§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
May I raise a point of Order with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before my right hon. Friend moves the Motion for the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill? You will have noticed on the Order Paper a proposed Instruction to the Committee—assuming this Motion is passed—in order to permit the Amendment of the Bill with regard to the death penalty. You will also have noticed, no doubt, that the long Title of the Bill does not contain any reference to the death penalty, and that, therefore, it was necessary to make the position clear so that the Committee will feel free when the time comes. May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you have any Ruling to give with regard to that Instruction?
§ [That it be an Instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be committed that they have power to make provision in the Bill whereby the power of any court to pass sentence of death shall be suspended for the period of five years and for the continuation of such suspension beyond the said period of five years in suck manner as Parliament may direct.]
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
In my view and in reply to the hon. Member, both Motions on the Order Paper are properly within the scope of the Bill and therefore the Instructions are unnecessary.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
On a point of Order. With regard to the two degrees in murder, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you said that, in your opinion, both Motions on the Order Paper were in Order. Does that Ruling apply to the Motion standing in my name?
§ [That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be committed that they have power to make provision in the Bill for dividing the crime of murder into two degrees, namely, murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree, and for consequential differentiation in the penalties which may be imposed for each degree.]2129
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Since the separation of the offices of Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary in the year 1782, there has been a steady, shedding off of duties from the Home Office to the more modern Departments of State which have since been formed. But the problems which are dealt with in this Bill remain among the most important of the many somewhat miscellaneous items that still lie within the range of responsibility of the Home Secretary. Change in this matter has been slow, and I think it is now generally conceded that the time for comprehensive legislation is overdue.
In fact, there was a Bill before this House in 1938, which passed through the Committee upstairs and reached quite an advanced stage when international affairs so occupied the time of this House that it was impossible to carry the Measure to the Statute Book. I had the honour of serving on the Committee upstairs with certain other right hon. and hon. Members still in this House, and I think we can say that, in the main, the discussions were conducted in a non-controversial and non-party atmosphere, and with a sincere desire to achieve a reform in this branch of the law that should be lasting, and should also bring practice into line with the conscience of the general mass of the people of this country.
This Bill, which I have the honour to introduce today, follows very largely on the lines of the Measure to which I have just alluded, but there are some things which were in that Bill which have been omitted, and some new proposals which have been introduced in the present Bill. Both these arrangements have been made in the light of the experience which we have gained during the nine years since the other Bill was introduced. There were two major controversies on the last Bill—the abolition of flogging and the abolition of capital punishment. I gather that we are likely to hear something about each of those subjects in the course of our deliberations on this Measure. In fact, I shall be saying something about them in the course of my remarks this afternoon. I would like to thank the Advisory Council on the treatment of offenders, which was 2130 appointed by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council when he held this office, for the very great assistance they have been in the framing of this Bill and in making the alterations which we have introduced in this Bill compared with the 1938 Bill.
During the last 30 years or so very great reforms in administration have been carried out, and I very much regret that one of the men who undoubtedly has given the lead, not merely to this country, but to many other countries, in the subject of penal reform should have passed away just before this Bill comes before the House. Sir Alexander Paterson was an inspiration to anybody who had to deal with this very difficult and trying subject. Anyone who has had any experience, whether as a magistrate or a prison visitor, or has been in any other way concerned with the administration of justice, knows the way in which from time to time one seems so overwhelmed by disappointments as not to be able to keep alive the spirit of hope with which one embarked on this work. Although he shared disappointments with the rest of us, Sir Alexander Paterson remained to the end convinced that it was our duty, which in the majority of cases we could fulfil, to send prisoners out into the world better men than they were when they came into prison. The development and success of the Borstal system as a means of remedial treatment of offenders is due in large measure to his energy, persistence and wise vision. He left the service only a few months ago, before the time when he might have left it, undoubtedly worn out by the way in which he had spent himself in this great work of reclamation; and I am quite sure that all who have ever been brought in contact with his work would like to join with me in paying a tribute to the great effect which his life has had on the prison service of this and other countries.
In dealing with a Bill of this magnitude a Minister is confronted with a great preliminary difficulty. If he deals at too great length with the general principles underlying the Measure, he cannot explain the Clauses without making an inordinate claim on the time of the House. If he devotes the whole of his time to explaining the Clauses—and any speech made from this Box today could be fully occupied in that respect—he will then be told that 2131 he has not dealt sufficiently with the general principles on which he has been working. I ask the House, therefore, to realise that I shall have to compromise between those two methods, and I hope that I shall not deal unjustly with either. The first question we have to ask ourselves, and which has been asked by people outside the House; is whether the present time is really opportune for introducing a Measure of this kind.
I have recently published the statistics relating to crime and criminal proceedings for the years 1939–45, and they enable a comparison to be made between the situation in 1938 and 1945. They reveal, in almost every form of serious crime, an increase both in the number of offences and in the number of persons convicted—an increase which is not limited to any age-group or sex. For instance, in 1938 78,000 persons were found guilty of indictable offences. In 1945 that number had risen to 115,000, and the prison population today is higher than at any time since 1912. If I take a date in this month and compare it with a date in 1938, I find that in 1938 there were 11,086 persons in prison and Borstal, and that in 1947 that number had risen to 18,426.
One is bound to ask for some reasons for this increase in the prison population. The first question one asks is whether the courts have tended to make more use of imprisonment and less of alternative methods of treating offenders. In attempting to get an answer to that question, I find that of the adults found guilty of indictable offences in magistrates' courts, 26 per cent. were sentenced to imprisonment in 1938 and 23 per cent. in 1945. Of adolescents—for this purpose I confine that somewhat loose term to those between 17 and 21 years of age—7 per cent. of those found guilty in 1938 were sentenced to imprisonment, but 13 per cent. in 1945. That is as far as courts of summary jurisdiction are concerned. With regard to adults sentenced at courts of assize or quarter sessions in 1938, the statistics show that 66 per cent. were sent to imprisonment or penal servitude, and the number is 68 per cent. in 1945—a slight rise, but nothing like sufficient to account for the additional numbers.
Of adolescents—the 17 to 21 group—7 per cent. were sentenced by assizes or 2132 quarter sessions to imprisonment in 1938 and 17 per cent.—almost 250 per cent. of the original number—were sentenced in 1945. Undoubtedly, the most difficult and distressing problem which confronts us is the problem not merely of the juvenile but of the adolescent criminal, and in any consideration we give to this matter we must have those persons very clearly in mind, for if we can reform them we can prevent an increase in the number of the habitual criminals. If we fail with them, we fail in dealing with the habitual criminal. They are, as it were, the last hope of preventing the growth of the habitual criminal population.
A second question arises; namely, whether the sentences imposed by the courts have tended to be longer. The statistics do not provide a very reliable basis for a satisfactory answer, but I think some indication can be obtained from the alteration in the proportion of more serious and less serious crime brought to the notice of the courts. The total number of men sentenced to imprisonment, penal servitude and Borstal was 28,815 in 1938, and 28,887—only 72 more—in 1945. But the most remarkable change to be found when one attempts to break these figures down is this. Among the 28,815 receptions in 1938, 14,109, or approximately half—slightly under 49 per cent. of the total—were convicted of indictable offences; but of the 28,887 receptions in 1945, 21,460, or 74 per cent. of the total—almost exactly three-quarters—were sentenced for indictable offences.
I suggest to the House that that does give us some indication of the trend of crime, making allowance for the times in which we live, which must be the basis of any consideration that we give to this problem. I would point out that the numbers are slightly inflated by the numbers of people sentenced to imprisonment or penal servitude by courts martial. There were only 112 in 1938 but 2,229 in 1945. Some of the minor offences which used to give us a substantial number of entrants to prison have dwindled very considerably in the period. In 1938, 5,078 persons were sentenced to imprison-for short periods for drunkenness. The number in 1945 was 985.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not dealing with the Scottish situation. My remarks are confined to England and Wales. I am told by experts in the matter that it is not so much the shortage as the lowering of quality which is responsible for the change. In 1938, 1,004 were imprisoned for offences against the Poor Law. That number dwindled to 222 in 1945. For the crime of begging and sleeping out, 1,300 were imprisoned in 1938; only 479 in 1945. One gratifying figure, in view of what I shall have to say later about crimes of violence is, that non-indictable assaults resulted in 1,691 imprisonments in 1938 and only 913 in 1945. Those are the statistics—which I have tried to give as briefly and clearly as I can—which indicate the trends over the recent years. One must hope that, as the war and all its disturbing influences on the mind of our population recede into the past, we shall get back to something more approaching the normal figures of 1938. While there may be many ways in which we shall never get back to the prewar spirit and circumstances, I hope that that may be one of the ways in which we may be able to do so.
It is not, as has been said by some of the critics of this Measure, the purpose of the Bill to weaken the effectiveness of the law. I believe that the effectiveness of the law depends upon two things. First, it must represent a reasonably high average of the population's views with regard to what would be appropriate penalties. There were times, 100 years or a little more ago, when juries declined to convict, on perfectly clear evidence, because they believed that the penalty would be far too severe if a conviction were recorded. We must be quite certain that honest men serving on juries are never confronted with that kind of difficulty. On the other hand, however—and it is equally important—the law-abiding citizen must feel that the law is effective in protecting him and his relatives and friends from violence, assault, and any other infraction of his liberty as a subject, which might be imperilled if he thought the law was becoming, as we generally say, "too soft." Those are two tendencies, not exactly parallel, both of which we must have in mind in any reform of the criminal law of the country.
The proposals in this Bill are not brought forward as a result of any sentimental regard for convicted persons, nor 2134 by any equally sentimental assumption, disproved, I believe, by the history of the last 150 years, that rigorous punishment is all that is necessary to safeguard society against criminal activities. We have to keep a balance, and sentiment on either side is of very little help to us in creating and preserving that balance. What this Bill does is to rationalise and make more flexible methods already available for dealing with convicted offenders; and we add some new methods. The courts and authorities responsible for the administration of institutions may be able to assign to new offenders treatments best calculated to deter and to reform. The Bill will not limit the power of the courts within the maximum penalties laid down for various types of offenders, to deal severely with an offender where severity is required; but it will extend the range of treatments available to the courts in dealing with offenders, and it will ease the task of those administering and managing prisons, by getting rid of obsolete legal distinctions which hamper at the present time the most skilled use of the means of training reformation available in the existing system.
Anyone who has sat on the bench, or is concerned in any way with the administration of justice, has long since realised the infinite variety in character, record, circumstances, and offences of those who are found guilty on a criminal charge. One of the things we must endeavour to make easy for people on benches is the ability to fit each particular offender into the appropriate scheme of things. Anyone who has served, as I have for a quarter of a century, on a magistrate's bench knows the temptation to adopt a tariff for offences—to think that all offences of a certain type really fall to be dealt with on certain cut and dried rules. One has continually to remind oneself that every case that comes in front of one is a separate problem; that even when one has two or three persons convicted on the same charge they are still two or three separate cases. While it is sometimes very difficult to explain to oneself, and still more difficult to explain to other people, the reason for differentiating on such occasions, the magistrate or judge can properly discharge the oath which he has taken only if he still regards each one of those persons as the subject of a quite separate case before his mind and conscience.
2135 There is no ready-made generalised solution. We endeavour, and I hope that this Bill will enable us to carry that endeavour further, to make the punishment fit the criminal, and that has been the general direction of penal reform for more than a generation. The basis of the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1908, which introduced Borstal training and the principle of preventive detention for habitual criminals, and many provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, with which the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was so honourably associated, was the principle I have just endeavoured to enunciate.
The proposals contained in this Measure fall under four heads. First, there are the provisions relating to young offenders, and these must always be of the greatest importance. One is continually oppressed by the large number of charges which are brought against children under 14 years of age, while they are still at school. I believe that one of the causes for the increase in the number of charges is the fact that a more humane law has led more people to bring charges than was the case when the law with regard to children was more oppressive. When every allowance has been made for that, the number of children who come before the courts is still a matter of very great concern to every good citizen. Secondly, there are the provisions relating to probation. Thirdly, there are the provisions relating to persistent offenders; and, fourthly, there are the provisions relating to changes in the penal system and to amendment of the criminal law, and the administrative provisions, both centrally and locally. I shall endeavour to deal with each of these groups separately, with reference to the Clauses where necessary.
The proposals relating to young offenders are, in the main, based on the recommendations of the Young Offenders Committee, which reported as long ago as 1927. Undoubtedly, most of these proposals would have been embodied in the Act of 1938. It is somewhat startling to find that there should still be recommendations made 20 years ago which have not received consideration by this House. That Report strongly emphasised the unwisdom of sending young persons to 2136 prison. There are two objections to this which seem almost contradictory at first sight. First, it is not necessarily a good thing to submit a young person to the experience of prison, as it may have a corrupting effect at an impressionable age. Secondly, it may also be very unwise to introduce a young person into the prison atmosphere, and at an early age reduce the deterrent effect of a prison sentence.
Both these considerations have to be borne in mind. It is quite impossible to say which will be the effect when the magistrate or judge has to deal with a young person. Where there is no alternative, and I regret to say that in the course of my experience at the Home Office I have occasionally come across rare cases where there appeared to be no alternative, the Bill allows for these exceptional circumstances. It is clearly undesirable that a young person should be sent to prison while on remand or awaiting trial. It is desirable, particularly in the case of a young person that he should be made to feel that no one in this country is deemed to be guilty until he has been proved so in a court of law.
The Bill provides that all under 17 years of age on remand or committal will, in future, be committed either to remand homes provided by local authorities, or to remand centres to be set up by the Home Office. Remand homes will provide accommodation only up to the age of 17, and those remanded or committed for trial between 17 and 21 will be sent to remand centres, which will also take those under 17 who are too unruly or too depraved to be detained in a local authority remand home. Everyone who has been connected with juvenile courts knows the problem of someone under 17 years of age who, unfortunately, has been so initiated into the wickedness of the world as to be quite unsuitable to be sent to a place where, while on remand or awaiting trial, he or she, and more particularly she in these cases, will be brought into contact with younger people not as far advanced in crime as the individual concerned. Facilities will be provided at remand centres for observation of these on whose mental or physical condition a report may be desired for the assistance of the courts. The Bill empowers local authorities to provide facilities for such observations at remand homes, but where these 2137 are not available, the young person under 17 may be sent for observation to a remand centre.
In future, by statute, the premises and persons in charge of remand homes will have to be approved by the Home Office; that is to say, the superintendent matron, or whatever name may be given to the person in charge, will have to be a person approved by the Home Office. The provision of remand centres will take some time. I hope that we shall not have to wait for new buildings in every case. Old buildings can, on occasions, be adapted suitably for this purpose, and where that can be done, I hope that the work will be undertaken. As and when the remand centres are established, the courts in the area will be notified, and from the date of notification they will be precluded from sending to prison persons under 21 under remand or committal for trial.
