HC Deb 19 February 1926 vol 191 cc2303-53

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

At the outset I desire to make one thing perfectly clear, and that is that this Bill is not introduced to satisfy any public clamour for the opportunity to give vindictive sentences in any particular case. Neither is it a Bill designed to raise a purely sex question, or as to the punishment of purely sex offences. There is no desire on the part of those promoting the Bill to give to the Courts power to increase a sentence in respect of any individual offence. We are, therefore, not raising the very thorny question as to whether present punishments for individual offences are or are not adequate. Neither are we raising that much more thorny question as to whether there should be or should not be corporal punishment in respect of certain offences. To wander into those fields is really to bring oneself straight away into a hornets' nest, to bring oneself into an atmosphere of controversy which is of a very keen character and in which there are widely differing opinions.

One result of the promotion of this Bill has been that, I have received a most extraordinarily diversified correspondence. It is quite obvious that on the question of punishment, as to the kind of punishment and its extension for particular offences, there are very widely different, views. If I may illustrate the hornets' nest that I hope I have avoided, I would mention that my correspondence has differed as widely as this: On the one hand I have had an obliging letter from one man who, to show his detestation of sexual offences, offered, as he said, quite willingly, to execute sexual offenders to the tune of 50 a day, provided that he was paid the large remuneration of a shilling per head. Coupled with him are a number of other and well-meaning people who think that no punishment that the law can devise is too severe and no period of imprisonment too extended for the person who commits a sexual offence, no matter how small or serious that offence may be. On the other hand, there are people who express the view that sexual offences of all kinds should go completely unpunished. Those are totally different points of view, it is true. One lady wrote and explained to me that the man who murdered his wives in a bath was led to that by reason of the fact that before he was born, his mother had conceived the idea of getting rid of him in a bath when he was born, but failed to carry out her intention. There are others who have gravely suggested that sexual offences should go unpunished, and one correspondent went so far as to suggest that a man, who is well known apparently under the name of Hayley Morriss, was really a species of early Christian martyr. I need hardly say that the last two letters were unsigned, and, as far as I can see there was nothing in the letters that would lead to the detection of the writers; otherwise I think both those orrespondents ought to be very carefully watched.

The real reason for this Bill is right away from any controversy of that kind. The occasion has arisen, it is true, in a case concerning sexual offences. But anyone who reads the Lord Chief Justice's words in dealing with the Hayley Morriss case will see that his words had a far wider application than merely the case which was before him. His suggestion, which was published in his judgment in that case, was this: That the case brought to light a defect in our criminal law that that defect was that where a man had committed a multiplicity of offences and had been found guilty of them, owing to the restrictions which our practice puts on cumulative terms of imprisonment, there was no alternative which allowed the court to sentence the man to an adequate period of detention. That difficulty arose in a sexual case, but it is by no means confined to sexual cases, and there are other cases in which the power of alternative detention is of extreme importance. It is to deal with that one point of principle that I have introduced this Bill.

If one may trace quite briefly the way in which this matter arises, the House will see how necessary the alternative is. As our law is now, where the punishment for crime by Statute is penal servitude there is express statutory provision in those cases which, in the opinion of the court, do not merit penal servitude, for imprisonment with or without hard labour to be inflicted. But there is no corresponding provision in the case of those offences where by Statute imprisonment only is the sentence designate. There are reasons possibly, or those were reasons originally, for that view. No doubt many years ago a sentence of two years' hard labour, which has always been recognised as the maximum, was an extremely severe sentence. In fact, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that in the early days of imprisonment with hard labour the man who was able to serve a sentence of two years' hard labour came out a completely broken man. But the rigours of imprisonment with hard labour have been very extensively mitigated, and to-day imprisonment with hard labour is nothing like as severe a punishment as it was.

Notwithstanding the mitigation in the nature of the punishment, however, it has always been, and is still thought undesirable, that a man should be kept to the close confinement of a local prison for a period beyond two years. In fact, such a sentence, with remissions, is actually a sentence of one year and eight months, but it may involve a total period of two years. There are offences in respect of which the only punishment prescribed by Statute is imprisonment with or without hard labour, and in accordance with our practice, no matter how many offences a man may be convicted of at any particular time, the Courts always set themselves against inflicting cumulative periods of imprisonment, with or without hard labour, although they have in theory the right to do so. There is, no doubt, considerable justification for that attitude. On the other hand, it is obvious that a power which is so limited by practice does not enable the Courts to do full justice in cases involving a number, of offences, and clearly requiring, if justice is to be done, some period of prolonged detention. It is with cases of that class that this Bill deals, and in order that justice may be done in such cases I submit it is absolutely necessary that some such course should be adopted as proposed in the Bill.

What are the types of offences? It is true that many of them come under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885. These are sexual offences, some of a less degree and some of an extremely serious character. They are all offences which demand very careful treatment. They may vary very much. They may be nothing more than a casual lapse, serious perhaps in character but not the kind of lapse for which a judge would give an extended period of imprisonment. There may be circumstances in the Commission of the offence which make it obvious that a severe sentence would be out of all proportion. On the other hand, there are some of those offences for which, within reason, it is almost impossible to prescribe an adequate punishment—some of the offences against children particularly, where not only serious moral injury is done but where serious physical injury is done and where, by the imparting of disease, very serious and continued injury to health is inflicted upon the child. Such cases obviously call for very severe punishment. It is true I am not attempting in this Bill to provide extended punishment for individual offences in those cases and I think there is this to be said from that point of view. Where merely one offence is charged against a person, particularly where that offence is an isolated one, then a short sharp sentence, is probably the best way of bringing the offender to a sense of what is right and possibly permitting him afterwards to take the straight and the right path.

On the other hand, where you have—as unfortunately have from time to time—cases where a man is charge not with one offence but with a series of offences, then, clearly, a short period of detention has no real relation either to the enormity of the offences or the necessity of protecting the community from a man of that kind. It is in cases of that class that this Bill will, I venture to think, be of great value. Apart from the question of punishment, one must recognise that where you find a series of offences of this nature, it is impossible to say that there is not something of an abnormal character about the person who commits them. At present, as far as I know, our law provides no special means of dealing with people of abnormal character who are sane enough to know that the act they are committing is wrongful. The only effective way of dealing with people of that type, when they are disclosed by the commission of offences of this kind, is some system of prolonged detention which may give an opportunity to judge of their abnormality of character and may also be a, protection to the public against the danger of such people being at large.

There is another class of offence which will come within this Bill. I am only taking two main types of offence, though there are several miscellaneous offences which will come within it, as to which very much the same principle applies. There is one other type which is all too prevalent, and which certainly demands increased powers of punishment at the present time. These are cases of fraud, some under the Bankruptcy Acts, some under other Statutes, which if the offences are isolated probably do not demand serious punishment, but which call for more serious treatment when there is a series of such offences. I desire to point out at this stage that bankruptcy offences are, I understand, being made the subject of recommendations by particular committees, and I do not propose to infringe upon the possible recommendations of those committees, I am merely dealing with those cases where, at present, the maximum punishment is imprisonment only. There are cases, both under the Bankruptcy Act and under the Debtors Act, where the maximum punishment is two years' imprisonment with hard labour, and in some cases where it is only one year's imprisonment—I think under the Debtors Act it is one year's imprisonment with hard labour. This offence is known as obtaining credit by fraud other than false pretences. It is an offence where you cannot attribute the obtaining of a credit or of money to any partimilar false statement, but where the credit or the money is obtained by a fraudulent system. It is one of those offences which strikes at the root of commercial morality.

At, present the maximum punishment for any one offence is limited, as I have described, and yet almost every Assizes and a great many quarter sessions disclose indictments against people charged with offences of this character on sometimes as many as ten or even twenty countis. A man may be convicted of having on some ten or twenty occasions obtained credit by fraud other than false pretences and yet, notwithstanding, the fact that these offences disclose carefully thought-out, systematic, depredations upon the commercial community, the total sentence that can be given is two years' imprisonment with hard labour at the present time. This Bill will enable that type of offence to be dealt with in an adequate fashion, and may, in that way, result in some diminution of commercial frauds, which are at present far too extensive. I can conceive that there may be some who will say that we have set no limit, to the Bill, and that in cases of ten or twenty counts the Bill will allow penal servitude for 20 or, if may he, 30 or 40 years. I recognise that defect in the Bill as drawn, but there will be no difficulty in the matter, and I should certainly welcome a suggestion that there should be, a limit, in regard to cases tried at Assizes, of, say, seven or term years' penal servitude, and, in regard to cases tried at Quarter Sessions, of five years' penal servitude. While I think it is well to have a maximum of ten years, one knows that in rraetice the maximum would very rarely indeed, and only in a very flagrant case, be inflicted. At any rate, I think some limit of that kind should be embodied in the Bill.

I do not think it is necessary to enlarge upon the Bill further. It gives that alternative which at present is so necessary. After all, penalties which are inflicted upon criminals must, in my submission, be definitely punitive in character. They should also, when opportunity and when the reason arises, be deterrent to others but one thing is absolutely important, and that is that penalties should not be irregular or capricious, should not be uncertain, and certainly should not be out of proportion to the offences which are committed. I would also add, for fear of being misunderstood, one other general principle with regard to punishment., and that is that no punishment should be so severe as in any way to deprive the offender, either by breaking his spirit or otherwise, of the chance of recovering his character, if there is the slighuest opportunity or evidence that he is ever going to try to do so. At the same time, when one has a series of offences, do not regard punishment as the vindication of society—conviction is that—at any rate, there would be an opportunity to the Court of protecting the public by confining the offender for a reasonable time so as to prevent further depredations upon the community. I do not desire to say any more. This Bill is, I hope, absolutely non-contentious in character, and certainly it is absolutely non-political in every sense of the word, but I do hope the House will regard it as a small, but useful, contribution to our legislation, and in that hope I beg to move its Second Reading.


I beg to second the Motion.

