HC Deb 31 March 1890 vol 343 cc331-48
*(6.40.) MR. PICKERSGILL ( Bethnal Green, S. W.)

I take this opportunity to call attention to a grave miscarriage of justice. It is a matter upon which the Home Secretary has been questioned, but his answers have been altogether unsatisfactory. I refer to the circumstances under which a prisoner named Gatcliffe met with his death while confined in Strangeways Prison, Manchester. The facts of the case are briefly these: Gatcliffe was committed for 21 days for a comparatively venial offence, being drunk and disorderly. He was removed to Strangeways Gaol on November 20, and was at the time found to be suffering from delirium tremens, and was at once admitted to the hospital, being lodged in what is called the "Association" room, where at the time there were six or eight prisoners confined. He was there subjected to the usual examination by the assistant surgeon of the prison, and at that time, it is important to observe, the surgeon has stated. upon oath there were no external marks of violence upon his body. He was repeatedly seen by the surgeon, and I mention particularly that he was seen by the surgeon on Friday the 22nd, when he presented no unfavourable symptoms. The surgeon next saw him at half-past 9 on the Saturday morning, when he was suffering from severe injuries, was in fact dying, and actually died half an hour afterwards, and the medical evidence is that he died in consequence of certain injuries which the post-mortem examination disclosed. To give a brief summary of the injuries, his breast bone was broken, besides four ribs on one side of the body and two ribs on the other were fractured, one of the ribs being fractured in two distinct places; and, in addition, there were more than a dozen contusions and bruises on chest, arms, and thighs. The post-mortem examination was in accordance with statute made by a surgeon, not an official of the prison (Dr. Kitchen); and from Dr. Kitchen we have it in evidence that, in his opinion, the fractures could not have been self-inflicted, and that some of the fractures and bruises must have been caused by the list of another person. Dr. Kitchen did not stand alone in this evidence—he was generally corroborated by Dr. Paton, the assistant surgeon of Strangeways Prison. Then came the question, how were the injuries sustained? I mentioned just now that the prisoner was seen by the surgeon, and seemed to be going on well on Friday, 22nd; therefore, it is clear that the injuries, however they arose, were sustained between that time and half-past 9 on Saturday morning. The warder in charge of the association room on that night, a warder named Mitchell, was placed on trial for the manslaughter of Gatcliffe; and against him there was the direct evidence of three prisoners in the room that during the night they saw Mitchell repeatedly strike Gatcliffe with his fist, Gateliffe being at the time tied down to his bed. These prisoners were asked why they did not ring the bell, or give an alarm, and they replied they were too much afraid to do that, for if they had done so they would have been charged with mutiny, and have got into serious trouble for committing a breach of discipline. Of course, I am not in any way desirous of re-trying the case in the House of Commons, and I will not refer-to the trial except so far as the result of it fixes responsibility upon the Prison Commissioners, and, through them, upon the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The jury rejected altogether the evidence of the three prisoners. Well, for my own part, I do not think their story incredible, or even improbable, and I base my opinion on a very weighty document. Here I have the Report of the Penal Servitude Acts Commission, in which the Commissioners draw attention to the evidence given before them by the Governor of Chatham Prison to the effect that he would never take prisoners' evidence against a warder, that he had always shown prisoners that be takes the warder's part; that even if he disapproved of the conduct of a warder he would not let a prisoner know it; that the word of a warder is decisive in every case; that when a man becomes a convict he is necessarily placed in such a, position that under no conceivable circumstances is his word to be preferred to that of a free man; that, in fact, it is of very little use practically a prisoner making a complaint. The Commissioners add, "the Governor of Chatham Prison is an upright, careful officer." Well, my only observation is that when an officer takes such a distorted, extravagant view of his position this character is all the more dangerous. There were two theories set up on the part of the defence, one being that the prisoner Gatcliffe was delirious, and that he injured himself tumbling about. Now, I submit this theory is completely upset if one considers the position of the injuries upon the body of the prisoner. There were no in- juries whatever upon the head and face, or on the back part of the body; all the injuries were upon the chest, arms, and thighs, I rely a good deal upon this fact, because J think it will' be, obvious