HL Deb 30 July 1839 vol 49 cc976-87
The Earl of Warwick

was called upon by a sense of public duty, and in defence of the characters of certain individuals who had been implicated in charges made in a petition recently presented by the noble and learned Lord op- posite (Lord Brougham), from two persons, named Lovett and Collins, who had been confined in Warwick gaol, and who stated that they had been most severely treated while there. He was sure his noble Friend opposite must have been satisfied that those persons were so treated from the very anxious manner in which he advocated their cause. But those statements appeared to him to be much overwrought at the time; and knowing the magistrates who were the visitors of the gaol, and the parties who had the conduct and management of it, and being satisfied that the gaol was as well, as carefully, and as humanely superintended and managed as any other gaol perhaps in the country, he was perfectly satisfied that those statements would afterwards be proved to be overcharged. That he was now prepared to show by authentic papers. But as the noble and learned Lord went into so many details, reading the whole of the petition, and animadverting in stronger language almost than the petitioners themselves on their treatment in the gaol, he was afraid he should be compelled to read the answers which had been given to the allegations of the petitioners, long as they were; and, perhaps, the shortest way would be to read them through at once. The noble Earl then proceeded to read the report of the visiting magistrates of Warwick gaol, on the allegations in the petition of Messrs. Lovett and Collins; and also the evidence on which the report was founded:— Vicarage, Warwick, July 23, 1839. My Lord,—In reply to your Lordship's directions that a report of the visiting magistrates on the petition of William Lovett and John Collins should be immediately forwarded, I have the honour to transmit a copy of a report, &c., forwarded yesterday to Sir J. E. Wilmot, chairman of the Quarter Sessions, at his request. The statements and declarations appended thereto can, if required, be verified on oath. In this report your Lordship will perceive that the visiting magistrates have confined themselves chiefly to facts, without expressing their own opinions whether the rules and regulations for the enforcement of discipline and cleanliness, as well as the dietary, are or are not too stringent; this did not appear to them matter of present discussion, in the case of the petitioning prisoners, so much as the fact, whether the mode in which the officers of the prison have carried the rules and regulations into effect had been uncourteous, harsh, or unnecessarily severe. I can confidently assure your Lordship, that the visiting magistrates are one and all anxious that no undue restraints, or obnoxious discipline, should be enforced in the prison. They are disposed to assent to and recommend any relaxations of the severity of discipline, or any indulgence to prisoners, which, on mature deliberation, can be deemed practicable and safe. I have, &c. JOHN BOUDIER, V. M. The Right Hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department. To Sir John Eardley Wilmot, Bart., M. P., Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for the county of Warwick. Sir,—In compliance with your wish, we, the visiting magistrates, have carefully investigated the charges contained in the petition of William Lovett and John Collins, lately confined in her Majesty's county gaol at Warwick, complaining of undue severity and harshness of treatment. We beg leave to present the following report, to which we have appended statements and declarations of the surgeon, governor, turnkeys, and others, on whose deliberate testimony, as well as the observations made by us, the visiting magistrates, the report is founded. REPORT. It appears that the prisoners William Lovett and John Collins were committed for a misdemeanour. On being received at the gaol they underwent the same strict examination and search of their clothes and persons to which every individual committed for misdemeanour is subject by the customary rules and usage of the prison. They were also bathed, and Lovett, one of them, had his hair cut. In regard to searching and cleansing, however anxious to spare the feelings of parties apparently respectable, it is clear the officers could not, without culpable partiality, draw a line of distinction in the treatment of individuals committed for the same class of offence. For the purpose of identity in case of escape, every prisoner, except a debtor, is, according to long-established custom, inspected minutely in person and apparel, and particular marks described and registered. The visiting magistrates admit and regret, that often from the circumstance of the numbers brought to prison at the same time, and the accommodation not being so ample as might be wished, some exposure cannot be prevented; this, however, is a point to which they are directing their attention with a view to remedy. As respects bathing, the very dirty state in which prisoners are brought, especially from other prisons, and from lock-up houses as at Birmingham, renders it