« AnteriorContinuar »
of assigning rewards for the apprehension of offenders, your committee refer to the practice which, on the evidence of Mr. Barnley, the beadle of St. Andrew's parish, Hatton-garden, and Ely-rents division, takes place in respect of the 10s. which are paid on the apprehension of a vagrant. This witness stated, that he had often seen, when poor people came to the police-office at Hatton-garden to solicit a pass, that the officers will give them 1d. or 2d. and then bring them in and swear that they found them begging, when in fact they never begged at all. The officers are accustomed to swear that they have taken the man who is thus a petitioner for a pass, begging in the street, who is sent for seven days to the house of correction, when the officers get 10s. for their trouble: in other cases, perhaps the man committed is an Irishman or Scotchman, and they cannot pass him; he is often met with again when discharged from prison, again committed, and 10s. more obtained. He was asked if he had ever complained to the magistrates of this practice; his answer was, that he thought it wrong, but he never complained much. A question was put to him, whether any of the vagrants ever remonstrated against the fraud which had been practised on them? and his reply was, that he once was in the office when an individual laid a complaint, and that the magistrates made no answer at all; the officers of the police were very indignant at his interference, and threatened him with turning him out of the office. It was his opinion, from long experience, that police officers woul
rather apprehend beggars than thieves; and he says that the practice is so general, that there is an expression which describes it, and it is called " getting an easy ten shillings."
The opinion of the police-officers themselves on this subject is of no small importance, and your committee refer to the remaiks which some of the most intelligent of them have made in strong and forcible language, and which present a true picture of the danger and evil of this system.
John Townshend, one of the officers of Bow-street, who has held that situation for 34 years, says, "I have with every attention that man could bestow, watched the conduct of various persons who have given evidence against their fellow creatures for life and death, not only at the Old Bailey, but on the circuits; I consider officers as dangerous creatures, who have it frequently in their power (no question about it) to turn the scale, when the beam is level, to the other side: he swears against the wretched man at the bar; and why? because that thing
nature says, profit-is in the scale; and melancholy to relate, but I cannot help being perfectly satisfied, that has been the means of convicting many and many a man. I have always been of opinion, that an officer is a dangerous subject to the community."
John Lavender, of the Queensquare office, remarks upon these rewards, "That it is a subject which he always declines, if he can, as no officer can go into the box as a witness with any comfort to himself."
John Vickery, of Bow-street, says,
says, "That he knows the public opinion is against the officers entirely, in consequence of that reward by act of parliament; and the officers are not considered by the public so respectable as they would be if those rewards were done away."
Mr. Philip Holdsworth, the Upper Marshal of the city, of London, informed your committee, that he has witnessed officers giving evidence against criminals, swear hard against the prisoner, evidently for the sake of the reward; that he knew one instance where a wrong person was convicted in consequence, and has heard of several more.
Thomas Shelton, Esq. clerk of the Sessions of Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol delivery, at the Qld Bailey, for London and Middlesex, and who has held that situation for 33 years, upon a question being put to him, if he observed the effect of the rewards on the evidence that is tendered in court, informed your committee, that it appeared evident to him that witnesses have been desirous to obtain them; that he believes officers sometimes get briefs given to counsel, when there are difficulties in the case, which shows an anxiety for conviction; and that not only among officers but among other witnesses: he considers probable that these rewards warp the minds of witnesses, and occasion stronger testimony on points that are doubtful, than would otherwise be given; he adds also, that he has witnessed cases where it has happened that persons were put on trial for the crime of highway robbery, when on examination, although property had been
taken from the person, there has appeared little or no reason for the offence being so laid, except for the sake of the reward on conviction. But it is not only that the system of rewards stimulate witnesses to forswear themselves, in order to obtain them: facts have recently come before the public that prove the existence of conspiracies which have been formed by a police officer and others, in order to induce people to commit crimes for the purpose of swearing away their lives and obtaining the reward on their conviction. The different n.agistrates who have been examined on this subject have denied all belief that this crime has been often committed; but your committee wish to observe, that where the temptation is so strong as that which the reward offers to the cupidity of police officers, as well as to that of all other men, the crime not having been before proved, is no evidence of its non-existence! and they feel themselves further obliged to remark, that the first report of the police committee in 1816 had hardly been issued from the press, containing, as it did, the praises of the magistrates of their own officers, as well as their positive denial of its being possible they could be affected by any tempta tion to sacrifice the public interests to their own, when Vaughan, of the Bow-street office, was tried and cast for death for the crime above mentioned. And also, that in the last summer no less than three other persons were sentenced to a capital punishment for similar offences, on three different charges. To what extent the evil has extended, and how many innocent
persons have suffered, and what crimes have been planned and perpetrated, or how far the increase of offences may be caused by those whose duty it is to lessen their number, by the early apprehension of offenders, your committee have no means of ascertaining; but in closing this subject they are decidedly of opinion, that the system, as it is, cannot be too soon abandoned, as furnishing allurements to officers to betray their trust-to witnesses to break their oaths, as bringing punishment on the innocent, and affording encouragement to a description of persons of all others, the most fatal to the peace and wellbeing of society-those who go about to ensnare the guiltless and entrap the unwary, who, whilst they shut their eyes to the commission of offences for which no reward can be obtained, plan the perpetration of crimes, in order to profit by the conviction of the perpetrator.
