§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (9.16.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS, Birmingham, E.)
I think it will not be necessary for me to detain the House for any long time in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. As the House is aware for many years past the principal, or a great, object in the mind of every person who desires the reform of the Criminal Law has been to. find some means whereby it may be possible to avoid the necessity of sending juvenile offenders to prison and the contamination that follows from mingling with the habitués of our prisons. A taint attaches to young creatures in the beginning of their lives which is often never removed. I do not like to-trouble the House now with many figures, but some of the figures are interesting. In 1871, during 12 months, there were committed to prison 1,467 boys and girls under 12 years of age, and of boys and girls between the ages. of 12 and 16 there were 7,510.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures distinguishing the sexes?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I can do so if the hon. Gentleman thinks it is material. In 1871 there were committed to prison 1,341 boys and 126 girls under 12 years of age, and 6,480 boys and 1,030 girls between the ages of 12 and 16. This gives a total of 8,977 persons under 16 years of age committed to prison during the year.
§ An hon. MEMBER: And to reformatories?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I am speaking only of those sent to prison. At that time the only cases where the alternative of whipping could be resorted to, were cases of simple larceny, placing obstructions on railway lines, and throwing stones at railway carriages. This large amount of juvenile imprisonment naturally attracted attention, and in 1879 the Summary Jurisdiction Act was passed, which largely extends the number of cases in which whipping can be resorted to for male juvenile offenders, instead of imprisonment. A larger list of offences under the Act had attached to them the alternative punishment of whipping; and not to mention all these were included those I have mentioned—larceny from the person, larceny by clerks or embezzlement, receiving stolen goods, aiding and abetting larceny, and offences under the Post Office. This Act largely diminished the number of juvenile prisoners. The numbers in the year ending March 31, 1879, were for children under 12 years 667 boys and 53 girls, and for children between 12 and 16 years 5,270 boys and 820 girls; altogether a total of 6,810 prisoners under 16. Besides this Act the Home Office, while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was at the head of it, introduced a course of administration which tended in the same direction. In the year 1880 the Home Secretary addressed a circular to all the Chairmen of Quarter Sessions and the Recorders of Boroughs, directing them to suggest some means by which the imprisonment of young children could be prevented. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had always entertained a very 1238 strong feeling on this subject. The replies from these Courts of Summary Jurisdiction have been put before the House in the form of a Return, and so far as I have examined this Return, with almost unanimity, with only one or two exceptions, the replies to this circular suggest as alternatives, partly the whipping of boys and partly the exercise of some remedy against the parent of the juvenile offender. In consequence of these opinions, the right hon. Gentleman initiated a course of administrative action which has proved highly useful. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby required the governors of prisons to report to the Home Office every case of young children under 14 years in prison; and then inquiries were addressed to the Magistrates as to how they came to have committed such young offenders to prison; in many cases remonstrances were addressed- to the Magistrates and sometimes, though rarely, the sentences were in part remitted. So without interfering with judicial discretion and action the administrative action of the Home Office-has been steadily to decrease the number-of juvenile offenders in prison. On the-other hand Magistrates, when inquiry-has been made, have said, " This was a very bad case, this was a very naughty boy, and we should have been delighted if we could have inflicted the punishment of whipping instead of imprisonment, but the law does not allow that and it was too serious a case to allow to go unpunished." I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby intended to remedy the law in the direction of the present Bill, but I do not think he carried his intentions so-far as to introduce a Bill. One reason for delay was because the system 0- reformatory and industrial schools, which. offers an alternative to prolonged imprisonment, was then under the consideration of a Commission. The Report of that Commission has since been issued, and, in consequence, I introduced three years ago a Bill to amend the reformatory system, and two clauses which are now embodied in a separate Bill. I gave Courts of Summary Jurisdiction the alternative of sending a child to a reformatory or to an industrial school, or they can have recourse to the punish- 1239 ments provided under the present Bill. The House of Lords suggested, at the instance of Lord Herschell, that these two clauses should be put into a Bill by themselves; and I, having adopted this suggestion, the clauses are now before Parliament for the third time. Twice they have passed the House of Lords, where they have met with the approval of most experienced able lawyers, Lord Herschell approving them with slight modification. I ought to say before I go further that a great change for the better has been the consequence of the legislation of 1879 and of the administrative action of the Home Office, which has been going on for the last 10 years. In the year 1890 there were only 237 boys and 16 girls under 12 years of age committed to prison, and there were only 3,620 boys and 493 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 who were committed to prison. But this vast improvement is not improvement enough. It is still very distressing to think that over 4,000 juveniles are yet annually sent to prison. But there is no alternative punishment for boys, except corporal punishment, and therefore the Bill proposes that in all trivial offences which can be summarily punished the Court may adjudge the offender, if a male, to be whipped. That whipping, by a subsequent sub-section, is limited to whipping with a birch rod, by a warder or constable, in the presence of the governor of the prison or of some other high official, and in the presence of the parent, if desired. The number of strokes is also limited. These are details which may be modified in Committee. Then as to the alternative of a fine. It is idle to attempt to punish a boy by the infliction of a fine; he probably has no money, and then comes in the alternative of imprisonment—the very thing we desire to avoid. The only alternative, which is also embodied in the Report of the Commission, is to punish the parent, who is in many cases the person really at fault. The Bill provides that the parent may be ordered either to pay compensation to the person injured, or to pay a fine, or to give security for the good behaviour of the offender. I take the case of throwing stones at railway trains. Very often it is not a criminal act; it is an act of boyish mischief for which a 1240 whipping is the best cure. But if the boy throws stones at a steamboat he must be either fined or imprisoned. Is there any sense in that? It seems to be ridiculous to order a whipping in the one case and not in the other. Take another case. The offenders for which, under the Summary Jurisdiction Act, whipping may be inflicted are not all such as I should have selected—cases of larceny, embezzlement, and thieving—but I take the cases of stealing fruit and cruelty to animals—often mere boyish boisterousness. What punishment ought to be inflicted in such cases? Whipping is, I think, more effectual and more humane. I have had remonstrances from Magistrates at Hastings, where fruit-stealing is of frequent occurrence, and where boys do an enormous amount of mischief. Fruit growers complain bitterly of the amount of mischief in the aggregate inflicted by these boyish depredations. The Magistrates feel compelled to administer some punishment, and they have no alternative but to send the boys to prison. I deeply regret that these boys should be sent to gaol and stamped for life as gaol birds because they got over a wall to pluck fruit. Take offences under the Vagrants Act—playing pitch-and-toss, for instance, on the highways, in which so many idle and naughty boys waste their time. It seems to me most distressing that a boy should be sent to prison for such an offence as that. Whipping appears to me the best form of punishment for such an offence. I do not know that I need occupy more time—
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
Has the right hon. Gentleman any explanation of the words, " with or without conviction "?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
This is a discretion to be vested in the Magistrates, and similar to that they exercise under the Industrial Schools Act. f you attempt to draw a hard and fast line in regard to these punishments, you may do great injustice. Nobody can adjust the degree of criminality in such offences, but the Court who tries the case. You must trust the discretion of the Court; if you cannot do so then substitute another Court. What we intend is, that a boy having, say, plucked an apple from 1241 another person's tree should not therefore be placed under the stigma of having committed larceny, that he shall not throughout his life have the record against him that he was convicted and punished for larceny. I heartily commend the Bill to the House. I think it will be a valuable improvement in our Summary Jurisdiction for juvenile offenders, and be the means of preventing many boys, not to speak of girls, passing into that wretched class—habitual criminals. When a child passes into that class the gates of hope close behind him, and the social reformer, drops his hands in despair at the spectacle that confronts him.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Matthews.)
