HC Deb 01 August 1853 vol 129 cc1099-109

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said, that it was not his intention to press the measure beyond that stage this Session, and he only moved the second reading now in the hope that if the House affirmed the principle of the measure, Government would be induced to take the subject up the very first week in the next Session. The Bill was simply a measure of a permissive character, and it proposed to empower counties and boroughs to establish reformatory schools, to which young criminals should be sent, thus introducing a new treatment to a certain extent for such young criminals, namely, that of industrial training, and applying the principle of parental care and home influence to criminal children, instead of subjecting them to the process of imprisonment in gaols. That was the simple object of the Bill, and it would be seen that the evil which it sought to remedy was a great one. It was no less, indeed, than the existence throughout this country, but more especially in large towns, of a class of children who, being entirely destitute of parental care, were rapidly falling into dissolute habits. This class was not composed of children who had decent homes, nor of children who had parents to keep them in better ways than habits of crime, but was composed of orphan children and the children of infamous parents, or, as was most frequently the case, of children living under the root of a cruel stepfather or mother; or the children of sailors or miners, who were much absent from their homes. In fact, speaking generally, they were children who had no home but the wide streets, and who were likely to lapse into criminals as they grew up. Nobody could dispute that such a class of children existed, but it was said to be doubtful whether it led to an increase of adult criminals, because these children falling into crime were early disposed of by transportation. That was an objection, however, which, if ever admissible, could not be raised against this Bill, for they were about to abolish transportation. He rejoiced that transportation in such cases was now about to cease; but though he rejoiced at that cessation, it must be remembered that, at all events, now, these children, if not otherwise taken care of and reformed within the precincts of this country, would in the end augment the amount of adult crime. Of 28,000 committals in this country in one year, 13,000, or nearly 50 per cent, were of persons under seventeen years of age. This showed the pressing necessity for a measure of this nature. No one could deny the importance of this question, since it had for years perplexed and obstructed the Government in their attempt to establish a well-defined system of secondary punishment. But in addition to all that, the existence of this class of juvenile criminals was a loss to the country, not only of virtue and honesty but of good citizens also, while it was a reproach to the nation that such a lamentable state of things should be allowed to continue. He, therefore, entertained a confident hope that another Session would not pass without the Government making a strenuous effort to deal with this vast and important question. The evil which he had endeavoured to explain was bad enough of itself, but it was greatly aggravated by the mischievous manner in which this class of offenders was dealt with by the judicial authorities of the country. It was only in this country that guilty children were treated as adult criminals, instead of being looked upon as generally objects of a reformatory system; for, on the Continent, juvenile offenders were treated after the manner of lunatics in this country. They were treated not as criminals, but as irresponsible beings, and instead of being subjected to a vitiating process of imprisonment, they were taken care of and reformed by the State. In this country, however, the magistrates had no power to deal with children in that way; and although it was a recognised principle of our law that the will must go with the deed, which could not be the case with the majority of juvenile offenders, whose circumstances almost amounted to a compulsory state of crime, the magistrates were bound to treat theta as responsible criminals. Many magis- trates and judges had from time to time attempted to modify the administration of the law in this respect; and the consequence was that from the want of any recognised principle in the matter, the administration of the law, with regard to children, was arbitrary, capricious, and uncertain. These considerations, coupled with the fact that they were about to abolish transportation, fully proved the expediency of dealing with criminal children in the manner now proposed. Not that he thought the plan of this Bill was complete in itself; because, to be complete, it should embrace some modified system of juvenile prisons for the reception of children who really ought to be treated as criminals; but the one simple object of the Bill was quite enough to be disposed of in the first instance. It would apply to at least nine-tenths of all the juvenile offenders of the country, and the other tenth could easily be provided for at a future period, if, indeed. Parkhurst prison did not itself prove sufficient for the purpose. The House should, at the same time, remember that the theory of this Bill had already been adopted in this country. It was adopted by the Philanthropic Institution, which was first established in 1806, nearly half a century ago, by a private Act of Parliament; but, passing to more recent times, he found that the Criminal Law Commissioners gave up a whole volume of their report to this subject, and in 1837 they recommended that children should be dealt with differently to adults, and that where sureties could be obtained for their future good conduct, they should be dismissed without punishment. In 1838, the Act was passed for establishing Parkhurst prison, which, in one of its clauses providing conditional pardons, recognised the principle of this Bill, and in 1840 an Act was passed providing for the guardianship of infant felons. In 1847, a guardianship of the other House on the subject of the Criminal Law specially reported in favour of reformatory asylums, the cost of maintaining the children being imposed on the parents, wherever it could be done. Part of that recommendation was embodied in an Act which was passed the same year. In 1850, a Committee of that House, which sat upon the subject of prison discipline, recommended that juvenile offenders should not be sent to the common gaols; while in the same year the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes), seconded by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Head- lam), introduced a Bill upon the same subject as this measure. Most of the leading organs of public opinion were favourable to the principle of this Bill; and from month to month and week to week, they bad been forcing it upon the attention of the Legislature, and he hoped they would continue to keep the subject well before the public during the recess, so that it should not be lost sight of at the very opening of the next Session. Nor was this advocacy confined to the newspaper press, since many able pamphlets had been written in its favour, while not more than a year and a half ago a conference of delegates assembled from all parts of the country was held in Birmingham, at which this subject was discussed for two days. He might, lastly, refer to the Report of the Select Committee presided over by the right hon. the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Baines), which this Bill is founded on, to show that the theory of the Bill was largely adopted in this House itself; but do not let the House suppose that the Bill rested upon theory alone, because the system had been successfully tried in France, and therefore in addition to its being supported by the numerous theoretical authorities to whom he had referred, it might be said that the Bill rested upon the solid basis of actual and practical experience; and the result of an investigation made into the subject by an eminent French Judge, who resigned his office rather than continue to sentence children to prisons, was the establishment of the institution of Mettray. In Belgium, in Germany, and other countries on the Continent, the same principles were in operation, and also in America. The principle was increasingly in operation in this country; but it was by means of private philanthropy, and not under the sanction of public law, and the petitions on the table showed that that was not sufficient. In Glasgow, there was a local Act to carry out the system, and in Aberdeen it was in successful application. Institutions were also in existence in Bristol and Birmingham, and from information he had received as to the working of the latter, he believed that similar institutions might be generally made self-supporting. In conclusion, he would most earnestly appeal to the Wing Members of the Government, who had more than any other class, perhaps, taken into their hands the question of primary education, of which this was a branch, whether they did not feel it incumbent on them to support their char- acter in the face of the country, by dealing with this subject before another Session was allowed to pass. Manchester had three years ago applied to tax themselves for the purposes of primary education, but they were met by the objection that the question was too large to be dealt with by a local Act, and that it should form the subject of a general measure. But up to this time no such measure had been brought forward, and Manchester was denied the privilege of providing out of her own funds the educational institutions which the Government neglected to provide from any other funds; and the feeling which had been strong in favour of such taxation three years ago had been allowed to cool down and almost expire by the Government. Was it their intention to act in the same way with regard to the nurseries of crime, and the reclamation of our outcast children? He trusted it was not, and that they would now pledge themselves early next Session to bring in a measure to carry out the principles which he was now advocating.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, as Chairman of the Committee which sat on this subject for two Sessions, he begged to express his perfect concurrence in the object which the hon. Mover of this Motion had in view. He felt strongly that there did exist such a want as the hon. Gentleman had referred to, to which it behoved Parliament to address itself with the least possible delay. At the same time, he did not think that the Government were open to any reproach for not having introduced a measure upon the subject, the Report of the Committee having been so recently presented on the 28th of June, that no Bill satisfactory in all its details could, by possibility, have been prepared upon it. He was glad to perceive that the principal recommendations of the Committee, before whom a large, number of witnesses were examined, had been embodied in the Bill of the hon. Gentleman. The first was, that there was no sufficient provision by law at present for that class of young offenders who were, as it were, just entering on crime, or who were found guilty of minor offences. This was a very important point, because he was convinced that imprisonment in gaol was perfectly inefficacious for the purpose of reforming juvenile criminals. He had heard suggested that the workhouse should be employed for the purpose of detaining and forming these children; but, with the experience which he had had of the working of the poor-law, he must say that he could never consent to the blending of pauperism and crime, or the converting of the workhouse into a prison. Another recommendation of the Committee, arising out of the evidence, was, that in any mode of treatment to be adopted with regard to these children it was of first-rate importance hat it should be of an industrial character. He was happy to say that the result of this industrial treatment, wherever it had been tried either in workhouses or in prisons, had been of the most beneficial description. Another suggestion of great importance, also, arising out of the evidence was, the necessity of insisting upon parental responsibility. He looked upon this as most essential point, and he was glad to find that this and the other points to which he had referred were included in the hon. Gentleman's Bill. He begged to suggest to the House that in the interval of the recess they should peruse the somewhat bulky evidence which had been taken before the committee. Much of it certainly was of in extremely painful character, and showed the necessity of some step being taken without delay; but, on the other hand, here would be found matter of great hope and encouragement, because it was quite dear that well-directed efforts in certain localities had been attended with perfect success. In Glasgow the result had been most satisfactory. The son of Chevalier Bunsen had borne testimony to what had been effected in his country; and the Committee were highly indebted to the American Minister for evidence of the most valuable description as to the system of reformatory treatment of the young adopted in the Philadelphia House of Refuge, as well as for the following extract from the Report if that Institution for 1851:— Of 4,397 boys and girls received into the New York House of Refuge previous to January 1,1849, it is believed that three-fourths have been saved from ruin, and reformed. Of the condition of the 2,250 inmates received into the Philadelphia House of Refuge previous to January 1849, quite as favourable a report would be fully warranted. The accounts received of many of them show, not only the uprightness and respectability of their character, but their enterprise as men of business, and their worth as contributors to the welfare and advancement of the communities in which they live. The evidence of this is drawn from a variety of sources—from the masters and mistresses of the children in various parts of the country, and from neighbours, whose knowledge is obtained from personal observation and general report; and though disappointment is sometimes experienced, and a reformation supposed to be radical turns out to be superficial, yet, on the whole, the known results of the system abundantly sustain its claims to public confidence. He had no objection to the second reading of the Bill, provided it were understood that it was not to proceed further in the present Session.


