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Handling hunger-strikers

by
22 March 2013

March 20th, 1913.

IN THE House of Commons, on Tuesday, on the Home Office vote, the question how to deal with criminals who go on hunger-strike was discussed. A variety of methods was suggested. One of these was to let prisoners starve to death if they are so minded; but most of us would shrink from that method. Lord Robert Cecil, an ardent Suffragist, proposed to deport criminal militants, but omitted to provide them with a suitable island-home, and, as the Daily Chronicle very properly points out, apparently forgot that they might starve themselves to death on the voyage out. Mr Keir Hardie, like the Bishop of Lincoln and his associates at Tuesday's meeting of the National Political League, thought that the true method was to "give the women the vote." But the immediate question is not the suffrage but hunger-strikes. These militants have started a precedent which any criminal may follow, and all he will have to do is to refuse to feed himself; when, as forcible feeding is judged to be revoltingly cruel, he must be released from prison. Clearly then, unless something is done there will be an end of all respect for law and government. We agree with our contemporary, the Daily Chronicle, in thinking that the law should at once be altered, so as to enable prisoners to be sentenced to fine without the option of going to prison, and money penalties should be enforced against the organized societies which hire fanatics to make war upon the community.

 

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