I do so because, in my belief, the provisions of this Bill are such as to remedy what is a defect in the machinery of administration of our criminal law. Before I endeavour to deal with the reasons which bring me to that conclusion, I would like to say that it is with considerable satisfaction that I heard what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord) said as to the object of this Bill, and his disclaimer that it was intended to be directed against sexual offences along. When one comes to deal with sexual offences, whatever one's personal views may be as to the heinousness of them, one is often met by an objection, which was taken in this House as long ago as 1885, when that great remedial Measure, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, was undergoing its Second Reading, that when you are dealing with sexual offences you are always leaving open an opportunity which should not exist for extortion and misrepresentation. Therefore, as I said, it was with satisfaction that I heard my hon. and learned Friend point out that this Bill is general in its character, dealing not only with offences of that class, but with offences of other classes, to some of which may hon. and learned Friend referred.

There is a general principle underlying this Bill, one form of which is this, that the repetition of offences by an offender sometimes means something more than mere additions to the sum total of the individual offence. An isolated offence may be explained. It may be the result of temptation; it may be the result of many circumstances; there may be surrounding facts which make an isolated case almost venial, but when you come to find that a person who has so offended once is offending again for a second and perhaps a third and a fourth time, I suggest that that indicates a condition of mind which shows deliberation or a total inability to regard the social duties of a country governed as we are. From that point of view, one has to ask oneself the question: How are you to deal with persons who are subject either to the wicked and cruel mind which will deliberately commit criminal offences for the sake of mere self-indulgence or greed, or with persons who have, without being deficient mentally, such an inability as to be unable to avoid the results of temptation? My hon. and learned Friend referred to the possibility of inflicting consecutive sentences. I believe he was right in saying that, speaking generally, when it comes to sentences of any substantial length, the infliction of consecutive sentences is discouraged by the Courts, and it is certainly true that it has been laid down by the Court of Criminal Appeal with no uncertain voice that, once a sentence of imprisonment with hard labour for two years has been inflicted, for any offence, no, other sentence, shall be inflicted, to follow it which has as part of its constituents an order for hard labour.

I do not want to weary the House with the citation of cases that have been heard in the Courts, but this principle was laid down in one case in a very striking way. There was, some years ago, in 1916, the case of a man called Goldstein, who was prosecuted at different times for two offences. The first of those offences was the procuration of a young woman, for which offence he was awarded a sentence of two years' hard labour, and no complaint, so far as I know, was ever made of the justice of that sentence. He was shortly afterwards indicted for another offence, an offence which may vary in its incidence, and in its character. He was indicted for being an incorrigible rogue. For that offence he was ordered to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for 12 months, to follow the previous sentence. He was kept, therefore, at hard labour for three years. I believe there is one case on the Statute Book in which a sentence of three years with hard labour can still be inflicted. I have never known of a case where it has been done, and I doubt whether any of my hon. and learned Friends could point out any such case, because, as my hon. and learned Friend said, it is generally accepted that a sentence of two years with hard labour, in spite of the present mitigations of imprisonment, is as much as any man can bear. But the point I wish to make is that in this particular case, before any discussion had taken place as to the righteousness of the sentence, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Reading, as soon as he was told of the nature of the two sentences, said, "The Court will not allow that sentence to stand." Subsequently, in his judgment he dealt with this much more fully.

So one can accept the principle that, generally speaking whatever the nature of the offence may be, no prolonged sentence of that class will be accepted by the Court of Criminal Appeal. My hon. and learned Friend more than once in his speech pointed out that the principal object of punishment was that it should act as a deterrent. There are many principles underlying the object of punishment, but there is one other which, in my humble opinion, has to be carefully considered in regard to this Bill. If we come back to the offender who, I assumed a little while ago, is offending not for the first, second, or third time, but even more, and is doing so deliberately, thoroughly understanding his position, taking the risks of his action, against such a man the public has to be protected, and at times there are cases of such a nature that the only protection you can give to the public against the offenders is seclusion for a long period. That being so, if length of sentence is sometimes wanted, and no length of sentence can be obtained except by penal servitude, what are we to do in cases where penal servitude is not permitted by the law? We had a case only the other day—my hon. and learned Friend mentioned it—of an individual against whom offences of such a nature were proved that a very learned and experienced Judge felt that the sentence he could give for any one offence—two years' hard labour was insufficient. He inflicted a sentence of two years' hard labour, to be followed by one year's ordinary imprisonment without hard labour. I venture to think that if that learned Judge had had the opportunity of ordering a sentence of penal servitude, he would have protected the public for the time he thought necessary, and—my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary can tell us more than I can tell the House about this—perhaps a sentence, when you leave its length out of consideration, much more merciful in its nature than a sentence of hard labour with ordinary imprisonment.

Those are some of the reasons why I suggest that this Bill should be accepted by the House. I have tried to think out for myself what objections there can be to this Bill. Speaking as I do at this period of the Debate, when, of course, I have heard no objections to it, if there be any, I have to fall back on such considerations as I find in ordinary conversation among people who are interested in this subject, and I want to deal with some of the objections that might be taken. Before I do so, I hope I am in order in expressing the hope that this discussion will not be limited to hon. Members professionally engaged, as my hon. and learned Friend and I. Social workers there are who know as much about imprisonment, and perhaps more than we do, because they get the opportunity, which may be denied to some of us, or, at any rate, they have a greater opportunity than we have, of going into prisons and seeing prisoners. I hope we shall get some contributions to the Debate from hon. Members having such experience. I take it, it is the duty of any member of my profession who has the opportunity, to give the House such assistance as he can from his own experience. But I should be sorry if our consideration of this Bill were confined to the experience of those who merely practise in Assize Courts or Courts of Sessions.

I have endeavoured to pick out what objections there can be to this Bill, and the first I have heard suggested is that some offences are in their nature comparatively venial, but that if you allow them to render offenders liable upon repetition to sentences of penal servitude, you are raising those offences from one class into an entirely different class. A second objection that I have heard is that this Bill may open the door to possibilities of ferocity of sentence, especially when we remember that a considerable part of our criminal law is administered sometimes by men who have no great technical experience. A third objection that might be taken is that changes of the law affecting the liberty of the subject should not be embarked upon without long-continued examination, and certainly not as a consequence of any popular clamour which may arise out of one isolated, individual case. The fourth objection I have considered is one I now find removed by my hon. and learned Friend himself, and that is the possibility that this Bill would allow sentences to be inflicted which were practically of an unlimited nature. I take the view that that might be a serious defect in our law, and I therefore welcome the suggestion that the hon. and learned Member for Norwood made, that in Committee some proviso might be introduced into the Bill limiting the length of sentence of penal servitude which could be inflicted under the provisions of the Bill as it now stands.

I want to say a word, though I do not want to take too long, about these various objections. The first was that offences, which are in their nature trivial, are, by this Bill, to be raised into an entirely different class of offences. Frankly, I think that the only answer to that is the answer that I tried to make earlier in my speech, that unless you can say that constant repetition by one offender of the same offence, or a kindred offence, adds something to their nature beyond the mere sum total of the offences, then that objection, perhaps, is god one. The second objection made is that this Bill might lead to ferocious sentences. With that I want to be allowed to deal for a few minutes. I think most of us who have studied the history of penalisation realise that a great change has taken place in the course of the last century in regard to the subject. Within a hundred years many offences for which now, perhaps, a sentence of six, nine, or twelve months' hard labour may be inflicted were capital offences. Within my own professional recollection I can remember a time when certain offences, particular offences, such as by postmen entrusted with packets, who committed larceny, practically always resulted in a sentence of penal servitude. I do not, however, want to speak of other times, but of more recent ones. To-day most of would think in many of these cases such sentences were wholly improper. Up to 1891 there were certain offences on our Statute Book for which no less a sentence than penal servitude could be inflicted. In 1891 that was taken off and for any offence there is no minimum sentence. It is a matter for the discretion of the Judge.

From these facts I am deducing the proposition that the trend of punishment has been to inflict shorter sentences in cases other than occasions when there is not a repetition or some peculiar cruelty in the offence committed. In the matter of shorter sentences, I think we can trust those who inflict them, and who have the duty of dealing with offenders, in inflicting what punishment they do to be actuated by the general principle that is spreading over the law. I may safely, in conclusion, put forward this point. We have now for some years had a Court of Criminal Appeal. I have endeavoured to show by citation of cases, of which my right hon. Friend knows, that the Court of Criminal Appeal is a court merciful in its nature, desirous of seeing that no improper or cruel sentence is inflicted upon any offender. I, therefore, think that I may suggest to this House that this Bill may be accepted without danger of being a victim of any of the objections with which I have already dealt. There is only one more point about what I want to say a word. I agree with the proposition that the liberty of the subject is a matter in no case and in no way to be regarded lightly. We can deal with this consideration by pointing out that in this Bill there is no creation of any new offence. There is no interference with the liberty of any person whose liberty would not already be interfered with under the present law. It is only a matter of the improvement of the conditions for dealing with offenders who may call for severe treatment. On these considerations, I beg to second the Second Reading of the Bill.


It is quite obvious, in my view, that this Bill must ultimately be considered by the Government. Such an important matter as increasing the liability of prison is not a matter which can possibly be decided by the Bill of a private Member. We have been told that questions affecting the constitution are matters in which the Government must take responsibility. It is quite clear that the Government must take the responsibility of seeing that this change in the law is made. I am not saying, of course, that we cannot be very usefully engaged to-day in discussing this matter, more particularly so if we gather from the Government, what is their view. I feel that of the many of the objections which might be raised to the Bill as it stands, the strongest would be that the House should decide that this Bill in its present form should go through without the most serious consideration—for the matter is one which requires serious consideration indeed.

I admit at once that my chief objection to this Bill in its present form has been largely removed by what the Mover has said. It is a Bill for determining sentences. No Member of this House could possibly agree to a Bill for indeterminate sentences going through without careful consideration. We might have a case where the prisoner was unfortunate enough to be charged with, say, perhaps 20 offences at once, and it might well he that these sentences might amount altogether to 20 or 30 years. It would be a matter of multiplication. Therefore, whatever else is said about this Bill it is quite clear that it is absolutely essential that the maximum sentence of penal servitude to be inflicted shall be inserted in the Bill. I do not think that without that any hon. Member on this side could possibly support this Bill for a moment. I am not at all sure that the principle of preventive detention is not a sound principle. Fortunately we are not called upon to discuss this matter because it is already inserted in certain circumstances.