As regards the young persons convicted, the existing law provides that no one under 14 may be sentenced to imprisonment, and no one between 14 and 17, unless he is too unruly or too depraved, to be sentenced to detention in a remand home. The Bill proposes that the minimum age for imprisonment shall be raised from 14 to 15 in cases dealt with by courts of assize and quarter sessions. The offences which can be dealt with by a court of summary jurisdiction are less serious than those which come before assizes or quarter sessions. The maximum penalty a court of summary jurisdiction can inflict is imprisonment for six months. The Bill proposes that a court of summary jurisdiction shall be prohibited from imposing imprisonment on persons under 17 years of ago.
If the court come to the conclusion that the offence is so serious that they cannot deal with it by any other method, they will have to commit the young person for trial, either at assizes or quarter sessions. and, of course, those responsible for inflicting sentence there are not bound to inflict a sentence of imprisonment merely because the young person has been sent to assizes or quarter sessions. I recollect that the first time I sat at quarter sessions, I thought the chairman intended to inflict too heavy a penalty on a man with whom I had been at school, and when I protested, he said, "What is the good of his coming to quarter sessions if he does not 2138 get six months?" I hope that spirit is now absent from the minds of chairmen of quarter sessions. The Committee on Young Offenders was of the opinion that the imposition of imprisonment on young offenders of 21 was undesirable and should be avoided if any adequate alternative could be devised.
The existing alternatives, as the House will know, are binding over, fining, making probation orders with or without a condition of residence, committal to an approved school or a Borstal institution. The Bill provides another alternative, that offenders between 14 and 21 years of age may be sentenced to detention in a detention centre, ordinarily for three months or exceptionally for six months. It provides for the young offender for whom a fine or probation order would be inadequate, but who does not require the prolonged period of training which is given by an approved school or Borstal institution. There is a type of offender to whom it appears necessary to give a short, but sharp reminder that he is getting into ways that will inevitably land him in disaster. It is hoped that these detention centres which will be set up, as the others which I have just been dealing with, gradually, will enable that warning to be effectively given. Their regime will consist of brisk discipline and hard work. We hope that this new method will assist courts who are faced with the difficulty of having to deal with the young person who does not really seem to need the prolonged stay that an approved school or Borstal institution requires to be effective, but who does seem to need some reminder that he is getting into ways that will lead him into great difficulties with society if he continues in them.
One of the existing alternatives to imprisonment is the making of a probation order containing a requirement of residence in a probation hostel, or other such hostel. The young offender goes out to his daily work, or he may be sent to a probation home in which he receives suitable training. The value of this form of training has been, I think, amply proved, and we propose that there will be a substantial extension. At the present time, these probation hostels and probation homes are conducted by private societies or persons, the cost of the probationer's maintenance being defrayed by the local 2139 authorities and ranking for Exchequer grant.
Under Clause 65, the Bill proposes that grants shall be made from the Exchequer towards such bodies and persons to improve, enlarge and conduct existing hostels and homes and to provide new ones. The cost of these advances may be recovered up to 50 per cent. by reduction from the probation grant made to the local authority. Clause 36 empowers the Secretary of State to approve such premises, and to make rules for their regulation, management and inspection. The combined effect of these two Clauses give the State initiative in securing adequate provision and observance of proper standards of maintenance and management. May I say that in all these institutions it is very desirable that there should be a managing body which can see to it that the proper atmosphere of the home or hostel is preserved. These proposals replace the Howard House proposals of the Bill of 1938, and I was interested to see in a recent issue of "The Observer" that Lord Templewood, who, as Sir Samuel Hoare, was responsible for that Bill, expressed the view that these proposals were an improvement on the Howard House proposals, which figured in that Bill but which do not figure in this.
As I have said, there will still remain cases where it may be proved necessary for a court of summary jurisdiction to impose imprisonment on a person over 17 but under 21 or for a court of assize or quarter sessions to impose imprisonment on persons over 15 but under 21. In Clause 16, the Bill requires the court to obtain and consider information about the circumstances, including the character, of the offender, before deciding on imprisonment. The court must be satisfied that no other method is appropriate, and where a court of summary jurisdiction inflicts imprisonment on a person between 17 and 21 years of age, it will be required to state, and enter in the court register, their reason for forming this opinion.
At some future date, it may be possible and desirable to raise beyond 17 the age for the imposition of imprisonment by a court of summary jurisdiction, and the Bill, accordingly, proposes powers should be taken to prohibit by Order in Council courts of summary jurisdiction from sentencing to imprisonment persons 2140 under 21 or such lower age over 17 as may be specified. Any such order will be laid in draft before both Houses, and the draft will not be laid, according to the Bill, until the Secretary of State is satisfied that the methods available, other than imprisonment, for the treatment of offenders afford to magistrates' courts adequate means of dealing with offenders to whom the order relates.
Another very important provision is that where a young offender is discharged from prison he shall be under adequate supervision to help him in his rehabilitation and to re-inforce and inspire his own efforts to avoid the temptation to drift into a life of crime. To make such supervision effective, the Bill proposes that offenders under 21 sentenced to 12 months imprisonment or more should in appropriate cases be licensed at the time they would be ordinarily due for discharge on remission for good conduct. These licences will contain conditions requiring supervision by an appropriate society, and the offender will, for the remainder of his sentence, be liable to recall to prison in the event of his disobeying the conditions attached to the licence.
Clause 18 and the Second Schedule make provision about Borstal training. In the main they consolidate the existing law, but they make some important changes. The age limit for Borstal treatment will be fixed at 21. In 1936 an experiment was tried of raising the age to 23. Our experience is that it has not proved successful. The so-called young offender between 21 and 23 is very often a most mature young man. He is frequently married, has a family and not infrequently in the circumstances of the last few years has a considerable record of previous convictions. It has proved impossible to fit him effectively into the community of younger and more immature offenders for which the Borstal training scheme was originally devised. For the future, therefore, it is proposed that the age limit should be fixed at 21.
The Clause modifies the existing qualifications for Borstal sentences. At the present time a court must be satisfied that it is expedient to impose such a sentence by reason of the offender's criminal habits or tendencies or associations with persons of bad character. This has caused some courts—in fact I am afraid the majority of courts—to regard 2141 proof of previous convictions or commissions of further offences besides the offence charged as necessary to bring the offender within the terms of the Act. In consequence, Borstal training has not been given in some cases where it would have been of advantage, and, indeed, may have been the best way of promoting reformation. Clause 18 of the Bill, therefore, widens the qualifications for Borstal training by empowering the court to order it if it is satisfied of the expediency, having regard to the offender's character and previous conduct and the circumstances of the offence. This will enable courts of assize or quarter sessions to come to a decision on Borstal training in the light of all the information available as to offender and offence.
Further, we propose a change in the way a sentence of Borstal training is defined. Under the existing law, the sentence has to be either of two or three years, but within that period the exact length of time is determined by the Prison Commissioners according to the progress made in training and subject to a minimum of six months. The Bill proposes that in future there shall only be a sentence of Borstal training without specifying a period, but the actual period of detention must not exceed three years nor be less than 12 months. As at present, detention will be followed by a period of supervision during which there can be recall if the offender again misbehaves. It is said quite erroneously that Borstal inmates are released after a very short period. Undoubtedly at the beginning of the war, owing to the circumstances then prevailing, a large number of persons sentenced to Borstal were released after a very short period of detention, but at the present time the period of detention is determined solely by the needs of the individual case, and the average period at the moment is approximately 18 months. Those are the alterations which we propose in the law in so far as they relate to young offenders.
I come now to the second group of proposals in the Bill. The provisions relating to the probation system again in the main consolidate the existing law, but the opportunity has been taken to implement some of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, on Social Services which reported in 1936. This part of the Bill includes a number of 2142 changes designed to improve and make more effective the working of this method of treatment which is of the greatest value in dealing with young offenders. There are still some people who regard being put on probation as meaning being let off. That is an error of which we must disabuse their minds, whether they are offenders or whether they are persons talking about offenders.
Being put on probation means being given another chance, but it does not mean being let off. There are important obligations involved in being placed under the supervision of a probation officer and the penalties for failure to comply with the requirements of the probation order must be clearly and generally recognised. Some confusion arises from the fact that the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, applies the term of probation indiscriminately to three different sets of conditions—first of all to cases in which a charge is proved but the offender is dismissed; secondly, to cases where the offender is bound over; and, thirdly, to cases where a probation order is made requiring the offender to be under the supervision of a probation officer.
When a person is bound over or put under the probation officer he enters into recognizance. This Bill does away altogether with recognizances and I hope when it has to be explained to people that they are being placed on probation that the presiding magistrate or judge will use language that is understood of the common people and not rely, as they have on occasions of which I have heard, on technical legal jargon, which makes no appropriate impression on the mind of the offender. There was a case in Surrey, for instance, when during the war a boy was told that he would be bound in his own recognisance of £5. He hung about the court and when later was asked why, said, "I am waiting for the aeroplane." He thought he was to be bound into a reconnaissance plane and that his parents would have to provide £5 for the treat. I wish presiding magistrates and on occasions judges—I hope I do not get into conflict with the ordinary rules of the House by saying this in general terms—at this very critical stage in the life of the person in front of them would use language that is not capable of confusion in the mind of the person they are addressing, because that would certainly help to bring home to them exactly the 2143 jeopardy in which they stand or might stand unless reformation takes place.
We propose to substitute for binding over conditional discharge, which means that if an offender commits a further offence within 12 months he will be liable to be brought up for sentence in respect of the offence regarding which he was conditionally discharged. We shall confine the terms of the probation to the making of a probation order requiring the supervision of a probation officer. The order will carry with it the liability, on breach of its requirements or the, commission of a new offence during the period of the order, to sentence for the original offence. Experience shows that a probation order, to be effective, should be for not less than one year. That is the minimum time fixed by the Bill. The Bill also provides in Clause 3 that where a condition of residence in an institution is one of the requirements of a probation order, this condition shall not exceed 12 months' duration, and that the court shall review the order at the end of six months with a view to considering its termination or reduction.
Clause 4 empowers the court to include among the requirements of a probation order, where it is satisfied on medical evidence that such a requirement is necessary, a stipulation that the probationer shall submit to treatment, either in a residential or in a non-residential institution, for his mental condition, under a duly qualified medical practitioner, for a period not exceeding 12 months. Such a requirement, like all the other requirements of a probation order, can be inserted in the order only with the probationers consent. At the present time if a court of summary jurisdiction—not an assize court or quarter sessions—finds a charge is proved against an offender and decides that probation is the appropriate method of dealing with him, the court makes a probation order without proceeding to conviction.
This, in my experience, presents magistrates with very considerable difficulties on occasion. The intention was that the guilty person should not suffer the disabilities which follow conviction if he completed the probation period without a further appearance before a court. The decisions of the higher courts since 1907 have made it impossible to continue 2144 to take that line, which also encourages the idea to which I have already alluded that the offender thinks that he has been let off. The way that we suggest out of this difficulty is to be found in Clause 11. We propose to treat the finding of guilt as a conviction, and to provide that no disqualification or disability shall follow the conviction if the offender is put on probation, unless he is subsequently sentenced for the original offence by reason of a breach of the conditions of probation or the commission of a new offence during the period of probation.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, may I ask whether he has considered the difficulty which may arise owing to emigration to a country where the laws forbid entry to anybody who has suffered a conviction?
§ Mr. Ede
We considered that—but I have a very heavy task in front of me in explaining this Bill to the House. I have to apologise for the length of time I have taken already. The matter raised by my hon. and learned Friend is one which, after all, can and should be raised on Committee. I am purposely using words as general as possible so as not to provoke Committee discussion at this stage. Any point like that on any Clause of the Bill will be perfectly open for discussion when we reach the Committee stage.
Clause 35 and the Fifth Schedule provide for the administration of the probation system. We require a sufficient number of probation officers to be appointed in each area, and at least one man and one woman to be appointed for or assigned to each petty sessional division. We provide for case committees to review the work of probation officers. I am certain that that is one of the ways in which lay magistrates and others can most effectively assist in the success of this system. To help them in their work we provide that probation committees and-case committees may co-opt up to one third of the total membership of the committee from persons qualified to help them, even though they are not local justices.
Now I come to the third section of the proposals in the Bill, those dealing with persistent offenders. They will be found in Clause 19 and they are based upon 2145 the recommendation of the Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders. I think that everyone connected with courts will agree that the existing law concerning habitual criminals does not work well. To be sentenced as an habitual criminal, a person charged has to be so found by a jury on proceedings taken with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. A sentence of preventive detention can be imposed on persons so convicted only in additional to a sentence of penal servitude. It has rarely been passed. At the present time there are only 30 persons serving a sentence of preventive detention.
The departmental committee recommended two types of sentence for persistent offenders: of two to four years for less hardened offenders with a view to remedial treatment; and of five to ten years for those of whose reformation little hope remained and for whom the primary purpose of any sentence must be their relegation from society for a prolonged period. The Bill proposes to adopt the principles of the recommendations of the committee and to give the courts power to pass two new sentences, which will be in lieu of and not in addition to other sentences. There will first be corrective training for not less than two or more than four years for persons over 21 convicted on indictment of an offence which renders them liable to two years' imprisonment, who have two previous convictions for such offences; and, secondly, preventive detention for not less than five or more than 14 years on persons over 30 convicted on indictment of an offence rendering them liable to two years' imprisonment, where such persons have three previous convictions on indictment for two of which a sentence of Borstal training, imprisonment or corrective training was imposed.
As I have said, corrective training and preventive detention will be in lieu of, and not in addition, to another sentence. We have extended the maximum period of preventive detention from 10 years to 14 because experience shows us that there are cases of persistence in serious crime so bad that society requires to be protected for a longer term than 10 years. A provision in the Third Schedule will enable release on licence to be given to persons sentenced to corrective training or preventive detention who, 2146 while serving their sentences, may prove themselves worthy of such leniency.
Now I come to a rather miscellaneous group of reforms—changes in the penal system and amendment of the criminal law. By Clause 1 of the Bill we abolish penal servitude and hard labour and the statutory division of prisoners into the first, second, or third divisions. These are really reforms which bring the Statute into line with what has been the practice for many years. I have read during the past few days some of the recommendations which led to the institution of some of these forms of punishment. From them it appears that hard labour was to be such work as would make the prisoner breathe hard and sweat from the pores. There was also the treadmill, the crank, and other long-discarded adjuncts of the present system. The type of employment now given to prisoners depends on the resources of the establishment in which they happen to be incarcerated. Hard labour of the type I have just alluded to also included comparatively long periods of solitary confinement.
We feel that since there is no practical distinction between the conditions under which sentence with and without hard labour are served, it is time that this distinction disappeared from the statute book. The present divisions have been superseded by more modern methods of classification designed to secure individual treatment and to avoid contamination of first offenders and others, for whom such solicitude is desirable, by the more hardened type of criminal. I hope I may remove some of the misapprehensions which I have heard voiced in certain quarters if I direct the attention of the House to Clause 43, which preserves the original purpose of the three divisions by requiring that the prison rules shall provide for special treatment of particular classes of prisoners, including persons serving sentences for sedition, seditious conspiracy or seditious libel, appellants, and persons imprisoned for contempt of court, those sometimes loosely referred to as political prisoners, and prisoners of that type.
So far as penal servitude is concerned, the distinction has ceased to have much practical effect since the conditions under which a sentence of penal servitude is now served do not differ from those under which a sentence of imprisonment is 2147 served Many convicts are now serving sentences in local prisons. One of the difficulties I have been confronted with, in recent months, has been the complaint by some convicts of experience that it is hardly consistent with their position in the criminal world that they should be confined in a local prison. Unpopular as Dartmoor undoubtedly is with certain people, there are some who feel that a sentence served there proves that they really are the "tough guys" they think themselves to be.
The abolition of penal servitude also involves the abolition of the ticket-of-leave system, which Lord Templewood alluded to as the last remnant of the Victorian melodrama of the criminal system In substitution for it, the Bill gives power to the courts, in the case of a person sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment or more, to order the offender to keep in touch with the appropriate society, and renders him liable, if he defaults in that, to report to the police as a convict on licence does. The abolition of penal servitude means that apart from corrective training and preventive detention there will be only one form of prison sentence in future, namely, imprisonment. I believe that the task of appropriately classifying prisoners, which is really the key to the humane method of dealing with this problem, will be helped by the reforms I have just announced.
The Bill proposes to abolish whipping as a punishment to be ordered by the courts. This subject was exhaustively and comprehensively considered by a committee which sat under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Cadogan, who will be remembered by many of us as a Member of this House much interested in the problems of young offenders and work among young people generally. That committee, which covered a wide range of experience and outlook, were unanimous in the recommendations they made—a point which is sometimes overlooked in discussing this matter. They thought it necessary, and we share their view, that corporal punishment should be retained in prisons as a punishment for grave offences against prison discipline, such as serious assaults on prison officers. Other punishments available for other people either did not exist or might be 2148 completely ineffective. For a man who has already lost the whole of his remission in prison there is no further penalty that can be inflicted upon him. The committee recommended that the punishment of such a man should be only up to the maximum which we have adopted, namely, 18 strokes of the cat or birch for persons over 21, and 12 strokes for those under 21. Whipping will be abolished as a punishment in Borstal institutions, because there is an additional sanction against an unruly or violent person sentenced to Borstal training in that he can, by order of the Secretary of State, be transferred to prison.
Clauses 12 to 14 give power to courts of assize and quarter sessions to impose a fine on conviction for felony as they can on conviction for misdemeanour; they also allow time to pay, and for payment to be made by instalments. This is a long-overdue reform. It brings the law into contempt when, at quarter sessions or assizes, after it has been decided that adequate punishment will be a fine—perhaps a substantial amount, having regard to the gravity of the offence—discreet and secret inquiries have to be made as to whether the person so punished has with him on that day a sum of money which will enable him to meet the fine and, if he has not, to go through the motions of adjourning the case to the next sessions or assizes so that he may then turn up with the necessary money. I believe that such negotiations between the Bench and defending counsel are not good for the administration of justice in this country. I recollect an occasion when I was sitting at quarter sessions, when it was proposed to impose a fairly heavy fine. The defending counsel was asked if his client had enough to pay. The man had been defended on a dock brief, and counsel said: "He has only £1, because he came today with £2 3s. 6d., and after the dock brief that leaves him £1." I cannot think such things as that cause the administration of justice to remain dignified in the way all of us would desire that it should.
Clause 30 enables the High Court to allow bail in cases for which no provision is made under the existing law on appeal, case stated, or application for certiorari.
§ Mr. Ede
I would not like to answer that now. It is a Committee point which can be dealt with at the appropriate stage. Clause 29 is very important. It revises the law regarding appeals from courts of summary jurisdiction to quarter sessions. It gives the defendant who has not pleaded guilty or admitted the truth of the information the right of appeal against sentence. There are other simplifications of that procedure. We have also endeavoured to deal in the Bill with the position which has been created by two cases known as Rex v. Sheridan and Rex v. Grant. These are very highly legalistic decisions and I would not myself undertake to explain them adequately to the House. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General will be speaking tomorrow morning on the Bill, and if further elucidation of these Clauses is required I have no doubt he will be willing to give it to the House. All I know is that on occasions these two decisions do very greatly befog lay justices when they are endeavouring to administer justice, and find they can only administer the law.
Clause 33 will undoubtedly provoke some controversy. It gives new powers to courts of summary jurisdiction to order, on the application of a police officer not below the rank of inspector, that the finger prints of an accused person may be taken. That cannot be done in England and Wales, but it can be done in Scotland, and this appears to be one case—we shall undoubtedly have to justify it on Committee—where the law of England and Wales maybe brought into line with the law of Scotland.
§ Mr. Ede
That is more easily said than done. There were other matters in the Bill which I would have liked to explain to the House, but I have no doubt that if any question on them arises during the Second Reading the Solicitor-General and the Under-Secretary, who will be winding up the Debate tomorrow afternoon, will be able to deal with them.
There was one matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), before the Debate started, on which it is desirable at this stage that I should make the position of the Government quite clear. The Bill 2150 submitted in 1938 was silent on the subject of the death penalty. An Amendment was moved, and defeated during the Committee stage, which would, if passed, have had the effect of abolishing the death penalty for an experimental period of five years. The Government have given most careful consideration as to the course which should be pursued on this occasion. They think it right to bring before the House certain details of criminal statistics which indicate the relative position of crimes involving violence in 1938 and 1946. Excluding murders of infants under one year of age, the number of murders known to the police in 1938 was 97, and in 1946, 138. Between those two years the crimes of felonious wounding and malicious wounding known to the police rose from 1,990 to 3,009. Cases of robbery with violence rose from 287 to 921; and cases of rape from 99 to 251. For the five years 1935 to 1939 the annual average number of persons tried at assizes and quarter sessions for burglary, house breaking and shop breaking was 3,339. In 1946 this number had risen to 8,537.
Hitherto, it has been unusual for criminals engaged in the crimes just enumerated to carry lethal weapons, particularly fire-arms. There has, however, in the post-war period, been unwelcome evidence that a regrettable change has taken place in this respect. At the time when they have to deal with a phenomenal increase in the cases of violent crime and with the emergence of the armed criminal, the police forces are below establishment. Among the things to be considered is the extent to which old offenders—who would expect, if again brought before a court for one of the offences just mentioned, to receive a very heavy sentence—might be tempted to arm themselves, if they ran no risk of losing their lives if convicted of murder perpetrated during the commission of, or escape from, a criminal enterprise.
The Government feel that they cannot, in these circumstances, regard the time as opportune to include in the Bill a provision for the suspension or abolition of the death penalty. They do not suggest that the statistics which are given present a complete or balanced view of all the considerations, although such figures must weigh heavily against anything that can 2151 be adduced on the other side. The Government recognise that this is a matter on which very strong individual conscientious feelings are held, and on which the division does not follow the usual party lines. I am told—I did not have time to check it up—that last night Lord Templewood declared his belief in abolition, but in 1938 he resisted the Amendment which I have just described. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the right hon. Gentleman voted for it."] In 1938 I voted for that Amendment, and were the circumstances the same as in 1938, I would vote for it again. My mind is not static on any subject.
§ Mr. Ede
I have put one side of the case before the House and I do not claim to have done more than that, but the Government, recognising that this is a matter on which very strong individual conscientious feelings are held and that the division does not follow the usual party lines, suggest that if an Amendment to deal with the death penalty is moved, it should be moved on the Report stage of the Bill so that the decision shall be taken by the whole of the Members of the House. On Report stage, the Government will more fully review the reasons which have led them to regard the present moment as inopportune, but they will leave the final decision to a free vote of the House. I hope the House will feel that in the discharge of their responsibilities the Government have adopted a line which will enable them to put the case as they see it before the House, but no attempt will be made to coerce the conscience of any individual hon. Member. I apologise to the House for the length of time I have taken in explaining this.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to make available to the House all the latest information, some of which he has already disclosed, so that before we discuss the matter on Report we shall have before us everything we need to consider this matter?
§ Mr. Ede
It is always impossible to answer that question in the affirmative because no matter how voluminous the documents I produced someone would get up and complain that some little bit of 2152 information he had obtained elsewhere was not included. I hope that between now and then the discussion that will undoubtedly go on in the public Press, at meetings and elsewhere, will make available a great deal of information that may add to the knowledge of hon. Members in the matter, and I will see what I can do to make available for them factual information that tells for and against any proposal that may be put forward; but I am not going to promise that I will make everything available.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication when the Report stage will be taken?
§ Mr. Ede
I do not know whether that is a suggestion that I should erect a Guillotine for the Committee stage of the Bill. That would enable me to answer the question quite definitely. This Bill will go upstairs to Committee. It took a very long time in 1938, but I hope that we may regard some of the ground then thoroughly explored as being agreed. If that is so, we may be back here in the spring, but then, of course, we get involved in the financial business of the House. I hope that we shall not be unduly delayed in getting this Bill through and sending it up to another place where, I understand, views may also be expressed on this and some other issues.
But I cannot do more than appeal—I am quite sure I will not appeal in vain—for the general good will of the House towards this Measure, and I am quite sure that we on this side of the House can make such an appeal with a clear conscience. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who served on the Standing Committee on the last occasion, will agree that they were non-party discussions in which everybody did his best to improve a Measure which he was prepared to accept as being already good. That is the most that I claim for this Measure. I trust that in all quarters of the House we shall have brought to bear at this stage and the succeeding stages of the Bill a spirit of good will, because one of the ways in which a standard of civilisation can be tested is the way in which the people governing it find themselves able to rely on a system of punishment and reformation which enables for as long as possible the spark of hope to be kept alive with regard to the most hardened offender.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, would he answer this question? He has to some extent defined his attitude to the question of capital punishment. Would he indicate his attitude to my proposal with regard to two degrees of murder?
§ Mr. Ede
No, Sir. I do not think I should be called on at this stage to deal with that matter. I have seen it and I have noticed the names of those who have been attracted to my hon. and learned Friend's proposed instruction. He can rest assured that it will be very carefully considered, but ahead of the principal discussion, I do not want to say anything that might prejudice one way or another the Vote the House will have to give on that. If we reach the stage when my hon. and learned Friend's proposal comes before the House, he can rest assured that it will be dealt with most faithfully.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
We have had from the right hon. Gentleman a thorough, painstaking, lucid and unemotional account of the provisions of the Bill. I make no complaint about the length of time which it has taken him to explain these matters to the House but I will try to confine my observations within a very much smaller compass. As the right hon. Gentleman said, this Bill is similar in all main respects to the Bill of 1938 which Lord Templewood, then Sir Samuel Hoare, introduced in October of that year. When I went to the Home Office for the first time in April, 1939, I spent much time in the preparations for taking the Report stage of that Bill which, unfortunately, had to be dropped owing to the outbreak of war. Some of the modifications which the right hon. Gentleman now proposes as compared with the Bill of 1938 are modifications which the Government of that day would have made on proceeding to the Report stage. I may say in passing that it is a little difficult to compare this Bill with the Bill of 1938, since there are no copies of the 1938 Bill available in the Home Office. I rather think they got taken away with other records during the evacuation and never came back.
This is an important Measure, although some of its Clauses, those, for example, regarding the names of different forms of detention and those that abolish the terms 2154 "penal servitude," "hard labour" and so forth, merely carry out what has been the actual practice in our prison system for a great many years past, and there are, of course, other Clauses which provide for new forms of accommodation, such as probation homes and hostels, and remand and detention centres, which cannot in the nature of things at the present time be made available, at any rate for some years. The House will, I think, be in general agreement with the main lines of the Bill. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it will not be debated on party lines from this side of the House. Hon. Gentlemen who sit behind me will express their own views, and they will express them perfectly freely. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that as far as supporters of the Government are concerned there would be no coercion on the subject of capital punishment. So far as we are concerned on this side, there will be no coercion upon any Clause or Subsection of the Bill.
§ Mr. Peake
Or on any Amendment. As a result of probably a longer term of service at the Home Office than any previous Under-Secretary, I am naturally predisposed to the view that the opinion of the Home Office on these matters is likely to be right. There are many organised bodies interested in penal reform. We can have the views of the Howard League, of the Discharged Prisoners Aid Society, of the National Association of Probation Officers, even of His Majesty's judges. I remember we had the collective view of His Majesty's judges upon the question of corporal punishment in 1939—
§ Mr. Peake
—but all these bodies express sectional views from a particular angle of the problem, and it is only in the Home Office that all these diverging views can be collected and analysed. And it is only there, in my opinion, that a comprehensive judgment can be formed.
I want to pay a tribute to the staffs of our various forms of detention institutions. I would like to pay a tribute to the work of the Prison Commission, of the Borstal Governors, of the Approved School Governors and, in particular, to follow what the right hon. Gentleman said with 2155 regard to the late Sir Alexander Paterson. He had a world wide reputation on questions affecting penal reform, and I well remember in the early days of the war going with him, when there were complaints about some of the internment camps, at that time under War Office control, to see conditions for myself. I was tremendously impressed by the fact that Sir Alexander Paterson insisted upon getting up at six in the morning because, he said, you cannot really learn much about a penal institution unless you get up before the prisoners who are detained there. It is no doubt because he showed this amazing determination to see everything, and to give the best of himself to the work he was doing, that he had a sad and premature ending to his life.
