HC Deb 05 February 1941 vol 368 cc943-4
60. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of considerable diversity in fines, ranging from £2 to £7 10s., imposed by different magistrates both in the same area, and in diverse areas, for black-out first offences frequently of a relatively minor character; and whether, in view of the hardship thus imposed on poor people, he will encourage a greater measure of uniformity in penalties and of the practice of warning a first offender in lieu of prosecution?

Mr. Peake

As was pointed out in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) on 22nd August last, it cannot be assumed, without full knowledge of the facts, that cases which are apparently similar are in fact comparable. It is the duty of the court to decide, having regard to the circumstances of each individual case—which may differ widely—what penalty is adequate for the purpose of deterring both the offender before the court and other people from committing offences of this type. The amount of the penalty will also depend on the means of the offender, which, so far as it is known, the court is bound to take into consideration. Having regard to the danger arising from black-out offences, my right hon. Friend regrets that he cannot accept the view that a first offence should necessarily be met by a warning without regard to the circumstances.

Mr. Sorensen

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that there are wide diversities of penalties for apparently the same offence? Could not he recommend to justices that they should take that factor seriously into consideration?

Mr. Peake

Black-out offences vary in magnitude and in duration, and the court must take all these factors into consideration.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Is it not a fact that whatever fine is imposed, it bears no relation to the loss of life or damage that may be done by enemy air action?