HL Deb 05 May 1863 vol 170 cc1148-50

inquired, Whether Her Majesty's Government have already or will institute Inquiries into the Circumstances of the late mutinous Outbreak in the Roman Catholic Reformatory in Charnwood Forest, the Constitution of Appointment and Pay of Officers of that Institution, and the Discipline exercised therein? In Charnwood Forest there was a monastery of St. Bernard for monks of the Cistercian and Trappist orders. A few years ago the Rev. Dr. Burden formed the benevolent determination of grafting upon the austere discipline of the Trappists a reformatory institution for young men. In May 1856—the institution having increased to large dimensions—it received a certificate from the Secretary of State authorizing it to become a reformatory for juvenile offenders to the number of 300. From the first report of the Inspectors of Prisons with regard to this institution, it appeared that the cost of the establishment was £5,337, or about £14 18s. 6d. per head. During the next three years the Government allowances amounted to £13,757. He was desirous, then, of inquiring what control the Government had over the expenditure, what control they had over the appointments of that establishment, what control they had over its discipline. He would contrast the management and result of this reformatory with the management and result of the Protestant reformatories, which were presided over in many cases by Members of their Lordships' House, associated with the magistrates, clergy, and other benevolent persons, and which had produced very satisfactory results. In subsequent reports of the Inspectors of Prisons it was stated that this establishment had encountered serious difficulties, owing to the misconduct and the inefficiency of several of the officers charged with the moral and industrious training of the boys; and this comparison was drawn—that whereas in reformatories 65 per cent of Protestants were doing well, there were only 49 per cent of Roman Catholics; of re-committals, Protestants 10.6 per cent, Roman Catholice 11.5 percent; cases of failure, Protestants nearly 7 per cent. Roman Catholics 12 per cent. He might here state that, in proportion to the population of the British islands, the Roman Catholic criminals were double the number of the Protestant. Another Report stated that the general condition of the reformatories was satisfactory, the only exception, in fact, being that of St. Bernard's. In another Report this reformatory was spoken of as "the mismanaged reformatory." The outbreak at St. Bernards, to which his question referred, was thus given in a local newspaper. It appeared that the Rev. Robert Smith, known as Father Robert, director of the establishment, having found some of the inmates smoking, told them they were not allowed to smoke; and that one of the number replying that he could not do without his pipe, Father Robert said to them—"Men, if you must smoke, do it privately; do it out of sight." Afterwards some of the boys were seen by one of the officers smoking, and on his attempting to take their pipes away, they knocked him down, and knocked his teeth out of his head and otherwise injured him. This was reported to the director of the reformatory, and Father Robert, taking with him four assistants, thereupon proceeded towards a dormitory where nearly forty of the boys had been breaking up their iron bedsteads. Leaving the assistants at the bottom of the stairs, he went into the room with a policeman named Chaloner and called out some of the ringleaders. Thereupon they jumped out of their beds with their clothes on, and, armed with broken bed-legs, four of them at once attacked the policeman, who called loudly for assistance, but none came—the director had gone down stairs—they struck him on the arms and the head, and, in fact, half murdered him. When he afterwards went bleeding into the director's room to have his head bandaged up, he asked the director why he had not come to his assistance, and the answer of Father Robert was, that "it was contrary to his position as a priest and a religious to fight with boys." The noble Lord then read from a newspaper the depositions taken before the magistrates in reference to this outbreak, where four of the ringleaders were committed for trial; and concluded by putting his Question.


replied, that the Secretary of State had not yet received the report of the Inspector of Prisons sent down to investigate the case, and that therefore it was impossible for the Government at present to answer the inquiry. In another month the Government might be able to give the information.

House adjourned at Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.