HC Deb 06 February 1930 vol 234 cc2059-61

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the fact that flogging, whipping and birching have been abolished in the Navy without discipline having suffered, he will consider abolishing these forms of punishment for the civil population in certain circumstances?


While I must recognise that there is a widespread belief in the efficacy of corporal punishment for certain classes of crime, I think that the position might very well be reviewed in regard, at any rate, to some of the offences for which such punishment is now authorised by the criminal law, and I should be glad to take the matter up if a suitable opportunity presented itself.

Captain W. G. HALL

Do I understand from that answer that birching has been abolished in the Navy?


I am not quite certain on that point.


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware, that on 31st January last a man sentenced to 15 strokes of the cat jumped to death at Wandsworth Gaol rather than receive this punishment; how many children and adults were sentenced to the cat in 1929; and whether in future he intends to forbid this form of punishment?


No, Sir. The published reports of the inquest make in clear that the man in question killed himself because he feared 10 years' penal servitude and not because he feared the cat. He committed suicide a week before the expiration of the time allowed for appeal and therefore a week before the earliest date on which the flogging could have been carried out. The last complete year for which figures concerning sentences of the cat for criminal offences are available is 1928. In that year 13 persons over 21 and three persons aged between 16 and 21 were ordered the cat in England and Wales for criminal offences. No persons under 16 were ordered the cat. I have no power to forbid a form of punishment prescribed by Act of Parliament; but on the question whether legislation is desirable to restrict the classes of offence for which the cat car be ordered, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Freeman).


Has not the Home Secretary the right to remit any sentence which he thinks should be remitted in the public interest?


Yes, and I consider in cases which come before me whether that right should be exercised or not. I can assure my hon. Friend that the whole matter is before the Commissioners of Prisons.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say why his hon. Friends object so much to flogging, and yet condone appalling offences and cruelties which are going on in Russia?


Are the Government prepared to set up a Select Committee to go into the whole question of flogging and its effect?


I will consider that point.


Is it not good policy to punish certain brutal offences?