§ (9.35.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I think the right hon. Gentleman has not quite proved his case. He says it is most undesirable that the taint of imprisonment should be imposed upon a lad which will last to old age for some trivial offence such as stealing apples or playing at pitch-and-toss in the streets, and I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. But I am not at all certain whether the fact of the lad having been condemned by a Magistrate to be flogged —and he can be so punished up to the age of 16—will, becoming known in the neighbourhood, cling to that boy more than the fact of his having been imprisoned for four or five days. [Cries of No, no! "] It is a matter of opinion, I think it would. It is proposed that the punishment of flogging shall be inflicted for playing pitch and-toss in the streets. But we have heard a great deal lately about gambling in high places, and why is a child to be flogged for playing pitch-and-toss, an undesirable amusement no doubt but not a criminal offence, when grown-up persons are allowed in their homes or clubs to gamble for large sums of money? What will be the feelings of a boy so punished when he goes to a racecourse and sees a betting ring established for betting to be carried on publicly and police to guard the ring to see that the betting is carried on fairly? The boy sees this, and yet if he plays pitch-and-toss close by or on his way home he is 1242 then taken into custody and flogged by order of the Magistrates. I do not know how it may have been with the right hon. Gentleman, but I certainly as a boy have played pitch-and-toss hundreds of times. Stealing apples, too, no doubt, is very wrong, but you can stop these youthful misdeeds by bringing the force of public opinion to check them. The right hon. Gentleman knows that in Germany trees line the roads laden with apples and plums, yet no fruit is stolen because public opinion is strongly against it. There is a fine for the offence, but there is no necessity for the punishment of flogging to check the offence. If a boy is perpetually stealing fruit or making. himself a nuisance, playing pitch-and-toss in the streets, probably that is the fault of the parents, and I should like to see a small fine inflicted on the parent, and then the parent would exercise some sort of domestic discipline over his boy and correct his bad habits.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The Bill provides that.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Yes, but it gives an alternative to the Magistrate, and we know what Magistrates are—that they almost always apply the harshest construction of the law. Let the right hon. Gentleman strike out this flogging provision from his Bill and I will vote for the Bill with the greatest pleasure, but I cannot support this giving Magistrates the alternative of inflicting punishment by flogging.
§ (9.40.) MR. PICKERSGILL
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman should grudge the time spent on this Bill, and apparently resent the interference of hon. Members interested in the subject. It is an important measure, and remarkable in that, as the right hon. Gentleman has himself stated, it introduces considerable novelty into our criminal jurisprudence, giving Magistrates larger discretion. The Bill naturally divides itself into two parts. First, it attempts to enforce parental responsibility. That is a good principle, and if the Bill were confined to that, I should not vote against the Second Reading. Even with regard to the enforcement of parental responsibility in the way proposed by the Bill I think very consider- 1243 able hardship might be inflicted on perfectly innocent persons. It is provided in the Bill in regard to any offence committed by a boy under 16, the parent may be included in the summons, apparently without any prima facie reason to believe that he has been guilty of fault or neglect, so that unless great precautions are taken and the section is more carefully guarded, a very great hardship may be inflicted upon poor persons, who will be taken from their work and compelled to attend the Court, certainly for a day, and possibly in London, where the pressure upon the Courts is great, for more than one day. However, if the Bill were limited to the enforcement of parental responsibility, I think the right hon. Gentleman might fairly ask the House to pass it without much discussion. But, as the right hon. Gentleman has correctly inferred, my opposition is based on those provisions in the Bill which increase the number of offences for which the punishment of flogging may be inflicted. What is it really that the Bill proposes to do? At present the punishment of flogging may be inflicted on young persons up to the age of 14, and this Bill proposes to raise the age from 14 to 16. That in itself is a very considerable and important change. In the second place, boys under the age of 14 may, as they may under the existing law, be punished with whipping — but with whipping only — in cases specially considered and provided for. The right hon. Gentleman himself stated in the course of his remarks that the evil of imprisonment of young persons, such as it is, has been very considerably remedied in recent years, for he has stated that a large number of additional cases have within the last decade been made punishable without imprisonment. Now, my point is this. That whether the House approves or disapproves of whipping as a means of punishment, at all events, it ought carefully to consider each particular case before it assigns that particular punishment to an offence. Again, when the right hon. Gentleman said there was no alternative to whipping, he rather cut away the ground from his own feet in this position, by stating that the action of the Home Office during the last few years had very considerably 1244 diminished the number of cases in which children have been committed to prison. Again, how does his argument apply to girls? The right hon. Gentleman will not have the audacity to suggest the whipping of girls of 16; and in regard to girls, though I admit the number of offenders is not so large as in the case of boys, so far no alternative has been provided. Then, again, how is Scotland to get along without this alternative? Now, if I may refer to it for a moment, the position of Scotland under this Bill is very peculiar, and I confess I do not understand the draftsmanship of the Bill in regard to Scotland. It is provided in the 1st section that a male offender shall be whipped, and Scotland appears to be included within the enactment of this section. But then we come to Sub-section 4, where at the end it is provided that this sub-section shall not apply to Scotland, so I submit Scotland is really excluded from this Bill. Now, am I surprised that Scotland should be excluded, for I venture to think that only by excluding Scotland could the right hon. Gentleman get his Bill through, for as everybody knows the Scottish people have a strong feeling against the infliction of corporal punishment. I object to corporal punishment so far as this, that I do not regard it as an effectual preventative of crime, and I submit that the result of experience does not show that corporal punishment does prevent or diminish crime. It has sometimes been said that garrotting in London some years ago was stopped by the passing of the Act inflicting corporal punishment upon persons convicted of garrotting. But again and again has it been shown in this House most clearly, and I have shown by chapter and verse, that garrotting had materially diminished before the Flogging Act came into operation at all. Garrotting in London was suppressed by the greater activity of the police, and not by the Flogging Act. I object to flogging, not so much in the interest of the person flogged as because I believe it has the most brutalising effect on everybody concerned in the infliction of the punishment. It is curious that at this time the Home Secretary should propose to extend the punishment of flogging to young men of 16. We know 1245 that in former years the punishment was upper classes. The right hon. Gentle resorted to in our public schools for young men of that age, or even older. I need scarcely remind hon. Gentlemen that flogging in our public schools has been reduced to narrow limits of late years, and that it is, therefore, a retrograde stop for the Home Secretary to get up and say that that punishment should be inflicted for such an offence as playing pitch-and-toss. I cannot but think, having regard to recent disclosures, that the right hon. Gentleman was singularly maladroit in the reference he made to this venial form of gambling. I do not wish to go so far as the hon. Member for Northampton in his strictures on the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, but I think it would be a mistake to give this enormous power to Magistrates, who in a certain description of cases are actuated by class feeling, whatever may be said to the contrary. I do not desire to detain the House any further, but, for the reasons I have given, I propose to take a Division on the Second Reading.
