§ As amended by the Standing Committee, considered.
The proposed new clause† in the name of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green is beyond the scope of the Bill.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said he would like to draw attention to the title of the Bill. It was "to make better provision for the prevention of crime and for that purpose to provide for the reformation of young offenders and the prolonged detention of habitual criminals and for other purposes incidental thereto."
said that the words "other purposes incidental thereto" did not mean any Amendment of the Prisons Acts the hon. Member might desire to move. The proposed new clause was an Amendment of the Prisons Acts, not of this Bill.
§ MR. RENTON (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
said the Amendment he rose to move referred to the treatment of persons under the Borstal system. It would be a great pity to lay down any hard and fast rule such as was laid down in the Bill as to the discretion of the Judges, and he wanted to urge that the Court should be given unlimited discretion as to those whom they might sentence to undergo imprisonment under the Borstal system. Such discretion was already given under Clause 3 to the Home Secretary. Surely the Judge who tried the case, saw the prisoner and heard what he had to say, and who had all the facts before him and could ascertain the antecedents of the prisoner, was as good† The following is the clause referred to:—On the occurrence of the next vacancy in the office of Prison Commissioner and Director of Convict Prisons a woman shall be appointed to the office, and thenceforward one Prison Commissioner and Director of Convict Prisons at least shall always be a woman.222 a judge as to who should or should not be sent to a Borstal institution as any official could be. Under the Bill, no person over twenty-one years of age could be sentenced for detention under the Borstal system, but he thought it would be recognised that in some cases a lad of eighteen might be a more hardened criminal than some lad of maturer age fresh from the country. It might be said that unless they had a hard and fast rule as to age of Borstal prisoners, administrative difficulties would ensue, but it would not be difficult to send elder prisoners to one institution, others to a second, and the younger prisoners to a third institution. The Home Secretary had power to create more Borstal institutions if they were needed. He failed, therefore, to see that any administrative difficulties would ensue. If the system was good for boys, surely it was good for young men. He thought it would be a disaster if they laid down a hard and fast rule that no young criminal over the age of twenty-one should be sent to a Borstal institution and they should not leave it to the discretion of the Judge as to who should or who should not go to a Borstal institution. The system had been more or less of a success and he anticipated that in future years it would have far greater success. A good many people said it was a failure, that it was only urged by sentimentalists, and that it would not have had its even present success had it not been for the splendid committee who administer it. 189 prisoners were discharged from Borstal institutions in the last year for which they had figures, twenty-three of them were recommitted, and twenty-seven were reported as not doing well. He would venture, however, to point out that out of the 189 dealt with, no less than 151 had an average of four previous convictions. The system should be given a good chance. If it were, he was convinced they would have no need whatsoever for Part II. of the Bill. Supposing Judges found that it was a failure, they need not sentence any more to detention under the Borstal system. They could re- 223 vert to the old system and sentence prisoners to hard labour or penal servitude. If the system, however, was good, as they had every reason to believe it was, it should be extended. The penal system in this country was, he believed, the most rigorous of any civilised nation, and by the second part of this Bill it was admitted to be a failure. It neither reformed nor did it deter. He begged the House, therefore, to give the Court every discretion in the trial of prisoners so that, if a Judge thought any man would be reformed by being sent to a Borstal institution, he might so order. He firmly believed, from his own knowledge, that the Borstal system would be far cheaper in the end, and at all events it would be far more humane than the system of punishments which obtained in the country at the present moment.
§ MR. RAWLINSON (Cambridge University)
seconded, not for the reasons given by his hon. friend, but rather for the peculiarity of the regulation drawn up in the section. The Judge who tried the case had the simple power to send a person between sixteen and twenty-one to a Borstal institution, but by the latter part of the section the most extravagant power was given to the Home Secretary to extend the age if he thought fit to twenty-three. He rather objected to that system of legislation. If they wanted to make the limit twenty-one, let them, say so, and if they wanted to make the limit twenty-three let them make that limit. Again, the Home Secretary was to have power to deal with anybody up to any age. Though a Judge had not power to send a man to a Borstal institution, and, therefore, sentenced him to a year's imprisonment, the Home Secretary, in exercise of his extraordinary power under Clause 3, might come in and, if satisfied that the person sentenced might with advantage be detained in a Borstal institution, authorise the Prison Commissioners to transfer him from prison to a Borstal institution. It was perfectly clear the Home Secretary was to have unlimited discretion to send anybody of any age to a Borstal institution. That was, on the whole, right, but surely the Judge who tried the case ought to have 224 the same discretion. It was a monstrous thing to give absolute power to the Secretary of State to send any person of any age to a Borstal institution whilst tying the discretion of a Judge to the cases of persons between sixteen and twenty-one years of age. He, therefore, seconded the Amendment.
In page 1, line 10, to leave out paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Clause 1."—(Major Renton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLADSTONE,) Leeds, W.
said the hon. and learned Member objected to the discretion which was left to the Home Secretary.
§ MR. RAWLINSON
said he distinctly stated that on the whole he thought it was a good thing that the Secretary of State should have discretion, but the Judge who tried the case certainly ought to have an equal discretion.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he did not quite understand the hon. and learned Member. He had great sympathy with both the mover and the seconder of the Amendment, but he must point out what the effect of it would be. They had found in the working of the present informal Borstal system a great difficulty in inducing the Courts to send to the Borstal institutions in all cages the right kind of persons. Many Courts were cognisant of the working of that system, but for one reason or another mistakes were being constantly made and the wrong kind of persons were being sent to the institutions. He would read from the Home Office Circular the description of the kind of person they thought might go to a Borstal institution. It was as follows—The class of persons for whom the Borstal system is devised is not first offenders or novices in crime, but young recidivists guilty for the most part of acts of larceny, and rough, undisciplined lads, of the lounging and hooligan types, who are apparently drifting towards a career of crime.Those were the persons they wished to get hold of. He would point out that the first part of the Bill related to young offenders, so that in a sense the Amendment was out of order having regard to the 225 title of the Bill. He understood the hon. Member wished to remove the restrictions.
§ MR. RENTON
No; surely youth is not limited to twenty-one years. Many people are youthful after twenty-one.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he understood the hon. Member wanted to remove the restriction on the age of sixteen as well as twenty-one.
