HL Deb 27 June 1876 vol 230 cc485-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that this Bill be now read the second time, said, that the object of the measure, which had come up from the Commons, was to enable the Secretary of State in England and the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland to classify the prisoners to whom registration and photography under the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1871, should apply. It had been found by experience that the number of identifications from registration and photographs had not borne so large a proportion to that of the number of prisoners registered and photographed as had been expected. When prisoners of a very tender age were photographed, the advantage as regarded subsequent identification was very slight indeed. Again, in very many cases the police were able to identify from memory. Gaolers and the police were able generally to form a good idea as to the prisoners who ought to be photographed, and this Bill would enable the Government to exercise a discretion in the matter, which at present was not permitted.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Steward.)


said, it was a matter of the utmost importance that some system should be adopted through which persons accused of crime could be identified and classified, so that the punishment could be made proportionate to the criminality of the offender. During the time he was in office, several Acts had been passed having this object in view, but they were all of a tentative character, and he should be glad to see them revised and consolidated. In his opinion, the police supervision in respect of the convict classes was of the utmost value. In this, as well as in other matters of a cognate character, the magistrates of Gloucestershire had set an excellent example. They had tried the effect of short terms of imprisonment followed by police supervision, and had found it to produce very satisfactory results. There was gaol accommodation in Gloucestershire for 800 prisoners; but of the several prisons in that county all were closed except one, and in that one there were only 222 prisoners last year and 197 the year before. In other counties there was no communication between the gaolers and the police, and at quarter sessions when sentencing prisoners, the magistrates did not impose supervision. When Home Secretary, he addressed a Circular on the subject to the magistracy, and in some respects that appeal had not been in vain. He would suggest that good results would be likely to follow some such action on the part of the present Home Secretary, who had introduced such important measures and shown such zeal in the discharge of the duties of his office.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.