HL Deb 06 April 1886 vol 304 cc900-5

Amendments reported (according to order).

Clause 2 (Appointment of Justices to make orders for reception).


said, he wished to propose the insertion of words to meet a practical difficulty which it had been pointed out to him might arise. The Bill, as it stood, made provision for the appointment of certain Justices to carry out the law in counties, and also in boroughs having separate Quarter Sessions. There was no similar provision, however, in the cases of boroughs without separate Sessions. His Amendment was to the effect that, in such cases, the Lord Chancellor, upon the facts being represented to him, might nominate the necessary number of Justices to act.

Moved, In page 2, after sub-section (2.) add as new sub-section— If in the case of a borough not having a separate quarter sessions representation is made to the Lord Chancellor that public inconvenience is likely to result unless power is given to a justice or justices of such borough to exercise within the same the powers conferred by this Act upon justices of the peace in relation to orders for the reception of lunatics not being paupers, it shall be lawful for the Lord Chancellor from time to time to nominate and appoint, by writing under his hand, one or more of the justices of such borough to exercise within the same the powers aforesaid."—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Amendment agreed to; words added accordingly.

Clause 3 (Orders for reception of private patients to be made by county court judge, magistrate, or justice).


, in moving an Amendment, with the view of securing, as far as possible, a real consideration of each case by the person to whom the order with regard to the detention was presented, said, that under its provisions, the justice would have to consider, in the first place, whether it was necessary to see the lunatic or not. Under the Bill, as it now stood, there was power to see the lunatic, if he thought it necessary to do so; but he (the Lord Chancellor) desired to place it distinctly before the justice, that he should consider the desirability of seeing the lunatic or not.

Moved, In page 4, line 4, to leave out ("if satisfied with"), and insert ("shall consider.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)


said, he thought this Amendment was in the wrong direction. It had been decided, and decided rightly, that the system of private lunatic asylums should continue. He believed it was originally required that the initial step to place a man in an asylum should be very carefully watched; and he was certain that the feeling out-of-doors would be shocked at the notion that the person in trusted with the judicial investigation should be advised that it was not necessary he should see the lunatic. The Amendment practically told the Justice that he need not see the lunatic personally before depriving him of his ordinary liberties as an Englishman, unless there was something suspicious in the case. He could not help thinking this was mischievous, because those who had the care of the lunatic would see that there was nothing to excite the suspicion of the magistrate. He had known cases in which a man had been taken into custody by his friends, put into a cab late at night, and driven about in order that a medical man might be found. That medical man might refuse to give a certificate, and another doctor might be found whose poverty and not his will consented. Cases arose which were not sensational or of the kind referred to in novels. There were cases of people who were locked up because they had got certain notions which their friends objected to; but, at the same time, it was the greatest cruelty that they should be locked up. He did not intend to make any imputation on the Medical Profession, and he believed that there were not 5 per cent of the people locked up in asylums who were not properly there. Those who wished to improperly invoke the power of the law, however, would take care that they did nothing to excite suspicion.


said, he was not inclined to prolong the discussion on this Amendment. In his view, it was not necessary in every case to require the Judge or magistrate to see an alleged patient personally before granting a certificate; but he ought to have the power to do so if not satisfied, In Scot- land, he might point out, the Sheriff, who was the officer charged with this duty, was not required in all cases personally to see the patient; but the Scotch law allowed him to exercise his discretion in the matter, and the Scotch law in this respect had worked quite satisfactorily. He was prepared to acquiesce in the Amendment, believing it was intended to call upon the Judge or magistrate to exercise his discretion in every instance expressly on the question whether he ought to see the patient or not.


said, he thought the noble and learned Lord (Lord Halsbury) had rather misapprehended the object and effect of the Amendment. He had inserted it in order to make the Bill stronger in the direction desired by the noble and learned Lord by calling on the Judge, magistrate, or justice to consider whether it was necessary for him personally to see the alleged lunatic.

Amendment agreed to.

On the Motion of The LORD CHANCELLOR, the following Consequential Amendments made:—In line 5, leave out ("may forthwith make an order thereon; or he may") and insert— ("And whether it is necessary for him personally to see and examine the alleged lunatic; and if he is satisfied that an order may properly be made forthwith, he may make the same accordingly; or if not so satisfied he shall"); in line 8, leave out from ("of which") down to ("notice"), in line 9, and insert— ("And he may make such further or other inquiries of or concerning the alleged lunatic as he may think fit, and for that purpose may summon any person or persons to give evidence, and may take evidence on oath; notice of the time and place appointed for the consideration of the petition"); in line 10, before ("letter") insert ("registered"); and in page 4, line 17, leave out ("a fee of eighteen pence") and insert ("the prescribed lee").