§ MR. RENTON
said he imagined a Judge would not sentence anybody under sixteen to three years in a Borstal institution. He would send him to a reformatory or somewhere else.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said his point was that it was not desirable in any case to send to the Borstal institution lads under sixteen. They ought to be dealt with either under the Children Act or the Reformatory Act. It was desirable to give reasonable directions to the Courts as to the kind of person who ought to be sent to Borstal. They said sixteen was the lowest age at which he ought to go. Then why not insert the limit of sixteen? Then they came to the limit of twenty-one. All he could say was that this matter was very carefully discussed. They considered whether they ought to give the Court free discretion to send to a Borstal institution persons above the age of twenty-one, and had come to the conclusion that on the whole it was not desirable, because if they mixed up different classes of men and juvenile adults the result must necessarily be harmful to their training and the general discipline of the institutions. Therefore, they thought there ought to be a definite limit imposed upon magistrates who perhaps did not quite know the working of the system, to keep them from the error of committing to Borstal institutions persons so far above the age of twenty-one that they were totally unsuitable for the institution. On the whole twenty-one was a reasonable age to fix. Then why, he might be asked, did they take power to raise it to twenty-three? For one reason they did not with to plunge too far into this matter at first. This was a new system. They did not know to what extent the Courts would avail themselves of it, and if they were to make it higher than twenty-one 226 they might have too many cases to deal with before they were ready to receive them. As it was they would have largely to extend the Borstal prison.
§ MR. STAVELEY-HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
said his reason for supporting the Amendment was that he thought discretionary power should be done away with. At any rate, if any discretionary power were given at all the same power should be given to the Judge or person who tried the prisoner as was given to the Home Secretary, for this very obvious reason—that if there was anyone who was capable of exercising a discretion it was the Judge who saw the prisoner, tried him, and knew all the facts of the case. The Home Secretary had said that under this Borstal system the wrong prisoners were sent, or that he never got the right prisoners.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
I never said that. I never said that we never got the right prisoners. I said sometimes the Court sent the wrong prisoners.
§ MR. STAVELEY-HILL
said it amounted very much to the same thing. But that was not the point. Apparently, the difficulty was to get the right prisoners. It was far more likely that the right persons would be sent to the institutions if the age were fixed at twenty-three or twenty-five. It often happened that when the Judges were trying prisoners who were suitable in every way for the Borstal system the age-limit crept in and the Judges said that their discretionary power had ceased. Often between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-three these young men were suited to that particular treatment, and he suggested that the Home Secretary should make one age of twenty-three and give no discretionary power to the Secretary of State. That would meet the objection of his hon. friend and make the system much better and more workable than it was.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
thought the right hon. Gentleman did not quite understand the motive which had induced his hon. friend to move the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman said it was almost out of order, because it would deal with any age, whereas this section was only 227 for the reformation of the young offender. Under Clause 3 the Secretary of State might send a man of eighty to a Borstal institution, so that if the Amendment was out of order this clause was out of order. There might be an explanation, but he could not see it. The right hon. Gentleman said under subsection (2) of Clause 1 the age could not be increased to twenty-three unless the Home Secretary laid an Order upon the Table for thirty days, and the House could move an Address to His Majesty objecting to the Order. But why was it limited to twenty-three? The two things were absolutely incompatible. Under this clause, unless the Amendment was carried and subsection (2) left out, the result would be that the Judge could only send a person to a Borstal institution provided he was between sixteen and twenty-one, but the Home Secretary could send him there if under twenty-three, provided he got an Order not objected to by the House of Commons. The difference, he supposed, was that this particular person must have been sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment. He could see no other difference. In the first case, he might not have been sentenced. In the second, he must. The object of the Amendment was to give the Judge the same power that the Home Secretary possessed. He understood the right hon. Gentleman thought the Home Secretary's power should not be greater than the Judges'.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
The object of Clause 3 is to give the Home Secretary power to correct a possible mistake by a Judge or magistrate from want of full knowledge of the particular man with whom he is dealing, and to transfer him from prison to a Borstal institution. The object obviously is that only persons of the same classes and ages who are admitted to Borstal institutions shall be so transferred from prison. We are perfectly ready to put in an Amendment in another place to meet that point.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
Then I will not press the point, beyond saying I think the Amendment should be put in in this place.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare N.)
said the hon. and learned Member for 228 Cambridge had advanced the very best reasons why the Amendment should not be accepted, because he had pointed to those sections in the Bill which provided the elasticity that was desired by the mover of the Amendment. When the matter was being considered upstairs they had all these suggestions and arguments put before them and they adhered to the clause because they knew they were at the same time going to preserve that elasticity which would be placed in the hands of the Home Secretary. They had considered very closely whether it would be desirable that men over twenty-one indiscriminately chosen by Judges who had not the proper opportunities of considering the characters of these men should be thrown in under the Borstal system amongst a lot of young persons of immature age and upon whose minds there might be a very bad impression made. They decided, therefore, that it was better to have some limit but at the same time that there should be placed in the hands of the Home Secretary a discretion to be exercised according to his judgment upon full consideration. Therefore the subsection was introduced raising the age of twenty-three. But that was not all. Clause 3 said the Secretary of State might, if satisfied that the person sentenced either before or after the passing of the Act to penal servitude or imprisonment might with advantage be detained in a Borstal institution, authorise the Prison Commissioners to transfer him from prison to a Borstal institution. Here were two methods of exercising judgment on the part of the Minister, who would have ample time and opportunity under circumstances not open to the Judge, of seeing whether the man could be with advantage transferred. The Amendment would unquestionably have his support if this elasticity were not contained in the Bill, because from his own experience he was in favour of anything which would extend the discretion, either on the part of the Judge or of the Minister, in favour of the prisoner. At the same time, he was restrained from supporting the Amendment by the fact, that under the hasty judgments that came to his own observation day by day in Courts of Law, most undesirable men might be 229 thrown in amongst young people whom it was the intention of the Bill to reclaim. For that reason he was constrained to support a humane Amendment—the principle of which they had discussed upstairs. He was sorry he could not follow his hon. friend into the Lobby if he went to a division.
§ MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
regretted that the right hon. Gentleman, in giving the grounds on which he refused to accept this Amendment, should have given as his last reason for its rejection that the Bill as drafted would provide the authorities with all the cases they anticipated being able to deal with. That, of course, was a reason which it was extremely difficult, without a great deal of technical knowledge of the details and circumstances of the criminal classes in the country, for anyone to estimate. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there would be within the ages of sixteen to twenty-one as many cases as he thought the authorities were likely to deal with.
§ MR. CARLILE
thought that was a very good ground. In moving this Amendment his hon. friend had in mind a desire to see the system extended, not as something which had not been tested, but as an institution which had been tested and had shown excellent results. Consequently, the Home Secretary was not now entering upon an undertaking which was purely experimental. Surely the authorities who had to deal with the imprisoning of a large number of criminals would, in any case, keep them in confinement in some sort of prison, and they might so adapt some of the convict stations and prisons that they might be able to take in a very considerable number largely in excess of what the right hon. Gentleman now proposed. Why should an application have to be made to the Home Secretary in every case, and why was it necessary to go through all that machinery? Surely the Judge might receive instructions from the Home Secretary to guide him in the selection of likely persons. Men changed in their tendency even among criminals at 230 different periods of their lives. It did not follow that because a man was not reclaimable between sixteen and twenty-one he would be irreclaimable after that. It was often found in practice that prisoners were reclaimable at all periods of life. Why should this system, which was well known to be efficient and good, not be made applicable to persons above twenty-three years of age? He hoped his hon. and gallant friend would go to a division on this Amendment. He was sure that many hon. Members would feel that it was the right thing that this principle should be extended, and that the powers now given to the Home Secretary should permit of a considerable extension of the system. If this were done, the result would be that a vast amount of good would be done, and many men, whose lives would otherwise become permanently criminal, would be set upon the right path, and make good, healthy sound citizens. He begged to support the Amendment.
§ MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
urged, in regard to the objection that sending older people to the institution would interfere with the treatment of the younger, that the two classes might be received in different departments or prisons.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ SIR P. BANBURY
moved to leave out the words "apparently under such age." This was really a drafting Amendment. He thought that was a simpler way of putting into the English language the desire of the Home Secretary. If this Amendment were adopted the right hon. Gentleman would have power to extend the system to people under the age of twenty-three. Why it was necessary to put in the words "apparently under such age," he did not know. He begged to move.
In page 2, line 7, to leave out the words 'apparently under such age.'"—(Sir F. Banbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. GLADSTONE
pointed out that cases could be dealt with if a person 231 appeared to be under the age of twenty-one.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said the Home Secretary could not do anything if they were under the age of twenty-three.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said the provision was intended to give the power to the Court if a person appeared to be under the age of twenty-one.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
asked what would happen supposing a person was over twenty-one when he was convicted.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
replied that the Court had to decide whether a person appeared to be under twenty-one.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
moved an Amendment in Clause 3 (power to transfer from prison to Borstal institution) providing that the Secretary of State may, in the case of a person sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment "being within the limits of age within which persons may be detained in a Borstal institution," authorise the Prison Commissioners to transfer him from prison to a Borstal institution.
In page 2, line 31, after the word 'imprisonment,' to insert the words 'being within the limits of age within which persons may be detained in a Borstal institution.'"—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RAWLINSON
said the Home Secretary's Amendment answered his point, and he should support it with his whole heart.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. RAWLINSON
said that Clause 4 gave power to the Home Secretary to establish Borstal Institutions in different parts of the country. The Amendment he proposed would limit those establishments to three in number. He thought the Home Secretary would be ready to admit that Borstal institutions were still in the experimental stage, for they had dealt with only about 200 cases, and, therefore, they had not gone very far up to the present. He thought they ought to proceed gently in giving a boundless 232 discretion to the Home Office to extend and build a large number of these institutions before the experiment had been carried through satisfactorily. When one was pleased with a new work it was so easy to run into unnecessary expense in bricks and mortar, and his object in inserting this Amendment was that the Home Secretary should be allowed to build only three Borstal institutions. Of course the existing prisons could be used for this purpose, but the object of this Amendment was simply to limit the powers of the Home Secretary in regard to the creation of
§ SIR F. BANBURY
seconded the Amendment. He said it was no consolation to the taxpayers when asked to find a large sum of money to be told that the Home Office had not spent much. He thought some limit should be put to the reckless expenditure which was going on. This was a new system, and it might be all right, but if it was found to work satisfactorily, it would be easy to bring a Bill to authorise the building of more institutions.
In page 2, line 40, after the word 'establish,' to insert the words 'three.'"—(Mr. Rawlinson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'three' be there inserted."
§ MR. GLADSTONE
hoped the hon. Member would not press the Amendment. If the Borstal institutions were limited to three, what would be the result? Naturally that they would be abnormally large, and if they were, the very evil which the hon. Member anticipated would have to be faced. If this movement was to succeed, it would be a pity to limit it in any way. If it was to fail, the Amendment was unnecessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. RAWLINSON
moved to leave out Clause 7, for the purpose of getting an explanation from the Home Secretary. It was a somewhat new departure that the Home Secretary with the approval of the Treasury should be allowed to give 233 unlimited subscriptions to any private society, however desirable it might be. He was aware that grants were sometimes mysteriously made to private societies, and he had wondered under what power it was done.
In page 4, line 29, to leave out Clause 7."—(Mr. Rawlinson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the clause proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said there was a precedent for what was proposed here. In this particular case he would remind the House that the most essential part of the Borstal system was what was known as the "after-care system," in connection with which immense labour was bestowed by those most excellent workers who looked after the class with whom they were dealing. The Treasury had sanctioned an annual grant of £500, which, recently had been raised to £1,000 for this excellent purpose. It would hardly be worth while going on with the work unless some provision was made for a financial subsidy. He asked the House to pass the clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
moved to omit Part II. of the Bill, which deals with the detention of habitual criminals. He said he perfectly recognised that this was a futile task, because even if he were able to persuade hon. Members present—a number inconsiderable as compared with the number elsewhere—he knew that when the division bell rang those who were now absent would come in and overwhelm the votes of those who had heard the debate. He much regretted that the benches opposite were vacant when they were discussing this matter affecting the liberty of the subject. He could conceive no more grave invasion of what had been the unbroken constitutional practice in this country, with regard to the trial and sentencing of prisoners, than that which now emanated from a Liberal Government. With the details of the Bill he would 234 not concern himself. What he was concerned with was the question of the inspiration of the measure. He did not know on what authority it was inspired. There was a proposal that it should be in the power of a chairman of quarter sessions to sentence to an indeterminate period of imprisonment, dependent on the good will of a prison warder, a man convicted three times of, possibly, a trivial offence over an almost unlimited period. That was a most startling-proposition, and had no warranty in the criminal jurisprudence of this or any other country. Moreover, this indeterminate period of imprisonment could not be inflicted unless, as a condition precedent, a sentence of penal servitude was passed. The Bill, therefore, compelled the presiding Judge to pass a sentence of penal servitude which, but for his desire to inflict the indeterminate period, he would probably not pass. Certain preliminary safeguards had to be taken before a man could be charged with being an habitual criminal, and an absolute right of appeal was conceded. He had to be found to be an habitual criminal, and he was to be so found on evidence of reputation given by police officers, gaolers, and persons of that description—the most dangerous kind of evidence known to lawyers. He spoke from long experience, and he did not wish the House to understand that he regarded that evidence of no moment at all, but it was certainly not evidence which should have much, if any, weight attached to it for the purpose of imposing a sentence which was to entail such grave consequences as this part of the Bill contemplated. Assuming that the tribunal had not made a mistake, but had got hold of a goal-bird—in his comparatively small experience he had seen many persons who had alternated between the prison and the dock—he quite admitted that if human justice were infallible, and if human nature were capable of unerring judgment, it would be justifiable that such persons should be separated from their fellow creatures; but it was because he did not believe that human judgment was infallible that he objected to this proposal in the Bill. Assuming that the man had been rightly sentenced, where did he go to? He went 235 to penal servitude for three, tour, or five years or more, and after that penal servitude was over he still remained in penal servitude, although another name was given to it. Although the Home Secretary had chosen to say that the man might be confined in another part of the prison and under modified conditions, yet this man was to be kept in prison for ever—[An HON. MEMBER: Oh!]