There are sentences of various kinds. Here, it is true, that the maximum would be arrived at in each particular case by a process of multiplication. There would be a term beyond which a sentence might extend enormously—an indeterminable sentence without restriction. One of tits things which I am most anxious about here is the view of the Government. Supposing they favour the principle of this Bill, what are to be the limitations of penal servitude under this Bill? It might be two or three years. If, on the other hand, it is said there should be power to give 15 years' penal servitude, that would be another consideration; and really we are rather in the dark. If I may say so, with all due respect to my hon. and learned Friend who moved the Second Reading, it is in the highest degree unfortunate that we have not in the Bill any indication as to what should be the limitation of sentence. There is all the difference in the world between adding one year to the maximum of possible imprisonment and adding 20 years. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who has had experience of prison administration, would agree that often penal servitude for a longer period is less hard on a prisoner than a shorter period of imprisonment. That may be an argument in favour of the substitution of penal servitude where the substitution involves the addition of one year, but when it involves the addition of possibly 20 or 5 years it is another consideration. Therefore we are giving consideration to this Bill with a most important element of it missing, namely, the limitation of the imprisonment which can be given. If this Bill be given a Second Reading, I hope it will be on the strict understanding that when it gets into Committee not only will a limitation be inserted but that we shall have some idea before we pass the Second Reading of what that limitation is going to be, for at present we are completely in the dark.

With regard to the general principle, I agree that it is an anomalous position that where we are limited by law to imprisonment for two or, very exceptionally, three years, the same limit should apply when a number of offences have been committed, because that really means that a man can commit seven offences at the same risk to himself as committing one, and we have the very excellent authority of a very eminent judge as to the need for some change in the law. Bat, as I have said, the whole matter seems to me one of very great seriousness indeed. We cannot lightly or frivolously add to the liability to imprisonment of any man, or of any class of men; the matter must be given most serious consideration; and while I think the House is indebted to the hon. and learned Member for introducing this Bill I feel that the suggestion that the matter must receive very serious consideration, is one of the greatest weight, and I for one would only accept this Bill on the understanding that it really was going to receive the real and careful consideration of the Home Office and of the judiciary. It is a matter on which the opinion of the judges needs to be sought as well as the opinion of the Home Office; and while it is a matter to be raised here for discussion, I think we ought not to go any further until, possibly, some responsible Judicial Committee has been appointed to inquire into the whole matter.

I cannot help thinking, and I feel that the hon. and learned Mover will agree with me, that it is a particular case the counts which has given rise to this Bill, and not so much a general consideration of the position, which is no case against the Bill, but while there may be a reason for agitating the question, that does not do away with the obligation to have a careful and responsible inquiry into how the matter is to be dealt with, and how far the Bill can go and I have only risen to press that upon the Home Secretary, who, I am sure, will be the first to agree that we are making here a serious change in the law. I am not at all sure that ultimately we may not have to raise the whole distinction between imprisonment and penal servitude. Just as I am not altogether satisfied with the distinction between misdemeanour and felony, I am not at all convinced that the present distinction between imprisonment and penal servitude in its present form is justified. We know that our present system of penal servitude has grown in a most curious manner, in an unscientific and an unconsidered manner, as a kind of relief from the old liability to transportation. I had occasion some time ago to go into this matter rather fully, and I was rather astonished to find that even at the present time people are still liable to transportation. No doubt the Home Secretary knows that, but we feel we can trust to his usual clemency to see that neither I nor any of my hon. Friends will be transported. The whole question of penal servitude is not the result of any considered theory. It grew out of a substitution for transportation, which, in its turn, was a substitution for capital punishment for offences which are not now liable to capital punishment, so that there is really no inherent principle in the distinction between imprisonment and penal servitude; and it is because of the present arbitrary distinction that the trouble which this Bill is designed to meet has arisen. We have an arbitrary distinction as to imprisonment which we have not got in the case of penal servitude, and I am not sure that when my right hon. Friend comes to consider this Bill he will not find himself compelled to consider something very much wider than this Bill.

12.0 N.

This Bill involves the whole question of the relation of imprisonment on the one hand to penal servitude on the other, and I am not at all sure that this Bill ought not to be considered by the committee which I have suggested ought be set up in connection with the whole incidence of imprisonment and penal servitude, and not taken as dealing with an isolated problem which has produced the need for this Bill. I think it would be a pity to divide against the Second Reading if the Home Secretary gives us the necessary assurance, but it would be a pity to say we are not going to divide before we have heard what he says. We should take the view that we are giving a formal recognition to the fact that there are anomalies at the present time, and that the matter will be considered by competent and responsible persons. On that I would like to suggest that consideration should be given to the question whether the matter should be considered not only by the judiciary and the Home Office but by persons who, as my hon. and learned Friend the seconder of the Motion said have had experience of social work and dealing with prisoners.

My conclusion is that what is really needed is an inquiry into the whole matter of penal servitude and imprisonment. Whether this Bill would emerge from that consideration, or whether some other Bill would then be presented, I do not know, but I think it is a pity that this Bill should be passed in anything like its present form to deal with an isolated state of affairs. I think a case has been made out for the need for careful consideration, and on the assumption that the Home Secretary will not commit the House to this particular proposal I think we might welcome the Bill.

There is one other matter I wish to mention, because I wish to make it clear that there are certain observations of my hon. and learned Friend from which I dissent. It was an argument he used when he spoke, is I understood, about the curative effect of prison. He suggested —I took down his words at the time—that abnormality of character might need prolonged detention. That seems to me rather a dangerous suggestion. It is quite true that many people think prison should be regarded as a kind of hospital, but what he said seemed to argue that people should remain in prison for the benefit of their souls, and it is an argument which I, for one, do not at all support. I do not know what is meant by "abnormality of character," and, speaking as a lawyer, I think it very dangerous that we should get outside the strict law and begin to speculate about abnormalities and that sort of thing. We may all think one another abnormal. Perhaps the fact that I sit on these, benches makes me think my hon. and learned Friend abnormal, and the fact that he is sitting over there may bring him to the same conclusion about myself, and each may wish to cure the other—but not by imprisonment. The point was not really necessary for my hon. Friend's argument, but as he has raised it I wish to say that I profoundly disagree. We ought to deal with this as a technical matter arising out of the confusion between imprisonment and penal servitude, and I would like the Home Secretary to deal with it in that way, and also to deal with the social aspect of the matter. I hope we shall have—I am sure we shall—a helpful suggestion from the Home Secretary as to how the matter shall be dealt with, particularly as this Bill, while in itself dealing only with one mischief which has arisen, raises very much larger issues than the particular solution here proposed for a particular need.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

Perhaps it would be convenient if I were to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down and say something about the position at the moment. I do not want to be carried away by what has been said into a full discussion of the whole of our penal system, and I want to avoid going into the question of the alteration of the criminal code, at all events, at the present time. I have been making a considerable study of prisons and prison life during the past 15 months, and I have been in very close touch with the social workers. I have come to the conclusion that it is quite possible that within a year or two it may be thought desirable to ask the House to consider the question of the existing system of criminology in this country. The Mover of this Bill has confined his observations to one particular question, and it is that question with which I will deal. This question has arisen out of a case which came before the Lord Chief Justice, and the Government are bound to take note of the statement of the Lord Chief Justice when he quite definitely said: It could only he hoped that before a case of this dimension sfould come again for trial the legislature would have removed a blemish from penal legislation, and have given a discretion where a multiplicity of offences of a certain kind had been committed, to impose a sentence of penal servitude. Of course that statement came before me and I may say that I have had considerable communication with the Lord Chief Justice upon it, and I have asked his lordship if he has any further communication to make with regard to this Bill. This Bill really makes no difference in the provisions of the law at the present time. Under the existing law it is quite true that consecuthse sentences of imprisonment can be given as was shown by the decision of the Lord Chief Justice. It was very largely because Lord Reading hold the same view which is apparently held by all three speakers this morning, that imprisonment with hard labour is a very much more terrible thing than penal servitude. That view arises from the distinction which is generally made between the different forms of imprisonment. It is quite true that many changes have taken place since the abolition of transportation in 1863. Originally at the beginning of the sentence such prisoners were kept alone and local prisons had to be provided in which these prisoners could be incarcerated with appropriate hard labour. When transportation which which was the duty of the executive Government was done away with, the executive Government took upon itself the duty of providing prisons and punishment for these more serious cases and they were not afterwards sent to Local prisons.

Hard labour in the sense in which it was known 20, 30 or 40 years ago does not exist. Hard labour used to mean the crank and the treadmill. Those who have seen the old form of imprisonment are aware that this form of hard labour had brutalising effects, but that has all been done away with. I have watched prisoners at work on terms of hard labour and without hard labour and serving penal servitude, and there is no difference whatever between those forms of labour in prison. A man may be engaged in a local prison on hard labour or in one of our penal prisons at Dartmoor, Parkhurst or Maidstone. He may have been sentenced to penal servitude and yet he may be doing the same kind of work as those serving sentences of hard labour in other prisons. He may be engaged making mail bags or working in the tinsmith shop. It is true that if a prisoner is sent to Dartmoor which, by the way, is not the most popular of our prisons, he may get more outdoor work because there is more space there.


There is a quarry there as well.


I do not think any prisoner would prefer Dartmoor to other prisons on account of its outside work. With regard to what has been said about cruelty in our local prisons, that has been eliminated for a long time—[HON MEMBERS: "No!"]—at any rate cruelty in the form of hard work has been eliminated.


Is it not more a question of the length of solitary confinement in regard to some sentences, and are not some prisoners better fed than others?


