§ Viscount Duncannon moved the third reading of the above Bill.
§ The Duke of Richmond
was anxious that the noble Viscount should postpone the third reading of the Bill for a few days. He wished to know whether the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had enforced, as was recommended, one uniform system of discipline in different gaols. It was only consistent with justice that this course should be adopted. An Act of Parliament had been recently passed, with the most benevolent intentions, he was perfectly convinced, but it had not been acted upon in the spirit in which it was conceived. That Act repealed the law-which declared that murderers should be executed in forty-eight hours after their conviction. This was done to give the malefactor time to consider the awful situation in which 549 he was placed. But, if he could credit the publications of the day, it appeared, that in a case of this kind which occurred within the last fortnight, the individual condemned was visited by several persons, and was allowed to read the newspapers. It assuredly never was the intention of those gentlemen who introduced this Bill elsewhere, nor of their Lordships when they sanctioned it, that the time of this unfortunate criminal should be passed in reading the newspapers of the day. The measure was enacted to give him, and others situated like him, time to look into their own hearts, and to seek for consolation through the medium of contrition and repentance. He conceived that an individual thus circumstanced should be left in solitude. After a man was sentenced and ordered for execution, he ought not to be allowed to communicate with any, except his own friends, and his legal and spiritual advisers. A contrary practice prevailed in the instance to which he had alluded, and the consequence was, that it created delusive hopes, induced the individual to act the part of a hypocrite, and never to remain fixed to one story. While he was on his legs, he would ask whether his Majesty's Government had received any communication with reference to a most disgraceful exhibition which was reported to have taken place a few days ago in the city of Glocester? It was said, that there the executioner, in a state of gross and beastly intoxication, by way of making the awful scene a laughing stock to the people, slapped the criminal whom he had just hanged, on the face, and turned him round, saying, that he wished to see how the unfortunate wretch would spin. He hoped that this would be inquired into, and that measures would be taken to prevent any similar exhibition, which, if the report were true, must be viewed as most scandalous and disgraceful to a civilised country.
§ Viscount Duncannon
had no objection to comply with the proposition of the noble Duke. With respect to uniformity of prison discipline, the noble Secretary of State was only waiting for the reports of the prison inspectors to adopt regulations for the purpose of effecting that object. He concurred entirely in the observations which the noble Duke had made with reference to certain prison transactions that had occurred last week. The conduct pursued towards the individual alluded to was very wrong, considering the awful situation in which he was placed. As to the other 550 transaction, which was said to have taken place at Glocester, a communication had been made to the sheriff as to what had occurred, and calling on him to inquire into the truth of the statement. No answer had yet been received.
§ Third reading of the Bill postponed.