HC Deb 22 April 1926 vol 194 cc1368-9

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that in the recent case of a man named Flint, who was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for offences against- his daughter, aged 14 years, who has now been permanently removed from his control, the Court was unable owing to the present state of the law to make a similar order with regard to a younger daughter, aged eight years; and will he consider the desirability of proposing the necessary admendments of the law to meet such cases?


As I informed my hon. Friend last Tuesday, adequate steps have been taken for the protection of the younger daughter. I am aware of the defect in the law to which attention was drawn by the Committee on Sexual Offences against Young Persons (see especially paragraph 99 of their Report). I understand that the Committee on Young Offenders and neglected children is likely to propose a number of Amendments to the Children Act, 1908, and I will consider the whole matter when their Report is received.


Is the House to understand that if these amendments of the law are not carried through within the course of the next eight months, this man on his release from prison will be able to demand that this child of eight shall be handed over to him by those who are taking care of her: and if so will the right hon. Gentlemen take such steps as are necessary to ensure that this amending legislation is carried through without any delay?

Viscountess ASTOR

Is it not possible under Section 21 of the Children Act that this child should be taken away from its father?


I really think the Noble Lady is wrong. The child against whom the offence was committed has been by law taken away from the father. The question relates to the child of eight, against whom no offence has been committed. I am advised by ray legal advisers that there is a defect in the law and that, although the father committed an offence against the older child, there is no power to take the younger child away from him, but by arrangement with other members of the family the younger child has been taken away and is now being cared for.

Viscountess ASTOR

I suppose it is not possible under Section 21 of the Children Act, or it would have been done.


Ls it not possible for the Poor Law guardians to take care of the children?


I can only say that we have carefully gone into the question with the utmost desire to deal with this very sad case. If we had power we would certainly apply to the Court. The matter is being attended to by a Committee now sitting at the Home Office and I am sure as soon as I bring in a Bill it will receive the assent of the House.


Could it not have been put as a case under the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act?