HC Deb 25 June 1891 vol 354 cc1431-2
MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now able to give the result of his inquiries into the case of Lydia Cook, of Raleigh, Essex?


I also beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has yet arrived at a decision in the Lydia Cook case?


I beg further to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has made further inquiries into the case of Lydia Cook, sentenced by the Southend Bench of Magistrates to a fine of 1s., and £1 3s. 6d. costs, or in default to seven days' imprisonment; whether the offence alleged against Lydia Cook was her objection to the taking lymph from her child for purposes of vaccination on the ground that her husband did not wish it because their family was consumptive; whether it is the fact that the police informed the defendant that she would be taken to prison for nonpayment of the sum of £1 4s. 6d. (the husband's wages being said to be 19s. a week), the wife having several children ill at the time, and an infant which has since died; whether there was any justification for inflicting costs to the extent of £1 3s. 6d. upon a fine of 1s., contrary to the provisions of "The Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879," Section 8, by which it is enacted that when a fine does not exceed 5s. no costs shall be inflicted," except so far as the Court may think fit to expressly order otherwise," and what grounds there were in this case for "expressly ordering" the imposition of such costs; and whether he will call the attention of Benches of Magistrates and their clerks to this provision of the law and its frequent violation?


I have received a further Report from the Justices. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge of not allowing lymph to be taken from her child on the ground that there was consumption in the collateral branches of her husband's family. The Bench considered that there was no evidence in support of this suggestion, and that it was opposed by the sworn evidence of the medical officer to the effect that it was a proper and desirable case in which to take lymph. I have no information as to the wages of the husband, or as to the domestic circumstances referred to. I do not gather from the Report of the Justices that there were sufficient grounds for the imposition of such costs, although they took the amount of costs into consideration in fixing the amount of the fine. Section 8 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act is sometimes overlooked by Magistrates, and in March of this year I issued a Circular pointing out to Magistrates that the course which should ordinarily be followed when the fine is not more than 5s. is to impose no costs, and that an express order to the contrary should only be made when the Justices have some special reason for so doing. In the present case the costs have been paid without a levy, and without any imprisonment of the defendant, but I propose to call the attention of the Bench to the above-named Circular, and to recommend that they should remit and repay the costs to the defendant.


Has the right hon. Gentleman heard that the child has since died?


I have no official knowledge, but I have seen a newspaper report to that effect.


I beg to give notice that I will call attention to the subject on the Vote for the right hon. Gentleman's salary.


I understand that the costs were paid by charity by the friends of the woman. Do I understand that these costs will be repaid?


I propose to recommend the Justices to remit the costs.