§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Behind the Bill is a long and chequered history of theory and experience, of effort and experiment, of hope and fear, often depressing, often, however, inspiring, but constantly illumined by the presence of good men and women who devoted their lives to the reclamation of the prisoner and the captive. Four men and one woman add peculiar lustre to this field of human effort. There is, first of all, John Howard, a very remarkable man, who in early life was imprisoned as a result of capture by a French privateer, and himself saw the horrors of prison treatment at that time. What he saw made him devote the rest of his life to the cause of penal reform, and he spent no less than £30,000 of his own money in this way. Unlike his contemporaries, who made the Grand Tour of Europe to collect Italian old masters and classical statues, he made a grand tour of Europe and covered 50,000 miles, a very great achievement in those days, in visiting prisons and in exposing the scandals which took place within prison walls.
Then came another man, of a different type, who also left a lasting mark for good in this field of social service—Jeremy Bentham, an intellectual Liberal, who, like some other intellectual Liberals whom perhaps one sometimes finds on the benches over there, was apt to theorise and to press his theories a little bit too far. None the less, he held the very sound view that useless and unproductive labour in prisons was bad for society and bad for the prisoner. He denounced the policy ofthus giving a bad name to industry, the parent of wealth, and setting it up as a scarecrow to frighten criminals with.He said that in a prison where prisoners were sawing wood he had found the jailer blunting the saw in order to "plague" the prisoners, and he pointed out that the jailer was only giving logical effect to the bad system of treatment that was prevalent in those days.
268 Then came my own great-great-aunt, Elizabeth Fry. Elizabeth Fry was the first woman social worker in this country, and it is interesting to note that it was in the field of penal reform that women's work first started in this country. She was a very remarkable lady and a very decided lady. She would not take "No" from anyone.
§ Sir S. Hoare
She first interested that very Conservative body, the City Corporation, in the cause of penal reform. She was the first lady ever to give evidence before a Select Committee of this House, and it would be worth the while of hon. Members who are interested in the history of this social question to read the evidence that she gave at the Select Committee on Prison Treatment, now more than 100 years ago. They would find that hon. Members in those days were not unlike hon. Members of to-day. Some of them in that Select Committee, and possibly in subsequent Select Committees, when they asked a witness a question were more anxious to get the answer that they themselves desired than to obtain the opinion of the witness. So it was that at this Select Committee at which Elizabeth Fry gave evidence Member after Member tried to put into her mouth the kind of answer that they wished to see given to their questions. They tried to suggest to her that solitary confinement was an excellent means of stimulating spiritual regeneration, but Elizabeth Fry stuck to her guns and would have none of it. I quote a single sentence from her evidence:We may instruct as we will, but if we allow them their time and they have nothing to do, they naturally must return to their evil practices.Then came a period in which no great personality showed itself for some length of time, and it was not until two generations after the days of Elizabeth Fry that another great penal reformer came upon the scene. I refer to Evelyn Ruggles Brise, the founder of Borstal treatment. He was a man of a very different type. He was a very popular member of London society, and he was a keen sportsman. He came into the Home Office rather by chance as a private secretary, but he, like the other three whose names I have mentioned, devoted his life to the problem of penal reform, and he was fortunate enough to find a succes- 269 sion of Home Secretaries who were able to give him a wide field for his great work. He was fortunate, for instance, first of all, to find a supporter in one of the greatest of our recent Home Secretaries, Mr. Asquith, and in later years my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was able to give him valuable help. His experience showed once again a fact of which hon. Members should take notice, that it is necessary that reformers in every branch of life should have for their support the assistance of this House, and in particular the assistance of members of the Governments and the Departments with which their work is connected. So was it in the earlier days that I have just mentioned.
I come now to the fifth in this list of penal reformers. I come to the name of the greatest of all Home Secretaries, Sir Robert Peel. Without Sir Robert Peel's help, it would not have been possible for John Howard, or Jeremy Bentham, or Elizabeth Fry to achieve progress with their reforms and their aspirations. Sir Robert Peel was a very remarkable man. Canning said of him that he was a man with an ordinary mind but with extraordinary abilities. I am not sure that the possession of an ordinary mind and at the same time of extraordinary abilities is not just the kind of possession that a successful constitutional Minister should have. In any case Sir Robert Peel devoted himself wholeheartedly to this question of penal reform. He introduced the first great Prisons Act. He accompanied it with half a dozen other great Acts of Parliament reducing the number of capital sentences, raising the standard of prison treatment, mitigating the lot of the convict and of the prisoner to be transported. In a word, he succeeded to a great extent in bringing to an end in this country the medieval conception of punishment. When I say "the medieval conception of punishment" I mean the system under which imprisonment played a very small part and in which punishment depended almost entirely upon sentences of death, or mutilation or confiscation. Sir Robert Peel started a chapter of imprisonment in place of this more brutal method.
Now we are taking the work a long step further and embarking on the third chapter, the chapter in which we are attempting to provide alternative methods for imprisonment. Sir Robert Peel had 270 two convictions that constantly guided him. He was convinced, in the first place, that undue severity so far from deterring criminals actually incites them. He was further convinced that, looking at the great variety of crimes and criminals, there is no rough-and-ready method of dealing with them. Those two convictions are the bases of this Bill. In the first place, we believe that undue severity, quite apart from its brutalising effect, is an unsuccessful way of dealing with crime. The Governor of Dartmoor Prison told me a little time ago that he asked one of the prison officers who had come to the end of his service what was the change that he had chiefly observed during the time he was at Dartmoor. The prison officer said to him, "The convicts to-day leave the prison less evil-minded than when I came to Dartmoor 30 years ago." That goes to show that these humaner methods in our prison administration are having a good effect, not a bad effect, on the prisoners, and that is further shown by the fact that year by year, although humaner methods are introduced in prison administration, the number of prisoners who are convicted a second time tends constantly to diminish. If the prisons had ceased to have a deterrent effect as a result of these more humane methods, we should not see 80 per cent. of the prisoners who now enter prison never coming back to prison again.
I come to the second of these convictions, the conviction that you cannot deal with crime and criminals by any rough-and-ready method. Crime and criminals cover so varied a field; they represent almost every conceivable human aberration, they are the results of a thousand and one different things, sometimes wickedness, sometimes bad luck, sometimes folly, sometimes stupidity; and you cannot possibly deal with them by one or two simple rough-and-ready methods. Let me give the House in a few sentences a picture of the great variety of problems with which we are faced when we come to discuss this question of penal reform. Here are the facts and figures about crime in the year 1937. In 1937 the total number of persons found guilty of offences of all kinds was about 800,000, of whom about 7,500, or a mere.9 per cent.—less than 1 per cent.—were tried by jury, and 99.1 per cent. were dealt with by the magistrates.
271 Let the House first mark the fact that more than 99 per cent. of the cases are dealt with by courts of summary jurisdiction. Of this enormous army of offenders, traffic offences accounted in 1937 for 60 per cent.; a variety of non-indictable offences, such as drunkenness, failure to take out licences for dogs, Sunday trading, etc., for 30 per cent.; and crimes, that is indictable offences, for the most part thefts, for 10 per cent. The large majority, 81 per cent., of these offenders were fined, 10 per cent. were dismissed after the charge had been proved, 3 per cent. were placed under the supervision of a probation officer, 2 per cent. were bound over without supervision, and 3 per cent.—or about 25,000—were sentenced to imprisonment or penal servitude or Borstal detention. Of these, about 19,000 were persons over 17 sentenced by courts of summary jurisdiction to imprisonment without the option of a fine.
Most of the offenders who come before the courts—the motorist who commits a parking offence or the coster who obstructs the highway—do not come within the province of a discussion of penal reform. It is the 78,000 persons of all ages who were found guilty of indictable offences in 1937 that are chiefly the concern of the penal reformer, and particularly the 25,000 who were sentenced to imprisonment, penal servitude or Borstal. What a variety of human experience is behind the figures I have just given to the House. What a folly it would be to attempt to deal with them by any kind of uniform treatment. What a still greater folly it would be if we attempted to apply any kind of rigid uniformity of treatment to the most important class of these offenders, the class of the young offender, the class in which there is the greatest chance of reform, the class in which there is the greatest likelihood that it was some childish folly or ignorance that led to the misdemeanour.
Let us look for a moment at this problem of the young offender; let us see how the Bill proposes to deal with him. It is the chapter of the Bill that deals with the young offender that is in my view one of the two main justifications for the whole Bill. The number of boys and girls under 17 found guilty of indictable offences in England and 272 Wales was 25,543 in 1935, 27,126 in 1936, and 29,201 in 1937. In 1937 boys and girls under 17 represented 38 per cent, of the total number of persons found guilty of indictable offences. This is a disquieting fact but it is dangerous to base upon it too wide generalisations. Our inquiries go to show that almost all generalisations in this field of penal reform are dangerous. They go to show that to-day the young are not more wicked than they were, but that they are less controlled by their parents. They go to show that it is not so much films and shilling shockers that make juvenile crime, but broken homes, indulgent mothers, unkind stepmothers or unemployment.
§ Sir S. Hoare
In almost all cases imprisonment is the worst possible way of dealing with these uncontrolled, objectionable and sometimes dangerous young people. Prison, particularly after a short sentence, often turns them into little heroes. It makes a dangerous break in the thread of their lives. It gives them no training for the future. A short sentence cannot possibly give a boy or girl any kind of useful training. It often destroys any deterrent effect that imprisonment may have. The Lord Chief Justice, who has taken a great interest in these problems of juvenile delinquency, put it well the other day when he quoted the remark of a prison officer in one of our great prisons, who said of the short sentence that the effect it had upon the young was that "they go in crying and come out laughing."
Short sentences have the effect of destroying the fear of prison for them in future. During the year ended 31st March, 1909, 525 young people between 12 and 16, and 13,879 between 16 and 21 were received in prison after conviction, making a total of 14,404 young people under 21 received in prison after conviction. We have improved since then. In 1937 the number of young offenders between 16 and 21 received in prison after conviction was 1,355, a great diminution as compared with the year I have quoted, which immediately followed the Children Act, 1908. An analysis of the figures shows, however, that a much larger proportion might have been dealt with otherwise than by prison. Thirty-two per cent. of the total number of boys 273 and 44 per cent. of the girls in this 1,355 had not previously been proved guilty of offences. They were first offenders, and I am convinced that for the great majority of these cases probation was the right treatment. On the other hand, 68 per cent, of the boys and 56 per cent. of the girls had previous proved offences and in several cases more than one offence, indeed, in a number of cases from 6 to 10 offences.
I am convinced that for these habitual young offenders short terms of imprisonment were both useless and harmful and that the proper treatment was training in an approved school or in a Borstal institution. The number of young persons received in prison after conviction does not give a full picture of the total number who under existing conditions made acquaintance with prison before the age of 21. During the year ended 31st December, 1937, 2,694 persons under 21 were sent to prison on remand or awaiting trial, and were not subsequently committed to prison; 138 were found not guilty and discharged, and 2,556 were found guilty but were dealt with otherwise than by imprisonment. It will be seen from these figures that during 1937, a total of 4,049 young people under 21 were received into prison either before or after conviction. I would particularly ask the attention of the House to this figure.
One of the main objects of this Bill is to effect an immediate reduction in the number of young people received into prison and to provide for the ultimate abolition of imprisonment as a method of treatment for young offenders convicted of such offences as are dealt with by courts of summary jurisdiction. Clause 27 embodies this objective. It is one of the central Clauses of the Bill.
How do we propose to achieve this objective of keeping the young out of prison altogether? We propose, first of all, to raise to 16 the age below which no child can be sent to prison on conviction. Second, we propose that in future no young person of 16 to 17 shall be sentenced to imprisonment without a certificate from the court that the offender is of depraved or unruly character. Third, we propose that no summary courts shall send to prison any young person between 17 and 21 unless a special investigation has been made into the circumstances of the individual case.
274 Further than that, we propose a series of new institutions for dealing with the young. Some of these institutions are for the young before conviction and some for the young after conviction. For the young before conviction we are proposing two kinds of new remand homes. We are proposing, first, a type of State remand home for children and young persons under 17 to deal with the problem cases, that is to say, the abnormal cases that need careful medical investigation and often mental observation. We are proposing, secondly, what are called remand centres for young people between 17 and 23. At present there are no remand homes for any but the very young. The result is that in the period between the inquiry of the court of summary jurisdiction and the disposal of the case by quarter sessions a large number of the young who are remanded have to go to prison. At present a large number of boys are in Wormwood Scrubs waiting either for quarter sessions or for allocation to various Borstal institutions. That means that these young people in the most impressionable periods of their lives have this prison association, the very kind of association we wish, if possible, to keep from them. We are proposing in the Bill remand centres for the older offenders between 17 and 23, and in these institutions there will be opportunities for the investigation of the problem cases and also for the kind of mental investigation into certain cases that we shall have in the remand homes for the younger persons.
I come next to the institutions that we are proposing for the young after conviction. The House will notice that at a later period in the Bill we are abolishing corporal punishment for the young. I will say a word or two about that at a later stage, but I mention it now in order that hon. Members should have a complete picture of the methods that we are proposing for the young. We are reducing the possibility of imprisonment and abolishing corporal punishment for the young. None the less, we feel, as I imagine every hon. Member will feel, that we must have effective means of dealing with these young people, many of whom are an intolerable nuisance in their neighbourhood and inflict a great deal of unnecessary suffering upon their neighbours. Accordingly, in substitution for these out-of-date methods we are proposing, first 275 of all, the provision of new institutions that we call in the Bill Compulsory Attendance Centres. The proposal is based upon the experience of a large number of social workers in this field. They say with great reason that punishment of some kind is necessary for these juvenile offenders, but that if it is to be wise punishment and is to do them good and not harm, it should not break the thread of their lives; it should not take them out of employment if they are in jobs; it should not outlaw them from the rest of their fellows and from ordinary life outside. At the same time, it should be unpleasant for them.
Accordingly, we are proposing these new institutions which we call Compulsory Attendance Centres to which it will be possible to send the young for a limited number of hours, the maximum being 60 hours over a period of six months, at which they will be ordered to attend for a given number of hours a day, the number never to exceed three. The idea is that they should be ordered to attend these centres on Saturday afternoons or in the evenings when they would be deprived of their leisure and not have the fun of going to a football match or to the films, and when they will be made to look rather ridiculous among the rest of their friends. During their attendance at these centres they will be made to do some useful job and the opportunity will be taken also to give them some kind of useful training. I imagine that the atmosphere will be, within, of course, more rigid rules, that of a well run boys' club or similar institution.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am obliged to the hon. Member for his interruption, which shows that I did not make myself clear. What I meant by saying they would make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of their friends was that they would look foolish when, on a Saturday afternoon, they had to go off to one of these attendance centres while their friends were going off to the films or to football. I meant nothing more than that. I commend this proposal to the House. I believe it does provide an alternative punishment which, whilst it will be unpleasant, will tend to do the young offender good and not harm.
276 I come now to a second proposal, that which we make in the Clause that sets up Howard Houses. We have a great body of evidence that a large amount of crime in this country is due to the conditions in which the offender is living. He has not got a home or, if he has a home, it is an unsuitable home and there is no control to check him. Accordingly, we are proposing a new form of hostel, which is to be called a Howard House, in which an offender can be ordered to reside for a period not exceeding six months. He will be able to go on with his normal work during the day time, he will go on earning his full wages outside during the week, but he will have to be in the Howard House at a given time in the evening, and he will have to reside there during a period running up to six months. I am convinced by what social workers have told me that hostels of this kind are very much needed and that they will help to keep many young offenders from committing more serious crimes in their subsequent lives.
Another proposal that we make in connection with the young offender, a proposal about which there is sure to be a difference of opinion, is to give courts of summary jurisdiction the power to impose Borstal sentences. There is a definite difference of opinion upon the wisdom of this proposal. During the last 12 months we have been at pains to gather together the views of social workers as to whether or not it is wise to give courts of summary jurisdiction this added power. Upon the whole the evidence at our disposal has gone in favour of the change, but I should be the first to admit that there are a number of social workers whose opinions we greatly value who take the contrary view. They take the view that it is too great a power to give to a court of summary jurisdiction.
On the other hand, there is the view held by men and women whose opinions are no less to be relied upon, who argue that courts of summary jurisdiction already have powers as great, and, indeed, in some respects, even greater. They can send a boy or girl to prison for six months and in some cases even for 12 months, and further, they can send a boy or girl for a period of three years to an approved school. It is held that this new power is only a natural continuation of the power they already have of sending boys and girls for training in approved schools. 277 It is suggested that the age should be extended, and that they should have the power of imposing similar treatment and training upon those of older ages. There is also the view that until a sufficient number of the new remand homes have been set up—and that may take some time—it is essential to give courts of summary jurisdiction this power, because otherwise there will be a gap between the advice given by the court of summary jurisdiction and the sentence to Borstal at the court of quarter sessions, and in that gap large numbers of boys and girls will continue to be remanded to prison.
I put before the House the arguments on both sides about this proposal. They are well balanced, but upon the whole I take the view that the advantage is upon the side of the proposals in the Bill. It may be, however, that in the course of our discussions we shall find ways of safeguarding this new power. At present there are two safeguards, the safeguard of appeal and the safeguard of the Secretary of State, who can set the boy or girl free on licence; but, as I say, it may be that we shall find other methods and shall be able to reconcile the two views that at present seem to be divergent.
The alternative methods I have just described should keep many of the 4,000 young people who went to prison last year out of prison now and in the future, and if we can get the alternative methods of treatment fully developed then we can have the Order in Council contemplated in Clause 27, and that will remove altogether imprisonment as a result of a sentence in courts of summary jurisdiction.
I come now to the second main chapter of the Bill, the chapter dealing with the persistent offender. Here it is not so much a question of humanising the treatment of the offender, although we certainly shall not ignore that side of the problem, but is rather a question of protecting society against the pests who continually inflict damage and suffering upon their fellow men and women. In 1937 out of 31,000 sentences of imprisonment 24,000 were imposed on persons who had previously been found guilty of offences. In many cases these previous offences had been dealt with by methods other than imprisonment—by probation or binding over or fines; but in 16,500 cases the offenders had been previously 278 in prison, and many had served repeated sentences of imprisonment. Excluding those sentenced for offences against the intoxicating liquor laws there were 11,592 men and 885 women who had served previous sentences, namely, 7,700 who had served one to five previous sentences, 1,900 six to 10 previous sentences, 1,200 11 to 20 previous sentences and 740 over 20 sentences. As long ago as 1895 it was recognised by the Gladstone Committee on Prisons that persistent offenders cannot be effectively dealt with by sentences imposed for their specific offences. I quote the words of the report:To punish them for the particular offences of which they are detected is almost useless,said the committee, and they recommended that:A new form of sentence should be placed at the disposal of the Judges by which these offenders might be segregated for long periods of detention during which they would not be treated with the severity of first class hard labour or penal servitude but would be forced to work under less onerous conditions.An attempt was made to give effect to these recommendations in the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, which created a new form of sentence known as preventive detention. For reasons into which I need not go in detail that part of the Prevention of Crime Act has failed to achieve any substantial results. The procedure has been too cumbrous. Judges and juries have hesitated to make use of a procedure that looked, at any rate, as if it involved a double sentence. Juries have hesitated to say that a particular offender is an habitual offender. The result is that there are in the prisons of to-day a substantial number of these serious criminals; they are constantly in and out, constantly preying upon society and inflicting every kind of evil upon their fellow citizens, and yet there are no effective means of dealing with them. Let me give the House an illustration of the type of case I have in mind. It is a case of a man who was born in 1884 and is now 54 years of age. Here is a list of the sentences that have been imposed upon him:
§ Two months for assault.
§ Six months for indecent assault.
§ Six weeks for absconding with workhouse clothing.
§ Two sentences of nine months for larceny.279
§ Three years' penal servitude for horse stealing.
§ One month for failing to report during a period on licence.
§ Three years' penal servitude for larceny.
§ Five years' penal servitude for larceny.
§ Twelve months for burglary.
§ Three months for larceny.
§ Three periods of three months for larceny.
§ Three years for burglary and demanding money by menaces.
§ Six months for burglary.
§ Three years' penal servitude for burglary and larceny.
§ Three years' penal servitude for burglary.
§ Four years' penal servitude for robbery with violence.
§ Six months and licence revoked for being found on enclosed premises.
§ Four years' penal servitude for house-breaking and larceny.
§ Yet this particular individual has never been sentenced as a habitual criminal. A case of this kind shows how necessary it is to have more effective methods to deal with such enemies of society than at present exist.
§ Fortunately we have had, to guide us, the report of the Committee upon Persistent Offenders, which made unanimous recommendations some years ago. The committee was appointed by the Home Secretary of the day, the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). It is interesting to note how many are the penal questions in which there are no party considerations. A Home Secretary of one colour starts a movement and a Home Secretary of another colour carries the movement a stage further. The Committee upon Persistent Offenders recommended that in future a new sentence should be instituted—perhaps I should say two new sentences—one of corrective detention for the young habitual offender under 30 years of age and the other a sentence of preventive detention for the hardened offender over 30. Neither of these sentences was to be related to the nature of the crime for which it was to be inflicted nor indeterminate as regards the duration of the time for which it was to be imposed. These sentences are embodied in the Bill and the crimes for which they may be inflicted are set out 280 in it. They are crimes which carry with them a sentence of two years' imprisonment, and it is necessary that the crime shall have been repeated. The length of the sentence will run from two years to four years and the Secretary of State will have power to release a prisoner before the expiration of the full period if he is satisfied that the prisoner is likely to make good.
In a limited number of very serious cases which are set out in one of the Schedules to the Bill—many of them are almost too horrible to mention—the sentence may extend to 10 years. These prisoners will be detained in special prisons. As they will be there for a long period of time it is obvious that there will be a better opportunity of concentrating upon their reformative treatment. We have already made a start with a prison of this kind at Portsmouth, and even with these hardened offenders it is interesting to note that some of them do make good, although, from their records, one would not have imagined that it was possible. In these special detention prisons we shall concentrate upon training and, in the nature of things, owing to the fact that they will be sentenced because of their records rather than in relation to particular offences, the treatment will have to be less rigid than would be the case in the ordinary prisons. These are the proposals we make in the interests of the protection of society for dealing with this hard core of the criminal problem. If the House adopts them, we shall find not only that they will be a protection for society and they will be a much better protection than we have at present. This greater specialisation upon this particular side of the penal problem will also help us to reform more of these hardened criminals than has been possible in the past.