That is not so. I have seen the food which prisoners receive, and both in regard to quantity and quality it is as good at one place as at the other. There is an impression abroad that one form of imprisonment includes solitary confinement and the other does not, and think it will be as well if I clear away that misconception. Sometimes hard labour involves a very long term, and it may be that the prisoner gets 14 days' solitary confinement and that only at the beginning of his term of imprisonment. This solitary confinement is not for the purpose of cruelty, but to enable the Prison Commissioner to find out something about the man before he comes into touch with the other prisoners, and also to find out what is the most suitable work for the prisoner to do. The result is that very often before the 14 days' solitary confinement is ended the prisoner is drafted off to his own particular work. That is a point which I wish to make quite clear. The provisions of this Bill are not in the direction of hardening or altering the conditions in any of the forms of imprisonment in this country. Then it may be suggested—and I think it would be so—that the effect of this Bill would be to increase the length of the sentence. As I have explained, there would, strictly speaking be no increase, but actually for many years past no longer sentences of imprisonment with hard labour than two years have been passed.


Has the right hon. Gentleman himself said that the Judges are not of the opinion that imprisonment with hard labour is worse than penal servitude?


I told the House that I thought that my hon. and learned Friend, and possibly my hon. and learned Friend who seconded the Bill, and the Lord Chief Justice were influenced in that view, because they had not realised how closely, in the course of the last few years, the two forms of imprisonment and the two forms of labour had approximated in our local prisons and our State prisons. I think the House has got to realise that the dictum of the Lord Chief Justice in the recent case is one which must be taken note of. When you find a series of cases, any one of which would cause a man to be sentenced to two years' hard labour, and when a man is able to serve for one term instead of the appropriate number of terms, although they are in essence entirely different offences, offences against entirely separate people, the man making a practice of offences of that character against different members of the community and repeating them over and over again, it is desirable that the Judges should have the power to inflict such a sentence as they in their discretion deem right and proper for such a series of offences.

The hon. and learned Gentleman has put it to me whether I would advise the House, or the Committee which sits upon this Bill, to limit the terms of penal servitude. My reply is puite definitely "yes." I quite agree that there should be a limit imposed in the Bill, and my hon. and learned Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill entirely takes the same view. I think that the length of the period should be left to the Committee. Naturally I, as Home Secretary, have the responsibility of advising the House and the Committee, and I will advise the Committee not to allow the limit to exceed 10 years' penal servitude, and, if the Committee would like five years' penal servitude for offences tried at Quarter Sessions, I will leave it to them. If the Committee think it right to suggest a less term than that, I think the Committee should be allowed to vote freely on the subject. This is not a party question at all. It is a question on which all Members of the Standing Committee will go desiring to do the best thing in the interests of the country as a whole. Therefore, I think the proper course for me to take would be to say that I would use my influence with the Committee not to make the term higher than 10 years, with five years for offences tried at Quarter Session, but, if the Committee desire to make it less than that, then I quite agree that the Committee should have that power.

The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested a more extended form of inquiry. I hope he will not press that. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Bill made a reference to offences against young children. As the House knows, since I have had the privilege of being at the Home Office—and some of them were in contemplation before the change of Government took place—some very important Committees from a social point of view have been and are still sitting at the Home Office dealing with many of these questions. The House knows the recent offences that have been committed. There is a very important Committee sitting with regard to offences against young people. I want to consider the whole of those reports before I ask the House to deal, on a large scale, with any of these difficult questions, respecting imprisonment and punishment for any particular form of crime. I think this is outside any such inquiry of that kind, and I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will not press for this case to go to a Departmental Committee or anything of that kind.


I am not suggesting it so much for this particular Bill, but that the Home Secretary should consider whether, apart from this Bill, the matter should not be considered by a Committee.


That, I think, is a most reasonable suggestion, but I have already three very important committees which have been and are sitting at the Home Office dealing with the whole gamut of the subjects connected with our criminal law, and particularly with regard to offences against women and children, a very horrible form of crime, on which in due course hope to have the privilege of submitting recommendations to the House for their consideration. This Bill deals with a limited question, e, question which the Lord Chief Justice sitting in the Court of Criminal Appeal has appealed to the legislature to deal with. It deals with that particular point. I think it can be quite easily distinguished from the main system of criminal jurisdiction, and, on behalf of the Government, I ask the House to give the Bill o, Second Reading in order that it may go to a Committee upstairs, and I am quite sure that any reasonable Amendments can be met in Committee and particularly the Amendment limiting the amount of time.


I am opposed to this Bill even with the modification which has been suggested by the Home Secretary. It has been put forward by the late Solicitor-General as if it were rather a constitutional and technical question. There is a constitutional question involved, and there are also some technical considerations. I would rather base my opposition on the bread ground that it is entirely a retrograde Measure. There is no use, if the Home Secretary will pardon me saying so, in quibbling and making out that it really adds nothing to the punishment. It does. The very suggestion which came from the Lord Chief Justice was prompted because in a moment of indignation he wished that the punishment could be made greater, and it is brought forward by my hon. and learned Friend with a view to making the punishment greater. The Home Secretary himself, when he has to crystallise into years what it means, says "Let the punishment that we know now to be limited to two years be extended to 10." There can be no doubt about this enlarging of the powers of judges to punish. I for one am entirely opposed to it.

Nearly every one of the punishments that are annexed to offences in our Statute Book got there at a time when the public view of criminology was more crude and less informed, when we were more affected by vindictiveness than by what we should be—the protection of society and the reform of the offender. That time has passed, and I for one say it has been a blessed passing.

I feel that if every sentence in the Statute Book were halved, it would do a great deal of good. Moderate sentences are as effective for repression as severe ones. You can divide all offenders into two classes—those who act upon impulse and those who act upon design. As regards those who act upon impulse, I cannot see that the nature of the punishment enters into consideration at all; the offence is committed in the passion and fury of the moment. Where a person acts on design, then, no doubt, he makes his calculations, but will any man of the world tell me that an intending offender says, "I would risk this if I were only to get three years; I will not risk it because I might get 10?" Does anyone think an intending offender goes through such a state of ratiocination? Of course he does not. All that is present to his mind is this: "A heavy punishment is annexed to this offence. If I thought I would be found out, I would not risk it, but I will make my plans not to be found out. If they go wrong, I shall have to suffer." Three years instead of five years would have just as good a restraining influence, and the House will surely agree that every month that is given beyond what is necessary for repression is an evil. It is a drain upon our pockets, merely to put it on the most sordid ground, and it is an act of vindictiveness which is unnecessary. Its real evil is that, while it protects society no more, it reduces to a minimum all chance of reform in the unfortunate offender. The longer he is associated with those who have made society their enemies, the longer is he kept a prey to his own reflections on his ruin and degradation, and the more is destroyed in him that moral resiliency which will enable him when he comes out to turn over a new leaf.

It is said that this is merely giving a margin of discretion to the Judge; but the margin is the mischief. I would narrow the margin. There are Judges and Judges. They are human beings like ourselves. There is one class of Judge who is tolerant and broad-minded, and makes allowances for the frailties and temptations of man. There is another, quite just and quite learned, who is rigid, stern, precise, uncompromising; and it is common knowledge among those who practice in the Law Courts that, for the same offence, what may be three years' penal servitude before one Judge may be 15 years before another. What is the use of talking about learning? The more learned in the law a man is, the less qualified he has often become for dealing with these big considerations of human nature. He has given to the study what other men have given to contact with their fellow beings and to understanding human nature. A man is put on the bench, very often, who has won his spurs nobly by his industry and character and learning, but who has won them in a cloistered life, and he has to deal, not by any rule of law that can be learned, but by the light of his own temperament, by the light of his own idiosyncrasies, by the light of his own experience of life, with the real enormity of an offence that is best known by those who have learned, not from books, but from the study of human nature.

It is said that the Court of Criminal Appeal is there to correct sentences, but the Court of Criminal Appeal is practically useless for that purpose. The Court of Criminal Appeal are themselves Judges, and they are bound to say, "It was within the discretion of the Judge, who saw the witnesses, who saw the demeanour of the accused, who shared the atmosphere of the Court. How can we say that he was wrong?" Unless the sentence be outrageous, where a wide margin is given to the trial Judge I cannot understand the Court of Criminal Appeal correcting him on that point.


I beg the hon. and learned Member's pardon; the Court of Criminal Appeal does do so.


What I said was that I cannot understand logical Judges sitting in the Court of Criminal Appeal correcting a sentence that is given by the trial Judge unless it is wholly disproportionate. That is what I said, and they do not do it unless it is wholly disproportionate.


I think the hon. and learned Member did not previously mention the qualification about the sentence being wholly disproportionate.


I think I did say that; if I did not, I certainly meant to do so. We are told that this Bill has been suggested by a recent unsavoury case. I have nothing at all to say about the merits of that case, but I cannot refrain from observing that I do not think the sentence erred on the side of leniency at all. There are two possible views of the occurrences that were visualised by the Judge, but, be that is it may, the Judge himself must have treated it as a very rare case and as a case involving abnormality. Why should we now enlarge the general powers of Judges over all cases in order to meet one which, on the Judge's own view, was highly exceptional and involved abnormality in the man? The hon. and learned Member who moved the Bill said, "Oh, but there are numerous cases of repetition besides these cases." Take the obtaining of goods on credit. A punishment of two years' penal servitude is annexed by law to that offence. When a man enters upon a series of such occurrences, they are put into the indictment marked A, B, C, E, F and so on. According to the contention of the Home Secretary, he could get ten years, and, if no limitation were put in, he might get a life sentence. Let us consider what was intended when this sentence was annexed to the offence.

It was said to the accused, "You were engaged in fraudulent conduct; you were engaged in obtaining goods on credit; this is the punishment "; and to say that a Judge should be let loose, according to the indignation that stirs him at the moment, to give absolutely staggering sentences for this offence is a thing against which I think we should set ourselves. The House will remember that Judges are, perhaps, fathers, and all of us who are fathers are particularly susceptible to being carried away by indignation against men who in any way molest young girls, though one is blind to modern life who does not see that girls now are largely able to take care of themselves. The Judge at that moment, while he is seething with natural indignation, is to have put into his hands, just when he is not master of his feelings, the power to give savage sentences. In the particular case which led to this Bill, if that were the law, I suppose the sentence might have been penal servitude for life. You may say it is right, or you may say it is wrong. I think it is wrong, but this is what I mean: Is it right to enlarge the margin where the Judge, when he is giving the sentence is really not in a position to gauge his own feelings? For these reasons I, for one, oppose the Bill, and I ask the Howe to reject it.

