HC Deb 30 June 1932 vol 267 cc2095-7

The words "conviction" and "sentence" shall cease to be used in relation to children and young persons dealt with summarily and any reference in any enactment to a person convicted, a conviction or a sentence shall, in the case of a child or young person, be construed as including a reference to a person found guilty of an offence, a finding of guilt or an order made upon such a finding, as the case may be:

Provided that for the purposes of paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section ten of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914 (which relates to the power to send youthful delinquents to Borstal Institutions) a finding that a person is guilty of an offence shall not have the effect of a conviction if he is dealt with for that offence under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Hon. Members who were on the Committee on the Bill will remember that we discussed at some length the question of convictions in juvenile courts. It was a matter with which I had a considerable amount to do when I was engaged in the preparation of the Bill. Representations were made to me from a good many quarters connected with work of this kind that convictions should disappear. I had a prejudice, which may be an old-fashioned one, against putting into a Bill something which does not mean anything. The Clause with which we are now asked to agree, and which was a Clause I was originally ask to put in the Bill, means absolutely nothing. I had made the offer, if it were felt, as it was in some quarters, that these words are perhaps too reminiscent of the ordinary criminal courts, and that merely for the conduct of proceedings some other words should be substituted for them, to see that in the regulations that are to be issued in connection with this Bill that point should be dealt with. I refused at the time to put into a Bill for which I was responsible words which meant nothing and had no executive effect, but which might have the danger of inducing courts, which are loath to believe that Parliament passes meaningless Clauses, to find some meaning in them.

Hon. Members will find that in this Clause, which has been introduced in the other place, every care has been taken to ensure that it shall mean nothing, and the language in the latter part of the Clause makes it certain that, although these words are never to be used again, the words to be used instead of them shall have exactly the same meaning in reference to any Act of Parliament which has ever been passed. I do not mind now. The responsibility for introducing meaningless words in an Act of Parliament is not mine any longer. It comes from another place, where prejudice against verbiage is not as great as it is here. As such care has been taken to make certain that it means nothing and therefore can do no harm to anybody, and under a quite pathetic idea that it will please a number of people who think that it does mean something, I advise the House to agree with the Lords in this Amendment.


I am glad that I am able to agree with the other place on this issue. Boys who have been sentenced and convicted in their child- hood for trivial offences often find later on that they cannot secure admission into the Dominions or foreign countries, and I am informed that these convictions and sentences have prevented boys later on in life joining either the Navy or the Air Force, although, strangely enough, they can join the Army. I believe that there is much more in this new Clause than the Under-Secretary thinks, and for once in my life I think that their Lordships are a little more advanced than the Commons. This new Clause is very much on the lines that we ourselves moved in Committee upstairs.


The Clause which the hon. Member moved in Committee would have meant something, although it was something bad.


I am evidently more intelligent than the people in the other place. We have more in this new Clause than the hon. Gentleman believes, and I am glad that he is accepting it.


I am glad to be able to find myself in agreement with the suggestion of the Lords. I was personally interested in this particular proposal, and I was fully convinced that the safeguards which the Under-Secretary promised would cover the point I raised, but this new Clause covers what I wanted and removes an injustice.

Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 19, line 8, agreed to.