§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
When this Bill was first framed it was intended to give it the title of the Abatement of Imprisonment Bill. As, however, we proceeded with the various drafts of the measure it became evident that while this title would accurately describe the main purpose of the Bill, yet, inasmuch as it appeared necessary to make certain Amendments of the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, this title would not have been strictly appropriate. The opportunity has also been taken of adding certain slight but very convenient amendments of the criminal law. As the House knows, this is not the first attempt which has been made to abate the evil of imprisonment as it affects juvenile or first offenders. In 1879, when Lord Cross was Home Secretary, the Summary Jurisdiction Act was passed, under which it was provided that in the case of a first offence the statutory amount of imprisonment, or the statutory fine, could be reduced by the Court, and it was also provided that an offender guilty only of a trifling offence could be discharged upon giving 192 security for good behaviour. In 1887 the First Offenders Act was passed, which definitely aimed at the reformation of the first offender otherwise than by sending him to prison, and gave him the opportunity, if the Court thought fit, of finding surety for good behaviour, even when the offence was one which could be punished with imprisonment up to two years. In 1901 the Youthful Offenders Act was passed, which provided an alternative place of detention to prison. But much more important than this Act was the Act of 1907, known as the Probation of Offenders Act, under which anybody found guilty of an offence may, if the Court thinks fit, be discharged on entering into a recognisance, one of the conditions of the recognisance being that he is placed under the supervision of a probation officer. Considerable, and I am happy to say, increasing use is made of this Act at the present time, but we believe that very much more extended use would be made of it if in every case the Court could be reminded by the presence of an efficient probation officer that they have at their hands machinery for making use of the Act.
In the following year, 1908, two very important Acts were passed. The first was the Children Act, which provided that no child under fourteen shall, in any circumstances, be sent to prison. Offenders between the ages of fourteen and sixteen can only be sent to prison under circumstances which fortunately are very rare, and I think must be very rare—that is to say, that a young offender is 193 so unruly that he cannot be dealt with in any other way. It is provided also under this Act that provision should be made for erecting proper places of detention for children other than prison. The other Act in 1908 was the Prevention of Crime Act. So far as that Act is concerned the Bill which I am now introducing only deals with one part. The present Bill does not touch that part of the Prevention of Crime Act which relates to the indeterminate sentence. It touches only the part of the Act which provides for the establishment of Borstal institutions. It was felt in 1908, and experience of the working of the Act has justified the opinion then formed, that the youthful offender between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one whose character and associations and conduct show him to be on the brink of a criminal career ought to be dealt with otherwise than by the ordinary punishment of imprisonment. Such a person, it was thought, should be sent to an institution where he would be detained for such a length of time, and where his physical, mental, moral and industrial training would be such as would reasonably be expected to give him a chance of rehabilitation.
Such have been the Acts which this House has sanctioned, quite regardless of the party character of the Government or of the majority in the House of the day, with the intention of abating the evil of imprisonment. In all these Acts alternatives to imprisonment have been provided under the law. There is no doubt—I do not think the proposition will be questioned by anyone—that while short terms of imprisonment may be punitive, and may also be deterrent, they can hardly, under any circumstances, be reformative. Moreover, the deterrent effect of imprisonment is greatly impaired after the first experience of the interior of a prison. Beyond everything we ought to avoid, if we can, the familiarising of the young offender with prison walls. But if State control becomes unavoidable, we ought to immure him only under such conditions as will develop the healthy and industrious habits of life, and with only such a minimum of punishment as necessarily belongs to even a partial deprivation of liberty. In the present Bill we recognise all the substitutes for imprisonment now provided under the law. We deal with fine, with probation, with supervision, and with the Borstal institution, but we propose to amend, to amplify, and in certain respects to simplify the existing provisions of the 194 law in order to build up a duly graded system of punitive and reformative punishment which shall give some hope of the restitution of the offender to active, civil life.
I will take the provisions of the Bill in the order in which they appear in the Bill. The first subject dealt with is that of fines. Under Section 7 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879, to which I have already referred, power is given to the magistrate to allow time to pay fines, but, unfortunately, we have found by experience that advantage is not taken of this power to the extent which might have happened. The figures on the subject of fines are very remarkable. In the year ending 31st March, 1912, no less than close upon eighty thousand persons were committed to prison on non-payment of fines—that is to say, more than half of the total of the commitments to local prisons were on such non-payment of fines. Of the eighty thousand who were committed, close upon thirteen thousand paid their fines in whole or in part after commitment, and there is very little reason to doubt that if time for payment of the fines had been allowed in every case a very much larger number than thirteen thousand would have paid their fines rather than go to prison. The evidence on that point reported to me by the magistrates and others who have experience of the subject is undoubted.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I notice that the hon. Member for the City of London shakes his head and is somewhat incredulous upon this point, but I can assure him that the evidence from the different Courts—those Courts where time is habitually allowed, and those Courts where the routine goes through as a matter of course and commitment follows upon non-payment of the fine—from the evidence from the two classes of Courts, we find that a very much larger proportion of fines are paid when time is allowed than when it is not allowed.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understood the right hon. Gentleman said that eighty thousand were committed on non-payment of fines, and that only thirteen thousand paid their fines after they had been committed. I then shook my head to indicate that commitment induced them to pay the fines which they would not have paid if they had not been committed.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I think the hon. Baronet is not right in that view. I think that if time had been allowed they would have paid, and there is very strong evidence upon that point. We propose, therefore, in Clause 1 of the Bill that in every class, with certain defined exceptions, when the fine is under 40s., not less than seven days' time for payment shall be allowed, and in the case of a young offender the Court is empowered to place him under the supervision of a person appointed for the purpose, whose duty it will be to keep an eye upon him and to report to the Court whether he has done his best to pay the fine. Clause 2 enables the Court to extend the time for the payment of the fine. The intention of those two Clauses read together is to carry out the following system: A young offender, being fined, is allowed a week within which to pay. During that week he will be under the supervision of a properly appointed person who will call upon him, talk to him, see how he is spending his time and what he is doing, and notice if the offender has the means to pay the fine, but if the report of the supervision officer is not satisfactory, he will undoubtedly and inevitably go to prison. If at the end of a week the supervision officer reports that the offender, while unable to pay the fine, has still done his best, has tried to find work, and has endeavoured to get the necessary money, then the Court, under Clause 2, will extend the time for the payment of the fine, and from time to time, by extension of the time, full opportunity will be given to the offender to redeem his character and to pay his fine, so long as he shows a desire and intention to obey the law. Too often an offender in the first instance becomes the victim of circumstances later, because he is not able immediately, or within any short time, to find the money to pay the fine, but in such circumstances, though he may not be able to find the money, he will, under the report of the supervision officer, be successful in avoiding imprisonment. The next provision of the Bill to which I wish to refer is a very important one. It is that the fine shall include all costs. At the present time a person may be fined 10s. and costs. It often happens that the costs will amount to two or three times as much as the fine itself.
§ Mr. McKENNA
In certain circumstances the costs may be much more, but I 196 on the average it can be said that the costs imposed with the fine exceed the amount of the fine itself. I gave some figures yesterday in the House in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare) as the result of a Return for 1903, which is the latest we have, and from which it appeared that the total amount of costs largely exceeded the total amount of the fines imposed. We hope by these means that the system of fining shall no longer in any Court become a mere automatic procedure under which, upon nonpayment of a fine—that is to say, when the offender has not got the money in his pocket—he goes to prison. Each case will be considered, and if time is not allowed by the magistrate, a special report of the circumstances of the case in which time is not allowed will have to be given.
The next subject in the Bill is that of probation. We propose that powers shall be taken under this Bill to recognise societies for the supply of probation officers. Hon. Members will perceive in Subsection (4) of Clause 7, in a paragraph which is given in italics, we take power to recognise societies out of moneys provided by Parliament by payments towards their expenses. Very fine work is now being done by probation officers, but the amount of their remuneration is inadequate, and almost inevitably the supply of efficient officers is insufficient. We hope that by the recognition of societies of this kind we shall be in a position to provide every Court with a competent officer. The duties of the society will not be confined merely to the supply of probation officers. We shall look to such societies also for supervision officers, and, what is not less important, for officers who will undertake after-care, as we call it, for offenders let out on licence, either from Borstal institutions or from reformatories and industrial schools. We hope by means of societies of this kind to establish a philanthropic network over the whole country, and that in due course every young offender on being discharged from a reformatory or industrial school or a Borstal institution will have somebody whose business it will be to look after him, and, so far as possible, to see to the redemption of his character.
I have touched quite briefly upon the provisions which relate to the alternatives to imprisonment—fine, supervision, and probation. Supposing all these methods fail, what is to be done with a determined offender who repeatedly breaks the law, 197 or repeatedly breaks the recognisance under which he is discharged? If his character is not otherwise bad, or if his associations are not such as to lead to the suspicion that he is really engaged upon a criminal career, in such a case imprisonment is unavoidable. If, however, coupled with the convictions, we find that the offender is an associate of criminals, and that the general record of his life is bad, then we think it is a case which can only be dealt with by treatment and detention in a Borstal institution. I am dealing now with cases of offenders between sixteen and twenty-one years of age. The law relating to Borstal institutions, as I have already said, is contained in the Act of 1908. Under that Act the minimum sentence is one year, and the maximum is three years. The period of supervision at the expiration of a sentence is six months. An offender can only be committed to an institution on indictment by Quarter Sessions or a higher Court. We propose under this Bill several amplifications or variations of the Act of 1908. In the first place, we propose that an offender who is proved to be of bad character, or of associating with criminals, and who has been twice convicted of a summary offence, may be sent to a Borstal institution.
We propose, also, while retaining the maximum period of three years, that the minimum period shall be increased to two years, and also that the period of observation at the expiration of the sentence shall be extended from six months to a year. It would seem at first sight somewhat severe to send a culprit to a Borstal institution for a minimum period of two years when he has only been guilty a second time of an offence, before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, but he could not be so sent unless it was proved against him in addition before the Court that he was a bad character. Let the House consider what is to be done in the case of a juvenile criminal of that kind. It is agreed that short terms of imprisonment will never reform, and to send him again and again for two, three, or six months to prison is only going to spoil his life without giving him the smallest chance of reform. If we send him to Borstal are we sending him to prison at all? My answer to that is certainly not. I may remind the House at once that the Borstal institution is quite a modern one. We readily admit that. It is by no means yet fully developed. But our object is to provide in the Borstal institution a place 198 where the offender will not be imprisoned, but will only be deprived of his liberty to that degree which is necessary to ensure discipline; where he will live under strict discipline affecting alike his body, his mind, and his character, and where he will be taught an industry. It is not a prison. It is, or it should be, far more like a school under severe discipline with a strict industrial training. And if hon. Members object to the Borstal institution because they regard it as a prison, then I will agree that their objection is a good one, if it be justified, to the present management of the Borstal institution, but it is not an objection to the principle of this Bill.
For we do not intend the Borstal institutions to be anything like a prison, and as we develop in the management of the Borstal institutions, I can assure the House that they will be more and more removed from anything in the nature of a prison, and become more and more purely reformative and training institutions. But taking a young offender between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, you cannot effect any real change in his character or habits in a short period of time. I cannot be sure that my figures are strictly accurate as I have not been able to get a definite Return, but I am told that the number of sentences now of one year in the Borstal institution is about one-fifth of the whole. Most Courts recognise that a sentence of a year is insufficient in order to develop new habits. To give an opportunity for the development of new habits, the experience of the management of these institutions tells us that beyond question, in the great majority of cases, a year is insufficient time. I do not say that it is insufiicient in every case, but under the Act we have power to release or licence at any time. A sentence in a Borstal institution of two or three years does not necessarily mean that the offender will remain under detention for that time. He will be let out on licence as soon as ever the evidence of his conduct is such as to justify his release. Far and away the majority of the young offenders who have passed through Borstal have, so far as we can ascertain with our present experience, begun to do well in life. There is a certain number of failures, but we have been able to say that the number of failures is very small.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I could not give them with any certainty, because there is a number that we are not clear about, and we cannot say what has become of them. There is a considerable number who have gone to sea, and we could not give with any certainty a percentage as to the number who have come through satisfactorily.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of these inmates are reluctant to leave the institution?
§ Mr. McKENNA
Some of them show no great desire to leave, but, as a rule, like boys at school or like anybody else who is compelled to stay in a particular place, they very often wish to go.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Like Members of Parliament, including Cabinet Ministers. My hon. Friend must remember that we are dealing with a class of offender who has committed a breach of the law more than once, and who has associated with criminals, and we are using the time during which he is detained to teach him a trade so that he can go out into the world afterwards and earn an honest living. We are giving him, in the Borstal institution, an opportunity which he has never had all his life. If my hon. Friend thinks that the mere desire of such a youth to be at liberty is sufficient justification for placing him at liberty, knowing as we do that he is still of tender age and is quite incapable, in ordinary competition in the world, of doing even the most unskilled labour, then my hon. Friend is not treating an offender of that kind in the kindest way. I hope that I have made sufficiently clear what is the scheme in the Bill. To sum it up: so far as possible we avoid imprisonment of youthful offenders. The Clause relating to fines deals with offenders of all kinds, but in the rest of the Bill we are dealing only with the youthful offender. Our great object is to keep him out of prison. I, indeed, look forward to the day when no person under twenty-one will be found in any ordinary prison, but we have to go step by step, and I believe that in this Bill we are making a long step forward in this direction. We think that where reformation is possible, we should spare neither expense nor trouble in providing institutions where 200 a new character may be developed, and it is hoped that the combination of prevention and supervision in the Borstal institution will provide a system which will sufficiently deal with all classes of juvenile offenders.