that if you suppose a delirious patient injuring himself by tumbling about it will be almost inevitable that, the extremities of the body, and the head and face particularly, that will sustain injury; whereas, in this case, not a scratch appeared on the extremities of the body; all these terrible injuries were in the front part and near the middle of the body. Another theory for the defence was that the injuries had been sustained in the course of putting a! strait jacket upon Gatcliffe, and his struggles against this. This theory is altogether untenable, having regard to the medical testimony, not only of Dr. Kitchen, but of Dr. Paton, the prison surgeon; and when one considers the character, extent, and number of these terrible injuries I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that even if we acept this theory we cannot escape the conclusion that reckless criminal violence was applied to the person of the prisoner, and, therefore, that manslaughter was actually committed, although, of course, there might be some change in the precise legal aspect of the offence. How does the matter stand so far as the responsibility of the Prison Commissioners is concerned? I submit with the utmost confidence that upon the evidence we must conclude one thing, at all events, that the injuries to Gatcliffe were not self-inflicted, and the conclusion is irresistible that in that association room which was occupied at the time by some eight prisoners, criminal and brutal violence was applied to the body of Gatcliffe, and, as a result, he died. Warder- Mitchell has been acquitted. Of course, I accept the verdict of the jury as to Mitchell's innocence, but who then, I ask, is the guilty person who committed this offence in the room while eight persons were present? That is the question to which the public have a right to insist upon an answer. Are the Commissioners content that it should be possible to do a man to death by brutal violence in this way, and no one shall be brought to justice? If so, is the Home Secretary content? I am bound to say, with all respect that if the right hon. Gentleman does not control his Commissioners with a firmer hand they will bring him into vary grave discredit with the country. What has been done in the matter? The Home Secretary has informed us that there has been an inquiry, a secret inquiry, so far as the public are concerned, conducted by Captain Wilson. But who is Captain Wilson? He is either a Commissioner or an Inspector, or one of the servants of the Board; so you have actually one of the officers of the Board, whose administration is called in question, appointed to investigate the circumstances of this case. I venture to think that the public would have felt more satisfied if the Visiting Justices of the Prison had been requested to hold the inquiry. In the case of Daly, in Chatham Prison, the Visiting Justices were asked to conduct the necessary inquiry, and I cannot see why, except, indeed, for the purpose of sheltering the Prison Commissioners, a similar course was not taken in this case. Well, Captain Wilson, at all events, has conducted the investigation, and certain results have followed. I understand that Chapman, the hospital warder, has been dismissed. I shall be glad to know if this is so, and, if so, why was he dismissed? I understand, also, that Dr. Braddell, the chief medical officer, who has performed excellent service for 23 years, has been served with three months' notice to leave, and if that is so, I should like to know why? The Home Secretary has told us that two other officers of the prison have been dismissed, and perhaps he will be good enough to tell us why this is the case. Apparently the only person who has escaped with absolute impunity is the Governor of the prison, but if there has been so lax an administration as that in the course of this inquiry, no less than four officials have been summarily dismissed, how is it that the person chiefly responsible for the administration and discipline of the prison, Major Preston, has been allowed to escape censure? I am informed, upon what I believe to be excellent authority, that an order has been given that in future all oases of prisoners suffering from delirium tremens shall be treated in the body of the prison, under the care of two or more prisoners. If that, be so, I certainly protest most strongly against any such order being carried out. The Prison Commissioners are not without experience of the fatal results following such an arrangement. I presume the right hon. Gentleman has not for gotten the painful and fatal occurrence which happened at Armley Gaol in March, 1888, when a certificated lunatic was placed in a cell under the care of two prisoners, and, during the night, one of those prisoners was killed by the lunatic. I only mention this because it shows that the Prison Commissioners have had experience of the fatal results which follow mischievous arrangements of this character. Now, this case, so far as the Commissioners are concerned, comes upon the top of many recent cases which have caused very great disquietude in the minds of all who