§ MR. CHANNING(for Mr. S. SMITH) (Flintshire)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to the report that the two boys, who are now waiting their trial for murder in Maidstone Gaol, had been addicted, by their own confession, to the reading of such books as Dick Turpin, Varney the Vampire: or, the Feast of Blood, and Sweeney Todd, and that one of them told a correspondent of The Tunbridge Wells Advertiser that he was prepared for his fate now he had made his name known; whether he is aware that there is an enormous circulation of criminal literature among the young, and that about 25 English newspapers have recently been publishing the lives of Charles Peace, William Palmer, the Rugeley poisoner, and the murderers Burke and Hare; whether he is aware that these stories, attractively written, are widely circulated, and read by enormous numbers of children, and instigate many of them to the commission of crime; whether any check can be put upon the circulation of these pernicious works; and, whether a record could be kept of the class of books or papers found on the persons of youthful criminals when arrested, as a guide to future legislation on the subject?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
I have seen the statement referred to; and I have instructed the Prison Commissioners to ascertain whether the statement emanated through the prison officials, as reported. The hon. Member may be quite justified in supposing that there is a large circulation of demoralizing literature; and I stated last night to the House that the Government have taken, and are prepared to take, such steps as prudence dictates and the law enables them to take in order to check this circulation. I will undertake to give careful consideration to the last paragraph of the hon. Member's question.