HL Deb 17 July 1838 vol 44 cc252-3
The Marquess of Lansdowne

in moving, that the House should go into Committee on the Juvenile Offenders Bill, stated, that as the measure was one of much importance, he felt it necessary to explain its nature and object. Their Lordships must be aware, that for many years past there had been a very great increase of juvenile offenders—that was, of offenders under twelve years of age. This, it had been remarked, was the case in every part of Europe, but to a greater degree in this country than in other states. A laborious inquiry had been instituted, in order, if possible, to ascertain the probable causes of this increase of crime. By some it was attributed to the rapid increase of the population, and the growth of large manufacturing towns, while others found some peculiar circumstances in the state of society in England, which they were of opinion occasioned the evil. But, whatever the cause might be, the increase of juvenile depravity was most appalling. As the result of an inquiry made in one great manufacturing town, that of Manchester, it was ascertained, that in four years the number of children absolutely abandoned or found lost in the streets amounted to 8,610. In 1832, there were 1,954; in 1833, 2,104; in 1834, 2,117; and in 1835 they amounted to the enormous number of 2,435.* With respect to the commitments of juvenile offenders throughout the country, the result had been, as taken from accounts lately made up, that in the last two years 5,174 males and 1,275 females under the age of 16 years were committed for various crimes, the average of the two years being 2,587 males, and 637 females. The ratio in London was still greater. For many years * A similar statement was formerly made in Parliament, and subsequently explained, that the number of children represented as abandoned in Manchester, was merely the number found without protectors in the streets who were taken care of by the police, and in the great majority of cases were restored to their parents.—See vol. xxxiv, p. 1130, vol. xxxv.p. 91. (Third Series.) it had been in contemplation to establish prisons particularly adapted to criminals of this description, with a view to their reformation. If anything were wanting to show the necessity of such a course being adopted, it was to be found in the inadequacy of the existing prisons, for the attainment of such an object. There was no want of attention or of a desire on the part of those to whose custody these unfortunate criminals were consigned, to provide as far as they could, for their separation from old and hardened offenders. But the committee which had inquired into this subject were of opinion, that those prisons, though suited for the correction of adult criminals, were not fit places for the custody or the reform of offenders of a tender age.

The Duke of Richmond

observed, that a Committee of their Lordships' House had decided against the propriety of confining the children together in hulks, where crimes had been committed to an alarming extent; and suggested that they should be confined either in barracks, or elsewhere on shore, up to the period of their transportation.

Bill went through Committee.

The Report to be taken into consideration on a future day.