§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
We have, as no doubt the House knows, arrangements in London at the present time for holding Juvenile Courts, but they are, of course, held entirely in the Courts presided over by the legal police magis- 134 trates, and the cases are dealt with in the same buildings as the other cases which come before those tribunals. The abolition of the sex disqualification has made a very great difference. Women are now entitled to sit as justices of the peace in the provinces. They are able to sit on equal terms with men, and all cases concerning children can come before them just as they can before men. In London, however, all cases connected with juvenile crime come before the paid police magistrates, and women cannot sit in those courts. I should not like it to be thought for a moment that I am suggesting that the Juvenile Courts in London have not done very good work in the past. They 135 have done extraordinarily good work, and they have shown that our police magistrates in London are keenly interested in this question, and are keenly alive to the sort of treatment which the juvenile delinquent ought to receive and to all that may be done to save children from a life of crime. I should not like it to be thought for a moment that I belittle in any way the work they have done. It has been an extensive work. The juvenile courts in London do not correspond in number with the ordinary Police Court tribunals. There are 14 Police Courts in the Metropolitain Police Court district There are at present only nine juvenile courts, but that has been found to be quite sufficient up to the present time. In 1913 4,109 cases came before those Courts, and in 1919 there were 5,462 cases in all, and when I tell the House that of the 4,000 odd cases in 1913 only three were sent to prison and that of the 5,400 in 1919 only one was sent to prison, it shows that in these Courts they have realised that imprisonment is a futile and barbarous method of correcting a child.
The proposals in this Bill, which was brought in in another place, have been, perhaps, more misrepresented and more misunderstood than almost any Bill that I remember of this description, and I should like the House clearly to understand what the proposals are. It was suggested at one time that the proposal was to set up one central Court in London, to which all children accused of crime were to be brought. That, of course, would have been a ridiculous suggestion. It would have been most inconvenient. It would have imposed great hardship upon the children's parents and guardians, and how anyone came to suppose that that was the suggestion I do not know, because certainly nothing that was ever said or written by anyone authorised to speak or write could possibly have conveyed such an idea. The proposal is that you should have separate Courts in London dealing with children only, but the intention was to have even more juvenile Courts than we have at present. Originally, the intention was to have one police magistrate for this particular purpose. It was thought that, having regard to the necessity of coordination and uniformity, one police magistrate might be bettor able to secure the desired ends than the present number, 136 but after consideration and discussion with those who are deeply interested in this matter, we have come to the conclusion that it is better to have a panel of justices who are specially qualified and specially interested and to choose the police magistrate from that panel. The proposed Court will consist of three persons. You would have as president a legally trained police magistrate, a man with legal practise, but you would have, in addition, a panel of lay justices of the peace, men and women, and in each Court you would choose probably one of each. It might even be that you would have two women, but at least one woman would be in a Court of three. Supposing it were a Court sitting, say, in Hackney. You would have there- a panel of local ladies and gentlemen who knew the district, knew the circumstances of the place, and knew all that it is necessary to know when you are dealing with such cases, and one of these would sit with the police magistrate who would preside in the Court. In the same way, if you had a Court at Greenwich or Wandsworth or Chelsea, you would have your police magistrate, but you would draw your lay help from the area itself.
So you would have in the court the police magistrate, learned and skilled in the practice of the law, who would have all the legal training that was necessary, and then you would usually have a gentleman and a lady, at any rate, one lady, who would know the area and would have the knowledge of the children and the parents and the home life, which is just as necessary in these juvenile courts as knowledge of the law. There would be a centre of juvenile court work, but it would not mean in the least that that would be the court to which all cases had to be brought. On the contrary, we want to make it as wide as possible in order that there might be the least possible inconvenience to parents who attend with their children. That is one of the points upon which we have insisted in this Bill, namely, that there should be at least one lady. It was suggested at one time that she might sit as an assessor only, but we who are responsible for bringing in the Bill are very strongly of opinion that it would be monstrous that all over the country except in London in these juvenile courts women should sit upon equal terms and in London they should not. It seemed to us to be an anomaly which was entirely 137 unnecessary and entirely inexcusable, and therefore we determined that in the constitution of the court there should be, at any rate, one woman. Equally we determined that the courts should be spread about London as far as possible so that you could have a court held in each district where you could have local lay justices who would understand the district and give the court the advantage of their local experience and knowledge.
The other main point on which we insisted was that no longer should children be taken to the police court to be dealt with for their juvenile delinquencies. We felt very strongly that even a separate entrance and a separate room was not sufficient. The child still goes to the police court and sees the uniformed policeman and probably while it is waiting with its parents, it may be for half an hour, see the criminals, and that may mean getting into touch with them. It does not seem to us to be a good thing that children should be allowed to go to police courts. For many of them it might have a sort of glamour which would have a very evil effect on them in many cases. The proper way to deal with them, in our view, is to have a building quite away from the police courts where all the police would be in ordinary plain clothes. They will be in a room and there they will be dealt with just as if they were in their own home or in their schools and not as if they were in a police court at all, and they can there be treated with an amount of sympathy and cleanliness which young children ought to have when they have gone wrong. We attach great importance to the court containing a woman who should really be able to make her influence felt with the court. We attach great importance to having the president of the court chosen from the panel of the police magistrates so that you can ensure that the president is a man specially qualified and specially interested in this subject, and that there should be as many courts in London as are necessary for the convenience of the parents, not to let the child be taken too far from its home and make it too much of a picnic to be taken to answer for its crimes, and whatever happens the court should not be held in an existing police court. I hope I have cleared away any doubts there were, and undoubtedly there were doubts, from letters in the "Times" and from resolutions which I have received from 138 numbers of bodies. There was a great deal of misapprehension about this Bill and I hope I have managed to clear it away. We had some delay in getting the Bill through, because the Lord Chancellor and I received deputations from a large number of bodies which are keenly interested in this matter. We discussed it and thrashed it all out and so far as those outside societies are concerned this is an agreed measure. I am not suggesting for a moment that that need necessarily weigh with the House at all, but for the information of the House I may say that we met all these individual societies and people and that they are quite satisfied with the measure as it stands. This is a Bill of great importance, and I am quite sure the House will appreciate that I am not in any way belittling the work that has been done by our police magistrates, but, none, the less, bettor can be done, and we ought to do it. Therefore I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
I wish to put before the House the objections I have to the Bill, at all events in its present form. I agree with the Home Secretary that a very large amount of misconception certainly exists about the Bill and about the present arrangements at police courts in dealing with juvenile crime. It exists not only in those who wrote to the "Times." It exists, I am sorry to say, in much better informed circles, and I am not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman himself is entirely free from it. It certainly existed in the Debates in another place. In London you have stipendiary magistrates. The stipendiary magistrates do practically the whole of the work. In concurrent jurisdiction with them are the lay magistrates, who consist of men and women of considerable experience. Men have been magistrates there for many years, and ladies have recently joined them, and in anything I am saying—I have had a short experience of lady magistrates in the country—I do not suggest for a moment that they are not an exceedingly useful addition to any bench of magistrates to which they are appointed. The stipendiary magistrate sits and administers justice in a way with which some of 139 us are well familiar, and it is an extraordinary thing that I have not heard a single word said against the way in which they do their work in London. The Home Secretary said that himself, and those who have discussed the Bill in another place went out of their way to point out the great advantages of having a man who came, not from the district, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, and who knows about the parents, and so forth, and has been calling upon them—it is sometimes suggested that they are busy-bodies—and it was pointed out that the working people trusted the stipendiary who came from outside, and preferred him to the very best-intentioned local magistrate, male or female, who intended well, but frequently did not treat them in the same way as a stranger.
You have these men administering justice in this way. One knows them and one has seen the work they do. The whole value of their work depends upon this, that they are omnipotent in their small sphere. The omnipotence in their limited sphere is one of the reasons why they do it well. And they do it well, and they have a staff round them. They have Police Court missionaries, male and female. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to them at all. I speak from personal experience of many years, and their influence there, men and women, is beyond all praise in dealing with juvenile crime in London. You have all these people working and the magistrates above them. You are proposing by this Bill for the first time to make these magistrates sit as one of a Court of three. I do not care whether the other two are male or female. I sit very frequently with laymen on benches administering what one hopes to be justice in certain cases. Take the difference, both in time and ease with which you do it, whether you have to sit with two or three people on your right hand side, and when you are administering justice by yourself. For the first time you are putting the stipendiary magistrate in the position that he can be over-ruled by the lay magistrates. I do not in the least object, if there is a real reason for making this change, but I have not heard one single word—the Home Secretary has not suggested a reason—from any one of these societies that the change is asked for or needed. The magistrates, I believe, are unanimous in saying that they 140 see no need for this change; but they have agreed to this Bill rather than have other Bills brought forward. I understand that is the view that has been put forward to the Home Secretary. If there is any objection to the way in which the stipendiary magistrates are doing this work, there is an alternative jurisdiction at the present time, and that is the jurisdiction of the lay magistrates. The lay magistrates sit in the different town halls and other buildings throughout the country to try cases. School board summonses were formerly taken before the stipendiary magistrates in London, but now not a single one of these cases is taken before the stipendiary magistrates. For some reason or other I suppose the school board authorities think that the work can be better done by the lay magistrates, where both men magistrates and women magistrates can sit; although I believe these cases were tried before the lay magistrates previous to the appointment of women magistrates. If a change is desired, why should not these juvenile cases be taken before the lay magistrates? Only about three cases in many thousands result in imprisonment. The cases require little legal knowledge. I am familiar with Cambridge and South coast districts, where the children are taken in a separate Court before the lay magistrates, men or women, as they chance to be.
