HC Deb 04 August 1891 vol 356 cc1257-8

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a convict at Chatham has been whipped for not working, then taken to the hospital to be made ready to be whipped again, put out in the frost in the winter between three casks because he would not work, and punished again and again; and whether he will allow a Visiting Justice of 27 years' standing to visit the prison in which this man is, to see if he is badly treated, as reported, or not?


I have made inquiry of the prison authorities, who inform me that they presume the prisoner referred to is one Joseph Betts, who since his conviction more than two years ago has persistently refused to do any labour whatever, and for this reason has received various punishments, including corporal punishment. The allegations that he was taken to the hospital to be made ready for whipping again and put out in the frost because he would not work are unfounded. He has been taken out to work in the winter with other prisoners, but has refused to work as they did, and had, therefore, to be restrained by handcuffs and otherwise until the party returned to prison. There are Visitors appointed for Chatham Prison, who have free access to all the prisoners, who can enter the prison at any time, and who make periodical visits for the express purpose of ascertaining, among other things, whether prisoners have been improperly treated. I am aware of no sufficient reason which would justify me in superseding the Visitors and authorising a special visit to which neither a Justice of the Peace nor the Visiting Justice of a local prison is entitled by the rules.

SIR W. LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

At whose discretion was the flogging administered?


Corporal punishment is only administered after inquiry upon oath, and by order of the Directors of the prison.

MR. WOODALL (Hanley)

Have the Prison Visitors made any special Report with regard to this particular prison?


No, Sir; they have not. The Visitors of the prison are the County Court Judge and two of the local Magistrates.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make special inquiry into the case?


I will willingly do so if the hon. Member wishes it. This has been a very troublesome prisoner in every prison in which he has been confined.