HC Deb 16 July 1903 vol 125 cc850-1
MR. H. D. GREENE (Shrewsbury)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the rules under the statute directing executions to take place privately within prisons permit any official to interrogate prisoners under sentence of death with a view to extort admissions or confessions; and, if so, whether he will consider the expediency of so altering the rules as to ensure that this proceeding will not be applied in such a manner as to cause unnecessary suffering to the condemned prisoner.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Akers Douglas.) The relations between the chaplain and the prisoners under his spiritual care are a matter not dealt with, and hardly capable of being dealt with by statutory rules. In the case to which I take the hon. Member to refer, I have called for a report from the chaplain, and he informs me that Dougal had promised to make a true confession on the eve of his execution, but failed to do so. "As the last moment approached," the chaplain says, "my spiritual anxiety became intense. I prayed earnestly with him during the last quarter of an hour, during which he sobbed, but he seemed unable to unbend and make a confession. I knew not what to do more, so, under strong impulse, and quite on the inspiration of the moment, I made the strong appeal at the scaffold." While making every allowance for the chaplain's difficult position I think the incident is to be regretted, and I will endeavour to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the proceedings which took place at the execution at Chelmsford, whether it is part of the duty of a prison chaplain to demand a confession from a criminal when actually on the scaffold.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Akers Douglas.) I beg to refer the hon. and gallant Member to the full Answer which I have given on the same subject to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury.