MR. PASSMORE EDWARDS
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is correct, as reported in the papers, that, at the Cambridge Police Court yesterday a youth named Arthur George was convicted of stealing a rosebud from a garden in Madingley Road, and sentenced to three months' imprisonment without the option of a fine, the prisoner having received a recommendation to mercy from his undergraduate (Sunday School teacher, who offered to pay any fine; and, if the statements are accurate, whether he will take the matter into his consideration with a view to a reduction of the punishment?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT,
in reply, said, no more serious responsibility attached to his Office than that which called upon him to interfere with the judgment of constituted tribunals. So much interference must be exercised with caution, so as not to shake the authority of the law or of those by whom it was administered. At the same time, he must say there could be no greater error in the administration of justice than to allow a measure of punishment to be passed beyond what public opinion would support. In the present case he had received a letter from the magistrates in reply to one by himself. From this it appeared that many complaints had been made of robberies from gardens near Cambridge, and consequently a police officer was set to watch them. The prisoner, Arthur George, was caught about 4 o'clock on Sunday morning, having twice come from his house with the intention, as the magistrate believed, of committing a de- 1909 predation He was 18 or 19 years old, and there was another conviction against him of wilful damage to a plate-glass window. In the circumstances, the magistrates thought it desirable to inflict serious punishment on the culprit. It was worthy of remark, however, that the statement received from the magistrates did not state under what statute they passed sentence, nor what sentence they, in fact, passed. He had called the attention of the magistrates to these important omissions in their Report. If the sentence were one of three months' hard labour, he must express his opinion that it was excessive and disproportionate to the offence. Considering, however, that the offence was committed with deliberation at 4 o'clock in the morning, it certainly deserved serious punishment. Still, to sentence a boy to three months' imprisonment with hard labour for an offence of this character was, in his opinion, more calculated to excite sympathy for the offender than condemnation of the offence. He should state his opinion to the magistrates, and take measures for a mitigation of the sentence.