HC Deb 27 March 1889 vol 334 cc989-91
MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

I wish to repeat a question I raised earlier in the day in reference to the death of Samuel Mahoney. I need not refer to the particulars, for, no doubt, the Home Secretary is familiar with them. My object is simply to ask the question whether the right hon. Gentleman has determined to order that an examination of the body of this man shall be made by a medical man not connected with the police force?

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, may I ask whether the deplorable consequences of this method of conveying prisoners—a method which was brought before his notice last year, and is known as the "Frog's March"—seeing that manslaughter has been the direct result, he will take steps to prohibit the practice?


Unhappily the prisoner died—


Was killed!


His death was due to his own violent conduct—violent beyond any experience of the police in cases of this sort. It took several constables to take him into custody at all. During the day I have been in communication with the Coroner who held the inquest; and after consultation I have come to the conclusion, inasmuch as the jury attached a rider to their verdict to that effect, that further medical examination was desirable. I have directed that the senior house surgeon of the London Hospital shall make an examination of the body and communicate to me any information he derives from that examination. At the same time I do not admit any doubt of the testimony of Dr. Phillips, whose high character and reputation is acknowledged, and whose statement to the jury appears quite satisfactory to me. It is only because I received the opinion of the jury that I ordered this further examination. I am quite sure that Dr. Phillips is quite incapable of any partiality in favour of the police.


I make no imputation at all against Dr. Phillips.

MR. O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)

The facts in relation to this affair, no matter what the opinions of doctors may be, no matter what signs of disease may be discovered, are unquestionably conclusive that the death of this man was due to the action of the police. On the very night when this thing occurred I myself bad an opportunity of witnessing in another district of London similar violence on the part of a number of policemen, some of whom were visibly drunk. In a case of this kind, where a charge of manslaughter is brought against a number of police, independent medical testimony ought always to be called in, and the issue should not, even to a certain extent, be allowed to be prejudiced by the intervention of the official doctor, because doctors, like lawyers, are inclined to support each other. Independent medical testimony should always be adduced in such cases. Anyone who knows London will know that policemen are apt, in dealing with prisoners of the poorer classes, to use unnecessary violence. On more than one occasion I have witnessed this, and have been tempted to bring the conduct of the police before the public; but, like many other people, want of time and an indisposition to be mixed up with unpleasant affairs have prevented me from coming forward as a witness. But, as I have said, the other night I witnessed a scene of disgraceful violence on the part of the police, though it does not seem to have bad the termination of death, as in this case. Inquiry in such cases should be absolutely free from any taint of suspicion. We want something more from the Government—that action shall be taken to follow up such cases, and that there shall be proper examination of the body of the dead man; also, we should have some guarantee that this system of carrying a prisoner should be abolished. You never see it used elsewhere than in London. Elsewhere, when a man is violent, four or five men are well able to deal with him without having recourse to this "Frog's March."

MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

Arising out of the question, may I ask the Home Secretary whether, looking at the melancholy result in this instance and with reference to the answer he gave last Session that the general rule in the police was to use the ambulance where a prisoner was violent, he will make the regulations in this respect more stringent, and require the police to use the ambulance or some mechanical means of conveyance—strapping a man down or something of that kind—making the rule more stringent in application, and the exceptions to it more rare? The right hon. Gentleman said last year that when the police were obliged to convey a man in this way they had to make a special report, but obviously that rule is abused, judging from the incident now before the House.


I do not think this case comes within the procedure. The policemen were called to eject this man from a public-house where he was very violent and disorderly. He knocked a policeman down, and behaved in such a violent manner that the police were unable to arrest him until six others came to their assistance. The rule about strapping down does not fit the case at all. There was no intention on the part of the police to adopt what is called the Frog's March, but the prisoner's struggles were so violent from the moment he was told to leave the public-house that it was with the greatest difficulty the police could get him to the station at all. It was in the course of his violent resistance that he happened to be face downwards. I may mention that it is always open to a Coroner to call an independent medical witness if he thinks fit.