HC Deb 09 August 1888 vol 330 cc78-80
MR. W. J. CORBET (Wicklow, E.)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If his attention has been called to a report of a trial at Leeds on Friday last, before Mr. Justice Cave, in which Dr. Eastwood, the proprietor of the Dinsdale Private Lunatic Asylum, an establishment kept for private gain, claimed £2,000 damages from The Northern Echo, which published an extract from another paper reflecting on Dr. Eastwood's treatment of his patients; whether is is the fact that he has already recovered damages from two other papers for the same libel, and when apologized to in the fullest manner by The Northern Echo intimated through his solicitor that he— Could not think of being satisfied without a monetary compensation; whether he is aware that the charges consisted mainly of the bad quality of the food; that Dr. Eastwood employed the patients to work on his farm of 120 acres on the plea of giving them exercise; that there is in the asylum A strong dark room set apart for solitary confinement when patients become refractory and unmanageable; that the writer saw "many acts of violence to the patients;" and heard "awful screams" from time to time; whether, considering the very painful nature of the charges, the Lunacy Commissioners have of their own accord inquired into the truth or falsehood of these grave charges; and, if not, will he call upon them to do so; and, whether the Government will next Session re-introduce the Lunacy Amendment Bill, and put a clause into it providing for the total abolition of private lunatic asylums kept for personal profit?


I am informed by the Lunacy Commissioners that they have no knowledge of the actions for libel brought by Dr. Eastwood beyond that contained in the newspapers. The asylum is visited twice a-year by two Commissioners; four times a-year by the Visiting Justices and Medical Visitor appointed by Quarter Sessions, and twice by the Medical Visitor alone. Defects have, from time to time, been detected and pointed out; but no such grave abuses as those specified in the libel. As far as the Commissioners are aware the allegations are unfounded; and having regard to the result of the litigation they do not consider any inquiry on their part to be necessary. It will be observed that no attempt was made to justify the libel. The Government hope to be able to re-introduce the Lunacy Bill next Session; but cannot undertake to insert such a clanse as is suggested.