than was the case 50 years ago. In many instances now, those patients had been in the asylums for 20 and even 30 years. There should be auxiliary asylums for the care of chronic patients. He would only make one other remark, which he thought was well worthy of the attention of Her Majesty's Government. He would ask them whether the time had not arrived when the whole management of our county asylums might be placed under the control of a responsible Department of the State? He did not desire to cast any reflection upon the Commissioners of Lunacy. They performed their difficult task with considerable ability. But the county magistrates would rather deal with a Department of the State than with the Commissioners of Lunacy. It was a noble work to Minister to a mind diseas'd; Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow; Raze out the written troubles of the brain. England had been foremost in that work, and we were proud that she had set an example to all Europe and to the world. But her work was incomplete. There were amendments to be made; there were reforms to be carried out. The law required consolidation. It was to complete those reforms that he asked Her Majesty's Government to facilitate the measures which he wished to see carried out by assenting to the Motion which he had the honour to propose.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the Laws relating to the custody and maintenance of Criminal Lunatics, Idiots, and of Chronic Lunatics."—(Mr. Richard Paget.)


said, his hon. Friend (Mr. E. Paget) had stated his subject in a manner which might have been expected from his knowledge of it, and with great feeling and great consideration for the class of people to whom he had referred. In the earlier part of the evening they dealt with lunatics; but they were dealing now with a class which to lunacy superadded crime. Broadly stated, there were four classes of criminal lunatics. There were those who were called "Queen's-pleasure" lunatics, who had been either found to be insane, or who had been acquitted as insane. There were those lunatics who were under sentence of penal servitude. The third class were those who were under sentence of imprisonment merely. And lastly, there were those lunatics who were waiting for trial. These four classes of criminal lunatics were sent into dif- ferent localities. They were sent to Broadmoor in certain cases. They were sent in other cases to the lunatic wards at Woking. They were sent to pauper asylums of the jurisdiction where the prison was situate, and they were sent to lunatic asylums where the crime was committed. Roughly speaking, they might be said to be sent to one of these four destinations. The hon. Gentleman had complained of this way of dealing with criminal lunatics. There was, first of all, complaint that after their sentences had expired they were treated as paupers and taken to the nearest workhouse, and there became chargeable, when it was for the convenience of the Government and by the action of the Government that they were introduced into the locality at all. He believed that soldiers and sailors, if their settlement could not be ascertained, or if they came from Scotland or Ireland, were either kept at Broadmoor after the expiration of their sentences, or taken to the nearest workhouse and there handed over as wandering pauper lunatics; and that had given rise to most frequent and very angry remonstrances. Then there was another complaint in reference to the maintenance of these criminal lunatics in the asylums. First, as to the maintenance during the currency of their sentences. That expense of maintenance had been by several Acts of Parliament thrown on the place of settlement, where that could be ascertained; and where it could not be ascertained, then on the jurisdiction where the prison was situate or the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed. A person convicted and sentenced to penal servitude was distinguished from an ordinary misdemeanant. He believed that that convict, as long as his sentence was unexpired, was maintained at the expense of the State. But it was a great grievance that when the Government, for its own convenience, introduced a criminal prisoner into a particular locality, with which he had nothing to do, the locality should be responsible for the cost of his maintenance. At Woking there were wards appropriated to criminal lunatics, and he thought it was a fair question whether that practice could not be extended, and these criminal lunatics be sent to special prisons or quarters where provision was specially made for their reception. The hon. Gentleman had said that criminals had contracted dangerous habits, and that alone was a reason why they should not be sent to county asylums. Now he (Mr. Arthur Peel) thought that was an obvious proposition. But he would also observe that it was insufficient to say they would only exclude criminals of criminal habits, because, as far as his own observation went, and as far as he had been informed by a much higher authority, there was a class of lunatics who were admitted into lunatic asylums, and who, though they had not been convicted formally of criminal habits, yet had all criminal characteristics about them, and were as dangerous as the most confirmed convict could be. It was a question whether it would not be an amelioration of the present state of things if the asylum at Broadmoor could be used exclusively for the very worst classes of dangerous criminal lunatics, and the other asylums thereby freed from that most dangerous, deadly, and contaminating type of criminal lunacy. The hon. Member had divided his Motion into two portions, the first dealing with criminal lunatics, and the second part dealing with the laws relating to the custody of idiots and chronic lunatics. He (Mr. Arthur Peel) assumed that the latter expression referred to chronic harmless lunatics, and that it was intended by the hon. Member that these poor creatures should not be put into the county lunatic asylums, but should be separated from the other lunatics and relegated to some place specially adapted for the reception of their particular class. He understood that there was some doubt whether counties could legally combine for the purpose of dealing with this special class of idiots and chronic harmless lunatics. The hon. Member was of opinion that they could not do so; but it certainly would be a great advantage if counties had such a power, so as to enable these poor creatures to be dealt with as a special and distinct class of lunatics. The advantage of classifying lunatics had been already shown in several instances. Within the last few days an application had come from Stowmarket for permission to appropriate a disused workhouse for the reception of idiots and harmless lunatics, and a similar application had been made from With am, in Essex. He had been informed, however, that these dis- used workhouses, these old bastiles, as they were called, being in some instances more than 100 years old, were utterly unfit to be appropriated to such a purpose. In reference to the possible removal of these chronic harmless lunatics to some such place as he had indicated, he should wish to allude specially to the case of those who were suffering from the peculiar form of disease technically known as senile dementia. Taking the numbers of such cases at present in the three great lunatic asylums, he found that at Hanwell, out of a total of 1,840 lunatics, only 50 females and 15 males who were suffering from this peculiar form of lunacy could be removed; at Colney Hatch, out of a total of 2,178 lunatics, 20 males and 48 females were said to be fit to be removed; and at Ban-stead, out of a total of 1,600 lunatics, some 40 males and females were said to be capable of being removed to the Metropolitan workhouses. These were cases, however, with regard to which the medical superintendent certified that great risk would be run in the removal of the lunatics, unless the greatest care were taken, and unless the workhouses to which they were removed were fitted with all the most approved appliances that scientific knowledge indicated as being necessary for their treatment. He quite agreed with the hon. Member that the mass of statutes connected with this subject required both consideration and amendment. In March of last year the late Home Secretary appointed a Committee, in the nature of, but not exclusively, a Departmental Committee, consisting of Gentlemen specially qualified by their intimate knowledge of the question to deal with it, and the subjects referred to that Committee were whether it was desirable that criminal lunatics should be separated from pauper lunatics, what special provisions should be made for the care and custody of imbecile lunatics, and whether Broadmoor had answered its purpose, or whether it was necessary to alter its constitution? It met in August, and again on the day upon which Parliament was dissolved, so that it did not arrive at any practical conclusion, and, therefore, he now proposed to re-appoint it, and to submit to it the same subjects of inquiry as before. No time would be lost in doing so, and he therefore hoped the hon. Member would be content with this proposal on his part, and would not press the Government further on the matter at a time when they had only recently come into Office, and were giving their best consideration to this large and important subject.