are interested in the administration of our English prisons, and there are one or two of those cases to which I think it necessary to allude. It is only a few months since I drew attention in this House to an occurrence in Ipswich Gaol. In a civil action brought against the Governor of that prison the plaintiff recovered damages to the amount of E75. on the ground that he, being an unconvicted prisoner, was put in prison clothes and forced to enter the bath against his will. The gravamen of the complaint in that case lies in the fact that it was proved that for 10 years there had been in operation in that gaol a set of rules that were absolutely contrary to the law. Only a month or two ago a much stronger case occurred, and the late Governor of Northampton Gaol is now suffering 10 years' penal servitude for attempting a criminal operation on a pregnant woman, that pregnant woman being the matron of the female side of the prison of which he was the chief officer. That was a scandal of the very grossest kind, and is proof that the supervision exercised by the Prison Commissioners is not what it ought to be. Now, Sir, I have just a word to say with regard to Daly's case. I am aware that that case is still sub judice, but it is admitted on both sides that Daly, a prisoner in Chatham Gaol, was poisoned not once, but on several occasions, by the wrongful administration of belladonna, which is sufficient evidence that there was very considerable laxity in the administration of that prison. Let me take another case. I refer to one that occurred in Birming- ham Gaol last year. The Visiting Justices of that prison reported to the Borough Justices that the bread served out in the gaol was unfit for human food and that the health of the prisoners who had eaten it had thereby become impaired. Of course, one is glad that the Visiting Justices discovered this, and drew public attention to it, but surely it was not the business of the Visiting Justices to find out an impropriety of such a character. It ought to have been discovered by the officers of the prison long before. There is another case to which I will briefly call attention. it is one which occurred inside Millbank Prison in January last—only two months ago; in that case an inquest was held on the body of Joseph Honeysett, who was seriously injured there during the month of December, so much injured that he died in consequence. it is true, I believe, that the prisoner stated that he fell down in his cell, but, according to the evidence given by his mother at the inquest, he had had to undergo a regular fight to get into the Infirmary. The 'Coroner naturally inquired for the prison doctor, but that person was not forthcoming. I presume they have more than one prison doctor in that gaol, but it was said that the doctor was ill and there was no one to represent him. A juror said— Mr. Coroner, I am afraid we shall not get at the bottom of this now, for the case is most unsatisfactory. And a witness said It is a strange thing that the deceased should have been in prison for five or six months, and the authorities there should know nothing of it. I think that the remark made by the Coroner is worthy of the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, for he said— It is idle to hold inquiries if the information is withheld from us. Now, this exactly touches what I believe to be the real source of the mischief. The Prison Commissioners have adopted a policy of hushing up everything that may in any way bring discredit on the administration, and consequently on themselves. For my part, I do not hesitate to say that this policy of excessive secrecy leads, and always will lead, to abuses and scandals, because it affords the most effective cover for bad and un- scrupulous persons. I do not wish to do any injustice to the prison service of this country. It is clear that in every service there must be a certain proportion of bad and untrustworthy men, and this remark, I think, applies with exceptional force to the prison service, where the duties are of a singularly unpleasant and repulsive character, and where the officers of every grade are constantly brought into contact with the seamy side of human nature It is only by publicity, and by meting out punishment where power has been abused, that you can hope to make the prison service of this country what it ought to be. In conclusion, I have only to say that in the case of the prisoner Gatliffe there has been, in my judgment, a serious miscarriage of justice, and that if the matter is left where it is you will have taught a bad lesson to unscrupulous men in the prison service, namely, that they may be guilty of brutal ill-treatment towards helpless creatures placed under their charge, and the Prison Commissioners will do their best to hush up the matter, and thus secure for them practical immunity. I think it is high time that a protest should be made against the policy which distinguishes the present Prisons Board. I have felt it my duty to make this protest to-night, and I trust that, in doing so, I shall have, at any rate in some degree, the support of this House.

