HC Deb 04 May 1885 vol 297 cc1490-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to the death of the lad named C. F. Bourdas, aged 12, who died from injuries received at King's College School, and to the verdict of the coroner's jury thereon; and, whether, in consequence of that verdict having been given, he intends to take no notice of the matter?


I am glad my hon. Friend has called attention to this case, because I think it is a most serious one. I do not think there is any-greater blot on our social system than the abominable practice of bullying which takes place in the great schools, and, for the matter of that, in some of the small schools of the country. The history of this case is this—This unfortunate child was taken ill on the 10th of last month; but it was not till several days afterwards that the father could get the child to tell him what was the cause of his illness. He says— On Tuesday I asked him if he had had a blow on his back, and he said that, if I promised not to tell Dr. Stokoe, the Head Master of the school, he would tell me. I promised him. He said that on the 10th inst., when leaving the dining hall, the big boys, those belonging to the upper forms, ranged themselves along the corridor in great numbers, each boy administering a blow with his fist on the back of each little boy, and that he got about a dozen blows. He said that this had occurred twice previously. The poor boy died from concussion of the spine produced by these blows. Now, I will venture to say that I think both parents and masters are greatly responsible for allowing the state of things, which is not peculiar to this school, to go on. A system of terrorism exists, of which we have had an example in the case of this poor boy. He did not venture to tell what had happened, and when it comes to the knowledge of the parents, they are afraid that if they make a complaint the boy will suffer; and the masters of the school allow these things to go on for fear of mischief happening to the school. They do not inquire, and do not take measures in order to put a stop to things of this kind. By this system of terrorism which is carried out, immunity is secured to those brutal tyrants who exercise these cruelties. As soon as I heard of this case, I wrote to the managers of King's College, and I received a reply which I do not regard as at all satisfactory. The writer says— I am sorry to be unable at present to give you any further information beyond what came out at the inquest. The school is at present broken up. I do not see why that should be a reason why inquiry should not take place. The letter goes on— In the meantime, a special committee of the council has been summoned to meet on Friday next. That is, Friday of this week. To my mind, that is not at all a satisfactory way of dealing with such a case as this. Therefore, Sir, three or four days ago I placed the case in the hands of the Public Prosecutor, with instructions, if possible, to obtain evidence and procure the conviction and adequate punishment of offenders of this description. There are hundreds of boys sent to prison for offences trivial in comparison with crimes of this description. I think the time has come for dealing with this matter seriously; and when big boys guilty of offences of this kind are punished as they deserve to be, and when schools managed so as to allow a state of things of this sort to be possible are made to suffer, we shall then get to the end of a system which makes a number of innocent young lives miserable and intolerable.


wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he did not consider it to be the bounden duty of a Coroner in the case of a death arising from violence to summon before him the eye-witnesses of such violence before the verdict was given?


I think I had better not express any opinion now, as the matter is in the hands of the officers of public justice, who will see that the whole thing is inquired into.