§ (9.53.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
I desire to support the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I must say I think the Home Secretary has made a mistake in not being a little more explicit in the title of his Bill. When a Bill proposes to enable the Magistrates to inflict the punishment of flogging there should be something on the face of the measure to say so. It should not be left to the chance of a Member going out into the Lobby to obtain a copy of the Bill, for him to become aware of the great change proposed. I believe that this punishment of flogging is a brutalising one, and that in most cases where it is believed to have a beneficial effect the improvement could be traced to causes other than this punishment. When the right lion. Gentleman says that it is less brutalising to flog a boy than to imprison him he makes a statement which almost takes away one's breath. I cannot imagine anything fixing a greater stigma upon a young child than his having been publicly flogged in prison, and I do not think anyone would be found to advocate flogging in this House if the punishment could in any way be inflicted on the children of the 1246 upper classes. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be right to punish in this way idle boys found playing pitch-and-toss in the streets. Perhaps pitch-and-toss is more innocent than the gambling that is carried on by the upper classes of society. These poor boys often have no place but the streets in which to amuse themselves, and even if they do fall into practices that are regrettable we have no right to say that they shall be flogged. When I look at the possibility of a Bill like this being applied to Ireland, where the Magistrates are so entirely out of sympathy with the mass of the people, I do not like to think of the consequences. In that country during the past few years we have seen children brought up and punished heavily for hissing or cheering, or indulging in what the police termed a humbugging sort of a smile. The Home Secretary has spoken of the bad influence of gaols upon children; but I cannot accept that as an argument in favour of the principle of the Bill. It is not an argument for rendering our punishments more barbarous; but an argument against our present prison system, and one which goes to show that we should devote more of our time to that Subject, for I can conceive nothing more discreditable to a country like this than that the means you take to make people better really have the effect of making them worse. For these and many other reasons, I hope the House will reject the Bill.
§ (10.0.) SIR R. FOWLER (London)
For my part, I shall certainly support the Second Leading of the Bill. As a Magistrate, I have frequently had boys brought before me for offences which I may characterise as of a heartless description. Boys have been brought up for robbing parents. One has, perhaps, robbed a mother, a poor creature to whom a shilling means a great deal. He has, perhaps, stolen from her all she had. What is to be done with him? The hon. Member opposite says flogging, is more demoralising than sending the boy to prison, but I do not agree with him; and in cases such as I have mentioned I have often remanded a boy for eight days (which is the longest period for which a prisoner can be remanded) in 1247 order that a punishment should be inflicted without actually committing to prison, which would blacken the lad's character for life. I believe it would be a relief to all who have to administer the law if in cases of this kind a lad could be sentenced to be whipped instead of being sent to prison. As to the demoralising character of the punishment, I have heard it said of Dr. Keate, of Eton, that he has been known to boast of having flogged half the aristocracy of England. Well, if that is so, I do not think boys of the lower classes would feel it as degrading to be whipped as the hon. Gentleman who last spoke seems to think. If you think the Magistrates of the country should not be entrusted with these powers, and are a body deserving condemnation, that is a much larger question, and one which ought to larger dealt with on a different occasion.
§ (10.4.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
The title of this Bill is hardly a sufficiently clear definition of what the measure aims at doing. If the Government had called it "The Flogging of Young Persons Bill," I think it would have excited much more attention than it has done, both in this House and outside. I feel very strongly on this question. One of the first duties I had to perform for the constituency I now represent, was that of bringing before the House a case in which the child of one of my constituents was brutally flogged. He received eight strokes with the birch, and a few days afterwards, when I saw him, his back was scored and torn with the severity of the punishment. That case created a great impression on my mind; and though this Bill may be made to raise the age of children who may be flogged, I think that punishment too severe, and that it will have a brutalising effect on those who administer it. The hon. Baronet opposite has referred to the wide application of the rod in certain public schools; but from what we know of the aristocracy, to whom he referred as educated at those schools, I do not think that their conduct is such as to very highly commend the character of their bringing up. f flogging were a method of improving the morals of that class generally, we ought 1248 to have a better result than we see around us. But 1 do not think there can be any comparison drawn between the floggings of the schoolmaster and those to be administered to children for trivial offences, when they are taken before the Magistrates. I do not say that in no case should the punishment of flogging ever be administered; but I think it should be very exceptional. Under this Bill, however, it will be commonly resorted to by the Magistrates, as a deterrent against offences in the case of boys, instead of trying other methods of bringing boys to a healthy state of mind. I would point out that flogging is discouraged in the elementary schools of the country, and has been banished from the Services, and, therefore, I think we ought to guard the Statute Book from a further introduction of the punishment. I believe that many a child who, under other circumstances, could be persuaded to lead a better course of life, and to avoid offences against the law, under this brutal punishment will become callous. I believe that a more tender treatment of juvenile offenders would be productive of better results. It is difficult to measure the effect of 10 or 12 strokes on the tender skin of a young person. It varies very often with the individual child, and you have to take a number of considerations into your judgment before deciding upon the administration of such punishment. The schoolmaster differs from the Magistrate in this respect. He knows the individual characteristics of the child to be punished, whereas the Magistrate may never have seen the culprit before, and may be totally unacquainted with his nervous system or physical characteristics. The parallel drawn, therefore, between the schoolmaster and the Court of Summary Jurisdiction is not a fair one. Even if it were, I think we ought to endeavour to bring about a more humane system of punishment than flogging.