Now I come to the next chapter of the Bill, the provisions dealing with mental treatment. I have said something to the House about the new type of remand home for dealing with the problem cases of the young. There are also provisions for making it easier to provide mental examination and mental treatment for adults. For cases in which adults cannot afford to pay there is a provision under which the cost can be provided from public funds. In cases where the offender can pay, the sum will be recovered from him. Further, there are 281 provisions of a different kind under which we are proposing to transfer the criminal lunatic asylum at Broadmoor from the direct control of the Home Office to the control of the Board of Control. We are making that change not because there is any fault to find with the administration of Broadmoor. I believe that any hon. Member who visits it would be struck with the high standard of the administration and the devoted work that is being carried out by the officials of Broadmoor. We are making the change because we feel that, with the growing development of this branch of medical science, it is better to bring all mental institutions under a single control. Accordingly, we are transferring Broadmoor to the Board of Control, retaining, however, as is inevitable, in the hands of the Secretary of State, the power of release.
§ Incidentally, we are abolishing the anomalous description "criminal lunatic." I have never thought that there was any justification for a description of that kind. It has always seemed to me that the essence of crime is that a man or woman must know what he or she is doing and that, in the nature of things, a lunatic cannot be responsible for his actions. Accordingly, in future, we shall call Broadmoor a State Mental Hospital and we shall call the inmates of Broadmoor not criminal lunatics but State mental patients. We have accumulated a considerable body of evidence about penal administration in connection with mental cases. For instance, we have had in progress in recent years a scientific investigation into a number of cases of prisoners in Wormwood Scrubs. I hope to be able to publish the results of this investigation in the immediate future, but I can tell the House now that the conclusion that it reaches is that, here again, it is dangerous to generalise and that it is dangerous to regard mental treatment as the panacea for every kind of evil; but that, in a number of selected cases, particularly cases of young offenders, it undoubtedly does good. With all this evidence behind us, and with the great body of other evidence drawn from other fields, we feel that the time has come to make the proposals in the Bill for a definite step forward along this line of alternative treatment for offenders, and particularly for young offenders.
§ I have almost finished the description of the Bill, but there is one further 282 chapter of which I must say something before I sit down—and I hope that the House will forgive me if I am taking up too much of its time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] The House will have seen, from the description that I have given, the angles from which I am attempting to approach these problems. They will see that I am trying to approach them from the angles of prevention and reformation. In a scheme of this kind there is no place for the remnants of a period that looked at the treatment of crime principally from the angles of retribution. I am therefore proposing to sweep away the remnants of former dispensations, now little more than the stage properties of Victorian melodrama: penal servitude, hard labour, ticket-of-leave, the name "criminal lunatic." There is also a provision in the Bill which will enable us in the future to do away with the Prison Commissioners and to merge the prison administration with the general administration of the Home Office. These are changes much greater than changes of name. They are the outward and visible signs of the new outlook upon the problems of crime and delinquency.
§ Consistently with this attitude, I am proposing the abolition of corporal punishment, except for cases of mutiny and gross assault in prisons. Incidentally, such cases are very rare and it may be that a whole year, or two years, will pass by without one single sentence of either kind. I am proposing the abolition of corporal punishment for the following reasons: I believe that it is out of date and that it does not deter the particular individual upon whom it is inflicted from offending again. I believe, further, that it does not protect society from similar crimes in future. These beliefs are not grounded on vague sentiments, but on facts. They are founded upon the great body of evidence which was collected by the committee presided over by a former and highly-respected Member of this House, Mr. Edward Cadogan.
§ Mr. Edward Cadogan presided over a committee of entirely impartial men and women. At the beginning of their inquiry, it was clear that a number of them were in favour of the retention of this kind of punishment. They heard the evidence; they considered it; and they came unanimously to the conclusion that 283 the time had arrived for its abolition. I will not go into the details of the evidence to-day, but I would ask any hon. Member who is interested in the question to look at the committee's report—to look at it with an impartial mind, to set aside any prejudice that he may have had for or against corporal punishment in the past; and I am certain that he cannot help coming to the same conclusion at which I have arrived, that this type of punishment is out of date. So far as the young are concerned, it is only administered in 2 per cent. of the cases in which it can be applied. It is not used at all in our great cities; it is not used at all in London; for the most part it is only used in some of the remoter parts of the country where I think perhaps the courts are not fully aware of the alternative methods of treatment. It is contrary to the spirit of the Children Act, 1933, and there is no statistical evidence in support of it.
§ Mr. Jenkins
May I ask why it is retained in only two cases, which perhaps might quite well be regarded as not the most serious of criminal offences?
§ Sir S. Hoare
That, if I may say so, is another reason for abolishing it. If there are only one or two of these anomalous justifications—
§ Mr. Jenkins
I think I have not made myself quite clear, and would like to do so. Do I understand from the Home Secretary's explanation that corporal punishment will be abolished entirely except in the two cases of assault in prisons and mutiny, and that in no other case will corporal punishment be applied?
§ Sir S. Hoare
If the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument, I will come to that matter. I was dealing at the moment with the question of children, and that is why I misunderstood him. With regard to adults, there again, from the evidence collected by the Committee, I cannot see that there is any justification for retaining it. It is out of accord with reformative influences; it has been abandoned everywhere else in the world except in certain Dominions and one or two of the States of America; and the evidence does not prove that it does any good to the offender, or that it lessens the number of similar offences in the future. There is in the Committee's Report an 284 interesting paragraph on the claim that the infliction of corporal punishment has diminished or brought to an end certain types of crime. That claim is not borne out by the evidence.
The claim was made in the case of garrotting. The facts are that robbery with violence increased in the years immediately following the passing of the Garrotters Act in 1863. The claim was made that the infliction of a number of sentences of flogging resulted in the diminution of certain crimes in Liverpool, after what was known as the period of the "High Rip Gangs." As a matter of fact, there was an increase in the number of cases of robbery with violence after a number of these sentences had been inflicted in Liverpool. No doubt we shall hear more of this question in the course of these Debates, but let me say here and now that in my view the retention of corporal punishment would run counter to the main principles of the Bill, and from the evidence at my disposal there is no justification for retaining it save in the single and exceptional instance of the offence of gross assault or mutiny in prison.
The Cadogan Committee came to the view that an exception should be made in these very rare cases. In prison, there are few deterrents that can be applied to a dangerous prisoner. He has already lost his liberty, so there is no deterrent possible there. Secondly, there is the danger in a prison that, unless some punishment or threat of punishment of this kind is retained, prison officers, when they are attacked by prisoners—and there are from time to time gross and dangerous attacks upon prison officers—will take the law into their own hands and will retaliate. These arguments impressed the Cadogan Committee, and they came to the view, as a result of them, that this exception must be retained. But it will be retained, as hon. Members will see, with certain restrictions which are set out in the Bill, and with the very effective safeguard that sentences of this kind have to go through various checks—the visiting justices, the Prison Commissioners, and, eventually, confirmation by the Secretary of State himself.
I have now finished the description of the main principles of this very comprehensive Bill—the most comprehensive penal Bill that has ever been introduced 285 into this House. I have finished my survey. I have tried to explain how the Measure touches the many-sided problem of crime and delinquency, and how it lays the foundation of many valuable reforms. There are, however, two of its features that I would especially emphasise before I sit down. Its provisions are founded on hard facts, and not on unsupported theories. They are the result of the day-to-day experience of the practical men and women who are devoting their lives to this work. The Prison Commissioners, the prison governors, the visiting justices, the men and women helpers of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies—a noble company of devoted and experienced workers—are solidly behind the proposals I am making. They support the Bill because they believe that its proposals are a common-sense way of dealing with crime, because they believe that it will lessen the number of criminals, because they believe that it will help to prevent folly or ignorance or homelessness from degenerating into irreclaimable evil; and in their support they have behind them a cloud of witness in a long and remarkable series of expert inquiries. The Committee on Young Offenders, the Committee on Persistent Offenders, the Committee on Social Services in Courts of Summary Jurisdiction, the Committee on Corporal Punishment, and many more such inquiries, support in their conclusions the daily experience of the men and women on the spot. Gather together a dozen impartial men and women on any one of these criminal problems, face them with the evidence, give them the necessary time to sift it, and almost inevitably, although at the outset they differ the one from the other, in the end they will reach a unanimous conclusion.
These facts make me claim that every one of the provisions of the Bill is based on actual experience and impartial investigation. The provisions are, indeed, the legislative expression of what we have been attempting to do for some time past in the field of administration. The many reforms that we have made in the administration of prisons—the earnings scheme, the freer life, and the rest—and the many changes that we hope to make in the future with our building programme for more up-to-date prisons, are the administrative side of the policy which in this Bill we are embodying in legislative form. The success of the 286 administrative experiments justifies us in expecting even better results from these legislative reforms.
Finally, I claim that in the Bill the balance is held between the interests of the offender and the interests of society. On the one hand, there are the alternative methods to imprisonment and corporal punishment. On the other hand, the great deterrent, the deterrent of loss of liberty, will remain, and will remain in such a form that, while it will deter, it will not destroy, and while it will exact retribution, it will also encourage reformation. On the one hand, there is a new and concentrated effort upon reforming the individual offender; on the other hand, there is a more effective method of protecting society against the hardened criminals who prey upon their fellows and inflict suffering upon innocent citizens. On the one hand, there is the abolition of the old badges of infamy—penal servitude, hard labour, ticket-of-leave, and the rest; and on the other hand, there is in the interests of society a wiser classification of offenders that will help to prevent the criminal taint from spreading through the community.
In a sentence, the Bill holds the balance between the interests of the individual and the security of the State. But I hope that the Bill will do something more. I hope that its intentions will make themselves felt outside the narrow field of penal reform. At a moment when the terrors of the Middle Ages are once again being dragged out from the darkest corners of the past, it is well that we should hold fast to the humanities that have proved of such inestimable value to our nation. It is because I believe that this Bill is in the true tradition of our great social laws, it is because I believe that it will help to save some from falling and will help others to rise when they have slipped, it is because I believe that in a British way it holds the balance between the soul of the individual and the interest of the State, that I ask the House to give it a unanimous Second Reading.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has made a long speech, but it has been a speech full of meat. I am sure he was right in thinking that the House wished to have the Bill fully explained, and he could not have done so had he curtailed the re- 287 marks he has given us this afternoon. None of us who have listened to him will doubt the obvious sincerity with which he approached the subject and the great care that he has devoted to the production of the Bill and its explanation to us. I am confident that the House and the wider public outside welcome reform in our penal system. I suppose I ought to except a few persons, who find, from time to time, some echo in this House, who regard all attempts to humanise prisons as sloppy sentimentalism on the part of persons whose soft-hearted attitude to offenders exposes their victims to additional dangers. For my own part, I have no use for sentimentalism which will have that result; but, equally, I have no use for the sentimental attitude of those who think they can assuage their quite legitimate sense of pity or anger by wreaking vindictive vengeance upon the persons guilty of these crimes.
The real object of the penal reformer is not, in the words of the song, "to make the punishment fit the crime," but to apply such scientific treatment as will make the repetition of the crime less likely. When I use the word "scientific" I am aware that I may be coming up against a certain amount of British prejudice—a prejudice rather happily illustrated by the golfer whose partner in a foursome was making elaborate investigations into how to play the stroke on the last green. Getting more and more excited, he said at last, "None of your blasted science—you just bung it into the hole." But in this case, the science of which I speak is the accumulated experience of Home Secretaries; Home Office officials; prison officials and warders; magistrates and police; those public-spirited persons, prison visitors and members of penal reform and prisoners' aid societies; and, not least, ex-prisoners. Many of these different categories are represented inside this House—the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Second Reading represents the first category, and I have the distinction, or perhaps the ignominy, of representing the last—and each of us has his own separate point of view. We shall devote our minds to the question, each from that separate point of view, in what I believe is a thoroughly House of Commons spirit.
Penal reform is long overdue. There have been many Departmental Com- 288 mittees and Commissions which have reported on various aspects of the question; but, except for administrative reforms, which, of course, lie outside the scope of this Bill, we have had no considerable changes for a long time. Therefore, we all welcome the vigorous determination of the Home Secretary to give us this Bill; and I am sure he will not take any offence if I say that this is in more senses than is usually the case a Departmental Measure. Although it is his Bill, he owes much, as he has himself said, to the men and women in his Department and outside who have contributed to the Bill. It is a long, carefully thought-out Bill, which makes many changes, and is concerned with much detail. As the right hon. Gentleman has himself foreseen, it will not be treated in this House from any party point of view. It would be not only wrong but ridiculous for us to treat it along those lines. In my remarks to-day, whether of praise or of some criticism, I believe I shall represent, in the main, the body of opinion of those who sit with me on these benches, but I do not pretend to commit them to agreement with me on any detail of the matter.
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that this Bill is one of many details; but before we come to those I should like to put my view of its general scope. The Bill visualises three categories of offenders: first, the young and those with no criminal record; secondly, an intermediate class, who have perhaps one or two convictions against them; and the third, inveterate offenders and recidivists. The main objects of the Bill, as I see them, are to prevent persons in the first category from becoming criminals; to reform, if possible, the intermediate class; and to keep the third category out of mischief for the future. The method, in all cases, is to substitute for the modern prison treatment something different; to impose a new treatment, less severe but at the same time rendering the offender in all these different categories liable to a longer period of confinement and discipline. Therefore, I do not think the change can be impugned as too easy-going. I believe that, confronted with the possibility of treatment under the old system and under the new, many offenders would elect to have the old punishment. That is by no means necessarily a criticism of 289 the Bill, but it does mean that our attitude towards it is not to be decided on a priori theoretical grounds, but on detailed consideration of the actual proposals and changes which the Bill makes.
With regard to youthful offenders, this Bill makes an important and valuable attempt to keep them out of prison altogether. This is done, as the right hon. Gentleman has already told us, in a great variety of ways. In the first place, the Bill provides for a wide extension of probation. I am glad to see that the Home Secretary contemplates a complete probation system in every area of summary jurisdiction throughout the country, and probation officers not only for boys, who will be men, but for girls, who will be women. We all welcome that extension, and hope that it will have the very best results. But, in reference to that, there is one change which I am afraid I do not like in the Bill. Up till now, each year there have been put on probation something like 20,000 young people who have never been convicted. In the future, according to this Measure, conviction is to take place in all those cases, and we are going to change the very healthy practice that has been in existence since 1907. I am aware that this change was recommended by a Departmental Committee on social service—although there was a very eloquent and well-reasoned opposition to that recommendation in a minority opinion—but I am not aware that any probation officer takes the view put forward in the Bill; and, personally, I am bound to say that I cannot see any advantage in the change.
It is quite true, of course, that in Clause 20 some attempt is made to mitigate the disadvantage of conviction; but, in my opinion, it certainly does not completely meet the case. There are a great many forms which people have to fill up from time to time which ask quite specifically, "Have you ever been convicted of an offence by a court of law?" I believe that under the existing law it has been quite open for a person to answer the question, quite conscientiously and honestly, in the negative. It may be open to such a person to do so under this Measure, but I very much doubt that. Suppose such people want to emigrate. Suppose they want to go to the United States. I remember very well that I had this consideration to face myself, because of my own prison experience which I have 290 already mentioned. It is a very important point. I think the right hon. Gentleman is making a very reactionary move—a most unfortunate one. I hesitate to think that he has visualised all the serious consequences of the change he is proposing.
I pass on to the changed system of detention in police courts. I think the proposals of the Bill in that respect are thoroughly sound; but I put this to the right hon. Gentleman: that, unless police cells are very different from what I remember, they are quite unsuitable places for persons to spend a night in at all; and, although they may be better than they were, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be satisfied with their condition even now. I make one suggestion to him. I believe it is the case that these cells are inspected by the constabulary inspector. I suggest that they should, in addition, be inspected occasionally by the inspectors of prisons. I recognise that the inspectors of prisons, because of the smallness of their number, will not be able to cover the whole ground every year; but the mere fact of occasional visiting by them will have the effect of securing that these cells shall be places where offenders can be properly kept.
I come to the third method of treatment—that is, the attendance centres. For the moment I will class with them the Howard Homes which are being set up, although they are quite different. Both those plans seem to me to be thoroughly sound, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman all success with regard to them. But of course they are new, and a great deal depends on how they are constructed, the spirit which pervades them from the beginning, and also on their being numerous and not too large. I am sure that the Home Secretary must realise that, but it is a considerable point in dealing with this matter, because without the construction of suitable places of that kind, the Bill will not achieve the purposes which the Home Secretary desires.
Finally, I come to the last method—the extended use of Borstal. Previously Borstal could only be imposed after previous conviction, and for serious indictable offences, or if there were criminal habits and tendencies, and, as the Home Secretary has already told us, they could only be imposed by certain courts. This Bill proposes to sweep away all these limitations and also to make all Borstal 291 sentences for three years, subject, of course, to the power to remit the term of committal by the Home Secretary later on. Therefore, no one can deny—and I do not think that anyone would try to deny—that the effect of this Measure, if it is carried into law in its present form, will be very considerably to increase the use of Borstal. I do not pretend to have any personal experience of Borstal myself, but I have no doubt whatever that it has been of very great benefit, and that it will in future, in suitable cases, also be of great benefit in dealing with the people with whom we are concerned. Having said that, I think it would be altogether wrong to assume that Borstal is a kind of admirable boarding school, a sort of college for the children of working people. We have to remember that there comes a stage in the course of natural development of high spirited boys and girls when there is a tendency to kick over the traces. We see it in the case of college rags among undergraduates, which sometimes have serious and even occasionally fatal consequences. We recognise that there are similar tendencies among the children of working people. What I am afraid of is that where these high-spirited ebullitions, which may have a violent character, are accompanied by perhaps some lapse on the part of the parents, some magistrates will use this as an excellent opportunity to commit to Borstal.
The point I am anxious to make clear is that these committals to Borstal will be for a far longer period than the sentences whose place they take. However desirable in many ways Borstal may be, it is a loss of liberty, and loss of liberty has serious effects. It destroys initiative, it creates the sense of being thwarted and a sense of opposition to society. I am quite prepared to agree that the bulk of the magistrates, whether lay or stipendiary, are at the present time very thoughtful and careful people. I believe that they will use the powers which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to confer upon them very carefully and well, but I do not think that anyone will deny that that is not necessarily true of all the courts of summary jurisdiction. I can imagine certain rural justices of the peace thinking that a young poacher was a very suitable case to send for three years to Borstal, and I can conceive some 292 of them thinking that a young Communist perhaps was in a like position, and it is not impossible that some stipendiaries might take a somewhat similar view.
The Home Secretary made use of one argument which, I thought, had some force in it, and yet I did not feel that it went the whole way. He said, "Unless I give this wide power there is a danger that there will be a gap between the hearing before the court of summary jurisdiction and the quarter sessions to which they will afterwards have to go, and that gap will have to be filled in by prison." I cannot help feeling that the Home Secretary, if he thought again, might find some way out of that admitted difficulty. I am not saying, therefore, that this method is wrong—it will have to be thrashed out in Committee—but that it creates in my mind some considerable anxiety. If we are to have this wide power of Borstal with its far longer period of confinement, we must be absolutely sure that Borstal is totally different from prison. I have heard it suggested that in some cases district prisons are to be converted into Borstal institutions. I have heard a rumour that it was intended in particular to convert Usk prison into a Borstal. I hope that that sort of thing will not be done, and that these Borstal institutions for boys will be entirely different from the old prisons which they are to replace.
With regard to girls, I am told that there are only about 140 girls in Borstal at the present time. That is far too small a number to allow for the number of different classifications and divisions which Borstal should involve. The Home Secretary has, in his administrative work, told us that he contemplates certain very desirable reforms with regard to the women who are at present going to Holloway Prison, and it may be that he may find it practicable, as far as the Borstal girls are concerned, to split them up and send them to smaller places which are more like homes than institutions. Quite clearly the whole of this matter will have to be discussed very carefully during the later stages of the Bill, and if the provisions remain substantially in their present form, I hope that, when the Bill becomes law, the Home Secretary will very carefully watch the operation of these provisions, and that, if he finds that they are being abused, he will use freely his powers of release, and, if he finds 293 that the abuse is too deep, he will take an early occasion to amend the law.
I come to the question of the older offenders. I am glad to see that the Home Secretary is sweeping away the whole lumber of penal servitude, hard labour and the rest. He is quite right in removing from the judiciary to the prison authorities the decision as to the precise class, or division, as it is now called, into which the prisoner is placed. That is important, and I think that the provision in the Bill is a good one. I also welcome most heartily a provision to which the Home Secretary did not refer, but which is tucked away in rather an out-of-the-way part of the Bill, in Clause 45, in which he is taking to himself the power to allow the temporary release of a prisoner from prison. I believe that this has worked very well in other countries, and I hope that it will not be too sparingly applied, for in it, I believe, is the germ of an entirely new and important development.
I now come to the two major proposals to deal with older offenders, namely, corrective training and preventive detention. I would have the House note that corrective training is for a minimum of two years, and it may be as much as four years. This will take the place of a sentence which may be comparatively short, say, of a few months. Again, preventive detention may be from two to four years, and in exceptional cases from four to ten years, and that may take the place of an actual prison sentence of two or three years. I appreciate the object with which these provisions are framed, and I know that they are sponsored by large numbers of most qualified people. In spite of that, I am bound to say that I feel some misgiving with regard to them. There are certain very grave consequences which flow from these very long confinements, particularly in the case of comparatively young people. As the House will realise, those who are subject to corrective training are under 30, and those subjected to preventive detention may be only a little over 30. The first class is comparatively young, and the second is still in the prime of life. [Interruption.] They may well be in the prime of life. If a man has had only corrective training before, it may well be only his third offence.