said, that the question was far too important a one to be left in the hands of private Members, and he would urge the Government to take it up. He did not, however, expect any good result from any system which should provide for the children for a short time only. In order to eradicate bad, and inculcate permanently good, principles, it would be necessary that the reformatory treatment should be continued. He also entirely concurred in the proposition that, wherever it was possible, the parents should be made responsible. He thought the present a peculiarly favourable time for commencing the experiment, either on a large or small scale, and hoped the Government would give a promise that they would in the next Session introduce some measure for that purpose.


Sir, nobody can doubt the importance of the subject to which the Bill of the hon. Member for North Staffordshire relates; and I think the House will be unanimously of opinion that the Bill may be read a second time, if it be so read with the full understanding that the object is to have the Bill printed, that it may be read and discussed between this time and the next Session of Parliament. The object in dealing with crimes and offences may be said to be threefold—in some cases the object is example, in others the object is a combination of example and reformation, and in others it is altogether that of reformation. With regard to crimes of great violence and atrocity committed by full-grown persons, the interests of society require that the punishment should be exemplary and penal—that they should deter others from the commission of similar crimes. In such cases reformation is out of the question. The greater number of crimes committed by adults are of a mixed character, in the punishment of which example is required for the purpose of deterring others from imitation, but with respect to which hopes of reformation are not to be abandoned. With regard to them, therefore, the objects of punishment should be of a mixed and twofold character. But I am quite ready to admit, that, with regard to children, you must consider reformation to be your main object. The punishment of them, with the view of deterring other children from committing similar offences, is of secondary importance. I think that the general principle recommended by the hon. Gentleman, is one deserving the greatest consideration, and I trust that a measure upon the subject may be passed next Session. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Baines) that the details of the measure would require very mature consideration. I think that we might combine this with that measure—the Juvenile Mendicancy Bill—which came down from the House of Lords with respect to the treatment of destitute children. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will see that there is other business of practical importance before the House, and that it would not, therefore, be wise to prolong the present discussion. I think the best thing which hon. Members can do in this matter is to read, during the recess, the evidence taken before the Committee referred to by the hon. Gentleman. If they do that, we shall be able, when Parliament meets again, to enter into a discussion of the question, with a view to some immediate and practical measure.