*(7.10.) SIR R.N. FOWLER (London, City)

I only desire to say a few words upon this matter to which my attention was called a few weeks ago. I refer to the Manchester case which I looked into with some care. I was not, however, aware that it would be brought up today, or I should have been better prepared to have discussed it. Nevertheless, I may say that it struck me as being a case which we can hardly be called upon to decide in this House, because it has already been considered by a jury whose verdict ought to prevent our going into the matter. All I wish to do at the present moment is to point out that several of the officials of the prison have been dismissed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, which is a proof that he has had the matter under his careful consideration. Representations were made to the Home Office, and the case was thoroughly investigated by my right hon. Friend, and from the fact that he has dismissed a number of the prison officials it is evident that he was not satisfied with the result, and that he is disposed to take a strenuous line in the discharge of his duty.

MR. P. O'BRIEN (Monaghan, N.)

I do not think it is at all surprising, after the cases that have been brought before this House in reference to the treatment of prisoners in Irish gaols, that an English Member should have thought proper to bring forward the question which is now before the House. The experience we have had in Ireland, where the question of prison treatment has long been a burning question, has had the effect of throwing a little light on what appears to be going on in England. And I am glad that the prison discipline of this country is now beginning to attract the intention of English Members. I do not think you could have a better instance of this than the fact that the hon. Baronet who has just addressed the House, and who, when Irish cases have been brought before us, has habitually treated them with contempt, and invariably given his Vote for the Government, has at last found it necessary to bestow some attention on an English case. Now that the question has reached a stage in which it has secured the attention of British Legislatures, there can be little doubt that before long the necessary reforms in regard to prison treatment will be brought about. I read in one of the London papers, published on Saturday last, an account of an interview with a man who had recently been released from Chatham Prison, and, in the course of his statements, the man preferred very serious charges against the officers of more than one gaol. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Homo Secretary will be able to say, in the reply he will presently make, whether there is any ground for those charges, and what course he intends to take with regard to the officers who are implicated. This man alleges that while he was in Chatham Prison, he was very badly treated. He says:— Four times I was punished by solitary confinement in a solitary cell, and on every one of those occasions the punishment was unjustly given. They charged me with not returning to work when I was not able to work through my ill-health, and they charged me with talking when I was not. I cannot describe the terrors of those sells. The smell in them is horrible, and they are so cold, while the light is altogether insufficient. Whenever I came out of them after confinement, I felt like a drunken man on regaining a better atmosphere; but if the change made me reel, as it did once or twice, I only got a clump on the head. This is a strong charge against some officer in the gaol, and I think it is one that ought to be inquired into. I am not going to accept the bare statement of any prisoner, but I know, from my own experience of prisoners in Ireland, that cruelties are perpetrated of which no one ever hears in consequence of that sort of freemasonry which is known to exist among the prison officials. This man, whose name is Harrison, was removed from Chatham to Millbank, and he states:— I saw the dynamitards there and they complained bitterly of their penal cells. The two who were last convicted—Gallagher and Hawkins—are only allowed a quarter-of-an-hour's exercise daily instead of an hour. and they feel the deprivation keenly. Our food consisted of skilly, soup, potatoes, bread, and sometimes meat, but it was very tough and gristly meat, strongly reminding one of cat's food. The food and general treatment of prisoners has been so bad that several cases of insubordination occurred. I will give 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 be removed to the infirmary and his-parents sent for, so critical became his condition. But he eventually recovered. Here we have complaints of the quality of the food and the condition of the cells, and we are told that several cases of insubordination had occurred. This is what might be expected under the circumstances, as it very seldom happens in well-conducted prisons that revolts take place. Harrison goes on to say— 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 it was his poor head they were hitting. 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, and I determined to let the world know of it when I got out. I believe a special inquiry has been held recently into the charges alleged by prisoners, but what has been done, or whether anything has been done, I cannot say. That was a case which occurred in Mill-bank, and I think it is one deserving in- vestigation by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. Harrison also makes charges against the chaplain which I hope are not true, for a prisoner has the right to look to the chaplain for encouragement and sympathy. One chaplain said to him, "You are like the rest of them that want to turn the world upside down," and did not give him encouragement; whereas at Wormwood Scrubbs the chaplain advised him that if he observed the rules, and conducted himself well, he might get out of prison before the completion of his term. There you have the contrast between the sympathetic chaplain who does his duty, and advises the prisoner to observe the rules and to regain his liberty, and the chaplain who offers no word of consolation, but, priding himself on being an old, true-blue Tory type of man, permits himself to carry his political opinions into the gaol, to the irritation of political prisoners, with whose political sentiments I have yet to learn that the rules allow interference on the part of the chaplain. The same man says that he was three months at Chatham without having received a visit from the chaplain at all. The chaplain, as soon as the prisoner is classed, ought to be the first to go and see him, and when he does go it ought to be to console and encourage, and not to gibe. If Mr. Harrison's statement is true, not only did the chaplain at Chatham annoy him, but he neglected a plain duty, which was to have gone and seen the prisoner as soon as he was passed. It rests with the prisoner himself, as soon as he is passed, to say to what denomination he belongs. As soon as he does that a card is put upon his door, and it is the business of the chaplain to see him as soon as possible. If this chaplain has failed to do his duty, I hope he will be called to order for his misconduct. If you cannot make him fulfil his duty-in this prison of Chatham, which the criminal classes recognise as a hell upon earth, at least you can get some other clergyman who will realise the responsibility of his office. I think experience shows that a case has been made out for impartial and thorough investigation into the prison system. It should be seen that men who find themselves in prison, often as much from their misfortunes as their faults, are not worried and interfered with, but are treated as kindly as possible. I hope the Home Secretary will see the advisability of having some Commission to inquire into the various charges which arise all over England; and if the right hon. Gentleman has not the information now, I trust he will be able to give us some information to-morrow, as to the allegations respecting Millbank Prison.