294 A number of very grave consequences flow from long detention, and one of these, the most serious perhaps, which prisoners always remark upon when they give us their views about the prison, is the complete denial of all normal sex life. That leads to very grave results which it is not necessary for me to amplify to-day. I recognise, however, the very great authority which supports these proposals, and I have no doubt that the experiment will be tried, but at least let us be sure that the objects that are held to counterbalance the grave misgivings that I have are really being attained. In the first place, let us make quite sure that this corrective training is really reformative and differs fundamentally from a prison sentence. I cannot help feeling alarmed when I see in an earlier part of the Bill that it is proposed to set aside "prisons or parts of prisons" for these purposes. If corrective training really is to reform the offender and not to be a sham, I should have thought that it would be necessary at least to have a separate building for this purpose. The right hon. Gentleman told us that with regard to preventive detention it was only in respect of the most grave cases referred to, as I understand it, in the First Schedule.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Only the grave offences mentioned in the First Schedule. I am talking of preventive detention.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Only those offences will be liable to the lengthened period of 10 years. I drew a distinction between the two classes.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point, but it does not really meet what I was going to say. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to contend that the First Schedule referred only to very serious offences. That is not how the Schedule has been represented to me. I understand that if a man stole twopence from an offertory box he would, theoretically, come under this Schedule of offences. I do not suggest that such a small, trivial offence would, in practice, bring him under the system of preventive detention, but if what I say is true it shows that the classification under Schedule I is not so watertight as the right hon. Gentleman would 295 lead us to think. In these special classes of treatment, if we are to add such great length to the time they may be detained we must see to it that in the first the training is real and effective, with a view to reforming the prisoner, and that in the second, the detention has omitted from it the penal character of our present prison system. I have said all this not in disparagement of the right hon. Gentleman, but because it is necessary to analyse and discuss the merits and demerits of the proposals which are recommended to us, not only by himself, but by a large number of people who think very earnestly on these questions.
I was very glad, and I am sure the great majority of the House must have been glad, that the right hon. Gentleman has had the courage to adopt the conclusions of the Committee on Corporal Punishment. He has not boggled over any of the points. No doubt there will be a certain number of die-hards who will growl, but I hope he will let them growl and not worry very much about them. We could have wished that he had gone even further, but I suppose he felt he could not go beyond the report of the Committee. I hope, however, it will not be long before flogging will be abolished even for prison offences. I wish also he could have seen his way to abolish capital punishment at the same time. A few days ago, in spite of the recommendation of the Under-Secretary, we carried a Resolution on this question. There is not much in the argument which suggests that there were a large number of abstentions. The fact is that the opinion of the House, in so far as it has been vocal, is against capital punishment, and would welcome its abolition. No doubt there will be discussions on this point at a later stage, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not shut his mind completely to action being taken on the initiative of the House.
I have long felt that the treatment of persons on remand was one of the gravest scandals of our penal system. I do not know whether hon. Members realise the fact, but there were in 1937, 8,320 people who went to prison on remand who afterwards were either found not guilty or were considered by the courts unsuitable to be sent to prison. That means that 8,000 people who ought never to have been in 296 prison went to prison on remand in one year alone. That is a very serious thing, and I am glad that the Home Secretary in this Bill has found the means as far as the younger people are concerned of getting rid of this scandal. It is not easy to discover exactly how many he has relieved, because the figures in the report of the Commissioners of Prisons deal with persons under 21, whereas I understand the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman go up to 23 in this regard.
I thoroughly welcome his plan, and, as far as it goes, it is a great improvement. I hope he will see that the remand centres are sufficiently numerous and wide-flung to cover the situation at the earliest opportunity. I am, however, bound to say, and I do not think he will disagree with me, that a very large part of the scandal still remains. If we may assume that the figures relating to persons under 21 are not radically different from those under 23 we get these facts, that in 1937 there were something under 3,000 young persons who were treated in this way and 5,000 or 6,000 of an older age. That means that those 5,000 or 6,000 persons until we have a new Bill are to continue being sent to prison, although the court may afterwards find that they ought never to have gone to prison. They will have the prison taint imposed upon them, and it would be very much better that it should not be imposed upon them. I admit that this is a difficult question and not easy of solution, but it does seem a pity that nothing is being done in that direction in the Bill, because it has been, and it will remain, one of the great scandals of our penal system.
The Bill deals with Scottish prisoners in a way somewhat different from that in England. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman might have made some reference to these distinctions, but he had a great many other things to refer to. Probably some representative of the Scottish Office will speak later. As the Bill is rather complicated I do not think we shall understand what it does in regard to Scotland until that explanation takes place.
In conclusion, I should like to say that though I have been a critic of the omissions from the Bill and of certain things in it, which seem to me reactionary, I am satisfied that the Bill is an honest attempt to humanise our penal system and will go a long way to achieve 297 its purpose. I am happy to think we are getting away from the idea of what used to be called the "criminal classes" and from thanking God that we are not like "this publican." We know that there are latent passions in our own hearts which but for fortunate circumstances might have carried us into prison in the place of these unhappy persons who are there to-day. We know, too, that every criminal undergoing a sentence, however necessary we may regard that sentence to be, is a wound in the body politic, and if we fail to do everything in our power to heal that wound, we fail to bring succour and comfort to the Founder of our faith.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg
I rise to address the House with more diffidence perhaps than is usual even upon the occasion of a first speech. I am very conscious of the largeness of the subject, and the largeness of the subject very often serves only to illustrate the smallness of the man who deals with it unworthily. I am sure the House will sympathise with me if in saying what I have to say I show perhaps a little less polish than is customary on an occasion of this kind. It occurred to me less than 10 minutes ago that this was perhaps the last occasion for some time when I should have an opportunity of giving what might to some extent be an original contribution in debate, and therefore I ask the House to treat what I have to say with a certain amount of sympathy, if it shows a lack of preparation.
I am glad to think that some of the criticisms which have been levelled at this Bill outside the House have not found their way into this Debate as yet. One of the main criticisms made against the Bill outside the House was that it was a Bill for the coddling of those who had been convicted of crime. I believe that criticism to be fallacious in principle and not true in fact. Those who make it may be perfectly correct in supposing that the purpose of the community in dealing with crime must include a prior consideration for the interests of the community rather than the interest of the person who has been convicted, but it seems to me to be established, as a result of possibly a century of experience of penal reform, that a policy of leniency does on the whole tend to prevent the repetition of offences more adequately than a policy of undue severity.
298 In this connection I cannot help mentioning the effect which an unduly severe penal code inevitably has upon the minds of juries and upon the minds of potential informants. I am fully aware that the problem of penal reform is a social problem and not a legal problem, but the law must be the hand-maiden of the social conscience, and practical considerations do obtrude. There must be very few people engaged upon the practice of law who have not known cases, repeated cases, where juries have failed to convict persons who were obviously guilty, not because of any rational doubt in their minds, but because they objected to the severity of the penalty which had to be imposed in the case of conviction. The classical example is one which is outside the scope of the present Measure, the case of capital punishment. There must be very few who are engaged upon the practice of the criminal law who have not known cases where persons would certainly have been convicted had they been charged with, let us say, the offence of stealing a handbag, but who have not been convicted simply because the offence with which they found themselves indicted was a capital offence, and a severe penalty was the inevitable consequence of conviction.
The same is true in the minds of potential informants. If a wrong is done to a man by a young offender he is very 10th to inform upon him so long as it appears to him that the result of his information may be to wreck the life of the young person. But if he can be confident that instead of it proving a danger and a disaster to the young person upon whom he gives information it will in fact lead to his best interests, the whole attitude of the public towards the revelation of information concerning indictable offences might very well be altered. It seems to me, with some diffidence, that it is also untrue in fact to criticise the Bill as one which is based on softness or sentimentality. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary referred to some startling figures which are, I think, generally known in the criminal courts as to the increase of juvenile crime, an increase, I understand, of something like 2,000 indictable offences each year during the past three years.
There is no doubt that juvenile courts are faced with a very serious dilemma at the moment. In a case where proba- 299 tion has failed, as unfortunately it sometimes does, they are faced with the dilemma either of imposing a further period of probation, in fact, trying the remedy which has already failed, or else imposing a penalty like an approved school, Borstal or imprisonment—Borstal of course does not apply to juvenile courts—a remedy which bears no relation to the comparatively light nature of the offence which has been committed. It occurs to me that the present Bill provides for juvenile courts just such an alternative as they have been seeking, an alternative which will provide some deterrent to juvenile crime, which is now getting out of hand, and at the same time, by reason of its enlightenment and leniency, bears some relation to what the right hon. Gentleman said rightly was something which is due more to lightheartedness and excess of spirit than to genuine or persistent criminality.
The same is true in relation to the provision in the Measure for the treatment of adult offenders. I refer in particular to those which provide sentences of preventive or corrective detention to such adults as have proved themselves to be habitual offenders. The Home Secretary referred to the provisions of the Act of 1908 which were intended to achieve this very result. I should like to confirm out of my own small experience what he has said in relation to that. So cumbersome is the procedure under that Act that I have never known a prisoner, charged at the end of an indictment with being a habitual criminal, who has not pleaded guilty to that offence to be convicted. The jury has invariably acquitted him because of the cumbersome nature of the proceedings and the apparently oppressive provisions which are to he superseded by the provisions of the present Bill.
I should like to assuage the anxieties expressed by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), in relation to the proposed extension of the powers of courts of summary jurisdiction to impose sentences of Borstal. I fully appreciate that it is not an easy subject, but it occurs to me that there is a safeguard which has not so far been mentioned. A sentence of Borstal can only be imposed, speaking generally and I think speaking accurately, for an in- 300 dictable offence, and a prisoner cannot be tried by a court of summary jurisdiction for an indictable offence except by his consent. It will be said, no doubt, that prisoners charged with these offences like to dispose of the whole matter at one hearing, and for that reason do not like to insist upon their right to go to quarter sessions. Such a criticism does not apply to the present situation in regard to Borstal. Under the present rule there must be two hearings if a prisoner elects to be dealt with summarily and there is a proposal to commit him to Borstal. He is tried before a court of summary jurisdiction but if the court convict him they cannot now commit him to Borstal. They have to send him to quarter sessions to be sentenced with a recommendation to that effect. If it is felt that in any given case there is a danger, such as the right hon. Gentleman opposite referred to, of magistrates in a court of summary jurisdiction misusing the powers which have been given to them in the Bill should it become law, it would be open for any prisoner who felt that fear to insist upon his right to go to quarter sessions where the offence with which he is charged would be tried on indictment and not simply as a summary offence.
I should like to associate myself with the criticism of the Measure which was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in relation to the discharge of prisoners under the Probation of Offenders Act. Under the existing system the person who has offended, not by genuine criminality but for some other reason, can be discharged in spite of proof of the facts alleged against him. Under the Bill it is proposed to do away with that, and I should like to associate myself with the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman when he said that that on the whole is a reactionary proposal. I should like to add a reason to that which he has given for taking that view. Under the English criminal law mental aberration short of what is complete lunacy is not a defence to a charge. The McNaughton Rules demand a very extreme degree of insanity before an acquittal or a verdict of "guilty, but insane" can be recorded.
Under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, at any rate so far as summary offences are concerned, mental causes entering into the commission of offences can be dealt with in this possibly illogical but none the less humane way by 301 discharging the prisoner under the terms of the Act. I confess that so far from a repeal of these provisions in a court of summary jurisdiction as is proposed by the Measure, I should like to see their extension to indictable offences before quarter sessions and courts of assize. It is true that the principle involved is not strictly logical, but as one of the greatest Lord Chancellors, Lord Halsbury, said on more than one occasion, the law is not an exact science, and it occurs to me that the provision of that Act is a valuable one and should not be lost.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite will acquit me of making a growl or of being a diehard if I express a certain amount of disquiet at the provisions of the Bill which deal with the abolition of flogging in the case of adult offenders charged with robbery with violence. The Commission to which the Home Secretary referred did indeed report in favour of its abolition, but there was a considerable body of evidence which would lead one to take the opposite view. To begin with, the Commission had before it a memorandum representing the views of the entire bench of King's Bench Judges. I do not say that lawyers are always right; indeed, I am painfully aware that the laudable conservatism of my profession has frequently retarded penal reforms which have proved beneficial when put into effect, but I think that on this occasion the Commission treated the opinion of the Judges with something like levity. There was a serious body of evidence revealed, even in the report itself, which would lead one to adopt a dissentient view. I refer in particular to the body of statistics which is contained in Appendix 5 to that report dealing with the penalties imposed for robbery with violence over a period extending from long before the War up to the present time.
I think I am right in saying that the convictions for robbery with violence prior to the War never fell below 120 a year, and during that period the infliction of corporal punishment was very much the exception; it was limited to not more than 10 per cent. of the cases. Since the War the Judges of the King's Bench Division have in fact followed a directly opposite policy. I think that corporal punishment has followed in nearly 40 per cent. of the cases where there has been a conviction, and it is at any rate notable 302 that the number of convictions has in fact never exceeded 70 or 80 in a year since the War. I cannot help feeling that statistical evidence on this subject is not altogether reliable, but it is noteworthy that at any rate Judges who inflict the penalty in these cases are unanimously of the opinion that there is a connection between the penalty which they inflict and the reduction in the number of cases. I think that too much regard was paid by the Commission to purely statistical evidence in this respect.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred at some length to the perfectly correct observations of the Commission that where a man is already faced with the certainty of imprisonment some additional deterrent is required to prevent him using violence. It is possible also that the same line of reasoning applies to cases where a criminal, already convicted many times, contemplates the commission of an offence for which he knows he will be sent to penal servitude and from which he knows that his one chance of reasonable escape is the infliction of violence. I think that for such a man contemplating such an offence the danger of imprisonment is not a sufficient deterrent, and that a further and different deterrent must be provided.
I suggest not that the report of the Commission on this point should be ignored but that the right hon. Gentleman should keep his mind open on the matter and if it should be proposed at a later stage that instead of a complete abolition there might be a trial of this completely revolutionary proposal in English jurisprudence, it is a matter which he will favourably consider and that he will listen with sympathy to discussions coming from those who feel a certain amount of disquiet without convicting them of completely reactionary tendencies. These are the points which I wanted to put before the House. I hope it will be thought that, in spite of two minor criticisms of the Bill—even as a reactionary lawyer—I can be said to have supported it, and I should like to think that the right hon. Gentleman is not merely correct in saying that this Bill will go down in history as one of the great Measures fit to take its place among our great social laws, but that he himself will be numbered as among the list to which he referred at length in the speech 303 in which he moved the Second Reading of this Measure to-day.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
I am indeed glad to have the privilege of congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) on his most successful initial effort in this House. The name he bears led us to expect great things from him, and now we know that our expectations have been fulfilled; and we can congratulate him on his speech, which was full of force and close reasoning.
With regard to the Bill itself, I shall not congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on the lucidity of his speech—although that quality was present—because that is what hon. Members of the Opposition always say when there is no other compliment that they can pay. I am prepared to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the far-sighted vision which he has shown in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will be attacked. There will be the sort of attack to which the hon. Member for Oxford referred, that the Bill is coddling criminals; and there will be, perhaps, the more serious line of attack adumbrated in a letter to the "Times" last week by a very distinguished ex-Lord Justice of Appeal. Undoubtedly, that letter was intended to have some bearing on the criticism of this Bill, and any criticism coming from a judge having great experience and a great reputation for humanity, must command respect. I can agree with Sir Arthur Greer that the reformation of the criminal is not the only element in the punishment. There are present those other elements to which he referred, the vindication of society, and the holding out of an example to others. All those elements are present.
The whole progress of our penal reform has been in laying different emphasis, as time has gone on, on these various elements. In the beginning, the vindication of society was almost the main element. Society, feeling itself hit, wanted to hit back. But I think little remains of that now—only this much, that obviously if penalties are made too inadequate to the offences, there is the danger that the ordinary citizen may take the law into his own hands, and there may be something resembling lynch law. Clearly, there is nothing in this Bill that 304 could lead to anything of that kind. I think the Bill is following the proper line of progress by placing an ever increasing emphasis on the third of the objects, the reformation of the criminal. As social science has developed, we have discovered more and more about the conditions that produce crime, and we have obtained an ever more sympathetic understanding of crime, which enables it to be dealt with more successfully. The second element, that of preventing others from doing a similar thing—the deterrent element—is always present, of course; but there again, the experience of all those who are engaged in the administration of justice leads to the conclusion that it is the certainty of the sentence rather than the severity of it which really has the deterrent effect. Consequently, we do not need to rely upon the barbarous penalties of the past. Therefore, one of my first reasons for supporting the Bill is that it takes the various elements mentioned by Sir Arthur Greer into consideration, but it puts them into their right proportion.
Of course, some of the provisions in the Bill, as has been pointed out, are not real reforms which we are introducing now, but represent the statutory recognition of reforms which have already been carried out. The old landmarks of penal servitude, hard labour, and the various divisions have gone. I anticipate a certain amount of difficulty, for a time, for those who have to administer justice in knowing exactly what sentence they can pronounce, until they have got used to the reforms. The abolition of corporal punishment is a much bigger step, and is something new that we are introducing, although it is not altogether a new departure, for the practice of the courts, especially the courts of summary jurisdiction, has been tending more and more in that direction. With regard to the abolition of such sentences on adults, I should have thought that it was simply a barbarous punishment which a civilised nation ought no longer to continue, and I should be prepared to back that opinion even if I thought there might be a slight increase in the number of offences for the time being, until we had found a better way of dealing with such criminals. I do not share the alarm of the hon. Member for Oxford on that ground. The hon. Member complained of the Committee relying upon statistics, 305 but I thought that he himself was relying upon them to some extent, although perhaps his were more recent statistics.
The infliction of corporal punishment on children is a different matter, and I think that on this our feelings are apt to be influenced by a kind of instinctive temperamental attitude on the one side or the other rather than on reason. Some people take a hard-boiled view on the matter and rebuke those who take a soft view on the grounds of sentimentality. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) that there is just as much sentimentality on the other side. We all know of people who look back on a rosy childhood, when everything was lovely, and say, "I was beaten very often, and it never did me any harm—look at me now!" We look, and we are rather doubtful. Sometimes, they seem to idealise the punishment itself and give it a kind of mystical effect; they take very much the same view that Portia took of the quality of mercy:It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven,Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;It blesseth him that gives, and him that takesI cannot think that old gentlemen of 50—and I am of that age—are really capable of speaking confidently and giving any reliable evidence as to the psychological state of boys of 15, which they were so many years ago. I would rather leave these instinctive prejudices on one side and be guided by the solid body of evidence which the Home Secretary has had before him and which has influenced him in coming to his decision. Having made those remarks, I would like to say that I approve, with one exception, of all the provisions made for the treatment of juveniles in the Bill. I welcome the endeavour to limit the imprisonment of persons under 21; I like the compulsory attendance centres; and I like residential control; but I have the gravest doubts with regard to giving to magistrates the power to impose a sentence of Borstal. What exactly does the Bill do in this respect? The power to inflict a punishment of Borstal is given in all casesWhere a person is convicted of an offence for which the court has power to pass a sentence of imprisonment.306 That is stated in paragraph (1) of Article 31. We come then to the condition—If it is satisfied that by reason of the offender's character or habits it is expedient with a view to his reformation and the prevention of crime that he should undergo a period of discipline in a Borstal institution"—the court may pass a sentence of Borstal training. Those words are very wide, and they give a very wide discretion compared with the words in the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, which impose a much stricter limit. That Act says—That, by reason of his criminal habits or tendencies, or association with persons of bad character, it is expedient … etc.That is an objective test. There has to be a proof in that case before a sentence can be imposed. That is the first matter to which I wish to call attention. Secondly, I want to point out—and here I emphatically agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh—that we have to look at a sentence of Borstal from two points of view. There is the point of view of the Home Office and the Borstal authorities, who may be rightly proud of the effectiveness of the institution and the magnificent results it has obtained in reforming those who go into it; but there is also the point of view of the youngster and his family. After all, that sentence has at least this in common with a sentence of penal servitude, which we are now to abolish, that it cannot be imposed for less than three years. From the humble experience which I have had in the administration of justice, I should always regard the infliction of a sentence of Borstal as something which one should approach with the gravest sense of responsibility. I am afraid that if at the same time you loosen the restrictions and conditions applying to its imposition and also entrust it to people who have very much less experience, there may be very unfortunate results.
For instance, particularly in rural areas, there may be some unfortunate youth who is supposed to be a bit of a handful. He may perhaps eat nuts in choir on Sunday, or he may be suspected of having an undesirable influence among the village maidens. Then he may steal a few apples, and the chance comes—he is whirled away to Borstal for three years. There are safeguards, of course. There is a safeguard in the appeal, but surely 307 it would be undesirable to accept a form of sentence to be imposed which would lead to a spate of appeals that would clog up the business of the superior courts. I should prefer to leave it to the magistrates, in cases where they were quite convinced that Borstal was the best treatment, to send the case up for sentence at the quarter sessions. That would be a better way of approaching the problem, and it would secure a sentence of Borstal where that was desirable and avoid the tragedies that might take place otherwise. I regard this as one blot on a good Bill.
§ Captain Peter Macdonald
May I ask what suggestion the hon. Member has to make as regards the period of waiting? How is that difficulty to be overcome?
§ Mr. Griffith
It is very much easier to make criticism, as I have done, than to suggest alternative remedies. All that I was saying is that the Home Secretary is making a gallant effort to put things right and to put them on a more humane basis, but it appears to me that by doing this he is making the cure, in this respect, worse than the ill. I think I am entitled to ask that some further consideration should be given to this matter with a view to overcoming the difficulties.
I have one minor criticism to make on Clause 34, which deals with corrective training and preventive detention. Those two methods of treatment, although I agree with both, are in essence very different. One has a different purpose from other. One is corrective and the other is for the protection of society, and they apply to different kinds of people. Corrective training is for people for whom there is still hope. Preventive detention is for those who are hopeless. In those circumstances I think it undesirable that those two things should be jammed together in the same Clause. I think it would clarify understanding of the Bill if these two different things were set out clearly and separately in different Clauses. It is, per-imps, only a Committee point, but I desire this Bill to be generally understood, and I think in its present form it might appear from it that these are two alternative remedies to be applied to the same people.
With regard to Clause 38, I have no criticism of my own to make on the actual provision as to mental condition, but I 308 wish that while he was about it, the right hon. Gentleman had taken the opportunity of going rather further into the question of insanity as related to crime. It seems to me that our present conceptions in that respect are largely out of date. I give an instance. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to have no more "criminal lunatics," but to call them "State mental patients," on the good and logical ground that, being mentally disturbed, they cannot be said to be criminals. Surely, on the same basis, we ought to get rid at once of the verdict of "Guilty, but insane." It should no longer be possible for such a verdict to be returned. It is just as illogical as the use of the term "criminal lunatic" that a man should be found guilty in one breath and in the next breath found, under the Macnaghten rule, to be so far diseased in his mind as to be incapable of forming a criminal intention. I am glad to see that the Home Secretary attaches some importance to this question of legal nomenclature. Words are often very important things and I should like this further reform to be made following the other.