§ (10.10.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
If all the Magistrates of the country were like the hon. Baronet opposite few of us would hesitate to in crease their discretionary power in the manner proposed in the Bill, but unfortunately a large number of the Magistrates of this country are very different 1249 to the hon. Baronet. It is not very many years ago since a Magistrate in Cornwall sent a little boy to prison, because he was found playing at marbles during Church hours on Sunday. This Magistrate might be watched in other parts of the country; and when you consider the wide-reaching scope of the words in this Bill, I think the Home Secretary himself will admit that what he is proposing now is a very serious matter. The Home Secretary is responsible for the administration of the prisons, and yet, speaking in his capacity as Minister, with all the solemnity of tone of which he is master, on an occasion on which he had to deal with this very matter, he told the House of Commons that when once a child was sent to prison he must abandon all hope. That very phrase is eloquent of the brutal, I might almost say infamous, prison system that obtains in this country. There is room for amendment, but I would venture to suggest it is not in the direction suggested in the Bill. The measure itself appears to me very badly drafted. It says that where a juvenile offender is proved before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction to have committed an offence for which it is liable to conviction, the Court may without prejudice to its other powers do any one or more of several other things. If we interpret that under the Act of 1889, we find that the Bill does not apply to Scotland, and we find, further, that it gives a single Justice power to convict or not as he chooses, and if he convicts to exercise his full power of punishing under the existing law, and over and above that to adjudge the offender to be whipped in any case, and besides that to inflict a fine on the parent in any case, and to order the parent to pay damages to the extent of £5 or any sum below, and, more than that, to order the parent to give security for the good behaviour of the child. I say that is a most extraordinary proposal. To trust a Magistrate, such as that in Cornwall whom I have mentioned, who thought it a reasonable thing to send a small boy to prison because he played marbles on the Sunday during the hours of Divine service—to entrust such a man as that with the power, over and above those he already possesses, of ordering an offender 1250 to be whipped, of fining the parents and requiring them to become sureties for the good behaviour of the offender, is a thing which will require a great amount of justification at the hands of the Home Secretary. This Bill, though it refers to Scotland, could not really be enforced there, because it is confined to England and Wales. I base my objection to the Bill on the ground that, though there may be cases in which whipping is desirable, still there should not be power conferred upon Justices to inflict corporal punishment wherever they are able to sentence under the existing law. I do not join in the denunciation of whipping. In cases of violent assaults the criminal is probably best dealt with by whipping; there are certain offenders who do not understand anything but corporal punishment. Still the power to be conferred upon Justices by this Bill is one which ought to be conferred only on persons who can be trusted to exercise it with very great discretion. This Bill presents many objectionable points, and I shall oppose it in almost every line.
§ (10.20.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I join in opposing the Bill as it stands, while admitting that there are some provisions in it which are not to be altogether condemned. The broad power proposed to be given to Magistrates for the infliction of corporal punishment ought not to be sanctioned by the House without grave consideration. In Cornwall, for example, some Magistrates have frequently shown an utter disregard of humane feeling in dealing with young offenders, and often for very trivial offences very heavy punishments have been inflicted. It as not desirable, therefore, to place in their hands a greater power of punishment than they already possess. Indeed, I should prefer to see their powers curtailed rather than extended. It appears to me that, under the present system, a grave necessity exists for a re-classification of offences so far as they are committed by juvenile offenders; Would it not be possible to include provisions which would tend, if not to a general reform of the law applicable to juvenile offenders, at least to a mitigation of the injuries which are liable to be inflicted by the Magistrates under the 1251 Bill? The Home Secretary admitted that there are a number of offences which are not really criminal—such, for instance, as stealing an apple, throwing stones at steamboats and trains. Surely offences of a purely mischievous and thoughtless character ought to be dealt with in a different manner from offences which betray something like a criminal intent. Under this Bill it would be within the discretion of the most stupid, blundering Magistrate to sentence a boy to be whipped for a purely idle, mischevious freak, without having had an intention to do any wrong. I contend that the House ought to carefully limit the discretion given to the Magistrates dealing with such offences. A line should be drawn between the mischievous freak and the graver offences showing criminal intent; and in this connection I would propose that, in all circumstances, before a boy is ordered to be sentenced or whipped, he should first receive a caution, and where offences resulting in loss or injury can be rectified by a money payment, the parent should be fined or ordered to pay compensation. In cases of a more criminal character, however, I would not object to the infliction of a whipping. The more corporal Punishment is resorted to, the more will it deaden the moral sense of those punished, and strengthen in them the lower feelings of humanity. There are, however, some cases in which it appears to be almost the only punishment that can be conveniently suggested; and in such cases there ought to be a greater check on the exercise of magisterial discretion than any that is provided by this Bill. The Royal Commission in 1886 limited punishment by whipping to boys under 14, but the Bill raises the age to 16, and some explanation of that change ought to be given. I should like also to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a passage in the Report of the Royal Commission as to the desirability of checking the undue and unlimited discretion conferred upon Magistrates. It is on page 12, the passage to which I refer—We ought to be allowed to divide the convicted cases into two classes—one for serious, and one for trivial offences. Many of the latter might fairly be transferred to the heading, 'doing well.'1252 That, of course, refers to the conduct of the offenders who have been placed in reformatories. I am quite certain that the same principle should be applied to cases of idle freak and grave criminal intent. That can only be done by securing that the Magistrates have not unrestrained authority to inflict whipping.