If this Bill is persisted in, I hope the House will look carefully at its provisions. Look at the unpleasant way in which this matter is to be dealt with. You start by picking a panel of police justices. These justices have to be chosen by the Home Secretary. That will be a very invidious task. He will have to pick out from highly competent magistrates a certain number who are to be put on the panel as being fitted to do this particular work. I do not know whether he will choose them on the ground that they are fit to try juvenile cases or on the ground that they will be able to get the adhesion of the two lay magistrates to their decisions. When the Home Secretary has chosen these magistrates they are to be taken away, I suppose, from their ordinary work for a certain number of days each week and go to the places where they are to sit with the lay magistrates. Then there is to be a second panel. The justices of the County of London are to choose a panel from 141 amongst their number. I speak as a lawyer and, personally, I prefer the stipendiary magistrate. Of course, that is a preference which is not shared by everybody. It will be a very invidious task to pick out lay magistrates to sit upon these panels as being specially fitted for this particular work. It will mean a slur upon other men who have been working for years on the magisterial bench and taking, among other cases, school board cases. In addition to the two panels you are to select the particular court where the lay magistrates are to sit with the Metropolitan Police magistrates. These are objections which had better be dealt with by a Bill drafted in some other form.
Many hon. Members will remember what took place in 1908, the result of which was the creation of separate Courts. These separate Courts were set up in the metropolis. We have heard, quite rightly, from the Home Secretary, of the inadvisability of bringing children into the ordinary police Courts. He said they see policemen in uniform or they may see a criminal, and they might have to use the same retiring rooms. What has the Government done to deal with the matter? They have built nine separate Courts adjacent to the other Courts. The children enter by separate doors and they have every sort of separate convenience. The Home Secretary says they see policemen in uniform. Is he aware that no policeman in uniform is allowed inside a juvenile Court? There is no policeman there with uniform, and certainly the magistrate has no uniform. The other people there are the Police Court missionaries, men and women, and the probation officers. I cannot praise too highly the work of these men and women. They have had years of experience, far greater experience than any of the lady magistrates who are, no doubt, pressing very strongly their desire to sit in Court for the hearing of juvenile cases. These people have been working for years in the courts and are in the closest touch with the class of child or parent concerned. It is no use thinking that you can deal with these people merely by talking in Parliament or by walking about the West-End. You must have experience of these people in the south or the east of London, and you must know their faults and their virtues, and how they resent 142 being patronised. Do these Police Court missionaries support this proposed change?
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
They do not. They are content with things as they are. They are content with the magistrates who have hitherto dealt with this class of case. Under this Bill the Home Secretary is not content with his separate police courts, with their separate entrances and waiting rooms. They are to be scrapped. The children are not to go near them. They are to go away to some town hall, I do not know how far off. The unfortunate police magistrate who will have to try the cases will be asking for an allowance for an extra motor car. At the present time he can go upstairs to take the juvenile courts in the same building where he hears his other cases, but under this Bill I suppose he will have to adjourn his court and drive to the town hall where the children's cases are to be tried, while these buildings, upon which we have spent so much money, will have to be used for another purpose, or more likely will not be used for any purpose. Lastly, the Bill seeks power to shut up one of the present Metropolitan police courts, and rumour tells me that it is proposed to take over the Marlborough Street Police Court. That court, which is off Regent Street, is a very much-used court. It was built at enormous expense, and is one of the most extravagant police courts in London; in fact, the most extravagant. I understand it is proposed to close this court and use it as a central court, not to try cases, but as a sort of central bureau through which the organisation for juvenile courts in various parts of London will be conducted. That is a very extravagant method of procedure. I do not believe for one moment that you can afford to shut up that police court. It means closing one of your best used courts. The power to close that court is a very inadvisable power to give to the Home Secretary, and I do not knew who supports such a proposal. Perhaps that is a Committee point.