Captain O'CONNER

Although it has been stated with some force that it would be deplorable if none but members of the legal profession were to take part in this discussion, and although, for my sins, I happen to follow that profession for a livelihood, I claim that my outlook is sufficiently lay, and my distinction in the law sufficiently modest, to enable me to take a purely layman's point of view on the Bill. The first thing I want to say is that if the House listened to the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, it would be exceedingly difficult ever to obtain any reform, in the criminal law of the country, except by means of such a general revision as was suggest eel by the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench opposite. The petal law of the country is, of course, more or less in the shape of a code. It is unlike the civil law in that respect, because in the civil law you have a living, growing law, varying and changing with every changing phase of the circumstances of the social conscience of the day. So that, to take an example, by their verdicts in cases of tort, or wrong, juries can reflect tide kind of way in which they view the circumstances of the hour. That too often is not possible in the case of crimes, where the discretion of the Court is girt round by penal Statutes that were passed in days when the social conscience was entirely different from what it is at the present time. So it is only when you get the blazing horror of some case like the Hayley Morriss case that it is necessary to come to this House and ask that in that particular set of circumstances the Courts should be given a little more power.

The justiciary at present has ample power to review its sentences downwards, and I am sure those who know the Judges of this country will agree with me, and not with the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last, in saying they exercise that discretion downwards in an ever-increasing degree. There is no danger of the Judges exceeding that discretion, but at present the course of justice, which, after all, is equally important as the source of clemency, is dammed in the upward direction, and they cannot adequately deal with certain classes of offences. I support this Bill broadly for that reason. A supreme lawyer, who never practised in any Court, said that his object all sublime was to make the punishment fit the crime. But that, of course, is impossible, because that lawyer was seeking to take an abstract standard, whereas the standard by which men judge crime varies from year to year, and almost from day to day. It is no exaggeration to say the sins of to-day are the virtues of to morrow, and probably many of our ancestors have been hanged for offences for which they would have got the O.B.E. if they had lived in these days. You cannot analyse punishment on any rational basis whatsoever, and there is some force in what the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite said, that a general revision is necessary. But do not let us postpone an instalment for the sake of a general revision which will be extremely comprehensive, when it comes along, but will tale a considerable time.

It is so illogical that it almost defies the intelligence when one seeks to compare some sentences which are possible at present. For instance, a man, for raping a strumpet, may be sent to penal servitude for life. If an attendant at a lunatic asylum successively has carnal knowledge of 10 of his patients and puts them with child, under the present law he is only entitled to be sent to imprisonment for two years. Can anyone suggest that a case like that should not be dealt with on the modest lines proposed by this Bill, under which he can get a sentence of 10 years or more? Take those followers of the turf who are to be seen in railway carriages approaching big race meetings and who make a lucrative living by inviting the unwary to choose the lady, or thimble rigging. They do so at the risk of seven years' penal servitude. If they turned their attentions to the more nefarious occupation of living on the earnings of a prostitute, they would only do so at the risk of a conviction not exceeding three year's imprisonment. We can go on dealing with those anomalies in succession. A trustee, for instance, who attempts to abscond with a portion of his cestui que trust's property does so at the risk of seven years, but he can debauch the minds of 40 or 50 children in succession by acts of gross indecency, and not suffer more than two years' imprisonment.

The present position of the law is perfectly ridiculous, and this Bill suggests a much needed revision. I should like to mention one case in which I myself appeared and defended a Sunday school teacher who was guilty of no fewer than 14 acts of gross indency towards young boys under the age of five, before the same learned Judge who tried the Hayley Morriss case, and the maximum sentence he was able to award was two years imprisonment with hard labour. Reason revolts against it. The whole thing is anomalous, and this Bill offers a slight corrective. If any of my more attractive colleagues attempts to abduct a ward in Chancery, he will do so at the risk of 14 year's imprisonment, but he may safely transfer his attentions to a convent and abduct a nun, and he will suffer only three years. It is that kind of anomaly that leads to the desire for a general revision of some of the standards on which punishment is to be awarded. But do not let us discard this opportunity of making a revision which all logic demands and all good sense demands, and do not let us, simply because we have the general desire, fail to grasp the opportunity of revising what is a perfect absurdity in the present state of the law.


The House has already listened to six lawyers; I hope they will now pardon a word from an ordinary mortal. I thank the Almighty sometimes that I do not know the law. I thank Him more this morning after hearing the speeches the six lawyers have made. I am not competent to take up the legal argument in connection with this Bill; but the Title of the Bill rather offended me, and I am not sure that the House has appreciated yet the full meaning of its Title. It is the Criminal Justice (Increase of Penalties) Bill. The speech of the Mover was a very temperate one; but I am not sure what kind of speech would be delivered by a very severe judge as the consequence of the passing of this Measure into law. In fact, the hon. Member himself rather gave me the impression that he was not telling us the whole story about the Measure. I rather incline to the view of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) as to the meaning of the Bill; and although I am not going to say that I will vote against it—in view of what the Home Secretary has told us—I want to put one or two considerations to the House from the layman's point of view.

I object very strongly to increasing penalties of any kind with a view to punish or to attempt to reduce crime. I can give a typical example of what I mean. I am informed on good authority, that about 20 years ago it was customary to sentence a postman who had tampered with a letter to penal servitude for not less than seven years. Now, however, for exactly the same offence the sentence is sometimes only a month's imprisonment. So far as the Post Office is concerned, just as the severity of the sentence has declined the number of offences by postmen has also declined. [HON. MEMBERS "The number of postmen has increased too."] Yes, that emphasises my argument.

As our civilisation has progressed, and taken a more humanitarian point of view with regard to criminals, crime itself has diminished, whilst in those countries where they have increased the severity of sentences crime has generally increased as a consequence. It does not follow, that if you increase the severity of the sentence you decrease the number of crimes. The statistics of the Home Office bear witness to this point. The number of receptions into prisons in this country per 100,000 of the population in 1904 was 512. There has been a complete change in the attitude of mind of the people of this country towards crime since then, and in 1924 the number of receptions into prison per 100,000 of the population had decreased to 120.

How has that come about? Probation? Yes. Why has probation come about? Simply because the people of this land are getting away from the foolish notion that all you should do with the criminal is to punish him. The idea prevailing now is not punishment but—and I hope the idea will grow—that we ought to save the criminal, that he should be reclaimed and redeemed. I decline to accept the dictum of the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord) that there are some men in this world who have gone beyond redemption altogether and that all you have to do with them is to keep them in preventive detention for life. That is what this Bill means. A very interesting piece of information came to my notice some time ago. In the United States of America preventive detention is in operation; the law practically allows the judicial and other authorities to keep a man in preventive detention all his life But that does not diminish crime.

I am not prepared to vote against this Measure. I am very much afraid, however, that there is a movement afoot in this country, which has arisen because of the Hayley Morriss case, to make sentences very much more savage than they have been hitherto. I am a little disturbed, too, at statements that have been made recently by Judges of Assize. A statement was made the other day in the City of Manchester, where I live. The Judge there said that he wanted more power to introduce flogging. I have yet to learn that corporal punishment has acted as a deterrent at any time in the history of this country. I feel satisfied that the reverse is the case, as I have tried to indicate.

I have another ohj'ction to this Measure. As far as I understand it, this is a fundamentiel change in the law. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Second heading and the hon. and learned Member who seconded it, tried to make the House believe that there was very little in the Bill. The Home Secretary knows very well, and he has pointed out, that there are several Departmental Committees sitting at the present time inquiring into the treatment of offenders. There is a Report before us of a Departmental Committee on sexual offences against young persons. There is also a Departmental Committee, of which I am a member, inquiring into the treatment of young offenders. I should have thought that the Home Secretary would have appointed a committee to inquire into this problem and bring all the reports of the various Departmental Committees dealing with these matters under review so that the law may be altered where desirable at one stroke. The Home Secretary will know best what should be done in that connection.

I have endeavoured to make myself familiar with the treatment of offenders. The hon. and learned Gentlemen who have addressed the House in support of this Measure are concerned with the offender only up to the point when he is sentenced. I have met many men and women who are engaged in social work and governors of prisons, and I am as sure as I am standing at this box that the vast majority of governors of prisons in this country would not agree with the statements which have been made in favour of increasing penalties. I have heard them giving evidence, and almost without exception they are aiming, not to increase punishment, but to try to reclaim the offender, believing that they can some day make the worst offender into a decent citizen. If I ever came to such an attitude of despair as to think that men and women have gone beyond redemption I would not be a Member of Parliament. I do not give up hope for hon. Members opposite; even the worst Tory has some good left in him.

The Home Secretary knows that during the last few years there has been a complete change in attitude towards the treatment of offenders in prisons when they get there. The educational work done in prison to-day is simply wonderful and astonishing. There are in some prisons now medical men engaged to study the psychology of the prisoner. I would ask the hon. and learned Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill to remember that it is alleged that a considerable percentage of offenders who are in our prisons at the present time ought never to be there at all, because of mental deficiency; but up to the present the medical profession have not found out definitely the distinction or the line of demarcation between lunacy and mental deficiency.

The House will be embarking upon a principle which would offend public policy and violate the tendency of modern times in the treatment of offenders, in accepting the Measure as it stands; and I was glad to hear from the Home Secretary that, although he gave the Bill his blessing, that he is not satisfied with it as it stands. I trust, therefore, that when the Bill goes to Committee upstairs, we shall bear in mind the statement made by one of the most eminent men that ever lived in this country in connection with the treatment of criminals. Bentham—I hope I am quoting him correctly—made a declaration of this kind: You do not punish crime by the severity of the sentence; the criminal is deterred by the certainty that he is going to be caught. It is not the length of the sentence that matters; it is the certainty that the law pursues the criminal and brings him to justice. I trust, therefore, that, although this Bill may pass this House to-day, when it goes to Committee upstairs we shall bear in mind that some men and women who have passed through our prisons in the past ought to have been in lunatic asylums and not in prisons, and that some should have been in institutions for mental defectives. I hope the House will look upon this problem in the proper way, and will realise that those who have committed offences against the State are not hopeless, and that we must not despair in our efforts at their reclamation.