I have been driven in the course of these remarks to make certain minor criticisms, but I should like to end on the note of appreciation on which I began. It is very hard to know exactly who is to get the credit for Measures of this kind. They are generally a long time in gestation, and many hands contribute to the final completed work. I am sure this House will join in trying to give this Bill the best possible chance, and to improve it where it requires improvement, and that in its final form it will be an Act of Parliament with which the Home Secretary may be proud to have his name associated.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
I want to take a very miscroscopic, tiny bit of credit as far as the question of corporal punishment is concerned, because I was able to ask the Home Secretary some time ago to set up a Departmental Committee to consider that matter. I am in complete agreement with the action taken by the Home Secretary in embodying proposals in this Bill for the abolition of the corporal punishment of juveniles. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) referred to this subject, in a speech on which I may be 309 allowed to congratulate him. Knowing some of his family, may I say to him that he has not "let the side down." I have a little sympathy with what he said concerning corporal punishment. Corroboration of it came from a rather unexpected quarter. In one of our women's prisons there was a particularly naughty prisoner. She caused the governor any amount of trouble, but one day she said to him in confiding tones, "What I want is a damn good hiding." I was speaking only to-day to a woman social worker who probably knows more about social work in connection with prisons than any other woman in this country, and she said that many of these prisoners admitted that if they had had good hidings in their youth it would have been better for them.
I am glad that the Home Secretary is dealing with juvenile prisoners in the manner proposed in the Bill. As a visiting justice and especially as one who visits an "old lags'" prison like Leeds, I may say that I do not like to see a dozen or 18 youths on remand in a place where there are 200 or 300 "old lags" arid where they are divided by only a four-foot canvas partition. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will press forward the building and extension of remand homes. With regard to the proposal to allow youths to continue their ordinary daily avocations and to spend some of their time in what are to be called Howard Homes, I hope the Home Secretary will adopt the suggestion of a great-hearted prison reformer with a sense of humour, who said that we ought not to label them "Howard Homes" but call them "The Laurels" or "The Cedars" or "Mon Repos" or some other name of that sort, so that many of the outside public would not know what these residences were. With regard to the juveniles, I wish to testify to the great change of spirit which has taken place in our approved schools. I am particularly interested in a senior approved school, the Eastmore School. During the past few years I have noticed a great psychological change in that school, due to the spiritual outlook of those who are in charge of it.
In any extension which is made of the treatment of youths and young men, either in approved schools or in Borstal institutions, I hope the prison authorities will see to it that proper constructive employment is afforded. I make one suggestion 310 with some diffidence. Seeing that we are to have these schools and institutions on a smaller scale, I would ask whether a temporary institution could not be built, say, by the side of some stream, to give the inmates a chance of doing something positive and useful in the way of land drainage and such schemes as that. I mention that in passing. I have in mind what I heard referred to in a conference to-day. In Dorset there is an overflowing stream and the farmers in the district cannot afford to tackle it. If the local authority were to take up the work, it would mean a land drainage rate of 2s. or 3s. Why should not the prison authorities undertake bits of real constructive remedial work like that, from which the farmers in the neighbourhood would benefit. I look forward with pleasure to what we may be able to do in the near future in the treatment of the youth of our nation. Many of us are alarmed at the dreadful increase in juvenile delinquency. I believe there was a 30 per cent. increase only last year. Sometimes I think it is not the Home Office but the Board of Education which ought to tackle this problem. They ought to ask themselves whether they are not training the rising generation in mere cleverness rather than in developing real character.
With regard to the proposals in the Bill for dealing with adults who are fined and who are put away for two or three days, I hope the Home Office will impress upon joint standing committees who are the chief offenders in this matter to see to it that there are what we call "certified cells." In most of the large towns there is proper cell accommodation but there are reactionary county councils in whose prisons the cell accommodation is almost beyond description. The only thing that can be said for some of these cells is that they are not verminous. It is no good sentencing a man under this "cat and-mouse system" if there is no accommodation for proper exercise and no proper accommodation for food. I think this is a reform which the Home Office ought to emphasise and bring home to the joint standing committees—the necessity for providing certified cells.
I believe that we are to have smaller prisons. I would particularly mention the abolition of what was called the "model prison" of Pentonville. I have learned only to-day that the London 311 County Council are going to have a housing scheme upon the site of that prison. I also understand that we have already five empty prisons which may be needed at some time or other. I am glad that the Home Office do not intend to indulge in the building of any more of those bastilles and fortresses like that at Armley, near Leeds, concerning which I heard an enlightened Prison Commissioner say that there ought to be inscribed upon it "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Certainly when I go into that prison, as it is my duty to do, I feel as it were down in the dumps the nearer I approach it especially on a November day.
We want more places like the New Hall camp at Wakefield. I went there only a few days ago, and there were go prisoners, all engaged upon constructive employment, whether the making of a swimming bath, or the feeding-up of the poultry and geese ready for Christmas, or the providing of cabbages and potatoes for the rest of the Yorkshire prisons, and I am hoping that with the abolition of the old fortresses we shall have more of the newer type of prisons erected. I also hope that when the Pentonville inmates go to Aylesbury and the Aylesbury ladies are drafted to a new prison, the Aylesbury ladies will have the benefit of the Wakefield New Hall experiment and that they will be able also to indulge in more constructive work and become land girls or land women—not landladies—and be able to have a chance to make good in their lives. The great feature about the New Hall camp at Wakefield is that there are no real boundaries, and one prisoner—I am told that this is quite authentic—when asked if any prisoners there had attempted to escape, for it is a fact that no prisoner has escaped from New Hall camp, replied, "If one did try to escape, we would break his sanguinary neck."
We want more prisons like New Hall, and I regard the presentation of this Bill to-day as the culmination of a new spirit which has been infused into our prison administration. One of the reasons for this new spirit has been the introduction of the school at Wakefield for the training of probationary officers and its extension at Maidstone Prison. I wish we had more Scottish probationers to come to our Wakefield establishment in order that a reactionary country like Scotland could 312 catch something of the spirit of progress which we have in this country of ours. In giving my sincere but humble support to this Bill, I admit that there has been a complete change of outlook on this subject in the past few years, and I rejoice in it. It is a change of spirit. You might call it psychological, but I prefer to call it spiritual. I hope the Bill will receive the blessing of the House, with perhaps some minor Amendments, and that we may look forward to yet another series of reforms for that class of society which does not want coddling, which we do not want to encourage with any sloppy sentimentality, but which we want to deal with, as the Home Secretary has done to-day, in a common-sense way.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Jones
I would like to pay tribute to the foresight and purpose of those who framed this Bill and, if I may very respectfully, to congratulate the Home Secretary on having brought the Bill before the House at this juncture. I, along with other hon. Members, am naturally concerned with the causes which send people to prison, but I have been associated for about 20 years now with the Discharged Prisoners Aid Society, and my attention has been directed in the main to endeavouring to rehabilitate those who have unfortunately fallen by the wayside. To some extent these men have liquidated their debt to society after having served their term, and it is felt that it is only right that they should have a chance to rehabilitate themselves among their fellows when they come out. The Home Secretary has stated this afternoon that one of his objects in this Bill has been to reform the accused, and that is the part of the duty of the Home Office to which I want to pay a little more attention this evening than to the actual commission of the crime. So far I have been astounded at the remarkable reception that this Bill has had, in the House, among Judges, among the public, in the Press, and in the pulpit, and although I have heard various criticisms, most of them have been very minor and such as can be dealt with in Committee.
The two chief criticisms have been that one party has said, "The Bill does not go far enough," and another party has said, "The Bill goes too far." They say it goes too far because there is apparently a fear in their minds that there will be a certain amount of coddling and 313 that it will make prison preferable to the homes of some of the prisoners. Some people have the idea that we are going to reproduce in this country cells such as we are told have been fitted up in some of the American prisons. There is no intention on the part either of the Home Office or of ourselves to do anything like that. I know that the general public has not got much of a chance of getting into the prisons, unless sent there by a magistrate or a judge, but there are many hundreds of magistrates who criticise this Bill—in the sense that it will do something that it ought not to do for the benefit of prisoners—who have not even taken the trouble to go to the prisons to which they commit and have no intention of doing so. They are the people who criticise and who say that we are making things too soft.
A previous speaker has mentioned Wakefield, among other prisons. The New Hall camp at Wakefield is in very delightful surroundings, and there are very few warders. Every man is in effect upon his honour, and there have been no attempts at escape. We hope that the Home Office will gradually extend institutions such as they have at Wakefield. They have a reforming influence on the prisoner. At present Wakefield Prison and the New Hall camp are inhabited by prisoners who have received sentences varying from six months to two or two and a-half years; people are sent there only on the recommendation of the governor of the prison to which they are first sent. Wakefield has had a tremendous reforming influence on its prisoners, and, as the last speaker said, those prisoners who are sent to the New Hall camp are so appreciative of the trust placed in them that no prisoner dare attempt to escape from that camp.
What we are out to do, surely, is to bring people back, after having served their term, in order that they can be useful citizens, and on that point I would like to say that I am sorry that another provision has not been made in the Bill. Magistrates frequently find, and I suppose judges do also, though magistrates may do it more often, that men and women come before them whom they are bound to convict for crimes which. looking at them from another angle, are not caused by any criminal instinct but are caused rather by mental aberration. I would refer to such people as mental 314 queries. The thought has struck me forcibly many times, What can one do with those people, kleptomaniacs and people like that? They have committed a criminal offence, but the Home Secretary is anxious to bring people back from prison to be useful citizens, and, there fore, I have rather wondered and been sorry that, in addition to Howard homes and other places, there should not be some institution or institutions to which these mental queries, if I may call them such, could be sent, where they would have a chance of being under observation for the whole time they are in custody. That would surely enable the officers, most of them medical officers, to consider their condition and, if possible, bring their minds back to normal.
I would like to tell the House that a tremendous amount of work is being done even now for the improvement of the men and women who go to prison by having them met on their discharge by those whom they frequently and quite rightly call their friends. I am not trying to blow the trumpet of the National Association of Discharged Prisoners Aid Societies or the local societies, but, as the Home Secretary said, a tremendous amount of work is done for discharged prisoners by voluntary societies. The National Association will have, by this Bill, still greater work to do, but instead of in all cases meeting men and women as they come out of prison, they will have a chance of meeting them before they go into prison and starting their reform in the early days so as to keep those people out.
One of the chief troubles that we find with these people on coming out of prison is lack of work. We feel that, if there were work for many of these people, they would never see the inside of a prison. I should like to pay a tribute to employers and others who give these people a chance when they come out. The societies do not ask for any preference whatever. It has been said that a man has only to break a window or kick up a row outside the gate when he comes out and the society will find a job for him. That is not true. No preference is asked, but we appreciate that there are many men who have gone straight and kept straight in times of great trouble who are deserving of work. If all sections of the community, employers, trade unions and the State, would band together to find work 315 for these people, I feel certain that our desire would very soon come to a head, and not only would prisons be smaller but far fewer in number. I shall have some small criticisms to make on one or two Clauses in Committee, but I hope Members in all parts of the House will give the Bill their blessing and let it pass its Second Reading without a Division.
§ 7.3 p.m.
Mr. Edmund Harvey
The House has shown that it is grateful to the Home Secretary for this very remarkable Measure of penal reform. It will certainly be a landmark in our history, and in days to come I think men will look back with gratitude on the memory of the statesman who was responsible for it. The right hon. Gentleman paid a remarkable tribute to the pioneers of prison and penal reform and showed, in doing that, that he feels that this great Bill is not the work of one man, nor even of the many distinguished collaborators in the Home Office and in the prison service who have given their experience to building up the fabric of the Bill, but it is the result of the efforts of pioneers across the centuries. It is the result of long experience. In remembering that, it is interesting to recall that the pioneers whom the Home Secretary named, although each made a noble and remarkable contribution to human progress and to penal reform, each in turn had in some measure an imperfect vision. John Howard, who did such wonderful work in improving prisons in England and in Europe, unfortunately had the conviction that solitary confinement was an admirable way in which to deal with prisoners. The noble Elizabeth Fry, whom I can hardly think of as in any way imperfect in her work, yet in her provision of literature for prisoners probably had a somewhat too restricted vision. The great Jeremy Bentham, who did so much, unfortunately inflicted, not only on this, but on almost every civilised country, a terrible, mechanical type of prison which is the curse of our system to-day.
When one turns to the last great figure that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, Evelyn Ruggles Brise, whose noble work for juvenile prisoners we rightly regard as the foundation of one of the best parts of the Bill, in his later years came to think that the main system was so good that it needed no further improvement. The 316 reformer, when he has achieved the main reform for which he is working, always tends to think that his work is complete. We must never think of the work as complete. There will always be further stages in the great task on which the Home Secretary is engaged. However much some may wish that points which are not in the Bill were there, or would like certain details removed from it, the whole House, I think, will be united in approval of the main principles of the Measure, and the Home Secretary must feel thankful that at this particular time we can give the world an instance of unity in a great cause and that, in spite of the political differences that separate us, we are all united in wishing God speed to a great Measure of social progress.
I think that the most important side of the Bill lies in the proposals for dealing with juvenile offenders. I welcome most cordially, as the result of my own experience, the wise and beneficent reforms that are incorporated in the Measure. For over 17 years I have been going weekly, when I am at home, into the prison to take a voluntary class for juvenile adults, and later as a prison visitor and a member of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. The saddest sight that I have seen has been that of young people, sometimes almost children, compelled to go there under our present law, many of them on remand and others for short sentences which are in no way really corrective or reformatory. Only a few weeks ago I had the painful experience of seeing two boys, one aged 14 years and 2 months and the other 15 and some months, committed by a country juvenile court for a week on remand. One was still attending school. Under the Bill such a thing will no longer be possible. The remand homes and centres are urgently needed. I am convinced, also, that the instructional centres will fill a great need. They will not be welcomed by many of the juvenile offenders. They will make a real demand on their leisure, but they will give them in many cases not only an opportunity of being prevented from misspending their time, but will give them, if the instructor is the right type of man, a new interest in life, a new hobby, some other interest which had never opened out to them before. Although they will begin by being a punishment, they will end by being an enrichment of their lives. We must all be grateful for the wisdom and insight 317 that have been shown in making these proposals.
I welcome very cordially the definite reference to conditions being attached to probation orders in certain cases that restitution should be made. That is a most valuable thing. If it could have been made more use of in the past, it would have been for the good of society and for the good of offenders. I very much hope that the Bill may be enlarged so as to give explicit power to courts to pass sentence involving restitution, not only for juvenile offenders but for others. I visited in prison an agricultural labourer who had stolen money from a farmer's housekeeper. I put it to him that, when he got out, he would surely like to try to repay some at least of the money. He seemed extremely surprised. He said, "No, I am here in prison for that." Legally he was correct. When he had completed his sentence, he would have purged his offence, but it would surely have been a good thing for him to have it enjoined upon him that he should make some reparation. I believe that is one out of a great many instances where it would be for the benefit of the prisoner and for the benefit of society if restitution could be attached to the sentence. [Interruption.] No doubt it would he quite easy to safeguard against any injustice to a prisoner. I am not suggesting that it should be mechanical and compulsory, but in certain cases it is proper and desirable that such provision should be made.
Various minor criticisms to a major Measure will, no doubt, be made as the Bill proceeds through Committee, and I am glad the Home Secretary has made it clear that he has an open mind on the difficult question whether the courts of summary jurisdiction should have the right to sentence to Borstal treatment. It is obvious that one reason for the Clause in the Bill is that at present these youths have to wait so long between the court of summary jurisdiction and the quarter sessions or assizes. I have known cases of boys who have committed offences just after quarter sessions and have actually spent over 12 weeks in prison awaiting trial. It would have been far better if they had been dealt with at once. In one case quarter sessions decided not to send a boy to Borstal, as had been recommended by the court of sum- 318 mary jurisdiction. There will always be the possibility of that, and it is important that in Committee—and I have no doubt the Home Secretary will give the opportunity—we should see that a safeguard is provided to prevent injustice, especially in view of the fact that these boys in most cases cannot speak for themselves. They are usually dumb when they go into court. I knew a boy who told his whole story to me in the cell and promised me that he would speak in court. When he went into court, however, and was asked whether he had anything to say he said, "No." He was too frightened to speak. There ought to be an opportunity for the boy's case and his family circumstances to be investigated. If this power is retained there should at least be an interval, not in a prison, but in a remand centre or similar place, in which proper inquiry can be made and a report received by the court.
The difficult question of capital punishment has been raised, and I hope that if the Home Secretary cannot go as far as to implement the wish of the House as declared in a Resolution a little while ago, he will seriously consider raising the age at which capital punishment is inflicted. The argument against abolishing capital punishment in the case of hardened offenders like poisoners and others cannot apply in the case of a youth of 18, 19 or 20, who, probably through some passionate cause, has committed the terrible offence of murder. It would only be carrying a stage further the process that had already begun when the age for capital punishment was raised to 17 if the Home Secretary would agree to raise it to 21, if not to 25. There is always the possibility of reform and a real reclamation of the young offender. We have a proof of that in the way in which those who have been convicted for capital offences in France and are sent to the New Hebrides are the most desired of all the workers whom the colonist planters are allowed to engage. They always want a murderer if they can get one rather than someone who has been guilty of other offences. I hope that, without making any promise, the Home Secretary will be willing to keep an open mind on that important issue.
He will have the good wishes of hon. Members on all sides of the House in the great work he has undertaken. I hope 319 that he will have, what is very necessary, the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in carrying through the reforms that will be made possible by this Bill. It will be necessary, if we are to have proper remand centres, Howard Houses and other institutions, that adequate provision should be made by the Treasury. It will be money well spent, for it will bring in return something far more valuable than any monetary profit—the building up of the health and the well-being of the whole race. In his great task the Home Secretary has with him, I am sure, the good wishes of every Member of the House.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Erskine Hill
I do not remember any Debate in which there has been such a unison of feeling in the House in favour of a Bill. Anyone who listened to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary this afternoon must have been impressed by the comprehensive statement which he made. He is to be congratulated, particularly on his new proposals regarding young offenders. I have seen many cases where young offenders have been convicted, and I have often felt that, far from the qualities that have caused the offences being necessarily bad ones, they have been qualities of bravery and daring, but the particular cases have not been those where the usual inhibitions have been encouraged. If the inhibitions had been there the crimes might never have been committed. Therefore, I think the Home Secretary was right when he said that we wanted to give the young offender the chance to find discipline so that he might get away from the tendency to over-adventure or to do things which appear wrong to all of us but to him do not appear wrong.
I do not want to strike a jarring note, and I am certain my right hon. Friend will not take it as such when I sound a note of warning. It is important, when we deal with criminals, to see what can be done to reform their characters and to prevent their committing crime again, but if we make the way of the transgressor too easy there is a danger that we will not be protecting the rights of the rest of the community. It will be wrong to go too quickly in this matter. We shall have to look carefully at the consequences of this Bill, which I hope will become an 320 Act, and if there should be signs of detrimental effects, legislation should follow it immediately. The House will, I think, before the end of this Debate, have an assurance that that point of view is not being lost sight of. I should like to take the case of flogging to give an instance of what I mean. Hon. Members will have seen in the report on this subject a note to the effect that the Lord President of the Court of Session, after the question had been referred to him, told the Committee that in the last 50 years no Scottish Judge in the High Court had inflicted a sentence of flogging. I would commend the action of the Scottish Judges in being slow to order flogging in any case. I must, however, state that in my experience at the Crown Office in Scotland I have on more than one occasion heard a judge on circuit warn a prisoner that he had the power to inflict flogging and that if the offence was committed again the prisoner would have to remember that the sentence of flogging might be inflicted. In some cases, I have no doubt, it performed a useful function in preventing a repetition of the crime.
I am certain there are some classes of crime where the fear of flogging exercises a useful influence. I refer particularly to that sort of case where crimes are committed by gangs in a particular city where some strong steps have to be taken to bring the series of crimes to an end. The Judges, although they ought to use it as little as possible, should at least have the power to use the threat of flogging to try and prevent such crimes as robbery with violence or the type of crime committed by gangs. Our Judges can be well trusted to have these powers in certain cases. I agree with a good deal of what the Committee said in their report about limiting their powers, but there is that class of case to be dealt with. I should like to compare the power of flogging in these cases with the power of flogging which is still reserved in prisons. I am aware that the reason why that power is reserved in prisons is that the warders have not been able to protect themselves, and prisons must have some power so that discipline can be maintained. When one considers the benefit that can be obtained in prisons from having that power of flogging, I think it emphasises the argument that it should be used as a deterrent when we are dealing with cases of robbery with 321 violence, say, on some old woman and in any case where the degree of violence is wicked in itself apart from the robbery, where for example some person of the weaker sex or a child has received unnaturally cruel treatment.
With regard to the form of the Bill, I regret that it is a composite Measure dealing with both England and Scotland, because the criminal system in Scotland is quite different from that in England and the administration is also different. There are obvious difficulties when one has to interpret the law of Scotland into an English Bill, in spite of a clear and concise interpretation Clause at the end of the Bill. Moreover, some Clauses refer back to other composite Bills, and this method makes the interpretation very difficult. I should like to suggest that with Bills of this sort there should be another Measure along the same lines to deal with the Scottish system. It would be more effective and would make the provisions more easily interpreted. It would also satisfy the natural Scottish desire to have a Bill for themselves. In point of fact the preface to the Bill states that there will have to be at least one separate Bill for Scotland dealing with the first part of the present Measure—(Clauses 1 to 9). While I regret that it has not been possible in this case to make a composite Scottish Bill dealing with the whole subject from the point of view of Scotland I do think the Home Secretary is to be much congratulated upon the Bill. I should always prefer to err on the side of going a shade far along the lines of reform rather than waiting too carefully to see what the effect will be. I feel certain that the Home Secretary has the difficulties in mind and that if time should disclose some defects in the Bill he will take prompt steps to remedy them.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Captain Heilgers
May I say to the Home Secretary that in view of the almost unanimously favourable reception of this Bill I feel certain that when history comes to be written his name will go down with the name of his ancestor Elizabeth Fry among the great prison reformers. I have comparatively little claim to speak upon such a Bill as this, but I am one of those rural justices of the peace on whom such scorn has been poured by the hon. Member for West 322 Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) and the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). Sixteen years ago, when I was first appointed to the bench, I made a point of going to see a local prison, because I wanted to see the place to which I sent men to serve their sentences. I did not go to a prison again for 16 years.