The Bill contains other proposals, but of a minor character. We propose to abolish all short terms of imprisonment for less than five days In substitution for these short terms, we give the Court a new power of detaining the prisoner within the precincts of the Court until ten o'clock at night, and power also, if the local authorities provide proper police cells or bridewells, to order a prisoner to be detained in these cells or bridewells for a period of not more than four days under proper regulations. We deal also with the subject of hard labour. We propose that hereafter no sentence of imprisonment in default of paying a fine shall be given: under conditions of hard labour. On the other hand, we propose that hard labour, no matter what the statutory offence may be, may or may not, at the discretion of the Court, be given in every other case. There is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what hard labour means. The only distinction between hard labour and imprisonment in the third division is that during the first twenty-eight days of imprisonment the offender committed with hard labour is kept in his cell—that is to say, he does not do his work in association with the other prisoners. But so far as the quality or kind of work or the food or other conditions in which he lives are concerned, whether it be for the second or third division or in the case of hard labour prisoners, it is practically a mere question of the medical report on the prisoner. It would depend on the medical report as between the second and third divisions.
I think that the only distinction is, if my memory serves me, that in the second division there is given the option of cocoa which is not given in the third division. But the amount and quality of the food depends upon the doctor's report. It is the same as regards the kind of labour done. The distinction between the second and third division is a distinction of character. In the second division we hoped that the Courts would place all prisoners whose character otherwise was good, in order that they might not associate with bad characters. Equally, we hoped that the Courts would place in the third division prisoners whose characters were bad. 201 so that they might not contaminate prisoners in the second division. Under this Bill we hope to make sure that that division of the classes may be properly effected, and we take power, where the Courts have not themselves ordered the second division, and the prisoner has gone automatically into the third division, that on the recommendation of the visiting justices the prisoner may be transferred from the third to the second division or equally may be transferred from the second to the third division. We hope by that means to avoid the possibility of persons who perhaps are convicted of a first offence, or whose character otherwise is good, being thrown necessarily into the company of hardened offenders.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not quite follow it, but does the Bill enable a prisoner to be transferred direct from the third division to the second division?
§ Mr. McKENNA
On the recommendation of the visiting justices, before whom the case of the prisoner would be put, we take power to transfer him from the third to second division. I may tell the Noble Lord that in order to effect this purpose we have had to do something of the same kind administratively. We have not got the statutory authority to transfer from the third class to second class, but we have had to introduce administratively what is known as the "starred class," to which a prisoner in the third division can be transferred, by virtue of his character, to associate with prisoners of the second division. There are various other provisions of the Bill, dealing with the bail and remand and the salaries of clerks to justices, and with the holders of licences and persons under police supervision, all of which I may describe as useful amendments of the law, but of a purely technical character, not involving any question of principle, and about which I do not propose to detain the House now. But they are all matters of great importance to be discussed in Committee, and I hope that when this House is so good as to give a Second Reading to this Bill I may have the advantage of many hon. Members upstairs in framing this measure—many hon. Members who know the subject well, and who could give us the benefit of their experience and of their competent advice as to the form, extension, or amendment of many of the Clauses of this Bill. I hope, after this explanation of the main principles of the measure, that the House will give it a 202 Second Reading. I can assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that, so far as I am aware, the Bill contains nothing of what may be described as ordinary party controversy. On the contrary, many of these Clauses are mere amendments of Bills which have been passed to the credit of Governments representative of the side opposite as well as of Governments representative of this side, and it is in the hope that the House in all quarters will combine in giving us as effective an instrument as possible, in dealing with juvenile offenders, that I ask for the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
(who was indistinctly heard): I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is nothing of a party character in this Bill, which I think is a desirable one, and certainly should have a Second Reading. I desire to offer some criticisms on matters of detail contained in the Bill, and possibly some points of congratulation. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the naming of the Bill; it does not very much matter what the Bill is to be called; but certainly upstairs it will be called an Omnibus Bill, a Bill containing powers on very varying subjects and in very varying degrees. Personally, I wish there were more Bills of this kind containing small reforms, which are neglected while other questions of no use to anybody are dealt with in this House. The first Clause of the Bill is one which relates to fines, and I myself support it. The Clause provides that a man who is fined for a small offence shall have time allowed him in which to pay, instead of his being sent to prison on default. The Clause is restricted to fines within 40s., but I do not see why that restriction should be made, and it is also restricted to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction. I do not understand the meaning of those restrictions. This is a matter which I have brought before the House, not once, but, I suppose, twenty or thirty times during the years that I have been a Member. This House yearly creates fresh offences for which people may be fined.
There have been more fresh offences created in the last eight years than in any other eight years in even early days. Under the Children Bill new offences have been created and made the subject of fines. Every municipality, county councils, and so forth, nowadays must have their by-laws, which, again, create numberless offences for which fines are imposed, or, in default, imprisonment. A 203 man may be fined for not carrying his bicycle, or for not having a light on his cart, and there are a great many of that kind of cases. It was Lord Brampton who said that these by-laws were a test of the efficiency of a police force, when it was seen how many people were brought before the Sessions for small offences under by-laws. He said that if you found numerous charges before the Petty Sessions of persons riding without a bicycle light, or riding on the footpath, or offences of that character, it was perfectly certain that the police were not doing their duty in looking out for criminals, but were simply looking out for offenders under the by-laws. A policeman often brings an unfortunate offender from the other end of the county, perhaps seven miles or more, on the charge of his not having carried a light on his bicycle, and the man will be fined 1s. or 2s. and costs, while the policeman gets his day to give evidence in the matter. If the man cannot pay, he goes to gaol. I do not suppose that there is anything more distressing than to go over a prison and see the tremendous number of people in gaol simply because they have not been able to pay fines. I hope that this House in future will be less inclined to create those fresh offences.
So far as it goes, I think this Bill is a distinct gain, and, at all events in the smaller cases, the offenders will have time to pay the fine. I quite agree with the light hon. Gentleman that the power which already exists has not been sufficiently exercised throughout the land. The power is vested in the magistrates, but for some extraordinary reason it has not been exercised. This Bill will alter that, and will apply the power in a different way. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt in detail with the question of juvenile offenders, but he omitted to mention what appears to me to be a very important Clause of the Bill, namely. Clause 4. I do not know that I quite rightly understand it. The Clause reads:—Where a person has been summarily convicted of any offence and sentenced to pay a sum of money, the Court by which he is convicted may order him to be searched.If a man has any money upon him it is found before anything happens. I think that is a very useful provision, and I should very much like to know how it is that this great improvement has come to 204 be put forward. I think I may make the observation, in the absence of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who is so anxious for the liberty of the subject, that I do not very much mind whether a man is searched or not. I was wondering whether the Clause was really aimed at certain people at one time known as "passive resisters." Sub-section (2) of the Clause says:—Where a warrant of distress is issued by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, it shall authorise the person charged with the execution thereof to take any money as well as any goods of the person against whom the distress is levied, and any money so taken shall be treated as if it were the proceeds of sale of goods taken under the warrant, and the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts shall apply accordingly.I quite agree that if a man will not pay a fine of 4s., though he is in a position to do so, the Court certainly ought to have the power to get the money somehow or other, and the man should not be allowed to make a martyr of himself by going to gaol. There might be means to seize his banking account, which is found to be effective in the Law Courts. A man's banking account can be garnisheed in order to secure payment, and if it were seen that an offender refused to pay a fine, though he had the means and insisted upon going to gaol, people would have very little sympathy with him when they-knew that he had a banking account, and those people who had not banking accounts would have no sympathy with him at all, and would say that he ought to pay and that he ought not to be able to put himself in the position of a martyr by going to gaol. I would very much like to have known the history of this most excellent Clause, which I am strongly in favour of, and I should like to hear from the Home Secretary how it has come to be inserted. Then conies Clause 5, which deals with the allocation of fines and fees, and the question of costs. I honestly do not understand the Clause. Does it mean that only when a man is poor the fine is to be inclusive of the costs, and that if the man be rich he will have to pay the costs, or does it mean that whether the man be rich or poor the costs are to be included in the fine? Does it mean that in every case?
§ Mr. McKENNA
It would not mean the inclusion of the costs in every case—in trade-mark proceedings, for example; but 205 it would include the Court fees in the case of an ordinary fine in an ordinary case. It would really mean that in an ordinary summons against a poor man the Court fees would be the only costs, and they would be included in the fine.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
In the case of a poor man the fine of half a crown would include the costs, but would that apply also to a man perfectly well-to-do?
§ Mr. McKENNA
In a case where a man has made a defence to the action he would have to pay those costs, and he might have to pay the costs on the other side, but the fine would include only the police costs—the Court fees.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
Clause 5 says:—A Court of Summary Jurisdiction in fixing the amount of any fine to be imposed on an offender shall take into consideration, amongst other things, the means of the offender, so far as they appear or are known to the Court, and where a fine is imposed, the payment of the Court fees, and any police fees payable in the case up to and including conviction, shall not be imposed in addition to the fine.I am very much obliged that the right hon. Gentleman has made it quite clear that in all cases the fine is an inclusive sum, and it is a change with which I heartily agree. It is an excellent change in the law, so far as it goes. The person knows how much he will have to pay, and the magistrate knows exactly the amount he can call upon the offender to pay. We come to the question of probation. I do not know that that is any very great change from the existing law as regards probation officers. I do not see any objection to power being given to subsidise voluntary societies if the right hon. Gentleman says that these officers cannot be got without that. The next question to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and one which I am afraid I must differ from him, is that of the Borstal system. Taken as a whole, I think we must not put too high a weight upon it, and I think the right hon. Gentleman put the matter too higldy. He says that Borstal is not a prison. I really think it is playing with words to say that it is not. I have been over it, and, while I believe it is an excellent 206 institution, I regarded it as a prison, and a very good form of prison. You ought not to send anybody there unless you are satisfied that they are young criminals, or have been convicted more than once, and really have begun a criminal career. When you send them there you send them to a prison under any definition that I know. Their liberty is interfered with very materially, and the intention is that their stay there should be punitive and reformatory. I agree that it is at present exceedingly well managed by those who take an interest in the boys, and that it is far better than the old reformatory schools which got a very bad name. There is not, however, the slightest doubt that it restrains liberty, and it is unquestionably a serious sentence on a boy to deprive him of his liberty for two years. The hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) asked what I thought was a very pertinent question by inquiring whether we had got any statistics relating to the Borstal boys. I do not think the statistics are so very satisfactory. I have found, personally, that boys have come back again after having served their time.
§ Sir W. BYLES
What I desired to elicit was, if possible, how the number or percentages of redeemed persons compared at Borstal with those in ordinary prisons, and what proportion of recidivists there are in Borstal prisons compared with those in ordinary prisons.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
They are very much better, I think, than ordinary prisons, but certainly a certain number come back. I think it is rather a mistake to send a boy a second time to Borstal. We are not here, however, to discuss the general system of Borstal treatment. I must enter a caveat against what the right hon. Gentleman said when he remarked that he hopes the time will come when nobody under twenty-one will be in gaol at all. I think that is a great mistake. Take the case of two boys of eighteen and nineteen of respectable family who have indulged in a career of crime for some months, and are finally caught. Are those boys to go without any punishment at all? Probably people will say not.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
If you send the boys in that case to which I refer to Borstal for two years you are doing so at the expense of the State, and it is certainly a mere 207 waste of money and a great hardship on the parents, who do not wish to have the boys taken away from them. Surely in a case of that kind of boys of eighteen and nineteen an ordinary short term of imprisonment is a necessary evil. I quite agree with the Home Secretary that we should first think of the reformation of the prisoner, but we have also got to remember punishment of the offender and the deterrent to others as well as the reclamation of the prisoner. It is too one-sided to say that no person under twenty-one should ever be sent to an ordinary prison but ought to be sent to a Borstal prison. This Bill does not deal very deeply with the Borstal system. It makes two alterations, one of which I am thoroughly at one with. Under the present system you cannot send a boy to Borstal for less than one year. Some do send boys for that time. I think it is plain not only to the people at Borstal, but to the people elsewhere, that you cannot reform a boy in one year, and therefore you ought to send him for the maximum time of two years. This Bill proposes that the term shall be not less than two years and may be three. That, no doubt, does seem a long time, but on the whole I think it will be an improvement. But Borstal ought not to be used lightly, and there should only be sent there cases fit for Borstal treatment. That applies to young men starting a criminal career, and two years seems to be a reasonable maximum.
The second change which the Home Secretary makes—and I am not quite so sure about liking it until I hear more about it—is the extension of the time of what is euphemistically called the "supervision of the Prison Commissioners," which sounds like the old police supervision, and which is attached to a boy discharged from Borstal. The maximum time used to be six months, and now it is extended to one year. I should like a stronger case made out for this change before I vote for it. Personally, I have a very strong feeling that once a person is out of whatever punishment place he has been at that he ought to have a free hand, and that probation or supervision, if it is compulsory, may interfere with him. For instance, in the workshop attention might be called to the visitor, and people would want to know about it, and the fact that the boy had been in Borstal might be rubbed in too much. I should like a much stronger case made out for an alteration of that kind. 208 Clause 13 provides that a Court of Summary Jurisdiction shall not have power to sentence anybody to a term of imprisonment of less than five days. I do not understand what the objection is to this power, but I see no harm in the provision, although I would ask why it is confined, if it is a good thing, to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, and why it is not extended to Quarter Sessions and Courts of Assize? The Clause also provides that a man may be sentenced to four days, provided that there is a cell or bridewell or other suitable place in which he may be kept:—The Court may, if any police cells, bridewells, or other suitable places provided…are available for the purpose, order the person to be detained therein for such period not exceeding four days.5.0 P.M.