Commander WILLIAMS

I welcome the opportunity, like the hon. Member opposite, of speaking as a layman on this subject. We have had half-a-dozen speeches, all of them excellent and perfect, and all of them showing an extreme knowledge of the details of the subject from half-a-dozen lawyers, and I think, when we are legislating in this House, we should remember the old-fashioned British principle, that the law of this country is good, in so far as it has been the work of ordinary people, and it is bad wherever lawyers have touched it. That is a sound basis on which to proceed. And when we look at this Bill we find that 10 out of the 12 Gentlemen who are supporting it are lawyers of one sort or another. I do not for a moment pretend to classify the various sections into which this great, trade union is split. After all, we have the best lawyers in the world, but when everything has been said and done it is most certainly the least useful way of earning money. When I look at the back of the Bill I find, as I have said, that 10 out of these 12 hon. Members are lawyers, and the other two are conspicuous by their absence this afternoon. Apparently they have learned wisdom; and that is that where lawyers are gathered together it is wise for ordinary individuals to keep away. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh Central (Mr. W. Graham) and the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. S. Hudson) have been fortunate enough to find more important work for to-day than to be present in this House.

I should like to support the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that there ought to be an inquiry into the whole question. It seems to me, as an ordinary individual, that this method of dealing with the laws of this country, by coming down on a Friday afternoon and proposing to remove some legal excrescence, such as this Bill proposes to do, is not necessarily the right way of doing it. I shall support the Bill because I think on the whole a fairly good case has been made out for it, but I do say quite clearly and definitely that in making laws we ought not to make them because some case or other has occurred in which art individual lawyer has been fortunate enough to be concerned. In this kind of legislation we ought always to keep in mind the general progress and construction of the great edifice of law in this country. It has come down to us through many generations, and from the greatest law givers of all time—the Roman Republic, not the Roman Empire.

1 P.M.

My point really is that in the particular case with which we are dealing to-day, the Government should consider very carefully where we are going. The tendency is to go gradually in the direction of making our prison institutions rather a means far educating a prisoner out of his former mentality. I do not like that word—I would rather say educate him so that he will see, better ways of employing his wits and his abilities than in the past. I want to see that process developed; that is the right road on which to progress. I do not think this Bill is going on that road because it proposes to give power to impose additional penalties. It may be wiser in cases where you have a cumulating number of sins against a man to extend the Judge's discretion, but on the whole I do not like the idea of piling up penalties on people except in very very exceptional cases. There is another point. We are here to make the law. When this Bill becomes an Act it will have to be carried out, and we are going to give by this Bill much wider powers to the Executive in the administration of the law. Therefore, when this Bill goes to a Committee upstairs it is essential we should have some Sirt of limit and give some sort of guidance to the Executive as to how far they can go in the matter of punishment. That is all I have to say on this Bill at the moment, but I should like again to emphasise the point that this question should be considered from the wider point of view and that we should try to legislate in the interests of the ordinary man. If we desire to stop crime in this country, the best way is to educate the people out of it.


I had no intention when I came to the House this afternoon of taking part in the Debate on this Bill, because I felt it was rather too technical a matter for the innocent layman. But, after all, it is the man in the street who goes to gaol, and, as a representative of that important sect on of the community, it is right, I think, there should be an expression of opinion from those who are laymen in the House. I do not know how they manage it, but it is a rare event for a member of the Bar to go to gaol. I do not know whether that arises from virtue or from knowledge, possibly from a combination of both. This Bill will increase the discretion of Judges. We read of offences being committed, a verdict of guilty being brought in, and then, apparently, a totally inadequate sentence imposed.

I am certain that none of us views the criminal law as a vindictive thing. We regard it as a deterrent and sometimes as a means of preventing those who have already done things they should not have done from having an opportunity of repeating the same offence. When you read of these offences where the sentence is inadequate from the general point of view, I think it is right to increase the discretion of the Judges. I am not personally acquainted with any of the Judges. I can judge them only as the ordinary newspaper reader judges them. It seems to me that our Judges to-day are men of wide discretion and sound common sense and humanity, and I am quite satisfied that their successors, so far as they are represented by those who have taken part in the Debate this morning, possess the same admirable qualities, and are entitled to use a greater measure of discretion than they possess at the present time.

The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney), who is always interesting to listen to, whether we agree with him or not, suggested that length of sentence had nothing to do with it. But it may be justifiable to impose a long sentence, and the great changes that have taken place in criminology have not been so much in the reduction of sentences as in the more appropriate treatment of those who have been sentenced. Of course, in that direction there are great possibilities. The hon. and learned Member differentiated between those who act on impulse and those who act on design. So far as I understood his argument, it was that those who act on impulse should be treated very lightly. I am inclined to doubt his attitude in that respect, because the person who acts on impulse is the person who lacks adequate self-control and is a danger to the community at all times.


He is an Irishman.


That danger becomes manifest when the impulsive crime is committed. I think it is very probable that if some of our psycho-analysts had their own way they would desire to keep hold for all time, or at least for the rest of their lives, of those who act on these impulses. With regard to the man who acts on design, I think it is the case that by punishment you can make him design in future not to act on the same design. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who always puts his case so attractively, suggested that punishment is no deterrent. That is a very fine phrase. But it is not true. We all know of cases where, very clearly, punishment has been a deterrent. Even in our political activities we have such experiences. I remember that, during the recent General Election, one night I could not get a reasonable hearing at any of my meetings. The next night the same thing happened. At my second meeting I thought it was desirable to apply deterrents; so, under my personal direction, eight people were thrown out of the meeting. We had quiet meetings for the rest of the campaign. Those of my constituents who do not support me know perfectly well that if the same thing happens in future we shall throw them out again. As a consequence we now have quiet meetings. These were typical men in the street, of the Socialist persuasion. What then is the use of suggesting that punishment is no deterrent?


Would it not have been greater punishment had the men remained at the meeting?


All I can say is that they have not tried that. There were always numbers of people outside who could not get in, and up to now I have not failed in attractiveness, however I may have failed in other directions. With regard to length of sentences, at times a heavy sentence impresses the public imagination and is a very real deterrent to a lot of those who may have been engaged in the kind of offence under consideration. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields told us that the better the lawyer the worse the Judge. That is a rather serious condemnation of his own profession. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with his professional attainments to know whether he is a great man or a great lawyer, but when we know which he is, we shall be able to discover whether his ultimate ambition is to wear the red robe instead of the lounge suit which is the characteristic of the House of Commons.

Let me speak now in all seriousness. We have in this country a certain number of lay judges, or they are frequently lay judges, namely, the Chairmen of Quarter Sessions. I would like to know whether my hon. and learned Friend thinks that these lay judges are more merciful than those who have been trained in the law? The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that it was not right to treat offences cumulatively. Surely he does not suggest that the individual who on one occasion only commits a certain type of offence is in the same position as a man who may have committed that offence fifty times and is charged only on the fiftieth time, though in connection with that charge it is discovered that he has committed it many times in the past? Surely he does not suggest the same punishment in both cases? It seems to me that a definite case has been made out for the Bill. No doubt when it goes upstairs it will be altered in form and some of the difficulties which have been raised here will be met. But on broad lines there is a case for the Second Reading and I shall vote for the Bill, should there be a Division.


I had no intention of taking part in the Debate, and I rise now largely in consequence of the speech made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I am always surprised and somewhat amused to find the indignation which exists in the House because lawyers take part in a debate on a law Bill. I should have thought that if you had a Bill dealing entirely with legal questions the House would expect the lawyers present to contribute to the Debate. It would seem disrespectful if they did not do so. If the lawyers in the House were to confine their attention to the details of beet-sugar growing or the fascinations of the Scottish Estimates, I think the House would be disappointed. I am rather reminded of a personal experience in my constituency. I delivered a remarkably able speech, upon agricultural subjects entirely, at an agricultural show, and next day I had a letter of congratulation from one of those who heard me, and he said, "I think your speech was particularly fine, because I too am often called upon to speak on subjects which do not understand." That is the sort of experience to which the House may be subjected.

I have risen because I think it ought to be pointed out that the modern tendency, indeed all modern effort, is directed to reclamation of the criminal rather than punishment. Great strides have been made more particularly in the treatment of the young. I think everyone will agree that the most important item in criminal legislation and practice is, if possible, to get bold of the young and to deter them, not to punish them and force them to mix with criminals at an early age—if possible to reclaim them and make them honest, hardworking men. The Borstal system is in successful operation, and there are attached to the Criminal Courts probation officers of experience who do wonderful work in reclaiming juvenile offenders. Great strides have been made in that direction. I disagree with one remark which fell from the hon. Gentleman, in which he deprecated the use of jogging. I seem to remember that this punishment was first put into actual operation at a time when there was an epidemic of garrotting, when defenceless old men and weak women and poor little children were brutally attacked. The result of the application of flogging was practically to wipe out that offence altogether. It is all very well for hon. 'Members to seek to touch the emotions of the House by describing the horrors of flogging, but when I think of tha horrors perpetrated on women and children who have been mutilitated and dishonoured times out of number by brutes in human form, I can only come to the conclusion that flogging is not one whit more than such brutes deserve.

That example alone shows that a sentence of that kind is a deterrent. The are many of these men for whom a sentence of imprisonment has no horrors. In winter - time men often come back to prison in order to get a warm home in which to spend the cold months. There is only one way to deal with a man of a nature so brutal that he could contemplate unmentionable cruelties on women and children, and that is by givrig him a punishment which will deter Lim and frighten him, coward as he is, by personal violence. It is the only possible means of stopping outbreaks of the kind I have just mentioned. I want the House to realise, however, that this is not a bloodthirsty attempt to increase sentences, or to show in undue measure the severity of the law. On the contrary, the whole tendency is to reclaim where possible. We must not only reclaim but deter, and the only way to deter is to pass sentences of which people will think before they commit a crime, instead of afterwards, and which will stay the hand of the potential criminal.