(7.25.) DR. TANNER

Sir, before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I take this opportunity of emphasising the remarks made by my hon. Friend. It was only last Friday that I addressed a question to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, and it is really most extraordinary that Her Majesty's Government have done nothing in this case. I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can feel satisfied himself with the answers which he gives on the information supplied to him, and I believe that if he made thorough examination into the matter he would not remain satisfied. I asked him about the Warder Mitchell, who assaulted another delirious prisoner; and if you find such a case of gross inhumanity as to insult a poor man who was suffering from delirium, I think it ought to be inquired into, and matters not allowed to remain as they now are. The right hon. Gentleman was not perfectly certain whether Mitchell would or would not be present.


I did not say so.


I did not understand that at the time. But it shows the great use of pressing these questions, for each time we get more definite information. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is proverbially courteous in this House, and I acknowledge courtesy whenever I meet with it. Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the suggestion of the Inspector, Captain Wilson, whose counsels, from his official position, certainly cam-weight I think the country requires an answer, and I hope the Government will be able to clear themselves from the charge of sheltering people guilty of inhumanity of the worst possible character. I should also like to have some | information as to the prisoner Daly, for, as a medical man, I cannot understand how it came to pass that a medicine like belladonna, which is a strong poison, was administered in such large doses as appears to have been the ease. It appears to me that there must have been something radically wrong in the treatment of Daly. If there is such laxity in regard to the dispensing of medicines in Her Majesty's prisons it is easy to stretch matters still further, and have prisoners actually killed with other piosons. I think the circumstances of this case should be thoroughly inquired into.

