37. Viscountess ASTOR
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the case of Bertha Eliza Nobes, who was recently sentenced to three years' penal servitude at Norfolk Assizes for setting fire to a stack of corn, this being her fourth conviction for arson; will he state whether the woman has been examined by a mental specialist; and what steps he proposes to take to secure other treatment in the case of offenders guilty of apparently purposeless crime?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
My attention has been drawn to this case. As she had been on bail and as she pleaded guilty, there was no medical evidence as to her mental condition. She has since been examined by a competent medical officer and I have had the advice of the Medical Commissioner of Prisons. She is not at present regarded as certifiable, either as insane or mentally deficient. Her case is being carefully watched and all necessary and practicable steps will be taken. As at present advised I have no further steps to propose.
Is it not true that the right hon. Gentleman repealed the sentence on a boy for arson not long ago, because it was found that arson is one of the special crimes of the mental deficient, and is it not also true that so long as people like Judge Rowlatt at Winchester say that people who commit these crimes—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I did not Say so. My hon. Friend, as a doctor, will appreciate that my words were carefully chosen. I said that she is not at present regarded as certifiable, either as insane or mentally deficient, but she is being carefully watched, and all necessary and practicable steps will be taken.