I do not see what the object of that is. If there is no suitable place, and if a sentence of four days is passed, apparently the man is to go free. I hope somebody will explain what the object of this Clause is. Has it anything to do with the difficulty where a man was sentenced under the Children Act to a whipping, and where there is no power to detain at present? There are certain Clauses altering the Malicious Damage to Property Act. They have not been explained or why the trouble has arisen or why the alteration is needed. Has it anything to do with window breaking under £5 in value? There is, then, a further very important alteration to which the Home Secretary did not refer, and which is contained in Clause 15, Sub-section (2). At the present time if a man who has been charged with an indictable offence comes up before the magistrates, they have no power to deal with him, and they have to send him to Quarter Sessions. It is proposed to alter that state of affairs. I do not quite know personally why this is done, though I have no objection to it. It is a considerable alteration to which the Home Secretary did not refer. It gives extra power to the magistrates. The Home Secretary did deal with Clause 16, which provides that where people are imprisoned in default of a fine they must be imprisoned without hard labour. I was under a complete misapprehension as to this. I thought if a person was sent to prison wth hard labour that not only was he worked slightly more, but that he received more food than if without hard labour. The right hon. Gentleman tells me that the scale of diet is 209 the same in both cases, and probably it has been altered. I agree that the proposal would be an advantage. Then there is a very important Clause, which the Home Secretary did not mention, and which in its present form may land the Home Office in some difficulty. It is proposed that where a man is in prison, whether sentenced or not, and it is found that he is suffering from ill-health and an operation is necessary, the Secretary of State may order the prisoner to be taken to a hospital, or other suitable place, for the purpose of treatment or for an operation. I think I know what was intended to be met by this provision. It was probably the case of a prisoner who absconded when on bail under these circumstances. But this Clause goes much further. As it stands, if the prison doctor says that a prisoner is suffering from a complaint which requires a surgical operation to be performed, the Secretary of State may make an order that the prisoner shall be operated upon. That certainly is not what is intended, and I hope that some such words as "with the consent of the prisoner" will be inserted.
Another point to be considered is, Will the time that a man is in hospital count as part of his sentence? Suppose a man is sentenced to three months' hard labour and is in the hospital for six weeks, will those six weeks count as part of his term of imprisonment? I agree that it ought to do, but, having consulted other people, I have obtained divergent views as to the effect of the Section. As it stands, I doubt whether the time so spent would count as part of his term of imprisonment. The words are "deemed to be in legal custody," which is a much wider term than "gaol." If a man escapes from a constable in a railway train he escapes from "legal custody," not from "gaol." The Home Secretary has not told us anything on that point, and I do not know why it is necessary that this power should be given. I am quite prepared to give such a power, but I should like the Clause to be made clearer on the points which I have indicated. I expect that the case which gave rise to the provision was that of a man who had been remanded for trial, the jury disagreed, and the case went over to the next Sessions without bail. I think that in that case the man, being seriously ill, was taken to the hospital, and when he left the hospital he did not come back to gaol.
210 Clause 18 puts a tremendous stop on the powers of magistrates—a provision which I am very glad to see. A habit has become prevalent amongst magistrates—and stipendiaries have been greater offenders than unpaid magistrates—of giving consecutive sentences. That has been held to be legal, therefore I presume that it is, but I am perfectly certain that it was never intended. If a prisoner is charged with three offences he is sometimes sentenced to six months' hard labour upon each. The result is that he is sentenced to eighteen months. I do not think that such a sentence ought to be within the power of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Therefore that Clause will have my whole-hearted support. Clause 22 is not easy to understand, but as a result of considerable cross reference I understand what it means. At the present time a policeman in charge of a police station has power to grant bail if he cannot bring a man before a magistrate within twenty-four hours. I understand this Clause to provide that he shall have that power in any case. I hope that before the Bill becomes law some simpler form of drafting will be found. The provision of Clause 24 is, I believe, a distinct improvement, but I should like to know why it is proposed. Clause 25 adds to the power of the Secretary of State, and I am not quite so sure about the advisability of that. It is, however, a matter of detail, and a point for Committee, therefore I will not trouble the House in regard to it.
Clause 27 (3) deals with bigamy cases, and its effect ought to be made perfectly clear. Does it mean that the real wife is to be a compellable witness against her husband, or does it simply mean that she is to be competent to give evidence? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear what is intended. Clause 30 has reference to the clerks to justices. At present they are appointed by the local authority, and this Clause makes it essential that the Secretary of State shall give his consent. I am not prepared at present to state my view upon that; my mind is quite open in regard to the matter, and I should like to hear why it is thought necessary that the Secretary of State should interfere in the appointment of clerks to magistrates in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and elsewhere. Speaking as a general rule, I think that considerable care should be exercised before such powers are given to the central Government. There is a slight reference in the 211 Bill to people committed in respect of the non-payment of rates. I shall probably have something to say on that question before the Bill leaves the House. Possibly the Home Secretary will indicate that some change may be introduced in the general collection of rates-collection in advance or some other change—so as to do away with the very unpleasant necessity which exists at present of imprisoning people for the nonpayment of rates. As I shall not be on the Committee upstairs, and shall only see the Bill when it comes back to the House, I am sure that the Home Secretary will excuse my having called attention to these various matters, which are of great importance, especially to the poorer classes, and to those who administer justice in any way. I hope the House will give careful consideration to the Bill, which I certainly think ought to have a Second Reading. There is much that is good in the Bill, but there are other points which require very careful scrutiny before being passed into law.
§ Sir W. BYLES
For my part, I welcome this Bill. I am very glad that the Home Office have at last found time to pay attention to the question of the prison population—or, perhaps I ought to say, to bring this matter before the House of Commons, because I have no doubt it has been under their attention long enough. Unfortunately the House of Commons is so difficult an engine to move that we really cannot get at great matters in which many of us take an interest. It is several years since we had an opportunity of discussing prison matters in this House. I am glad that the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Rawlinson) has given his blessing to the Bill, and I sincerely hope that we shall have the great advantage of his services upon the Grand Committee. This Bill aims at two reforms which I have long desired. The first is to keep people out of prison, and the second is to treat them intelligently if they get there. The House of Commons and the general public know and care far too little about the prison population. The gate is shut upon these poor creatures, the door is locked, and we forget all about them. We think, "Oh, they belong to the criminal classes; they do not concern us; there are quite enough honest people in the world to absorb all the interest and energy that we are able to exercise; what is the use of going on about them?" 212 It is, nevertheless, discreditable to England that we should treat these people on the principles on which our present system is based. I have been very glad to notice in the observations of the right hon. Gentleman a totally different spirit from that which I maintain is the foundation spirit of our prison system. Our prison system is based upon the idea of punishment, revenge, of "paying out" those who have-offended us. Society says to them, "We-will get even with you." The spirit of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman was very different. I believe, and always have believed, that our methods of treating criminals should aim, not at punishment, not at making them pay back their debts, so to speak, but at reform, and reformation, and once more making men of them. We should say of such, "Here is a wheel, a rivet, a rod in the social machine which has got broken or damaged: let us send it to the repairers "—all our prisons ought to be repairing shops. Such a course would be far better, not only for the criminal classes, but for the honest classes, for in this way you would be sending men and women back into the world prepared for an honest life.
I do not forget that we have reformatory schools for young people. We have heard a good deal this afternoon about them. These are a step in the right direction. I am very glad to know that Borstal methods are to be extended and improved by the Bill which we are now considering. I cannot forget, when I think of this question of prison, that poverty and destitution are the dominant causes of crime. It is the difficulty that a man has in getting an honest living that, in nine cases out of ten, turns him into a criminal—probably in a larger proportion than that. Nearly all the offences which we punish arise out of the violation of property rights. If men were already well off, if they had a good pasture to themselves, they would not want to feed in the pastures of other people. I rejoice in this Bill, because its first object is to keep people out of prison. I look upon prison as a bad, not as a good place; not as a desirable place at all. If we can prevent people getting there, if we can prevent them getting the brand, the cachet or reproach of prison upon them, so much to the good; for once got they can never really recover from it. The second object of the Bill is to amend the law in respect to the treatment and punishment of young offenders. There is a very vigorous prison 213 reformer on a bench of magistrates in the county of Surrey, a gentleman, no doubt, well known to the Home Secretary. He is a great friend of juvenile prisoners and criminals, and is a visiting justice at one of the prisons. He was kind enough to show me through one of them. He told me he had paid the fines of many of these young people so that they might get out—had done so, in fact, for a good many years. I went into the cells of some of these young people.
The first man I came to was an Army man. He had received four months for stealing a bicycle. He was perfectly honest and straightforward about the matter. He wanted to get out of the Army and get back home, where there were seven more of the family. His whole object in stealing the bicycle was to get his discharge from the Army and get back home. I took notice of ever so many more cases of this description. I went from cell to cell and found there men who were not really criminals, and who did not belong to that class, but whom our prison system is turning into criminals. One was in prison for selling newspapers at Victoria Station. Another, a lad of nineteen, was in for seven days for having got drunk—the first time in his life. These cases, I say, show the very way that we add to the criminal population. I mention these things to show how glad I am that one of the main objects of the Bill is to prevent people getting into prison, and, when they do unfortunately get there, to treat them with intelligence. I do not deny that a good many very useful criticisms have been offered by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. I will not go into them, because I do not know about them, but I say that Borstal methods of treatment which aim at reformation and reclamation, rather than at punishing, revenge, and vindictive treatment, should receive a welcome from this House.
I cannot help believing that our prison population might be doing some very useful work if the matter were properly revised and superintended. There are examples in America and Canada which I will not go into now. There are examples showing how useful colonies of the prison population have been founded. What should be aimed at is to let all these men that we have taken away and deprived of liberty so adjust and rearrange their lives that they will live a healthy and industrial life, cither in the workshop or on the farm. They might earn their own living. Our 214 prison ought not to be an expense to those who are not in prison. It they are, those inside ought to be able at least to earn their own living—and, for that matter, build their own prisons. In that case our Home Office Vote for prisons would be very much smaller. I do feel very strongly that we ought to move in regard to this-population, every individual of which, remember, is a reproach to the rest of us It is these men who are the social pariahs, and who simply indicate that the social machine has broken down. If it were perfect we would not have any criminals. Therefore we are responsible for them, and we ought to do to them what is good for them in restoring them to an honest life, if possible. Such a course would, too, be doing good for ourselves. Society would be freeing itself from those burdens which are now laid upon it. The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to give me some estimates and percentage" of the success of the Borstal system. He tells me that over 40 per cent. of cases are believed to be satisfactory, and 25 per cent. believed to be unsatisfactory. That does not exhaust the whole. The percentages amongst ordinary prisoners and criminals convicted compares very badly with this. I believe as many as three out of four of the prisoners sent to prison come back again. That to my mind is sufficient of itself a condemnation, a most palpable, obvious, and complete condemnation of our present prison system.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I should like to offer a hearty welcome to this Bill. In my opinion much can be done under its provisions to avoid the degradation and humiliation, especially of our juvenile delinquents, that are inherent in our present policy of imprisonment. I should like, however, in consequence of the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles), to say that the unpaid magistracy, although undoubtedly it does-err at times in its methods of administering justice, errs rather owing to ignorance and lack of experience than from harshness or any vindictive spirit. The right hon. Gentleman described the latter part of this Bill as containing some unimportant provisions. I should like to refer to one of those so-called unimportant provisions as being of greater importance than possibly the right hon. Gentleman realises. Clause 30 provides for the appointment and remuneration of justices' clerks being subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. I do not agree with my hon. and 215 learned Friend below me that this Departmental approval should be dispensed with. My experience is that many of these appointments of justices' clerks are made as the result of very considerable local pressure, very often in a spirit of nepotism, and result in consequences which even the magistrates themselves subsequently have reason to regret. These gentlemen are appointed very often because they are thriving local solicitors with a large country practice. They hold other public offices—of which I do not complain—besides that of clerk to the justices. But there is a limit to the useful public work of these officials, and I should like to see a condition in the right hon. Gentleman's approval of such an appointment, that the private practice of such persons shall not interfere with their public duties, and shall Dot be increased as a result of their exercise of such duties.
It is quite possible that a gentleman of that sort may be a clerk to a district council and to a board of guardians, and as clerk to a district council may be giving advice to gentlemen not experienced in the law, and that he is constantly advising litigation where there is no real reason for it, throwing a heavy burden upon the ratepayers in consequence. I do not say these, are common cases, but they do exist, and I venture to hope that the Secretary of State will exercise a real discretion in approving of these appointments and prevent unsuitable persons, with a view to their material advantage, becoming appointed to such posts. Considerable stress has been laid upon the provisions of Clause 1 of this Bill. As I understand Clause 1, it does not create any substantial alteration in the existing practice except to lay down that it shall be a rule in future that time shall be allowed for the payment of fines in lieu of imprisonment, and that imprisonment shall be the exception rather than the rule, and shall only be imposed as a penalty when there is some special reason inducing the magistrates to impose such penalty. It leaves it open as to what shall be considered a special reason, and I, for my part, would like to have seen introduced in the Bill some explanation of what will be deemed special reasons in such cases.
As regards Clause 2 there is one difficulty that I foresee in carrying out this provision. That is the Clause which provides an allowance of further time for the payment of a sum adjudged to be paid on 216 conviction or order of the Court of Summary Jurisdiction if application is made by or on behalf of the offender for such further time. In purely rural districts, as a rule, the Court only meets once a month, and the time allowed for the payment of a fine does not exceed seven days or fourteen days. Surely some provision ought to be made to prevent the convicted person suffering in consequence of the Court not meeting within a period during which time is allowed for the payment of the fine. Then I do not understand, in spite of the explanation made in reply to the criticisms of my hon. and learned Friend, the exact meaning of Clause 5. I entirely sympathise with the intention to exclude, if this Clause is intended to exclude, the Court fees and the police fees as an addition to the fine imposed by the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, but am I to understand that in such case the fine will be inclusive, as my hon. Friend suggested, or exclusive, of the fees.