§ (10.35.) MR. S. HOARE (Norwich)
I do not know whether there is an intention to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, certainly I shall give it my support as a County Magistrate, one of those apparently who have not the confidence of the hon. Member for Cam-borne. I can assure hon. Members that there is no desire on the part of County Magistrates to inflict punishment upon youthful offenders. I did what I could to assist legislation in the passing of the First Offenders Act, and have done my best to prevent youthful offenders being treated as criminals. There are questions that may arise in regard to whipping, which may well be left for consideration in Committee; but there are other parts of the Bill I consider are of not less importance. Take the provision that permits the infliction of a fine upon a parent of a sum not exceeding 20s. That I take to be a most useful provision. Again and again I have wished, when it has fallen to my lot as a Magistrate to have youthful offenders before me, that I had authority to punish the parent instead of the child. The hon. Member for Camborne has, no doubt, studied the question, and he thinks that Magistrates do not take the care they ought to take in such cases; but if I may make a personal allusion, I may say that it has been my constant desire to prevent young being sent to prison, and I have striven for such legislation as this. Only to-day I have been trying to get a girl into a home instead of having her sent to prison, whence she would emerge branded for life as a criminal. I sent my emissary to see the girl's parents, and the good woman whom I employed was warned against personal violence from the mother, and the father did all he could to turn her out of the house. Well, the girl is safe in a home to-night and is not in gaol, and I am thankful my humble efforts have been instrumental in placing 1253 her there. But I should like in such a case as this, that the law should allow the infliction of a fine upon the parents. For this reason, and without going into the whipping question which has been more dwelt upon, and being a County Magistrate anxious to do what I can to prevent juvenile offenders becoming criminals, I heartily congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of this Bill and cordially support the Second Reading.
(10.38.) SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
This Bill deals with a small part only of a great subject in which for many years I have taken a deep interest. In 1880 and 1881 the attention of the public and the House of Commons was much called to the subject, and my right hon. Friend (Sir W. Harcourt) appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of juvenile offenders and the most suitable method of dealing with offences committed at a tender age. I had the honour of serving on that Royal Commission on Reformatories and Industrial Schools which reported in 1883; and if I may be allowed to make a slight digression for a moment, I may say I am sure I express a feeling shared by every Member of that Commission of disappointment that our recommendations have been so long neglected. I may particularly call the attention of Members of the present Government to this, because they, even more than their predecessors, have shown a predilection in favour of referring inquiries to Royal Commissions. It is a deep disappointment to members of a Commission, after they have spent months and even years in the investigation of a very important subject, and have come to the conclusion that legislation is urgently needed, to find that eight years go by after they have issued their Report, and there is no fruit to their labours. I hope some of the Royal Commissions appointed this year will not have similar reason to complain. The present Government, last year and 1254 the year before, introduced in the House of Lords tolerably complete measures dealing with the subjects upon which the Royal Commission reported—there was a Reformatory Bill, an Industrial Schools Bill and a Juvenile Offenders Bill. They introduced in the first year two Bills, and in the second year three, dealing with these subjects, but as yet this Session the Government have only introduced this Bill dealing with an exceedingly small part of the recommendations of the Royal Commission and in a very incomplete manner. The Commission found that there were only three modes of dealing with juvenile offences — by fine, a method often most unsuitable, in cases where the vice or fault lies in the child and not in the parent, because the punishment simply falls upon the parent; by imprisonment, and I think every Member of the House will agree that this is not a suitable punishment to be inflicted upon very young persons; and, thirdly, there is the plan of committing the child to a reformatory or industrial school for a lengthy tern, generally of five years. Now, the Com missioners came to the very clear con- elusion that for a very large number of juvenile offences this committal to a reformatory or industrial school for so long a term was an unsuitable and unnecessary treatment, and that it was very much better to deal with them summarily or else by a shorter term of detention. The Commission recommended detention in truant schools or in day industrial schools, for it has been found that by such detention for a few weeks or months the child is cured of his fault and makes good attendance at the ordinary schools of the country. The experiment tried at Liverpool of sending offenders to day industrial schools has been remarkably successful, and has shown that after a few weeks' detention in these schools the children go regularly to the Board Schools, and are among the best attendants there. This Bill is a mere fragment, it deals with an extremely small part of the Report of the Royal Commission. That Report covers some 74 pages, but the recommendations dealt with in this Bill are contained in about 12 lines at the bottom of one page. What is the 1255 intention of the Home Secretary with respect to the other parts of the recommendations of the Commission? The whole matter hangs together. The right hon. Gentleman himself the other day objected to a proposal brought forward by the hon. Member for Central Sheffield dealing with one small part of the recommendations of the Commission. It was, he said, piecemeal legislation; but is not the right hon. Gentleman himself bringing for ward piece-meal legislation on this very same Report? For myself, I confess I feel some difficulty about the attitude I should take up towards this Bill. I have the example of the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards the Bill of the hon. Member for Sheffield, when he objected to the picking out of a clause .from a former Bill, and yet I know the urgency of the matter. Knowing the urgency of the question for the last 10 years, and seeing that the Commission reported on it eight years ago, I think I am justified in pressing the Home Secretary to deal with the whole subject. The Home Secretary experienced some difficulty with regard to the question last year, but that was because he imported into the Bill matter not contained in the Report of the Royal Commission. No doubt this Bill is founded to some extent upon the recommendations of the Commission, which, feeling the extreme importance of introducing alternative forms of punishment, reported in favour of giving power to order boys under 14 to be whipped, and imposing fines upon parents, or taking sureties from the parent for the good behaviour of the child. That is an important recommendation—to fine the parent instead of sending the child to an industrial or reformatory school. That a child's offence should be dealt with in suitable cases by making the parent give security for the good behaviour of the child is supported by the evidence given by men in different parts of the country who have had experience in administering the law and in the management of industrial schools. With regard to whipping, the right hon. Gentleman does not carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission; nor has he introduced anything to specify in what particular class of 1256 cases that punishment should be applied. There ought to be discrimination in those cases, but I find none in the Bill. I quite agree that whipping in many cases is the best form of punishment for a boy—better than imprisonment or sending him for five years to an industrial school. But the Royal Commission carefully restricted this punishment, and recommended that it should not be inflicted upon any boy under 14. The House is very unwilling I am sure to inflict the punishment upon any but mere boys. Though very much disappointed that the House is not invited to deal with the whole matter, I feel a difficulty in declining to support the Bill, and I hope that when it goes into Committee alterations will be introduced, and that the Bill will be greatly improved in the directions I have indicated.
