HC Deb 21 February 1912 vol 34 cc622-3

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will explain why Mrs. Ball was not informed of her husband's condition till 10th February, sixteen days after the first symptoms of mental derangement were noticeable; why she did not receive the letter that her husband was to be certified as a pauper lunatic till 12th February, the day on which his examination was to take place; why he was removed to a pauper lunatic asylum before she had time to reach the prison; and whether he will take steps to warn prison authorities to prevent the repetition of such treatment where the family of a prisoner can easily be communicated with?


The circumstances attending the removal of this prisoner from prison to an asylum were fully explained in the reply I made to a question in this House on the Monday. It is not always possible, when the first symptoms of mental disturbance appear, for the medical officer to decide at once that a patient is insane and in need of asylum treatment, and in this case the medical officer for some time was in doubt as to whether there were any definite symptoms of insanity. As soon as this is clear, it is in most cases desirable that a patient should be removed to an asylum with as little delay as possible, and this course was pursued in the present case. I have no reason to think that the prison authorities in the discharge of their duty are in any way wanting in consideration for the feelings of the lunatic's relations. I have at present no ground for supposing that any general instructions are required in this matter, but I will consider the question further.


Can the right hon. Gentleman now reply to the question I put to him on Monday as to what was the cause of the prisoner becoming insane?


No, Sir, I am afraid I cannot. The medical report does not imply that he became insane owing to treatment in prison. It suggests, rather, that his conduct before getting into prison was somewhat strange.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will cause inquiry to be made through the medical adviser of his Department as to whether the man's treatment in prison had anything to do with his insanity?


The medical officers have already reported that, in their opinion, the treatment in prison had nothing to do with the man becoming insane, but as the Noble Lord requests me I will cause further inquiry to be made.


Is there any other instance known of a man received sane in prison and in two months being driven insane by kind and considerate treatment?


It was not at all due to ill-treatment. Prisoners, like a great many other people, sometimes become insane at certain periods of their lives.