HC Deb 04 May 1927 vol 205 cc1625-7
57. Mr. E. BROWN

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a case at the Central Criminal Court in which a victim of sleepy sickness was sent to prison with hard labour, although the Judge thought the mother was right in saying that the prisoner required treatment, not as a criminal, but as an afflicted person; and whether he will consider this case with a view to the remission of the sentence?


Yes, Sir; my attention has been called to this ease. The prisoner in question is reported to have suffered from encephalitis lethargica in 1919, but he is not at present considered to be certifiable under either the Lunacy or the Mental Deficiency Acts; he is, however, being kept under special mental observation in the prison hospital. All the relevant facts were before the learned Judge when he decided to send the young man to prison, and after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I would not be justified in advising any remission of sentence.


May I ask whether the Home Secretary is aware that the learned Judge had no alternative, and does he not think that there should be some alternative for cases of this kind?


That is entirely a matter for legislation by the House of Commons. As far as I am concerned, what I have to consider is whether there should be any remission of the sentence.


Is it not the fact that, according to the Press reports, this young man is under the age of 16, and could he not have been sent to an institution specially provided for these cases?


I am not acquainted with the young man's age, but if the hon. Member will put down a question, I will let him know.


Is it not the case that he was sent to nine months' imprisonment with such hard labour as he is capable of doing, and will the right hon. Gentleman bear that point in mind, and at the same time endeavour to expedite the passage of the Mental Deficiency Bill?


I am quite aware of the terms of the sentence. He is in the prison hospital, and is being kept under observation.


Is it not the case that this young man might prefer nine months' hard labour to a life sentence in a mental deficiency institution?