HC Deb 07 August 1888 vol 329 cc1842-3
MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to the following remarks, made by Mr. Justice Hawkins in the course of the trial of Catherine Morgan at the Old Bailey on Friday last:— I regret that a police officer should have gone without a warrant and have taken the girl in the middle of the night to the police station. I also regret that the surgeon should have made an examination of the girl at midnight, in the absence of any female relative, when a delay till the morning could not have been productive of much harm. I consider that there has been harshness and severity in the treatment this poor girl has received which amounts to positive cruelty, and I trust that this is the last time I shall ever hear of such conduct. By whose order did the police officer arrest the girl; and, what stops he proposes to take with reference to the action of the police surgeon of the Division above mentioned?


I have made inquiry into this matter, and am informed by the Commissioners of Police that the police, having received information of circumstances which would probably result in the girl being charged with child murder, the Inspector in charge of the case gave directions for her arrest. The police were afraid the girl might commit suicide or escape, and therefore they felt it their duty to lose no time in arresting her. She was dressed when the officers went to the house, and denied that she was ill or had had a child. She was taken in a cab to the station, though she expressed her willingness to walk. She consented to the surgeon's examination, which was conducted in the presence of a female searcher. She then admitted that she had had a child, and was at once sent to the infirmary. Neither the girl herself nor any of her relatives have made any complaint as to her treatment. The examination of the girl might certainly have been postponed till the morning; and I have so informed the divisional surgeon; but the police thought that they would not be justified in detaining her in the face of her denials unless the fact of her recent delivery were established.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

asked, whether it would not have been more desirable that the surgeon should have been brought to the girl, so that the examination might have been made before she was removed at all?


said, that if the result could have been foreseen no doubt it would have been the better course. The officer engaged was a man of experience, who could not be suspected of personal ill-treatment; and in difficult circumstances he only acted upon the denials that the girl made. If she had admitted the truth, no doubt, the officer would have acted differently.