HL Deb 24 July 1854 vol 135 cc578-81

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of this Bill, stated, that its object was, that, in the case of youthful offenders, there should be a power, in addition to inflicting some slight punishment, of sending them to reformatory schools. He felt that this was one of the most difficult subjects with which a Legislature could have to deal, because, desirable as the subject was—and necessary as he believed it to be, that the Government should make an effort to provide for it—he could not but feel that they were liable to be met by the objection, that if they gave a person a good education because he had committed an offence, they might be placing their criminals, in fact, in a far better position than those who had been guilty of no crime at all. Still, there was a very natural and growing feeling that in the case of youthful offenders, at all events, the attempt ought to be made; and it was proposed by the present Bill to sanction that attempt, not by establishing any general system, such as that which existed in France, but by proceeding in a more humble way. There were many reformatory schools at present existing, which had been established by the voluntary efforts of benevolent and honest-minded individuals; and what was proposed was, that the Inspectors of Prisons should examine these schools, and that whenever they reported of them favourably, and expressed an opinion that they were likely to effect their object, there should be a power to send juvenile offenders to them, to undergo the discipline and to receive the education which they had been established to carry out. If the school proved inadequate to the accomplishment of its professed object, the Secretary of State would have power to interfere, and to prevent any other offenders from being sent to it; and if any offender, having been once sent, should leave the institution without a licence, he would be liable to punishment for so doing. He hoped that by adopting this system, they might be able to effect, to some extent, what had been effected to a considerable extent in France—that the juvenile offenders sent to these institutions would forget their vicious habits in them, and would be restored as respectable and useful members to society. It was an attempt, at all events, in the right direction; and although many persons would probably be of opinion that it did not go far enough, he thought it was better that they should advance by degrees upon a matter of so much importance, than that they should run the risk of failure by attempting too much at once.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, that while he cordially supported the Bill as far as it went, he must confess himself one of those persons to whom the noble and learned Lord had just referred, who thought that a great deal more might have been done in the same direction. There was one part of the Bill upon which he wished to make one remark. He thought that, in- stead of sending these juvenile offenders to reformatory schools, in addition to the punishment of imprisonment, they should be sent there in lieu of it, and not be exposed, for however short a term, to the contamination of a gaol. He believed that the whole mischief was done in sending them to our ordinary gaols at all, and that the discipline and control to which they would be subjected in well-regulated reformatory schools would be found punishment enough. He had read the greater part of the evidence which had been laid before Parliament on the subject, and he thought it strongly preponderated in favour of the opinion which he had just expressed.


in giving his assent to the Bill, said, he would take that opportunity to remind the House that, shortly after his return from the last spring circuit, he had called the attention of their Lordships to the enormous mischief and inconvenience which resulted from there being no means of dealing with small offences, except committing the parties charged for trial at the assizes or sessions, which led to their being retained in gaol for twice or three times the period for which they would have been sent to prison if they had been tried and found guilty at the moment. At the trial they often pleaded guilty, and, in consideration of their long previous confinement, were dismissed perhaps with a single hour's imprisonment. The inconveniences which resulted from such a state of things were considerable; and his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, when he spoke of those inconveniences, had promised that the attention of the Government should immediately be directed to it; but the Session was now drawing to a close, and no Government measure had been introduced, while a Bill which had been introduced into the other House of Parliament by an hon. and learned Friend of his (Mr. Aglionby), and some of the clauses in which would have embraced this subject, had been recently withdrawn. He wished to ask his noble and learned Friend, therefore, whether something could not yet be done? for he was sure that, notwithstanding the Sessional order which fixed to-morrow as the latest day for reading any Bill a second time, such a measure as that to which he had referred would be voted "urgent," and would receive the favourable consideration of the House.


concurred warmly in the object of the Bill, and wished to ask the noble and learned Lord why its provisions were not to extend to Ireland, where greater difficulty was found in dealing with this class of offenders than with any other?


said, as the Bill was originally introduced into the other House of Parliament, Ireland was not excepted, and he saw no reason why it should be; but the exception had been introduced at the instance of a large body of Gentlemen connected with the sister country in the other House of Parliament. With respect to the question of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Campbell), it was true he had promised that the attention of the Government should be directed to the subject to which his noble and learned Friend had referred. He had, in fact, had papers before him for the purpose of preparing a Bill; and had only not proceeded to do so, because he saw that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Aglionby) had introduced a Bill into the other House, to which he had given a careful and attentive consideration, and some of the provisions of which appeared to him to apply distinctly to the point. He had not at all anticipated that that Bill would be dropped; he had taken for granted that it would come up, in due course, to their Lordships' House; but, without being able to promise his noble and learned Friend that he would introduce any measure in the present Session, he would take care, for the future, to rely on nobody but himself.


suggested that the noble Earl on the cross-benches (the Earl of Donoughmore) should try the experiment in Committee of bringing Ireland within the operation of the Bill.

After a few words from the DUKE OF ARGYLL, LORD REDESDALE, and the BISHOP OF LINCOLN,

Bill read 2a accordingly; and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Friday next.