HC Deb 23 November 1943 vol 393 cc1424-5
25. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take about the statement made by the chief constable of Renfrewshire at a youth conference to the effect that he would use a green birch on offenders and cut them with it; and will he consider the setting up of an official committee to review the matter with a view to the abolition of birching as a sentence by juvenile courts?

Mr. Johnston

Under the existing Statutes the approval of suitable instruments for punishment is the responsibility of the sheriff, and not of the police, and the opinions publicly expressed by the Chief Constable of Renfrewshire recently are, therefore, open to misunderstanding as to his powers and responsibility. I have so informed him. The whole question of the use of corporal punishment as a court penalty was examined and reported upon adversely by the Departmental Committee in 1938. As the House is aware, the Government in 1939 introduced a Criminal Justice Bill which included provision for implementing the Committee's recommendations; but considerable controversy ensued and, as the war intervened, the Measure was dropped.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is wholly un-British to address a youth conference in this manner, and, further, is he aware that one can only lead boys and not force them?

Miss Rathbone

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether this chief constable, in expressing this sadistic spirit, did not show himself to be unfit for his office?

26. Mrs. Hardie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many sentences of birching were passed on young people in Scotland during the last year; and in what districts these birchings took place?

Mr. Johnston

As the reply consists of a table of figures, I propose, with my hon. Friend's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mrs. Hardie

Will my right hon. Friend use his influence to prevent this form of punishment being administered, as it injures not only the child but the mind of the man who administers it?

Mr. Johnston

As my hon. Friend is aware, these matters are entirely in the purview of the sheriffs. The Statutes give them discretion in the matter, and with that I have no power whatever to interfere.

Following is the table referred to:

The number of persons under the age of 16 ordered by the courts in Scotland to be birched in 1942; the number of cases in which the court's order was carried out; and the areas concerned are shown in the following table:

County or Large Burgh. No. of Orders made. No. of Orders carried out.
Aberdeen City 1 1
Angus 15 15
Banff 3 3
Dumbarton 3 3
Dundee 1 1
East Lothian 3 3
Edinburgh 21 21
Fife 3 3
Glasgow 111 110
Hamilton 2 2
Inverness 4 4
Invernessshire 5 4
Moray and Nairn 7 6
Stirling 2 2
West Lothian 2 1
183 179

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