§ Mr. BATHURST
Then I venture to suggest it would be a great improvement if it were made exclusive, because what commonly happens at the present time is that a person may be deemed to have committed an offence which merits a very small fine indeed, of sixpence or a shilling, but when added to the costs, over which the Bench has no control, the actual sum which the accused person is compelled to pay may amount to 10s. 6d., or more. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of this Clause exactly the same thing will happen in future, because the fine, instead of being 6d., will be 10s. 6d., as it will be held to include the 10s. costs. If that is so, it will not be any great improvement on the existing system, which causes an immense amount of embarrassment and heart-searching to benches of magistrates, who feel it a great injustice that a person whose delinquency deserves the imposition of a very small fine indeed, has to pay, in addition, costs amounting to 10s., or upwards, because such is the cost involved in county administration. I venture to hope that in Committee it may be found possible to make it an exclusive payment, and not an inclusive payment, as the Bill now provides. I welcome the provision in Clause 7 for the recognition of societies to provide probation officers, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this provision relating to probation societies, if I 217 may call them so, will extend to cases which are to be dealt with by the Inebriates Bill now before the House. As the right hon. Gentleman may remember, under the Inebriates Bill, for which I think his Department is responsible, there is a similar period of probation provided for—probation either before admission to inebriate reformatories or in some cases after the cessation of such sentences—and surely, if it is intended to include such cases, some provision ought to be added to this Bill to enable that to be done. Otherwise I am inclined to think there would be a lacuna in the case of such confirmed inebriates as are intended to be dealt with by that Bill.
As regards the Borstal system, it seems to me that it is early yet to say whether that system is a success or not. It does undoulatedly present many advantages over the reformatory system while retaining most of the benefits of that system. The greatest of them to ray mind is the very useful industrial instruction which this institution provides, and the possibility of persons who serve their time in such an institution leaving without being regarded for the rest of their lives as having a criminal taint upon them. In Clause 15, Sub-section (3), provision is made that where a child is charged with a felony, the Court may inflict a fine not exceeding 40s. as punishment. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, is there any definition of a child in the Bill, and whether he can say what is the age that is covered by that expression?
§ Mr. BATHURST
I cannot quite understand how it is going to be possible to carry out the otherwise desirable provision for the detention upon police court premises for four days or less of those persons whose sentences are less than five days' imprisonment. In most country police courts there is certainly no suitable provision for such detention. If the right hon. Gentleman suggests that the present cells in such places are an improvement upon the county prison, I regret to tell him that in many cases prisoners would prefer to go to the county prison rather than to be incarcerated within the very narrow confines of the prison cells in 218 county police courts; but if it is intended that the offender should remain in the guard-room occupied by the police, then I am inclined to think that the police will have some objection to this provision, and that the result may be—and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to realise this—that benches of magistrates finding themselves in a difficulty, and realising that there are not suitable places provided in the locality, may increase the sentence to five days so as to render imprisonment possible, whereas if such premises were available they might inflict a much less serious sentence. That is a matter which I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to consider and amend on the Committee stage. I do not want to take up more of the time of the House, but I should like to say that for my part, and I am sure the bulk of the House would agree with me, I warmly welcome that provision in Clause 6, Which now once and for all abolishes imprisonment with hard labour-in the case of imprisonment for debt. Such a provision is already overdue, and I am sure there must be many outside this House that will be very glad at last to-find that the House of Commons has realised how very inconsistent with our boasted ideas of civilisation, is the present system under which people, owing to the impossibility of paying fines, are imprisoned with hard labour.
I for my part welcome this Bill, but I should like to say that when we come to the Committee stage certain details, in my opinion, may be found unworkable in practice, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to consider such modifications as would render them workable, not merely in the towns and where there is full equipment provided, as there is very often under a stipendiary magistrate, but to render them equally workable in those country districts where unpaid magistrates find it exceedingly difficult at the present time to carry out what they believe to be their duties without, on the one hand, doing something in the nature of injustice in the case of trifling offences, or, on the other hand, adding very seriously to the cost of administration which may eventually affect their neighbours as county ratepayers.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
The House has undoubtedly been very much interested in the informing and very authoritative speeches which we have had from the two hon. Members opposite upon the exceedingly important provisions of this Bill. 219 Both those hon. Members appear to me to have rather skimmed over what I personally regard as far and away the most important thing in this Bill. I am afraid that even the Home Secretary has not realised how important a Bill this is. Somehow or other the Home Office has been responsible for a whole series of measures dealing with juvenile delinquencies for many years, but the Home Office, while having been successfully egged on by various societies and persons outside, has never realised its duty in regard to these measures, and if this measure is going to be administered with the laxity and neglect which has up to the present time been connected with similar measures, then we are largely wasting our time to-day, I hope this Bill is not going to be merely something to be put between the covers of a Statute Book, but that it will be something that is going to be put into real active work and do something towards bringing about a much over-delayed reform in dealing with the juveniles of this country.
I am aware that the probationary system of 1907 and the Children Act of 1908 have already in some districts where there happened to be enlightened magistrates, worked a great reform; but I am bound to say—and I do not believe I am exaggerating in my language, knowing what we do know about juvenile crime—that at the present time every year a gross injustice and a scandalous outrage is perpetrated in the Courts of this land upon children without any necessity, or excuse, or justification. Perhaps this was excusable years ago when public opinion generally thought that the only way to deal with the criminal was the harsh way by imprisonment and such things as the wearing of irons, which was very common until recent times. In 1896 a Departmental Committee reported on this matter, and laid down an astonishing fact, and I think it is time that the House of Commons should realise its truth and see that the truth is acted upon in the Courts of this land. The fact laid down by that Departmental Committee was that in the case of juvenile offenders—some people put it down at 98 per cent., but I think 90 per cent. is a conservative estimate—90 per cent. of the children are absolutely free from what you can strictly call any criminal tendency whatsoever. The little crime, if it can be called a crime, for which some of these children are brought up to the Courts, is often such a thing as would be committed 220 by children more fortunately placed without anything happening to them. Take, for instance, the small boy who goes rummaging about the streets or about a market place, and lays hold of an apple or a small bit of something of that kind, or picks up a piece of coal that has fallen off a cart in the road. From a psychological point of view that boy is doing nothing worse than the public school boy who takes part in the robbing of an orchard. The only difference is that in the latter case the wealthy parents are often able to square it up, but in the other case there is not a wealthy parent to square it up, and the little offender is dragged into Court, and is often dealt with in a very summary way.
It is universally accepted all over Europe, the United States, and in our own Colonies, that it is only from 2 to 5 per cent. of juvenile offenders who really have anything in the nature of a criminal tendency when they are brought before the Court. In the Children Act of 1908 this was recognised, and was provided for, and the magistrates of this country have been given, so far as that Act is concerned, ample and sufficient power to deal with this 90 per cent. of the children as they ought to be dealt with—that is, they should not be sent to any kind of penal institution whatever, or whatever name you may call it, and they should be left with their parents; or if their parents are not suitable, with some other relative, or if no relative can be found they should be boarded out under supervision with some other individual. That power has been given since 1908; but in spite of that fact, and in spite of its universal recognition by public opinion generally, thousands of children, hundreds of them first offenders, are being sent straight away to industrial and reformatory schools in this country right down to last year. In view of the knowledge that there is at the present time, I say that that is an outrage upon the children of this country. I know very well what has happened in regard to industrial schools and reformatories during the past few years. I know that not only in regard to discipline, but in other respects they have been very much improved. So far as the schoolmasters and the managers of those institutions are concerned, many of them are most admirable men. I know that a good deal that looks very delightful in the shape of what is now known as manual instruction and industrial training goes on in those place, 221 but I hope this House, at any rate, will not be deluded by these external trimmings, which really do not mean much.
You have really only altered the degree of the punishment of the reformatory, and you have not altered its nature or character at all. The reformatory school, improve it as much as you will, is still a barrack institution. In that barrack institution 90 per cent. of the boys will meet 2 or 3 per cent. of those boys who are really vicious and depraved. There is no doubt about it that many a lad—who for a trivial offence has been committed by a magistrate who is not well informed, and who has often been misled by the external semblance of a reformatory school—has for the first time met with sexual vice and sexual immorality and has been perverted in the reformatory schools, and in all respects a great moral evil is being done in this way. The Home Office should make it clear beyond any doubt to every magistrate in this country that a reformatory school for a lad under sixteen or for a girl under sixteen should be the very last place and the very last resort, and they should not be sent to a reformatory school until every other possible treatment has broken down. Therefore I want to bring home to the House the great importance of the provisions which the Home Secretary has included in this Bill recognising associations, and I hope many of them will be provided voluntarily. With the aid of the Home Office probation officers and other persons will be provided who will supervise these children and make it possible for the magistrates to exorcise their judgment and discretion in this respect, as they already have the power to do under the Act of 1908.
I welcome that provision for another reason—namely, that such associations as that will not only enable the magistrates to have probation officers and to exercise supervision, but the representatives of those associations will educate the magistrates, and they will be there to assist them. In districts where the provisions of the Children Act are not as well known as they ought to be, the representatives of these societies will be able to point out to the magistrates these humane and superior provisions, and thus probably influence the magistrate to act upon them in-stead of upon the unfortunate system of sending a boy to an industrial or reformatory school. I want to press one other thing upon the Home Office, and during 222 the Committee stage I shall endeavour to induce the Home Secretary to take power to accomplish my suggestion. I think it is time that, with the Bills passing this Session on the top of those in the last couple of Sessions, we should have some sort of consolidating Bill giving the law with regard to children generally under sixteen years of age. I defy any man in this House—perhaps I should make an exception in the case of the hon. and learned Member opposite—if he were to put a question as to the ordinary law affecting children in this country at the present moment to answer it with any degree of certainty. These laws have now become so detailed and the penalties attached to them so severe that I think the Government of this country owes it to the parents to issue those laws in a clear, simple, and handy form, without any cost to them, in order that they should have all the information as to what the law is with regard to the treatment of children. How on earth is the ordinary parent, in view of what has happened since 1907, to know what he has a right to do for his child.
The Government has set a precedent in this matter. Not long ago they issued, through the Post Office, tons and tons of pamphlets in order to explain the Insurance Act, and that has been done more or less successfully. Why cannot the Government do something similar, and put at the disposal, say of school teachers, local magistrates, and others interested, and the people who will become members of those excellent associations who are going to work amongst the unfortunate of the country, a small booklet giving in a simple form the information as to the law with regard to children in this country. I think it is high time that we should realise the importance of doing this. I must demur to one statement made by the hon. and learned Member opposite with regard to Borstal institutions. I do not think the hon. and learned Member should give up hope under twenty-one years of age. I know there are dangers and disadvantages, but I think it is worth while trying all these devices up to the age of twenty-one. I agree that after that they have been unavailing, and then your sentences should be short and sharp, but up to twenty-one I think we should never give up hope. Long ago—and probably I am the only person in this House who has had an experience of this kind—I was myself in charge of twenty-five children who were more or less a collection of all the incorrigibles of a certain neighbourhood, and 223 I know only too well why it is that children get into such a state. It is not the fault of the children, but of circumstances over which they have no control.
I know much of this evil has been reduced by our system of elementary education and school attendance laws. Much of it has been reduced by the laws dealing with street trading, and I hope from the two Bills now before the House that another great step will be taken to reduce this evil still more. These are the things that have in the main reduced the present population under sixteen years of age, and those are the things that will eventually bring that prison population down to a negligible figure. But while we are waiting for these things, I do not think we should act upon the old punitive method that up to the age of sixteen the method to be adopted should be absolutely and entirely reformatory and nothing else. Years ago I was blamed because I adopted a very elementary principle, and it was that in the case of a young person or in the case of children you should never use your maximum punishment, because once you have done that, the child knew the worst and had felt the worst, and your authority was at an end. You had emptied yourself of all that was really authoritative in the matter of discipline over that child. I was taught that it was always more important to keep in the impressionable mind of the child a vague notion of some great resources of power and possibilities of punishment rather than to exert it. That is true with regard to the law in this country. In the days long ago when the law dragged people up for trivial offences and cast them into dens, to the shame of our country, there was very little respect for the law. The law did not reform; it created crime by that system. It is important that we should realise that the law is a great agency for assisting people, and that they should look to its majesty rather than to its revenge, and have a feeling that the law is something to admire and respect. I hope that is going to be the effect of this Bill. When you have done that your society in general will realise a new attitude altogether towards the police and the law.
§ Mr. HOARE
I have two observations which I wish to put before the House with reference to the first Clause of the Bill. It is a significant fact that 224 as far as statistics prove anything, the amount of crime in the country has not decreased during the last twenty years. One would have hoped, with the social legislation and the changes in public opinion that have taken place during the last twenty years, that the statistics would have been more reassuring than they actually are. A study of the last available statistics in the Report of the Prison Commissioners shows that whilst 192 per 100,000 of the population were tried for indictable offences in the country in 1893, the figure is now 184. There is not, therefore, very much improvement as far as these statistics prove anything. I pass from that to what the Home Secretary had to say with regard to the payment of fines by instalments. I am in full agreement with the Home Secretary's intention. It is almost a scandal that no less than half of the inmates of our prisons should be there simply because they have been unable to pay fines. At the same time, the House should remember that the number of these persons who are imprisoned for the nonpayment of fines is decreasing and is not increasing. In the years 1903–4–5 there were more than 100,000 men and women imprisoned for the non-payment of fines, and in 1893, 81,669. I foresee a difficulty in the collection of instalments. I foresee, for instance, in London, where the population is always moving from one district to another, some trouble and considerable expense in collecting the instalments. Apart from those two reservations, and they are very small ones, I am in agreement with the Clauses of the Bill that encourage and insist upon the payment of fines by instalments.