(7.33.) MR. MATTHEWS

I cannot complain of hon. Members raising questions of this kind as to the conduct of prison officials, as I believe that nothing is more calculated to keep these officials up to the mark than the application to them of this constant watchfulness on the part of hon. Members. I think it best not to enter into the case of the man Daly in any detail, as the case is still under investigation by the Visitors of the prison, whose Report, I hope, will be full and searching. I beg to postpone any observations I may have to make upon the case until the Report comes in. This much I may say, however, that I have allowed the Visitors an absolutely free hand, having left them to pursue their investigation without the slightest control on my part. There can be no-doubt that the task of the prison warders is not an easy one, from the very nature of their duties, for they are constantly being provoked and irritated by prisoners who resistprison discipline as much as they can, and I do not say this to censure such prisoners, as it is very natural on their part to resist so far as they can. The duty of the warders is disagreeable, and necessarily disagreeable, and there is no doubt that the men are constantly in a state of irritation, and that being so, it is necessary that the Prison Authorities should keep a watchful eye upon them to see that the great power which, from the very necessity of the case, is exercised by them is not marked by cruelty. When the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, however, makes the case at Strangeways Gaol illustrative of the charge that the Prison Commissioners shrink from inquiry and try to hush up these matters, it appears to me that the accusation is utterly unwarranted by the facts. What did the Commissioners do? I hold in my hand an enormous mass of evidence collected by them. This shows that they held a most careful inquiry in the hospital ward to find out the real facts of the case; and, as the result of their investigation, the man Mitchell was put on his trial. That, surely, was not trying to hush the matter up, or an endeavour to cloak the guilt of a warder !


Their hands were forced by the verdict of manslaughter returned by the Coroner's Jury.