§ Captain Heilgers
Shameful it may be, but, at any rate it gave me a rather better opportunity of judging the progress that had been made. I went yesterday to a big London prison and there I saw a large number of youthful offenders of two categories, the failures from Borstal and the special class of 21 to 26 years of age. One thing I did notice was the enormous improvement in the general conditions prisoners have to face as compared with 16 years ago. Nearly all of them were employed on productive work, work that gave them an interest, and I noticed, further, that their cells were a great improvement on those of so many years back. One of the chief improvements was that there was a light of 25 watts instead of 15 watts in the cell, which made it a brighter and more cheerful place. Moreover, light was actually in the cell and not merely shining in from outside. There was a mirror, and at least some rough furniture of prison manufacture—a table and a chair instead of a stool, and a wash-hand stand—and apparently prisoners were allowed an almost unlimited number of books. I went into about 40 cells and in some of them I found as many as 10 books.
I felt that all this was contributing a lot towards making things better for the young offender, but I was disappointed to find that there seemed to be no chance of really segregating the young offenders There were mixed up in this great prison convicts doing three years or more, young offenders of the special class, ex-Borstal boys and ordinary prisoners doing from seven days to two years. We ought to segregate these young offenders by prisons rather than in prisons. That is why I think that, as existing prisons are so unsuitable for young offenders, the Home Secretary is extremely wise to try to keep them out of prison altogether. It may be argued, perhaps, that there is not the need for new prisons to-day because 323 the young offenders will be kept out of prison, but I would remark, in passing, that it does seem a pity that in this Bill there is not some general scheme for the building of smaller prisons.
I think the proposals of the Home Secretary, in general, are admirable; all his proposals, the compulsory attendance centres, the Howard Houses, and so forth, will tend to keep the young people out of prison. I only wish that as an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty the Home Secretary had been able to prevail upon the Navy to take some of those young offenders before they got into any sort of institution. Some go into the Army, but I believe that up to now the Navy has refused to take them. If some of them could be taken right away, put on the China station in a good ship, under decent influences, I believe it would stop a lot of them from ever returning to prison or resorting to criminal practices. I am not certain about the effect of the Howard Houses. It is going to be a bit rough on those fellows to come out from the Howard Houses and go among their workmates, but I think the system is worth trying; and I would suggest that the Howard Houses might be extended in another direction by adopting the Army system of vocational training before young men were released from prison. Why not let some of the younger fellows of the special class from 21 to 26 go into these Howard Houses for so many months before they are to be released from prison and if work could be found for them they could thus get gradually accustomed to the return to ordinary civilian life?
I feel very much the same as a number of other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, on the question of courts of summary jurisdiction and Borstal sentences. I am a rural justice myself, but I honestly feel that it would be highly undesirable for courts of summary jurisdiction such as I sat in to send boys to Borstal. I am not at all sure that I believe in Borstal. Although a thousand lads are sent to Borstal every year, and though in many cases they turn out to be successes, there are a very great number of failures. It is not easy to get at the real reason why there are so many failures, but I believe it is because at Borstal we inculcate in those fellows a false set of values. We teach them to 324 lead, teach them that they are men to whom trust should be given.
We are teaching them, really, the public school idea, and that is very fine and very noble, but we have to look at the matter from the other side. When that young man leaves Borstal and goes into the ordinary work of everyday life, he may come up against a rough type of foreman. He will be "told off," and at once he will have a feeling of resentment, because he has not been told off in the same way at Borstal. In particular those who win through at Borstal fall by the way. It may seem extraordinary, but it is very often the case that the ex-Borstal men who go back to prison were the house captains at Borstal, and the reason they go back is because they have been put at the top of the tree and taught to lead people, then suddenly have to go back to being the under-clog again. Therefore, I am not entirely convinced that Borstal does give the results which people expect, and all the more do I think that the Home Secretary is very wise indeed to do anything he can to prevent anyone getting as far as Borstal.
An hon. Member for one of the Manchester divisions spoke about after-care. I am certain that the real secret of prison reform lies in after-care, but I am afraid that is not sufficiently appreciated to-day. I will read what was said in the report of the Prison Commissioners for 1937 as regards one particular prison:In London the position at Wandsworth Prison, for which the Surrey and London Aid Society is responsible, has for some time caused us anxiety. While the financial position of the Society has been improved to a remarkable degree the organisation and methods of the society do occasion some criticisms.They go on to say:You have at Wandsworth a large number—200—of young second offender prisoners a special class for whom it is essential there should be adequate after-care.I feel that more personal interest ought to be taken in these fellows when they leave prison. In many cases Borstal Associations give excellent after-care, but rather too often one finds that the aftercare consists of seeing the fellow once or twice in an office, giving him some money for tools and various other expenses, but not really making him feel that in the after-care association he has a friend who will look after him in the future. We must have something more like the big 325 brother system which has been employed in the case of youths going to Australia. I should like to see the great rugby clubs like Harlequins, Blackheath or Richmond take on some of those fellows who come out of prison, or come out of Borstal, and really father them and look after them, and make them feel they have some friend to whom they can always turn.
As regards the persistent offenders part of the Bill, it abolishes penal servitude, it abolishes hard labour and it substitutes corrective training, but it does not seem to go sufficiently far in dealing with conditions inside prisons. What is to be the form of this corrective training? The hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) spoke of Wakefield. I had the advantage of talking to the Governor of Wakefield Prison, who instituted that remarkable experiment, and it seems to me that we should get into these fellows' minds that they are not entirely apart, that they are not complete outcasts. The great majority of them are not; they are simply fellows who may have one particular weakness. You cannot say that a man is a criminal because he has stolen a bicycle; though he has made a slip he may have the best of all the other social virtues in his make-up. Therefore, everything should be done to try to get rid of the prison atmosphere in the case of these young fellows. At Wakefield they have put these fellows in Army huts, and there is complete freedom. During the day, when they are at work, they can roam anywhere. There is, too, a pretty large recreation area, about eight acres in extent, bounded by four trees with white marks on them, beyond which they may not go. At night they are shut in the Army huts, with only a narrow wooden bar on the outside. They do not feel that they are shut away and segregated as outcasts from society. I should like to see that plan applied as part of the corrective training.
Further, I suggest that the earnings system should be adopted as part of the corrective training system. At present in some prisons they receive earnings of about 5d. per week, which is a very small amount. Most of it goes on tobacco. That is all to the good, but I suggest that the earning capacity might be doubled and that the extra amount should be put to the man's account against release. If you gave it all to him when he was re- 326 leased he would probably have a blind, after having been in prison for so long, and spend it all at once. I suggest that the money should be paid out to him by instalments for some time to come. The mere fact of doing so would mean that he would have to keep in touch with those who were interested in his after-care.
A great deal more ought to be done in regard to the diet in some prisons. I cannot imagine anything more monotonous than the cocoa, the butter or the margarine which prisoners get every night with their bread. If you were in prison, and had received a two-year sentence, you would think: "I am having this supper to-night and I am going to have it exactly the same two years hence." In a prison I went to yesterday I was pleased to see that the men's hair was extremely well brushed, but when I inquired whence they got their hair oil the answer was that they used the butter or the margarine. Some sort of alleviation in the monotony of the diet ought to be brought about. I have heard from prison governors that the introduction of some fruit, such as an apple or an orange, on occasions, would make a bit of a change.
I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, and I do not wish to detain the House any longer. I would say, in conclusion, that although the object of all imprisonment must be punishment, that punishment must, as the Home Secretary said, be reformative. I suggest that inside the prison the motto in the minds of those charged with prison discipline should be that which is on the front gate of Dartmoor: "Parcere subjectis," or, "Temper justice with mercy." The Home Secretary is absolutely right in the rest of his proposals, which I would sum up in this way: When the men are outside the prison, let us spare no effort to prevent them getting in, and when they are inside, let us spare no effort to prevent them coming back.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I wish to congratulate the Home Secretary on the Bill, which he explained to the House so fully at the beginning of the Debate. It is an attempt to ameliorate the conditions that prevail in prisons to-day. I should think that nearly every Member agrees that we should make an effort to get rid of the idea of vengeance and punishment. I have not had much personal experience 327 of prison in the ordinary sense, but I have been in penal and other prisons in the country, and in conversation with a governor of one penal prison I was struck with what he said, which was: "There is only one thing, Mr Lansbury, that will bring about real reform, and that is to convert the British public from the idea of vengeance, that is to say, making the person who has committed an offence pay for what he has done." It may very well be that most hon. Members will disagree both with that governor and with myself, but I do not think that any of us is good enough to be able to measure the amount of injury or punishment that should be inflicted on anyone. All of us have failings, and very often it is only that we do not get found out, and yet we get self-righteous about those who are found out.
I protest against the idea that has been voiced in some newspapers that we are going along the road towards pampering prisoners. I have had no experience as an ordinary prisoner. I consider that myself and my fellow-councillors were, through no fault of our own, able to secure very fair conditions in regard to food and other things while we were in Brixton Prison, but the most terrible thing was to be locked up, to feel ourselves locked in and separated for many hours during the night and for part of the day, from everybody, segregated by ourselves in our cells. That is punishment enough for anybody. We associated during the day, after our breakfast, but the other prisoners were not allowed to associate in the same manner as we were. A sort of deadly feeling must come over the prisoners making them think that they are put outside the pale, as it were.
I am glad that a big effort is to be made to keep young people outside that condition of things. The Borstal business is very good for young people, as far as it goes, but it is rather singular that we should put them to useful work when they are in these new camps and undergoing the new treatment, because if that had been done for them before they were led into their offences they would not be there as prisoners. It seems to me that the Home Secretary and the other speakers that I have heard to-day do not come down to that cardinal fact that you give these young people useful work after their crime, and that you ought to do 328 the same for every boy and girl who leaves school, so that they might have a fair chance by getting their livings of using the knowledge they have obtained. You are dealing with a new population of young people, a sort of population in which I had no part at all. We knew nothing of true education, in the proper sense of the word, but the boys and girls who come from the schools now, even the dullest of them, have more education than many children of the middle or upper classes had years ago. I speak of what I know. That sort of boy and girl in my district, when unable to get a job or when discharged from a job because no longer wanted at the wages they originally received, realise that there is nowhere for them to go. Their brains will not allow them merely to walk about the streets, so they go in for adventure of one sort or another; and perhaps they find themselves in a police court and are relegated to Borstal.
There is something in the notion expressed by the late Will Crooks, either in this House or on the county council, when he said that in order to get a start you had to get into the workhouse, because somebody would then do their best to get you out. In this case we say, in effect, to a boy: "You must commit some sort of crime, and then we will find you useful occupation, such as reclaiming the Wash or dealing with flooding," as I understand some of them are being used now in the West country. After a certain period you let them loose to do the best they can to find themselves a job.
That brings me to what I think is the fundamental fault in the whole of the prison system, not only in relation to young people but to prisoners in general. I repeat that I have no personal experience of prison, but almost every day young men come to my house or ring me up. They have been prisoners and have failed to get work. I have tried every kind of organisation for some of them, but the organisations sometimes send them to me for me to try to get work for them. The argument that fewer prisoners go back now—I understood that to be part of the argument of the Home Secretary—is explained, I think, by many of the suicides of persons unknown. A good many of those young people just die of semi-starvation. If my daughter were a Member of this House and could speak here she could tell pitiable stories of men, 329 mostly young, who come to our house in this sort of plight and say that they cannot get work. Some of the prisoners' aid organisations either ring me up or send somebody to me asking about finding a job for So-and-So.
I do not think that any reform of the prison system will be permanent in present conditions, unless, when you have done with a man, there is a job for him somewhere. I am glad that the ticket-of-leave system is going, but that is not sufficient. There has to be a place for a man. I know it is said that there are organisations to find places, but even so you are in the same dilemma that no new job is found for him; he takes the job and, in a way, displaces somebody who has not been to prison. You are in the terrible dilemma that faces you when you are dealing with unemployment generally. When your social centres find work for men it is not new work, because the men simply take the place of those who have not had to go to the centres or, in this case, have not been to prison. That is inherent in our society. Talk about it as you will, that fact remains.
I want to say a word about the treatment inside the prison, and I will deal first with the question of food. I cannot judge except by what I am told, but the hon. and gallant Member who preceded me spoke about bread. I think that bread is the most terribly wasteful article of food that is given in prison. Too much is given, and the prisoners cannot eat it. It used to be the same in workhouses. It was a dreadful waste. In Brixton, when I was there—and this is a thing on which I can speak with certainty—every prisoner threw bread out of the cell window into the exercise ground, where there was any quantity of it. I do not know whether there are fixed rations now, as there were then, or whether the same quantity of bread is given. As to variety of food, I never found any variety until I refused to eat anything unless they gave me variety; but the ordinary prisoners are unable to do that. I think that this question of dietary—the hon. and gallant Member put it into my head to remark upon it—needs a complete overhauling. You have no right to say to a man or woman or young person, or anyone, when you get them in a prison, "We will not only detain you here and make you feel that you are a criminal by the whole conditions with which you are surrounded—locked in, 330 never moving about without someone moving with you and so on—" and then to put on the top of that this terrible infliction of the sort of regularised food that is handed out day after day.
I also want to say a word about Church, and books, and so on. I wish the Church services could be abolished. I hope I am not any more irreligious than anyone else, but one of the things that I detested most, both when I was in Brixton and when I was in Pentonville, was the prison service. It seemed so utterly out of keeping to hear phrases from the Bible about forgiving as you hoped to be forgiven, loving your enemies, and so on, and at the same time to know that we were saying to these people, "We are treating you in this sort of way because you have done something very bad, and we are going, not to forgive you, but to punish you." I think it would be much better not to have the service as it is conducted at the present time. Do not let anyone get up and tell me that the whole congregation sing the hymns in a very splendid manner. I do not deny that at all. It is a relief to men who are treated in the way that prison must treat them. I am not blaming anyone in the prisons at all. If you have prisons, you must have all the discipline that prevails there, because the basis of prison is punishment.
That brings me to another point. All the heads of prisons that I have ever spoken to are unanimous that prisoners ought to be allowed to earn money in the ordinary way—that you have no right to expect them to work and pay them 5d. a week, which is the utmost that they can earn. Some of them make boots, some make mail-bags, some make other goods, and I think there ought to be a system by which they earn proper wages, and are not used to compete in the labour market, either for Government goods or anyone else's goods, under the sort of conditions that prevail in prison. The man ought to be able, when he goes away, to draw what he has earned, except the amount that he may have drawn for things that he considered necessary.
It has been said to-night that the books were good, and so on, but I never came across such a mixture as those that I had, both at Brixton and at Pentonville. I think that much more modem books ought to be allowed. I am quite aware 331 that, if you send a book in and if it passes the censorship of the chaplain, I think it is, and the governor, that book can remain in the prison for ever, but you cannot take it out again. Friends may send you one. I think the prison libraries might very largely be burned, and new modern books take their place.
I come now to two or three other matters. First of all, I am sorry that flogging is kept in the Bill at all. One hon. Member opposite rather regretted that flogging is to be abolished so far as it is to be abolished. I think that flogging of any sort is very degrading. I know we are told what a fine thing it was for boys of my generation to be flogged. My mother had a sort of theory that you knocked one devil out and generally knocked one or two more in when you gave anybody a good flogging. I have been flogged myself, but it never did me any good. I hated the man who did it, and nearly always ran and did what I was flogged for doing. It made no difference to me whatever; I say that quite honestly.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I do not know about that, and the hon. and gallant Member does not know either. [Interruption.] The extraordinary thing is that, when you agree with anybody, they are very good people, and when you do not agree with them they are nearly always very bad people. I have not yet reached the intellectual level that would enable me to take that sort of attitude. I am talking about flogging, and I do not think flogging has ever done any good to any human being. I used to sit up in the Gallery when the Debates took place on the abolition of flogging in the Army and Navy, and every blessed argument—or every cursed argument—that is used on behalf of flogging now was used then in favour of retaining flogging in the Services. Since it has been abolished, as far as it has been abolished, there would be no Army or Navy now if the prophets had been right who told us what terrible things would happen. It seems to me that people do not think straight about this matter. You still have the power to flog, and yet these horrible crimes to which one hon. Member called attention 332 the other day at Question Time are taking place now. The fact that people may be flogged does not deter them from doing it, because nearly always the very brutal, terrible crimes that are committed are committed, not when a person is thinking that if he is caught he will be flogged, but because of the circumstances in which he finds himself at that particular moment. That is what happens in prison.
I would like the Under-Secretary to take notice of what I am going to say, because I think it is rather bad that you should be retaining flogging in cases of insubordination and assault or mutiny in prison. I am not going to tell this story for any personal reason, because I took the side of the man afterwards, but it so happened that, having run out of the House for an hour to-night to attend the Roy Calvert Lecture on the Death Penalty, I met there one whom I had met in prison as a deputy-governor, and he reminded me of an incident that took place there. A warder behaved in the most disgusting manner to me, and I expected at any minute to be assaulted by him. My hon. Friend the Member for South Poplar (Mr. D. M. Adams), who was in prison with me at the time, will confirm what I say. I made such a noise in the cell that my colleagues who were in the adjoining cells heard it, and they made sufficient noise to bring other warders on the scene and stop what this man was trying on with me.
I had done nothing except that I wanted to go out of the cell in the dead of the night, and he objected to my having rung the bell. I was not at all well. He threatened me in the most outrageous manner, and if I had been a young man, I might have jumped out of bed and not only threatened him, but knocked him down. Then I should have been charged with an assault. There would have been no one to speak for me, and no one to speak for him; it would have been the word of the one against the other; and I think that, if I had been an ordinary prisoner, I should probably have had dark cells. I saw, and we all saw, one man come out of the dark cell, and certainly he had been knocked about. We all felt that we ought to have made a row about it, but we did not know how we could do so, because we had no evidence; we only saw the man's face.
333 I do not want it to be thought that this is general, but neither is mutiny or assault general. I think that, before we let this Bill go through, we ought to have this matter out quite thoroughly, and in my view, after proper discussion, that part of the Bill ought not to be allowed to remain. If you are not going to thrash a man because he has outraged a little girl or a defenceless woman, I think you can do without it inside the prison, when possibly it may mean only an assault on a warder or on a governor. My main point, however, is that you cannot leave that question to the evidence of the one man—the official—against the other. I do not put my own case forward as a personal complaint, but only as an example of what happened, and I hope that we shall take that provision out.
I am not quite sure about the position regarding reprieved prisoners. As the Under-Secretary knows, I had a terrible experience in relation to a young reprieved murderer. That boy ought never to have gone to prison; of that I am certain. I am not going to detain the House by giving that story again; it is sufficient to say that there was not an old prisoner nor an officer in the prison where he was detained but who agreed with me that the boy ought to have been sent out. He was going to die, anyhow; and he ought to have been allowed to die at home. I am not blaming the Home Secretary. I took a great deal of trouble about it, and I know that, within the limits of his power and discretion, he did what he thought best and right. There must be in the prisons to-night many persons in this boy's helpless and hopeless condition. Why keep them there? They can never do any harm. I was told, not only by people at the prison but by people elsewhere, that there were many such prisoners. There is some power contained in the Bill for sending out reprieved prisoners. I would like to see that extended, so that persons who are sick without any chance of recovery should be sent home, without any conditions at all except that they go home. I do not see any special provisions in the Bill about women. There is a great agitation in the country whenever a woman is found to be about to have a baby in prison. Ought we not in this Bill to say in plain language—not leaving it to anyone's discretion—that a woman 334 in that condition must be allowed out, so that her baby may be born without the stigma of having been born in prison.
I would like to say a word about small prisons, and the running of a prison generally. I had a great deal of experience about 1903 or 1904 with the Poor Law Commission on the Continent. We investigated one or two German prisons, and also semi-prisons in Belgium and real prisons in Switzerland. There has been talk about small prisons, and about segregating people and taking care that they do not poison other people. At the prison that we investigated just outside Berne there were just a man and his wife taking care of the whole institution. There were just a couple of places where the prisoners lived, and they went out to work on the land regularly day by day, with no other warders, only the man and his wife. The prisoners there were quite ordinary prisoners. Anyone who is interested will find an account, I think, in the report of the Poor Law Commission. I am all in favour of small buildings, but I am much more in favour of giving more freedom within the prisons and more freedom in regard to work.
I want to say a word or two about political prisoners, because I was a political prisoner. When W. T. Stead was sent to prison he was treated as a political prisoner, and was allowed great privileges. So was the celebrated officer, whose name I forget, who had committed an offence against a woman in a train. He was a military man of some distinction. We do not need to mention names. He also was treated as a political prisoner. But we have degenerated these last 20 or 30 years; we have treated political offences as a crime in the same sense that robbery is. I know the judges in these cases—because they have lectured me, and they have lectured other people—say, "You have broken the law and that is an end of it, and therefore you must submit to punishment." Other countries have never been quite so severe as we have in this matter—some of them, anyhow. Even in Russia—for which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has a great respect these days, although in the past the respect was not shown so much—I have seen the separation of the political prisoners from the other prisoners; and those I saw—perhaps they were a special lot; I am not sure—were certainly treated 335 very differently from the way that my colleagues and I were treated in Brixton until we went on strike. There being 33 of us, we were able to intimidate the Home Secretary of the day and get what we wanted.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Well, we had to stay in. We were not voluntary stayers in anyhow. I think you have no right to give Communists and other political prisoners sentences of penal servitude, or whatever you are going to call the punishment, as though they were ordinary criminals, or ordinary offenders. I hope that in Committee there will be some effort made to insert a provision that prisoners charged with political offences shall not be dealt with in the same way as ordinary offenders against the law. All of us in this House are trying very hard to palliate and make more bearable evil social conditions, but I often wonder, at the end of a life that has had much to do with social reform, with the bringing into being of great measures for ameliorating unemployment, bad housing and sickness, and now the conditions of prisoners, whether we are really touching the fundamental evils of our time. We are told what a tremendous sum we are spending on social services. I wonder whether we are really spending our money and energy in the right way. I said at the beginning that all these social services help the individual but do not in any one way touch the real fundamental evils; and I cannot see that this Bill, much as I appreciate the good will behind it, is going to reduce crime at all.