—Yes, for ever, except that after a period of ten years it would be obligatory upon the Home Secretary to make a special report to Parliament. These reports to Parliament—he spoke from experience—were not worth the paper they were written upon; they were absolutely ineffective to assist Parliament to action. Assuming that the Home Secretary did his duty—he did not think any human being would suggest that the present Home Secretary, and he said this without any desire to flatter the right hon. Gentleman, did not do his duty—assuming that the Home Secretary strove his best to do his duty, this unhappy man would, while in prison, be subjected every six months to the torture of being brought before the board of visiting justices, inspired with the hope of the opportunity to escape being afforded him. On whose guidance, counsel and advice would the Home Secretary act? On the report of the Committee and the gaol authorities. The board of visitors would go to the prison, would talk to the prisoner, would accept or reject what they thought fit in his statements; but the real people who would give advice which would influence a decision would be the warders, the subordinate officials of the gaol, and upon their advice the Home Secretary might on licence discharge a prisoner undergoing preventive detention if satisfied that there was reasonable probability that he would not again engage in crime. That was sheer irony. All experienced prison, officials would agree that the man most likely to be releated from prison under this provision was not the sincerely contrite and penitent prisoner, but the hardened hypocrite, who was cunning enough to escape prison discipline, and was able to ingratiate himself with the warders. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, did he really believe that there was any 236 effective means available by which they could test whether a man was a reformed character or not? He noticed with some amusement some time ago a list of the marks for good conduct which had been obtained in a certain convict prison by certain notorious criminals-and most dangerous ruffians, in the sense of their being the greatest danger and pests of society—men convicted as fraudulent trustees and directors of public companies. These were the men to ingratiate themselves with the prison officials, and who made themselves agreeable to the warders. They were removed into the hospital, or put playing-the organ if they had musical ability, as many of them had. These were the men who earned the full number of marks, and of whom the Home Secretary would get good reports as well deserving to be let out on licence. He objected to giving to any human being, however high a judicial officer he might be—he should shrink from exercising any such function himself, and would regard it as a grievous burden—the right to confine another human being for the rest of his days on the arbitrament of the Home Secretary, acting on the initiative of prison warders. He maintained that the system embodied in this Bill was a new departure in the science of penology; it was an invasion on the principles of punishment which had been applied in any other civilised country. He felt very strongly on this matter, and although he did not anticipate that he should succeed in getting official support from that side of the House, he was sure that he would have the support of some hon. Members who considered that after all the good of the State was not the only thing to be taken into account, but justice to the individual. He begged to move.
§ MR. BELLOC
seconded the Amendment. Those who thought with his hon. and learned friend and himself wished, he said, to get rid of the principle underlying the second part of the Bill, and if possible expunged from other legislation. They considered it to be immoral and fraught with much serious danger in, this and other departments of legislation. If he were asked why a Member of Parliament should oppose the second 237 part of the Bill, he should reply—although many people might regard it as somewhat doctrinaire—it was because that without doubt if the provisions of the measure were clearly put before the English people they would be almost unanimously rejected. If the measure were made a first-class Bill it would be even more unpopular than was the Licensing Bill. In considering a measure of this kind, what was called a criminal class had to be pre-supposed. Whatever set of laws was made by the State, there was certainly a type of man likely to break these laws. The offences dealt with in this Bill were mainly offences against property, or minor offences which were morally petty, but the method of dealing with them imposed what the poor regarded as the worst pain which could be inflicted. He remembered during the Second Reading of the Bill that a Member of this House, who was also a member of what were called the governing families of this country, made some jokes about an old lady who stole some bacon, and he wondered what the noble Lord thought of those countries where they punished those who stole land? The noble Lord appeared to think that because an old lady who stole bacon was a nuisance, therefore there should be an arbitrary right to put her in confinement for a period which might perfectly well, if she were guilty of any violence, extend throughout her life. Then there was another point, so general that he was not sure how far it would carry conviction, though it was very plain and real to him. In this proposal they were cutting themselves apart, and for the first time, from the whole traditions of legislation, morals, and jurisprudence of civilised Europe. It was not an unimportant thing that for the first time, even in a small measure of this kind, they were turning their back upon what had been the theory of jurisprudence of this and every other civilised country. It seemed to him a matter of considerable doubt. There was a phrase as old as the Romans which said that a man "purged" his sin. A due punishment was weighed against his offence, and, after enduring it, he was free again, and a responsible citizen again. That conception had run through the whole of our morals and jurisprudence for 3,000 years, and it was at the bidding 238 of pseudo-scientists with broken-down reputations like Lombroso's that they were going to turn their backs on the whole of that tradition. When he heard appeals to new countries—America, and the Colonies, and heaven knew where—he feared that the Members who used them had lost their sense of things European and traditional. The Bill would probably become law because there was not a single Member in this House, and not even in the other House, who could by any conceivable set of circumstances be inconvenienced by its proposals. Would any man who regarded these things lightly ask himself how his conscience stood in the matter of right and wrong? They of the well-to-do classes knew that they stood in little danger from the laws, If they could apply the indeterminate sentence to the type of evil which well-to-do men commit, there would be no chance of its passing into law in this House, and still less in the other. It was almost certain to pass into law, and that was why he spoke with violence. When it was passed into law they would have entered for the first time into that path which all modern pseudo-sociology was trying to force them into, at the end of which they had the tyranny of bureaucrats. He begged to second.