The Home Secretary had some observations to make with reference to the cognate subject of fees. It has always seemed to me, when I have served on my local bench, that the amount of fees has been altogether out of proportion to the amount of fines imposed. That was borne out by the answer to a question which the Home Secretary gave me yesterday. I asked him what was the total amount collected in the last year for which statistics were available—first of all, of fines, and secondly, of fees. The figures are for 1903. In that year £218,477 were collected as fines, and no less than £350,390 were collected as fees. I think those figures bear out my statement that the amount of fees is altogether out of proportion to the amount of fines. There is at the end of 225 this Bill a Schedule of the standardised fees which are to be imposed in future. I have not been able to go through that Schedule in any detail, but I am informed that it is very much what the standard is in some of our counties at the present moment. It therefore does not seem to me to remedy the disadvantage of the exorbitant standard of the fees. I hope, when the Bill gets into Committee, certain deductions will be made in the Schedule.
I pass from that to the Clauses which deal with juvenile offenders. It seems to me that the time is duo to review our methods of the treatment of juvenile offenders. During the last seven years, as the Home Secretary has stated, three very important Acts of Parliament have been passed—The Children's Act, the Probation of Offenders Act, and the Prevention of Crimes Act. The time has come to review the results of those three Acts, and to see in what respect their provisions can be improved. There are nearly 40,000 young persons dealt with each year in Courts of Summary Jurisdiction. In 1912, 39 per cent. of these children and young persons were convicted, to the number of 15,100, whereas 17,677 were not convicted, but were dismissed with a caution, or were handed over to the probation officers, or were called upon to give recognisances for good behaviour. Those figures seem to me to show two things. In the first place, they show that there is still a very large number of children and young persons brought before the Courts. A communication which I received from Birmingham informs me that no less than half of the cases which are brought before the Birmingham magistrates for street offences are cases of boys and girls under the age of twenty-one.
The second fact which seems to emerge from a study of the Home Office statistics is the extraordinary fatuity of short sentences. The reports of the Prison Commissioners are full of the folly, indeed the criminal folly, of these short sentences, and I regret to say that several of the Metropolitan magistrates are amongst the worst offenders for sending children and young persons to terms of short imprisonment. I notice, for instance, that the chaplain of Pentonville calls attention, in the last Annual Report of the Prison Com-missioners, to the cases of 226 children and young persons who were sent to Pentonville for short terms of imprisonment. It is also noteworthy that no less than one-third of the children and young persons 226 who were sent to prison for short terms of imprisonment were condemned for those short terms of imprisonment by the Metropolitan magistrates. I hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary will make some inquiry as to the various methods which magistrates over the country adopt in dealing with young offenders, and will call the attention of those magistrates who do not make use of it to the beneficent legislation that this House has passed during the last six or seven years, and attempt to bring about a change in the direction that I feel sure the circumstances demand.
If we are going to make an advance in these branches of social work, we must do two things. We must, first of all, keep the child out of the atmosphere of the ordinary Police Court, and, secondly, we must keep the child out of the atmosphere of the ordinary prison. With reference to the first requirement, I know that the Children's Act has done something, but at the same time I am not satisfied that it is being administered over the whole country as drastically as most of us would demand. I am disappointed that so few Special Courts have been set up in the country. My experience has been that in dealing with children a bench sometimes keep the child waiting in the body of the Court whilst the ordinary cases are taken, and then at the end it constitutes itself into a Children's Court and takes the child's case. In other words, the child has been sitting through the Police Court the whole morning hearing the other cases, and then at the end, when presumably he or she has been already contaminated with the Police Court atmosphere, the reporters go away, and the child's case is taken. If that proceeding is common, it is trifling with the Children's Act. I am also disappointed that as far as I know no special magistrates have been appointed for dealing solely with children's cases. In the United States, where great advances have been made in the reformatory treatment of children, magistrates have been appointed solely and only for dealing with children's cases. That seems to me to be much more satisfactory than to allow the ordinary magistrate, who has got his ideas and prejudices from dealing with ordinary cases, to take children's cases. I am therefore somewhat disappointed that this Bill, with all its many provisions for improving our criminal justice, does nothing to level up the standard, which we all very much desire, of dealing with 227 cases of children under the ago of fourteen who come into the Courts.
Next, there is the question of probation. There, again, I am not satisfied, from a study of these statistics, that as much is being done as should be done. Probation officers have not been appointed in every district. Surely that is a reform which is most urgently demanded I am sorry that in the Bill there is no provision for insisting upon the immediate appointment of probation officers in every district. Even where they have been appointed they are very often so fully occupied with other work that they have not got the time for really supervising the careers of the children whose supervision is delegated to them. One hears cases of Police Court missionaries and ex-superintendents of police, and extra attendants of police, who have got a variety of interests, far too many to give them time—for it requires a great deal of time—to deal with these cases, with the result that the duty of probation is in many places dealt with in a most perfunctory fashion. Take the case of London. I am informed that here the probation districts are much too big. I wish the Home Secretary would look into that point. I am informed that the probation officer is given a very large district in London, with the inevitable result that he really has not time to keep in touch with the children whom he is required to look after. Here, again, the Metropolitan magistrates do not seem to avail themselves of most of their powers. In 1912. of 11,326 young persons who were brought before the Metropolitan magistrates, only 838 were placed on probation. That seems to me to show that some of them are not treating probation as seriously as we should desire.
Another subject on which I should like to make a few remarks is that of the Borstal system, and here I welcome, to the full, the advance which this Bill recommends. It has seemed to me that one of the most successful of the experiments that have been made in social reform during the last six years has been the experiment that has been made under the auspices of the Borstal Association. The hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) asked how far the results justify the experiment that was first made in 1909. I have the figures here. Since the Borstal institutions have been in existence, 624 young men and women have been turned out from them. Of these, 184 are known to be satisfactory, 228 93 are believed to be satisfactory, seven are dead; of 188 there is no trace available, and therefore the association has lost touch with them; 142 are in prison, one is in an asylum. I quite acknowledge that the number of those with whom the association has lost touch is very great. At the same time, it is most satisfactory that no less than 270 should be doing well, and should be doing well when it is remembered that the experiment has only been in existence since 1909. The two difficulties from which those who have been working in connection with the Borstal Association have suffered are, first, that some of the sentences are not long enough for the reformatory treatment really to make itself felt; and, secondly, that the period of supervision afterwards is too short for the association to keep in touch with the boys and girls who leave the institutions. Of those in Borstal institutions now, thirty-three were condemned for only one year. That is far too short a time for letting the reformatory treatment really take effect and giving these boys and girls an opportunity of learning some skilled trade. Therefore, I welcome the change which the Home Secretary proposes in making the minimum two years instead of one for sentences to Borstal institutions. I also welcome the proposal he has made with reference to the extended time for supervision. It has been found that six months is too short a time, and I therefore hope that the proposal for extending that time to one year will be kept when this Bill goes into Committee.
There are certain other smaller points, mostly Committee points, which yet seem to me to be of some importance. I do not quite understand, for instance, the Clause which deals with the procedure at a Court of Petty Sessions for condemning a boy or girl to Borstal treatment. It I understand it aright, it is that they should recommend Borstal treatment to the Quarter Sessions and the Quarter Sessions should impose it. That seems to me a somewhat cumbrous way of dealing with the matter. I should have thought a magistrate or a bench of magistrates would have been quite competent to make the sentences at once and not wait for a length of time, and allow the culprit consequently to be detained in prison or somewhere else until the Quarter Sessions could carry out their recommendation. I am also informed that it would be an advantage if the term of imprisonment which makes Borstal treatment possible were a fortnight rather 229 than a month. There are a number of cases which might very well be dealt with by Borstal treatment in which only a fortnight is given now as the ordinary sentence, particularly cases of girls, for whom Borstal treatment has been found to be most beneficial. I hope that that is a point which the Home Secretary will sympathetically consider. With these observations and criticisms, not very serious, but at the same time criticisms that deserve, I think, the attention of the House, I desire to give my support to the Second Reading of the Bill, and I hope that, long as it is, and complicated as many of its Clauses are, it will pass through Committee and become law during this Session.
§ Mr. LEWIS HASLAM
I am somewhat in the predicament of practically agreeing with all that has been said by previous speakers, but I should like to say a few words of cordial welcome to this Bill. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Edgar Jones) drew an indictment against the Home Office for not making proper use of the power to make regulations under the law as it at present stands, and, with that exception, I am in agreement with all that has been said. I think the Bill is a great improvement, and I hope the Home Secretary will bear that point in mind, although I now understand that the hon. Member is not correct. I was on the Committee for the Children's Bill, and I took a very great interest in that measure and in carrying out the Children's Act, and I was very much gratified with the supervision by the probation officers. My impression is that not nearly enough has been done with reference to the appointment of such officers. They ought to be general throughout the country, and I welcome most cordially that part of the Bill which encourages societies to provide such officers and give some help from the Government with regard to the fund for their maintenance. The advantages of probation officers are twofold: Not only do they help the children themselves towards a better life, but also, if they are properly used, I think it will result, not in an increase, but in a de-creased cost, because it will reduce the number of prisoners and evil-minded persons who would otherwise grow up in our midst without having the advantage of the exercise of the functions of these officers. We all know what is said about the incorrigible child. The real fact is that the child is not in the least incorrigible, but the parents are either negligent 230 or ignorant or are probably weak-minded. It must be apparent that if we have people of special training who can look after such children and help these parents and guide them, the effect will be very great upon their future lives. Another part of the Bill which I welcome is the suggestion to give more opportunity and increased time for the payment of fines. I believe, as a rule, the practice is to afford time to every person who is desirous not to go to prison, but that opportunity is not always taken advantage of, and the magistrates probably fail in their duty in that respect. It is most desirable that, wherever possible, the fine should be paid instead of the alternative of imprisonment. I am rather puzzled to know what Clause 5 exactly means, and I think that difficulty has been experienced by other speakers. It would appear to be a meaningless Clause unless it embodies an instruction to magistrates to reduce the total amount of the fines, including costs. If the total amount of the two is equal to the fines and the costs separately the provision is meaningless. If, on the contrary, it is intended, where a prisoner is palpably a poor man who can ill afford to pay much, that such a man should be fined less than would be the case for the same offence with regard to a man who is well off, then I welcome the provision, because it is inequitable that the same fine should be paid in the case of offences of rich men and poor men. To fine the rich man is practically nothing, but to fine a very poor man may mean a great deal in regard to the maintenance of his family. I may be giving utterance to an expression that is contrary to the general usage of law, but it is consonant with what we generally expect when we exercise the function of common sense, namely, that the punishment should be as equitable as possible. It is not equitable that poor men should pay the same amount as rich men. It is well known that in the case of the excessive speed of motor cars that principle is carried into effect, and heavy fines are very properly inflicted upon rich men who enjoy the luxury of endangering the lives of their fellows. I desire to express a very cordial welcome to this Bill, which will be of very great advantage to the public.
§ Sir WILLIAM ANSON
There seems to be a very general consensus of opinion in favour of this Bill, and I readily and joyfully acknowledge that it contains very many useful provisions. In the criticisms 231 I propose to offer, I wish to dwell on certain features in the Bill which promise legislation regarding certain matters which really might be left to the common sense of those who administer the law, and which in certain ways may possibly create more difficulties than the Bill proposes to solve. As regards fines and the necessity imposed by the Bill of giving time, I do not think that anyone wishes to send a person to prison if it can be avoided. The Bill makes so many exceptions to the rule that it may lead to greater difficulties and puzzles for the magistrates who have to administer the law than exist at the present moment, because a magistrate has first to consider, when it is a question of giving time or not, whether the person has sufficient means to pay the fine, whether the person does or does not want the time, whether he has no fixed abode, or whether he has any special reasons of his own, of a nature which are not suggested in the Bill, for refusing to give time. So far as my experience goes, the cases are comparatively simple. There is the case of the tramp, a person of no fixed abode, to whom it is no use to give time, because you know you could not find him at the end of seven days. There are obviously cases of people who need time and who get time in proportion to their means or the character of the offence. Lastly, there are the people who can pay and may be quite willing to pay, but who have not the money in Court. In that case, according to the Bill, he must give seven days or nothing. It constantly happens that the man says, "I can pay in the course of the day," and you say to him, "Pay the money to the constable on your beat," and there is an end of it. It is much better to get the matter settled promptly in that way. I take it that that very simple and common procedure will be precluded by the terms of the Bill, because in the case of any person desirous of being allowed time the Court may give him time, but it must not be Jess than seven days.
§ Sir W. ANSON
I may be wrong; I hope I am; but it does suggest that the Bill would be a complication of the practical working of the matter of imposing fines. As regards Clause 5 and the question of the relative amount of the fine and costs, I confess I find some difficulty in interpreting that Clause. I have never shared the difficulty which one hon. Member seems 232 to have experienced in determining the question of the relative amount of fine and costs, because in practice the costs—I am very glad there is a fixed table of costs provided in the Bill—are not out of proportion to the means of the person who would have to pay them. So far as my experience goes, what one always does is to determine the amount of the costs, and then to consider how much it is fair to call upon the prisoner to pay, and if you want to give costs you have to include them in the fine. As regards the question of probation and the societies who are prepared to supervise prisoners on probation, I most cordially approve of the provision of the Bill which enables societies to follow up the prisoners who are in reformatories or industrial schools or Borstal institutions. There is no doubt that the probation officers appointed under the Probation of Offenders Act have not the time to follow up the boys and young people who are sent to industrial schools, reformatories, or Borstal institutions, and it is most desirable that the sort of thing which a society of that sort can provide should be brought to bear upon them. I see also that the society may take over the care and control of persons on probation under the Probation of Offenders Act. Has the Home Secretary ever considered the possible collision between the probation officer appointed under the Probation of Offenders Act and the society he may recognise under this Clause in dealing with the same person with whom the probation officer is intended to deal and is appointed to deal? It would be desirable to keep quite clear the province of the probation officer and of these societies. The societies under this Clause can obviously discharge very useful functions, and it would be imfortunate if they were brought into collision with the officer appointed under the Probation of Offenders Act. I fear that would be the effect of the Clause.