There is, I think, nothing in the Bill which will get rid of the causes of crime which get men into prison for the first time. Although there is some sort of original sin in all of us, society as it is organised to-day makes it possible for the evil that is in us to come out to a greater extent than it should do at a period in the history of mankind when we ought to be able to organise our lives entirely differently, and when we ought to be able at least to remove the evils of poverty. I know that I shall be challenged on this, but I believe that nearly all the crime of this country starts with poverty, or the denial of the sort, of material development which a man or woman claims because of his or her 336 position in life. I am fortified in that by my experience while on the way home from America. I happened to travel with the delegation that was coming to this country to attend the International Conference in London of those connected with prisons and police authorities throughout the world. Those to whom I spoke were unanimous in their opinion that the genesis of crime was to be found in the social conditions of life—poverty, destitution, unemployment, and so on. I have spoken to the heads of police in various parts of this country, and I believe from what they say that the crime of young men arises during periods of unemployment.
We shall never really get rid of the necessity for prisons—I am sure that everybody here would wish to do so—until we get rid of the causes of poverty of mind and of body. When I first came to this House I was overwhelmed with these thoughts. After a time they were smothered because of other causes that came along, but now I see them much more clearly than I have ever done in my life. Men and women want to get away from this grinding poverty. Love is bought and honour is sold, and everything is degraded, because somehow or other we have not learned how to share the world and its potential advantages, and to use the great gifts which nature and God have provided. While I shall vote for this Bill, and I appreciate all that the Home Secretary is trying to do, I cannot help feeling that we are starting in the wrong way. We ought to get down to the causes which make prisons appear to be necessary.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Markham
The House always listens with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), but it must have occurred to many of us who were listening just now that he was speaking not of recent first-hand experiences of prison but of those which he endured 20 years ago. Much water has flowed under the Thames bridges and indeed under many bridges since that date. I myself have had prison experience—
§ Mr. Lansbury
The hon. Gentleman is making a mistake. I have visited three or four prisons since I was in prison as a prisoner.
§ Mr. Markham
I am willing to accept that, but it will not alter the impression given to this House that some of the facts which the right hon. Gentleman produced are seriously out of date. As I was about to say when I was interrupted, I also have had prison experience, but not as a prisoner. My experience was that of Military Officer in charge of the Cork Male Prison during the troubles immediately after the War. During this experience my sympathy in very great part was with the prisoners, because they were mostly political prisoners. I felt that they were being unjustly treated even by our own Government, and my attitude now, after these years, is one of great sympathy for the prisoners in that the majority of those who are in prison are there owing to faults of upbringing and not as the previous speaker has said, of poverty. We know all too well of the great number of public school boys who have recently found their way to prison, and poverty cannot be provided as the excuse for crimes in those cases.
Let me take up the right hon. Gentleman on one of his statements. He was talking about the quality of the libraries in various prisons up and down the country. I am perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman must have been entirely unaware of the fact that the whole of this question was gone into very thoroughly quite recently by a committee of the Library Association who made recommendations to the Prison Commissioners, and that, as one result of that committee, the allowance of books per head per prison was raised from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d. The amount spent on prison libraries per head to-day is greater than that spent on the average by all other libraries for non-prisoners throughout the country. The ratio is 1s. 9d. for books for prisoners and is. 4d. for those, who, I might almost say, have not the good fortune to be in prison to enjoy the fine libraries that are now provided. It is, not too great an exaggeration to say that there is scarcely a book which a prisoner may want to enable him to learn a trade or to develop his intellect which cannot be had on request by using the appropriate method now in vogue, namely, the Wakefield Central Prison Library and the National Central Library. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to take the matter up and consider what has been done by the co-operation of the Library Association and the 338 Home Office, through the Prison Commissioners.
§ Mr. Markham
Opinions will differ from individual to individual, but the Library Association have had experience of this kind of thing for tens of years. The opinion to which they came was the result of sound judgment based upon the best library experience in the country.
§ Mr. Markham
No, I was not suggesting that at all. I was suggesting that the committee of inquiry that went into the question of library provision in prisons was made up of distinguished members of the Library Association, and that it was on their recommendation that the sum per head was raised from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d. I go as far as to say that the hooks now available in the various prison libraries are of a good standard, and they are books that the average library in this country would be proud to include in its own collection.
§ Mr. Markham
I have not been to Leeds Prison, but I have been to other prisons, and I can assure the House that I am talking with knowledge of this subject, and I would ask the hon. Member, in his turn, to visit the Wakefield Prison and see the library there. He might also visit some of the smaller libraries under the county library system, and note some of the provisions made there, and then he would get a proper comparative picture.
Not only on the question of library provision but in regard to many other things, information which is sadly out of date has been given to the House in recent speeches. It is true to say that whilst this Bill takes us a great way forward in humanitarian ways in regard to the treatment of prisoners, much has been done in recent years, for which little credit has been given, without Acts of Parliament. I wish the House would appreciate that you cannot introduce great changes such as are envisaged in this Bill 339 without, first of all, having very close experimentation and the collation of experience beforehand. The prison system in this country, even without this Bill, is far more comfortable, more humane and better in every way than it was 20 years ago when the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley was in prison. To come to this Debate and give experiences that are, in the main, 20 years old, is to mislead the House and put forward information which is scarcely pertinent to the Debate.
§ Mr. Markham
There is the point about the libraries, with which I have dealt. I wish however to deal now with the question of probation. Under Clause 18 it will become almost impossible for a lad under 21 to be sent to prison by a court of summary jurisdiction. In every case, so far as one can understand, all that that court can do will be to put him on probation. I suggest that the probation terms are too lenient. They place upon the lad the onus of reporting his residence and keeping away from strong drink, and then place upon the probation officer and the court the duty of supervision, but nowhere is anyone made responsible for seeing that the lad makes good any damage that he has done. I contend that one of the principles of justice which deter anyone from repeating an offence is to ensure that the offender makes good any damage that he has committed. Therefore, I suggest that Clause 18 should be strengthened by giving the court of summary jurisdiction power to compel restitution, particularly in cases of pilfering and petty theft. There is no reason why restitution should not be brought in as a definite factor in this Clause.
I agree with many of the arguments put forward as to the need for improvement in diet and the treatment of prisoners generally, but I say frankly that there is a possibility under this Bill, liberally interpreted, that we may make prisons far more comfortable than many homes throughout the country. I emphatically agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that what we ought to do as a Christian nation is to go much further than this Bill and see whether we cannot eliminate all those causes that create crime. I differ, however, from the right 340 hon. Gentleman in his statement that poverty is the main cause of crime. The main cause is misdirected energy. It is the lad with more energy than the normal who initially gets into crime. The milksop, with little energy, usually steers clear of the courts.
I have had experience with young offenders, particularly in a county area, and I say that it is the boy and the girl with energy and ingenuity who get into scrapes, petty pilfering, and so on. What we have to do, allied with this Bill, is to see that some scheme is introduced by which devils do not find mischief for idle hands to do. That is the origin of most crime of the sort dealt with by courts of summary jurisdiction. I conclude by adding my tribute to the Home Secretary for producing a bold, far-reaching Bill. It is by no means perfect, but I hope we shall be able to improve it still further before it comes upon the Statute Book.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Home Secretary paid a well-deserved tribute to a series of honoured names of people who are known as pioneers of prison reform. I should like to say a few words about more obscure people who have contributed their share to an understanding and a solution of this problem. I would refer to the unknown men who suffered so much before and during the notorious mutiny at Dartmoor. I am certain that the events leading up to and during that mutiny had a very big effect in directing the attention of the people of this country to the conditions that exist in the prisons. I also remember that Wilfrid McCartney who served a sentence of in years, in collaboration with Compton Mackenzie wrote a book, "Walls have Mouths," and the publicity which that book received and the spate of discussion that followed its publication, together with the discussion of subsequent books that it inspired and the comments in the Press, all played their part in directing public attention to the necessity of big changes in prison conditions.
It is very appropriate that the Home Secretary has taken inspiration from his illustrious ancestor, his great-great aunt, in bringing forward such a Bill. I should, however, like to offer a few words of criticism. I am concerned about the question of flogging in prison. Like others, I have had considerable experience of the 341 way in which trouble can arise between prisoners and warders. From my own knowledge I know that in many cases the trouble that has arisen has been the fault of the warders, but it was always the prisoner who was punished, whether by the governor, or the visiting magistrate. The idea that exists in prison is that no matter what provocation is given to a prisoner, he must not retaliate. Time and again I have teen that principle operating. The general idea is that if a prisoner gets into trouble, no matter what the provocation may be, he is to blame. I am not only against flogging in prison, but I am against the visiting magistrates. If there is trouble in a prison, then in justice to the prisoner the question ought to be tried outside the atmosphere of the prison. Prisoners should be brought out and tried in open court by the ordinary methods of our judicial procedure, and should be given the greatest possible opportunity of proving provocation and of proving their innocence.
In regard to the general question of prison reform, when we were discussing this before the Recess I said that the one great desirable thing in connection with the problem of crime was security. It has been put to-night in another form—the elimination of poverty. When an hon. Member opposite says that crime is the result of misdirected energy, it does not explain anything. The question at once arises, why is energy misdirected? It is misdirected because there are no proper avenues into which it can be turned. It may be poverty in the home which leads to misdirected energy on the streets. At the bottom of all the crime in this country, except in a few pathological cases, is a lack of security, a desire to get out of a deadly rut, to get some false excitement because there is no proper direction in which men can express their energy. If you want to eliminate crime I am sure that the one way is to give the people security. In one respect we can help by this Bill.
I have drawn attention to the workshops which exist in some of our prisons. The last time I went to Wandsworth I was very interested in visiting the workshops and seeing the interest taken in training the prisoners by the tradesmen warders. When I went there, not as a visitor but as a resident, they put me down for a job in the engineering shop, and the morning after I started one or 342 two of the officials happened to look in. I was speaking to two other prisoners. They had asked me to put their machine in order, and foolishly enough I went and started up the machine and was talking to them. They thought that I was trying to organise a strike, and the next day I lost my job in the engineering shop and went to make mail bags. If mail bags have to be made there is no necessity to make them in gaol. I think the workshops in our prisons should be developed. The prisoners are very interested in the work and after a short experience some of them become quite expert and turn out very good work. I have suggested before but I will offer the suggestion again, that in some of the centres they should occasionally have a show of the work, an exhibition, and thus get people interested in what is being done and encourage the development of this side of prison life. I am certain that many of the prisoners, if they had the necessary training, would come out all the better, but there is always the problem of finding work when they do come out.
There should also be a greater measure of freedom in our prisons. I quite realise that during the last 25 years there has been a big difference, but I want to see more liberty. I should like to see a proposal in this Bill that prisoners who are well behaved and can be trusted should be allowed to go home for a week-end every three months to visit their friends. The Home Secretary has power to make a whole lot of regulations and I hope he will consider this suggestion. Then there is also a question of communal dining. It may be that there is not a big dining room, but there is a policy in operation in Wakefield where the walls have been removed between two cells and a whole series of dining rooms exist. Two cells are made into one big double cell, in which a dozen prisoners dine together, with one of them responsible for bringing the food from the galley instead of the prisoner having to wait for his food at the cell door. They get the food warm and in better condition and it makes for a better atmosphere in the prison. When the hon. Member was talking about Wakefield Camp and the huts, each of which is occupied by 10 or a dozen of the prisoners, he forgot to mention that there are no locks on these huts. When the 343 prisoners are working away in the fields there are no warders with them. There are only one or two warders at the centre. At night there are no locks on the doors. I think this is an excellent argument for the elimination of the old restrictions. The prisoners are not going to run away, and it creates a far better feeling among them. It gives them a measure of self-respect which they do not have under the old condition.
Let me say one word about Borstal. I think we should try to get rid of Borstal. The idea of Howard Houses is a splendid one. I know that in the Borstal institutions they have tried to introduce the public school idea, with classes and the various organised structures which apply in our public schools. You cannot make a public school out of a Borstal institution. I have met many fathers and mothers. When their lads are sent away they are absolutely brokenhearted. They feel that despite the offence which the lads have committed they would be far better cared for at home than at a Borstal institution. I would ask hon. Members to think what it means to have a whole batch of young lads in the decisive years of their lives in a Borstal institution, even with the amount of freedom which exists. There is a danger that many evil practices may exist. I have spoken with probation officers and discussed this matter with them. They have been some of the most advanced and most intelligent probation officers and they were horrified at the thought of what often happens when these lads are forced to live together during the very impressive years of their lives. We must have a very big change in regard to the Borstal institutions. The lads should be able to get out and get a measure of freedom and the opportunity of a correct and proper dissipation of their energy. Even though they may work in the fields during the day, to keep them herded together at night, never allowing them the opportunity that nature demands so strenuously at that period of life, is a very dangerous thing.
There are other points that I would like to discuss and on which I would like to see certain Amendments when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. However, I recognise the very great value of the Bill. I am very glad that steps have been taken to change the system and to bring 344 it more into line with modern ideas. But above all, I want to impress on hon. Members that, when considering the question of crime, just as in prison the prisoner is always held to blame, and as a rule the prisoner is punished, whatever may have been the provocation, so with the criminal—when a crime is committed, we hold that the criminal is to blame. Of course, we say that he is innocent until he is proved guilty, although in many cases he is kept in gaol, whether proved guilty or not, until he is tried; but when the case is tried, if he is proved guilty he is a criminal, and as a criminal he is blamed. The one thing which we never investigate is the crime of society against many of these individuals.
I hope that when the Bill is considered in the Committee stage, hon. Members will try to remember that there is something to be said on the other side as well as against the criminal, that there is something to be said about the crime that is being committed against thousands of these men, women and boys. Let hon. Members remember that, and consider, not how we can take vengeance on these people, but how we can apply, as this Bill tries to apply curative methods, how we can best help these people to get on their feet again, come out into society equipped with opportunities, not for misdirecting their energies, but for directing their energies to the best advantage to themselves and to society.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Sir T. Moore
After listening to the speeches that have been made in the Debate, I find myself in a somewhat embarrassing position, because I do not speak either as an ex-prisoner or as a prison visitor; I do not speak as a lawyer, who either prevents people going to prison or sends them to prison; I speak simply as an ordinary man-in-the-street, who is tremendously concerned with this Bill and with its possible effects on the future of our people. Before going any further with my remarks, I would like to pay a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), to whose speeches the House always listens with great interest and great sympathy. Hon. Members recognise that the right hon. Gentleman's qualities of mind and heart sometimes carry him away into extremes of statement, but at the same time we have such genuine 345 affection for him that we pass them over, and merely put them down to his youthful enthusiasm.
Whatever may be the right hon. Gentleman's views, they will not allow me to be deflected from my decision, which is no doubt shared, and indeed has been shown to be shared, by the rest of the House, to congratulate my right hon. Friend for the humanity, common sense and understanding that so obviously animate this Bill. I think few Ministers of recent years have so sensed the demand from the public in regard to reform of this kind. I suppose that my right hon. Friend might say that that is one of the duties of a democratic Minister in a democratic Government, and possibly that is so. Indeed, a very happy feature of recent Parliamentary history is that our Governments seem to have marched side by side with the desires of the people in regard to reform; but I believe that Governments should march, in the present and in the future, as I believe they have marched in the past, just one pace in advance of public opinion. I say one pace, sufficiently far ahead to encourage the people, but not so far ahead as to outrage public opinion, and not lagging too far behind to flout that opinion. For that reason, I think the present Home Secretary has shown precisely that shrewd touch, that almost magical touch, which reflects what I believe public opinion has been consolidating its views about for the past 25 years.
Having made those remarks, I must frankly admit that there are one or two provisions in the Bill about which I am worried. I feel that in one or two matters, perhaps, we are travelling too far, or perhaps too far too soon. I feel that there is a slight danger, which I am sure has been anticipated by the Home Secretary and his advisers, that we may make prison life, in the minds of potential criminals, a place where they can have a certain amount of security of body and social amenities, which I do not think should be the proper reward of crime or criminal tendencies. I would refer in particular to Clauses 32 and 47, the Clauses which decree the abolition of corporal punishment, or, as it is commonly called, the "cat," except for attacks on prison warders, about which I am afraid my right hon. Friend has not convinced me. My right hon. Friend said that statistics prove that the "cat" 346 is not a deterrent, but at the same time he has retained it as a deterrent against attacks on prison warders. Surely, by so doing, he has proved to us that, in his view, it is a deterrent against attacks on prison warders, and therefore, surely, it must be a deterrent against the outside crimes of robbery with violence or criminal assault. In this, my right hon. Friend does not seem to me to be quite consistent.
It was brought to my notice this afternoon by one of my colleagues in the House that it is within his personal knowledge that in a certain place there had been 18 consecutive crimes of robbery with violence, until two of His Majesty's judges went down there determined to bring into operation the use of corporal punishment for such a crime, and within two years that form of crime was completely eliminated. No doubt there will be answers to those points, but I felt that I must refer to them. Certainly, I cannot see why prison warders, in spite of the Home Secretary's explanation, should be put in a privileged category compared with helpless children and infirm old ladies. It seems to me to be logical and reasonable to ask, if the "cat" is to be eliminated in regard to the crimes of violence against women and children and the aged, why, in Heaven's name, must it be retained for crimes of violence against prison warders? Candidly, I cannot find an answer to that question, and I have not received one. I would go further. I would give discretion to His Majesty's judges to inflict the "cat," not only for crimes of robbery with violence but also for attacks on women, children and aged people, and gross cruelty to animals.
In regard to children, we have had so many unhappy and tragic experiences in the last few weeks that I shall not stress them. They are, I am sure, in the minds of all of us. They certainly have been in my mind all through this Debate. I think we have the same feelings in relation to attacks upon old people. I believe I am a humanitarian—at any rate I try to be. But I know there are many, both in this House and outside it, who feel as strongly as I do, that in this particular instance we have overstepped the mark and gone beyond what public opinion wants, and what public opinion is prepared to support this House in 347 doing. As regards animals, some people may say that they do not come into the same category as human beings. I do not agree. I believe they do. In fact I believe that they sometimes occupy a higher category than humans. Some of the crimes which have been committed against animals in the past few years occur to my mind. In one case, two or three young men, aged between 18 and 20, pulled all the feathers out of a live sparrow and tossed it about in sport. In my opinion there is no means of showing such fiends as that the meaning of pain except by inflicting it on their own hides.
§ Sir T. Moore
May I be allowed to put my own arguments in my own way? There was another case in which a churchwarden returning from church, was met by his pet terrier and because it leapt up on him and dirtied his clothes, he tied it to a stake and beat out its brains with a hatchet. These are not pathological cases. I am growing weary of the word "pathological" used in excuse or justification for crimes. Even if this Bill were passed with all the Amendments which I would like to see, I believe that my right hon. Friend opposite would still find accused suppliants whining "Mine is a pathological case." I would like to see a little more common sense used, especially by some of my hon. Friends above the Gangway who plead—and in my case plead in vain—that cases of cruelty which obviously cannot be justified, which are outside the realms of decency, are pathological cases which must receive special treatment. I believe there are certain cases which are pathological, but they are so obviously pathological that any judge would see their character and choose the punishment accordingly.
I know that the Home Secretary will probably be able to bring forward further statistics to show that I am wrong, but I am afraid that statistics do not impress me. They can prove anything. But I was rather impressed the other day on reading in the "Sunday Referee," a paper which is largely in favour with some of the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway, the personal opinion of a man who had himself twice suffered the "cat," once for robbery with violence 348 and once for an assault on a warder. He admitted the pain which he had endured but he was 100 per cent. in favour of the retention of the "cat," because he had decided that he would never again commit any crime which involved that form of punishment. I understand, too, although I have no personal knowledge of the fact, that certain police officers throughout the country have grave doubts about the withdrawal of this deterrent. We in this House pride ourselves on representing the views of the majority of the people. In order that I should justify myself as a representative of the people, I asked six women in various walks of life, their views about the abolition of corporal punishment. I put the question to them quite objectively and did not indicate in any way my own feelings on the matter. They also were 100 per cent. in favour of the retention of this punishment for crimes of violence against women and children and cruelty to animals. Women to-day are in a voting majority in this country and I think my right hon. Friend ought to pay considerable attention to their opinion.
There are one or two small points with which I wish to deal. First, there is the question of Borstal sentences. I have in mind a case of two young men, one of whom had 11 sentences to his discredit while the other was charged with his first offence. He was aged 18½, belonged to a good family, had been in a good job and was, on the whole, a good lad who happened to have got into bad company. He was, unfortunately, defended by the same solicitor as the youth with the 11 convictions and he was sentenced to three years in a Borstal institution. I think there should be greater care in regard to sentences of that kind. Indeed, I think it would be well to put into this Measure some provision imposing a restraint upon magistrates in England, or sheriffs in Scotland, as regards such sentences as that for a first offence, especially when there are mitigating circumstances. In the case I have in mind, the boy, before going to the Borstal institution, was sent to Barlinnie prison, and we all know that it is not the place. nor is any ordinary prison the place to which a youth should be sent for a first offence, and that a comparatively minor offence.
There is one respect, however, in which I do not think my right hon. Friend has 349 gone far enough. He has, very happily, done away with that unpleasant term "ticket-of-leave," but has substituted a form of licence. It seems to me that if a prisoner, man or woman, has proved to the satisfaction of the prison governor and the Home Secretary that he or she is fit to be liberated in advance of the expiration of the sentence, that should be sufficient to qualify that prisoner for complete freedom. Why should such a prisoner be tainted and ticketed under this licence system? How many jobs have been lost, how many homes have been ruined, how many reputations have been destroyed by this "ticket-of-leave" or licence system which perpetuates a man's punishment after he has been released? If a man has justified the confidence of the prison governor and the Home Secretary to the extent of being released at all, for goodness sake let us be generous and free him once and for all. I believe that much good might be clone by an accentuation of the liberality of the Measure in that respect. I feel that it is a Bill that merits our united support, and I hope and pray that the right hon. Gentleman will give us an indication that he will meet those particular points in it which I have raised, because I would very greatly dislike to have what is very nearly a perfect Bill marred by either not going far enough or going too far, especially when I am only too ready to applaud the whole spirit of humanity on which the Bill is based.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Benson
The hon. and gallant Member for the Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) asked one or two questions on the matter of flogging, and I hope to be able to give him an answer, but before I deal with what I regard as his extraordinary views on the subject, I want to make some remarks on psychiatry.