There are two factors, of course, in this problem before the House today. There is the factor of the prevention of crime and the treatment of the offender once the crime has been committed. I should like to refer to two passages in the recent reports of His Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary and the Report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis for the year 1946, in which the present difficulties of the police force are stated, and some reasons are attributed for the increase in crime at the present time. His Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary say:There are numerous suggestions as to the cause of the increase in crime, and it is not easy to attribute to any factor the major blame.Then they say:The following have all contributed towards the crime situation. The whereabouts of many of the older type of active criminals are not now known because of the changes brought about by the war; a new and younger group which is becoming operative as a result of war conditions; the scarcity of goods and the readiness with which, when obtained, they can be disposed of at high prices in the black market …The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis begins his report for the year with the statement:The year 1946 has been a difficult year for the Metropolitan Police. Crime is far above the prewar level … A disturbing feature is the number of serious crimes attributable to youths in the age groups 14 to 20.I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pursue with all the vigour in his power the improvements necessary to enable the Police Force to function as efficiently as it did before the war. Many of the older 2156 policemen who put off their retirement during the war years have now left the Force. There are a large number of new recruits in the field, and there is a special difficulty about providing suitable housing accommodation for married police officers. I hope, alongside with this Bill, that the right hon. Gentleman will press on with that side of the problem which will enable more crime to be detected, because the greatest deterrent to crime is the certainty that you will be detected after you have done it.
As the right hon. Gentleman said—and I share his view—this is not a soft Measure for making the life of criminals easier. It is important that we should not make our prisons too comfortable, and I am quite sure that is not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman. I remember, during my experiences as Under-Secretary, how in a cold spell of weather Holloway Prison used to fill up with elderly ladies. If anybody wants advice as to how to get into a nice warm place on a cold winter's night, I can give it to them briefly. First, you have to get drunk and disorderly—[An HON. MEMBER: "How? "] That is quite simple. You then proceed to refuse to pay the fine and, after that, you will be committed to a nice warm place where the food is not too bad, and you will be quite comfortable in a spell of cold weather. As I say, we always found, when the thermometer went below a certain point, that the population of Hollo-way went up.
I cannot claim, as some hon. Members of this House have claimed in the past, to have had any first-hand experience of prison life—
§ Mr. Peake
—but I well recall that when the 1938 Bill came before the House, two most honourable and very well respected Members of this House were able to give us some first-hand experience of what prison was like. There were no two hon. Members of this House more generally respected and, I would say, loved, than the late George Lansbury and the late James Maxton. I remember these two getting into a controversy during the Second Reading of the Bill and it ended with Mr. Lansbury making the point that at any rate he had-been in prison much 2157 more recently than had Mr. Maxton; on the other hand, I think Mr. Maxton claimed that he had been there longer. At any rate there were at that time hon. Members who were able to recount firsthand experience—
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I must say that I participated in that Debate, but, of course, I cannot claim to be "one of the much respected and loved Members of this House."
§ Mr. Peake
I apologise to the hon. Member for West-Fife (Mr. Gallacher) if I overlooked him. I remember that shortly after I had been made Under-Secretary at the Home Office I met an old school colleague. I met him in the street, and he had met with misfortune. Recently he had emerged from spending two or three years in Maidstone and Park-hurst, and he paid a remarkable tribute to our prison system. I asked him, "How are you, old boy?" And he said, "Well, I never felt fitter in my life. Your prisons "—and he seemed to think the prisons belonged to me—" are run on public school lines. But it comes very hard on those who have not been at a public school." I hope the right hon. Gentleman, who is an educational expert, will accept that as a tribute both to our prisons and to our public schools.
The central problem in this question of crime, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is that of the young offender. It is a striking fact that the peak age for crime for boys is 11, and for girls, 16. These young offenders do not as a rule come from good, happy, homes. A large proportion of them come from broken homes, where one parent has deserted the other, and in many cases from homes where there is an unhappy step relationship. There was another class, the children who came from very large families living in a state of great squalor and poverty, but I think the introduction of family allowances will have done a great deal to remedy conditions so far as overcrowded, poor, and large families are concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the probation service and the great work it does. It is a remarkable thing that this service, only now 40 years old, should 2158 have achieved such outstanding success, and have saved so many young people from the prison contact which it is so essential they should avoid, if humanly possible. Contamination is the great danger with young persons, and I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has dropped the proposal—which was in the 1938 Bill—of what were known as compulsory attendance centres. As the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) will remember, they were places to which young persons were to be sent on a Saturday afternoon in order to deprive them of their half holiday, so to speak. The proposal was that they should be kept in these centres when other children were at liberty, and that they should be made thereby to look slightly ridiculous. In my opinion that would have herded together the sheep and the goats, and would have led to the contamination of a good many young persons who would be far better treated by the probation service.
I am quite sure that the lines of this Bill are right, first, that we should use the probation service to the full, and, where that fails, that there should be a reasonably long period of training in an institution, whether it be an approved school or a probation home. I am also glad that the right hon. Gentleman is lowering the top age in the case of admission to Borstal. I always thought it a bad thing that "tough guys" of 23 should be sent to Borstal alongside youths of 17½ or 18. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is taking a wise step in making 21 the upper age limit for sending boys to Borstal.
In regard to adult offenders I think the main thing required, although obviously the right hon. Gentleman cannot do it at present, is some more up-to-date prisons. Many of our prisons are very inconvenient and badly constructed. I should like to draw his attention—it must already have been drawn—to the great success of what are called the "open prisons," such as that at Wakefield. I wonder whether he would contemplate the use in that way of some of the many camps which were established during the war? I would also like the Under-Secretary, the Solicitor-General, or whoever replies, to deal with the points raised in a letter to "The Times" this morning by Lord Justice Wrottesley, in which he deals with the question of work in prisons. 2159 He suggests that while during the war persons detained in prison made a substantial and useful contribution towards production, matters are now being hampered and held up, to some extent at any rate, by trade union obstruction, and trade union objection to the competition of goods made in prison with goods made outside.
§ Mr. Ede
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that I have had the happiest relations with the trade unions in this matter, and a substantial' number of prisoners are now being employed on various forms of useful work, which are of national importance. Only this morning I signed an order allowing certain Borstal boys to carry on with work, which I am quite sure would meet with his approval, and I had prior to that the express approval to that particular work of the two trade unions likely to be concerned. I have encountered no embarrassment of the trade unions in this matter and I think it only fair that I should say so.
§ Mr. Peake
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that assurance, but I hope he will see that the specific points made by Lord Justice Wrottesley are carefully looked into.
There are many points in this Bill which will be subjected to detailed criticism when we come to the Committee stage. At present I only draw attention to two, which I think are of some importance. The first is in regard to the challenge of jurors, which is to be abolished altogether. I think that if a man being tried by a jury sees some particular enemy of his being selected as a juror, he should have the right of challenge. I think there is a case for limiting the number who could be challenged in any particular kind of case.
I am also critical of Clause 33, which deals with the taking of finger prints. The Clause goes much too far in my opinion. It says:A court of summary jurisdiction before which any person who has been taken into custody appears or is brought charged with an offence may … order that the finger prints of that person shall be taken by a constable.It goes on to say that theconstable may use such reasonable force as may be necessary for that purpose.2160 This power, which already exists in cases where a person is remanded in custody, should be limited to persons who have been taken into custody, and should not apply to persons who appear on summons for some perfectly petty offence. That is a matter which we can examine in the Committee stage, but it seems to me a very wide power that a summons of any kind has only to be issued, and the police can then proceed to take one's finger prints.
The right hon. Gentleman indicated the two subjects which will be the major bones of contention in this Bill. The first is in regard to corporal punishment. There, I am entirely against the retention of the power of corporal punishment. All the evidence which was adduced in 1938 goes to show that this punishment is unnecessary and does more harm than good. So far as juveniles are concerned, all enlightened juvenile courts have long since given up ordering corporal punishment. So far as adults are concerned, corporal punishment was completely abolished in 1861, and was then subsequently re-enacted for certain specific offences. Those offences are not by any means some of the most serious which can be committed. In Scotland, corporal punishment for adults does not exist at the present time, and I am quite convinced by the arguments, and by having read the Debates of 1938, that the time has come when we can safely do away with corporal punishment.
§ Mr. Peake
There again, I would support the Home Secretary's view. I think that when a man has been deprived of his liberty and has been put in prison, there is very little sanction left except corporal punishment if he makes a brutal and unprovoked attack upon a warder. The number of sentences of this character carried out every year for offences in prison can very often be counted on the fingers of one hand.
I wish to say a word on the subject of capital punishment. Its abolition was resisted by Lord Templewood in 1939 during the Debates in the Standing Committee on an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). Lord Templewood then said: 2161…I want to say as seriously as I can that I am not prepared to advise any experiment of this kind … I am not prepared to take the risk of experimenting in a matter so serious as wilful murder."—[STANDING COMMITTEE A, 20th April, 1939; C.775–6.]I have a great respect for Lord Temple-wood and his gifts, but at the same time I cannot understand how it has come about, in view of the great increases in violent crime, that he should have changed his view. I still retain the view, which I formed in 1939, that capital punishment should be retained. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there has been a tremendous increase in the more serious forms of crime, and in the amount of firearms which are easily accessible and available in the country. There were few protests, if any, about capital punishment at the time the Nuremberg Trials took place, and certain very depraved men were brought to a very proper end.
§ Mrs. Florence Paton (Rushcliffe)
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that that increase has taken place in spite of the fact that the death penalty remains?
§ Mr. Peake
I do not think that the two things are connected. The increase in violent crime is obviously due to war causes. Men have been trained in violence for six years, and men have been trained to use lethal weapons. It seems to me that if the Home Office, which, after all, has a better knowledge of this subject than any individual can have, thought it a dangerous experiment in 1938, how much more dangerous would the experiment be now?
The Home Secretary is to be congratulated on securing a place for this Measure in the legislative programme. This Bill and the social services Measures, which were framed in the days of the Coalition Government, but which have been passed into law by the present Government, will be remembered as the good Measures passed in this Parliament. As I said in my opening remarks, the Bill deals with the treatment of offenders and not with the prevention of offences. It is a sad thing that growing shortages and increased controls have done much to foster gambling, black markets and all sorts of petty crime. These things have put a premium upon dishonesty and have diminished respect for the law, and there 2162 are great moral as well as economic and financial dangers at the present time. Within its limited sphere however this Bill is a good Bill. It is the result of the endeavours of many who have devoted their lives to the reform of our penal administration. For that reason, I give it my support.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
I am sure that the Home Secretary need have no fear about this Bill, which receives a warm-hearted welcome in this House. It has really been too long delayed. It embodies a number of most valuable reforms. We all recognise that the duty of the State is to protect its citizens from anti-social elements. Early views as to how this was to be achieved were very largely based upon revenge and savage punishment by methods which were often quite barbaric and revolting. The test which, in my submission, should be applied to all methods of punishment and forms of dealing with criminals should be—Are the punishments effective? Do they increase or decrease criminal tendencies? Do they increase or decrease crime? The welfare of the community must be the final test in these matters. Criminal law is no sphere for the sentimentalist. Judged by the test of the community, the experience now and for many generations has been that the most effective way of achieving the object which we all desire, the diminution of crime, is by way of reclamation and rehabilitation.
The object now is the reform of the offender and his re-establishment as a good citizen. That has particularly been the goal in the realm of juvenile delinquency, and it is in that realm that this Bill takes such a decisive and valuable step forward. It seeks to keep young offenders out of prison and to further and extend the methods of dealing with them in order to turn them into good and useful citizens. I welcome Clause 16 which proposes that courts of summary jurisdiction shall have no power to imprison persons under the age of 17. Courts of assize and quarter sessions will retain the power to imprison persons over 15 years of age. As one with some experience of the criminal courts, I see no reason why the age of 15 should be retained in the case of courts of assize or quarter sessions. The age should be the same for all courts. In my experience I have seen juvenile 2163 offenders handled with much greater skill, tact and knowledge in the lower courts than in some of the superior courts. I ask the Government to look again at that Clause and to consider whether they cannot arrange that all courts shall not impose imprisonment on a person under 17 years of age.
I welcome very much the positive direction in Clause 16 (2) that no court should impose imprisonment upon a person under 21 unless no other method is appropriate. Many courts have administered the probation and Borstal systems with great sympathy and understanding, but there have been too many courts which have not approached these matters in the proper way. This prohibition is very welcome. In considering this matter, the court must obtain and consider certain information. Very often that information is given by a police officer, usually a record officer. On many occasions it is given with great sympathy and the work is done extremely intelligently. It is not always done in that way in all courts. I recommend that in all these cases a report should be obtained from the probation officer. The probation officer, trained as he is in social service, has touch with the whole background and with many aspects that are beyond the ken of the ordinary police officer. Therefore, I suggest that Clause 16 should require the report of a probation officer.
Clause 16 (3) says that no imprisonment upon a person under 21 shall be imposed by a court of summary jurisdiction, after provision has been made by the Home Office for certain other methods to be adopted. I can only trust that, in spite of all the shortages that exist, every speed will be made to bring this Clause into operation. When that has been done. I suggest that the age of 21 might reasonably and safely be applied to all the courts of our land. With the same end in view, namely, the reform of the individual, very valuable provisions are contained in Clauses 23 and 24. These Clauses enable courts of summary jurisdiction, after a conviction has been decided upon, to adjourn for inquiry into the physical and mental condition of offenders in order to enable the most sympathetic methods of dealing with offenders to be adopted. That is a most valuable provision.
2164 There have been many occasions when courts have been baffled completely. I see sitting opposite an hon. Member who must have been particularly baffled on many occasions in deciding what to do with a particular offender. This method of adjournment, so that the whole background of the mental history and physical condition of a child or adult can be inquired into, is most valuable. I notice that there is nothing in the Bill which provides for payment for this out of public funds. I do not know from where the money will come, but I do know that, on occasions, sympathetic magistrates have actually paid for matters of this kind themselves. I hope that provision will be made for payment by the State for these reports. It may be that this anticipates the National Health Service, but it will not be conclusive. There are specialists in this type of work who may not be covered by the National Health Service and who ought to be considered and consulted. I refer particularly to those with an interest in and knowledge of child guidance and psychology.
The further provision for remand homes and detention centres, required by Clause 38, is another very valuable contribution towards salvaging those who have offended and reclaiming them for the future. This House knows no warmer supporter of the probation system than myself. I think that the work has been done magnificently. No one can speak too highly of the work of probation officers, especially in our large cities. The lack in the past has been in the rural areas, away from the large cities, where there has been no adequate service. I am glad to see that this Measure makes provision, which I consider is now adequate, to extend and improve the probation service. Rural and less populated districts have suffered for too long from a lack of suitable, well-trained probation officers. I am specially pleased to see set out in the Bill the necessity for women probation officers to be appointed to every petty sessional division. That provision is long-overdue.
