HC Deb 27 February 1936 vol 309 cc628-31

asked the Home Secretary whether he has made inquiry into the case of Frederick Minall, aged 22, who hanged himself in Lewes Prison shortly before Christmas, 1935, following punishment; whether he was aware that Minall had always shown signs of mental instability; whether any investigation of his mental condition was made before he was committed to prison; and whether be will consider implementing the report of the Departmental Committee on persistent offenders and providing adequate facilities for dealing with offenders in non-penal establishments?


Between December, 1929, and June, 1932, Minall was in a Borstal Institution, and his intelligence and mental condition were then regarded as "fair." His conduct while on licence was satisfactory and did not suggest mental instability. He was in Brixton Prison awaiting trial from 28th October to 25th November, 1935, and showed no signs during this period of any mental abnormality; nor did he show any such signs after his sentence. Whether, if there had been some special establishment for persistent offenders, Minall would have been sent to such an establishment rather than to prison seems doubtful, but in any event there is nothing in the circumstances of this case to suggest that his suicide can be attributed to his being detained in a prison rather than in such a special establishment.


Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to reply to the last part of my question, as to carrying out the recommendation in the Departmental Committee's report?


The question of preparing legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee will be considered as soon as the pressure of business permits.


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Frederick McKillop, aged 17, hanged himself in Strangeways Prison, Manchester, on 7th November, 1935, while on remand for failing to return to a Home Office school after a holiday; that he had been questioned at Albert Street Police station, Manchester, and asked to sign an admission of thefts; that he attempted to commit suicide by swallowing coins shortly after his arrest; whether he is satisfied that reasonable consideration was shown for the condition of the boy before he was remanded to Strangeways Prison; and whether he will take steps to establish observation centres for the more humane treatment of cases of this kind in accordance with the unanimous recommendation of the Departmental Committee on young offenders nine years ago?


I have made full inquiries about this sad case. The youth was arrested on 26th October as an absconder from an approved school. In view of his previous conduct the school authorities thought it right that, instead of being brought back to the school, he should be charged before a court. While in police custody he swallowed some coins or discs, but there is no foundation for the suggestion that he was questioned by the police about thefts or asked to sign any admission of thefts. He was treated with proper consideration by the police and was taken to the local hospital for treatment. He was discharged from the hospital on 4th November, his condition being then normal, and taken before the court. The court remanded him to Manchester Prison for a report on his suitability for a Borstal sentence. In the prison he was kept under medical observation, and there are no grounds at all for thinking that his action was in any way attributable to the conditions under which he was detained. In whatever type of institution this youth had been detained it would have been necessary, in view of his history, to subject him to custodial conditions.


asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the case of Louis Henry Gardiner, aged 58, who died in Wandsworth Prison on 11th January of Bright's disease, having been committed on 2nd December under a three-months' sentence for loitering with intent to commit a felony; and whether, in view of the prisoner's condition at the time of his sentence, he will take steps to impress upon the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police the importance of a humane exercise of discretion and of regard to the present condition as well as to the past criminal record of the persons suspected, when making arrests for loitering with intent, when no crime has actually been committed?


The man in question was arrested on 24th November and had been remanded to prison for a week before he was convicted and sentenced. His arrest was not in any way due to his past record, which was entirely unknown to the officer who arrested him, and while he was in police custody he did not complain of illness nor did he appear to be in need of medical attention. Police instructions already provide for the medical examination and treatment of any person who seems to be suffering from illness when he is brought to a police station, but it is obviously impracticable to pro- vide for medical examination before arrest.