indispensable that those who have been so confined, though apparently cleanly, should undergo further inspection and cleansing, inasmuch, as in numberless cases, the best dressed are found in a state which would necessarily introduce contamination, and even vermin, into the prison; hence, by long uniformly recognized and necessary custom, all are inspected, and all are bathed. The investigation of the individual cases of petitioning prisoners, Lovett and Collins and their treatment, however complained of, in the opinion of the visiting magistrates, fully exonerate the officers from the imputation of any peremptory, harsh, or even uncourteous conduct. The declarations appended, strongly, deliberately, and, we believe, truly assert that they, the officers, showed every disposition to abstain from needless annoyance; that directions were given to allow Lovett and Collins to take their bath before the other prisoners; and although, by mistake, another person got before Collins, so far from complaint, Lovett expressed himself gratified by his bath, and Collins appeared also well satisfied, The water in the bath was fresh and clean. The charge of the prisoners having their hair forcibly cut by a common felon is wholly unfounded as respects Collins, and by no means strictly true in regard to Lovett; the hair of Collins not being cut at all, and Lovett's only shortened, in conformity with his own express direction. The bathman and barber, it is admitted, is a felon; but Ids offence is of comparatively trifling character—that of stealing a spade—while his exemplary conduct and previous good character recommended him to the governor as a fit person to be employed and trusted. The statements that the prisoners' shirts were taken from them is untrue; all that was done was to stamp or mark them, which is not only usual but necessary, in order to a correct return of them after washing, as well as on their going out of prison. The allegation that the prisoners were put into a ward with twenty-two prisoners, one of whom was affected with itch, is explained, and in the main rebutted by the facts. In the ward there was discovered (some two or three days after they were admitted) a deserter who had the complaint, but he was immediately removed and cured. The surgeon, in ordinary course, and in discharge of his duty, prescribed by Act of Parliament, inspected all the prisoners in the ward, and, therefore, Lovett and Collins amongst the number. The ward, be it observed, was the proper misdemeanour ward, assigned to the prisoners under the classification prescribed in the Gaol Act, 4th George iv. sect 10, rule 6, and the only one to which they could have been transferred. So far from exhibition of the two prisoners to persons coming out of curiosity into the prison, it is believed that fewer persons than usual visited the prison with orders during the term they were confined. The answering to their names was required only in enforcement of the customary and necessary discipline. The taking off the hat appears to have been required in conformity with long-established usage. The county allowance of provisions complained of, is in strict conformity with the dietary prescribed; in addition to which each is permitted by order of the Court, to expend 3d. per day, making together, with the county allowance, an amount greater than they are permitted to expend under the rules and regulations of the prison, sanctioned and confirmed by the judges of assize; a copy is appended. The prisoners did not ask to provide themselves, although the rules admitting them to do so are hung up in their day room; they were, therefore, supposed to be on county allowance, which, with the 3d. per day, is so greatly to the advantage of the prisoners, that in the memory of no single officer of the prison have more than one or two prisoners applied to provide themselves, and these have shortly after requested to be put back to county allowance. The prisoner having county allowance of warm food, it is not usual in the summer months to have fire in the day rooms; but the two prisoners on application had eggs boiled for them, and knew or might have known, on inquiry that the turnkey would have dressed bacon for them. The governor also distinctly states, that had he been applied to, he should have provided them with the means to cook the provisions they purchased. The mode prescribed to each prisoner to make his own bed is according to uniform custom, purposely intended to promote cleanliness and ventilation. The beds are folded up so as to expose the part slept upon open to the air, and the blankets folded and placed upon the bed, as in a barrack room. The visiting magistrates are of opinion that no reasonable complaint can be made of the cleanliness, sweetness, and ventilation of the cells or bedding. The furniture is, as by custom, uniformly supplied to all alike. The boots or shoes of prisoners are always ordered to be placed outside the cell, as one means of rendering escape less facile. The regulations for walking in the yard are enforced to promote exercise and health, under the approbation of the surgeon. The day-rooms, at such times, in hot or in wet weather, are always open, and the prisoners