HC Deb 25 February 1901 vol 89 cc1033-4

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been called to the Return concerning the operation of the Probation of First Offenders Act, 1887, presented in pursuance of the order of the House of 6th August, 1900, and to the fact thereby disclosed that although in the years 1897, 1898, and 1899 over 14,000 persons were discharged under the Act without imprisonment, and only a small percentage were called up to receive judgment and known to have been subsequently convicted of a fresh offence, some Metropolitan police courts and other courts of summary jurisdiction, beside assize and quarter sessions courts, never once made use of the Act, and if he will consider the advisability of re-issuing a circular on the lines of that of 25th April, 1892, of Mr. Secretary Matthews upon the subject, and pointing out that the powers of the Act are not so fully taken advantage of as they might be in the case of persons charged with offences of a trifling nature, or against whom no previous convictions have been proved.


It appears from the Return referred to that of the convicted prisoners discharged without punishment in the years 1897, 1898, and 1899, only 14,512 out of 147,505 were dealt with under the Act of 1887. There seems no particular reason to urge courts to use this Act rather than other Acts when the practical effect is the same; and there is no ground for supposing that at the courts where this Act is not made use of, first offenders, are treated with greater severity than others.