HC Deb 16 June 1890 vol 345 cc1045-6

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether lie is aware that William Cheney, of Rushden, who was sent to Northampton Gaol on 29th May for seven days in default of a fine for non compliance with the Vaccination Acts, was compelled to work three hours a day on the treadmill in company with men convicted for thefts, to pick two pounds of oakum daily, and to use a plank bed, and was given as prison food black bread and water and skilly only; whether he is aware that Cheney was suffering from a weak leg owing to rheumatic fever, and that the oakum given him to pick tore his fingers, and was ordered to be removed by the head warder as unfit for punishment work; whether this scale of punishment and diet is permissible under the present law; whether he is aware that, in some similar cases, compensation has been recovered from Governors of gaols when an action for damages has been brought; and whether, if the treatment specified is legal, he will take steps, either by legislation or by representation to Prison Authorities, to mitigate the prison treatment of prisoners under the Vaccination Acts?


W. Cheney was sentenced by the Magistrate to seven days' imprisonment with hard labour in default of payment of a fine and costs; and, under the warrant of commitment, he received the scale of punishment and the diet which are prescribed by the Prison Statutes and Rules. I am, however, advised that the Magistrate exceeded his powers in awarding hard labour under the Vaccination Acts, and I have requested the Treasury Solicitor to consider the matter of Cheney's complaint.


Will the question of compensation be considered?


Since this is not the first case in which a misunderstanding has arisen about prisoners under the Vaccination Acts, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to inform Magistrates all over the country that they can not inflict hard labour in such cases.


I really think that the knowledge that the Vaccination Acts do not authorise hard labour is very general.