§ Sir W. ANSON
The Home Secretary may approve the probation society, but under this Clause the society and the officer are both to look after the same class of person.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Only if the magistrate appoints the probation officer provided by the society. The magistrate will retain complete control, as he does under the existing law, to appoint such probation officer as he pleases.
§ Sir W. ANSON
I am glad to have that explanation. The Clause will need careful consideration in Standing Committee, because, on the face of it, it looks as if you might have two conflicting authorities dealing with the person on probation. I have only one more point upon which I wish to touch, that is the variety of complications of the imprisonment or detention provided for in the Bill. There is detention in a police cell, detention in a bridewell, detention in a Borstal institution, and detention in Court. A prisoner under the Probation of Offenders Act is liable to be kept in a place of detention. Imprisonment we understand. I do not think that persons imprisoned are the outcasts and pariahs which the hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) described them as being. So far as my experience goes, prisoners are carefully attended to. The governor is full of attention to carry out the regulations of the prison, and to do for the prisoner whatever is necessary while he is in prison and with some view to his future when he gets out. There is usually a prison missioner and a chaplain. Persons of all denominations receive the attention of ministers of their denomination, a visiting committee visits the prisons at short intervals, and the prison missioner follows up the prisoners as far as it is possible after they have left prison and sees to it that they start some useful course in life. A prison is not the place for the castaway as it is sometimes described. Great care is taken of the prisoners, and it is not justice to the prison system that it should be described in the way that it has been described.
§ Sir W. ANSON
There is also the Borstal institution. I am quite prepared to admit that the objects of that institution are of the most laudable character, and that their usefulness to some extent approximates to their object, but they are still new institutions and need to be watched with considerable care. What is the position of a prisoner who is confined in a bridewell or a police cell? I confess that is to me an objectionable feature. What provision is there for the care and supervision of such a person? He has no attention, there is no governor, and no visiting committee. The Home Secretary may at intervals have an opportunity of attending to his welfare, but otherwise I agree with an hon. Friend of 234 mine who said the result would be that a term of less than five days' imprisonment would never be imposed, because most districts have no Such locality into which they could put a prisoner, and most districts if they had such a locality would prefer not to put them there. Another form of detention is detention in Court until 10 p.m. I really think that might be left out. I cannot see what good purpose it serves to say that a magistrate may detain a prisoner on the premises till ten o'clock at night. I do not know who is to look after him, nor how he is to be cared for, or any proper attention paid to him. I only make these criticisms in order to show that I think this Bill, excellent as are most of its provisions, will require a great deal of care in following up its details in Committee, because it is quite possible, with the most admirable intentions, to introduce detailed complications into the law which are very much to the disadvantage of those who have to administer it and those upon whom the hand of the law falls, and good intentions in removing small and occasional trouble and injustice may result in larger injustice and greater complications, expense, and difficulty.
§ Mr. RADFORD
I heartily support this Bill. I congratulate the Home Secretary on having brought it forward, and express my gratitude also to his predecessor in office, who made a promise three or four years ago of which I take it this Bill is an ample fulfilment. I am particularly grateful with regard to that part of the Bill which deals with fines, so as to carry out the intentions of the Home Secretary to abate imprisonment. We learned from the Home Secretary that in the year 1912 there were no fewer than 80,000 committals for non-payment of fines. I am sorry that he cannot give us any figures later than 1912. I hope to live to see the time when the Home Secretary, in his present tenure of office, may be able to give us figures up to date which will not leave us, on an important occasion like this, to deal not with the latest figures but with the figures of the year before last. With regard to these 80,000 persons committed for nonpayment of fines in a single year, I do not know how many were first offenders, and perhaps the Homo Secretary does not know, but I know you cannot do anything worse with a first offender than make a gaol-bird of him. I trust that the Bill may have the effect of relieving us from the responsibility of a system under which 235 these deplorable results obtain. I think the right hon. Gentleman may be congratulated on the fact that this Bill has been submitted in the House to-day to a kind of special tribunal of experts. Every hon. Member has referred, directly or indirectly, to his own experience on the bench, and has expressed general but, I admit, discriminating approval. I notice with great interest the discriminating criticisms which were given by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Rawlinson). The points which he made will, no doubt, be raised in Committee, and will receive the attention they deserve. I hope the Bill may emerge at least as good as it is now, and in some respects improved.
I desire to say a word with reference to the form of the Bill. If this is a good Bill, as I believe it to be, it should be in the best legislative form. Let us recollect that the greater part of the Bill is not new law, but it deals with the alteration and modification of laws already on the Statute Book. You can deal with existing laws by repealing them, and that method is effectually applied in this Bill. In Clause 34 we have referred to and repealed a series of enactments which are contained in the second Schedule, and it will be a source of gladness to the House that III. James I., cap. X., which is called "An Act for the rating and levying of the charges for conveying malefactors and offenders to gaols "will be repealed and will never again appear in our revised edition of the Statutes. So, of a large number of other enactments. That is what I call good legislation. You repeal a Bill, and there is an end of it. There is another method of legislation which is exemplified by this Bill which is good, and that is where you repeal certain sections of existing Statutes and substitute for them certain others which are set up on terms in the Bill. I will refer to Clause 8 of the Bill, which provides that certain Sub-sections of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, shall be repealed, and there shall be substituted for it certain words which are there set out. That is good legislation. When the revised edition of the Statutes comes out next, and I am glad it is promised shortly, we shall know that when we look at the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, we shall not find there present Sub-section (2) of Section 2, but we shall find there the words which are set out in this Clause, assuming that the Bill passes. Clause 24 provides another instance of the same excellent method of legislation, but there are points 236 in the Bill in which you do not treat the subject in the same manner. Clause 27, Sub-section (2) says:—The provisions of Section 30 of the Children Act, 1908 (which enables the evidence of a child of tender years to be received, though not given on oath), shall apply to proceedings against persons for offences not mentioned in that Section in like manner as they apply in respect of proceedings against persons for offences mentioned in that Section.What is the legislature, or the magistrate, administering the law hereafter to do? He has got to look up the Act of 1908, to look up the Criminal Justice Administration Act of 1914, to put together these two Clauses, and to make the best he can of them. That is not the best way of treating this kind of legislation. If it is done in that way it involves doubt and difficulty ill interpretation hereafter, and it might be done now, and it ought to be done now, and if it is not done now it is only by reason of indolence on the part of the draftsman of the measure, or the Committee which is dealing with the subject. There is a similar instance of the same kind in Clause 29, where we deal with the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879, and we say it shall apply to proceedings in respect of non-payment of rates. It is not at all difficult to put that into the form of repealing something and enacting something else. I know, when all is said and done, that this will remain a piece of legislation by reference, which is to be deplored, but in a case where you are dealing with some fifteen or twenty different Acts of Parliament, perhaps it is inevitable, and I do not blame the Home Secretary for putting it ill that shape, but when we are dealing with these twenty-fire Acts of Parliament you ought to put your legislation in such a shape that you may insert in its proper place in each of these fifteen or twenty Acts the Amendments of the law which you make.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
The Home Secretary is to be congratulated on the reception the Bill has met with. The Debate has been a very interesting one, from the speech of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Rawlinson) to the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Radford). It has in no way been a party Debate, and I think it will go upstairs—to a Grand Committee, I presume—in the same spirit in which it has been discussed this afternoon. The general effect of the Bill is to render 237 the criminal law less harsh and uneven, and to bring it more in accord with modern ideas of humanity. I should like especially to say a few words on the important question of the Borstal system. I am one of the deputy-chairmen of the West Riding Quarter Sessions, and have had some little experience in sending men myself to that institution. Also I had a very interesting personal visit to it, and went very carefully into the whole system, and it was explained by the governor exactly what the inmates had to go through. My own impression after leaving that institution was that it was doing most valuable work for the State. It was bringing up these men to be free citizens and teaching them a trade, and the governor told me, "The great majority of them are not bad naturally. They have got here because of bad bringing up and bad surroundings, but at the bottom they are good men, and we are making them good citizens. I should like to tell you one thing. You must give us a chance with these men, and I strongly advise you, as a magistrate, not to send these men for less than three years. It does not give them a chance and it does not give us a chance." This Bill goes on these lines. It has raised the minimum to two years, instead of one, so that, as far as that goes, it is on the lines of the recommendation of the governor of the Borstal institution. I believe there are three Borstal institutions altogether in the country, and the main one is at Rochester. With regard to the age, from sixteen to twenty-one, I see, under the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1908, that under a provision at the end of Section I:—This Section shall extend to persons apparently under such age, but not exceeding the age of twenty-three.7.0 P.M.
I do not think that has ever been done, but I am not at all sure that it would not be a good thing to give power to extend the age above twenty. That is one thing that the governor hinted. He thought the ago might be extended in some cases. Under the old Act the method of getting these offenders sent to Borstal institutions is this; A person must be convicted on indictment of an offence for which he is liable to be sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment, the age is between sixteen, and twenty-one, and by reason of his criminal habits and associations it is expedient that he should be sent to one of these institutions. Under this Bill the 238 principle is extended to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, and in the case of offences where the Court is empowered to sentence to one month's imprisonment or upwards without the option of a fine this Bill provides that, instead of the passing of sentence, the Court of Summary Jurisdiction shall commit an offender to prison until the next Quarter Sessions. I am not quite sure that I agree with that procedure. The next Quarter Sessions may presumably be three months later. A young man is to be sent to prison for three months and then dealt with by Quarter Sessions. I hardly see the reason for that procedure. One thing I should like to ask is, if the Assizes come before the Quarter Sessions, why not give a sentence to the Assizes, so that the offender would not be in prison for so long? If he does go to Quarter Sessions, the Court is to pass such a sentence of detention in a Borstal institution as is authorised by the Prevention of Crimes Act of 1908. Then the Bill goes on to say that if the defendant or prisoner consent, the Court of Summary Jurisdiction should have power to send him direct to a Borstal institution. I think that is very valuable. My own experience is this: As a rule, an offender when asked the question whether he would rather be dealt with now, or sent for trial to Quarter Sessions, almost always says, "I will be dealt with now." This is only if he consents. I think that is a question which ought to be considered by the Committee.
Clause 5 provides that a fine should be inflicted, but no costs added to it. I think the general practice of the Courts—it is my own experience—is to fine a defendant so much, including costs. It is far the best way to do it. You know exactly what you are fining an offender. If you say, "We will fine you 10s., including costs," you know what you are doing. The clerk of the Court knows how much the costs come to, and there is no inconvenience about it at all. Therefore I think the Bill in regard to that matter is satisfactory. I think the principle of probation officers has been most successful. For the State to know that a past offender is being watched and cared for by a State official is, I think, a very great convenience, and that ought to be encouraged in every way. This Bill does it in the way of supplying more probation officers who are to be officials of societies. These probation officers will be officers of the Courts. As to the provision that you must not send a person to a prison for less than five days, I 239 do not know exactly what is the reason for that. I know one reason which may be suggested is that it might be convenient if a Police Court is at any distance from a prison, and that if you sentence an offender to four days' imprisonment one day counts in sending him there and another day in sending him back again, and therefore you send him a long distance and pay travelling expenses for two days' imprisonment. I think that is absurd, and I quite agree that in the case of offences where the period of imprisonment is only to be four days you ought to have some accommodation close at hand. The question of the provision of cells, or whatever you call them, is an important one, and I think the Home Secretary will have to consider that point, because, so far as I can see in this Bill, there is no provision made for finding money for that purpose either by the State or by the local authorities. Certainly I should say that in most places the cells provided to keep prisoners for four days are not sufficient. I wish again to express my own gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing in this Bill. It has not been recommended by any Depart-mental Committee, or any Committee of that kind. It is simply the result of experience generally found up and down the country as to what is required in the way of an alteration of the law, and so far as my hon. Friends on this side of the House are concerned we shall be prepared to offer the right hon. Gentleman every facility and help in getting the Bill passed.
Previous speakers have offered hearty congratulations to the Home Secretary for bringing forward this Bill. I do not know whether my colleagues are aware the Bill applies to Scotland, but it will be more welcome there than in England or Ireland. Unfortunately, there has been in recent years a considerable increase in convictions. I am comparing the Returns made up to 31st March, 1913. In Scotland the number of convictions per 1,000 of the population was 10.32, while in England and Wales it was 4.93, showing that there were double the number of convictions in Scotland as compared with England and Wales. These are to me startling figures, indeed, and I shall hope to show that in some cases this considerable difference is brought about by the recklessness with which magistrates convict. I think they too frequently send persons to prison for small offences. I have great difficulty in 240 sending a person to prison for a first offence. I think great leniency should be shown in the case of a person brought before the Court for the first time. Magistrates are not fully aware of the legislation passed in recent years to enable them to treat offenders more leniently. I will give a quotation later on with respect to this point from the report of the Scottish Commissioners. I think something should be done to educate the magistrates as to the powers they have. In many cases you may have with these unpaid magistrates an old clerk who has not read any of the Acts which have been passed, and they get into the way of saying in a formal way, "This man is convicted of a breach of the peace," and so he is sent to prison.