have access. The regulations as to writing:—Correspondence and admittance of friends are in exact conformity with the printed rules and regulations, sanctioned and confirmed by the Secretary of State, or by long-established custom. Books, subject to the approbation of the chaplain, will be allowed. Prisoner Lovett was informed by the governor, who understood that he wished for writing-paper to prepare his defence, that he might have what he pleased, counted out to him, according to custom, and that what he so wrote for his defence would not be subject to inspection; though his correspondence received, or sent out must be. He had, in consequence, three folio sheets for that purpose, and which he took out with him on leaving the prison, the same not having been inspected. The assertion of the prisoners, that from twelve o'clock on the Sunday to nine o'clock a.m. on Monday, they were not served with any food, is answered by stating, that on the Sunday the full allowance for the day is served out; at nine o'clock a.m. each prisoner receives one pound and three quarters of bread, and one pint and a-half of substantial gruel. At twelve o'clock one pint and a-half of soup is given to each, which (notwithstanding complaints of petitioners) is substantial and good, a strong vegetable soup thickened, and a fair portion of meat stewed down during the whole preceding night. It is left to the prisoners on Sunday to reserve such portion of their food as they please, to be consumed during the latter part of the day. The visiting magistrates conclude their re-report by expressing a hope, that as the charges of the petitioning prisoners have been made public and printed, that you will move the hon. House of Commons to order that this explanation and reply of the visiting magistrates be also printed, as well as the declarations of the officers of the prison. JOHN BOUDIER. "TERTIUS GALTON. JAMES RATTRAY. "J. C. B. C. CAVE. The Declarations and Statements of the Surgeon, Governor, Officers of the Prison, and others, in reply to charges of undue Harshness and Severity of Treatment, contained in a petition presented to the House of Commons, from William Lovett and John Collins. Surgeon, Mr. John Wilmshurst.—(No. 1.) The prisoners Lovett and Collins were inspected, and from time to time examined by him only, in the ordinary course of his duty, prescribed by Act of Parliament (4th of George 4th c. 64); that at the time they were placed in their proper ward no prisoner there was affected with the itch, and that when some two or three days afterwards it was discovered that a deserter in that ward was so affected, he was immediately removed and cured. The very filthy state in which prisoners are brought in, especially from other prisons and from the lock-up houses, as at Birmingham, renders it indispensable that those who have been so confined, though apparently cleanly, should undergo further inspection and cleaning, inasmuch as in numberless cases the best dressed are found in a state which would necessarily introduce contamination, and even vermin, into the prison. In the opinion of the surgeon, the precautions uniformly taken are absolutely necessary; the exemptions of the prison from infectious and contagious diseases exemplifying the necessity of the precautions. J. WILMSHURST, Surgeon. Governor, Henry Adkins.—(No. 2.) The treatment of the prisoners Lovett and Collins, both by myself and, so far as he believes, by all the other officers of the prison, was in all respects conformable with the prison rules; they were not subject to any harsh treatment or needless restrictions. As being committed not only for want of sureties, but for trial for a misdemeanour, they could not be placed in any other than the misdemean- ours' yard, unless in his own (the governor's) opinion, their peculiar case rendered it specially expedient, or on their application, which they did not make, he had deemed it expedient to apply to the visiting magistrates to sanction their being removed elsewhere; but, in point of fact, there was no other ward to which he could have properly removed them. To him (the governor) they made no complaint or application whatever, though they had ample opportunity for so doing; and so far from being disinclined to afford them accommodation and comply with their wishes, on hearing that Lovett wished writing paper for his defence, he (the governor) specially called and informed him that he might have such paper; and that, as being used for his defence, it would not be subject to inspection. Three folio sheets were subsequently furnished to him; what he wrote thereon was not inspected and he took them out of the prison when bailed out. "HENRY ADKINS. Head Turnkey, John Young.