I now come to the expression of doubt. The provisions of Clause 3 will trouble many hon. Members. In the past, in the case of young offenders, courts have had power not to enter a conviction. The Home Secretary gave some reasons why he and the Home Office thought that it 2165 was desirable to enter a conviction. In my submission, the old method is one which ought to be retained. There was a power to dismiss a proved charge without recording a conviction. Clause 11 endeavours to get over this unfortunate method. It attempts to mitigate the effects. Although it may mitigate the disabilities of a conviction in respect of the law of this country, it may bring unfortunate consequences to bear upon the individual if he comes up against the law of one of the Dominions or a foreign country. We cannot indicate here that a conviction in this country shall not be a disabling feature or consequence, for instance, to emigration to the United States of America where the unfortunate man, who 20 years ago was convicted instead of being put on probation, will have to sign and certify that he has never been convicted of any criminal offence. This Clause merits reconsideration from that angle.
The other matter with regard to probation which seems to have changed is that in the past, the probation order named a particular probation officer, and there was immediately a relationship established between the young person and the probation officer; the present order suggests that the name of the petty sessional division should be inserted. I think this is a mistake, and that the probation order should name and link up the defendant with a particular probation officer. That is much more desirable.
As to Borstal treatment, Clause 18 extends the class of cases which may be sent to Borstal, and I think that, although, no doubt, it will meet with critics, it- is, on the whole a good provision. In the past, the requirements very often were not sufficient to send to Borstal a person who really required Borstal treatment, and, under this Measure, Clause 18 provides that, if the court is satisfied that, having regard to his character and previous conduct, and to the circumstances of the offence, that young person might be sent to Borstal. Under the old provisions, there had to be criminal habits or tendencies or an association with persons of bad character, and I, for one, welcome Clause 18 and I think that it tries to deal, at an earlier stage, with the likely persistent criminal by sending him to Borstal without the requirements of criminal habits or tendencies or association with persons of bad character.
2166 Clause 12, again, is an improvement, giving courts of the size of quarter sessions the power to fine, but this is only a beginning. I am sure that, running through our criminal law, there ought to be the principle of restitution, and that that principle needs developing and extending. A court of summary jurisdiction is limited to the sum of £25. That ought to be increased to at least £100, and we should see that these people are hit in their pockets where they will feel it. So far as restitution is concerned, where a person is convicted and serves a term of imprisonment, that is all bound up with Clause 43, which makes provision for wide powers in respect of the management of prisons.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite called attention to Lord Justice Wrottesley's letter in "The Times" today. I am sure that this work which we can give to people in prison ought to be extended. We ought to provide as much as possible useful work for them to do. Lord Justice Wrottesley, speaking only of the last 10 years, talks of visiting prisons and seeing, prisoners sewing up mailbags by hand, and not by machinery, because they would get the job done too quickly and would have to return to their solitary confinement earlier. I am sure that we are going to make no real in road on this matter until we provide a real prison system, with useful productive work for which the criminal could have a reasonable and proper wage, and, out of that, would be able to pay for his board and maintenance and also make restitution to those who had lost as a result of his crime. We have now started many experiments, such as the Loudham Grange and the North Sea Camp, and another great man in this field, Sir Harold Scott, as well as Sir Alexander Paterson, has been a very great reforming and improving influence in the methods adopted in dealing with criminals.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite, again, mentioned various camps, and I am sure that some of these great R.A.F. stations which we see, some of them rather remote, would make a very good foundation for a really reformed modern prison, where the prisoners would pay their way and also help to support those whom they had injured. I hope that Clause 43 is wide enough to give the Home Secretary all the possible power he needs in this 2167 direction. Incidentally, the foreshadowed disappearance of the Prison Commissioners in Clause 42 will, I hope, be reconsidered. I think the Prison Commissioners in the past, associated in some way with the Home Office, made a very valuable contribution, and I am not persuaded of the advantage of doing away with the office of Prison Commissioners.
We then turn to the "old lags," the persistent offenders, and Clause 19 will, I hope, be a very useful contribution in dealing with them. The existing law, which requires a sentence of preventive detention of from five to 10 years only to be passed in addition to a sentence of penal servitude, has hardly been made use of in these cases. Judges and those who prefer indictments have not used this method of dealing with the "old lag," and I am sure that the new provisions will be much more used and much more useful. I hope there is no real distinction between the phrase "corrective training" and "preventive detention," in this sense, that I hope corrective training will apply to those who have preventive detention.
Something ought to be done to prevent those men who go to prison from losing the benefit of unemployment and national health insurance. If, for instance, we get these new prison camps established and the men engaged in really useful work, there will be no difficulty in deducting the money from the wages and stamping the cards. I think that all these things hang together, and that it would be a very valuable thing if these cards could go on being stamped out of the earnings of the criminals.
I am very doubtful about the fingerprint provisions. One does not want to go into that matter in detail at this moment, but I have grave doubts about the abolition of the peremptory challenge of the jurors. I think that ought to be preserved, but there ought to be a limit to the number of peremptory challenges. I think that a man on a serious charge, if he does not like the look of one of the members of the jury, ought to have the right of peremptory challenge and get rid of him. I wonder whether, in this Measure, some provision could not be introduced so that the Court of Criminal Appeal could have jurisdiction to grant a new trial. I hope the learned Solicitor- 2168 General will make a note of that point, because I think it is a desirable one. Now, there is no such power in the Court of Criminal Appeal, and convictions can be quashed in respect of most serious offences for wholly technical reasons. I do not think that is desirable. It is most desirable, if a man commits a crime, that his punishment should be certain and that it should operate. A criminal who gets off on a technical point on appeal does not have much respect for the law. With that view in mind, I welcome the Clause which gives the Court of Criminal Appeal power to grant a new trial.
I welcome the abandonment of corporal punishment in Clause 2. It is most desirable, and is in entire agreement with the evidence of those who have studied this matter. It also meets, I am glad to say, with the approval of both sides of the House. I am sure, if there are any who are not in favour of this provision, that, if they will read the report of the departmental committee which considered this matter, it would have a salutary effect upon what they think about this problem. I see no reason why this punishment should be retained for prison offences, and I think that we should be well rid of it altogether. If it is retained in respect of offences against prison warders, I am sure that many men who would otherwise enter the prison service would be disinclined to do so while such a barbaric form of punishment is retained. The type of prison warder has changed a great deal in the last 20 or 30 years; we are now getting the type of warder who is in sympathy with the reformatory methods of modern time. I am sure that that type of person is deterred from entering prison service by reason of the punishment by flogging for prison offences. There are very few such cases, and, that being so, let us be done with corporal punishment altogether.
One does not need, at this stage, to go into a long disquisition upon the abolition of the death penalty. Suffice it to say that, having given it a great deal of consideration, and having studied all the evidence contained in the various reports on the subject on which I could lay my hands, I am totally opposed to the retention of the death penalty. I very much regret that the Government feel it necessary even to say as much in favour of its retention as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said this afternoon. The 2169 experience of other countries shows that we could safely get rid of this barbaric instrument. There, again, I feel that any dispassionate study of the facts would lead hon. Members of this House to vote against its retention.
Speaking as a lawyer, I hope that one day something will be done to consolidate the criminal law. The Ninth and Tenth Schedules are nothing more than another headache for lawyers in fitting together a tangle of Statutes, omitting certain words from some dating back to 1708 and adding other words to Statutes of 1860. I hope that this Government will embark upon the consolidation of the law, and, particularly, of the criminal law. I will end by saying that I warmly welcome this Bill.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
I think that I am the only woman in the House today who was also a member of the Standing Committee which sat for many weeks, indeed months, in 1938 and 1939. I welcome this Bill, as I am sure my colleagues do also. We spent a great deal of time on the earlier Bill; it was not hurried and we were able to discuss it in great detail. I believe that we can congratulate ourselves on the fact that the present Bill is a great improvement on the previous Measure, and that many of the suggestions which we then made have been accepted. There are so many aspects of this Bill which will be discussed by different Members of the House that I am going to confine myself, more or less, to one aspect of it.
At the time, I was very interested in that part of the previous Bill which dealt with the treatment of young offenders. Our great hope is that this Bill may help to improve the young offenders, and thereby, in time, reduce the number of old offenders. Therefore, I am going to speak from that angle this afternoon. We are rather anxious about certain aspects of this Bill dealing with the young offenders. I hope that the Home Secretary may be able to relieve our minds, and answer certain questions which I want to ask him. May I crave the indulgence of the House if I keep rather carefully to my notes for the next few minutes because this is a technical matter, and I am very anxious to be right on all my points.
2170 The powers given to the courts to secure mental treatment for offenders on probation are contained in pages 3 to 5 of Clause 4. The question whether this Clause is to be effective or not depends upon there being individuals capable of carrying out the treatments indicated in Clause 4 (b), (c) and (d). Some idea of the number of the personnel which would be required for such a Clause to become effective can be gathered from the following figures for all juvenile indictable offences in 1945. I want the House to note these figures very carefully: under 14 years, males, 22,922, females, 1,500; 14 to 17 years, males, 17,349, females, 1,732; 17 to 21 years, males, 15,118, females, 2,324.
There are at present a certain number of medical men and women capable of carrying out this work in the bigger centres, mainly in London. Practically all these received their training some time ago, and their period of action is, therefore, necessarily limited. Their numbers barely cover the opportunities for work of this kind at present in existence, and before the passage of this Bill. All clinics are overworked today, and no provision is made in the Bill, as far as I can make out, for adding to the numbers of trained medical or lay peronnel. This is in contrast to the position in the Bill of probation officers, for whose training arrangements are made. There is, therefore, no logical, reason why provision should not be made in the Bill, for example, for the permissory granting of money, etc., for such training for medical practitioners and auxiliaries also. There are bodies who are quite capable both of carrying out suitable training if grants can be made to them to enable such training to be carried out, and to be made available to suitable candidates. So far as we can make out, no mention is made in the Bill of the auxiliary workers, such as educational psychologists, etc., on whose work reports on the mental condition of the offender so often depends.
I now come to a point which I am very anxious to have cleared up. It will probably be said that such provision as is suggested comes "within the scope of the National Health Services Act and not of the Criminal Justices Bill. There is, however, no power in the Bill and on the judiciary to require of the Minister of Health that under the National Health 2171 Act that he shall make such provisions both for training and for payment of the officers necessary to carry out this part of the Bill. In view of the enormous programme which the Ministry of Health has before it in carrying out the provisions of the Health Act, unless power be given to the judiciary to enforce such fulfilment this Clause will merely become a dead letter or, at any rate, will be deferred to an indefinite date.
I have made very careful inquiries and, although I cannot give these figures as official, as far as I can gather the maximum number of people who are ready trained to deal with juvenile offenders is about 50. No doubt, there are others partially trained, but I do not believe that the total can be more than about 100. This point is very important because we must be able to give these young people the proper treatment at once, and we cannot give them the proper treatment unless we have the proper trained people.
I would like to say a few words about remand homes. This question is one of the main pivots of the Bill. In Clauses 25 and 39 power is given to commit probationers to remand homes. The present position is as follows: in England there are 1,000 courts, 54 remand homes for boys, 17 for girls and no remand centres. With regard to the provision of remand centres, which are at present non-existent, Clause 38 (2) makes obligatoryfacilities for the observation of any person detained therein on whose physical or mental condition a medical report may be desired.But as regards remand homes, Clause 38 (4) merely gives permission to councils of counties and county boroughs to provide such facilities of this nature in remand homes. Nowhere is it stated what is intended to be covered by the word "facilities"—whether it is intended to refer to buildings or to persons. Unless such facilities are in existence in remand homes, the Clauses referring to examination and mental treatment become inoperative.
May I say a word with regard to the staffing of institutions? It is held by everyone with experience in work of this kind that the effectiveness of such institutions as remand homes and remand centres depends entirely on the quality of the people in charge. Unless these people are 2172 of a good enough quality and with adequate training, this part of the Bill will not only fail to achieve its end but may even become a menace through the herding together of young persons of criminal tendencies under inadequate supervision. Any probation officer of experience can give examples of the actual occurrence of this situation.
There are only two classes of persons who are mentioned in this Bill—probation officers and servants. There is no definition of the meaning of the latter. That again is a point which we are most anxious to have cleared up. If any of these provisions concerning institutions are to have a positive effect, it is essential that there be included in the Bill provisions for the recruitment and training of men and women of high character and ability, who shall be appointed to work with probation officers and to be in charge of remand homes and remand centres. Clause 39 (3) offers a skeleton which could be expanded to meet this need.
The decision as to whether young offenders shall be committed to various institutions outlined in the Bill rests with the magistrates. It is quite impossible for magistrates, on their own knowledge, to make wise decisions on these points. The powers for asking for reports on the mental and physical condition of young offenders are permissive, but so long as it is left to the magistrates to decide whether or no a report should be asked for this becomes a dead letter in the great majority of courts outside the main cities. It is true that if it is made obligatory on the courts to ask for such a report before deciding on the committal of offenders, it will be argued that this will render the Clause equally inoperative because of the lack of personnel to carry out the examinations. However, the procedure outlined in Clause 4 (3) for such a contingency in another situation could equally well apply here. Experience of country courts suggests that it is urgently necessary for the protection of children that the asking for a report on a child appearing before a court should be made obligatory before any major decision is taken by the magistrates.
I apologise for having read these points, but I have been in very close consultation with those who are particularly interested in the interpretation of this Measure as it affects the young 2173 people, and I feel that unless we can be certain that we have the proper accommodation and the proper people to deal with these cases we may do more harm than good.
I will now refer to the two most controversial matters affected by this Bill—corporal punishment and capital punishment. The House will have had an opportunity of reading the previous Debates in Committee. The Home Secretary will remember that during the long drawn out discussions, feeling ran high, but I am glad that politics played no part in those discussions, particularly on the question of corporal punishment. I do not think those who spoke in favour of the retention of corporal punishment were particularly brutal, hard hearted or unsympathetic; they were realists, and were trying to face facts. I hope that today we may all try to be realists. I discussed the question with many whose main life's work lay with young offenders—mentally unstable and difficult children. I remember several of them saying to me then that in their experience there were definite cases in which the retention of corporal punishment might prevent a crime being committed. They themselves admitted that they had come across cases of the hardened bully who would be deterred only by the knowledge that he might suffer bodily discomfort.
I know there are many arguments against corporal punishment. It is said that it may produce complexities in after life, and that the time between the crime being committed and the administering of the punishment is so long that the punishment loses its point. We all know the importance of a quick punishment; we cannot be parents without knowing its importance. The argument is used that the child who is punished by his parents knows that he is loved by his parents and that, therefore, no harm is done and very often immediate punishment does a great deal of good. The argument is also used that the effect on those who administer corporal punishment is bad and that it brutalises them. Many of these are telling arguments, but I wonder if we are not rather losing our sense of balance.