Like the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) I take this opportunity of speaking as the representative of the man who is not only in the street, but of the street. I desire to raises a question which might be raised on the Home Office Vote were it not for the fact that the Home Office Vote is a very elusive quantity and is generally included in the "slaughter of the innocents," at the end of the Session, and I have no other way of getting at the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary except through the present Bill. The point I wish to raise is the question of imprisonment in respect of industrial school fees. I am aware that it may be said that this is a short sentence subject, and is more a case for summary jurisdiction—

Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

In dealing with this matter the hon. Member is straying rather far from the Bill.


I am sorry; this is the only opportunity I shall have to raise the question.


Would the hon. Member care to write to me, or to see rue about the matter? I am always available and accessible to hon. Members, but I scarcely think the point he indicates would be in order on the present occasion.


I shall take the earliest opportunity of communicating with the right hon. Gentleman.


In the course of this Debate, three speakers have made vehement attacks on this Bill, and of the three, one has attacked the lawyers, another has criticised the Judges, and the third has expressed his detestation of punishment. The hon. and gallant Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) attacked lawyers on the ground that they formed a close trade union in order to secure the highest possible fees, and he apparently considered that they rendered very indifferent service in return. I should have thought that the protection of the public from injury and fraud was a considerable service. I do not say that lawyers always deserve the high fees commanded by the most eminent members of the profession, but I consider that they render a service of considerable value to the public. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) seemed to apprehend, if the Judges got the larger discretion proposed in this Bill, they would exercise it in a vindictive and oppressive manner. I do not know that recent decisions supply the hon. and learned Member with material for that accusation, and although he made a speech of considerable length, he never cited chapter and verse, or gave any instance of the vindictive sentences which he apprehended.

We have been told that the Lord Chief Justice has asked for these added powers and has stated in the most unequivocal manner that they are required, therefore it seems to me that the House ought to grant those powers. Certainly, the subject should receive full consideration, and when the Bill goes to Committee, care should be taken that those restrictions are applied which the Mover of the Bill suggested. In its present form the Bill seems to make possible very extensive sentences—it is conceivable that sentences of from 20 to 30 years might be imposed—but nobody imagines that anything of the kind will take place. I have discussed this matter with some of my hon. and learned Friends and I have asked, in point of fact, what sentence would probably have been imposed in the Hayley Morriss case, had this Measure been in operation. I am told that in a case of that kind, under the present Measure, a criminal would be liable, possibly, to 12 years, but that it was very unlikely that a sentence of more than five or six years would be actually inflicted.

The Home Secretary has told us about the conditions prevailing in the prisons. I was not aware that the conditions were now similar both in penal servitude and in imprisonment. It seems to me that the evening-up of both forms of confinement, and the fact that we are making them uniformly lighter and more endurable than they were in former times, is a great argument in favour of the Bill. There is a great deal to be said for the argument of the ex-Solicitor-General that the whole question of sentences ought to be reconsidered, but that consideration should not deter the House from giving the Bill a Second Reading. Objection has also been taken to the fact that so many lawyers support the Bill, but when we are dealing with an improvement in the law, I think lawyers should have the first say. We have also had the opinions of many lay-members of the House, and I think the concensus of opinion is entirely in favour of the Bill.


I had not intended to intervene in this Debate, but after the remarks that fell from the hon. and learned Member for the Bassetlaw Division (Sir E. Hume-Williams) I think it might be of interest if I give some small experience that I have had in the administration of the law in the Colonies. This question of punishment was always before us in the young Colony where we were building up our penal system, and very varying expressions of opinion were heard from different people on this subject, but the one particular fact which I would like to lay before the House from my own experience is this when I first had charge of the Department, I called for a return from all the magistrates of corporal punishments, and the returns that I received were of such a horrifying character that I destroyed them, so that they should not get publicity. I thereupon set myself to do what I could to reduce the system which had grown up of giving corporal punishment indiscriminately, because, under the law as it then existed in the Protectorate, magistrates were at liberty to give corporal punishment practically in lieu of almost any other form of punishment, and they had got into the habit of ordering corporal punishment. I may say that in the course of a very few years the amount of corporal punishment that was inflicted was reduced to a very small percentage, and that, without any corresponding increase in crime.

That is the only point that I want the House to bear in mind, that though it may be argued that corporal punishment may in certain special circumstances, such as that of garrotting, referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Basset-law, have a particular effect, it cannot, I think, be argued as a general proposition that corporal punishment or undue and over-severe punishment has the effect of deterring crime. If you have a punishment of three years, supposing it is increased to five years, do you expect that the crime punishable by the three years is going to become any less because the term is increased to five years? The experience of those who have to do with the administration of the law, either at home or abroad, will, I am sure, be entirely in the negative. Personally, in this century in which we live, I look upon any attempt to increase punishment as a retrograde step, and I also think it is very unwise to have ad hoc legislation of this sort introduced because of a particular case. For these reasons, I intend to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.


I too hope, like the last speaker, that this Bill will not be carried by the House. It seems to me to be clearly a stunt Bill because of one case, which has attracted much more public attention than was either necessary or good for that case, and it seems to me that this Bill is not going to deal with social evils of that sort at all. We have heard a lot this morning about deterring crime, but the best deterrent to the kind of crime involved in the case of which we are talking is to find plenty of useful work and rot too large an income for so many of the younger men in this country. While sort of thing is going on, and you have people living in this privileged position, and the present uneconomic position of a large number of young women in this country, you are bound to get this kind of case arising. I speak as a layman, and I do not agree with some of the previous speakers that it is best for lawyers to take a large part in the making of law in this House, because I think the law of this country would have been much more comprehensible if the lawyers had not had so much to do with the making of it. It always seems to me, and did seem to me before I came here, when I used to have occasion to go through Parliamentary Acts and Bills, that one of the chief objects of the legal fraternity in this House is to make the law so completely un-understandable that nobody but members of their own trade union could understand it, and, in the second place to leave here and there room for so much misunderstanding and quibbling that there would be a kind of very comfortable royalty for the rest of their lives in translating to the public the laws which they had made in this Chamber.

This Bill, so far as I can understand it, is not going to have the slightest effect in the stopping of the kind of case with which it is framed mainly to deal and which, fortunately, is a rare kind of case. I think the House, when it is voting on this Bill, should face the whole of the implications of our present prison system. Why do we send men to prison? Is it on the old Hebraic principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, with the idea that you have broken this law or that law, and the penalty must be so many as uncomfortable years as we can possibly provide for you? Or have we taken a more modern view of crime and punishment, and do we say that our object in bringing these offenders to the bar of justice and sending them to prison is not out of a spirit of revenge, but is in order to try and change, as the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) put it so well, their mentality towards the class of offence they have committed? I submit that the whole principle of consecutive punishment is entirely wrong, and that, rather than introduce a Bill to make the method of that punishment more severe, it would be more useful if this House were considering the whole principle upon which it is founded.

If you do not send a man to prison purely out of revenge, if you just send a man to prison because you want to bring restraining and improving influences to bear upon him, suppose he gets two years for one offence and 12 months for another, at the end of his two years that man, if your prison system is good, may have completely vindicated the reasons for which you decided to exercise a restraining influence upon him. You are then going, irrespective of what kind of character the man has—and two years of good influence may make a great deal of difference even to a hardened criminal—to say to him: "Two years ago, before we reformed you, you committed another petty offence, and we are going to keep you here another 12 months, and society will take its whole toll from you because of that." I submit that that is the very last thing that is going to make such a man better. It is, on the contrary, going to make him worse, it is going to make him bitter, and if you have done him good in the first two years, you are going, by merely carrying on a bitter vendetta of the most uncomfortable form of imprisonment against him, to undo any of the good which the prison system you are trying to improve may have done him.

I listened to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) and the extremely humorous illustrations that he gave. I have seen some of the cartoons in the Press of Mussolini, and I do not suggest that the hon. Member represents him in any other way, but his illustration of throwing people out of a public meeting who did not agree with him, does not seem to me to be a very good one. I do not make a habit of going to ask questions of Conservative candidates at elections. I have found it is a waste of time, because they never answer me, but if I did make it a habit, and some miniature Mussolini came along with two or three bruisers—I do not suppose he would do it himself—and threw me out, it would not deter me from going again the next evening. It would merely make me decide to take half a dozen friends with me when I did go. If you have a man who cannot be trusted to be at liberty, because of wrong instincts, a man who commits the kind of things which the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir B. Hume-Williams) mentioned with regard to sexual offences, I do not think it is any good taking him into a prison, flogging him, making him a bigger brute than before, and then sending him out merely feeling that he is not the only brute in the country, but that there are others, who masquerade under the name of law and order. The only thing to do in a case of that kind is to exercise a restraining influence; flogging a man and taking it out of him for some inherited psychological trait is merely degrading society, degrading the people who administer the punishment, and still further degrading the people whom you flog and treat in that brutal way.

I have no close legal knowledge of this subject, but I want very seriously to suggest, not from the legal but from the common-sense point of view, that to punish a man at the end of one period of imprisonment for a crime which he committed before he went to prison is not a good thing. It is a very retrograde step in the administration of our prisons, and I sincerely hope Members will not allow themselves to be carried away by one objectionable case, which was exploited in the Press in a way it ought never to have been exploited, and that, in order to share some of the glory and limelight of the Yellow Press, the House of Commons will not lose the little dignity that still remains to it, in order that it may follow in the chariot of a silly and absurd tumult that a certain type of newspaper has endeavoured to create, and I am sorry that members of legal professions should lend themselves to such an undignified proceeding.


I will not stand between the House and a Division, if there is to be a Division, for more than a few moments. I have changed my opinion since coming into the House as the result of the speeches. The speeches on a Friday affect our decision and vote in a way which can scarcely be said of any other day in the week. I had intended to support this Bill, but, if it goes to a Division, I am going to oppose it. I have arrived at that decision, not merely from the speeches of those who have opposed the Bill, but from speeches delivered in its defence to-day. There was one speech delivered by an hon. Member on the other side who gave the sentences for various crimes, and they were so unreasonable that I felt that no one-Clause Bill like this was sufficient to deal with it, and that it would be better if a Committee were set up to go into the whole question and bring up a report. When we received that report, we should be able to decide in a way we cannot decide to-day on this Bill. We have heard very much about one case, and I confess that if the Judge had had the power, and had given that man 10 years, he would have been justified, and I think if he had gone further with the woman, he would have been justified.

