HL Deb 03 July 1840 vol 55 cc408-9
Lord Brougham

had to present a petition to which he wished to call the particular attention of the noble Secretary for the Home Department, as it contained a very serous complaint of ill-usage in one of her Majesty's prisons. The noble and learned Lord read an extract from the petition which stated that:— Joseph Crabtree, late of Barnsley, in the West Riding of the county of York, and now a prisoner in Wakefield House of Correction, was tried at the Yorkshire Lent Assizes, 1840, and convicted of attending an illegal meeting, which was held at Barnsley on the 16th of July, 1839, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Wakefield House of Correction, subject to the most severe discipline; that your petitioner is a man of very bad health; he has been afflicted with a disease of the liver more than six years, and is at present very ill, not only of that complaint, but is likewise labouring under a pulmonary affection, which he feels assured must prove fatal if some change be not made in his treatment. He is locked up in his sleeping cell at six o'clock at night, a room about eight feet by six, where he must not walk about, or make the least noise whatever, but remain in perfect silence, till he is let out at six o'clock in the morning, at which hour he is taken into the day-room, and placed among the convicted misdemeanants, and he must there sit on a form with his face in one particular direction, in order that the officers may see the whole of the face; he must sit there until nearly seven o'clock in the evening, when he is again locked up in the sleeping cell. It is entirely close confinement; he cannot walk out into a yard, unless when sick, and then an officer is appointed to take a number of sick prisoners, and move them round a small yard about twenty minutes; this may be allowed twice or three times a week. On pain of being placed in dark solitary confinement for three days, to be allowed no more than half a pound of bread and cold water per day: he must not hang down his head so that his face cannot be clearly seen by the officers; he must not speak under any circumstances to any other prisoner; he must not stoop down to take any thing from the ground; he must not turn his head any way; he must not stand up; he must not laugh or smile, or make a motion with his lips or his hands to another prisoner; he must not look a prisoner in the face. If he want to attend the call of nature, he must put his cap on, and wait till called by one of the officers, which will sometimes lie an hour and a half, there are so many in the room." The petitioner prayed, that their Lordships would be pleased to make intercession for mercy to be extended to him, "in order that he may be saved from certain death. This petition had been sent to him by a very respectable individual, and, though he could scarcely believe the statements, yet he felt it to be his duty to present the petition.

The Marquess of Normanby

would immediately make inquiries into the truth of the statements, but he was of opinion that they were greatly exaggerated.

Petition laid on the table.