I have no personal interest of any kind in this matter, but I do appeal to the 143 Government, and to the House, not to proceed with the Bill as it stands. I have had a good deal of experience, both in the South and the East of London, in dealing with various classes of the community, and I am certain that this is a mistaken way of doing what the House wants to carry out. I am certain that the pressure that has been brought upon the Government in regard to this matter has been brought by well-connected, well-intentioned people, ladies in high position in the West end, who are very anxious to come and sit on these magisterial benches. I do not wish to belittle the good work that can be done by women magistrates, but I maintain that you are upsetting the system which has worked exceedingly well in the past. If you want to make any change, which I suggest is not necessary, you have the alternative of the lay magistrates who can do this work, as they are doing it, and who have had experience of school board cases, which are very similar to the class of case which would come before the juvenile courts. These petty crimes will be just as well tried by the lay magistrate. On all these grounds I beg to move the rejection of the Bill.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I beg to second the Amendment. It is quite clear that his argument is well-founded that this Bill was really promoted by the Government under impulse from some high and influential ladies in London society. I say so for this reason. Why is it that the Home Secretary has forgotten to deal with stipendiary magistrates in other parts of the country? If this Bill is really essential, surely it is not to be limited to the Metropolitan Police area. There are a great number of stipendiaries in other parts of the country, and the law will continue to be administered by them as hitherto, without the least objection on the part of His Majesty's Government or the Home Secretary. If this reform is really needed, that surely cannot be right. In introducing this Bill the Home Secretary omitted all reference to the fact that already these children's cases are heard in a manner that is quite unobjectionable, without the presence of uniformed policemen, and in a building which, although having communication with the ordinary police court, is solely set aside for that 144 purpose. Why should that be objectionable in London only? Why was he not more frank in explaining this Bill to the House, which is not necessarily informed on these facts? He said the Bill had been misunderstood, and that letters had been written to the papers suggesting that this Bill was really one to set up one central court. The Home Secretary tells us that this is not so, and, of course, I accept anything he tells us, but when I look at the Bill the language used does not bear him out, I venture to say. If he will look at Clause 1, Sub-section (4), he will see that it says:The Order may, for the purpose of facilitating the establishment of juvenile courts, provide for the discontinuance of any of the existing police courts or for the use of an existing police court solely for the purpose of a juvenile court.That means that you may provide and use an existing police court solely for the purposes of a juvenile court. What can it mean but that? And that must be what those who have written to the newspapers thought it did. I venture to think those who promoted this Bill never understood it, find I further say that in my judgment it is a Bill for the convenience of women magistrates. They want to assert some right with regard to this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] "Hear, hear!" some Members say. Well, it is quite right that they should. But surely the stipendiary magistrates, who for many a long year, sitting by their selves, have formed a court of summary jurisdiction—that is, no two magistrates required—ought to be considered. The Home Secretary admits that there is not a single cause of complaint in regard to their administration, and that is very high testimony, and there is the additional fact that you have got these children removed from everything that is objectionable. The Bill is based on a misconception. If my right hon. Friend will look at Clause 1, Sub-section (1) he will see that under the proviso, that if a child is brought before the magistrate in the ordinary court, and he finds it inconvenient in the interests of justice to adjourn the case to the children's court, he can continue to adjudicate, and hear the case, and determine it.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I do not so read it, and I do not think that is the interpretation of the proviso. The proviso is not to prevent the police court magistrate sitting alone in any case where he considers that it would be impracticable for the court to be constituted "in manner aforesaid," or that it would be inexpedient in the interests of justice to adjourn the case. I understand that to refer not only to the time when the lady is not there, but to refer to a time when the child came before him sitting as a magistrate. Indeed, I can see nothing in this Bill which would preclude a stipendiary magistrate from hearing such a case if brought before him and in adjudicating upon it. I have this further objection to the Bill. I respectfully submit to the House that this is not a time for increasing expenditure, and I wish to know who is to find this money, and whether any portion of it is to be cast on the rates? If it is, I certainly oppose this Bill, if anybody will go to a division upon it. The rates are enormous now, and we should save every halfpenny we can. This Bill assumes that all existing courts are to cease to be courts for the trial or hearing of offences by children. If you are not going to centralise, how many courts will you require throughout this great area of the Metropolis? You will require a considerable number. Also you will have an additional staff, and you will have all the expenses of running these courts.
§ Mr. HOHLER
If you have additional courts I should have thought you would have had additional expense; at least in regard to caretakers and the like, that cannot be got over. You are setting up a wholly now system all over London, and all for the sake of a few women who have been appointed magistrates in London. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend what is the estimate of the expenditure, how many courts he proposes to set up, is he going to acquire new buildings for this purpose, and on whom will the burden of the erection of these courts fall? If it falls on the rates I shall certainly oppose this Bill. If it falls on the Imperial Exchequer I say that our burdens are quite enough, and that there is no real need for the Bill, and if in time it is found that 146 real reform is required it ought to extend to the whole country and not be limited merely to the Metropolitan Police area.
