HC Deb 26 July 1907 vol 179 cc370-6

As amended by the Standing Committee), considered.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 2, line 18, after the word 'may,' to insert the words 'under and in accordance with the Youthful Offenders Act, 1901."'—(Mr. Gladstone)

Amendment agreed to.


moved to leave out Subsection (b) of Clause 2. He said the Amendment was worthy of explanation because in the Standing Committee he consented to accept the provision which he now proposed to leave out. The fact really was that on further consideration and in consultation with his right hon. friend near him they came to the conclusion that it ought to come out. The compulsory attendance age could not be above fourteen, and the result of putting in this particular provision would be that the senior boy in the school might be, and would be in fact under the Bill as it stood, the boy who had committed some offence and who was singled out by the court to be kept at school a year longer than anyone else. The effect would be that the senior boy, who would be the leader of the school, would have some sort of a taint about him, and it would be bad for him and for the other children. The senior boy in the school ought to be above reproach, and he was afraid the provision as it stood would have that effect. For that reason he begged to move the Amendment.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 3, line 1, to leave out Subsection(b)."—(MR. Gladstone.)

Question proposed, "That the subsection proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."


said he did not wish to oppose the Amendment of the Home Secretary if his right hon. friend really thought it was necessary; but he ventured to suggest that on occasions he might find it a misfortune that he had not reserved to himself the power, and he would ask him whether in exceptional circumstances it would not be well that a boy should be kept at school. He was bound to say that the position of the senior boy as outlined by his right hon. friend was a little fanciful as applied to the elementary schools of the country. He had never heard of such a senior boy in any of those schools, and he thought the illustration was taken from a public school.


asked whether the Bill would not be brought into conformity with the Education Act if the subsection were simply altered to read "14" instead of "15."

Amendment agreed to.


said the next Amendment standing in his name to provide that the Court by which a probation order was made should furnish to the offender a notice in writing stating in simple terms the conditions he was required to observe was to carry out a promise he made to the Standing Committee.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 3, line 7, at the end, to add the words "The court by which a probation order is made shall furnish to the offender a notice in writing, stating in simple terms the conditions he is required to observe.'"—(MR. Gladstone)

Amendment agreed to.


moved an Amendment to provide for the appointment, where circumstances permitted, of special probation officers, to be employed in cases where the offender was a person under sixteen years of age. He said this Amendment was also to carry out a promise he made to the Committee.

Amendment proposed— In page 3, line 14, at the end, to insert the words "There shall be appointed, where circumstances permit, special probation officers to be called children's probation officers, who shall, in the absence of any reasons to the contrary, be employed in cases where the offender is a person under the age of sixteen.'"—(Mr. Gladstone.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."


moved as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment to add the words "provided that police officers shall not be appointed children's probation officers. "He thanked his right hon. friend for the Amendment he had brought forward, and which fulfilled the pledge he gave to the Committee. He thought it was very advantageous to provide that there should be, where circumstances permitted—and he hoped that circumstances very often would permit—special probation officers for dealing with children. He felt that without these officers the Act would fail very much in the purpose for which it was designed, but he also thought that the Amendment which he had put down would strengthen the clause, and would carry out the intention of the Committee with regard to this matter, which was to keep the children as far as possible from the operations of the ordinary law, which would not be the case if they had policemen as probation officers. He wished to make no reflection on the police in saying this, but it was a fact that on ordinary occasions they had to discharge duties which made them unsuitable for the discharge of the very different duties of probation officers. He thought everyone with experience of the subject would admit that, and he would not argue the case. Everyone was aware of the purpose which he had in moving this Amendment. It was to keep the children apart from anything which savoured of the ordinary law, that the probation officer might be the friend, and the welcome friend, of the children. Therefore, he begged to move his Amendment to the proposed Amendment.


seconded, and said he cordially agreed with the remarks just made by his hon. friend, both on behalf of a humanitarian organisation which had communicated with him and in accordance with the view he expressed in Committee.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment to the Bill— At the end, to add the words 'provided that police officers shall not be appointed children's probation officers.'"—(Mr. Leif Jones.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added to the proposed Amendment to the Bill."

MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)

said he was very glad the Home Secretary had proposed his Amendment for the appointment of special probation officers, and he thought it was a very great improvement to the Bill. He could not agree that the suggested words of the hon. Member for the Appleby Division of Westmoreland were an improvement. He thought there were many instances in country districts in which the police officer would be a suitable officer for the purpose; in fact, in many cases there was no one else available, and he failed to see why the police officer should be looked upon with suspicion. His experience was that the young people of the country districts for which he spoke specially had no better friend than the police officer, than whom no man knew better what were their wants and the dangers which surrounded them. Nor did he think they ought to make a special exception and prevent police officers being appointed. Of course the clause was not mandatory. Those who had the appointment in their hands could appoint any person they liked under the clause, and it might often happen that other people were available who would make equally good officers; but he protested against a police officer being specially named as a person who was not to be appointed, and he trusted the Home Secretary would not accept the Amendment.


said, while he agreed with what his hon. friend said, he hoped he would not press this Amendment. He thought it stood to reason that the person appointed as children's probation officer in the large towns would have to give so much time to looking after the children that it would be quite impossible for him to discharge the duties of a policeman, and it was quite clear to him that those who had the appointing of children's probation officers would not as a general rule appoint policemen. On the whole he hoped his hon. friend would not press the Amendment, because it was conceivable that in some places it might be desirable to appoint a policeman. This Bill was an experiment. They wanted to feel their way, and they did not want to tie themselves down, especially with regard to the duties of probation officers, more than they could help. For his part, he should prefer, if his hon. friend would allow them, a free hand in this matter. There was one other point, and that was, although he did not think the police would feel aggrieved if this were put in the Bill, yet it did make a distinction between the police and other people, which he was inclined to think was rather hard, as the policeman was as capable of looking after the interests of children as anyone else. Therefore, he deprecated the distinction being made, and hoped his hon. friend, under the circumstances, would not press this Amendment, as he was sure his own wishes would be met without the Amendment.

MR. RAWLINSON (Cambridge University)

said that without in any way pressing the Amendment, or asking the House to do so, or even discussing it at this late hour, he ventured to add his expression of regret that the Homo Secretary had taken the course he had. He quite felt it was the Home Secretary's Bill, but the object of the measure as he understood it on the Second Reading was that the probation officer was not to be a uniformed man either in respect of grown up persons or children. It was not a question of policemen not being kind-hearted, because they were; but if a man or boy were in employment, he would not like a policeman to call upon him two or three times a week. If they left, as they were leaving, in this Bill vague and experimental powers in the hands of probation officers, it seemed that the least they could do was to restrict the discretion of magistrates who naturally would turn to the person who was nearest at hand. He ventured to think that the effect of the Bill might be not in the least what was the intention of the promoters if they allowed any uniformed person to carry out the duties of that officer, which were not meant to be anything in the nature of police supervision, but rather in the nature of the work which was so well done at the present time by the police court missionaries. On the Second Reading he understood the idea was rather to subsidise the police court missionaries, and not to set up a fresh body of officials to deal with this subject.


asked to be allowed to put a point of view in support of the Home Secretary which showed that the Amendment to the Amendment would operate with some hardship upon the policeman himself. It was quite conceivable that the duties of the children's probation officer being rather arduous in a large town might take up a man's whole time, and if the officer were a policeman the police authority would be inclined to detach that man from ordinary duties and put him into plain clothes. No one would desire the man to become permanently detached from the force and lose his pension and other advantages, and for that reason he thought the hands of the authority should be left free.


asked if he might be allowed to explain that it was very far from his purpose to make any reflection on the police or their kindness of heart, of which he had had a very great deal of experience. The duties which they had to discharge, however, were different from those of probation officers. He thought his right hon. friend the Home Secretary quite shared that view, and he therefore asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment to the Bill, by leave, withdrawn.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.


said the next Amendment in his name was a drafting Amendment.

Amendment proposed to the Bill— In page 4, lines 35 and 36, to leave out the words 'having power to deal with the offender in respect of his original offence,' and insert the words 'before which an offender is bound by his recognisance under this Act to appear for conviction or sentence.' "—(Mr. Gladstone.)

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments proposed to the Bill, and agreed to:— In page 6, line 4, to leave out the word 'two,' and insert the word 'three.' In page 6, line 18, after the word 'to' to insert the words 'Ireland "Lord-Lieutenant" shall be substituted for "Secretary of State" and each division of.' In page 6, line 19, to leave out the words 'a division of that district.'"—(Mr. Gladstone.)