The hope to which we gave expression in the last number of the “Journal of Mental Science” that the Inebriates Acts would, without further delay, be amended so as to render them really a deterrent and curative agent, is on the eve of full fruition. The Department Committee which the late Home Secretary, Mr. Henry Matthews, appointed to inquire into the best mode of dealing with habitual drunkards, and which consisted of Mr. J. L. Wharton, M.P., as Chairman, and Sir William Hunter, M.P., Mr. Leigh Pemberton Assistant Under Secretary, Home Office, Mr. C. S. Murdoch, and Dr. David Nicolson, of Broadmoor, as members, has now presented its report, which proceeds substantially on the lines we foreshadowed in April, and Mr. Asquith, on whom the official mantle of Mr. Matthews has fallen, has undertaken the task of giving to its recommendations a legislative embodiment. The efficacy of the Inebriates Acts of 1879 and 1888, as all students of this interesting and important subject are aware, was paralyzed by five cardinal imperfections. The procedure by which habitual drunkards obtained admission to the retreats, whose establishment the Acts legalized and regulated, was absurdly complicated, and it was often found that before the two justices, whose presence the statutes required, could be brought together, the applicant's zeal for sequestration had oozed away. The procedure to secure the recapture of fugitives was equally cumbrous. There was no power of compulsory committal. The maximum period of detention (twelve calendar months) was in very many cases too short for the remedial treatment which was necessary, and the proprietors of licensed retreats were practically unable to enforce upon recalcitrant inmates the exercise, regular work, and submission to discipline which were essential to their cure. With each of these defects the Departmental Committee deal.
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