The next head of inquiry upon which your committee wish particularly to direct the attention of the house, is that of the propriety of establishing a penitentiary system for the juvenile offenders in the metropolis. Your committee refer generally to the minutes of evidence that they have taken on this subject, but more particularly to that of Mr. Crauford, the secretary to the society, of which the object is to enquire into the causes of juvenile delinquency. It appears, then, from the evidence of that respectable and intelligent person, that from a minute investigation of the subject, there are several thousand boys in the metropolis who are engaged in the
commission of crime: that the causes of this deplorable evil are to be traced to the improper and criminal conduct of parents, the want of education, the deficiency of employment, the violation of the Sabbath, the prevailing habit of gambling in the public streets, which, to the disgrace of our police, is practised daily with impunity; all these may be considered as the principal incitements to crime impelled into extraordidary action, during the last few years, by an increased population, and by the distress among the lower orders, arising from the want of employment. To these causes may be added the existence of flash houses and brothels, almost exclusively set apart for children of both sexes; and, lastly, to the bad management of the prisons, which, instead of correcting the criminal delinquent by discipline, are schools and academies of vice, which corrupt and vitiate their wretched inmates, and throw them back upon society confirmed in every bad habit.
Your committee refer to the evidence given by Mr. Bennet (a member) as to the present situation of the different gals of this metropolis, as to that of Mr. Crauford and Mr. Poynder; and they feel that they should be wanting in their duty if they did not protest against the present system; and if they failed to state it to be their opinion that the gaols are a discredit to those who have the direction of them, and who are deeply amenable to the public for the evils that arise from their mismanagement. If these prisons are too small for the number of criminals who are confined therein,
it is the duty of those who can alone bring forward such subjects, to propose to their respective county or city, or to parliament, the necessity of a prison upon a more enlarged plan; but it is many years since this subject has been first agitated, and yet even now, in all the prisons, offenders of different characters and stages of crime are mixed indiscriminately together. It is scarcely possible to devise a system better calculated to vitiate and corrupt than the mode in which juvenile offenders are thus confined: a number of boys are mixed indiscriminately together, from eight to sixteen or eighteen years of age, exhibiting a great variety of character, and differing in degrees of guilt, the tried and untried, and the first offender with the hardened convict.
Your committee have anxiously sought for information as to the number of juvenile delinquents who are annually committed to the different prisons in the metropolis, and find that in 1813, the number committed to Newgate, under the age of sixteen, were 43 boys and 19 girls, total 62; of whom one was of nine, three of ten, and three of eleven years of age.-In 1814, there were 89 boys and nine girls, total 98; of whom four were of nine, eight of ten, and twelve of eleven years of age. In 1815, there were 76 boys and 12 girls, total S8, of whom three were of ten, and eight of eleven years of age. In 1816, there were 134 boys and 12 girls, total 146, of whom one was of nine, three were of ten, and five of eleven years of age.
In the other prisons of the me
or 16, many of whom have been long practised in the commission of various acts of fraud and crime. No one but those who have witnessed such painful exhibitions can be aware of the pleasure which the older thieves take in corrupt ing those who have just entered into vicious courses, by the detail of their exploits, the narrative of hair-breadth escapes, the teaching of technical phrases; all of which are great allurements to a youth ful mind, being the amusements of the idle, and the resources of the desperate, and serving to enliven the solitude of a prison. In order to demonstrate to what an extent this intermixture of children is carried, your committee observe, that there were in Newgate, at the commencement of the last sessions, 84 boys of all ages and offences confined together; that in the New Prison, Clerkenwell, there were, in May last, 13 boys confined, four of whom awaited their trial for burglary; three were committed for tossing up in the street, and would be brought up and dismissed the next sessions; one was confined for an assault; and five were committed for reexamination; they were all confined in one yard with the men. It is scarcely possible that a boy should be a single day in this prison without being contaminated; and yet it is usual for boys to remain there until within a few days of their trial, a period sometimes of three or four weeks. At the House of Correction, Cold-bathfields, there were then 45 boys confined, who were committed for misdemeanours, for felony, and for re-examination; the untried and convicted were confined in one
yard. A boy was lately committed and confined in this yard for offering for sale some numbers of a work without having a license; he was there three months; the only son of poor but reputable parents.
From a return which your committee have received, it appears that in the New Prison, Clerkenwell, where young and old are all mixed indiscriminately together, and where no classification according to age or offences exists, 399 boys under twenty were confined for felonies in the last year, of whom one was of nine, two were of ten, seven of 11, 14 of 12, and 32 of 13 years of age; 17 were for misdemeanours, 15 for riots, and 51 for assaults: of which last, three were of the ages of 11, 12, and 13. That of females, 92 were for felonies, 6 for misdemeanours, 10 for riots, and 29 for assaults.
Your committee observe, that it is in evidence that the most numerous class of delinquents are street pilferers, and for stealing privately from the person; many of those boys may be considered as just commencing a course of crime the mode then in which they are treated on apprehension has a natural tendency to encourage them in vicious practices, for the greater number found guilty of the former offence are usually committed for a short time to prison, sometimes severely flogged, and then, without a shilling in their pockets, turned loose upon the world more hardened in character than ever. The condition of these poor children is of all others the most deplorable; numbers are brought up to thieve as a