§ Mr. TOUCHE
asked the Home Secretary whether he has refused to sanction a by-law prohibiting roller-skating on the footpaths in Stoke Newington; if so, what are the grounds of his refusal; and will he reconsider the question, having regard to the circumstances attending the death of Mary Ann Bay, an elderly woman, who was knocked down by two boys who were roller-skating at Clapham Cross on 5th January, and whose death, according to the medical evidence at the coroner's inquest, was due to exhaustion following shock from the fall?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
As I stated yesterday, in my reply to the Noble Lord the Member for Maidstone (Viscount Castlereagh), my attention has been drawn to the case of the old lady referred to. I made inquiries, and was informed that the correctness of her statement that she was knocked down by boys roller-skating on the pavement is open to great doubt. The police have failed to discover any corroborative evidence. The old lady, who was ninety-one years of age, and suffering from senile decay, is stated to have been in the habit of imagining things which never occurred. My reason for refusing to sanction the bylaw made by the borough council of Stoke Newington was that I have received no evidence that the dangers arising from roller-skating by boys and girls are so much greater than the ordinary dangers of traffic in the streets, particularly motor traffic, that the practice ought to be prohibited by by-law. Such a by-law would create a new offence punishable by the criminal law, and, if sanctioned in one metropolitan borough, punishable only when committed in one particular locality not divided from the rest of London by any noticeable boundary, it would lead to the imposition of fines, and possibly to the detention and imprisonment of children and young persons for indulging in a form of amusement which would be legal on one side of the road and illegal on the 880 other. I am very reluctant to increase the number of occasions when the children of the poorer classes may be brought into the police-court and rendered liable to imprisonment. If evidence can be produced that the practice is a source of danger beyond the ordinary risks of the street, I should be prepared to reconsider the question of allowing a by-law forbidding roller-skating to the danger of passengers, but any provision that is made must apply to the whole of the Metropolis, and not to one or two small areas.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman draw a distinction between the roadway and the pavement? Further, would it not be possible to make representations apportioning various public paths to be set apart for the indulgence of this part time?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
If representations are made to me from the great body of the local associations in the whole Metropolis that roller-skating constitutes such a danger that it requires to be suppressed by the law, I will then consider what special arrangements should be made. But in the present circumstances I am not prepared to allow one single borough council to create this new offence.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
If we had proceeded on the principle that no person may be killed by such a pastime, the Noble Lord would ride more rarely than he does in motor cars.