Clause 42 (No new licences to be granted).


said, the Amendments which had been already carried with regard to what was now Clause 42 of the Bill had rested upon three principles. One was that the abrupt cessation of private asylums was calculated to injure the inmates of them. The next was that there was a large class of the community who desired to have private asylums for their friends, and the injury to whom would outweigh any public advantage to be gained by the abrupt cessation of those establishments. Thirdly, that there was a class of men who had embarked their fortunes and their lives in undertakings of this kind, and that they might be ruined unless care were taken before their establishments were put an end to. The Amendments which he had placed on the Paper were entirely in accordance with those principles. In fact, they were intended to apply those principles to the specific cases to which they ought to apply, but to which they would not apply if the Bill stood as it was at present drawn. First of all, he took the case of a change of house after the passing of the Bill. He believed that the principle of granting a licence in respect of a particular house was a new principle, and that a grant had hitherto always been a personal affair. If a change of house were for the advantage of the patients, the case would be met by an Amendment which his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack had placed on the Paper; but he did not see why they should not also consider the case of a change which was made for the benefit of the proprietor of the asylum. He understood that several of these properties were held upon lease; and if the lease expired after the passing of the Bill the freeholder would be able to put a terrible screw on the lessee, who could not continue to conduct his asylum in any other premises. He would move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Moved, In page 29, line 1 of subsection (2), leave out ("at the passing of this Act.")—(The Lord Hobhouse.)


said, his desire was to see a gradual change from private asylums to public asylums. In the first instance, he had limited the power of renewal to the existing licensees in respect of any house. Then it was pointed out to him that there were many cases in which large sums of money had been invested in these houses, which were unsuited for other purposes, and that loss would accrue to individuals if the licence terminated with the life of the existing licensee. Accordingly, desiring to limit the matter in some way, he came to the conclusion to meet those cases by providing that no licence should be granted in respect of a new house. His noble Friend's Amendment would render the process of conversion less rapid, and he did not think the proposal was necessary in order to meet the cases of vested interests.

Amendment negatived.


said, he wished to move an Amendment, providing that where a private asylum had been carried on by joint licences, the Lunacy Commissioners should have power to license them individually, so long as the aggregate number of patients allowed was not in excess of those in the joint licence.

Moved, after subsection (2.) insert as new subsection:— If there be joint licensees who desire to carry on business apart from one another, and if, in the opinion of the commissioners or the justices, as the case may be, the establishment conducted by them jointly, and also any new establishment which any of them desires to conduct, answers the conditions herein-before required for granting renewed licences, the commissioners or justices, as the case may be, may grant to each of such licensees renewed licences for such number of patients (not exceeding in the aggregate the number allowed by the joint licence) as such joint licensees shall agree upon, or, failing agreement, as the commissioners or justices may consider a proper proportion for each such licensee."—(The Lord Hobhouse.)


said, he hoped the Amendment would not be accepted, as it would only lead to a multiplication of new private asylums. If partnership was dissolved in the ownership of these private asylums the usual course would be followed, and money would pass between the parties. The very object of the Bill would be defeated if the noble and learned Lord's Amendment were adopted.


admitted that there was a good deal to be said for the Amendment; but, unless there was a decided opinion in favour of it, he should not be disposed to accept it, as he had always wished to see the number of private asylums gradually diminished rather than increased.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 67 (Abuse of female lunatic).

THE EARL OF MILLTOWN moved to amend the clause by providing that any keeper who should have carnal knowledge of any female patient under his charge should be guilty of felony, and be liable to penal servitude for life as a maximum punishment.

Moved, In page 38, line 35, after ("patient") insert ("he shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be kept in penal servitude for life or for any period not less than five years, or to be imprisoned for any period not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour; and if any such person shall attempt to have carnal knowledge, or be guilty of any indecent assault or other indecent behaviour upon or towards any such female patient.")—(The Earl of Milltown.)


said, he thought that the offence in question was punished with sufficient severity already. Some injustice might be done by the proposal, as patients differed very much, many being practically sane, except that they had delusions on particular subjects.

Amendment negatived.

Bill to be read 3a on Friday next; and to be printed as amended. (No. 64.)