§ Mr. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I bog to ask the Secretary of State for the Dome Department whether it is true that a child, six years old, has recently boon confined in Holloway Prison; and, if so, by whom, and under what circumstances, was he committed?
§ MR. ASQUITH
Under the directions of the Secretary of State, issued in 1880, and still in force, that a Report should be made to the Dome Office in all cases of the committal to prison of children under 14 years of age, the Governor of Holloway Prison reported to the Dome Office on March 7 that William Williams, aged seven, with James Williams, aged 12, and James Stitchman, aged 13, had on that day been remanded to his custody, upon a charge of stealing lead piping, by the Magistrates of the Bromley Petty Sessional Division sitting at Beckenham. He added that the medical officer had taken this child and his brother, James Williams, into the infirmary for the night, and that they would sleep in the association ward. A telegram was despatched from the Dome Office immediately on receipt of this Report on March 8 to the Magistrates urging them to consider the question of the immediate release of these children on bail, pointing out that a child of seven was quite unfit for detention in prison, and saying that if no one could be found to become bail a, police officer should be instructed, and he would be held harmless. The Magistrates thereupon released the younger Williams at once upon his father's recognizance; and further inquiry was made by the Dome Office as to the ages of the other two and the reasons why they were not remanded upon bail.
§ MR. PICTON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some countries no child under 12 years of age is sent to 151 prison on any account; and will he advise some alteration of the law which would prevent Magistrates sending children under 12 to prison on any pretence whatever?
§ MR. ASQUITH
When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was at the Home Office he issued a Circular which had the effect of largely diminishing the number of children sent to gaol, and I will see, as far as I can, that Magistrates act up to the spirit of that Circular.