In page 5, lice 6, to leave out Part II of the Bill."—(Mr. Atherley-Jones.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'whether' in page 5, line 7, stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)
said he made no apology to lawyers as a layman for taking part in a debate of this kind, because the Home Secretary, on the First Reading, said it was not for lawyers only but every layman was entitled to have a full voice in the new policy of this Bill. He gave the Second Reading of the Bill his support because of Part I. and he had hoped that Part II. would disappear or be modified. It would be remembered that this measure was introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule, read a second time at a Friday sitting, and then it went to the Standing Committee, where 239 he gathered from The Times newspaper that there was great difficulty in keeping a quorum, as there were many interruptions by counts. Therefore, he thought this House ought to discuss fully this grave and important change which it was proposed to make in the criminal procedure of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had distinguished between Part I. and Part II.; he said it—undoubtedly raises new questions upon which there may be serious and, perhaps, strong differences of opinion.He (Sir W. J. Collin) claimed to have had some experience in these matters, because he was on the board of visitors of a convict prison for five years, and became acquainted with the interior of such places. Under the Act of 1898 he opened the first certified inebriate reformatory of the London County Council, and he also visited the Aylesbury State Reformatory and the asylums of the London County Council for ten years or more. He, therefore, had had some opportunity of studying this question of recidivism in criminals, and he would give the House his experience as a humble student of criminology. He agreed with the mover of the Amendment that it was desirable to know whence had come the proposal which they were now discussing. What was the genesis and origin of this Part II. of this Prevention of Crimes Bill? It had been stated in previous debates that the origin of this Part II. was the result of the Report of a certain Committee which sat in 1894, but he would ask the House to compare what it recommended with the provisions of this measure. The recommendation of the Committee of 1894 contemplated the—Segregation of habituals for long periods of detention, during which they would not be treated with the severity of hard labour or penal servitude, but would be forced to work under less onerous conditions.They did not advocate penal servitude first, with detention afterwards, but less one ous can i ions from the first; in other words they regarded these criminals, not as incorrigibles, but as having some hope of redemption. They did not recommend eternal damnation or indefinite detention at the pleasure of the Home Secretary. The right hon. 240 Gentleman said, with regard to these criminals, that hope and not fear was the best antidote to criminal habits, and he was bound to say from what he had observed of those undergoing penal servitude, that their eager hope was to get release, but if they were to have the penal servitude to expiate the crime first and an additional indeterminate detention at the end of it, he thought it would engender not hope but despair, and the words of Coleridge would apply—Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,And hope without an object cannot live.He thought that this would be the result of this additional preventive detention which they too would have to forward to. He should have thought it was a case of—Abandon hope all ye who enter here.What was the origin of this plan? It would be found, not in the Reports of any independent Committee, but it emanated from prison officials, and would be found in the Report of the Prison Commission of 1901–1902. He knew what good work the Chairman of that Commission had done, but he thought he was undoing it by the Amendments he had pressed upon the Home Office. These were the results of the Reports of a bureaucratic Commission, and not of any independent inquiry. It was said to be easy to draw the line between the mad and the bad, but he ventured to submit that it was exceedingly difficult to do so. Those who took cognisance of these matters recognised a large class of borderland cases where it was difficult to say if the people were mad or bad. He recalled the case of a woman who had had numerous short sentences in Holloway and graduated thence to a certified reformatory and thence to the State Reformatory where, after repeated confinement in the punishment cell, diet punishment and straight waistcoat, she was reported to be insane and sent to an asylum where the medical officer reported—She has been extremely morose since her admission here, and puts one in mind of a wild animal at bay. Last night she attempted suicide in a very determined manner by tying some thread tightly round her throat. If asked to give a name to her mental condition, I should be inclined to describe it as moral 241 Insanity and suicidal impulse, and I think the prognosis is very unfavourable.These cases of moral insanity he thought our system failed entirely or very largely to weed out from our prisons. In all cases of reclamation or in any system of the allotment of rewards and punishments, they must postulate the existence of a will amenable to such influences as were brought to bear in the process of reclamation, amenable, that is, to the ordinary motives of conduct. Unless one had the co-operation of the individual one was really fishing in fishless waters in attempting to get any man or woman to improve. He was not surprised to hear the Home Secretary say that anything was better than the present system, because in the Committee upstairs the right hon. Gentleman said—The prison authorities now had no responsibility for the prisoner's moral condition or future welfare put upon them by law, and they were not bound to turn him out a better man than he went in.Under these circumstances one was not surprised that 50 per cent. returned again, when no effort was made to turn a man out better than when he went in. But a far more important matter was the aspect of the mental condition of these persons. The Home Secretary himself said, when this question was raised on Second Reading, that many of these persons were mentally deficient.
§ SIR W. J. COLLINS
said the right hon. Gentleman said they made a distinction between "habituals" and "professionals."
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he quite agreed. They made a distinction, but they distinguished, not as regarded their state of mind, but with regard to the class of crime committed. The class his hon. friend designated committed mostly the small offences, petty larceny, small depredation and were generally vagrants. He particularly said that that was not the class they were dealing with under this Bill.
§ SIR W. J. COLLINS
referred the right hon. Gentleman to the Report of the Prisons Commission, which stated 242 that with regard to Parkhurst Prison many persons had been found insane, after many months of imprisonment, against whom every class of crime was recorded. It was true, as the right hon. Gentleman had said on the Second Reading, that this question of mental deficiency was a great problem, and ought to be dealt with; but, continued the right hon. Gentleman, they could not deal with it under this Bill. They would have to await the Report of the Royal Commission on the Feeble-minded before they could deal with it. Since the Second Reading, that Commission had reported, and he found in the pages of that Report ample corroboration of what he had been saying. That Report teemed with evidence that showed that even under the pro sent system there were many cases besides those who were certified as insane who were mentally defective and not amenable to prison discipline. They say—At the house of detention a large proportion are feeble-minded or lunatic. Of these weak mindeds (according to Dr. Scott) a number are sent to prison. … Many who are only partially responsible are punished … this complicates the administration of justice.The same is true at Pentonville—Dr. Parker Wilson said that in that prison about 100 prisoners a year were so far mentally afflicted as to be quite unfit for prison discipline. … Besides these there are not leas than 20 per cent. of the prisoners who show signs of mental inefficiency.And again, as Dr. Smalley says—Though the less grave forms of crime predominate, there is a potentiality in the feebleminded class for crimes of a more serious character; many are eventually sent into penal servitude.He could quote page after page to the same effect, but he would only give one more quotation. The authors of the Report were perfectly familiar with the Home Office Rules, and the Report said—These regulations, good as they are, do not suffice. The conditions of committal and discharge will have to be altered if remedial reforms are to be made. …In regard to those committed to convict prisons the same evils obtain … here they are treated as this reiterated evidence shows, without hope and without purpose. … This is an evil of the very greatest magnitude.And they recommend that Courts of Justice should be empowered—To order the detention of a convicted mentally defective person in a suitable insti- 243 tution instead of pronouncing a sentence of imprisonment.That justified the statement that he had made, that very little discrimination took place to find out those who were bad and those who were mad. He deeply regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should have associated his honoured name with this portion of the Bill. It was not an advance in the direction of ameliorating prison conditions, but was tending to undo the great work done by John Howard and Sir Samuel Romilly, and he should go into the lobby against it.