HC Deb 02 September 1887 vol 320 cc908-10
SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he has received a Report from a Committee of County Magistrates held at Derby on 9th August, to consider the case of James Smith Buckberry, who was flogged at Ripley on 11th July; whether the magistrates have in any way censured or punished the police for their conduct in arresting the child in the middle of the night, or for the manner in which the sentence of four strokes with a birch rod was inflicted; whether he is aware that it was disclosed at the inquiry that the rod used in flogging the child had been shortened before it was shown to the magistrates; whether he is aware that two largo public meetings held at Ilkeston on August 17th and 18th have, by Resolutions, protested against the punishment inflicted on James Smith Buckberry, expressed the public belief in his innocence, and demanded a further public inquiry at Ilkeston on account of the dissatisfaction felt at the place (Derby) of the magistrates' inquiry, the short notice given of it, and the refusal of the magistrates to adjourn it, in order to give time for further evidence to be brought forward; and, whether, under these circumstances, he will order a public inquiry to be held at Ilkeston, and will carefully consider any evidence submitted to him in proof of the child's innocence; and, if satisfied thereof, grant him a free pardon?


I have received a full and exhaustive Report from the County Police Committee in reference to this case. They report that the arrest of so young a boy in the middle of the night was very unnecessary and injudicious; and that the case of very juvenile offenders, unless under special circumstances, might be dealt with on summons without arrest. They also state that no special instructions to that effect have been given to the police, and that the invariable practice has been to arrest in all eases of alleged felony; and, under the circumstances, they do not consider the constables were open to serious blame for the arrest. They report that they consider the charge of undue severity against the police in the infliction of the penalty has not been made out. It was proved at the inquiry that the birch rod had been shortened. I am aware that public meetings have been held as suggested. I regret that the magistrates did not find it possible to give longer notice of the inquiry, and to hold it at Ilkeston; but I find that four witnesses, including Dr. Tobin and the boy's mother, were heard on behalf of the boy, and that every material fact as to the arrest and the flogging was brought before the magistrates, so that further inquiry could throw no additional light on the case, which is ripe for judgment. I concur with the magistrates in their condemnation of the arrest; and I think it is clear that the punishment of the boy was far too severe. That seems to have been due in part to the character of the rod used and in part to the delicate state of the boy. I have already given directions for the issue of a Circular, which will, I hope, prevent any such occurrences in future; and I shall be happy to consider any evidence submitted to me in proof of the boy's innocence of the original charge.

MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman would prohibit the infliction of punishment of this kind by policemen in the absence of a magistrate or some person of position superior to that of the police?


I am afraid I have no authority by law to prohibit a sentence which the Statute imposes being carried out by the Legal Authorities. All I can do is to offer recommendations to them. I have not the terms of the Circular I have issued; but it recommended in general terms that in the case of young offenders a birch rod of a certain size should be used, and that on the question of the health of the child a medical man should be consulted.


Will some superior person be present at the time of the inflection of the punishment?


The Act of Parliament does not require that. It says that the punishment is to be inflicted by some police constable.