HL Deb 07 April 1851 vol 115 cc1115-6

, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said, he would simply remind their Lordships of recent cases in our criminal courts of justice which suggested and enforced the necessity of adopting some such measure as the present. He would only mention the cases of the Sloanes and the Birds. The inhuman severity which they had exercised towards those who were under their care had been the subject of solemn trial and judicial sentence, and therefore it would be unbecoming in him to comment further upon it. The result of those proceedings had been to establish certain points, which showed considerable defects in the present law in respect of the relation of master and servant. As it now stood, any neglect of duty on the part of the master or mistress to give the necessary amount of food to apprentices or servants, could not be made the subject of a criminal proceeding, but only of a civil action, except in the cases of infants of tender years; and even in those cases such an offence could only be punished by fine or imprisonment, there being no power to enforce hard labour. And in none of these cases was it compulsory for the guardians to prosecute. The present Bill proposed to extend protection to persons under 18 years of age; and wherever a case was made out where the necessary quantity of food was withheld, or the party had been assaulted, the master or mistress so offending would be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years, the Judge having the discretion to order hard labour and the payment of costs. It was also made compulsory on the poor-law guardians to appoint officers to visit children apprenticed out from the union four times a year until they were 18 years of age, and those officers were directed to report to the guardians any case of cruelty or neglect which might occur. In case of any vital injury being sustained by the child or young person, the committing magistrate would be empowered to certify that the guardians should undertake the public pro- secution, and they would instruct their officers to do so.


feared that the effect of the quarterly visits by the officers of the board of guardians would operate to prevent the engagement of young persons from the workhouse. Masters and mistresses would not like such an inspection, and would hire other servants in preference. He should move in Committee that the Bill do not apply to young persons above the age of16, instead of including, as it proposed to do, servants and apprentices up to the age of 18.


should be glad to attend to any suggestion which might be made for improving the Bill in Committee; but he should be unwilling to give up the right of private visitation.

Bill read 2a.

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