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said as he had been in his past life an habitual criminal he took some interest in this question, and he was bound to say he could not understand how any English House of Commons could for a moment entertain such a proposal to leave the liberty of these unfortunate people at the mercy of the Judge. The proposal that they should be detained for an unlimited period was a scandalous and retrograde one and absolutely inconsistent with the trend of modern legislation. He had often noticed the want of due appreciation among people generally as to the punishment it was for a human being to be deprived of his liberty. It was often regarded as a very slight matter in this House, whereas it was in fact a terrible punishment. No matter how humanely they might treat the prisoners, the very fact that they were not at liberty but were locked in cells under the orders of warders and were compelled to forfeit the sunlight and air, the freedom which the poorest tramp enjoyed, was a very great punishment indeed. He had known people in England and Ireland express surprise that the poor preferred to sleep out in the open rather than submit to the restraint of workhouses, and he did not wonder at that, because of all the privileges that man enjoyed in this world the dearest was that of liberty. He said, having endured it himself, that there were few punishments more severe than that of living under the direction of other men, unable to leave a room 8 feet by 4 feet for hours in the day without getting 244 permission to do so. It was a terrible thing to invite a Judge to deprive a human being of his liberty for an indefinite period, not only on account of the offence for which he was charged, but because of some police record of his past—a record which was often exceedingly false, because those unfortunate people, who were more or less outcasts of society, were in a most indefensible position with regard to the record of their past lives and very much at the mercy of the police. When one was imprisoned, his-mind naturally fixed itself upon the hope of release. The one redeeming consideration in the term of imprisonment was that there was a term to it and that the prisoner's mind was always working in the consideration that he might get out; and the most humane provision was the power given to the prisoner to earn a shortening of his sentence. It was now proposed, lightly and without grounds, to take away that one gleam of hope. It was proposed that there should be indefinite preventive detention after the sentence of penal servitude or imprisonment. Of course, he might hope sooner or later, before he died, that the Home Secretary would let him out if he behaved well; but there was no definite time at which he had the right to get out. That appeared to him to be a most extraordinary exacerbation and increase of the punishment of imprisonment. He would point out also the crimes for which a man or woman might be sentenced to this preventive detention. The expression "crime," the Bill said, meant in England and Ireland any felony, or offence of uttering counterfeit coin, or getting goods or money by false pretences, or offences of conspiracy to defraud, or any misdemeanour under Section 58 of the Larceny Act. That-extended, he presumed, to petty larceny and small offences; and for these small, petty offences an unfortunate wretch might be sentenced to this preventive system, during which time he was to be subjected to the same treatment as under penal servitude or ordinary imprisonment. There was nothing at any rate to ensure that he would not be. He was bound to say that the present treatment in the gaols of this country was, in his opinion, a great reproach to the 245 Government of the country. They were accustomed to find fault, and be extremely critical of Russia, France, and other foreign countries; but it was his deliberate conviction—and at one period of his life he had opportunities of obtaining information on the subject—that, on the who le, the prisoners of most European countries, including Russia, were far better treated than the prisoners of this country. He did not say that in most cases the prisons were so sanitary, because he would say that the prisons of England and Ireland were kept in an extremely sanitary condition and that the death-rate had been reduced to an exceedingly low point; but, so far as the mental sufferings of the inmates was concerned, he believed the Russian system was infinitely superior. There was more association and less of that awful system of shutting a man up for a year and not allowing him to speak to his fellow men—a system which, in his opinion, was largely responsible for those cases of semi-lunacy. It took a very strong mind to undergo imprisonment in this country for a prolonged period and remain sane. There were many men who had gone into prison perfectly sane and who had emerged from it semi-insane after some years of this suffering. This was, therefore, in his opinion, a retrograde clause which ought not to have been introduced into a Bill which had for its main object the reform of the prison system. He was a great believer in the possibility of so reforming the prison system—and he believed it was the duty of everybody to endeavour so to reform it—that it might not only be punitive but curative. The main object of prisons ought to be curative rather than punitive. He did not go so far as great thinkers such as Tolstoi who held it a great crime to imprison any man. He believed it was sometimes a duty to society to do so, but society owed prisoners a duty scientifically to adjust the system so that as far as possible it might be curative. The system at present was not curative; it was a maddening system. The first thing they ought to do was, not to give their invitation to Judges to pass indefinite sentences, but to humanise the whole system and turn the prisons into some- 246 thing more than places of restraint. He remembered once going into the great prison of New York. There were more than a thousand prisoners there. They were engaged in useful labour, associated together like rational human beings, though no doubt they were watched by armed guards and every precaution was taken to prevent any outbreak of violence. If anyone offended he was quite properly removed to the disciplinary prison. They were all leading rational and human lives, associated and working together during many hours of the day. He came away from that prison without the impression of horror which was left after an investigation of our solitary confinement system. It was a pity that in a Bill of this character such a retrograde clause should be inserted.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he had listened with great interest to the speeches that had been made. With regard to the hon. and learned Member for Durham, his speech was in all respects a travesty of what was proposed by the Bill. He had drawn a picture of a retired grocer as Chairman of the Quarter Sessions, without any check, ruthlessly sending one prisoner after another for indeterminate detention, but he omitted to tell the House how many restrictions there were upon that. The hon. Member for Salford did not leave him much to answer, because, as he said, he did not concern himself with details. He said only criminals were competent to deal with great subjects of criminal jurisprudence.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
was sorry if he had misrepresented the hon. Member, but he understood him to say that no Member of that House or of another place was in the least competent to deal with the question, seeing that not a single Member in either House had any chance of personal experience of what was provided. He thought that was the disqualification in the hon. Member's mind, but he passed from that. The last two speeches that they had heard had been distinguished for one thing above all others, and that was that they had denounced and criticised in the most ruthless terms the 247 present system of penal servitude and imprisonment. He agreed with them to a considerable extent, and it was because he agreed with his hon. friends that the Government had brought in this Bill. He maintained that the Bill was in no sense what the hon. Member for East Mayo described it to be. It was right enough to say that the one great element of hope in the mind of the prisoner was the thought of release. That was why the Government had brought in the Bill in the form in which it was, and also because they wished to see the man who was committed to this indeterminate detention have constantly in his mind the prospect of release as soon as he gave satisfactory assurance that he was ready to lead an honest life, and that he had in his own hand the key of his own release. He was afraid the hon. Member had not read the Bill all through, and hoped he had not altogether made up his mind. He maintained, in the first