HC Deb 23 August 1881 vol 265 cc725-6

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he can give any information as to the following prisoners in the Gaol at Free Town, Sierra Leone:—W. T. G. Caulker, imprisoned October 1878; Monodoo Vangang, imprisoned May 4th 1876; Doombuya, imprisoned December 1879; Beah Yeck, Sharka Bolontan, and Mustapha, imprisoned March 1880; what are the charges against them respectively; whether they are detained under any warrant or other legal process; why are they not tried; whether they are treated like convicts, though untried; whether he can give any information of the charge against Thomas C. Williams, another prisoner in the same Gaol of Free Town, Sierra Leone, who memorialised the Colonial Office in April 1879; whether the prisoner has for four years, night and day, been shackled with irons, consisting of a band round the waist, and chains to the wrists and ankles; whether an order for the removal of them was sent by or at the instigation of the Secretary of State in April 1880, and only for a time or in part obeyed; whether the man has been worse treated and flogged with forty lashes since; whether, at the same prison, Nathaniel Williams, on 14th October last, was forced on the treadmill while in irons, and, in consequence suffered compound fracture of the arm; and, whether he will inquire as to the present fate of all these men with a view to their release, and to order an investigation into the state of the gaol and the frequent flogging alleged to take place there?


Sir, we have no information as to three of the prisoners—namely, Monodoo Vangang, Doombuya, and Beah Yeck; but we will at once make inquiries about them. We did inquire about Caulker, Sharka Bolontan, and Mustapha, some months since. The dates of their imprisonment appear to be correctly given. They were, in fact, exposed to the vengeance of neighbouring Chiefs, and were taken over as prisoners partly for their own protection, partly to prevent outbreaks of war. Caulker has been released, but upon condition that he do not leave the Colony. Attempts are now being made to settle the feuds in which the others were involved, and their release may be shortly expected. They have not been tried, and indeed it must be said that they are State prisoners, detained without any clear warrant of law. They have been treated as untried prisoners, although Caulker seems to have been subjected to punishment more than once in consequence of attempts to escape. We have no information about Nathaniel Williams; but with respect to him an inquiry will be immediately made. As to Thomas Williams, a despatch had been prepared before Notice was given of the hon. Member's Question, and it went by last Friday's mail. I am afraid the first Questions relating to him accurately state the facts. We have no official information as to the last; but it was a statement to that effect which caused the despatch to be written which I have already mentioned. I trust that the investigation which has been ordered will remedy, if it does not remove altogether, the state of affairs, which is a scandal to our administration.