§ 20. Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his attention has been called to the case of the boy, Charles Blues, who, for his first offence of stealing apples, was sentenced in the Edinburgh sheriff court on 9th October to be birched, which was subsequently carried out; and whether he will take steps to discourage the imposition of such punishment on boys coming before the courts for the first time?
§ Mr. Elliot
I have made inquiry regarding the case referred to, and I find that the boy in question (aged 13) and another of the same age were found guilty of the theft of 4½ of pears from a market garden, and were each ordered to receive four strokes of the birch. The case was one of four before the Court on the same day relating to the theft of fruit from the same gardens, and involving 13 youths and boys. I am informed that both boys were medically examined; that the former was certified to be physically fit to undergo the punishment by the doctor who was present while it was carried out and that the punishment in the second case was not inflicted in view of the doctor's certificate. As regards the second part of the question, the whole matter is under investigation by a Departmental Committee. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it would not be possible for me to attempt to influence the Courts in matters which the law has placed within their discretion.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the officers of the scout troop to which this 1016 boy belonged are very seriously concerned over this matter, and will he or the Lord Advocate consent to receive a small deputation?
§ Mr. Leonard
In view of the strong feeling in Scotland owing to the extension of this kind of punishment, will the right hon. Gentleman expedite the report of the Departmental Committee on this question?