Although that is one case, I do not think it is sufficient to justify us in altering the whole system of sentences. I do not think it is wise to legislate when we are in a vein of revenge, as we are at the present moment. I do not think we ought to be legislating on the advice of one Judge, who has based an opinion on that, and suggested the powers he would like to have. Judges are like everybody else. They have temperaments. I sometimes sit on a bench of magistrates, and I find men there who, I believe, think they are put there for the mere purpose of punishing people, fining and imprisoning them. I have always thought that I was placed there to put people on the right way again if I could. Judges are exactly the same as magistrates. Some have a more savage disposition than others, and if they were given the large powers suggested, some of them would go to extremes, and we should all be crying out about that, and the Home Secretary would be receiving more deputations than he is receiving to-day on points of that kind. I think the whole thing ought to be let alone until an inquiry is held, and the sentences for different crimes are brought more into line with those crimes than is the case to-day. For that reason, if it goes to a division, I shall oppose the Bill, but if some other method is suggested for this purpose, I shall certainly support it.


As there appears to be some difference of opinion on these benches with regard to the Bill, I should like to give my reasons why I intend to support it. I understand the Home Secretary has given certain assurances with regard to what might take place in Committee, and, provided we can get that security against certain abuses which might arise out of the Bill as it now stands, I am quite satised to reserve my final decision until this Bill returns from the Committee. I agree with the fundamental principle laid down by certain Members on these benches that it would be better if we could alter the whole system so as to make crime impossible, by improving the conditions. But my mind goes back to the very simple proposition of punishment in school, and when I hear that heavy sentences have no effect in deterring crime, it seems to me that that is against the experience of teachers in the schools. It is pretty well known, I think, that when children are checked by some form of punishment, it acts as a great deterrent upon the rest of the children in the school, and what is true in the schools is true in regard to children of larger growth.

It seems to me an outrage that in the Hayley Morris case a sentence of two or three years only was possible under the law as it stands. I say with every confidence in the justice of the claim, that crimes of this kind would decrease if the punishment were made more severe, and I think that applies to every case of misdemeanour and crime. If you can deter men by letting them know the consequences of any misdeeds they may commit, it must have an effect upon the conduct of individuals, and, because I believe that, I am prepared to vote for the Bill.


I came here to-day in a different frame of mind from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. C. Edwards). He came with his mind made up to vote for the Bill. I came with my mind bent to vote against the Bill. I listened very intently to the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, and their speeches rather confirmed my mind against the Bill, and made me feel one would be more justified in voting against the Bill, because the Mover said very deliberately that there was a time when two years' hard labour was a very severe sentence, but, owing to the humanising of the discipline in prison, it was altogether a different thing to-day. If there has been more humanising of the discipline in prisons, in my opinion the prisoners ought to have the benefit of that. The sentences ought not to be increased in order to make up for the humanising of the discipline.

What frightens me in these matters is this; that there seems to be a drift towards more severe and savage sentences both in the higher and lower Courts. We on this side of the House think we see in recent cases a severity of sentences largely due to the influence brought to bear upon the Judge by Press campaigns. We have got some experience in the police Courts. At the moment I have in mind the case, at Bishop Auckland, in the County of Durham, of two girls, 14 years of age, brought up for a first offence and charged with stealing 4½d. worth of coal. Mark you, in the North of England, in December, we had some very severe weather. In this part of the country we might have had cold weather, but in the North of England it was extremely severe. These girls for that theft were fined 6s. each, and the costs of the Court. They were not treated as first offenders. The sum of 6s. might not appear large to some hon. Members here, but where the father is out of work, and the people need warmth, that fine upon each girl was a real savage and severe sentence. They certainly should have been dealt with as first offenders.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

Cases in the Police Court are not affected by anything at all in this Bill.


Yes, Sir, I know; but I was rather emphasising the drift towards more savage and severe sentences. I was illustrating that drift. I could cite another case by way of illustration of this drift. Just before Christmas, in the Durham Police Court, a man—


We are not dealing here with police court cases at all, but with indictable offences, and where penal servitude may be substituted by the Court of Assize for hard labour.


Yes, Sir, I quite accept that. But the point of view I am trying to put is that some of us believe that this Bill shows that drift towards more severe sentences.


But these police court cases are dealt with by the magistrates, and are quite different from the class of offences that come under the present Bill.


With that I agree. Only I suggest there is this danger: if you begin to bring more severe sentences into the higher Courts, then the lower Courts might follow that example, which is a bad one. It is this we want to avoid. I was endeavouring to cite these local cases, because I have been refused permission to put questions in the House about them, and I wanted to say to-day what I could say on the matter—


The hon. Gentleman had better bring in a Criminal Law Amendment Bill.


That is one of my objections to the Bill. My objection is that last year this House passed two Bills dealing with the Criminal Law. I object to the House being continually asked to deal with these matters in such a piecemeal fashion. I consider that if we want to deal with this matter we ought to deal with it thoroughly while we are busy.


If this Bill goes to a Division I shall vote for it. It raises the question of a very recent offence. Before we can properly understand the Bill we should have to understand the offence out of which it has arisen. The case that was recently before the Courts was an appallingly bad case. We had a man of considerable wealth and considerable experience of the world who deliberately set himself up to trap and ruin young girls under the pretext of engaging them for-domestic service. He thus got them into his hands. The domestic servants of this country come very largely, if not entirely, from the working homes of our people. They are innocent. They are defenceless. They go to these homes to render domestic service. These girls need to be protected in every possible way, because of their utter helplessness, and their utter inexperience of the world.

Here was a man only 38 years of age who had been leading an abominable life for some time. He kept a woman for the purpose of assisting him to procure these innocent girls. When he had them in his possession, and had gratified his lust, and had ruined them, then his next object was to seek out further game. In three years time that man will be let loose again upon society. The Judge that tried the matter deplored the fact that he could not imprison him for a longer period than three years. The same opinion was expressed in the higher Court. I say this Bill is very necessary for the protection of these young people. We have had to-day a discussion on humanitarianism. What can humanitarianism do for a man like Hayley Morriss. How are we going to coax him into virtue? The thing is absolutely absurd. It is such sloppy sentiment that plays into the hands of this kind of man.

This Bill, I think, is very necessary. In a case like this, though one rebels at the idea of being vindictive to any person, yet I say a man like Hayley Morriss is a danger to society. Men like he, with the means at their disposal, when they come out can prey again upon society, because in this matter there is a very great lack in the law of the country. The law from this standpoint needs amendment. I myself do not believe in savage sentences; but I do believe in keeping men of the character of this one in durance vile so

that he cannot prey upon innocent girls in our country. From that standpoint I support the Bill, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading with a big majority.


I only desire to speak for one moment, and that is in reference to some of the statements of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. If this Bill were confined to dealing with pimps and procurers, such as he has described, I should unhesitatingly vote for it. But as I read the Bill, it does not only deal with scamps and ruffians such as my hon. Friend has described, it applies to persons convicted on indictment, and that may cover political offences and all sorts of things.


I would like to tell the hon. Member that as at present drawn the Bill does not cover any political offences of which I know, because they are punishable with something more than imprisonment, or, at the moment, a fine can be inflicted.


An offence may be created any day.


I am sorry I am not able to discuss these technical matters witlh the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord), because I am without the necessary knowledge. But what is puzzling me and other hon. Members on this side of the House is how we can get at ruffians of the Hayley Morriss type without bringing in other offenders whose offences may be political, or may not be so vicious and so hurtful and harmful to the morals of society as those of the Hayley Morriss type of criminal. Unless I can be assured that this Bill covers only pimps and rascals such as the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) has described, I am afraid I shall be compelled to vote against it.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 38.

Division No. 34.] AYES. [1.58 p.m.
Ainsworth, Major Charles Barr, J. Brittain, Sir Harry
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Berry, Sir George Bromley, J.
Baker, Walter Birchall, Major J. Dearman Bullock, Captain M.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Blades, Sir George Rowland Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Boothby, R. J. G. Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Campbell, E. T.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Bowyer, Capt G. E. W. Cassels, J. D.
Chapman, Sir S. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Charleton, H. C. Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n) Ropner, Major L.
Clarry, Reginald George Hume, Sir G. H. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis Rye, F. G.
Cope, Major William Hurd, Percy A. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Couper, J. B. Hurst, Gerald B. Savery, S. S.
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. McI. (Renfrew, W.)
Crawfurd, H. E. Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Crooke, J. Smedley, (Deritend) Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Smithers, Waldron
Curzon, Captain Viscount Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Davies, Dr. Vernon Lamb, J. Q. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Eden, Captain Anthony MacAndrew, Charles Glen Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Maclntyre, Ian Templeton, W. P.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Malone, Major P. B. Thurtle, E.
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Margesson, Capt. D. Tinker, John Joseph
Everard, W. Lindsay Merriman, F. B. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Moore, Sir Newton J. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Fermoy, Lord Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Forrest, W. Naylor, T. E. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Foster, Sir Harry S. Nelson, Sir Frank Wells, S. R.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Philipson, Mabel Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Harrison, G. J. C. Pitcher, G. Wise, Sir Fredric
Haslam, Henry C. Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Womersley, W. J.
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd. Henley) Preston, William Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Price, Major C. W. M.
Henn, Sir Sydney H. Rees, Sir Beddoe TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hopkins, J. W. W. Remer, J. R. Mr. Greaves-Lord and Mr. Hawke.
Ammon, Charles George John, William (Rhondda, West) Saklatvala, Shapurji
Attlee, Clement Richard Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Sexton, James
Barnes, A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Batey, Joseph Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Snell, Harry
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Kelly, W. T. Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Cluse, W. S. Lansbury, George Varley, Frank B.
Duncan, C. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dunnico, H. March, S. Windsor, Walter
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Wright, W.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Montague, Frederick Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Oliver, George Harold
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Potts, John S. Sir Robert Hamilton and Mr.
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Purcell, A. A. Harney.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.