—(No. 3.) I received the prisoners Lovett and Collins, who were brought to prison in a car; I took Lovett first down to a room called the description-room, where account is taken of person, clothing, and property, and according to uniform custom ordered him to take off his clothes; he complied without observation, excepting an enquiry whether he was to be put in the felon's cells; I said, 'no; but in the proper ward on the misdemeanour side.' He dressed himself, and I took him to the bathroom, and gave him over to the bath-man, Samuel Smith, saying, 'take this man, search him, and see that he is clean; I have no doubt but he is; if you rind he is, put him into the bath first.' The water in the bath was fresh and clean. I left him, and returned for Collins, and treated him as Lovett: he remonstrated as to his shirt, but on being told it was the prison rule he instantly complied. I turned him over to Maycock, the turnkey, who took him to the bath while I fetched some shirts. I followed him within a minute to the bath room, and finding another man in the water, said to the bathman, 'why did you not do as I ordered you, and put Lovett in first?' Lovett replied, 'I have been in, sir.' He made no complaint. Soon afterwards I fetched Lovett and Collins out of the bath-room, and passed them into No. 3, the misdemeanours' yard, giving them their regular county allowance of provisions; neither made any remarks, that I recollect, though I believe something had been said by one of them as to whether they could have anything in. Conceiving them to be on gaol allowance, I said 'no; but you will be allowed to spend 3d. a-day beyond your allowance. Lovett had three sovereigns, which I put up for him; he took 11s. 9d. into the prison with him. Collins had 15s., which he also took into the prison with him. Some Some days after, Lovett applied for some writing paper; I counted him out three folio sheets; when bailed out he took them with him; I did not inspect them. Lovett had a clean towel when in the bath. More or less towels are used according to the number of prisoners. JOHN YOUNG. Turnkey on the Debtors' Side, Thomas Maycock.—(No. 4). Under the direction of Mr. Young, I searched the prisoners Lovett and Collins. Young takes the particulars and descriptions. I took Collins to the bath-room; observed nothing particular, only heard Collins, say to Lovett, 'well, my covey, (or kiddy, I don't know which,) what you have had a good wash, and had your hair cut." Lovett laughed, and said 'yes.' THOMAS MAYCOCK. Bathman and Barber, Samuel Smith.—(No.5.) I received Lovett and others into the bathroom, and was directed by Mr. Young to put Lovett into the bath first. Young said, 'I have no doubt he is clean, and then let him put his own clothes on.' Lovett said he would much rather have a good wash—it was worth a guinea. I said, 'will you have your hair cut, sir?' He said, yes, cut a little off it, but not much; cut a few long hairs off it behind.' I did so, but not in front at all. Collins came into the bath-room, and said to Lovett, 'we shall have a county crop and a wash together.' Lovett said he had been washed already, and had his hair cut. Collins replied,'d—n it, it don't seem to have been cut at all. I asked Collins whether he would have his hair cut? He said, 'just as you like. It did not seem to want it, and it was not cut. I remember Young remonstrating about putting any other prisoner in the bath before Collins; it was done by mistake, not properly understanding his former order to apply to any one but Lovett. SAMUEL SMITH. Inner Turnkey, Charles Woodward. (No.6.) Lovett and Collins were brought into my yard on Sunday morning. On the Monday morning following I informed them with others that they were allowed to spend 3d. per day in sugar, butter, cheese, bacon, and eggs; either Lovett or Collins asked how they were to get the eggs cooked. I said, 'there is no fire, the eggs are generally beaten up in gruel.' Collins said, he never could eat spoon meat. On one occasion, one of them asked me to boil some eggs, but there happened to be no fire; at another time I did boil eggs for them, and certainly I should not have refused to dress a little bacon for them if asked. It is well known to the prisoners that such is my custom when asked; there were prisoners in the same yard who had been previously in prison, and knew this to be the case. Collins and Lovett both appeared perfectly satisfied, and never made any complaint to me beyond what I have stated above. The rules and regulations are hung up on a board in the dayroom, "CHARLES WOODWARD, John Smith, a prisoner in the Misdemeanour-yard. I was the person who got into the bath next to Lovett, not knowing that I was to wait, I heard Young complain that I had been put in before Collins. I immediately got out, and Collins got in. I was present when both Lovett and Collins were in the bath; both of them seemed quite satisfied and contented at that time. I was in the yard with Lovett and Collins till they were bailed out, I never heard them complain about anything, I heard Lovett and Collins talk together about bacon, and express a wish they had means to cook it, but I did not hear of any complaint made to the turnkey. JOHN SMITH. He should not trouble their Lordships with any remarks of his own, as he thought the statements he had read would show sufficiently that the treatment of' the prisoners had been greatly exaggerated. It appeared that they had been treated with civility and attention, and he must say, that in his opinion, the noble and learned Lord opposite had, with many hundreds more, been imposed upon, for there was nothing to show that either of the prisoners had been improperly treated.