said, he differed from the noble Lord as to the principle of this Bill. He regarded that principle as bad, and as adding another eleemosynary institution to those which already existed. He was one of those who considered the principle of the poor-law was bad, inasmuch as it tended to destroy the desire on the part of the poor to provide by industry and prudence for the maintenance of themselves and their families. He had opposed the extension of the poor-law to Scotland, and he believed the result of that extension had been a considerable increase of pauperism in that country, and almost the annihilation of that feeling which formerly prevailed generally there, that there was an obligation in every family to support their own poor relations, rather than allow them to be dependent on the charity of others. He believed that persons became paupers generally from their own imprudence—the want of self-command. What was wanted was that kind of education which inculacted self-dependence and self-command, by which persons were induced when they had it in their power to make provision for the future, instead of spending all their wages as they earned them, relying upon the poor-law for relief when they fell into difficulty. He objected to the clause which proposed a grant of the public money, as involving a principle he held to be wrong—namely, the maintenance of the poor out of the Consolidated Fund. Instead of providing reformatory schools in this country for children driven to crime by the neglect of their parents, they should consider whether the State, after they had been twice convicted, should not take them away altogether, and send them to the Colonies, under the care of Mrs. Chisholm, or in some other way to provide for their being taken care of and brought up to industrious pursuits in another country. He believed that a very large proportion of the crime committed by juvenile offenders arose from the dissoluteness and criminal habits of the parents, who profited by the crimes of their children, and whom the State ought to be careful of relieving of their duties. He hoped the House would not consent to the second reading of a Bill which involved the principle of a double poor-law establishment.


said, he regreted to be compelled to take a different view of this measure from that which had just been expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. Up to the present time he did not think that the time spent in discussion had been misspent, and he was extremely glad that the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had had an opportunity of expressing his views upon this important subject. So far from agreeing with his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, he thought that it was highly expedient that the House should affirm the principle of the Bill, which was, as its title indicated, for the better care and reformation of juvenile offenders. He could not believe that the House was at all prepared to negative such a principle. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose stated that he considered it part of the principle of this Bill, that if provision were to be made for the better care and reformation of juvenile offenders, it should be out of the Consolidated Fund. But neither he (Sir J. Graham) nor the Government were at all prepared to admit that particular provision, for he thought it entirely open to the House to consider from what source the expense of these establishments should be provided. In the case of Glasgow it was not paid by any public fund. He had had the honour, some time since, of proposing what he had not yet by any means abandoned—namely, a plan for having district schools in each Union, connected with the Union, and paid out of the rates. He did not see why reformatory schools might not be provided in each Union, and paid out of the rates; but these were details which it was not necessary to enlarge upon at the present time. What they had now to consider was, whether they would affirm the principle of this Bill—that the time had arrived, considering the number of destitute children who, from the misconduct of their parents, were thrown idle and led into crime, when, out of compassion for those unhappy children, they would do their best to prevent the growth of that evil. That was all they were asked to do, and he could not believe that the House would hesitate at once to affirm that principle. The Government were by no means pledged to all the details of this Bill in the whole of its machinery: but the general outline of the principle, as it was contained in the title, did appear to him to be well worthy of the adoption of the House. He by no means despaired that, next Session, they should be enabled to mature a measure in strict conformity with the principle of the Bill, which he hoped, without further delay, the House would now consent to read a second time.


begged to express his thanks to the Government for the attention which they appeared to have devoted to this subject, so different from the reception which a similar measure received some five or six years ago. The real way, he was convinced, to bring this question before the public, was not so much as a matter of beneficence as one of economy; for how much more economical must a reformatory principle prove than the lavish expenditure consequent upon the constant prosecutions and reprosecutions of these young children? He trusted that the Government would lose no time in remedying time crying injustice of the present system, which undoubtedly constituted the most defective portion of the legislation of our Statute-books.


said, he would suggest that when the Government should introduce this measure next Session, it should be made a general measure, applicable to Scotland as well as to England. He hoped it would be kept in view also that the Bill should not supersede, but should tend to stimulate, private exertions.

Bill read 2a, and committed for this day three months.