HC Deb 23 February 1883 vol 276 cc703-4

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether it is a fact that, on the 9th June last, Thomas Harrison, formerly an inmate of Cheadle Lunatic Asylum, near Manchester, was illegally seized and lodged in the police cells in Glasgow by a person said to be an attendant from that institution; whether the attendant was officially warned by one of the sheriffs substitute of Lanarkshire that he had acted illegally in attempting to re-arrest Harrison without a warrant, and whether a similar official communication was made by the same Judge to the Police authorities; whether it is true that, on the 15th June, Harrison was decoyed by a forged note to the office of his law agent, and, on leaving it, was seized without warrant by persons supposed to be attendants from the Cheadle Lunatic Asylum, and forcibly and illegally carried from Glasgow to that asylum; and, whether the Crown authorities have taken any steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of this violation of the Laws of Scotland?


I find, upon inquiry, Sir, that the facts are substantially as indi- cated in the Question. No complaint was, however, made to the Crown authorities, nor did they become aware that such occurrences had taken place until Notice of this Question was given. It is understood that the persons concerned came from England, and, even assuming the apprehension to have been without legal warrant, the case would appear to be one rather for a civil remedy than for criminal proceedings at the instance of the Crown.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with respect to the case of Thomas Harrison, Whether the facts of Harrison's illegal abduction from Scotland and confinement in Cheadle Asylum were officially communicated to the Lord Chancellor in September last; whether the Lord Chancellor was informed that Harrison had courted a public investigation into his mental condition under the Scottish Law, and that the solicitor assigned to him by the Court, as agent for the poor, had stated that, during his intercourse with him, he had not noticed any symptoms of insanity; and, whether, considering the state of the facts, and the illegality of his arrest, an independent investigation has been, or will be, ordered into Harrison's mental state?


I have a note from the secretary to the Lord Chancellor, who says that the Lord Chancellor has no power to discharge a lunatic summarily; but if a person is detained without authority, the proper way to release him is by habeas corpus. The Lord Chancellor made inquiry into the present case. It appears that the recapture of Mr. Harrison was effected by the superintendent of Cheadle Asylum, over which the Lord Chancellor has no authority; and, as regards Mr. Harrison himself, the Visitors' Report stated that he was dangerous to himself and others. Since 1877 he was regularly visited.


In consequence of the answer I have received to this Question, I shall take an early opportunity of drawing the attention of the House to the subject.