instance, that the policy of long, fixed sentences had absolutely broken down in this country. That was his first position. He would give a few typical cases of the kind of man they had in their mind, and with whom the system would deal. A., thirty-eight years of age, received his first conviction at twenty-five; had served sentences of two and six years penal servitude for forgery; now undergoing ten years for the same offence; time actually spent in prison, seven and a half years; a well-educated man, a professional forger. B., forty-five years of age, received his first conviction at twenty-nine; served three terms of penal servitude and eleven sentences for stealing; now undergoing three years penal servitude for stealing and receiving; eleven and a half years in prison. C., forty years of age, received first conviction at twenty-seven; served thirteen sentences for stealing and housebreaking; now serving five years for larceny; nine years actually in prison. D., thirty-one years of age; first conviction, eighteen; served nineteen sentences for stealing and shopbreaking; now serving three years penal servitude for stealing; seven and a half years in prison. These were no ordinary cases. They were not men who had fallen into crime in their youth, who were bred up among evil surroundings. Except the last man, they began 248 their criminal career when nearly thirty years old, and then took to it professionally. As they took to it, so, if they chose, they could leave it. How were they to deal with them? Were they going to continue the ridiculous system as it existed now, founded on retaliation, to which the hon. Member for Salford seemed wedded—the long fixed sentence of ten, fifteen or twenty years, the slow dragging time that crushed a man, body and soul, with no prospect of release, till the end of the fixed period with no hope in him but dull savage determination when he came out to have his revenge, so far as he could, on society? He agreed that they ought to fight against the notion that there was a class of stereotyped criminal who must exist whatever they did; and what they had to do was to try to stop crime at its source, as they had done in the Probation Act and in the Children Act, and as they proposed to do in part of this Bill. But as things were, they had a large number of men who were professional criminals, with no intention of being anything else unless proper coercion, or proper reformation, was applied. What was the present system? How could there be any true relation between the measure of a man's guilt and the measure of the suffering and the punishment which he endured under a fixed sentence? What justice was there in it? It was tragic in its effect on prisoners. If they came to short sentences—he was speaking now of this distinct class—what good did it do? These men laughed at it. The present system was cruel and dangerous—cruel because under these fixed sentences it gave no hope to a man, and it gave no incentive to the prison authorities to use the best means to reclaim them. It was dangerous because it was ineffective. Recidivism was increasing notwithstanding the spread of education. In 1903, out of 2,041 prisoners, 73.9 per cent. were previously convicted; in 1908, out of 2,376 prisoners, 82 per cent. were previously convicted. This class was increasing. In dealing with this class the present system was a failure. It did not reform them, and was cruel. It was important the House should bear in mind that this new institution—he would not call it a prison—was to be different and distinct from prisons as they now 249 existed. Technically it would be a prison in that prison rules and forcible detention would apply, but in its working it would be essentially different. It would be built in a different and selected type on a site specially suitable, on a design carefully and specially thought out, and its inmates were to be treated in a special manner. It was urged against the Bill that its worst part was that it proposed that a man should first go through a sentence of penal servitude. The reason for the preliminary sentence was that this new institution was to be different in its whole spirit from the ordinary prison. His design was that it should be a place for reformation as well as of detention. If a place of that sort was organised, it was necessary it should be kept from some of the characteristics of the ordinary prison life. If there was no preliminary sentence, and a man taken in some horrible or disgusting offence, some brutal robbery with violence were sent straight into it, it would ruin the whole conception of the place. He would go in red hot from crime, without any period for reflection, and, perhaps, with the determination to make things as unpleasant as possible. It was necessary, therefore, that these men should go first for a period of detention in prison. The man. would have to be punished for the crime of which he was convicted. It was necessary that a man should first undergo a period of penal servitude. That had been the opinion in the Colonies where the indeterminate system had been adopted. Three of the Australian Colonies had adopted the indeterminate sentences preceded by a period of imprisonment. It was necessary that the man should recognise clearly the distinction between the punitive period in a convict prison and detention in the reforming institution. This period of detention would last as long as the man persisted in his intention to lead a criminal life. If he gave reasonable undertaking that he meant to turn over a new life and lead a life of honest work, he would have a chance of carrying out his intention at the end of one, two, or three years; that he could settle for himself. And it was important to remember that the preliminary period of imprisonment would have an important bearing on the man's 250 future. During that period he might by his conduct earn remission, the Home Secretary could shorten the period and by good behaviour he would have an earlier transfer to the detention institution. That was to take the place of the present system—doing time, that hateful phrase, with reversion to crime ta the end of it. Under the Bill the man would know when he entered prison that he would afterwards go into detention and would be detained until he gave reasonable guarantee that he would turn over a new leaf.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he would deal with that point later. At the moment he was trying to link up the two forms of detention. In the convict prison the offender would recognise facts, he would understand that the State, having got hold of him, would not allow him to revert to his life of crime, he would recognise his position, and though it could not be said that all would do so, certainly a great number would see, either through awakening of conscience or working of reason, that it would be to their interest, that it would pay them better to give up crime and try to settle to honest ways of life. Therefore, he hoped he had made clear that the period of preliminary imprisonment and the period of the indeterminate detention must be taken together and worked together. It might be said: "How do you deal with the criminal who has been sentenced to a long term of penal servitude? It is a monstrous thing that a man who may have been sentenced to ten or fifteen years penal servitude should have to undergo an indeterminate term of detention after that." He agreed there might be a danger. He did not for a moment think that such a harsh sentence would be imposed. If such an extreme case happened it would be perfectly easy for the Home Secretary to adjust the matter if it required adjustment. But what would the Judges do? The Judges, he was sure, would administer the Act wisely and well. In the case of a man who had three records against him and was convicted of the fourth qualifying offence, the Judge would not proceed to sentence 251 him forthwith; the prisoner would be further charged with recidivism, and if he were found guilty of that by the jury the Judge would then pronounce Sentence. The Judge in imposing that sentence would obviously have regard to the whole case and to the prisoner's character and record. If he thought the man were more sinned against than sinning the Judge would make his penal servitude short, so that he might soon reach the indeterminate period, and so obtain an early release. Safeguards were provided against the harsh working of the Bill. In the first place the Public Prosecutor had to sanction any proceedings, and to that provision he attached great importance. He would tell the House why. That provision would avoid the danger to the individual which might result from a zealous policeman who was too eager to proceed against some inconvenient person in the locality, and who did not take enough trouble to find out whether he was a man who ought to be treated in the way proposed. The duty of finding out would be put on the Public Prosecutor who would have to satisfy himself carefully as to previous records and as to whether the person concerned was a proper subject for being dealt with in this way. His hon. friend the Member for West St. Pancras seemed to think that half-witted people, those on the road to insanity, would be put into these places without any restrictions. That would not be so at all. Precautions would be taken against prisoners who were mentally deficient being dealt with under this part of the Bill as habitual offenders.