I would like to give the House one or two instances of convictions which I think are deplorable. Here is a case of a lad eighteen years of age who was convicted of a breach of the peace, and where the sentence passed was a fine of £5 or thirty days' imprisonment. That young man had never been in prison before, he attended Sunday school, and he went to church regularly, but he got into trouble in a riot in connection with a football match. He had never tasted liquor, and had it not been for the circumstance that he lost his temper at a time when there was considerable disturbance, he probably would never have been in prison in his life. He was sentenced because on that occasion he lost his temper. That is a perfect scandal, and the magistrate who passed the sentence ought to be ashamed of himself. Compare that with another sentence. A man of thirty-two years of age, with twenty-six previous convictions for drunkenness and begging, was sentenced to thirty days' imprisonment. In that case there was really reason for detaining him, because he was described as mentally defective. He was described as the village idiot. To sentence a lad who got into trouble in connection with a football match to the same term of imprisonment as a criminal of that kind is monstrous. Here is another case in which a man twenty-four years of age was convicted of breach of the peace and fined 21s. or fourteen days' imprisonment. He had one previous conviction against him for loitering. This man was a total abstainer, married, and his wife was respectable, but on one occasion he got into trouble through a fight following an argument about football. He belongs to the Territorial Force, and if it had not been 241 for this one conviction of loitering he should not have been imprisoned. I say that he should have been admonished and not sentenced to imprisonment. I have gone over an enormous number of sentences in Scotland and compared them with sentences for similar offences in England, and I find that the difference in the number of convictions in Scotland is accounted for by the fact that magistrates have been sending persons to prison without due regard to the responsibility of what they were doing. This is borne out by the Report issued by the Prison Commissioners, in which I find these words:—In the great majority of local Courts the old custom prevails of imposing certain more or less fixed tines for particular offences irrespective of the means of the prisoner. Time to pay, except in some places, is rarely given.This is a marked contrast with the practice in England, where the magistrates give greater time than in Scotland. The Report further says:—Probation is scarcely made use of at all and then often not satisfactory because of the want of suitable probation officers. While legislation is doubtless needed to effect further reforms, there is much that could be done were the legislation which has already been passed taken advantage of to a fuller extent than at present.I should like to say that I am very glad indeed that it is specifically stated in this Bill that longer time should be given for the payment of fines. I wish to ask the Home Secretary whether he could not provide in this Bill for what we have in Scotland, namely, a Procurator-fiscal. That is of immense advantage in Scotland in the different localities. It means that in every district there is a law officer who shall himself undertake the prosecution for any offence if he considers there is a case. There are cases, for instance, where individuals will decline to prosecute, and for that reason in England there would be no prosecution in respect of that offence. But if there were a Procurator-fiscal he would be able to take up the case if it was thought desirable. There are many cases in which grave offences are committed, and in which the persons escape because the people concerned decline to take up the case, and this is an objectionable state of affairs. Another point is that there are cases in which sentences which are too light are imposed for very serious offences. There was a case in Glasgow, where a magistrate dealt with a man who had given venereal disease to his two daughters aged nine and eleven years. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and that sentence was far too light. I do not see how you can revise a sentence, 242 but it does seem to me that where a sentence is altogether out of proportion to the offence there should be some court of revision. I do not know how it could be done, but the point is one to be considered. Another case that occurred to me is that of a convict who came out of the convict prison at Peterhead, and who on the first day committed an offence similar to that to which I have referred, for which he received only a light sentence. Provision should be made dealing with such cases, and I should be glad if the Home Secretary would take the matter into consideration. I would particularly press the point with regard to the Procurator-fiscal. Speaking as one who is familiar with Scottish practice, I may say that the Procurator-fiscal is of immense advantage to the people in Scotland. I do not think that there is anything in the Bill to meet cases of constantly recurring convictions. Last year in Edinburgh there was a case of a female against whom there were no fewer than 233 convictions. Another had had 258 convictions, and another had had 228. It is absurd to bring up those people and sentence them to seven or fourteen days' or two or three months' imprisonment.
Yes; it is absurd to bring these people up in this manner. Greater power should be taken to place them under some form of restraint. The suggestion has been made that, with the reduction in the number of persons in workhouses, there is a great deal of property which is not being used, and that a portion of this property should be utilised for such persons as these women who have been frequently convicted. The cost of the probation officers, I understand, is placed on the local authorities. I think that it should be borne by the State, because in many cases the local authorities appoint too few. Speaking generally, I am particularly grateful, so far as Scotland is concerned, that this Bill has been introduced.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member referred to certain sentences which he thought too severe, and others which he thought too light. I gather from his speech that these cases occurred in Scotland. I also gathered that the hon. Member objects to the unpaid magistracy. I am not quite sure what happens in Scotland, but I thought that in Scotland the magistrates were mostly paid.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
There seems to be some doubt about it; but to point out to the House cases in which it was stated that such and such things happened, and such and such punishment was inflicted, is no evidence to go upon, because, unless we heard in Court what actually had taken place, we could not form a judgment on any ex-parte statement as to what happened on a given occasion. The hon. Member also appeared to share the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Merthyr that the majority of people in this country were not sufficiently acquainted with the legislation of the party opposite during the last six; or seven years. The hon. Member suggested that, as tons of literature had been sent out to let the country know what was the actual effect of the Insurance Act, tons of literature might be sent out to let the country know what was the effect of the various Acts which had been passed in reference to children and other matters during the last four or five years. I would not object to that. On the contrary, I should be greatly pleased, because the result would be that there would be very many fewer Radicals in the country than there are at the present moment. I do not wish to criticise the Bill, because it has been very ably criticised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University, who has a great knowledge of these subjects. But I may say a few words upon certain portions of the Bill, of which I have personal experience. I am a magistrate in the country, and when the Government will allow me to be absent from this House I invariably attend all the sittings at my Court, and I must say that I have certain objections to the provisions which relate to fines. In the Court in which I sit we nearly always give the offender time to pay the fine, if he asks for it, when he is convicted and fined, and the occasions when we do not give time are so rare that they are impressed on my memory. Only a short time ago I remember that we refused time to a man who asked for it. He said he could not help it, and that he could not pay. We then said, "Fourteen days' hard labour." He then put his hand in his pocket and drew out a handful of money and paid the fine. Under this Bill, as I understand it, we shall not be able to say that.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I had forgotten that provision, but I am afraid I do not agree with all the sentiments expressed on both sides of the House as to the great virtue of these people who are brought up and convicted of having committed a crime. They will very soon know that the power to search has been given, and they will be very careful, if they can manage it before their arrest, not to have very much money on them. They are very artful, and very often some of the old offenders know quite as much about the law as the magistrate. Though I think that the power of search is a proper one, I am not at all sure that it is going to be successful. I suppose, after all, that when a man is convicted of a crime—I am supposing that the magistrates have done right in convicting him—if he cannot or will not pay he ought to be punished, and I am very much afraid, if you cannot say to him, "Well, if you do not pay you will receive so many days' hard labour," that he will certainly not pay and that he will practically go free. I do not understand the explanation of the Home Secretary as to the difference between the sentences in the third division and with hard labour, I was always under the impression that hard labour was the severest form of punishment which you could give to a prisoner, and that two years' hard labour was such a severe penalty that it was rarely inflicted by any Court that had the power of imposing it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
But in the majority of cases which come before Petty Sessions Courts the punishment inflicted, if it is imprisonment, does not last more than twenty-eight days. Seven, fourteen, and twenty-eight days are the ordinary periods of punishment which are inflicted by these Courts. I think, therefore, that I am right in saying that there is a difference between hard labour and the third division, though whether it is solitary confinement or something else I am not quite sure. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should consider this point and allow punishment with hard labour to be inflicted in the event of a fine not being paid. There is nothing in the principle of the Bill to prevent such an alteration being made in Committee. On the question of confinement for five days, so far as we are concerned, we hardly ever give a prisoner five days. We may give one day—which means, practically, that 245 he goes free at once—or give seven days, if we give imprisonment at all. My hon. Friend on this side said that there are no proper cells in the rural districts where these prisoners could be confined, and it is quite clear that to incur the expense of sending a man to the county gaol on one day and keeping him there for two days, and paying his expenses back again on the fourth day, would be a very foolish proceeding; while, on the other hand, these cells, if built, would probably cost the county a great deal more, because they must be effective for their purpose. Therefore, I fail to see the point of the provision in reference to the five days. I am not sure that I agree with the proposal to expend further money on probation officers. The Bill authorises the Home Secretary to subscribe out of moneys provided by Parliament to certain societies who are doing certain work. In my own experience we have a probation officer. I am not sure who pays for him, but he is there. I really think that it is not right for us to spend so much money as we are doing at present. Every Bill which the present Government introduces always involves increased expenditure by the ratepayers, or out of moneys provided by Parliament. I really do not think we ought to give this money to private institutions, philanthropic or not, in order to attain these objects. The Home Secretary said that the result of it would be to establish a network of philanthropy over the country. That is all very well, but you have got to count the cost of this network of philanthropy, and my own belief is that to a considerable extent we shall be wasting our money. I hope the Home Secretary will take the advice which has been given with regard to the payment of fines by those Members of the House who sit as magistrates in Court of Petty Sessions, and who have some experience of what goes on. My hon. Friend the Member for Wilton (Mr. C. Bathurst) says that on the whole the unpaid magistrates do their work fairly well. I myself think that on the whole they do. Of course they all make errors, the same as everybody else, but on the whole they are desirous of carrying out their work in a proper manner, and as far as my experience goes where they err they err upon the side of leniency.
In regard to the appointment of magistrates' clerks, the hon. Member for Wilton stated that there is very often nepotism in the making of those appointments. 246 I am afraid that very frequently a magistrate's clerk is appointed for a variety of reasons, not always unconnected with political claims. I have heard of cases where in the appointment of magistrate's clerk—I do not say whether Tory or Radical—political belief had considerable influence. Of course that is wrong; I should like to see that sort of thing stopped. But for the life of me I cannot see what the Home Office has got to do with it. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has enough to do without interfering in the appointment of magistrates' clerks. I agree with hon. Members who do not want to see the powers of Cabinet Ministers increased. I think their powers are large enough at the present moment. I do not know, however, that I should support the Motion of which notice was given by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) to bring in a measure to reduce the autocracy of the Cabinet. I am not sure that I should go quite so far as that. Still, I do not approve of a measure such as this which gives increased power to a Cabinet Minister. The Home Secretary did not tell us in his speech why he put in this Clause, giving himself this power. I hope in Committee, unless he can give us some more excellent reason for giving this power to himself, that he will consent to an Amendment which will leave the law in a state in which it is in at the present moment. I do not see any great harm in this Bill, and I think that that is a very great measure of praise of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I do not know that I have ever been quite able to say that of any Bill which has been brought in by Members of the Front Bench opposite; therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that I am sincere in my endeavour to pour praise upon him, and I trust that when the Bill comes to be dealt with upstairs he will consider some of the suggestions which have been made for the improvement of the measure.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
(who was indistinctly heard): I want to say a few words upon this Bill in regard to its application to Ireland. Members in all parts of the House have spoken in terms of praise of this measure, and certainly it is distinct praise when the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) says he sees "no great harm in it." In other quarters of the House, the praise of the Bill has been of a more positive character than that of the hon. Baronet. 247 The greater part of Clause 5 of the Bill is not applicable to Ireland, but the first part of it is applicable, and I do not know the reason why that portion of the Clause does not apply to Ireland just as it applies to England and Scotland. The Clause says at the beginning:—
"A Court of Summary Jurisdiction in fixing the amount of any fine to be imposed on an offender shall take into consideration, among other things, the means of the offender so far as they appear or are known to the Court."
I think that very desirable principle should be applied in Ireland as well as in this country, and I hope that in Committee it may be possible to apply that part of Clause 5 to Ireland. I agree with the criticism of Sub-section (2) of Clause 27, which was made by the hon. and learned Member for East Islington (Mr. Radford) Sub-section (2) says:—
"The provisions of Section 30 of the Children Act, 1908 (which enables the evidence of a child of tender years to be received though not given on oath), shall apply to proceedings against persons for offences not mentioned in that Section, in like manner as they apply in respect of proceedings against persons for offences mentioned in that Section."
That is a very vague and general statement, as it really covers all other offences known to the criminal law of the country, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the force of the criticism of the hon. and learned Member. If there is to be an extension with regard to the evidence against prisoners it ought to be strictly defined in the provisions of the Bill itself. My principal reason for rising is to make reference to the Borstal institutions. I find that in Clauses 7, 8, and 9 there is power to recognise and subsidise societies for the care of youthful offenders on probation, and to provide towards their expenses incurred. Clause 7 says:—
"If a society is formed having as its object or amongst its objects the care and control of persons under the age of twenty-one whilst on probation under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, or of persons whilst placed out on licence from a reformatory or industrial school or Borstal institution, or under supervision after the determination of the period of their detention in such a school or institution, or under supervision in pursuance of this Act, the 248 society may apply to the Secretary of State for recognition, and the Secretary of State, if he approves of the constitution of the society, and is satisfied as to the means adopted by the society for securing such objects as aforesaid, may grant his recognition to the society."
