HC Deb 01 November 1909 vol 12 cc1432-4

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received the Report of the Commission sent to report upon the assault committed on a woman prisoner in Strange-ways Gaol, Manchester; and whether he can communicate its terms to the House?


I have received the Commissioner's Report, and its purport is briefly as follows:—While the Visiting Committee of Manchester Prison were present at the prison for one of their ordinary meetings Miss Davison barricaded herself in her cell, and in spite of persuasion and command, refused to open the door. An attempt was made to break into the cell, but the Visiting Committee were afraid that the heavy wooden door, 2½ in thick and lined with sheet iron, might fall suddenly into the cell (as had recently Happened in a case in the male division of the prison), and might injure the prisoner, and they unanimously passed a resolution directing the officers of the prison to play the water hose into the cell in hope of compelling the prisoner to remove her barricade. The order was obeyed, and at first the water was played on to the ceiling. As that had no effect, it was subsequently turned on to the prisoner's shoulder for two or three minutes. In the meantime the officers succeeded in removing one of the hinges and effected an entrance into the cell, and the prisoner was carried out. She was promptly taken in charge by the matron and the female warders, wrapped in blankets, removed to the hospital, and every necessary attention paid to her health. I am satisfied from the Commissioner's Report that the Visiting Committee acted from a desire to support the authority of the prison officers and to secure entrance into the prisoner's cell in the way likely to cause least risk to herself; but, in my opinion, they were guilty of a grave error of judgment in the measures they adopted. I am communicating with them accordingly.


May I ask what measures the Home Secretary would have suggested that would have been more merciful?


Parliament has not supplied me with much power in the matter.


Are we to understand that the members of the visiting committee are Justices of the Peace?




Will the Home Secretary, if he has not already done so, communicate with the Lord Chancellor with a view to having these men removed?


What they did is a matter of common knowledge, and I do not see that there is any necessity for me to call special attention to the matter.