§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Monaghan, N.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he 402 has seen the report of an interview between a representative of the Press and Mr. George Harrison, lately released from Millbank Prison, in which Mr. Harrison alleges that while in Chatham Prison he was four times punished by solitary confinement on a charge of refusing to work when he was unable to work through illness; that he was on these occasions placed in a cold, badly-lighted cell, the smell of which was horrible; and that on one occasion after release from the punishment cell, and while suffering from the effects of the extra punishment, he was struck on the head by an official; whether the Prison Rules require that the medical officer's sanction must be obtained before a prisoner is placed in solitary confinement or any extra punishment, and whether reduction of dietary or increase of labour are inflicted; has this rule been observed in Mr. Harrison's case; and whether he will cause a full inquiry to be made into the allegations and state result? I have also to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has seen the statements of Mr. George Harrison, lately released from Millbank, to a representative of the Press, that two prisoners named Gallagher and Hawkins, confined in Millbank, are only allowed a quarter of an hour's exercise daily; whether this statement is true; and, if so, why are the prisoners named deprived of the two hours' exercise daily prescribed by the Prison Rules; whether he has seen the further statements of Mr. Harrison, namely, that—The food and general treatment of prisoners in Millbank has been so bad that several cases of insubordination occurred.There was one man in a dying condition, over whom a pail of water was thrown as a remedy, with the result that he had to be removed to the infirmary and his parents sent for, so critical became his condition.On another occasion, in the cell next to mine, I heard two officers go in and beat a prisoner unmercifully with their staves…He is either in the infirmary or dead. I stopped in my cell about two hours after that, but never heard him move.They (the insubordinate prisoners) were scourged on the bare back, and sometimes put in irons, according to the orders of the Director, before whom the Governor took them;and, whether he will cause an investigation to be made into those allegations, and state the result? I have further 403 to ask: the right hon. Gentleman whether he has seen the statement of Mr. George Harrison, that, when he was imprisoned in Pentonville Prison, the Chaplain, addressing him, said—You are like some of the rest. You want to turn the world upside down. We've got a lot more like you";whether he has seen the further allegations against the Chaplain of Chatham, namely—He did not come near me till I sent for him, after three months had gone, and, when he did come, his words were, what will men not do to make themselves popular before their fellow men";whether he will cause an investigation into the truth of these allegations; whether he will give the names of the Chaplains of Pentonville and Chatham respectively; and whether any communication has been addressed to them in connection with these matters?
§ MR. JOHN KELLY (Camberwell, N.)
I have also to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the paragraph published in the Star newspaper of the 29th ultimo, in which George Harrison, who was released on the morning of that day upon a ticket-of-leave, is made to speak of gross ill-treatment suffered by the prisoners at Chatham, and to use the following words:—I will give you an instance of some of the treatment. There was one man in a dying condition, over whom a pail of water was thrown as a remedy, with the result that he had to he removed to the infirmary, and his parents sent for, so critical became his condition …On another occasion, in the cell next to mine, I heard two officers go in and beat a prisoner unmercifully with their staves. It was something terrible, for I could hear that it was his head they were beating. I have not seen him since. He is either in the infirmary or dead. I stopped in my cell about two hours after that, but I never heard him move";whether there is any, and, if so, what, truth in the statements contained in such paragraph; and whether there is any power to revoke the licence of a prisoner released on ticket-of-leave, in the event of his causing the publication of accusations against warders and other prison officials, charging them with murder or attempted murder, which, upon inquiry, may be found to be wholly untrue?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I will answer the three questions of the hon. Member and that of my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. J. Kelly) at the same time. With regard to the allegations as to Harrison's treatment, as far as I have been able to ascertain in the short time allowed to me he was punished by close confinement four times, but in each case was certified as tit to work and to receive punishment by the medical officer. Shortly after his arrival at Chatham he complained to the medical officer that the work was too hard, and he was exempted from spade work and heavy lifting, and thenceforward put to-light labour only. The cell in which he underwent punishment was not cold or badly lighted; the temperature was 60 degrees; ample provision is made for the ventilation. The story about his being struck on the head the Governor states to be a pure invention. With regard to the charges made against the Chaplains I have made inquiry, but have-not had time to receive answers. No complaint was made at the time to the Visiting Director at Chatham. The Rev. Mr. Wheeler is Chaplain at Chatham, The Rev. Mr. Stocker is Chaplain at Pentonville. As to the statement that Gallagher and Hawkins had not more than a quarter of an hour's exercise, I presume the reference is to Callan and Harkins. The rule is that every prisoner during his first nine months is allowed an hour's exercise daily, which these men had. The Governor of Chatham Prison denies absolutely the story as to a pail of water being thrown over a dying man. As to insubordination caused by bad food and general treatment, and as to a man being unmercifully beaten by two officers in his cell, I invite the hon. Members who give publicity to such statements to supply the dates and particulars relating to them. Corporal punishment can be ordered only by a Director after proof on oath of very serious breaches of discipline, and must be inflicted in the presence of the Governor and medical officer. The rules also require that dietary punishment shall not be inflicted on a prisoner, and he shall not be placed in a punishment cell unless certified by the medical officer to be in a fit condition of health to undergo such punishment. These 405 rules were observed in Harrison's case. There is power to revoke a licence at the pleasure of Her Majesty; but though I should deplore the conduct of this licence-holder, if he has been spreading in the Press charges which I believe to be absolutely without foundation, yet I cannot say that on this account I should be justified in advising the revocation of his licence.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
I cannot give the dates. I have only asked questions in reference to what I read in the papers. All I ask of the right hon. Gentleman is that he will institute some independent inquiry.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I am quite prepared to make an inquiry into the matter, and the character of the inquiry will depend upon the information I receive.