Lord Brougham

said, if he had been imposed upon, he had been so as much by the noble Earl as by any other person, for the noble Earl had now confirmed the statement which he had previously made in all its essential particulars. He begged to say, that no charge had been brought against the county magistrates, or against the respectable governor, Mr. Adkins. It was only the bad system which had been complained of, for by that system persons not tried, nor found guilty of any crime, were treated as if they had been convicted. The petition which which he had presented on a former occasion had been prepared from the facts collected by a most respectable individual, whose cross-examination he would trust as much as that of any man not connected with the legal profession. That gentleman said he knew Lovett to be a most respectable man, to whose word every credence was due; and he stated also, that he had had both Lovett and Collins before him for hours, submitted them to a rigid cross-examination in order to test the truth of their statements, and to prevent the possibility of exaggeration. He further stated, that perfect reliance was to be placed on the statements of Lovett, who was a man who could not be excelled in integrity. Let them now look at the evidence which had been adduced by the noble Lord, and see whether the statements of the petitioners had been in any degree invalidated. The petitioners complained that they had had their hair forcibly cut by a common felon, and what said the evidence? Why it was said, that Lovett's hair was "only shortened" in conformity with his own express direction; but it was admitted that Smith, the barber was a felon; although it was added, that "his offence is of comparatively trifling character—that of stealing a spade." Only convicted of stealing a spade! But as he called a spade a spade, he also called a thief a thief; and it was clear, therefore, by the admission of the magistrates, that the statement of Lovett, that his hair was cut off by a felon, was perfectly true. It was no matter what the amount of Smith's offence was, for the indignity complained of was the same. Then, as to the complaint that the prisoners had been exhibited to persons visiting the prison from curiosity, what was the evidence adduced on those points? Why, it was said, that "so far from exhibition of the prisoners to persons coming out of curiosity into the prison, it is believed that fewer persons than usual visited the prison with orders during the time they were confined." But there was no attempt made to show that they were not exhibited to the persons who did visit the prison, and the numbers of the visitors was not the point in question. It was also said, that "the answering to their names was required only in enforcement of the customary and necessary discipline. The taking off the hat appears to have been required in conformity with long established usage." Now, it was of this sort of discipline, and of this long established usage, which the petitioners complained; for what was the effect of that usage? Lovett was a most respectable householder. He was taken to prison for want of bail, and before he was tried or convicted of any crime he was subjected to the indignity of being mustered with common felons when a crowd of idle people visited the prison, and in that position ordered to take off his hat. The petitioners also stated that they were searched and stripped naked, and that fact was admitted by the turnkey and it was stated that it was the practice of the prison. But it was of the practice that the petitioners complained, because by that prac- tice they were submitted to indignities to which no person not convicted of crime ought to be subjected. The petitioners also complained that the water in which they were forced to bathe was not clean, and it was now said that only two persons had bathed before them. That statement did not invalidate the statement of the petitioners. The petitioners also complained that they were note allowed to use their own money, and it was stated in their evidence that they were allowed to spend 3d. a-day. But they were not felons, and why should they have been thus restrained? The presumption was that they were guilty of no crime, and they had been treated as if they had been convicted. The rules and regulations of the prison were hung up on a board in the day-room, but the prisoners complained that they were not treated according to those rules, and they were told by the turnkey that they must not appeal to those rules, as they were often changed. The rules said, that the prisoners should be shut up at eight o'clock, and the petitioners complained that they had been shut up at seven o'clock, and that they had fared differently in all respects from the rules which were hung up in the prison, and there was nothing in the evidence to show that that statement was not correct. In short, he thought the evidence fully bore out the complaints of the petitioners, but he trusted that some good would arise from this great evil, and that in future a distinction would be made between persons convicted and those who, not having been tried, were, in the eye of the law, guilty of no crime. No magistrate had a right to establish rules by which persons before their trial were treated as if they had been tried, convicted, and found guilty. One word as to the bail. The petitioners had been confined nine days on the plea that the bail offered was not sufficient, and he would ask why the bail had not at once been accepted. Mr. Leader and Sir William Molesworth writing that they would answer for the bail, did not render the bail a bit more sufficient, and it was only because it was found that the prisoners were not helpless and defenceless that the magistrates had at last accepted the bail—and what bail? Why, the very same that had been at first refused. If he were the Government, he would take care that if the petitioners were found guilty, they should have no more punishment. The nine days' confinement which they had already suffered was enough for their offence.

Subject dropped.