HL Deb 06 July 1877 vol 235 cc869-75

Transfer and Administration of Prisons.

Clauses 4 and 5 (Transfer of Prisons, Administration of Prisons), agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 12 (Prison Commissioners), agreed to.

Visiting Committee of Justices.

Clause 13 (Appointment of Visiting Committee of Prisons), agreed to.

Clause 14 (Duties of Visiting Committee).


said, that the Amendment which he wished to propose at the end of the Clause was one he trusted the noble Earl (Earl Beauchamp) would not object to, as it in no way affected the principle of the Bill. Their Lordships were aware that by Clause 13 Visiting Justices were to be continued, as now, to be appointed by Courts of Quarter Sessions, and his object in asking their Lordships to add the few words he suggested at the end of this clause was to secure that they should be called upon to report, as they did now, to Quarter Sessions. He was sure their Lordships would agree with him in considering it desirable that the office of Visiting Magistrate should not be a mere sham; consequently, in his opinion, the best way of keeping up their interest in the work was to call upon them not only to report to the Secretary of State from time to time, but also to Courts of Quarter Sessions in their respective counties and boroughs from whom they had received their appointments, and thus ensure for the management of our gaols attention and publicity on the spot. Magistrates being entrusted with the administration of justice, he thought it most desirable that they should be kept well informed as to what was going on in their respective gaols, both county and borough.

Moved to insert— And such Visiting Justices shall send a quarterly report to the Chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions having jurisdiction within the district from which they shall have been appointed."—(The Lord Leigh.)


said, that the Amendment of the noble Lord, as far as he understood it, if the report suggested was to have any value at all, struck at the very root of the principle of the Bill. The noble Lord laid down as the foundation of his argument that the Magistrates in Quarter Sessions were entrusted with the administration of justice, and ought therefore to be informed on all that went on in prison. As far as that argument was worth anything, it would on the same ground be right that the Visiting Magistrates should report to the Judges of the land as well as to the Court of Quarter Sessions, because the Judges who went Circuit were entrusted with the administration of justice. That Bill proposed materially to alter the relation of the Court of Quarter Sessions to the gaols, because under it the Queen would resume her jurisdiction over the prisons, and the authority would be vested in the Secretary of State, to whom the report should properly be made. No doubt they wanted efficient local supervision, and that would be provided for by appointing a Visiting Committee under the Bill. But to lay it down as an obligation on the Visiting Committee that they should report to the Court of Quarter Sessions would place everybody in a false and wrong position. Supposing they reported to the Court of Quarter Sessions, if there was a difference of opinion between the Visiting Committee and the Secretary of State, the Visiting Committee would report their view to the Court of Quarter Sessions—what in that case was the latter to do? Supposing it should pass a Vote of Censure on the Secretary of State, was the Secretary of State to enter into a controversy with the Court of Quarter Sessions, which really had no jurisdiction in the matter? Again, under the Bill the Visiting Committee would be appointed by different Courts of Quarter Sessions in various cases. In the county of Lincoln, for instance, one gaol would probably suffice for all the prisoners in that county, where there were three Courts of Quarter Sessions. Were the Visiting Committee to report to each of those three Courts of Quarter Sessions. For the reasons he had stated he hoped his noble Friend would not press his Amendment.


made some remarks, which were not heard. The noble Lord supported the Amendment.


thought that the Amendment was an extremely harmless one, and one that came fairly within the scope of the Bill. He did not see why it should be objected to, seeing that it had a tendency to chock the centralizing principle. Having introduced the Visiting Justices into their measure, he should have thought the Government would have wished to make their supervision a reality. It was said the Visiting Justices would report to the Secretary of State, as if they were officers of that Minister; but, surely, it was desirable that there should be some independent authority to report on the condition of a gaol. It would be an advantage to the Secretary of State to have some check on the Prison Commissioners and Inspectors. The magistrates were a local body interested in knowing all about the gaols to which prisoners were sent, the effect of the sentences passed on prisoners, and the like:—the Judges, who had to go to different parts of the country, were not exactly in the same position as local magistrates in regard to those matters.


said, the noble Earl had not told them what would be the result of a report by the Visiting Justices to the Quarter Sessions. It would be simply nil—the report would lie upon the Table, and no action would be taken upon it. The Bill provided that the Visiting Justices should report to an authority who had power to act in the matter—namely, the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and so far as publicity went, that would be ensured by the Reports of the Prison Commissioners, which by the 10th clause were to be laid before both Houses of Parlia- ment. The Visiting Justices would go over the gaol, and see the prisoners and hear if they had any complaint to make. That which they would do under this Bill they had done before—they were the proper body to see if prisoners were properly treated—to see that no oppression on the part of authorities in the gaols was used as against prisoners. He should be sorry to see the Amendment introduced into the Bill.


