HC Deb 22 April 1937 vol 322 cc1904-5
29. Mr. Lunn

asked the Home Secretary whether he will make a statement concerning the death of one man two days after admission to Armley Gaol, Leeds, as a debtor, and another, 19 years of age, who has committed suicide in the gaol during this month; and will he institute an inquiry into the circumstances?

Sir J. Simon

I have already made careful inquiry into both these cases. The first prisoner was a man of 43 who was received into Leeds prison on 2nd April. He was examined on admission by the medical officer and found to be suffering from valvular disease of the heart. In view of this it was arranged that he should be given no work requiring physical exertion. On the night of 3rd April he died—apparently in his sleep. The law requires that there shall be an inquest on every death in prison, and the jury found that death was due to natural causes. There is no suggestion that anything in his treatment in prison contributed to his death, and there is nothing the prison staff could have done to prevent or to render less likely this sudden heart failure.

The second case was that of a young man serving a sentence of three months in the second division. He was examined on his admission on 2nd April, and there was nothing wrong with him physically or mentally. His conduct while in prison was good: he gave no trouble and there was no question of any disciplinary treatment. On 12th April he was at work in the morning in association with other prisoners and there was nothing abnormal in his behaviour. At about 12.45 he was in his cell and was seen by the medical officer in the course of a routine round of the cells. He was then quite cheerful. At 1.15 the librarian officer who distributes books to prisoners visited his cell and the prisoner was then sitting read- ing. At 1.40 he was found dead, having hanged himself from the window bars of his cell. In this case also there was an inquest. There was nothing the prison staff could have done to prevent this tragic occurrence and there is no suggestion that there was anything in the nature of harsh treatment which might have contributed to this impulsive suicide.

Mr. Lunn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is some uneasiness in the City of Leeds about these two tragic events and will the Home Office not call for some further inquiry into this matter, as well as other matters in connection with our prisons, so as to remove the possibility of such happenings as these?

Sir J. Simon

I am not at all surprised that people in Leeds or elsewhere should feel anxious about these incidents, and they are deeply distressing, I need not say, to the Home Office, but I have, in what I have said, given information quite impartially, and I hope very much that, with the hon. Member's help, that will allay public anxiety about these two cases.