I am very pleased indeed to see that power is taken in Clause 19 to supply mental treatment for those delinquents who require it. What I am afraid of is that the right hon. Gentleman's advisers, living and working in London. may not realise how difficult that Clause will be to work in the provinces unless the Home Office itself takes very strong steps and supplies plenty of initiative. There is any number of highly-trained psychiatrists and specialists in London, but the whole of the provinces are an absolutely arid waste so far as they are concerned. 350 You may get an odd psychiatrist in a large town like Manchester or Liverpool, but there is nothing like the supply of trained doctors in the provinces that there is in London. I do not think you will get Clause 19 working unless the Home Office is prepared to take steps to supply that shortage. The reason for the shortage is obvious. These gentlemen are specialists, and specialisation in practice generally depends upon hospital work in the towns where the practice is. It is very difficult for a London-trained specialist to go, say, to a Northern town or outside London and build up a practice, and until some steps are taken to enable London-trained doctors to build up practices in the provinces, there will not be the supply of psychiatrists that this Bill demands if it is to work properly.
I suggest that there are methods by which this difficulty can be overcome. In the first place, there is a number of child guidance clinics up and down the country. Some of them already have psychiatrists, generally part-time, and the psychiatrists themselves are attempting to build up a practice in the towns while they are working for the child guidance clinic. There are other child guidance clinics which would have part-time specialists if they could afford it. If the Home Office is prepared to co-operate wherever possible with child guidance clinics and with progressive education authorities for the provision of this service, I think a great deal can be done at a not overwhelming expense.
I gather from the Bill that psychiatrist training is to be provided at the State remand centres and these can, I think, be made the nucleus for the development of psychiatrist services on a far wider scale than the remand centres themselves. We know very well, as practical politics, that we shall not get these remand centres scattered widespread over the country. I hope there will be a number of them in the provinces, but there will not be in every small town. Utilise the trained doctors in these remand centres, use them as travelling psychiatrists to go from court to court or to be as the service of any court within a given area, again cooperating with child guidance clinics and education committees but aim at trying to establish part-time services. I am very anxious that these part-time services should be established, because it would enable a much larger number of 351 doctors to be planted, so to speak, in the provinces over a wider area than with a full-time service. I think it would be possible by that method, or by some similar scheme, to be worked out in detail, to supply fairly rapidly a widespread and fairly satisfactory service, not only for delinquents under this Bill, but for education committees and child guidance committees where at present the cost is prohibitive.
There is a small criticism that I would like to make about the Bill. It is not the only one, but it is a rather personal matter, and I almost apologise to the House for mentioning it. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to establish a number of Howard houses. I happen to have the honour to be chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform, and we rather feel that we have a copyright in that name and that if other people use it, misunderstandings are likely to occur.
§ Mr. Benson
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Let me give him an example of what I mean. I have here a copy of a letter which we received a fortnight ago, as follows:Dear Sir, I would very much like to join your League and enclose is for membership. I am a very great admirer of Mr. Leslie Howard's acting. Could you send a signed photograph?I may say that with the usual efficiency of the league we are doing our best to provide the photograph. It would be extraordinarily embarrassing if, for example, with the multiplication of Howard houses the Howard League was regarded as a kind of old boys' association. But I will not press the matter.
With regard to the only question that has been really debated on this Bill, apart from the power of summary courts, the question of flogging, I must say that I have been extremely surprised at the very moderate and one might almost say apologetic attitude of those who oppose the abolition of flogging. When one compares the extraordinary bitterness with which in the past flogging has been defended, it is astonishing to see how immense an effect the report of the Departmental Committee has had. The general case for flogging is that it is a punishment of peculiar efficacy, that it is 352 a punishment which will work and produce results where imprisonment is inadequate, that it is the only thing that certain brutes will understand. I am glad that nobody has mentioned the old, old tag that nobody is ever flogged twice, which, as a matter of fact, is entirely inaccurate. All three Members who have opposed the abolition of flogging have assumed what the report completely demolishes, and that is that flogging is a particularly effective deterrent.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs and the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) both assumed that flogging produced results, but the whole evidence of the committee's report is that it is not a deterrent of any more efficacy than imprisonment, and when one realises the amount of evidence that the committee had before it, and that we have now had flogging for 75 years—it is exactly 75 years since the Garrotting Act was passed—it ought to be a perfectly simple matter to see whether the claims for flogging are or are not justified. The Departmental Committee said:After examining all the available evidence we have been unable to find any body of facts or figures showing that the introduction of a power of flogging has produced a decrease in the number of offences for which it may he imposed or that offences for which flogging may be ordered have tended to increase where little use was made of the power to order flogging or to decrease when the power was exercised more frequently, we are not satisfied that corporal punishment has that exceptionally effective influence as a deterrent which is usually claimed for it by those who advocate its use.In the face of that finding what is the use of the hon. and gallant Gentleman advocating not merely its retention but its extension? I assume that he advocates it because he believes that it is a deterrent and, if he believes that, I assume that he has some evidence, but he never gave any suggestion as to any evidence on which he bases his belief.
§ Sir T. Moore
The hon. Member has no evidence that the abolition of flogging will stop these crimes.
§ Mr. Benson
I never suggested that if you abolish flogging you are going to abolish crime at the same time.
§ Mr. Benson
It is not the implication at all. Here we have a form of punishment which has been practically abandoned in every civilised country—a punishment which everyone admits is savage and brutal. In that case it seems to me that the onus of proof must rest upon those who wish to defend it, and not on those who would get rid of it. All that we who wish for its abolition claim is that it is no more effective as a deterrent than imprisonment, and if we can establish that we have established an unanswerable case for its abolition. It can only be successfully defended on the ground that it is a really infinitely more effective punishment than imprisonment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has produced no evidence at all. Has he any evidence to show that it is a deterrent? No, he has not.
§ Mr. Benson
Of course, I have no evidence to show that it is a deterrent. What I have is evidence to show that it is no more a deterrent than imprisonment. The only evidence that the hon. and gallant Gentleman produced was the opinion of six ladies. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) attempted to prove his case. He said that the committee did not give due weight to a certain body of evidence. What was that evidence—the opinion not of six ladies but of six judges. I believe there is a legal maxim that what the soldier said is not evidence, and it applies to judges, also. There is only one basis upon which we can decide this question, and that is statistical. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said he did not believe in statistics: they could prove anything. The hon. Member for Oxford said he also looked rather askance at statistics. But, surely, if you ask a question which is quantitative, that is, if you ask by how much has flogging reduced crime, you are asking a quantitative question, and you can only give a quantitative answer as the result of the examination of statistics. It is a statistical question, and it must receive a statistical answer. It is no use to say that flogging is a deterrent and then say, "We are not going to take an answer of figures and statistics." What other answer can you give except the obiter dicta of ladies and judges? I am not prepared to accept, on a matter of importance like this, any evidence based solely upon opinion when we have a vast mass of statistical evidence. If you appeal to that statistical evi- 354 dence there is one unchallengeable answer that you get, and that is that you can trace no effect whatever as a result of flogging.
§ Sir T. Moore
Will the hon. Member say that, if you had not had flogging, you would not have had more crimes of that nature?
§ Mr. Benson
I am not prepared to answer a hypothetical question like that. I am simply and solely stating the facts. I will say, in reply to the question of the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh, that robbery with violence is not a flogging offence in Scotland. The hon. and learned Member admitted that there has been no case of flogging for 50 years and that judges never get beyond the threat. What is the result on the statistics? Taking 1890–94 as our basis we find that from that period the figures in England, where flogging has been used, have fallen to 30 per cent., whereas in Scotland, where there is no flogging, they have fallen to 6 per cent. We have in the Departmental Committee's Report a careful examination of the question and an immense amount of statistics, and the Committee, many of whom, as the Home Secretary said, were in favour of flogging when they started, were overwhelmed by the evidence and came to a unanimous report in favour of its abolition. In view of that careful examination and that mass of statistics I am not prepared to accept unsupported the testimony of judges, ladies, or archangels. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stand firm upon this point. This Bill has to run the gauntlet of another place. A little time ago a Bill was passed here to remove the power to birch children, but that power was retained in another place. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will fight for this principle. If he does, I am sure that he will have the backing of the whole House.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will have every reason to be flattered by the reception that has been accorded to this Bill. There is no doubt that this is one of those happy occasions when, as the hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench said, no questions of party division arise. I hope that as this Bill 355 goes on its course no other divisions will arise. We can surely look at this Bill, each of us according to our lights, and try to do something to make it better and to express views which we honestly feel. I hope that there will be no question of those who advocate flogging referring to other hon. Gentlemen as sentimentalists, or of those who wish to abolish flogging calling other hon. Gentlemen who do not hold the same view, but who are equally sincere, reactionaries or diehards. We all want to try and do something to make this Bill a really workable Act. There can be nobody who has to do with the administration of justice or the administration of prisons who has not at some time or another in the course of his duties had the thought, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." We have got away from the cruelties and the horrors of the old criminal systems of years ago. Gradually they have improved until we have in this country a humane criminal and prison system of which we are rightly and justly proud. That does not mean, however, that there is not room for further improvement. It is to the interests of society to reform offenders. It is more to the interest of society to do that than to punish them.
The Bill, therefore, meets with general approval, but it would be unwise to suppose that public opinion altogether approves of all its provisions. Indeed, public opinion is a little apprehensive about some of the changes which are proposed. I am glad that the old adage, "Give a dog a bad name and hang him," has gone. This Bill does try to teach the young dog to be a better dog and to reclaim him, while recognising that some dogs are past reclamation and that society must he defended against them. There is a danger nowadays of Stressing too much what we want to do to help the bad citizen, and not paying enough attention to the wellbeing of the good citizen. I think it is right, however, that undue severity tends to harden and brutalise the criminal. A good general rule is that you should never punish if you can possibly avoid it. Find every excuse that you reasonably can for not punishing an offender, but when you have to punish him, make the punishment something real which will be an active deterrent. We should teach, train, encourage, persuade and help all young 356 people who, for one reason or another, fall into error. One of the greatest attributes of our legal and criminal system is that justice is swift and in the main drastic. That is a good thing.
Reference has been made to crimes of violence and I am bound to differ from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). I believe that we should retain the power to inflict corporal punishment. Statistics can be made to prove almost anything, but if it be claimed that corporal punishment has not decreased crimes of violence, it is equally fair to say that crimes of violence might be greater if corporal punishment did not exist. If corporal punishment is opposed on moral grounds, there can be no justification for retaining it in prisons. I think the Home Secretary spoilt his own argument, because he said that we keep corporal punishment in prisons because there is no other punishment for crimes of violence committed in prisons, and he then went on to say that crimes of violence in the prisons were rare. They are rare because there is in the background the knowledge that corporal punishment will be awarded. I can understand the point of view that corporal punishment should be swept away on purely moral grounds, but if we are to retain it in the prisons because it is a deterrent to crimes of violence there, I cannot see why it should not be retained for crimes of violence which still exist outside the prisons.
Those whose business takes them into the courts come across many cases when the only punishment which would have fitted a crime was corporal punishment. I have in mind a case with which I had once to deal as a magistrate. A man about 6 feet 2 inches in height had attacked a nursery governess leading a small child by the hand. It was a wanton attack. He broke her jaw in two places, knocked out one eye and blinded the other eye, and she is a nervous wreck to this day. There is no punishment which could appeal to that brute except the risk of his own skin. I am perfectly honest about this: I believe there are other crimes, crimes against the body and soul, which should be met with corporal punishment. I would retain it because I believe that in the interests of the weak, of women, and of elderly people, it is a deterrent to people who would otherwise perpetrate such crimes.
357 I would go further. There are the crimes of the white slaver, and the crime, to my mind infinitely worse, of the drug peddler. Those are two crimes perpetrated by men who, we all know, have the greatest fear of any personal pain. There is the old adage about the bully. At school we knew that you had only to stand up to the bully and he ran away. I would extend corporal punishment to cover those two classes of offences, which are crimes of violence against the body and the soul. For the man who peddles drugs to inoffensive girls, who do not honestly know what they are doing—there is only one cure, and that is "the cat."
There is one Clause in this Bill to which I think no hon. Member has called attention, and I welcome it with all my heart, and that is Clause 63, which proposes to repeal the Sections of the Forfeiture Act, 1870. I have always thought it was grossly unjust that a man in receipt of a pension who commits an offence should be punished twice, as it were, for the same offence. Those of us who have had to do with the Services realise this fact, which is sometimes lost sight of, that a pension is deferred pay. It is something which a man has earned, whatever walk of life he was in, by honest and good work. Because a man makes a slip afterwards in life and you punish him by sending him to gaol, as you must punish him for his crime, it is unjust that you should then make him forfeit something which he has earned in the past and something which was his by right. I am thinking not only of ex-service men, but I have in mind the particular case of postmen. If a postman slips from the path of virtue, not only is he punished, as he should be, but his wife and family are punished afterwards, because he forfeits his pension. I very much welcome the provision in this Bill which repeals that disability.
The Home Secretary touched upon one subject which, I think, must have interested us all, and that is the appalling rise in the figures of juvenile crime. It is attributed to various causes and I cannot help thinking that the cinema has a great deal to answer for. When young, impressionable children go to the cinema and see what is sometimes almost the glorification of crime it sticks in their memories. People forget that seeing photographs on the screen makes a much deeper impression than the reading of blood-and-thunder stories in a book. It 358 has an effect upon children of excitable temperament which it is difficult almost to understand. It may be, also, that parental control has weakened, because the tendency, in latter years certainly, has been for the State more and more to take over some of the functions and the responsibilities which more properly belong to parents. I do not think that parents nowadays take enough charge of their children. There is too much wishing-them-off on to some school authority or other authority which is not the home authority to which they ought to be subject. I cannot help thinking that the weakening of parental authority has come about as the increased responsibility of the State has diminished the responsibility of the parent.
I particularly welcome the provisions in this Bill which try to do something for the first offender and for the juvenile offender. I should like to pay a tribute to the work done by the approved schools, because I have had some personal experience of that work. By the permission of the Home Secretary some years ago I visited an approved school to which the son of one of my constituents had been sent. I went there expecting to find a sort of miniature gaol, instead of which I found a place which had neither lock, bolt nor bar in it. There was a state of freedom and happiness which it was a real delight to see. It is true that it was run by a man and his wife who were geniuses at the job of running that kind of school. I was interested to find that after children had been there a little time they were allowed the freedom of going down to the town to visit the cinema if they wished, and that there had never been a case of one of them not coming back at the proper time.
That sort of work is all to the good, but I confess that I am a little apprehensive about the provisions in the Bill which have to do with compulsory attendance centres. I think that is a very big experiment. What will happen if the juvenile offender refuses to attend? He will then, I suppose, be arrested by the police, brought before the magistrates and dealt with; but how is he to be dealt with? Is he to be punished for not attending at the centre? I am not sure that it is wise to trade too much upon the suggestion that the way to treat these juvenile offenders is to make them look 359 foolish. In our youth we all had the experience of being made to stand in the corner, and I think most of us bitterly resented it. We remained there with a feeling of dull resentment, and would much have preferred summary punishment with the cane, because, after all, that finished the matter and it was over and done with. We must be very careful how we segregate these children only partially. For the same reason I think the lot of those offenders who have to stay at the Howard Houses while going out to work will be very difficult when among their workmates, and I am not sure that that experiment will work out in the way the Home Secretary hopes that it will.
I welcome the change which enables magistrates to send young persons to Borstal. That is definitely to the good. In a Bill of this character there is always the danger that we may tend to make prison not so much a punishment as a picnic. I have been at some little pains to try to get the views of young people. I may be wrong, but I think that nowadays the views of the young people are really more important than the views of us older people. After all, they are going to live in the world when we have done with it, and they are entitled to be consulted. I have been at some pains to try to find out what are their reactions to the reforms in this Bill. I have been much struck with two things; one was the feeling that it is quite all right to make prison a humane place and to improve the dietary, to make it a house of correction where useful work can be done in an effort to reform those who are not past reform. At the same time the young people say "Do not make crime pay. Do not make it almost more comfortable to be in gaol than to be outside. When you have to punish people for a crime deal with them definitely so that punishment does remain punishment."
§ Sir A. Southby
I will take the hon. Member's word for it. One thing which is excellent in the Bill is the proposal for dealing with the hardened criminal by means of preventive detention. You have to save society from those who are beyond reformation and it is wise to segregate types of offenders and not to 360 put young people with criminals. That is how Borstal institutions are inclined to fail. Those who are sent to Borstal are contaminated by the people they find there. The difficulty is to be certain that when you send somebody there Borstal will have a good effect upon him and not a bad effect.
The only remaining point I want to speak about is the terribly sad case of the occupants of Broadmoor. Men and women who are not responsible for their actions cannot honestly be classed as criminals, and any reform which will remove from them the stigma of criminality given to them by reason of some act brought about by their disordered minds, is all to the good. But you should not mix up the Broadmoor establishment with the ordinary mental establishments of this country. You have to keep apart the offender by reason of a mental state from the non-criminal sufferer from mental disease. I am sorry that the suggestion should be that these establishments are all to be grouped together under one heading. Indeed, the Home Secretary himself realises that that is not a logical thing to do because the power of release is still to be retained by the Home Office.
The Bill is good, but much criticism will have to be levelled at it during the Committee stage. One of the major questions to which more attention has been paid than to anything else is that of the retention of corporal punishment. If, as the Bill goes through its various stages, those who are promoting it and those who are criticising it work with an honest desire to do what they believe to be right, and if criticism is offered not for the sake of criticising or in order to wreck the Bill, but because the critics feel it their duty to improve a Measure which touches the lives and welfare of the whole of society, this Bill will become an Act to which this House of Commons as a whole may look back with great pride.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
For several years the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) and myself sat on the same bench of magistrates and at the same quarter sessions. I recollect on one occasion the chairman of the petty sessions saying to me: "It's a good job you've turned up to-day, because you will cancel Southby out."
§ Sir A. Southby
I could, of course, retaliate, but that would be to betray the confidences of the magistrates' room.
§ Mr. Ede
This evening I find once again, that the hon. and gallant Member and I, viewing the same evidence with the same impartiality, reach a contrary conclusion on every point that he mentioned in his speech. It really is remarkable that two people, acting in good faith, should find that the same evidence, heard in the same place, leads them to contrary conclusions. In the first place, I was very surprised at the attitude adopted by the hon. and gallant Member, as by other hon. Members on that side of the House, towards corporal punishment. He detailed to the House a case of violence, but, unless there was robbery, corporal punishment, as the law stands at present, could not be inflicted in such a case. My own view on the matter is that if a man in the course of committing some act of violence which might make him liable to corporal punishment suddenly thinks of that, it may make him even more brutal than he otherwise would be, on what I believe is an old-established principle among criminals that it is better to be hanged for a sheep than for a lamb. I am by no means certain that in the case of people of brutal and depraved minds the extension of the power to inflict corporal punishment would lead to any diminution of crimes with violence, or to less violent crimes.
An allusion was made by the hon. and gallant Member to what he called the appalling increase in juvenile delinquency, but I am not at all sure that the adjective was deserved. I have had to give a considerable amount of attention to this question in more capacities than one, and I know that many children are now brought before juvenile courts who, till the passing of the Children and Young Persons Act, would never have been brought before a court. One of the great advantages of that Act is that you can now bring a young person in front of the court if he is deemed to be, or if you desire to have him deemed to be, a young person in need of care or protection. Sometimes he needs the care and protection himself, and sometimes it is the environment which is at fault and causes him to go astray. That class of case is the very best of the remedial cases.
362 Again, the hon. and gallant Member was taking the easy line when he suggested that the cinema was responsible for so much juvenile delinquency. I recollect that 50 years ago, when I was a boy, the cause of all juvenile delinquency was the penny blood. It generally cost 2d., but it was called "the penny blood." The magistrates of those days used to inveigh against the penny blood as a desperate work of imaginative adventure. I was punished at the secondary school for reading "Treasure Island" on the ground that it was "a blood." In my opinion it is the bloodiest blood of all. Now, when I go to a secondary school prize distribution, I give "Treasure Island" as a prize, and I sometimes warn a boy who gets it that it is a book that needs to be read with discretion and its examples followed with great care. The cinema, if one is to judge by the careful inquiries made into its effect upon the child mind, is not a great incentive to delinquency.
I am surprised in the inquiries that are made by teachers and others into the forms of cinema entertainment that are most liked by the children, at the very low position which is given to any film in which violence or crime is portrayed. I believe that English boys and girls have sufficient common sense not to be led astray by that sort of thing, and I imagine that the number of juvenile crimes that could be directly traced to the cinema would be very limited indeed. It may be that on occasion money-boxes are pilfered in order to get into the cinema, but I do not think that that is the result of anything that the cinema has taught the child.
Then we had the usual lamentation over parental control. My experience is that each generation believes that its parents were more severe with their children than those of the present generation are. I well recall many pieces of paternal advice beginning with the words, "When I was a boy." Unfortunately, I have never been able to pass on the advice, but occasionally, when I am in the bosom of other people's families, I hear fathers who were boys with me saying to their boys, "When I was a boy I would never have dared to say that to my father"; and when I think of what I had heard them say to their fathers, I wonder where truth resides. I have come to the conclusion 363 that it is not in the parental bosom of a father when he is addressing a recalcitrant son.
I do not want anything I have said to make it appear that I belittle the problem of juvenile delinquency. If we could stop juvenile delinquency, we should cut off the supply of adult criminals, and, therefore, the study of the problem of the juvenile delinquent is the most important part of this problem if we have any long-range view of it. Therefore, I welcome the majority of the provisions in this Bill so far as they deal with juveniles and young persons, but I want to take a line rather different from those of other Members who have addressed the House on the subject. Machinery of the kind that is in this Bill is of no use without the appropriate human personalities to work it. The problem of dealing with the juvenile delinquent is very largely a problem of personality, once you get away from severe repression. As far as I know, no one proposes to go back to severe repression. We are not going back to the times before the work of Romilly. I think a few kind words might have been said about that name when the Home Secretary made his opening speech. Romilly himself said that he was moved to his great activities for the reform of the penal system by seeing children of tender years hanged for crimes for which nowadays we should certainly not think of inflicting any serious punishment. We have moved right away from that, and, while I am still sufficient of a Calvinist to believe that there is a good deal in the doctrine of original sin, and that something more than psychology is required in the analysis of some of these problems, I recognise that the great movement of reform a which this Bill is a part is a movement towards enlightenment which everyone who desires to see the establishment of government by consent ought to welcome.