§ Major HAYWARD
When I read this Bill for the first time I did so with a very great deal of pleasure, and I welcomed the Second Reading unreservedly, and when I discovered that objection was taken to the Second Reading by two hon. and learned Gentlemen I listened with very great attention to find out why they, with their experience and authority, were opposing this measure. Having listened to them with the greatest care, I have failed to find any reason in anything they have said for doing otherwise than voting for the Second Reading of this measure. I could not find anything in their arguments detrimental to the Bill itself. The argument seems to me to be that the Bill does not go far enough, because it includes the Metropolitan area only. One objection raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the rejection suggested that even if the Bill were passed it would still be possible for a stipendiary magistrate to hear the case in his own court. With very great deference, I differ from the hon. and learned Gentleman. If the Bill is carefully read it will be seen that it provides that a case cannot be heard in the ordinary police court and must be heard in a special court. I welcome this Bill unreservedly, because it is a further development of that enlightened and humane administration of the criminal law that applies to juveniles.
Sir J. D. REES
When any member of the Government addresses the House it is always desirable to separate that portion of his speech which is illustrative or argumentative or ornamental from that portion which is operative, material, and essential. The Home Secretary's speech, considered in that light, seems to me to result in this: He wants to have women magistrates sitting with the stipendiary magistrates in London to try juvenile cases. I cannot imagine a more suitable or more proper place for a woman magistrate, and I should welcome her there; but is not this a circuitous and expensive method of bringing about what might be much more simply arranged? We must not suppose, because there have been no women magistrates sitting before, that women's influence has not been brought to bear upon the cases of children accused of offences. The police court 147 missionaries have brought such influence to bear. But if it is desirable that women magistrates should sit with stipendiary magistrates, why cannot they sit with them in the same court-houses? I was profoundly unimpressed with the argument of my right hon. Friend that it would not do for children to see a policeman. A policeman in uniform is not a terror to any but the evildoer and the wrongdoer, and so little does that argument appeal to me that I agree far more with the view that:Vice is a monster of such hideous mien, As to be hated needs but to be seen.If their little eyes should fall upon a malefactor, and he was a very terrible-looking person—which, I beg leave to say, they generally are not—it would inspire that infant with a dread of wrong and wrongdoers. I have seldom heard so weak an argument from so exalted a quarter. I do not think my right hon. Friend was quite happy in omitting to mention the, all-important fact, if it be a fact, that the stipendiary magistrates disapprove of this Bill, and do not see the slightest necessity for it.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Those whom I have consulted, and I have consulted them through the chief magistrate, approve of this Bill. I could only consult them through the chief magistrate—that is the proper course. He consults whom he chooses, and the chief magistrate, after consulting with his colleagues, approved the Bill.
Sir J. D. REES
So far as my information goes, he was not very successful in representing the views of the majority of his colleagues.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I understand they were unanimous in favour of saying that no change was needed, and only approved the Bill on the ground that, if they were to have a Bill, this was the best Bill.
Sir J. D. REES
I really do not wish to oppose anything which is supported by eminent, capable, enthusiastic, and philanthropic ladies. I cannot think it necessary to create nine new courts which will cause a good deal of expense. Are they to sit in the existing police courts? If 148 so, why have two bites of a cherry, having two courts sitting in the same place to try the children, who could be tried by the magistrate with the lady magistrate? How can the right hon. Gentleman say that this does not cost more? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the majority of stipendiary magistrates are not opposed to this specific proposal?
Sir J. D. REES
It is a pity that that fact was not made public before, because the contrary allegation made an impression upon me. The stipendiary magistrates are extremely able men who have performed their duty to the satisfaction of everybody. I should be as glad as any Member of this House to see these little criminals made as comfortable as possible, and extremely glad to see a lady magistrate taking part in imprisoning them or sentencing them to the birch as the case may be. But I hope that this may be brought about without creating nine extra courts. I would ask the Home Secretary to tell us what it is going to cost. Even this Bill provides for everything going on as before. Therefore, one wonders why such a Nasmyth hammer should be required to crack this little nut.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I have listened with interest to speeches of hon. Members who are opposed to this Bill. They have shown the same old prejudices of mind that have always been shown when it comes to a question of reform. I congratulate the Government on having brought forward such a splendid Bill. The hon. Member for Cambridge University is wrong in saying that the Bill is pushed forward by titled or coroneted ladies.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I never used the word "coronoted" or "titled." I never referred to the hon. Member in any shape or form.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I quite agree. I was not taking it to myself at all. I suppose that the hon. Member was talking about ladies who have been made justices of the peace; but that has nothing to do with this Bill. Neither I nor they have promoted the Bill. It is the women who have been dealing with the juvenile criminals all their lives from whom the pressure comes, and not from those whom the hon. Member calls the fashionable justices of the peace. The hon. Member 149 has said that magistrates are not pressing for this. I admit that there are a few magistrates who are not pressing for it; but every woman who is interested in juvenile criminals is for this Bill, and so is every woman's organisation.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
