HC Deb 12 June 1913 vol 53 cc1770-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether an official investigation into the truth of complaints made by suffragists concerning the conditions under which prisoners are removed in prison vans is being conducted; if so, whether the investigation in question has been placed by the Prison Commissioners in the hands of the Commissioner of Police; whether, having regard to the fact that it was on the authority of the Commissioner of Police he stated on 12th February last that prison vans were not overcrowded, that female prisoners are conveyed in closed compartments entirely separate from the males, and that the sexes are always separated in the prison vans, and of these statements being in direct conflict with sworn statements of the Suffragists, which sworn statements have been forwarded to him, he will entrust the investigation to an independent tribunal and not to the Commissioner of Police, whose statements are challenged; (2) if the investigation into the truth of statements made by suffragists regarding the conditions under which prisoners are removed in prison vans is being conducted in secret, and if the Commissioner of Police who is conducting the investigation has refused to accept first-hand statements from those who have lodged the complaints which are the subject of his inquiry; and (3) if he is aware that the governor of Holloway Gaol told one prisoner that complaints concerning the conditions under which prisoners are removed in prison vans did not concern the prison authorities, and that such complaints must be laid before the Commissioner of Police; that the Commissioner of Police, when appealed to in the matter, said that it did not concern him but must be laid before the Prison Commissioners; that the Prison Commissioners have now called upon the Commissioner of Police to make an inquiry and inform them of what, on his authority, is no concern of his; and that the magistrate at Marylebone Police Court, in reply to similar complaints, said the matter only concerned the Home Secretary; and if he will say who is responsible?


The prison vans are supplied by the Commissioner of Police and are in charge of police officers, but in conveying prisoners between the courts and prisons these officers act as agents for the Prison Commissioners, who are responsible for this service. If a complaint relating to his conveyance to or from the prison is made by a prisoner to the Prison Commissioners, they refer it to the Commissioner of Police, who takes statements from his officers and reports to the Prison Commissioners. An inquiry has been made into a complaint addressed by two female prisoners on the 15th May to the Visiting Committee of Holloway Prison, and it has been shown that, if the prisoners' complaint was rightly understood by the Visiting Committee, it was not in accordance with the facts. I find, however, that the statutory declaration made by one of them, which has just been sent to me by my hon. Friend, differs from her complaint as reported by the Visiting Committee, and I propose that further inquiry should be made into the whole matter?


asked if the Home Secretary is aware that Miss Emerson, who was sentenced on the 18th February to two months' imprisonment, and released on 8th April in a state of collapse, was forcibly fed whilst suffering from appendicitis, and is now in such a condition as to require a serious operation; whether forcible feeding is intended to be resorted to under circumstances so painful and so dangerous to life; and, if not, what steps he proposes to take to prevent its repetition under such circumstances?


Miss Emerson, while she was in prison, showed no symptom of suffering from appendicitis and she was not in a state of collapse when released. She did her utmost during her imprisonment to impair her health by refusing food and by other wilful acts, but her weight and general condition were well maintained, and she was not released on grounds connected with her health. I have no information as to her health since her release.

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