I wonder if we are not inclined to consider only the criminal and not the law abiding public. I remember that when we had evidence given us by the probation officers in 1938, they were quite 2174 obviously against the retention of corporal punishment. I could not help feeling then that their whole work lay with the criminals and those they were trying to help. Very naturally, they saw the case from their side, and were inclined to be biased on the side of those they were trying to help, and had not quite looked at the matter from the point of view of the public. Hon. Members have no doubt taken the trouble to read the many speeches made in committee, and it is not necessary for me to repeat some of the arguments that were used. The question we must, however, ask ourselves is, does the retention of corporal punishment act as a deterrent, or safeguard a single member of the public? May I be allowed to read from an extract of my own speech on that occasion, which I have never looked at since then until yesterday, when I read it again? I said:Premeditated crimes are usually committed upon very old and weak people or upon young people who cannot defend themselves.I had been referring to a judgment which had just been given by Judge Oliver who had imposed a sentence of corporal punishment in a certain case of definitely premeditated crime. I went on to say:I think one could hardly find a mother who would not say that the judge had been right in awarding that punishment. It is not retribution. It is a punishment which, while it affects that person, may also prevent somebody else committing the same crime. As I have said, my feeling is that the Departmental Committee were affected only by what could be done to help the criminal. Of course, we all want to help and to reform the criminal and to reduce crime, but until we see evidence that the figures of crime are falling, are we right to take away a single power we now possess?.… In view of the figures that are before us and the country, our responsibility is a very heavy one. The safety of the public, and of old men and old women, and little children and young girls, is on our shoulders in this room and in the House of Commons. If we do not think about the result of what may happen, if the State does away with certain precautions which may deter crime, and which may save the life of one old man or one old woman, or one young child or one young woman, until I am convinced that there is no fear of that kind of thing happening … I shall vote against the Clause."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A; 21st March, 1939, c. 586–8.]Hon. Members, I know, feel very strongly on this matter. There are a great many arguments for and against, but at the present moment I see no reason for 2175 changing the opinion which I expressed on that occasion.
Now I come to capital punishment. The figures which the Home Secretary read out are very disturbing, in the rise they show in the number of crimes in the last few years. I believe that the decision of the Government is absolutely right. Again, there may be many arguments against its retention, but there are also arguments for its retention. Premeditated crime does exist. We know that a large percentage of those who have committed murder are those who can be proved to be of unsound mind and unstable. But there is a small number who have committed crimes that have been very carefully thought out. There is no doubt that the fear of capital punishment has prevented criminals from putting guns—
§ Viscountess Davidson
I dare say the hon. and learned Gentleman has other views. I can only express my view and he can express his. Criminals have themselves expressed the opinion that they would not go out with a certain type of man who carries a gun, in case they became involved in a murder, which would mean the rope. What we have to decide is, is it the criminal or the public who is to have first consideration? We are out to help the criminal. We know that upbringing, surroundings, home life, school life may have been in the beginning responsible for the downward path which led to a life of crime. But, surely, the public must be safeguarded, and we must try to protect them first and the criminal second.
The taking of human life is a very terrible thing, but to allow the lives of innocent people to be taken is far more terrible. We have been through two major wars in our lifetime. We cannot go through two major wars without life becoming cheap. That is the danger of today. Life is very cheap. Before the war, perhaps, we might have risked an experiment of the kind suggested—that 2176 capital punishment should be suspended for five years—although there were many of us who were doubtful about it then. In view, however, of the figures which have been given, in view of the statements that have been made, in view of our own knowledge of some types of people who are about, and of the mentality of those people, I think it would be impossible to risk that experiment today. It is not the moment, immediately after a war, to make a drastic change which which may result in the lives of innocent people being in greater danger than they are today, and it is a risk which I, for one, will not take.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Royle (Salford, West)
The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) will forgive me if I do not follow her in detail; but I shall, perhaps, during my remarks, refer to some points that she made. I will only say, with regard to her views of mental treatment, that I am largely in agreement with her. She will forgive me, too, if I say that, with regard to corporal and capital punishment, I could not disagree with her more. When I saw the Bill and realised it was coming up for Debate today I felt that there was a very great danger that in discussing the administration of the law, this Debate would become a lawyer's field day. I appreciate to the full that hon and learned Members on both sides of the House desire to express their views on matters on which they are expert and on which they are specialists; but it is delightful to me to find that, so far, only one hon. and learned Member has been called.
Many of us in this House have had experience for some years as lay magistrates, and we feel that we have a point of view to express and suggestions to offer because of that experience. Because of that, I say straight away that I am leaving alone the wider Clauses of the Bill which refer to matters like corporal and capital punishment, because I feel there are so many other hon. Members who are bette able to deal with those questions than I am. I shall concentrate, in the few minutes at my disposal, on Clauses and suggestions in the Bill which apply largely to the law courts. Speaking in a general sense of the Bill I want to get rid of my little grouse. I have a feeling that the Bill follows too much the devices 2177 and desires of the 1939 Bill and that it has left undone many things that it might have done, although I am going to confess that there is some health in it. However, I really did expect that a Bill produced by a Socialist Home Secretary would go very much farther than the present Bill goes.
I wish to speak mainly of probation and discharge, fines and recognisances, from my experience in the courts. This Bill is very much overdue. It relieves the justices of much of the responsibility they have had, because it lays down their duties in a more clear and concise way. Some of us know our limitations, and we are relieved to find that some of our responsibilities are defined more clearly than they were before. We lay magistrates are a mixed bag, and we come from all classes of society. In the past, the different outlook among magistrates has had the tendency to change the fortunes of offenders according to the courts in which they have appeared. I wish to refer to fines for technical offences, because this has been a hobby horse of mine for several years. When we have been called upon to make decisions in petty sessions, in regard to a motoring offence for example, we find this happening. A defendant comes before us on a charge of exceeding the speed limit, and we decide to impose a fine of 30s. because it is his first offence. The defendant may have been a driver of a Rolls Royce which costs a lot of money, proving that the owner is well able to pay an appropriate fine. The next case is that of a lorry driver. He is on precisely the same charge, but we have no powers to impose, within or without the limits, a different fine from the fine imposed in the case of the wealthy man.
The Home Secretary partially quoted Gilbert, and he altered his words to "making the punishment fit the criminal." In such cases we ought to make the punishment fit the purse. I consider that there has been need for that to be done for a long time. The attitude of lay magistrates on county benches and borough benches also varies very much. I have noticed that county magistrates have been inclined to impose very heavy fines for motoring offences, while the borough magistrates have been inclined to deal lightly with such cases, but when it comes to illicit slaughtering of animals, 2178 we find exactly the opposite state of affairs. I think that we need to tighten up the position, and to instruct magistrates in their duties within closer limits.
I welcome the changes in regard to probation, binding over and dismissals. They have been so closely linked that it has been difficult to discriminate between them. The difference between binding over and probation is far too narrow, and the fact that recognisances have been necessary in both cases has led to confusion. I welcome Clauses 3 and 7, which dispense with recognisances in the case of probation, and also give power to discharge an offender subject to good behaviour, which is admirable and clarifies the position in regard to probation and binding over. I was struck with what the Home Secretary said in regard to some of the language used in the courts in binding over defendants. How often have we heard, when it has been necessary to bind over an offender or place him on probation, these words used?You acknowledge to owe to our Sovereign Lord the King the sum of £5, the condition of the recognisance being that you shall come up for judgment if called upon, etc., etc., that you shall not associate with thieves and other undesirable persons.It is utter mumbo-jumbo, and the defendant has not the vaguest idea what it is all about, but merely feels tremendous relief that there is no prison door opening for him. He just says "Yes", and hopes for the best.
I should like to see some improvement in the procedure of committing from the lower to higher courts. It does not seem to be recognised, in these days of silent typewriters and efficient operators that it is unnecessary to take down notes in longhand. How bored all of us have been with the miserable experience of waiting as the clerk takes down the evidence sentence by sentence.
We need some encouragement in the lower courts, in regard to the use of probation. Many of us have taken full advantage of probation in the case of young persons and children, and it has had tremendous beneficial results. In my experience, the probation officers are a splendid body of people, who get little recognition. They accomplish great things, and, for my part, I should like to add to their duties as much as possible. I should like to see probation used more 2179 often in the case of adult offenders. There is a tendency in the lower courts to use the powers of probation in regard to adults only when they are poor persons. I remember a discussion in the magistrates' room on one occasion, when a wealthy defendant had been before the court on a charge of being drunk in charge of a car. We found the case proved. The suggestion was made that probation might be a possible way of dealing with him. Immediately, colleagues of mine lifted up their hands in horror, and said, "We cannot have a probation officer going to a home of this type." I suggest that is just the type of home where a visit of a probation officer would be valuable, and would probably do a great deal more good than either the imposition of a fine or a sentence of imprisonment.
I welcome Clause 4(3) to which the hon. Lady has referred, with regard to the treatment for mental condition. Anyone with any experience of offenders who come before the lower courts, both young and old, know that they commit offences through mental strain, and, in many cases, as a result of low mental capacities. This applies especially with regard to sexual and other unsavoury cases, and very often in cases of petty larceny. So much in the Bill is concerned with the courts of summary jurisdiction that I feel I could bring up point after point, but I appreciate that there are many right hon. and hon. Members who desire to take part in the Debate, and, therefore, I will not take up the time of the House. I would, however, ask for two or three minutes to make some observations dealing with matters which are left out of the Bill.
The hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) has referred to the possibility of probation officers giving information in the courts as a result of their inquiries, and I would support him in that suggestion. I feel that it is very necessary that probation officers should be used to give evidence, in addition to the police, out of the knowledge which they have been able to glean about offenders. With regard to Clause 4, I feel that mental treatment should be permitted to be extended, if necessary, beyond 12 months, and that it should be possible to have some revision at the end of that time. With regard to the suggestion that people shall be sent for mental treatment only if it has been agreed by a 2180 qualified medical practitioner, I would like to see included in the Bill, the words, "A qualified medical practitioner with experience in psychological medicine." Without wishing to cast a slur on anyone in the medical profession, I feel that is a very essential condition. Clause 7 refers to absolute and conditional discharge, and provision should be made that such cases should not be recorded against the defendant in any circumstances. I feel that here there is an opportunity to help the offender to forget the first case against him. In Clause 19—corrective training and preventive detention—I believe that there should be wider scope for the treatment of these people, and that the Clause, as it stands, is far too vague.
My contribution has been very disjointed, but I wanted it to cover a number of points. I acknowledge that the Bill aims not only at protecting the law abiding citizen—although that is the first aim—but also at making decent citizens out of those who have been before the courts. That is the desire of every right thinking magistrate, and I believe that to be the desire of every right thinking Member of this House. The Bill is entitled, "Criminal Justice Bill" but the people with whom it deals are, in many cases, only potential criminals; they are also potential valuable citizens. The application of the Bill should aim at accomplishing the latter. The Bill is an improvement on anything which we have had previously, and I hope that in its later stages my right hon. Friend may see his way to make a better Bill of it by accepting some good Amendments. It is a long time since drastic alterations were made in our legal code, so let us take the opportunity which is before us now.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
This Bill is only indirectly a Measure of penal reform. It hopes to obtain penal reform by amendments which it makes in the actual punishments to be meted out. I am sure every section of the House welcome these changes in punishments. The extension of the provision of probation, a system which has been in vogue now for 40 years, raises a very important question. The probation system, as the House will remember, came into being as a result of the work of the Church Missions, which was done voluntarily in the courts. The motive impelling the Church Missions was 2181 a motive of salvation—a saving from sin—a totally different motive from the motive of the State in seeking to reform the criminal. The Church stood for what has been called the "restitution of the citizen," of the man or woman who had fallen, and they did that work successfully, because they were concerned with character.
There is one great difference between the law and the mission, between the probation officer and the missionary. I do not believe that we can put into an Act of Parliament a moral quality. I know that I am treading on the dangerous frontier between law and ethics, law and conduct, law and morality. Nearly every battle takes place on the frontier; it is always a dangerous place. Other problems come in, like modern science, and reference has been made to the modern psychiatrist. The discussion of the Bill in this place provides perhaps the best illustration of the fact that during the progress of a Bill through its various stages hon. Members bring whatever considerations they think fit to bear on the discussions and bring a series of moral arguments to bear upon the provisions of a Measure of this kind.
When the Bill has gone through its last stage, and this House has been summoned to the Bar of the other House to hear the Royal Commission read, and when the Royal Assent has been given to it, all these moral arguments disappear, and the provisions of the Bill become the law of the land. The discussions about why we should put in or omit penalties in the Bill are very valid arguments at this stage of the Bill, but once the Bill becomes law and the courts impose them, they do not impose them for any reason other than that they are the penalties provided by law. The aim for which they are imposed cannot be achieved by the court itself, and, therefore, it uses other instruments, and the instrument which it uses here is the probation officer.
The probation officer, therefore, to my mind, has a dual character. He must seek to preserve what the court cannot provide. He must seek to preserve that personal and moral touch with the offender. If he cannot provide that, his mission has no vision. If he is merely a court official carrying out court instructions as his duty he is going to be a complete failure. That is a very striking 2182 argument for probation orders being as elastic as possible. It becomes of first-class importance that the probation officer should be a man or a woman with a mission. Fortunately, taking it largely, that has been the case in my experience.
It is important that the law shall be kept as fluid as possible. Unfortunately the distinction I have referred to is not kept clearly in mind, and it is with the young offender, curiously enough, that the greatest error is made in this Bill, which even aggravates the present position. I can well understand the argument that the young offender commits an offence because of home surroundings, bad background or physical or mental condition, and then these experts are called in to deal with that. If that is true—and I am prepared to accept it as the truth—the first ingredient of crime is missing, that is wilful intent to commit the crime, because upon that argument, character is the production of inheritance and surroundings. The offender cannot be dealt with and given the benefits of the provisions provided for him until he is first found guilty of the offence.
Let us see the social consequences of that. I will give the House one instance of many that can be given. A child, having committed a series of offences like thefts, was sent to an approved school. The approved school in this Bill and under the Children's Act, 1933, is looked upon in two ways. It is looked upon as providing a place of education suitable for training those who have no adequate home surroundings. That is the moral element. It is also a place of punishment and the only entrance, except one or two to which I shall come presently, is through the commission of an offence sufficiently severe to warrant the offender being committed there. The child was committed. The court, after committing the child there, was faced a little later on with the brother of that child. The younger brother committed the same series of offences and that younger brother was asked why he committed those offences. The perfectly logical reply was, "I want to be sent to the same school as my brother who is provided with a good education, comes home on holidays well dressed, well fed and has got money in his pockets."