§ SIR W. J. COLLINS
asked if the measure provided for any improvement in the present arrangements for ascertaining whether a prisoner was mentally deficient.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said it was impossible to provide in set terms for the particular medical examination that each individual should receive; but his hon. friend might take it from him—and he spoke, not only for himself, but for the Office which he represented and for the Prison Commissioners—that all engaged in the administration of the Act would in each case of the indictment 252 of a person for being an habitual offender carefully look into it from the point of view of the character of the man. The personality and the circumstances of the accused man would be considered. No mentally-deficient person would be placed in the category of the habitual offenders. Such cases would at once be brought to the notice of the proper officials, who would take care that they received the best treatment that could be given in the circumstances. Let the House also remember that in addition to the safeguard through the Public Prosecutor, the jury had to be satisfied that the man was an habitual offender. The Judge had to be satisfied, likewise, and in the background there was the Home Secretary who would exercise in this, as in other cases, the prerogative of mercy. The man had also an unqualided right of appeal. Then if Clauses 12 to 14 were carefully looked at, it would be seen that it was the duty of all concerned so to treat these people that they should be discharged as soon as they were capable of earning an honest livelihood; and that when they were discharged on licence they were put under supervision, personal or of some society, so that when they left prison they would get a lift which would induce them not to go back to criminal associations, as now happened. Subsection (2) of Clause 12 made it mandatory on the Secretary of State to discharge a prisoner at the expiration of ten years unless he had definite reason to believe, on information given by the police, that the prisoner would relapse into crime. He would remind the House that if they were going to undertake a work of this kind they should make it complete. He maintained on the authority of many criminologists in America and elsewhere, that the fact of there being an indeterminate period of detention was of great assistance in steadying down hardened offenders Some men if they knew there was a fixed date for release would persist in defiance of reformatory influences. They should know from the first that persistency in criminal intent can be of no avail. He wished to hasten the process of reformation. He did not suppose that this power of enforcing an indeterminate sentence would be used except in rare and exceptional 253 circumstances. He did not believe that these men would stay in prison for more than three or four years, hut, supposing that there were some prisoners who knew that they must go out at the end of ten years, and who pretended that if they were allowed to go free, that they would live an honest life and not go back to their old game of forgery or housebreaking, they might only do so in order to have six months or a year of the old life which they thought was much greater fun than being honest. Suppose that was known—and such things did get known in prison—there ought to be some power to detain these men in prison instead of allowing them to go free. The House would remember that when special cases arose these would be laid before Parliament. He had every reason to know from personal experience that these cases were taken notice of in Parliament. Having regard to the practical necessity of keeping these men in prison, this one small reservation was advisable. The House could be satisfied that in fact the Act would compel them to release these men as soon as they possibly could. It had been said that there was no guarantee for milder treatment under this new system. All he could say was that they bound themselves to what he had said in the House; and he called attention to the Amendments which he had put on the Paper to insert at the end of Clause 11 to the following effect: "Persons undergoing preventive detention shall be subjected to such disciplinary and reformative influences, and shall be employed on such work as may be best fitted to make them able and willing to earn an honest livelihood on discharge." They were going to establish a different system. His hon. friend the Member for West St. Pancras had quoted words which he had used upstairs in Committee, with regard to our present prison system and the responsibility upon prison warders and officials. Their obligation now was to keep the prisoners under detention, but there was no obligation upon them to reform them, and the average man shapes his conduct according to that duties and responsibilities put upon him. These officials were very often very kind friends to the prisoner; many a kindly act even of a warder 254 had been of great use to a prisoner, but there was no system in it at all. It was a system of rigid detention modified by the recent provision of progressive stages and remission for good conduct. They intended that the higher responsible staff in this new institution should be specially trained to new work, and their work would not only be judged by their success in keeping people under detention, but by their success in discharging them week by week, month by month, and year by year. Active work would be done by the special committee and others concerned for training and reforming the prisoners, so that at the earliest moment these men, trained to work, might be found capable of having their discharge and, under proper supervision, having every opportunity of becoming honest men. That was the great and vital distinction between the two institutions. Passing to the question of how they would know when to discharge these men, he said that the prison authorities often did know when a man ought to be discharged. He knew cases of men in regard to whom the prison governor could say: "That man will never commit another offence." He had heard that from them himself.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said it was so, for they were all liable to mistakes, but they had to exercise the best judgment they could. There we e many cases of doubt, and as regards these they had to take their chance.
§ MR. DILLON
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman really defended this proposition that the liberty of a man was left at the mercy of another man's opinion of his acts.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that, put in that way, of course the question did not admit of an affirmative answer, but he might point out that the Home Secretary on the advice of a single individual under the present system could release a man.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
urged that surely this was a merciful provision, this power of release, and the fact that they could release on licence enabled them to release earlier. If they could not release on licence they would not be able to release if they were in a state of doubt. Supposing one was in a state of doubt, was it not perfectly fair to say to a man who had been an outlaw against society: "If you will give me this guarantee, I will let you out on licence earlier than I would if I had not the power to release you on licence"? Was it not fair, and was it not a merciful way of acting? He should think it was better than fixed imprisonment, of which hon. Members were so much in favour. They were adopting a merciful system which would enable a man to turn over a new leaf, and setting up machinery to keep him straight in any path that he had chosen. He apologised to the House for occupying them so long They proposed to put the process of regeneration within the power of these men. They were to have the key of their own release. If they would consent to become honest men they would be let out on licence. Was that wrong, harsh, or cruel, or a reactionary step? If this was what an hon. Member called a reactionary step, he would take it, but it was not reactionary. It was, he said, a step in the right direction, and he believed that this method of dealing with criminals would be found the chief secret of prison reform. They did not attempt to deal with the whole of prison reform in this Bill; this was an instalment, and the experiment would be watched carefully by the whole of the world wherever interest was taken in these matters. It was because he believed that the Bill was merciful to criminals many of whom would reform if given an opportunity, that he asked this House to reject the Amendment.
§ MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)
said the House had listened with very great interest to the exhaustive speech of the right hon. Gentleman and he thought it had done so with a good deal of sympathy with what he said, but at that late hour he did not intend to give a detailed criticism of the measure or to examine 256 the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in support of it. What he rose to do was to suggest that in view of the lateness of the hour the debate might be now adjourned, because it was obviously not a proper time of the night to enter upon a detailed discussion of so important a measure. The right hon. Gentleman would remember that they only began discussion of the Bill at a late hour, 9.30, whereas it was hoped to have taken it at an earlier hour of the evening, and he thought it was not at all the fault of those Members on the Opposition side of the House that they were prevented from carrying out the arrangement which had been arrived at. He did not think it was necessary for him to labour the point any further, and he would simply move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Henry Forster.)
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he of course recognised the fact that the beginning of the debate was made later than was anticipated by the prolongation of discussion of the Scottish Education Bill, but he might point out that there was full discussion on the Second Reading, when all these matters were discussed at very considerable length, whilst he would respectfully suggest that not much more time was necessary to discuss the particular Amendment under consideration. But having regard to the feeling expressed by the hon. Member opposite, and to the fact that he himself had taken up a very considerable portion of time, he should not like to press the House to sit longer, and therefore accepted the Motion.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, in pursuance of the Order of the House of 31st July, adjourned the House without Question put.
§ Adjourned at thirteen minutes after Twelve o'clock.