§ (10.55.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART WORTLEY,) Sheffield, Hallam
I am glad the right lion. Gentleman finds himself able to support the Bill, and that he has made a speech which is substantially a vigorous defence of the Bill. We have great reason to thank the right hon. Gentleman and his distinguished colleagues on the Royal Commission for their Report on this subject. It is perfectly true that they limited themselves with regard to this proposal in one respect only, and I think I can show the House that this was an extremely small limitation. It might be supposed from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and others that this is the first time it is proposed to inflict corporal punishment upon boys between 14 and 16; but there are several clauses in the Criminal Law Consolidation Acts of 1861 under which corporal punishment can be inflicted up to the age of 16 on the discretion of Justices of Quarter Sessions. When Parliament sanctioned that, Parliament had good reason for thinking, as we have good reason for thinking now, that even up to the age of 16 it is not desirable to send a lad to prison.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
Yes, no doubt; and there is, I admit, some ground for introducing Amendments in that direction; that is a matter well worth consideration. The House must not suppose that this Bill will give the power to any single Justice—a lay Justice sitting by himself. A Stipendiary Magistrate will have the power, but it will only be given to those Courts which are described in the Summary Jurisdiction Act as fully-constituted Courts. The right hon. Gentleman says that this is but a very small part of the entire scheme, but the magnitude of the parts is not to be measured by a superficial area of pages in the Blue Book, and among the many valuable recommendations made by the Commission those embodied in the Bill are the most valuable. There were also special recommendations relating to industrial schools, and a measure giving effect to those recommendations the Government succeeded in passing through the other House in three successive years, though, unfortunately, we have never had the opinion of this House upon it. I think my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has done well in detaching these particular provisions from others which have proved a stumbling-block to the progress of any Bill on the subject. This Bill has been described as containing new propositions; but I would remind the House that these propositions did not originate with the Commission of 1883, but were recommended to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby in reply to a circular sent round to all the Quarter Sessions throughout the country. This Bill now comes down to the House after having three times passed the criticism of the Lord Chancellor and ex-Lord Chancellor in another place, and after having gone through the ordeal of a Standing Committee of the other House, of which no less a man than Lord Herschell was Chairman. That, I think, is at least a presumptive claim to our respect. It gives effect to recommendations which have too long been unfulfilled. It is high time that we should carry still 1258 further the beneficial policy of diminishing as far as possible, even up to the age of 16, the number of juvenile committals.
§ (11.1.) MR. ROWNTREE
I think there is a general agreement that the law as it stands is in urgent need of amendment, and that Magistrates are often placed in a painful position when juvenile offenders are brought before them. Still, it does seem to me very undesirable to pass such sweeping provisions as those contained in this Bill. There is, however, great jealously at the present time with regard to corporal punishment in public elementary schools, and this jealousy may possibly be increased. As the Bill stands two Magistrates in Petty Sessions may sentence a youth to be flogged, and apparently may also fine the parent, and order him to give security for the good behaviour of the offender, all without the conviction of the offender in the first instance, or without even a record of the fact. This seems to me to be a grave innovation in the law, and I hope that the Home Secretary will explain this point. I can quite understand that it is desired to prevent a slur attaching to the offender, but the slur ought to be in the offence and the fact, rather than in the record.
§ (11.8.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
Certainly, the disgrace should attach to the offence, not to the record of the offence, but we do know that a recorded sentence will be brought up against the offender in after life, and that legal consequences attend it. So far from this principle being an innovation in the law, it is contained in the Industrial Schools Act, and has been found most beneficial. It is thought advisable not to put a stigma of perpetual disgrace upon the offender. I think the hon. Member for Donegal looked at the Bill with rather less than his usual acumen. He will find that the proviso at the end of the 4th subsection is necessary because of the Summary Jurisdiction Interpretation Act of 1889, which else would include Scotland within the Bill. We are not creating any new offence or constituting any new Courts; but taking the 1259 Criminal Law and Courts as we find them, are giving in the interests of the children to properly constituted Courts a new discretion to punish the child, or take the recognisances of the parent. It is a singular reason for objecting to this Bill that there are only three alternatives, when the Bill gives four more most important alternatives, besides those already existing. What the measure does is to enable a Magistrate to order the birching of a young person who has committed one of those mischievous offences which if committed by one of our own sons would be punished by us, if we are sensible men, by taking Solomon's advice and, while not sparing the child, spoiling the rod. How often does a Magistrate under the existing law get a parent to promise to give his boy a good licking, and let the boy go, on such a promise being given, knowing that a short, sharp punishment like a good thrashing would have the needful effect. I ask any Member of the House, who is a father, whether he would not prefer that his boy, even if he is 16 years old, should for certain offences receive a good thrashing than be sent to prison and have for life the stigma upon him of having been in gaol. In the interest of the boys themselves, and of parents who do not want their children to be contaminated by intercourse with criminals, I hope we shall pass the Second Reading by a very large majority, and amend any small defects there may be in the Bill when we get into Committee.
§ (11.15.) MR. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose, &c.)
I wish to ask the Home Secretary the meaning of the concluding words of Sub-section 4 with regard to Scotland. Under this Bill the age in regard to juvenile offences is extended to 16, and I find that under the 23rd & 24th Vict. the age in Scotland goes up to 14. As regards the age between 14 and 16 this Act is new as far as Scotland is concerned. The consequence is that, as regards children between 14 and 16, they may be whipped without any of the restrictions contained in Sub section 4. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be ready to remedy any defect in the Bill. I think the condition of the law of Scotland has not 1260 been considered, and I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman will see that the necessary conditions will be introduced so that no unnecessary hardship may be inflicted.
§ (11.18.) MR. ATHERLEY - JONES (Durham, N.W.)