Can anyone imagine a worse condemnation of the mixing of the two spheres of 2183 law and morality and of law and ethics? Those two spheres are mixed if we once say that these young children are committing offences because of their home surroundings or because of their upbringing for which they themselves are not responsible. To correct that we should make provision upon the social and not upon the criminal basis. The criminal basis produces crime, particularly if that is a condition for admission to an approved school. If it remained there, it would be bad enough, but look at the provision of this Bill. Clause 63 provides:If the court before which a young person is brought is of opinion that an inquiry ought to be made into his physical or mental condition before it decides whether any and if so what order ought to be made under Sections sixty-two to sixty-six of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933…the court may order him to be detained in a remand centre.Who are those persons who are subject to Clause 62 of the 1933 Act? They are those children who are in need of care and protection—that is, somebody who has never committed an offence at all. They are brought before the courts either because they have been offended against by their parents who have not looked after them, or because they have no parents, or because they are in a home thoroughly unsuitable. They have committed no offence whatsoever, but they can be detained in the remand centre for the purpose of this medical examination.
Let me remind the House what the Home Secretary said about the remand centre. In this Bill those children below 15—and they are children who have committed an offence—will not be sent to the remand centre. It is only the children above 15 who will be sent to the remand centre, though the children below 15 will be sent there if they are too unruly to be remanded into the remand home. So if a child is below 15, having committed an offence, it will have to be unruly before it is sent to a remand centre, but those children who have committed no offence but who are offended against, are sent to the same place. That is a difficulty which arises from the major Act. Why are young persons, who have committed no offence and who are merely in need of care and protection, to be sent to the remand centre and under the principal Act sent to an approved school?
2184 Look at the approved school. It is the most severe penalty which a juvenile court can impose upon a young person for whatever offence is committed. Yet to the same school there can also be sent a child who is merely in need of care and protection. Is a character less valuable to the child than it is to the adult? Does the character of the child not matter so long as he can be got to a good school in good surroundings? Does it not matter if the good, the bad and the indifferent are together in the same place? To my mind it is a harsh provision to say that the character of the child is a matter of indifference to the State. It is a matter of indifference under the law as it stands and it becomes a matter of indifference by people who are anxious to do well and to do a kindly act by trying to unite moral reform with the courts.
I venture to think that nobody who has sat and administered the law will deny that no amount of thinking that one can administer punishment and talk kindly to the person on whom punishment is about to be imposed will unite two roads in the one place. If the judge or magistrate wants to talk freely to a person who is convicted the court is not the place to do it. The judge or the magistrate is a creature of the law, and he is circumscribed by the law, is concerned with the law, has all his powers defined by the law, and his language should be in accordance with the provisions of the law. He should never at any time transgress that. He cannot do so without, at the same time, committing a transgression against the liberties of the persons in front of him. There are times when he can do it, but only when he goes down, man to man, to talk to the prisoner in the cell. The man in the cell can talk back as frankly as he talks. The moment he seeks to unite social reform with the administration of justice he commits that transgression upon the liberties of the person concerned. The virtue of the probation system is that it recognises that, and can deal with the situation in a way in which magistrate or judge cannot, if it is allowed to, by acting on the personal side with the offender. That is the only hope of reform.
I would like to draw attention to another Clause dealing with the same point. Clause 60 provides for committal to an approved school and for the length 2185 of the period of detention there. The court can commit to the approved school—may this be a warning—and that committal is equivalent to the registration of a conviction. Under the Children Act a conviction cannot be registered. We can only find the offender guilty of the offence. If we look at the words which follow we see that the offender can be detained for a period of three years, or for four months after he attains school-leaving age, whichever is the later. Suppose there are two joint offenders, say two boys or two girls, before a court. One offender is 11 and the other is 14 years of age. The sentence is meted out to them that they be sent to an approved school, but the one aged 14 can be committed there for only three years whereas the one aged 11 can be committed there until four months after he attains the school-leaving age. That is the giving of a much longer sentence for the same offence.
There is something much worse than that in Section 44 of the Children Act. Here I come once again to the children who have committed no offence but who are simply in need of care and attention. We cannot commit any child to an approved school who is under the age of 10. We can only find a suitable home of the same religious persuasion to which to send him. Suppose we have a child below ten years of age for whom no home can be found to which to commit him. What then? One of the possibilities open to the court is to send the child to an approved school, even though he is only in need of care and attention. The child may then have to stay for six, seven or eight, or even more years, in the approved school, in the very same school to which admission can be obtained only in the case of a committal equivalent to a conviction.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at these provisions again. The Department should take its courage in both hands and try to draw a clear line of demarcation between responsibility for crime and those offences which are attributed to home surroundings and inheritance. They should raise the age of criminal responsibility from eight, where it rests today, to, say, 14. They should take the whole of that range completely outside the criminal law. The argument now is that children commit these offences, not of their own responsibility but because somebody else is 2186 responsible. If that is the case why go through the farce of a criminal trial which is a contradiction of that argument? Having gone through the form of a criminal trial we then go back to the previous theory and try to mix them both together.
Otherwise, the divisions which are made in the Bill are logical and the punishments meted out and the forms of trial are suitable for legal forms. The Minister should make the first part of the Bill a purely logical character treatment. I welcome the Bill as far as it goes, but I do not welcome those provisions and I hope they will be changed. I hope that some time there will be an adequate Measure introduced by the Government to bring the present treatment in the juvenile court into conformity with modern notion and with their own views on the nature of crime in children below 14 years of age.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the points which he has raised. I hope he will not mind my pointing out that at some stages of his argument I was left wondering whether he was advocating the abolition of poverty or that all the children of the working class should go to approved schools. I know that he really did not mean the second. If he looks at his argument carefully, I think he will see what led me to think he might have meant the other.
I rise only for a short time because I want to make two general remarks about the Bill and because I want to say a word about one matter to which my right hon. Friend referred and which was the subject matter of an Instruction which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am glad to say, have held to be unnecessary. First, about the Bill. I would like to offer to the Home Secretary and to the Government my congratulations upon having introduced the Bill at this time. It is a great act of courage and a great act of faith. Here is nothing that will have the slightest effect upon the economic crisis in which we are. It will not help us to produce more or bring us any more dollars or improve the balance of payments. It will do none of the things which sometimes seem, so urgent are they, to be the only things 2187 worth doing. Here is something which looks beyond the immediate, another piece of social legislation, another social service improved. I was glad to learn from the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench that at last we have found an improvement of a social service, which, in the opinion of the Opposition, is not untimely.
There are two ways of dealing with crime. Society has no right to deal with it except for its own protection. The difference is between society protecting itself by terror, threat, fear and retribution exercised against the offender and society protecting itself against crime by removing the causes of crime and reforming its victims. Whether we shall deal with crime by raising the whole standard of civilisation or by protecting ourselves in the narrower and, in the long run, less effective way by using the weapon of terror and punishment against those who are at the same time its perpetrators and its victims, I am glad to see the Bill introduced at this moment. Of course, there are defects in the Bill, and if I had more time, I would like to argue some of them at length. For instance, I do not like giving the police power to take finger prints, to make the criminal part of the evidence against himself, and I do not think it is any improvement to say that it shall only be done if a man is taken into custody. The only effect of that would be to persuade the police to make an arrest, in many cases, when they would otherwise proceed by a summons. I do not' like abolishing the ticket-of-leave system for the habitual criminal and applying it, for the first time, to the young offender. However, I will not take up time with these matters now, as they can be dealt with on the Committee stage.
This Bill deals with corporal punishment, but it does not deal with the death penalty. The Home Secretary explained that in 1938 he voted for the abolition, or, at any rate, the suspension, of the death penalty for a period of five years, and that the then Home Secretary voted the other way. My right hon. Friend pointed out that since he became Home Secretary and the then Home Secretary had ceased to hold that office their positions had been reversed. I was glad to hear him say that his mind was elastic, because it seems 2188 that if someone changes his mind once he may change it again. I tried to find what were the things that had changed between 1938 and 1947, and my right hon. Friend was good enough to tell us. They seem to have had one effect on him—to convert him from abolition of capital punishment while having the opposite effect on Viscount Templewood.
For the first time—I hope it may be the last—I think that the logical inferences drawn by Lord Templewood are more easily comprehensible than those drawn by the Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend said that in that interval murder had increased a little, from something under 100 to about 130. He said that violent crime had enormously increased. Corporal punishment is inflicted in the main for violent crime. The only thing that has happened between 1938 and 1947 has been an increase of violent crime. What deduction does my right hon. Friend draw? He wishes to abolish corporal punishment, and not capital punishment. I do not want to argue it, and I rather flatter myself that it is not necessary to do so, but I cannot understand why, if corporal punishment is necessary to restrain violent crime, it should be abolished when that violent crime increases whereas, in the case of capital punishment, exactly the opposite course is adopted.
I wish the Government had seen their way to put the abolition of this last relic of a barbarous penal code into this Measure. I can see no reason, from what has been said so far, why they should not have done so. But, short of that, I believe they have taken the best course open to them. This is not a matter for experts, for officials in the Home Department or in any other Department, and most decidedly, and, above all, it is not a matter for the judges. The judges in this matter have always been wrong, from the dawn of history until—well, perhaps I had better not say until when. They have always been demonstrably and completely wrong; they have been falsified by the event very time. They have always been on the side of harshness, cruelty, corporal punishment, and capital punishment, and always against modifying the law in any of these respects for reasons which history has always proved to be false reasoning. No, it is a matter for ordinary people, for representative 2189 people, for the opinion of the country as a whole, if only there were some way of testing it. There is no easy and reliable way of testing it, but I suppose that a House of Commons, elected by popular suffrage, provides as good a cross-section of the mind of the community on these matters as any that could be found.
Many, I think most, approach this question with an open mind. They listen to the argument both ways and in the end decide, perhaps with doubt and hesitation, but with courage, one way or the other, according to what they have heard and their consciences. There is no reason to think that a Member of this House could not, in that way, uninfluenced by party or political considerations, arrive at the same kind of conclusion as the majority of his constituents would arrive at if they had the same opportunity of hearing the argument both ways, concentrated into a good Debate. Since the Government cannot see their way to make it part of their Measure, they have done wisely and generously, in agreeing to leave this matter to the free, unfettered, judgment of Members of the House. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) say that the Opposition would take the same view, so far as their Members were concerned. He also said that that would be done on all matters connected with the Bill, and not merely on this matter.
I should be glad to be assured, when the Government reply to the Debate, that if we agree not to debate this question of capital punishment much more on the Second Reading, if we agree not to clutter up the Committee stage with it—because if we are to have a free vote of the House it should be of the whole House, and not merely of the Standing Committee—we shall get a proper portion of time for it on the Report stage, say, half a day, or even one day, so that we do not have to scramble for this Debate with a whole crowd of minutiae arising out of the Committee stage of a highly technical Measure. If the Government agree to that, I think the House would be able to deal with this matter in the way I have suggested. I do not want to say any more about the merits of this question, except that this will be a great and historic occasion. If we do not abolish capital punishment this time, it may be years before we have another opportunity. 2190 There cannot be a Criminal Justice Bill every Session, or every Parliament, and I hope, therefore, that Members, whichever way they may ultimately decide to vote, will, between now and the Report stage, go into the matter, see what the facts, figures, and arguments are before they decide to vote for or against this proposal, and not cast their votes, as I am afraid Members often do, rather casually without having heard much of the argument either way. I thought it right to say so much about this Measure, and about the death penalty, but in view of what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, I do not desire to say more at this stage.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I think that the chief object of this Bill, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, is the improving of methods of dealing with prisoners found guilty of offences. We can all be in sympathy with that, although there may be some differences of opinion—in fact, they have already manifested themselves—as regards some of the specific proposals in the Bill. With regard to Clause 1, which proposes to abolish penal servitude with hard labour and prison divisions, I hope it will be borne in mind that if a punishment is to be effective it must be a deterrent. I do not think this will be the case if prison conditions are made too easy. Some little time ago a man appeared before the bench on which I sit, charged with setting fire to some ricks, causing damage to the extent of some hundreds of pounds. He pleaded guilty. When he was asked if he had anything to say he replied: "Well, winter is coming on, and it is time I was back in prison." For that man, at any rate, and there are others like him, prison was no deterrent. He probably thought it was worth the loss of his liberty to be sure of being warm, well fed and carefree.
I do not suggest that prison conditions should involve physical suffering, or be deleterious to health; still less that reform of prisoners should not be a very real object in the conditions which are imposed upon them. But if prison is to be an effective deterrent, as it ought to be, in my opinion, the conditions must not be too easy or comfortable. The work must be as hard as the prisoner can do, indeed, I think the Home Secretary said 2191 in his speech that it would be so, having regard to sex, ability, strength and so forth. Generally, I would say that prison life should be such that those undergoing it will be very anxious indeed after the conclusion of their sentences never to experience it again.
As regards Clause 2, giving effect to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee of 1938 for the abolition of corporal punishment, I know there is considerable difference of opinion. It has already manifested itself. Before considering that Clause, I think it should be noted that under Clauses 43 and 45 the Secretary of State may make rules authorising the infliction of corporal punishment in prisons for the offences of mutiny, incitement to mutiny, or gross personal violence to prison officers. I suggest that the first thing to be considered is whether corporal punishment is, or is not, a deterrent. It is inflicted practically only for robbery with violence, and for criminal assault, and I know that the Departmental Committee of 1938 considered it not to be a deterrent.
But, with great respect to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who I see is no longer in his place, what about the opinion of judges in the High Court? I do not agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, and I do not believe many Members will, that the judges are anything but wise and experienced and moderate in their ways. I imagine that their knowledge of the law is not less than that of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. It does appear that the judges are in favour of the continuance of corporal punishment. At any rate, they certainly have been inflicting it right up to date, because there have been cases within the last few weeks. If it is not a deterrent, why is it authorised in prisons? Is it not for the protection of warders and prison officials, and for the preservation - of prison discipline; in fact, to stop very much the same sort of conduct for which it is imposed outside the prison? It seems to me that the authorising of corporal punishment in these cases of mutiny and violence in prisons, shows that it is considered a deterrent. If prison warders are to be so protected, why not other victims of criminal violence, who probably have a far less chance of protecting themselves than have the staff of a prison?
2192 It may be considered, I have no doubt that it is, that, in spite of the liability to corporal punishment, the number of crimes of violence has not decreased, but has, in fact, increased. But crimes of all other descriptions have increased a very great deal, and in greater proportion than those particular ones. Might there not, therefore, have been a proportionate increase in crimes of violence were it not for that very liability of corporal punishment? I believe corporal punishment is a deterrent to the type of ruffian who would be likely to commit crimes of this nature, and it is only ruffians—and callous ruffians—who do commit such crimes. I hope that the power to order its infliction may be left in the hands of His Majesty's judges, who can be trusted not to abuse it. With regard to the treatment of young offenders, I would say at once that, like every other hon. Member of this House, I am in favour of everything possible being done to keep young people out of prison. But there has been a great, and I think we shall all agree, a disquieting increase in juvenile crime, and there are many cases in which it is difficult to fix an appropriate and effective penalty.