Everyone. The Howard Association, the Wage Earning Children's Committee, the Penal Reform League and others. I believe that some Magistrates are against it. Of course, magistrates have done as well as they could do without women. But it is not from the point of view of women but because the Bill is needed very much that I support it. The hon. Gentleman (Sir J. D. Rees) has referred to the little criminal not being frightened by a policeman. I doubt whether all of us are not still frightened by a policeman. Children grow up in terror of a policeman, and the hon. Member (Colonel P. Williams), next to me, told me that he was, and still is, frightened by a policeman, and the hon. Member opposite ought still to be frightened by them. Reference has been made to the expense that may be caused. These criticisms are made by a certain type of mind that is against all agitation for reform in reference to drink and women, and when it comes to dealing with children, that type of mind puts itself in evidence. Even if there were extra expense, do you think that the nation cares about expense to save these high-spirited children, who are not really criminals, and put them on the right road? It is distressing to sit here and listen to criticism like that which we have, heard to-day, all, no doubt, perfectly honourably intended. I have nothing to say against these Gentlemen, but it is the type of mind that I am going against. I hope that the Home Secretary will show the hon. Gentleman that this will not be expensive. But even if it is, if it is going to help those children I hope that the House will vote for this Bill. If we do go to a Division, I want the House to remember that the type of mind to which I refer is against progress and reform of every sort, and not to be led away by it. All organised women's associations are for this Bill.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I wish that the right hon. Baronet had a constituency in which there were women instead of bankers. My patience is beginning to wear out and I am afraid that sometimes I have a sharp tongue. I congratulate the Government, and I am sure that the voice of those who favour progress will also congratulate them for having brought forward this Bill. If the missionaries who have sat in courts all these years were asked they would say that they rejoice that the children are going to have a separate court of their own. It is not really a case of dealing with criminals, but of deciding how they can best help the children and not punish them. There is not an hon. Member of this House who has got a child who does not welcome the chance of these unfortunate children going to a court where they can get the tenderest treatment and have the woman's point of view brought forward where it is most needed.
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
There is one point of principle which I do not think has been sufficiently before the House. That is the position as to the stipendiary magistrate. Stipendiary magistrates were appointed because of the general dissatisfaction with lay magistrates. It was felt in our industrial towns that, lay magistrates were not sufficiently impartial and that, men with legally trained minds were move likely to give decisions free from prejudice. For that reason stipendiary magistrates were appointed. They were not made co-equal or to sit with other magistrates and to be overridden by them. They were made to sit alone and administer justice by themselves. As the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge. University (Mr. Kawlinson) has said, the appointment of these magistrates has given universal satisfaction. As it stands, the principle of this Bill will be impaired, and for the first time men with the legally trained mind will be in a position of being overruled by the lay element. I am not clear whether it is necessary in the children's court, to have a stipendiary at all. The Home Secretary has not deal with that question. It seems to me that this question might be settled easily by the withdrawal of the children's cases from the stipendiary magistrate's court, leaving them to be dealt with by lay magistrates, men and women. I rather share the general view of those who are in favour of this Bill, that you should have the 151 benefit of women's sympathy and the help of people who show those qualities in dealing with these children of tender age who otherwise would come before the police court. But if that is so, why do you want the stipendiary in? I do not feel satisfied with this Bill and think that these people might be withdrawn from the stipendiary magistrate.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. HALL
I do not know why this change is necessary, because the Home Secretary, when he makes these appointments, goes most carefully into the credentials of those whom he puts on the Bench and endeavours to get the best people to carry out the duties of stipendiary magistrates. Enormous amounts of money have been expended on some of our police courts to enable them to deal in the most humane manner with these various cases, especially juvenile cases. The magistrates are, as a rule, sympathetic, kind-hearted men who have got their duties to perform. They become closely acquainted with the people in the district from which the cases come before them. Surely it is better that these children's cases should come before men who know all about the district and who will look upon these children in a favourable way. Westminster and Marlborough Street Courts are cases in which a large expense has been incurred in order to give all necessary protection in the case of women and children who have, unfortunately, to be brought up there, and it would be well to have these cases dealt with as they are at the present time. But if in some of the police courts you have not got the necessary accommodation, it would be easy for the Home Secretary to have the necessary improvements and alterations made so that the children may be kept away from the habitual criminal. We do not want them to get into touch with the habitual criminal. I would much prefer to see these cases dealt with as they are now. If any alterations are necessary, by all means have them; hub do not adopt the extraordinary idea of having one court set apart. It is not necessary to anticipate that you are going to have your magistrates continually busy looking after the children in one court. At all events I hope it will not be necessary, because, there will not be sufficient work.
