§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether his attention has been called to the action of Mr. Plowden, a Metropolitan police magistrate, on the 6th January last, at the Marylebone Police Court, when, on the hearing of a summons against a parent for cruelty to his child, taken out by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, he severely censured the Society's officer for inquiring as to what religious persuasion the child belonged, in accordance with the Act 57 & 58 Vic. c. 41, s. 48, under which the proceedings were taken; and, whether steps can be taken to prevent the magistrate from publicly rebuking the Society's officers for obeying the law?
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
The hon. Member appears to me to be misinformed as to the provisions of the Act to which he refers. The duty of ascertaining the religious persuasion of a child is imposed, by Section 8, the only section of the Act which contains any provision on the subject, on the court before which the child may be brought, and that only when it has determined to commit it to the custody of some person other than the parent, under Section 6. In the present case, I am informed, the officer of the Society had, before legal proceedings were commenced, called at the house of the mother, and, without disclosing the object of his visit, put various questions to her, including one as to the child's religion. The magistrate considered that this course was not justified by the Act, and expressed himself strongly as to the officer's conduct. I am not prepared to dissent from the view which he takes of the law or to criticise his action in the present case.