Notice to our Readers: A Frank Warning
W. T. Stead (The Pall Mall Gazette, July 4, 1885)
The Criminal law Amendment Bill, it is said, will be abandoned owing to the late period of the session and the difficulty of finding time to carry it through the Commons. That measure deals with a subject the importance of which has been admitted by both parties, and is based upon the urgent recommendation of a House of Lords Committee of which the Marquis of Salisbury was a prominent member.
It has thrice been passed through the House of Lords, and now for the third time it is threatened with extinction in the House of Commons. The public, it is said, is not interested in the subject, and the bill, therefore, may safely be abandoned. That we are told is the calculation in high quarters. But if Ministers think of allowing the bill to drop because the public is not keenly alive to its importance, it is necessary to open the eyes of the public, in order that a measure the urgency of which has been repeatedly admitted may pass into law this session. We have, therefore, determined, with a full sense of the responsibility attaching to such a decision, to publish the report of a Special and Secret Commission of Inquiry which we appointed to examine into the whole subject. It is a long, detailed report, dealing with those phases of sexual criminality which the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was framed to repress. Nothing but the most imperious sense of public duty would justify its publication. But as we are assured on every hand, on the best authority, that without its publication the bill will be abandoned for the third time, we dare not face the responsibility of its suppression. We shall, therefore, begin its publication on Monday, and continue to publish de die in diem until the whole infernal narrative is complete. But although we are thus compelled, in the public interest, to publish the case for the bill, or rather for those portions of it which are universally admitted to be necessary, we have no desire to inflict upon unwilling eyes the ghastly story of the criminal developments of modern vice. Therefore we say quite frankly to-day that all those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who prefer to live in a fool's paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London Inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days. The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell is not pleasant reading, and is not meant to be. It is, however, an authentic record of unimpeachable facts, "abominable, unutterable, and worse than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived." But it is true, and its publication is necessary.