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
The hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) made 152 a speech which, I think, is typical of the support of the wrong idea behind this Bill. The stipendiary magistrate who has done his work, even in the juvenile courts, without the slightest complaint, is a step ahead of the old system of the jurisdiction of lay magistrates. When you go back and associate, in these very important juvenile courts, the professional man who does his work well and lay magistrates who are not so well acquainted with the work, that is retrogression and not progression. What is at the bottom of this Bill is no doubt a perfectly praiseworthy idea on the part of some of those ladies who have recently become members of the magistracy, and that is to find work for themselves in which they think, and no doubt rightly, they are well qualified to assist men. So be it, as long as they, being lay women, assist lay men. That they can do all over the country. But it is quite a different point of view to suggest that these ladies, many of them with little experience of juvenile offenders, can usefully assist the stipendiary. Apparently the idea of the Government or of the promoters of the Bill is not confined to a proposal to put ladies into these courts, because you are to associate with the stipendiary magistrate, not merely a lady magistrate, but a male magistrate as well. If it is necessary, which I doubt very much indeed, to have ladies to assist the stipendiary magistrates in London, I submit that this Bill is not the proper way to carry that out. They could, if necessary, sit as assessors in order that the stipendiary, who knows his work, may have special advice with regard to the special type of case before him. The whole argument brought forward on behalf of the lady magistrates is vitiated by the form of this Bill, which provides for a male lay magistrate as well as a lady magistrate sitting with the stipendiary. With regard to expense, the hon. Member for Plymouth said some hard things which were not justified, and certainly I am not one of those who intends to oppose reasonable expense in any matters intended for the good of the poorer classes. But to go to the expense of setting up separate courts and getting new buildings for them when there is not the slightest objection to the holding of even the peculiar courts which are to be constituted under this Bill in existing buildings, is another matter. There is not the slightest reason why they should not be held in the same rooms in 153 which courts are held now. We hear much about the need for watching every item of expenditure in this House. That proposal alone is one very serious reason for opposing this Bill.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
I have had many years' experience of dealing with young people. I think there is no problem more important than that we should see to it that every boy and girl has the best opportunity of making all that he or she can of his or her life. I support this Bill in so far as it tends to divorce juvenile delinquents from the ordinary Police Courts. Child nature is a peculiar thing. We have the sensitive and shrinking child, and the bold and assertive child. Both of them have to be guarded against the possible evil of the ordinary Police Court. Experience has taught us in many cases the great harm done to the child by contact with criminality. It has been said to-night that the Courts in London have been carried on without complaint. What is the only qualified quarter from which complaint can come, or, at all events, what is the best qualified quarter? The answer is, from the children themselves, the children who are tried. We are very often apt to leave out of consideration those who most require consideration. A second reason which I was sorry to hear urged against the Bill was that it would be expensive.
§ Mr. COWAN
I am glad to hear that. Even if it were expensive, I would like to support, in the strongest possible terms what has been said by the hon. Member for Plymouth. Of late we have had far too much of this quoting of expense whenever it means something for the benefit of those who require to be looked after by the rich. As one who has supported this Government with reasonable service for the last two years, I do not like to hear cheers when there is a suggestion that we should take away from the children that which we promised them before the election and during the War. It is a matter of great regret to me that references to saving on education are greeted with cheers from some quarters of the House. You cannot dissociate education from any part of child life. Too long we have looked upon education as a thing of school attendance only; it is nothing of the sort. Education is more or less a preparation for the whole of life. With 154 that in view, we must see that the child's home circumstances and the circumstances attending its young life, particularly when it is in difficulty, receive the kindly, generous, and sympathetic consideration of Members of this House.
§ Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS
I heartily approve of the principle of having a woman justice to sit on all these cases. The intuition of women and the reason of man form the most perfect tribunal that one can imagine. It is not perfect now when you have only men to decide questions connected with children. I am not at all sure that I see the object of having a second justice there. I have no doubt that that has been considered by those who framed the Bill, and that the Home Secretary, who is a very experienced lawyer, thinks it is an improvement. I should rather have doubted it. That the stipendiary should have a woman with him seems to me to be a very much needed improvement calculated to make the Court one which will thoroughly understand both the woman's view with regard to children and the man's view. I have had a very large family and have been married for 43 years. I have grandchildren. I know that my wife understands them a great deal bettor than I do. If I had to consider the conduct of a child, I would much rather she sat with me to try the case than that I should sit alone, although I am a lawyer. I think we must all agree with the principle of the Bill The only proposal that has roused a storm in the House is the setting up of new Courts. I understand from the Home Secretary that it is not the intention to have any extra buildings.
§ Mr. SHORTT
No extra buildings of any sort or description. We are already discussing the matter with local authorities with the view of getting the use of some public building or house belonging to the local authority. There will be no expense whatever.