I cannot help thinking that, although the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this Bill has been actuated by humane motives, the measure possesses the most objectionable characteristics which any Bill of the kind could present. In the first place, I think great exception may be taken to the proposal practically to give power at the instance of an inferior police officer, and at the discretion of one Justice of the Peace, to summon a parent to appear before the tribunal for some venial offence committed by a child. I think that the power to summon parents, which, if properly exercised, may be a most proper power, should be most carefully and judiciously guarded, and that the class of offences to which it is to apply should be clearly defined. My second objection is to the barbarity of the punishment proposed to be inflicted by this Bill. It is perfectly true that punishment by whipping has been sanctioned by the Legislature in many other Acts of Parliament, but there is at present no Statute which permits so large a number of strokes as 12 to be given to a child under the age of 12 years. Under the Summary Jurisdiction Act a child charged with an indictable offence can receive only six strokes. For offences of a much less heinous character, such as bird's-nesting and trespassing in the fields, it will be competent to an individual Magistrate under this Bill to order the punishment of not less than 12 stripes, and having regard to the kind of person who administers the punishment and to the character of the offence, I think that is little short of barbarity. To allow the infliction of 18 stripes of a birch rod upon young persons above 12 years and up to the age of 16 is practically re-introducing the lash at the option of one irresponsible Magistrate. I further object to the very general way in which this power is granted to Magistrates, and I contend that the Bill shows signs of great haste and want of care 1261 in its preparation. It is open under this Bill to inflict the punishment of the birch rod upon juvenile offenders under any clause of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, including almost every offence of the most venial character. I would suggest that the Home Secretary should give an assurance that the class of offences in respect of which the punishment of whipping may be inflicted shall be strictly defined and limited to offences involving dishonesty, and possibly also crimes of violence, and that some adequate protection shall be afforded to parents against their being vexatiously brought before the Court.
§ (11.25.) MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
I was rather surprised to hear an hon. Member opposite speaking as if corporal punishment were entirely alien to the spirit of the age. Hon. Members will not forget that it is only because the opportunity does not present itself this Session that I have not the honour of again introducing my Corporal Punishment Bill, which is very much wider in its powers, and the Second Reading of which was carried in this House by a majority of 68 votes one Wednesday afternoon in a previous Session. I know there was an endeavour to whip up an opposition to that Bill, but I am glad to be aware that that endeavour utterly failed. I welcome this Bill, especially for the general jurisdiction it gives to apply the birch rod to youthful offenders. I believe that many of these juvenile offenders, who commit offences for which they are brought before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, commit them not in consequence of any evil in them so much as because of the mischief which incites them to the commission of offences. During the time my Corporal Punishment Bill was before the House, there was a general wish among Stipendiary Magistrates, Metropolitan Magistrates, and Magistrates in Borough Police Courts that the provisions of the Bill should be extended to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, and for this reason: that up to a certain age nobody knows what to do with a youthful offender. It may be desirable to send him to a reformatory school, but unfortunately, before that can be done, under the present law it is 1262 necessary to first send him to prison, from which he will probably emerge worse than when he went in. We ought not to make him a criminal, and yet, if we avoid sending him to prison and inflict a fine, the punishment falls not upon him, but upon the poor innocent parents, who may have done their utmost to keep the boy from mischief. It appears to me that the only punishment which can be inflicted upon a boy over a certain age to bring him to a sense of what he ought to do, is one the burden of which should fall upon his own back, instead of being borne by his parents. I only regret that the age of the youthful offender is not put somewhat higher in the Bill. I do not suppose that hon. Members of this House are in sympathy with the young ruffians who stand about the corners of the streets in towns and villages and insult innocent girls who may be passing by. They are usually of the age of 16 and even older. My own belief is that, instead of sending these young roughs to gaol for a fortnight or a shorter period, they would be much more readily brought to a sense of their position by inflicting the degrading punishment of the birch rod upon their backs. Firmly believing that the general jurisdiction given to the Courts to inflict the punishment of the birch rod will have a tendency to reform these young children, I shall give my cordial support to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ (11.30.) MR. J. L. GANE (Leeds, E.)
I have not the sentimental objection to the kind of punishment proposed by the Bill which many persons seem to have, and I think there are very many cases in which no reasonable man would doubt that, for the sake of the young offender himself, it would be wiser and better to administer moderate corporal punishment than to send him to prison, and make a gaol bird of him. Objection has been taken to the parent being summoned before the Court when his child is charged with an offence, and to a fine being inflicted. Indeed the hon. Member spoke of the "innocent" parent, but I think that for many reasons the provision is an excellent one, for the child's misconduct may be an effect of his neglect or wrongdoing. I should like to know whether the word "parent" in such 1263 cases will include, as I think it should do, the guardian of a child. I cannot help feeling, however, that the number of strokes proposed to be given should be re-considered, for, remembering the ill-fed, poorly-clad, and wretched physical condition of many of the children who will come under the operation of the Act, 18 strokes, administered perhaps by a strong, stalwart prison warder who is not aware of the force he uses, constitute too severe a punishment, and might become torture. I hope, therefore, there will be not an extension of the punishment, as has been suggested, but rather a diminution. Personally, I may say I believe it is possible to bring up a child without corporal punishment. I believe in a parent's mental kingship, in his strong will and wise judgment for properly guiding children of tender character. Still, believing that the Bill in its intention and construction is a thoroughly good one, that it enunciates a sound principle, and that it will save many a child from being forced into criminal associations in prison and from being branded as a criminal, I shall heartily support it.
§ (11.37.) MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
One reason I heartily welcome the Bill is that it will save many thoughtless young persons who may have been driven into crime for an existence from being sent to prison and given the prison taint for life. The probation of the First Offenders Act, which I had the honour of introducing, and which was passed by Parliament in 1887, has, I hope, done some good. It has, since then, been adopted in most of our colonies and in some foreign countries, but for some reason Magistrates in Great Britain have failed to put it into force as much as they might have done, for I find by the judicial statistics that, out of 170,466 persons whom they convicted in 1889 on summary process, no fewer than 90,018 were sent to prison for the first time. I believe this Bill is calculated to save many of this class from the taint of prison life, and to make them decent and useful members of society.
