HC Deb 15 March 1939 vol 345 cc414-5
86. Mr. Pilkington

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of two cases recently, whereby an old age pensioner first offender was fined £20 for stealing eight eggs, and a former fly-weight champion was fined £20 for assaulting his wife, sister-in-law, and three police constables, he will take steps to remove the anomalies which exist under laws which permit two equal fines to be imposed for two un equal offences?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

Inquiries have been made about the first case, and it appears that a man who was in the habit of attending a market to sell eggs was convicted of taking eggs from cases belonging to other stallholders and putting them with his own. His circum stances were such that he paid the fine of £20 promptly by cheque. There seems to be no reason for questioning the action of the justices in imposing this fine, and my right hon. Friend does not think that because a fine of similar amount was imposed by another court for an offence of a totally different character, the inference can properly be drawn that one of the two penalties must necesarily be wrong.

Mr. Pilkington

Is my hon. Friend aware that since putting down this question I have received numerous letters giving instances of cases even more peculiar and all testifying to the inequalities of the present system; and could he not get some system of general fairness for the whole of the country?

Mr. Lloyd

I would point out to my right hon. Friend that it is for the court to take into account not only the nature of the offence, but also the character of the offender and of his means. That is the reason why they are fined apparently differently.

Mr. Logan

Will the hon. Gentleman see that magistrates inflict the maximum penalty with regard to mothers-in-law?

Mr. Thurtle

Does the Home Office take up the position that the possession of a bank account is evidence of wealth?

Viscountess Astor

Does not the Home Office think that a man ought to be fined more than £20 for beating his wife?