did not see why aged lunatics in a state of second infancy should be removed from the workhouses into the large asylums. They did not require any more attention than children who were noisy and dirty. He therefore hoped that, in the terms of Reference to the Committee, they would be empowered to inquire into and report upon the best mode of dealing with persons suffering from senile dementia.


said, he would consider the suggestion in conjunction with his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, in order, if possible, to enlarge the terms of Reference.


suggested that the Committee should not be a Departmental Committee, as proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Arthur Peel). What had been done heretofore had been unsatisfactory to the House in determining the question what should be done either with Broadmoor or criminal lunatics generally. A great deal of investigation had been made, and the result was that a Report had been presented, and the House had got the Report. [Mr. ARTHUR PEEL said, the Committee had not presented the Report.] The hon. Gentleman was quite correct as to the Committee he referred to, but not as to the Committee referred to by himself (Mr. Ramsay), the Report of which the hon. Gentleman would obtain in the Library. The Committee he referred to was a Departmental Committee, and the hon. Gentleman would be able to read and consider the Report of that Committee. He deprecated the appointment of a Departmental Committee as not being likely to give information which might be instructive to the House, or to afford reliable information regarding the mode of dealing with pauper criminals in general. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would take into consideration what had been already done on this subject, and consider the pro- priety of extending the scope of the inquiry and having it conducted not only by officers of the various Departments, but also by hon. Members in whom the House might have confidence, and whose Report would be of value in guiding them to proper legislation on the subject when it came before the House.


said, that after the statements he had heard from the Treasury Bench he should not press his Motion to a division, as he could see he should do no good in doing so; but, at the same time, he must express a hope that the terms of Reference would be so enlarged as to include an inquiry which should cover the question of the best mode of dealing with cases of senile dementia.


said, he could say no more than that he would consult with his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, to see if the terms of Reference to the Committee could be enlarged so as to embrace the subjects mentioned.


said, that, without desiring unduly to press the Government as to the nature of the Order of Reference to the Committee, he thought it would be satisfactory to the House to learn what kind of Committee was proposed to be appointed. Was it to be an ordinary Committee, such as that moved for by his hon. Friend (Mr. Paget), or a Departmental Committee?


replied, that the Committee would be composed partly of Members of the Department of the Home Office, and partly of Members of the House who were not connected with that Department.


said, he gathered that the Committee was to be half Departmental, half Parliamentary, and he would suggest that it should include Gentlemen selected not only from the Home Office, but also from the Local Government Board. He did not wish the Government to declare themselves on the subject immediately; but if the Government thought this Hybrid Committee was the proper one to consider the matter, then let it be done; only let the Reference be of such a nature as to embrace all the subjects. If the Reference was largo, the House would be satisfied that the matter had been fully and fairly considered. The question was one of great and growing importance, and he believed the House would be very un- willing to shake the confidence of the public in the Act of 1867, or to lessen the beneficial results which had ensued from its operation. That, he feared, might be done if there was not great care exercised in sending persons to these asylums, so that this expensive machinery should not be used for cases for which it was never intended.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.