§ (11.40.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
I do not 1264 like to give a silent vote on this question. Very few of us who have had to exercise duties as County Magistrates but have felt the difficulty which this Bill attempts to deal with. There is a good deal to be said on both sides, though I cannot but think, after having considered the matter for a good many years, that the evil you will create by passing this Bill in its present shape will far outweigh the good which it will produce. I agree with the hon. Member for Durham that there are young people, and some old people as well, not excepting Members of Parliament, who would be better for a flogging. There are certain offences, such as brutality, cowardly assaults upon women and children, and cruelty to dumb animals, which I think many of us would like to see dealt with in that way. But there are children—and children! There are sensitive children, to whom a flogging would be a very different thing, and a far severer punishment to what it would be to children of a different character. And, besides, the House must admit there are Magistrates and Magistrates! and it cannot be denied that there are in this country among Magistrates men who have made themselves disliked and trusted by ridiculous, arbitrary absurd decisions. I believe that they form a very small minority of the Magistrates, but still they exist. What would be the effect in rural districts if big fellows of 16 years of age were thrashed not by their own parents, or with the consent of parents, but by policemen, at the dictation of the squire and parson, say, for stealing an apple? The Home Secretary used this very illustration of apple stealing, and I can only say that you may risk bringing the law into contempt, and destroying that confidence and respect, which is at the bottom of all obedience to the law, by flogging for a petty larceny. Hence it is that I say that this law may do a great deal more harm than good. I do not believe in thrashing for such offences as apple stealing, but I do not object to thrashing for defined offences, such as violent and cowardly assaults. But even in such cases I hold that thrashing over 12 years of age ought not to be administered ex- 1265 cept on the order of a Court of three Magistrates. Fully admitting the evil of the present system, there is another way of dealing with young offenders, and that is to improve and enlarge our reformatory system, so that children can be sent to reformatories and industrial schools for short terms, without the necessity (as at present) of being committed to gaol first. If this Bill goes to a Division to-night I shall feel it my duty to vote against it.
§ (11.45.) MR. J. R. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)
I should like to say one or two words with regard to this Bill. I do not understand exactly what power it is proposed to give the Court. I think it ought to be required that the parent should be present when the flogging is administered. The attendance of the parents is of paramount importance, and I do not think that a child ought to be visited with corporal punishment without the consent of the parents. The poor have the same feelings with regard to their children as we have, and it may be that the parents know that in the case of a troublesome child corporal punishment is absolutely futile. Under such circumstances, they would reasonably and properly object to the character of the punishment which is sought by this Bill to he made legal. Moreover, I think the punishment of 16 strokes is unnecessarily severe. I can understand sentences of flogging upon a totally different plan. For instance, two floggings are generally regarded as having a greater deterrent effect than one. I trust we shall have some assurance that there will be a careful definition of the punishment under the Bill. I trust we shall be assured that there will' be a diminution of the strokes, at any rate, at one birching; and I hope, also, that the parents will be consulted as to whether this punishment should be inflicted upon their children or not.
§ (11.47.) MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
I welcome this Bill because it will, to a great extent, do away with the necessity for sending young offenders to prison. I have been Chairman of Petty Sessions for 25 years, and I have found juvenile offenders the most difficult 1266 class to deal with. As to consulting the parents, in nine cases out of ten the parents of such offenders have come to me and asked whether flogging could not be given as a punishment instead of imprisonment. There are some points in the Bill to which I object strongly. The first is with reference to the summoning of the parents. I think that every parent ought to be made cognisant of the charge against the child, but should not be punished for failing to answer the summons of the Court. Again, the number of strokes prescribed in the Bill is unduly severe. The children are often in an emaciated condition, and the warders in all probability are not accustomed to inflicting such punishment, and therefore do not know the effect of their own strength. There is another point on which I hope to see an amendment. At present the Magistrate is bound to send a child to prison before the child is eligible for a reformatory. The power ought to be given to the Magistrate either to order the child to be flogged or to be sent direct to a reformatory. The first question Magistrates have to consider in dealing with questions of this sort is what is best for the child; but when they look at the Statute Book, they find they are debarred from dealing with him in the way they would wish. If they wish, for instance, to send him to a reformatory, they have to send him to prison first. I shall support the Second Reading of the Bill on the ground that it will do away with imprisonment; but unless it is very much altered in Committee, I shall vote against the Third Reading.
§ (11.53.) MR. MATHER (Lancashire, S.E., Gorton)
I desire to appeal to my hon. Friends to allow this Bill to go to a Second Reading. Its faults of omission and commission are obvious to both sides of the House, and there is no doubt that the Home Secretary will profit by the Debate and agree to the amendment of the measure in Committee. I think it would be a great mistake if the House 1267 postponed legislation on this question for another year, and I earnestly hope that those who take an interest in the matter will allow the Bill to be read a second time on the understanding that the very important points raised are fully dealt with in Committee. There is one defect in the Bill to which I should like to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention. There is great hardship in the present treatment of youthful offenders taken up under the bye-laws of Local Authorities for such trivial offences as throwing orange peel or refusing to move on. Offenders of that sort are often taken to the Town Hall or prison and detained all night and treated in the same manner as common criminals. I hope an Amendment will be introduced giving the Local Authorities power to deal with such cases altogether outside the present method. I trust we shall agree to the Second Reading, and in Committee do our best to improve the measure.
§ (11.55.) MR. SEXTON
I wish to ask the Home Secretary whether ho has made up his mind as to the application of the Bill to Ireland? Is there any evidence that the Bill is required in Ireland? Just remember how jurisdiction is exercised under the Coercion Act. Children have been sent to gaol for cheering on the highways. They have also been imprisoned for selling newspapers; and if this Bill is now passed, it may be that a Magistrate will order a boy to be flogged by a police constable for one of these offences, or he may order the parent to enter into sureties for his better behaviour and send him to prison for failing to do so. I say that if any attempt is made under the guise of social reform to confer powers of this kind to Ireland, we shall be obliged to oppose it, because it will only be making the Act a political weapon.
§ (11.57.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Before a Division is taken, I must ask whether the Home Secretary will give the House an assurance that when the Bill goes into Committee he will re-consider the whipping portion?
§ If that assurance is not given, I shall vote against the Second Reading.
§ (11.58.) MR. MATTHEWS
I have offered the whipping portion of the Bill to the House under the deliberate conviction that it is a good part of the Bill. In that I am borne out by every authority on the subject, and I certainly do not mean to drop that part.
§ MR. M. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
Will you exclude Ireland from the Bill?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I am willing to consider that.
§ (12.0.) The House divided: — Ayes 143; Noes 54.—(Div. List, No. 149.)
§ Bill read a second time.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I would ask the House to allow the Bill to go to the Grand Committee on Law. A number of Amendments have been suggested which would be more conveniently considered there.
§ Objection taken.
§ Bill committed for Monday next.