Then money may be provided to help that society to carry out its work. As regards the Clauses dealing with the Borstal institutions, I think there is a good deal to be said for the criticism of the hon. and learned Member above the Gangway on this side of the House, that it is rather a serious thing when a person is brought before the Court of Summary Jurisdiction under Clause 10 that he should be committed to prison until the next Quarter Sessions. That means that he would remain in prison three months, and in some instances four months, until the Quarter Sessions. This deals with juvenile offenders, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible to send the person to a Borstal institution for that period rather than to prison? As regards the Borstal system generally, in Ireland we have only one Borstal institution, and the number of inmates at present averages about eighty. I suggest that if more money is to be found, as this Bill proposes, for the reclamation of juvenile offenders, the first object to which it ought to be devoted in Ireland should be for the extension of the Borstal institution itself. I would just give one or two figures from the last Report. The number of juvenile offenders committed in the past two years was, for each of those years, sixty-six. The total accommodation is for eighty, or not more than eighty. The Report says:—Of the total number of offenders received during the year in local prisons under sentences of imprisonment, 1.164 mules and 478 females were juvenile adults between sixteen and twenty-one years of age. The majority of these were dealt with by Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, which have no power, under the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1908, of sentencing juvenile adults convicted of crime to the Borstal institution. Of these juvenile adults such hoys as were sentenced to four months' imprisonment or upwards were collected in Mountjoy, Belfast, and Cork prisons, and there subjected to modified Borstal treatment. Male juvenile adults, sentenced to less than four months, were segregated from adult prisoners in the prisons to which they were committed, and received physical drill, special instruction from the chaplains, and special care was extended to them on their discharge. The Board feel that these efforts to give exceptional treatment to juvenile adult" cannot bring about the beneficial results upon character or give the desirable industrial training which juvenile adults receive who are committed to the Borstal institution for an adequate period.The figures show that annually sixty-six persons were committed to the Borstal institution, and the others had to be 249 treated in the ordinary prisons under a modified system. An extension of the Borstal system is urgently necessary in Ireland since out of about 1,600 juvenile offenders only 66 were sent to the Borstal institution. The great difficulty with regard to the existing Borstal institution in Ireland is that at the present time there they have not, as they have in this country, a farm for the inmates. Eighty per cent., or probably 90 per cent., of the inmates are drawn from the agricultural population of the country, and there is nowhere to train them in agriculture, and they can only be trained in carpentry, shoemaking or tailoring. The Prisons Board of Ireland have reported very strongly in favour of the acquisition of a farm for the purpose of enabling the boys to be trained in agricultural work. The Borstal Association in Ireland, which has been formed for the purpose of dealing with these boys when they leave the Institution, at their last annual meeting, held in June, 1913, reported as follows:—The number of applications from persons willing to employ inmates on discharge are so numerous that the association have no difficulty in finding situations for them, but there is this enormous disadvantage to the boys, that they are not trained and cannot be possibly trained in the institution for the only class of employment available for them, namely, the agricultural. The knowledge of carpentry, tailoring, etc., acquired by the boys while in detention can seldom be of real value to them when discharged, though probably of some advantage in a few instances. To make the Borstal system successful in Ireland to its fullest extent, sufficient land should be provided to teach the inmates farm work. But with only two and a half acres available, of which one acre is inside the walls of the institution, it is out of the question that proper training can be given to the boys in detention.The Report of the Borstal Association of England of 1912 says:—The object of the Borstal institution is to accustom their inmates to self control and hard work, and the day's work is laid out to prepare them for a workman's day in the open. Farm hands learn milking, care of farm stock, hedging, ditching, thatching and ploughing.The Irish Committee state that they feel that the Irish Borstal institution should be placed on equal terms with those in England at least in the matter of farm work training, and trust that the Government will do all that may be necessary in that direction. The Irish Prisons Board, in quoting from this Report, state that they concur in those views. The Borstal institution has made vigorous efforts to get land acquired in order to train these boys, and it is desirable if money is to be found in connection with this Bill and in connection with juvenile offenders that the money should be found chiefly for the extension of the Borstal system. In Ireland you cannot have an extension of the 250 Borstal system on a proper foundation unless you enable the inmates of the Borstal institution to be trained to farm work so-that when they leave they may be able to find employment in what is the great avenue of employment in the greater part of Ireland. I regret that the Chief Secretary is not in his place, because I believe he takes an interest in this question. I trust that something may be done under the Bill to secure an extension of the Borstal system in Ireland. Since 1908 another change for the better has been made in dealing with habitual criminals. In Ireland, we have no professional criminal class. As a matter of fact, according to this Report of the Prisons Board, there were only twenty habitual criminals in the prisons of Ireland in 1912, which proves that in Ireland the professional criminal class really does not exist. The preventive-detention system established in 190S is necessary in Ireland, but land should be provided in order to enable it to be carried out. There is one prison, that of Maryborough, in which that system is being applied. There is very great necessity to find land to enable those habitual criminals to be trained to farm work during their period of imprisonment. I trust that this Bill will get a Second Reading unanimously, and that in Committee necessary amendments indicated by hon. Members will be made. I especially hope that amendments will be made to secure an extension of the Borstal system, the principle of which means the greatest advance that has been made for many years in this country with regard to the treatment of offenders.
§ Mr. BARNES
I desire to join in the chorus of approval and of welcome for this Bill which has come from both sides of the House. I cannot say that I can join in the Debate in the category of an expert, such as an hon. Member behind me claimed, because I have had no such experience. I gather there is a note of humanity about the Bill, especially in regard to the young, and a recognition of the fact that you should deal with them in a moderate way and in a spirit of guidance, rather than to put them to prison and possibly demoralise them. I think it is worthy of commendation that there is to be an extension of the principle with regard to probationary officers. I think that the probationary system is, altogether good. I have seen it in operation in Glasgow, and have been highly struck with it. I have seen young persons 251 put under the care of probationary officers, and I have made inquiries into the way in which the system has worked, and I have heard nothing but good of it. I am glad, therefore, to find that its extension is proposed. The only objection made to it has come from the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London on the score of expense. He objected to this Bill, in common with many other Bills, for which ho said the Government had been responsible, because they increased the number of Government officials and therefore the cost to the taxpayer. I suggest he is only looking at one side, and the least important side, of this question. If a young person is sent to prison he is surrounded by prison officers, and has to be maintained and clothed, so that even from the point of view of expense there is a set-off provided by this Bill as against the additional cost, if there be any, in maintaining probationary officers. Therefore, I think there is nothing in the objection from that point of view.
With regard to fines, so far as I can see and from all I have gathered in Glasgow and elsewhere, the principle proposed in this Bill is altogether a good one. I think there have been numerous cases in which men have been taken to the police station on Saturday night, and have been brought up in Court on Monday morning, charged with being drunk, and have had to go to prison for a week, whereas if they had the chance of paying the fine they would have been at work, at all events for part of the week. I am glad to learn that not only a week, but a little longer, is to be given so as to enable people to escape imprisonment, and possibly for the first time. I am not so sure about the provision as to the five days' imprisonment, and if the right hon. Gentleman had been present I should have liked to have heard more about it. The provision seems to me that they are either not to go to prison at all or are to be taken to the police cells. So far as I have had any chance of observation in regard to police cells, they appear to me to be the worst of all possible places to take a man, even for one day, let alone five days. I remember in Glasgow looking at some through the bars of the cells, and it occurred to me that if a man was not brutal, or a woman was not brutal, before being taken to that hole, the probability is that they would be brutal when they came out of it. I never saw a more un-suitable place in which to put any man or 252 woman. I gathered from an interjection of the right hon. Gentleman that the objection to the five days' detention is mainly a matter of expense, and that it is considered not worth while to send people to prison for that period of time. If that is the only reason for this provision, I hope it will be knocked out. At all events, I do think the police cell is the very worst place to put a man or woman. I would rather hear of them being sent to prison, because, after all, a prison is orderly and is clean, and the police cell is dirty, and, as a rule, there is no provision for anything in the nature of discipline.
The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh talked about the cases of drunkenness and of the number of convictions against the same individual. Ho did not say those cases were cases of drunkenness, but I think we may assume they were. Unfortunately it is rather, I will not say a common thing, but there have been numerous cases of prisoners in Scotland being brought before the beak a great number of times on the charge of being drunk. I think, however, we may fairly and reasonably hope that the Act which was passed in this House last year may have some effect in lessening the number of those convictions, and I gather there is another Act now contemplated which may also do something to prevent those persons repeatedly coming before the beak. I agree with my hon. Friend in his suggestion that at all events it was a waste of time and money, and altogether an unsuitable way of dealing with cases of drunkenness in which the person had been 120 times before the Court. That is a matter for further legislation, and let us hope that that legislation will be enacted if that of last year is not sufficient. I do not agree with the hon. Member as to the extension of the Procurator-fiscal system, and as to the introduction of more of the lawyer element into these matters. So far as I have knowledge of the administration of the law in Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, I do not think there is a great deal of fault to be found with it. The justices, if they do not know much law, have a good deal of common sense. If they err at all in the administration of the law it is on the side of mercy, on the side of the prisoner rather than against him; and I am inclined to think that if we adopted the suggestion of my hon. Friend and introduced into England the system of Procurators-fiscal that we have in Scotland and, speaking generally, more of the 253 lawyer element, it would work out, not in favour of the prisoner, but rather against him. My hon. Friend mentioned an instance in Edinburgh where a very light sentence was passed in a particularly atrocious case. But there, I suppose, a lawyer was the judge. A case of that sort would not be tried in a Summary Court, and not even in a Sheriffs Court; it would have to be taken to Edinburgh. There-fore that particular case has no bearing on this Bill, which provides only for short sentences and Summary Courts. On the whole I welcome the Bill, because it seems to me to be a step, even though a short one, in the direction of treating these forlorn creatures, as most of them are, in a spirit of humanity and kindness, and of recognising the fact that environment, after all, has a great deal to do with bringing them to a position in which they find themselves.
§ Mr. PRATT
My hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh made a reference which I think was hardly seriously intended, but which passed a certain censure on the magistrates in Scotland. The magistrates of Scotland are an entirely unpaid body—I believe there is only one stipendiary police magistrate in the whole of Scotland—but I think that an examination of their conduct would lead to the conclusion that they carried out their duties with a great deal of humanity and common sense. On the question of law the magistrate is assisted by the legal assessor, whose advice and presence he has all the time. I am sorry my hon. Friend gave that impression to the House, because really valuable work is done by the police magistrates in Scotland, and it is done with a great deal of humanity. Another point to which my hon. Friend referred might well be emphasised. I am glad that even at this late stage of the discussion a Member of the Government (Mr. Gulland) is now seated on the Treasury Bench. We have not had that pleasant sight until the last few minutes. The early Clauses of this Bill deal with a matter of really grave concern to us in Scotland. For several years the percentage of persons who have gone to prison in consequence of failure to pay their fines has been more than twice as large in Scotland as in England. For the last year for which figures are available—to March, 1912—the figure for England was 17.12, while for Scotland it was 41.1. When we remember that last year 10,041 people went to prison in Scotland for the 254 first time, and that four out of every five of those went to prison because they did not pay their fines, I think the Clauses that deal with this question are a matter of very grave concern to the people of Scotland.
Under the new proposal it will become general for fines to be paid by instalments. I do not know that that is done anywhere in Scotland at the present time; if it is done at all, it is very occasionally and in very few places. On that point I should hope that it might be possible in Committee to make it obligatory upon the magistrates to take into consideration the financial and domestic circumstances of the offender. I do not know how it has come about, but I am afraid it is true that the fines for drunkenness and for offences arising out of drunkenness are somewhat heavier in Scotland than in England. I do not know whether that arises from the fact that the magistrate in Scotland is always a member of the local authority who reap benefit from the fines received, or whether it is because the people on the North side of the Border are not quite so anxious to pay their fines as on this side. The fact remains that the fines are heavier in Scotland than in England, and it seems to me that the time has come when that position should be reviewed. When sitting on the bench you may have before you two men charged with the same offence, perhaps that of being drunk and disorderly, but the fine in one case is an infinitely greater punishment than in the other. To a man with a larger income and a smaller family it would be a much smaller punishment than in the case of a man where the conditions were reversed. With regard to children, I quite agree with the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare). Those of us who have had any opportunity of coming into close association with the Police Courts on either side of the Border must be disappointed at the very limited extent to which the law in regard to Children's Courts has been carried out. It seems to me that if that law is to be carried out in the spirit as well as in the letter, Children's Courts should not merely be hold at a different hour—an hour which very often immediately precedes or immediately follows the holding of the Adult Court—but they ought to be held at quite a different hour. That is the case with Mr. Chapman's Court in London, which is carried on on very humane and excellent lines. Not only that, but I think the spirit of the 255 Act demands that children should not be taken into the atmosphere of the Police Court at all. We ought to look forward to going as far as that in the near future. I would welcome proposals which would leave the question of dealing with all young offenders, children not more than fourteen years of age, in the hands, not of the police, but of the education authorities.
Another point to which I wish to refer has reference to the probation officers. The Home Office, or the Scottish Office, whichever is responsible in this matter on the other side of the Border, might well pay more attention to the conditions under which the probation officers serve. I will put in a special plea for the women probation officers. I think it will be found, on inquiry, that very often they work longer hours, do far more work, and in some respects more excellent work, and yet the pay they receive is much less than the pay given to the male probation officers. I hope it will be possible to deal with this point in Committee. I will not refer to the Borstal system. I think a great deal may be said in its favour; but, after all, so far as young offenders are concerned, the real hope for them is not in sending them to any institution, however excellent, but in acquainting thorn in one way or another with some real home and family life. It is proposed to give monetary grants to carry on this probation work. There are cases where the parents might be assisted in some financial way to do that very work of probation, which very often they could do best of all. Where there is no home and where there are no parents it seems to me that, if the young offenders or young persons up to sixteen years of age could be boarded out in some home, it would be infinitely better than adding to the number of institutions. We shall only get to the root of this matter when it is possible for all young people to have the chance of a sound and healthy home life. In this Bill we are dealing with the question of youthful offenders and offenders generally. Is any Member blind to the fact that the housing question has a great deal to do with this particular matter? I hope that these suggestions will be borne in mind when the Bill is in Committee.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.