That will remove a great apprehension. There is one little objection to the Bill which might be considered in Committee. It seems a pity that, when you have Courts attached to the regular Courts, they should not still be used. Otherwise you will be taking a stipendiary magistrate away from his Court, say, to a town hall, and he will have to go back to his court That will mean a waste of his and the public's 155 time. Perhaps the Home Secretary will explain that.
§ Mr. SHORTT
That question we have gone into very carefully in detail. Courts can be held in buildings away from the police courts without in the least interrupting the work of the police court.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I should like to say a few words as one who has had a long experience as a school medical officer. It is surprising to hear those who oppose this Bill speak of the stipendiary magistrates without in any way considering what is the relationship between a man and the mind of a child he has to judge. It seems to me that the question is really psychological. The object of the law, I understand, is thoroughly to understand the criminal or the prisoner, and to try to get at the reason of his or her offence. The stipendiary magistrate may be, and no doubt is, a most exemplary person, but if any of as can go back to the day when we were six or seven years of age, I think we would say that our general conception of a stipendiary magistrate was of something that froze our insides. The hon. Member who has just spoken mentioned the fact that he has contributed so largely to the nation. We quite realise that a father has special opportunities of judging his child, but we all know, whether as fathers or sons, that between the father and the son there is a deep gulf, while the woman, married or unmarried, has instinctively a feeling with the child. I only mention what are truisms to say that they are borne out by the experience in school medical work, where we have the great advantage of having associated with us nurses and lady school officers, and I can assure the House it makes an enormous difference to be able to deal with such matters through a woman's mind. Power is taken to hold the courts in other places than ordinary courts. Personally, I attach little importance to that. What terrifies the child and what prevents real justice being done is not a question of bricks or mortar or the room, but those who conduct the interrogations. If that person is a woman I am sure that the result will be all that is required for the sake of justice, whether you hold the court in a police court or anywhere else.
156 I endorse what has been said against unnecessary expenditure. That is permissive, and I hope the provision with regard to using other rooms will not be pressed. The right hon. Gentleman has taken great pains to vindicate his action in already having gone out of the way to provide separate rooms, and I know that great stress has been laid on that proposal by some people who advocate this Bill. I say it is wrong, and if there is in it any expenditure such as is contemplated, then I would say, have the cases tried in the ordinary courts, if necessary. I do not think that matters anything like as much as having women engaged in the case. There is a suggestion that there should be two justices, one of whom should be a woman, but I hope the two may very often be women. Mention has been made, and disparagingly, of the class to which women justices belong. I think a good many of us would wish that before long women justices might be found in all classes, and that it would be very useful to have some women from the different classes possibly sitting on the same bench together. Some hon. Members have attributed this Bill to a desire on the part of women justices to find work for themselves. That is a gross misunderstanding of the case. All those interested in the welfare of children for years past know that this Measure has been gradually crystallising out of modern knowledge and experience, long before the War or before women justices were appointed.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I have studied this Bill with some interest as I have had experience for a number of years of juvenile courts. There are one or two things in the Bill to be commended. One is the provision for separate places for dealing with juveniles. Police courts have only accommodation for the ordinary course of business, but even in that case I have known of children kept entirely apart from the ordinary business and when the ordinary cases had been dealt with and when the court had been cleared the children were brought in and a juvenile court constituted. The provision of separate places can, I think, be easily adopted in the metropolis. Child life is the most important thing to which we can give attention, and the prevention of children becoming criminals is a work that commends itself to everyone and in which no expense should be spared. I do not think any extra expense will be 157 incurred in providing separate places, so that the economists can rest m peace. The bringing in of women justices to these courts was sadly needed and now there is no difficulty, but why I ask should you compel a stipendiary to preside over a court for juvenile offenders. A stipendiary magistrate is appointed because of his knowledge of the law and its technicalities and the different problems which magistrates have to decide. The offences as a rule for which children are committed are very small indeed. The important thing is to save the child from drifting into the criminal classes, and I do not think that any stipendiary understands the needs of childhood or the best means of dealing with children better than the ordinary justice of the peace. The majority of cases in juvenile courts are for offences which we have all committed more or less, not even excluding the Prime Minister. I have often thought if I had been put into a juvenile court for every offence I committed I would have got a good long penalty. The main point is what is best in the interests of the child, and in that aspect it does not seem to matter whether the court has the stipendiary or other justices. I think it would be far better not to impose this task on the stipendiary and let him be engaged in his far more important business in the other courts. However, I am not going to oppose the Bill. I am rather in favour of it, and I commend the Government for dealing with the subject. There are more good points in the Bill than the one or two bad ones which I have mentioned, and I support the Bill in the belief that it will help to save children from becoming criminals.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.