I have asked myself, as an ex-schoolmaster, how I should like to be in charge of one of these compulsory attendance centres, and what power there would be at the back of me when a boy who was deprived of his visit to the football match had to come to me on the Saturday afternoon to receive some instruction or do some work. After all, one could hardly say to him, "We have deprived you of going to see Chelsea, and now you can kick a ball about with the other boys in 364 the centre." That is a very serious problem, because it is one thing to say that we will have a compulsory attendance centre in the hope that it is going to do something to reform, and another thing to get it to work so that it does in fact reform. The selection of staff for these organisations will be one of the major problems that the right hon. Gentleman will have to solve if this scheme is to be worth while.
The same is true of any extension of the approved school system. I have visited approved schools, and I was horrified, on going to one which had been started somewhat hurriedly and the staff of which had not been properly collected, either in numbers or in quality, to find that a good deal of the work there was being done on the principle of a fatigue party in the Army. There appeared to be about twice as many boys to do any job as were really needed, and about three times as much time allowed as was required. I ma de some very severe comments on that to the management, because I am sure that any such misfortune as that does far more harm than good to the boys who happen to be in such an institution. I am glad to say that, as a result of my criticisms and those that were made by others, that particular institution was very considerably improved. I hope that, before the right hon. Gentleman embarks on putting boys and young persons into these institutions, he will be quite sure that they are adequately staffed, and that the staffs have a thoroughly sound idea of what they are going to do with the opportunities afforded to them.
These compulsory attendance centres are going to represent a major problem in that respect. I know the complaints that were made from ordinary evening institutes run by the local education authorities when it was made a condition of getting unemployment benefit that children should attend those centres for so many hours a week—children who had no desire to go there. The consequence was that in many cases the institutes were reduced to chaos from a disciplinary point of view, and the children who went there voluntarily in order to get their instructions found their opportunities destroyed by the advent of these other pupils. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my emphasising the fact that it is not going to be easy to get adequate 365 discipline in these institutions and to arrange for a connected course of training. I lay some emphasis on the word "connected," because one of the things that most—if not all—of these juvenile delinquents require is something that represents steady and continuous application to a task that may in some ways be distasteful. If we are going to do the best for them, we have to give them the moral fibre that comes from steady application to a distasteful task over a continuous period.
I am inclined to share the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom to this extent, that, if you asked most boys whether they would sooner have a certain number of strokes with the cane or six months' attendance at one of these centres, or some other of the continuing penalties that are envisaged in this Bill, they would plump for the strokes of the cane every time, because they would say, "Well, after all, I took my punishment, and that is done with." One of the things they have to learn is that the effect of evil-doing cannot be wiped out quite as easily as that; and one of the things of which I am certain, from my experience as a magistrate—and I think here I shall find myself in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom—is that some of these juvenile delinquents have to be impressed with the fact that they have offended against a very majestic thing, the conscience of the country.
A good deal of the success or failure of probation depends on the way in which the announcement is made to the child, or young person, that he is to be placed on probation. I thought it a compliment the other day when the mother of a child whom I had placed on probation came to me and said that he wanted to know "if there was something he could have that would get rid of it more quickly for him." I felt I had impressed on him the fact that being put on probation was not being let off. We want to get rid of that idea, which is unfortunately prevalent, that being placed on probation is being let off. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will get the assistance not merely of the police service, but of the schools. The schoolmaster is likely to be with some of these boys for a year or two, and his assistance, added to that of the probation officer, can make the child realise the importance of the chance that probation is giving to him.
366 Another place that will need very careful staffing is the Howard Home. If these homes are going to contain young people who have gone wrong, to some extent, through associations, one has to be very careful how far the opportunity is used for one young person to teach another a trick in reciprocity for a trick that the second has taught to the first. I hope that there again the right hon. Gentleman will be very careful in the selection of his staff, and in not starting the institution until he is sure he has got the right person to run it. I hope I may be allowed here to put in a word for the probation officers. I believe they have done a great deal of good work, but I believe we do not pay enough to get the right type of person in many cases. It is essential that the probation officer should possess the right type of personality, and that he should be in a position to avoid some of the cares that I am quite sure the married probation officer, living in the neighbourhood of London, if he has no other income than the present salary, must often have to face when he is paying the kind of rent that is demanded there. The whole success of probation depends on the way the officer comes to his work: the frame of mind he is in when the boys come to see him, or when he goes to see their homes. The underpaid probation officer, who is in a constant state of personal anxiety, cannot do his work satisfactorily.
I was surprised at what the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham)—I have not mentioned him until now because I was hoping he would come in—said with regard to the new form of probation orders, because I hardly thought that a Conservative Home Secretary, even in. his most non-political mood, would introduce a Bill which would enable a probation order to be made and for there to be excluded from it the possibility of restitution in a case of theft or misappropriation. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's distant relationship to Elizabeth Fry would enable him so far to desert Conservative principles as all that. As I read Clause 20 (2), I understand that the existing powers with regard to making restitution one of the conditions of probation is retained in the hands of the magistracy, and that, as far as I can gather from a cursory reading of the Measure, there does not appear to be any great difference about the terms that magistrates 367 may impose from those that now exist. It will still be a matter for the discretion of the magistrates how far they can bring in that particular point.
There is one other matter I would like to mention. I do not myself feel—and here I speak for myself only, although I have found in talking to colleagues on this side of the House who sit on benches of magistrates that they share my views—that magistrates in courts of summary jurisdiction ought to be given the power to send young persons to Borstal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I notice that several of my hon. Friends who serve on benches of magistrates share that view. I imagine that we proceed on the basis of the judges who were drawing up the Address of Congratulation to Queen Victoria on her Diamond Jubilee. The House will recollect that it was suggested that they should start off by saying, "Conscious as we are of our deficiencies,'' and that the junior judge inquired whether it would not be better to say, "Conscious as we are of one another's deficiencies." It may not be that we feel individually we should be debarred from the privilege, but when we think of certain people with whom we are on occasion associated we have our doubts about them. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom might even have his doubts about me.
§ Sir A. Southby
I assure the hon. Member that I have many doubts about him, but that is not one of them.
§ Mr. Ede
Here, again, I am not at all sure that it is not necessary to impress the delinquent with the seriousness of the position into which he is getting. This is not the case of the first offender. The remand to quarter sessions and the more formal atmosphere of quarter sessions, if properly used, can be made part of the reformative processes that you are applying to the youth in question. The more we expect the law to do—and those of us on this side of the House think it ought to do a great deal more in certain matters than do right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite—the more essential is it that we should bring home to the mind of the person who is breaking the law that he is offending not against some merely arbitrary set of rules, but against something which repre- 368 sents the social conscience of his day and generation.
One reason why I welcome the Measure is that I think it brings us nearer to an enlightened social conscience in the way that it deals with the offender. Unlike the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom, I do not intend to wait until I can carry everybody with me. In this particular matter we must be prepared to legislate a bit in advance of some of the people who have always been fearful. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), in a speech which delighted all of us, especially those of us who recollect his father's speeches in this House, dealt with the question of the Judges, and their attitude towards corporal punishment. It will not be the first time that the collective views of the Judges on matters of penal reform have been proved wrong by subsequent events. It may well be that too long an acquaintance with the seamy side of life has made it rather difficult for them to take a very hopeful view about human beings, and I am not at all impressed with the fact that the Judges of the King's Bench were unanimous in desiring to retain corporal punishment. I think it was Romilly who complained that the judges were always against him. I imagine that most of us would sooner stand at the bar of history with Romilly, than with the members of the legal profession who opposed the reforms that he desired to introduce.
We give a general welcome to the Bill. We know from the right hon. Gentleman's attitude towards it and towards cognate matters, the depth and sincerity of his feelings. Shakespeare says:The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman leaves office—and may it be soon—the reverse will be the epitaph written over him, that the foreign policy with which he has been associated may be buried with him, but that this Bill and the similar Measures to which he has given his name and his time may live long in the history of our country, as a monument to him and those who are associated with him.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
My right hon. Friend has every reason to be satisfied with the 369 course which this Debate has taken. Tributes have been paid to the main principles of the Bill from all quarters of the House, and although, of course, differences of opinion on minor matters have emerged, there can seldom have been a Bill of this importance which has received such general commendation. It is not a party Measure. In no sense is it a party Measure, and the differences, such as they are, which have arisen, are not party differences. It is a Bill which, as has been pointed out by more than one speaker, is based on the experiences of many who have devoted their lives to this difficult question, and whose conclusions have been embodied in the finding of the committees which have sat on different parts of the Bill. The Bill embodies the results of certain committees and also the general principles which my right hon. Friend commended to the House.
There is one part of the Bill, perhaps in some ways the most important part, which has gained general commendation, and that is the innovation for dealing with young offenders. I was very glad that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) deprecated any exaggeration of the increase in juvenile crime. Nobody minimises it, but do not let us exaggerate it. There are causes, some of which the hon. Member referred to, why there come before the courts to-day a larger number of cases which are quite independent of any suggested increase of delinquency among the young. Certain general causes have been mentioned and dealt with. The hon. Member referred to the cinema. In every age something is singled out and suggested as an excuse for such juvenile delinquency as exists. There was a Debate in this House 115 years ago on dog fights, and an hon. Member said:As to the tendency of such sports, he could state the case of a boy who from attending dog fights and mixing with the society there had become perverted in character and lost to every useful purpose of society.When the cinema is referred to I recall a speech made by the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) when we were discussing the opening of cinemas on Sundays. The right hon. Gentleman said that if some of us were taken by him to see the entertainments—if that is the right word—which were available some 30 years ago, we would not talk so much about the demoralising effect of the cinema on the young. In dealing 370 with that part of the Bill, which has undoubtedly received general commendation, I would like to assure the hon. Member for South Shields that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has fully in mind the vital importance of getting the right personnel for running these institutions. He realises the difficulties of discipline and of the curriculum, and it was only after a full consideration of these difficulties that he decided to put the proposal before the House. But let me say to the hon. Member whose observations I know were not made in any critical sense, that the problem which these institutions are designed to meet is the problem of interposing something between probation and Borstal. If you do away as I think every one desires, with imprisonment for these young offenders, there is a class of case which obviously does fall in between probation and a long term of Borstal training, and it is with a view of filling that gap that these proposals are put forward. My right hon. Friend fully realises the difficulties and also that it might be wise not to go quickly in establishing these institutions unless they are adequately and properly manned with the right men, and gain experience as one goes along as to the best type of curriculum for making these institutions work.
Before I come to one or two specific points which have been raised, perhaps the most controversial points, may I say a word on the general aspect of the Bill? It follows, as many hon. Members have said, in a great tradition. Just before the passage which I read just now, and on which I came by chance, there was a Debate in this House in 1823 on a Motion moved by Sir James Mackintosh, based on a proposal of Sir Samuel Romilly, for abolishing the capital sentence in a variety of offences. Those offences included such matters as impersonating Chelsea Pensioners, the unlawful maiming of cattle, forgery, larceny, and so on. That Motion was dealt with by a sympathetic speech by Sir Robert Peel. No doubt the problems which confronted people 115 years ago were in some respects not so easy as the problems confronting us to-day. When one considers the developments in these matters it is interesting to note that Sir Robert Peel, making a sympathetic speech, said he thought it was quite impossible to contemplate 371 abolishing the capital penalty for larceny in a dwelling-house. We have moved a long way since then and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley, when he referred to the relationship of the conditions of life for the masses of the people to our penal law and punishments, was saying something which I can assure him all of us realise. But it is largely because all parties in the State have contributed during the years since 1823 to an immeasurable amelioration of conditions generally—not so much as anyone would want, but if you compare the conditions to-day and 100 years ago no one can dispute the improvement—it is largely because of that improvement that we are able to take so much more enlightened a view towards punishment and the penal law than was possible to our ancestors.
Now may I deal with one or two special points which have been raised? First, I would deal with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) as to whether the change made by the Bill in saying that conviction must precede probation was a good change or not. That change, as I think the right hon. Gentleman stated, was recommended strongly by the report of the Departmental Committee on the Social Services. They pointed out that under the law as it is prior to this Bill the court has to think that the charge is proved, that they are satisfied it is proved, before imposing a probation order. They quoted the words from a learned judge in the case of Oaten v. Auty (2 K.B. 278, 1919). Mr. Justice Darling, afterwards Lord Darling, said this:The words of section 1 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907. are unscientific, thoroughly illogical, and are merely a concession to the modern passion for calling things what they are not, for finding people guilty and at the same time trying to declare them not guilty.I do not want to be dogmatic about this, but probation orders are to be imposed only in cases where the court is satisfied that the offence has been committed. What the hon. Member for South Shields said just now as to the importance of bringing home to the offender that he has offended against the law of the land may be relied upon as supporting the view of the majority of this Committee. It is a point which we can no doubt dis- 372 cuss on later stages of the Bill, but after greater consideration members of that committee came to the conclusion that it was not only the logical but the right principle. Other provisions, the terms of which can also be considered at a later stage, are that if the conditions of the order are complied with, certain consequences shall not flow from it. The question was raised by some hon. Members of whether restitution could be provided for under a probation order. That point has been dealt with by the hon. Member for South Shields who referred to Clause 20 (2) which makes that possible.
The next point to which a number of speeches referred was the question of whether it was right that magistrates should have the power to impose sentences of Borstal training. That, clearly, is a point on which there are differences of opinion among hon. and right hon. Gentlemen and that, again, we shall have an opportunity of discussing later. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh and one or two other speakers from that side of the House, have their doubts about this power and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers) also referred to it. Let me try to state in the most uncontroversial terms the considerations which I think have to be borne in mind in arriving at a decision upon this question. It is, I think, an advantage if the court which deals primarily with the offence is able to dispose of it. That is the normal result when cases come before the courts and the present position is to some extent an anomaly, in that, under it. magistrates have the option of not imposing sentence but of referring the sentence to the quarter sessions. That involves delay and in present circumstances may involve a remand in custody, and possibly imprisonment.
I do not think, therefore, that any hon. Member would dispute the fact that there are advantages if the court which has dealt with the matter and heard all the evidence, can, when the ordeal has been gone through, dispose of the case without a second ceremony before a court. Let us assume that that Clause in the Bill remains and that that is done. Of course there is a right of appeal to quarter sessions against a Borstal sentence. I think this also is worth mentioning—that in cases where quarter sessions themselves 373 impose Borstal sentences to-day, as part of their original jurisdiction, there is a right of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, though there are very few cases in which Borstal sentences have been interfered with by the Court of Criminal Appeal. So you have, at any rate, this safeguard if there is any apprehension of abuse by magistrates—perhaps "abuse" is the wrong word, and I will say of the imposition of sentences in cases where they are not appropriate, you have the right of appeal to quarter sessions. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is expensive."] It will be remembered that in the Act which was passed in 1933 special provision was made for legal aid in these cases. I do not say that these things are conclusive but they have to be borne in mind. We should remember that this is not a final determination by a bench of magistrates, but that there is the right of appeal.
There is also this consideration. The power of release from a Borstal sentence is dealt with by Clause 53. It is, of course, very much easier for obvious reasons well known to everyone to get release from Borstal sentences, than to get release from sentences of imprisonment. The existing provision which is, I think, reproduced in a slightly altered form, in Clause 53 gives the Prison Commissioners power to release on licence persons sentenced to Borstal training after not less than six months of the sentence has expired. Then the proviso says:That the Prison Commissioners shall … act under the general directions of the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State may require them to release on licence forthwith any such person as aforesaid at any time after the commencement of his sentence.So that, quite apart from the general powers, there are the fullest powers to release from a Borstal sentence should there be reason to think it has been imposed in a case where it is not the appropriate sentence. Those seem to me to be considerations which should be borne in mind on the later stages of this Bill when this matter will be considered, not in any controversial spirit, but in an endeavour to see what really is the best machinery. On the one hand the Bill enables the court which deals with the offence to impose this sentence. If you abolish that, then the sentence has to be left over to a later stage. There may be a tendency for a court to feel anxious to impose a sentence 374 which it can impose itself. I do not say that with any suggestion of impropriety, but there is a certain feeling, "Oh, we think we can deal with this matter," and it may be that that is to some extent a disadvantage which would be removed if the magistrates were not given this power.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
I put the point as to why the qualifying words have been put into such a very wide form, in regard to criminal intention.
§ The Attorney-General
Yes, I did make a note of that, but I will not answer the hon. Member now. It can be considered later, and it is a point which requires consideration. Now may I come to the question which has been referred to as the most controversial question which has arisen in the course of this Debate, namely, the question of the abolition of corporal punishment? No doubt in the old days corporal punishment, and indeed in some systems maiming and mutilation, were incidents of the penal code—"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," cutting off a hand for theft, stoning for adultery, and so on, and it is worth reminding ourselves that women were made subject to whipping in this country until 1820, and that whippings indeed could be and were usually in public. But the movement against corporal punishment is a movement which started a very long time ago. Some people, whether they think it a good movement or not, may suggest that this is a product of a modern, humanitarian, and, it may be thought by some, sentimental age, but it is worth reminding ourselves—and this will be found at the beginning of the report of the Committee—that in 1843 the Commissioners on the Criminal Law submitted their seventh report, and they said this with regard to corporal punishment:It is a punishment which is uncertain in point of severity, which inflicts an ignominious and indelible disgrace on the offender, and tends, we believe, to render him callous, and greatly to obstruct his return to any honest course of life.It is rather striking that that was the opinion of the Commissioners 95 years ago, when dealing with the question of punishment and the retention of this particular instrument of punishment in our penal system. In 1861 corporal punishment was in effect abolished except for vagrancy and three other Acts which deal with cases that were extremely unlikely often to arise, the Treason Act, which was 375 passed as the result of certain attempts on the life of Queen Victoria, the Diplomatic Privileges Act, and another which dealt with the slaughtering of horses and cattle. So far as the main criminal offences which were likely to come before the courts were concerned, corporal punishment was abolished in 1861 and it only came back for robbery with violence by the Act of 1863, which was introduced by a Private Member—none the worse necessarily for that—and passed against the advice of the Home Secretary, who described it as panic legislation after the panic had passed. The movement behind it was started by garrotting crimes in 1861 and. 1862, which in fact had ceased by the time the Bill was passed.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), whom I should also like to congratulate on a speech which in its persuasiveness and in its reasoning commended itself to all quarters of the House, described the proposal as revolutionary, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) described it as new, I am not prepared to admit that they are accurate, because the House took the decision in the years from 1843 to 1861 to remove corporal punishment from our law and it was only really by a sort of accident that it came back under the Garrotting Act in 1863, and many years later in respect of living on immoral earnings and the white slave traffic in 1912.
It is very easy to say that statistics can prove anything and that you do not pay much attention to statistical arguments, but it is difficult to know what arguments you are going to pay attention to if not to statistical arguments. I cannot help thinking that those who have spoken in favour of corporal punishment would have taken great pains to put statistics before the House if, in fact, the putting of corporal punishment on the Statute Book had reduced robbery with violence from, say, 100 to 15 cases in a year. One can only do one's best to judge by what has happened. When I heard that my right hon. Friend had appointed this Committee—I had not a knowledge of the statistics and had no idea what conclusions they would come to after full examination of the matter—I am bound to say I hoped that they would feel justified in recommending its abolition, but I did not realise until I read the report how strong 376 the case was for its abolition or, put the other way, how weak is the case for suggesting that this has been an effective deterrent in preventing this detestable crime.
I agree that you cannot say what would have been the result in England if this instrument had not been on the Statute Book, but you can compare what has happened in England with what has happened in Scotland where, as far as robbery with violence is concerned, there is no power to inflict corporal punishment. Reference was made by one speaker to a comparison between the pre-war and the post-war periods, and he made the natural suggestion, and one worthy of consideration, that the reduction in the post-war figures might be due to the fact that sentences of corporal punishment had been inflicted more frequently since the War than before. When we look at page 90 of the report of the Departmental Committee, we see set out side by side the figures for England and Wales and those for Scotland. In England and Wales this penalty has been used and in Scotland it has not. In the pre-war years the figures for both England and Scotland are round about 200 or 300. After the War in England the figures dropped to 99,67 and 96 in the three quin-quennial periods, but in Scotland they dropped to 37, 14 and 14. The decrease in Scotland has, on the whole, been substantially greater than the drop in England. No one can shut his eyes to that evidence.
The exception to the use of corporal punishment in prisons justifies itself for the reasons given by the Committee. Prison is, of course, a deterrent to those who are out of prison, and in some speeches made about this Bill I think there has been a tendency to minimise the effect of the deterrent of the loss of liberty of those who go to prison. It remains a most formidable deterrent, as all of us could realise if, instead of going home to-night, we were to be taken to Wormwood Scrubs. When a man is in prison for a long period it may be that that sanction having gone, corporal punishment is needed in order to protect those men who are carrying out the responsible and difficult duty of warders, and it is necessary to have this possible sanction to be used on rare occasions with the greatest possible care. I believe that society is entitled to protect itself by the infliction of punishment as a deterrent, 377 but, of course, society being as it is to-day, that is not the sole consideration. The retributive element, however, is one that we should as far as possible banish from our minds, but having agreed that a deterrent effect is necessary having regard to the state of society and the existence of crime, we cannot of course disclaim responsibility for the individual. Indeed, our main purpose should be to see that the punishment which descends on the individual should be directed as far as possible to reformation and to enable him to take his part again in society as a law-abiding, self-respecting member. If I may read one sentence from the Prison Report of 1936, quoting a sentence from the Commissioners' Annual Report for 1922–23, it is this:It is not to make prisons pleasant but to construct a system of training so as to fit a prisoner to re-enter the world as a citizen.That is the main purpose behind the provisions of this Bill and it is in that spirit that my right hon. Friend commends it to the House.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Cuptain Margesson.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.