I would point out that before that verdict was returned the prison officials had inquired into the circumstances attendingGatcliffe's death, and the matter had been put into the hands of the public prosecutor. The hon. Member felt—and, of course, I feel still more—embarrassed by the verdict of the jury, but the hon. Member must not make that verdict the foundation for charges against the Prison Commissioners, who were not responsible for the result of the trial. It 'is not proper that I should comment on what the jury thought fit to find or on what the Judge thought fit to say. The hon. Member has, with some force, put before the House the points which operated on my mind in considering this case. I considered the case over and over again to see if there was any other direction in which an inquiry could take place, but the evidence of the doctors who attended the man Gatclifie from half past 5 to 6 o'clock on the evening of the 22nd November—that was the evening before his death— was conclusive that when they then examined the deceased the injuries of which he ultimately died were not visible. The Prison Commissioners endeavoured, as far as they could, to ascertain all that had taken place on the 22nd November. I hope I shall not be accused of neglecting to say everything that might be said, but when dealing-with the case of men over whose heads accusations are hanging, though it is necessary to say something, I cannot go further than that the most careful investigation has failed to bring forth any prima facie evidence on which a charge of undue violence can be brought against any other person. Under the circumstances what other public inquiry is possible? If I could have seen a prima facie case of misconduct against any other person, that case would certainly have been brought forward. It was not my fault, still less that of the Prison Commissioners, that no one has been convicted. The Prison Commissioners displayed the utmost zeal in the case. The greater part of the mass of papers I hold in my hand is made up of Reports by the Commissioners, and they have certainly done their best to investigate the case, as well as to find out the history of Gatcliffe, the time his drinking habits began, and all other circumstances connected with him down to the time of his death. Chapman was the hospital warder in charge of the room it was not an association room, but a hospital ward, and Gatcliffe was put into it because he had incipient delirium tremens. Two other persons in the ward, Dukes—who has since been executed—and Chad wick-were examined over and over again by the Prison Commissioners. They were put into that ward because it was thought that both men might commit suicide if they were not watched. The conclusion of the Prison Commissioners was that Chapman was responsible for an undoubted irregularity -namely, putting on a strait waistcoat twice in the course of the 21st of November upon Gatcliffe. without the positive instruction of the medical officer, which was the rule of the prison. Chapman has been dismissed, and neither he nor Mitchell, the warder. will again be employed in the Prison Service. Of the personal medical qualities of Dr. Braddon I cannot speak too highly. He is a man of very great eminence, a man of perfect humanity, and I desire to say not a word in the way of censure on Dr. Braddon. The Prison Commissioners felt, however, that Dr. Braddon was not able to give that undivided attention to the medical care of the prisoners that was desirable. He was a gentleman who came in under the Act of 1887, and he was allowed to continue his private practice and to pay only occasional visits to the prison during the course of the day. It appeared to me and to the Commissioners that this case showed that a closer and more concentrated attention on the part of the chief medical officer was desirable. Therefore, we determined to substitute a permanent medical officer in the place of Dr. Braddon, and we hope that change will conduce to the satisfactory medical treatment of the prisoners. One other officer has been dismissed, Rappley, the day warder, who was in charge during the hours of daylight both on the 21st and the 22nd November. Rappley, with the assistance of two of the prisoners in the room, put a strait waistcoat on Gatcliffe on two occasions on the day of the 23rd. Rappley's excuse was that he was carrying out the course of practice which he had known to be made use of before when patients were noisy. and Gatcliffe was undoubtedly noisy and mischievous. Hon. Members compel me to say that after the acquittal I did look round to see whether anyone else was responsible. I am, however, bound to say that, after making the utmost inquiry into all the circumstances of the unfortunate affair, I have been unable to discover even a prima facie case against Rappley, and the testimony of the medical men, which goes up to the final circumstances in the case, certainly acquit him of any blame in connection with the mans death. I must say, at the same time, I cannot agree with Rappley's conduct after the event. I believe there was a deficiency of straightforwardness in his account of the blows inflicted by Mitchell and others in the ward, and he has been discharged from further service in the prison. The Governor of the prison has not escaped. I believe it will not be denied that he is a most humane man, thoroughly desirous of doing his duty towards the prisoners under his charge. I believe the Governor has the respect and goodwill of all the magistrates who commit prisoners to his keeping, and I believe that will be found to be the feeling entertained towards him in the locality generally. At the same time I thought it right to direct that that gentleman should be severely reprimanded for what I consider a want of sufficient supervision. I have stated that in the House already, in answer to the many questions which have been addressed to me. I do not mean to say that the Governor was responsible for the ultimate injuries sustained by Gatcliffe, but there was a deficiency of supervision in regard to the strait waistcoat. It was in a place where it ought not to have been, namely, under one of the beds in the ward. It ought to have been in safe custody. where it could not have been got at without the knowledge of higher officials than the warders. The Governor, however, was not responsible for the character of Mitchell, who was employed as a hospital warder. He was always regarded as a quiet and kindly disposed man. He was formerly a colour-sergeant in the Army, and had testimonials of the highest kind. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickers-gill) that oases of violence to prisoners are on the increase. When we look at the. extent and character of our prison saystem we must be prepared to find eases of misconduct on the part of warders now and then; but I think, under all the circumstances, the hon. Member will find that the number of such instances is extremely small. As regards what has been said by the hon. Member in reference to the Visiting Commissioners I must also disagree. I regard the Commissioners as a most admirable Body. The Visitors display commondable watchfulness and control in these matters, and spare no effort to check any. abuse of power either on the part of a warder or a Governor of a prison. I am convinced that they discharge the duty devolving upon them conscientiously and well. I do not know that any better system could be substituted for that which is at present in force in this respect. It is the duty of the Visitors to visit every prisoner, and if any complaint is made as to the maltreatment of a prisoner it is the duty of the Visitor to investigate the complaint, and to bring any official before him for the purpose of enabling him to arrive at the facts of the case. I cannot conceive any better system of discovering and punishing cases of maltreatment. I am not going to say that any warder or any Governor is not liable to make mistakes, but I do say this much, that the hon. Member who introduced this matter has not brought forward the slightest foundation to support the charge that the Prison Commissioners in this case neglected to discharge their responsible duties. My experience of them is that they do their utmost to prevent any undue exercise of the powers entrusted to prison officials.

(7.55.) MR. COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)

I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of thoroughly probing each case that comes to the front, so as to carry out the spirit of the law which has made the punishment inflicted less vindictive than it used to be. I think the punishment of imprisonment is quite enough to inflict on any man without adding to it by treating the prisoner vindictively. All vindictive punishment tends to harden prisoners. Our object should be to lead them into the paths of virtue rather than to drive them back into the paths of vice. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has given so much personal attention to this matter, and I hope that all cases of the kind will receive his personal investigation.