explained that what his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Kimberley) desired to point out was, that the magistrates would be deprived by the Bill of powers which they at present exercised, and which it was most desirable they should still exercise.


said, one or two instances of hard treatment in gaols had happened lately. Suspicion of hard treatment might arise in cases where accidental death took place, or epidemic disease in the prison had proved fatal, or been communicated in the neighbourhood. Questions would assuredly be asked of the Visitors at the next quarter sessions. He thought it would be much better that a written Report of the condition of the gaol should be given to the Quarter Sessions than that a vivâ voce account only should be obtainable.


said, there was no necessity for the clause proposed by the noble Lord (Lord Leigh), because Visiting Justices would always let their brother magistrates know what was passing between them and the Home Office. In the county to which he had the honour to belong, they had lost one of the best Visiting Justices that ever lived (Mr. Mundy), and no successor would be elected to that honourable gentleman who would not explain all proceedings. No notice of this (Prisons) Bill had been taken for the Quarter Sessions, and no objection was made to it.


supported the Amendment.


said, that to a certain extent, the principle of this Bill was already carried, out in Worcestershire. The gaol at Worcester had for some time ceased to be under the control of the Quarter Sessions, the county gaol had ceased to be under the control of the County Justices, and the whole jurisdiction in respect of the city gaol and the county gaol had been transferred to a Committee of Visitors of Prisons. He saw no reason why anything should be done to create an anomalous jurisdiction after arrangements had been made, or were proposed to be made, by means of the Bill under consideration, for the efficient management of prisons. Why should they, when they created one authority entrusted with the proper supervision of prisons, create another by which nothing could be done?


said, his vote would be determined by the consideration that the Bill, as it stood, would practically put an end to the local supervision of prisons. He strongly objected to any proposal which could have the effect of decreasing local interest in prison discipline.


admitted that there was some force in what had been said in support of the proposed Amendment, and was willing to undertake that before the Report on the Bill, the whole question should be carefully considered; and he hoped to be able to make a proposal that would meet the views of the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment and those who thought with him.


supported the Amendment.


thought it would not be difficult to deal with the broad principle contained in the Amendment, if patience were exercised until the Bill was reported to their Lordships.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 58; Not-Contents 80: Majority 22.

Devonshire, D. Minto, E.
Somerset, D. Morley, E.
Westminster, D. Powis, E.
Redesdale, E.
Lansdowne, M. Sandwich, E.
Amherst, E. Stradbroke, E.
Bantry, E. Sydney, E.
Belmore, E. Waldegrave, E.
Camperdown, E.
Cowper, E. Cardwell, V.
Ducie, E. Halifax, V
Fortescue, E. Hardinge, V.
Granville, E. Beaumont, L.
Harrowby, E. Blachford, L.
Ilchester, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]
Jersey, E.
Kimberley, E. Carew, L.
Laneshorough, E. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
Lovelace, E.
Clinton, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Egerton, L. Selborne, L.
Hammond, L. Sherborne, L.
Hanmer, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Hatherton, L.
Houghton, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Leigh, L. [Teller.] Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Lyveden, L.
Monck, L. (V. Monck.) Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Monson, L.
Mostyn, L. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Sudeley, L.
Romilly, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Rossie, L. (L. Kinnaird.)
Cairns, L. (L. Chancellor.) Colville of Culross, L.
Cottesloe, L.
Crofton, L.
Manchester, D. D'L'Isleand Dudley, L.
Northumberland, L. Denman, L.
Richmond, D. de Ros, L.
De Saumarez, L.
Bath, M. Digby, L.
Bute, M. Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)
Hertford, M.
Salisbury, M. Elphinstone, L.
Winchester, M. Forbes, L.
Forester, L.
Beaconsfield, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Beauchamp, E.
Bradford, E. Gordon of Drumearn, L.
Cadogan, E. Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)
Coventry, E.
Gainsborough, E. Grey de Radcliffe, L. (V. Grey de Wilton.)
Lindsey, E.
Morton, E. Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)
Nelson, E.
Selkirk, E. Hampton, L.
Stanhope, E. Harlech, L.
Verulam, E. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Wharncliffe, E.
Wilton, E. Heytesbury, L.
Inchiquin, L.
Bridport, V. Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Leconfield, L.
Manners, L.
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)
Oranmore and Browne, L.
Strathallan, V.
Templetown, V. Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)
Chichester, L. Bp. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Abinger, L. Penrhyn, L.
Airey, L. Sackville, L,
Alington, L. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Ashford, L. (V. Bury.)
Aveland, L. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Bagot, L.
Bolton, L. Sinclair, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Chelmsford, L. Walsingham, L.
Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.) Winmarleigh, L.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Clonbrock, L.
Cloncurry, L.

Resolved in the Negative.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 15 (Visits to prison by any justice), agreed to.