Here again, we need penalties which will be a deterrent. Probation and binding over are excellent ways of dealing with those who err through foolishness, ignorance, weakness, bad home influence, being led away or giving way to temptation. But there are a good many really bad boys—some people may call them, and the Home Secretary used the expression, "tough guys"—of 15 or 16, and I am afraid there are a few bad girls too, who sin deliberately, confidently counting on what many of them regard as getting no punishment, through being bound over or placed on probation for a first offence. They anticipate being talked to and admonished by kindly gentlemen and ladies sitting on the Bench in the children's court.
Probation does very little with that type. The question is what can be done with them. Many of them appear in court again, and it will be generally agreed that it is no good repeating the probation. The question is what can be done to deter them from further crime. In this Bill they may be sent to remand centres, detention centres, or, if they are over 16, to Borstal, but it is certain— 2193 the Home Secretary said so—that all the buildings necessary to provide the accommodation required for these young offenders are unlikely to be ready and available for some time to come. Obviously there will be no places available for a good many of them. Fines may sometimes be effective, but I believe that in cases of that kind whipping would be appropriate and effective, and a deterrent in a great many cases.
I believe that more should be done—it is a matter of importance—to bring home to parents their responsibility for their children. There are far too many parents these days who say they cannot control their children, and very often they add to that the statement that the work of controlling their children ought to be done in schools. The fact is that schoolteachers cannot control children who are not controlled at home, and both at home and in schools there should be a good deal more teaching of the elementary facts of what is right and what is wrong. One of the parents should be compelled to attend court if their child is summoned and should be liable to pay any fine inflicted. That would bring their responsibility home to them.
Conditions in approved schools, remand and detention centres and Borstal institutions should not be made too easy. It is not the case of the child being sent to a boarding school and having all its advantages; it is a case of being sent to what is in fact a penal establishment. The work should be hard and the discipline should be strict. There have been far too many escapes from Borstals. There have been particulars in the newspapers quite recently. Last night or this morning it was stated that one inmate in every seven escaped during the period of a year. Many who escaped also broke into houses or committed other crimes. It was further stated that something like three in 10 committed further crimes after release. In order to prevent those escapes there should be stricter control and less liberty and opportunity to escape.
The fixing of the age of 21 instead of 23 as the upper age limit for Borstal seems to be very wise. Borstal is meant for boys and not for young men, and I would even suggest that the upper limit be 19. We shall all agree that persistent offenders need to be dealt with, and the procedure suggested seems to be some- 2194 thing in the nature of an experiment. A persistent offender, if under 21, may be sentenced to corrective training, or if over 30, to preventive detention. These are new types of sentence and are in lieu of imprisonment. They are in the nature of experiments. I hope they will be successful but I suggest again that it should be borne in mind that something should be done in the way of having a deterrent effect. Obviously, we cannot keep people in preventive detention for long periods under prison conditions, but at the same time it seems that the commencement of their sentence, at any rate, should be on stricter lines than later on.
I would advert for a moment to Clauses 26 and 27 which lay down the new procedure in respect of offences punishable on summary conviction or on indictment. This Amendment will be both practical and useful. Under the existing law a prisoner can elect to be dealt with summarily and it may happen that when the accused's record is called for after conviction, he is found to have a number of previous convictions and to be a person who, far from being dealt with summarily by a magistrate's court, ought to have been sent to quarter sessions or assizes. Under this new procedure it will be possible to avoid this mistake, and although it is not spectacular, it is an extremely practical measure and will be of the very greatest use.
In conclusion, I reiterate the importance of penalties being deterrent. Deterrent penalties need not stand in the way of measures for the reformation of prisoners, of which we shall all be in favour. Still less is it necessary in the laudable effort to humanise—as I know is being done—the lot of the criminals and prisoners to reduce accordingly the deterrent element. I have harped on this question of the penalties being deterrent but I have some slight experience and I believe it to be of very great importance, and I hope that in this Bill and in any measures and rules which may be adopted by the Home Secretary under this Bill the important element of sentences being deterrent will not be overlooked.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of joining with others in all parts of the House in giving this Bill a general welcome. I 2195 entirely agreed with the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) when he said that this would be dealt with very largely on non-party lines from all part's of the House, although when references were made, to people seeking to get into prison in order to obtain warmth and comfort, I could not help feeling that such cases arose when the social conditions outside the prisons were those that we on this side are trying to change, and I was tempted to ask who, on those occasions, was the Minister of Fuel and Power.
Many who wish to take part in this Debate will deal with various sections of the Bill in which they have some personal interest because of their experience either as lawyers or lay magistrates or in some particular aspect of the work the Bill touches. I shall confine my remarks to some consideration of that important section of the field covered by the Bill, and already referred to by one or two speakers, the Probation Service. From my observation, and admittedly rather limited experience of a number of years as a lay magistrate and a member of a probation committee, I should say there are three important factors which go to the making of a successful Probation Service. I join with those other hon. Members today who have spoken with appreciation of, and paid tribute to, the good work done by the probation officers, and to the development of the Probation Service since the passing of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907. However, I think the good progress that has been made, and any improvements that can be made in the future, depend largely upon these three important elements.
First, much depends upon the quality of the persons doing the work. The selection of probation officers is of the greatest importance and needs to be carried out with the greatest care. There has been considerable improvement in that direction of recent years. In passing, however, I would say that we shall not attract to this important service the quality of people we need unless their remuneration and conditions of service are greatly improved, although most of them do it from a sense of public spirit and because they have a deep sense of vocation for this valuable service to the community. Secondly, one has been glad to know that 2196 in recent years much greater attention has been paid to the improved training of the people selected for this work.
Thirdly, and mainly, an element upon which the success of this work depends is in the statutory and other provisions which can be made in this Bill, and otherwise, for the establishment of a close and helpful relationship between the probationer and the probation officer as a person, not merely as an official appointed by the court and the authorities. It is most important that such a relationship should be made possible by arrangements which treat the probation officer and the probationer primarily as persons. Therefore I regret that the Bill proposes in Clause 3 (2) that the probation order, instead of naming the probation officer under whose supervision the offender shall be, is to name the petty sessional division in which he resides or will reside. That personal relationship would be much better secured if the probation order were to name the probation officer as a person.
I also regret that the definition of the duty of probation officers in the Fifth Schedule of the Bill, paragraph 3 (5) uses only the word "supervise" and fails to perpetuate the words "advise, assist and befriend" which were embodied in the 1907 Act and which should remain the guiding principle of the sound application of the probation system. I am sure, whatever is in the Statute, that is the desire and the principle upon which most good probation officers work. It is not only a question of supervision but of advising, assisting and befriending, and one would have liked to see it continued in the Bill. The Bill also seems to me to make no provision for the probation order, requiring the offender to be under the supervision of a probation officer to contain detailed conditions for such supervision. I think the existing provisions should not only be retained but strengthened, by detailed definitions of the conditions which experience has shown to be desirable for the purpose of securing supervision.
Something has been said already by one hon. Member about the importance of the magistrates' receiving reports through the probation officers, and I would underline and emphasise that. The Bill does not sufficiently stress the importance of securing, first, that the courts, before proceeding to sentence or to disposal of the offender, should have the 2197 fullest information about him and his circumstances to assist them in selecting the most suitable way of dealing with him, and, secondly, of securing that all available information is passed on through the recognised channels to any agency or institution which may have to undertake his reformative treatment. Adequate machinery for this is absolutely essential if recidivism is to be combated and crime reduced by securing the most appropriate form of treatment for each offender at the very first opportunity, and by providing means, if a different method is subsequently found necessary, of linking the two together and passing on all relevant information.
Experience has proved that these ends can be largely achieved where the courts make the fullest possible use of the probation service for these purposes, and the time has come when there should be statutory recognition given to the place which the Probation Service can fill in connection with that; which indeed it largely does fill so far as the existing law allows, and where the court gives the opportunity. It would be an improvement if the Bill could underline the fact that the probation officer should be the social adviser to the court and the channel through which reports are conveyed, so that he can correlate the reports and present them to the court. The probation officer should be the court's agent for the carrying out of treatment ordered by it, whether directly, by giving effect to a probation or supervision order, or indirectly, by acting as the recognised link between the court and any authority, agency or institution whose duty it is to give effect to the sentence or order of the court.
Wherever the Bill provides that the courts should receive reports concerning the character or circumstances of the offender, as well as on the home surroundings and conditions, it should stipulate that such reports should always be received from and through the probation officer. It should be laid on the courts as a duty to receive such a report whenever it is likely to be of assistance in determining the most suitable method of dealing with the offender. The probation officer should he the agency through which all reports on such matter should come to the court, so that he can collate them, and present a comprehensive report on the 2198 offender and his whole situation and suitability for particular treatment and to give information as to the most appropriate method of dealing with him. This statutory recognition of the function of the probation officer would raise his status, and would be of great benefit to the court in determining the best method of dealing with offenders.
I am very glad to see that detention centres are provided for in the Bill. They are important, but it is a pity, as has been pointed out by a well known stipendiary magistrate this week, that there seems to be no provision in the Bill for after-care in the period following the time served in the detention centre. The success of detention centres will depend very largely on the after-care provided for offenders, but there seems no provision for that. Here again I think the Probation Service might very well be of great value, and could be used. In fact, the service should be responsible for the after-care of all persons submitted for reformative treatment by the courts. It should include not only those who have been in detention centres but those released on licence from approved schools, in addition to the classes of person provided for in the Bill.
These responsibilities, which should be given to the Probation Service, and the increase of responsibility and status, demand an organisation which can provide, on the offender's return to normal life, personal help and guidance on the spot. This can more easily be given through the existing machinery of the probation service than by a series of separate organisations. Such assistance would have the further advantage of keeping the courts in touch with the continued progress of persons with whom they have to deal, and could be based on the valuable principle of continuity of personal interest in the offender, and a continuous link with the different stages of his progress.
I wish to say a word or two on the question of the abolition of the death penalty I am one who" regrets—and it is not necessary to say more at this stage—that the Government have not seen their way to include provision in the Bill for the abolition of the death penalty. It is extremely serious to consider experimenting with such a matter unless one is convinced that the abolition of the 2199 death penalty is right, and would not lead to increased numbers of murders. I should not like to advocate the suspension of the death penalty for five years only, because I had some doubts as to the results, and then to have to meet the relatives of people who have been murdered because of its suspension. But from experience in other countries, I am convinced there would be no such increase and I have no doubt that it is right to abolish the death penalty completely. I hope that as a result of deliberations in this House this barbarous relic will be removed from the law of this land.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
In the time at my disposal I wish to start by saying there is nothing more awful than waiting here hour after hour as one's courage oozes out. There is nothing like it, nothing on the stage or in the courts; it is appalling. I am saying all this to fortify myself, and to get through my speech fairly quickly. I wish to be helpful and constructive, and also to give the House the benefit of what I know as a result of some 22 years' experience at the Bar. I suppose as many criminal cases have passed through my hands as the hands of anyone in this House. The number must run into thousands now.
So that the House may understand the sort of person I am, I should say about hanging that I detest it, and loathe it. I will never forget the first case I had to defend of a girl of 18 who threw her baby into the Basingstoke Canal in 1925. I suppose she is alive still, I do not know. The judge's clerk told me that she would be in prison for seven or eight years. I never forgot the horror of the death sentence on that girl who had been thrown out by her father and mother, and treated abominably, and I shall never forget going down the stairs of Winchester Castle and seeing a woman who was to be tried—in those days if they were insane they had to be tried—and as I passed her she screamed. I shall never forget the case in which a woman's head had been cut off by an axe, or the Mrs. Bryant's poisoning case, or a strangulation case. I loathe the panoply of the law; I hate it, and think it simply horrible. I think it is magnificent as well, but that is a different thing, and I detest it.
2200 Nevertheless, in spite of all that, it is essential that one should not do something to make matters worse. It is not right to think I have not had a clear vision of the persons who were strangled and of the horrors of the murders. That is borne in on one when one is defending a man for murder, by the photographs which are shown to the jury. I have seen horrible things and no doubt horrible things will yet be done. I must confess that when I heard the statistics which the Home Secretary gave tonight I was disappointed and dismayed. I had come down to the House thinking of Samuel Rommilly, and that one, could do away with the thing once and for all, but what the right hon. Gentleman said gives one cause to think, I am' not at all sure that as the police gorces get better, as more men come back into the police forces, and things settle down, it will be apparent to a man of a violent disposition that the probability of being caught is very large.
I have noticed throughout speeches in this Debate—I am not talking of the right hon. Gentleman—that it has escaped the notice of hon. Members that the essential thing, if any punishment is to work as a deterrent to a person who is planning a crime—I am only thinking of premeditated crimes—he must think he will probably be caught. I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) will not mind me saying in his absence that I heard him talking about the deterrent of flogging in prison, and using that as an argument for flogging not in prison. Of course, the answer is that if a man goes battering a warder about in gaol he knows perfectly well there is a strong probability that he will be flogged. But, the men I have known flogged, and I forget their names, are the men who plan a thing. They plot it and work out exactly what they are likely to get. Even sometimes it is known that a man would be anxious to know which judge is coming to a particular circuit, as some judges flog and others do not. I could name those who might and those who probably will not.
These persons plan the whole thing and work out what they are likely to get by way of sentence. They work out the possibilities of escape and so on, and if they work out that it is four to one against being caught, they will take the 2201 risk of flogging, and that is why it so often fails as a deterrent. That is the reason why sentences of imprisonment also fail to deter.
Everybody seems to imagine that all one has to do is to have a very severe penal system under which men are sentenced to long terms, which will be incidental to the doing away with whipping. The moment we take away the possibility of flogging, then the judges will no doubt consider that, in order to protect the public, it is necessary to show those persons who are really evil, beastly people—they are not charming persons like hon. Members, they are really horrible people, many of them could not be nastier—it will be necessary, in order to show that the public is secure, to impose heavier penalties. Do not let us delude ourselves that it will not be so. It will be so. Indeed, I am now wondering, looking over this Bill, whether it would not have been possible to have had some compromise in the matter of flogging. No one wants to carry on with the cat o' nine tails. No one who has taken the trouble to read the Cadogan Report, or has troubled to think about the matter quite apart from that Report, could possibly want to keep that instrument of torture, for that is what it is, unless it was really necessary.
I put this thought in the mind of the House from my experience, and I do not believe that any of my colleagues would dissent from what I say. I am what Lord Darling called a very criminal lawyer, and since I was called to the Bar in 1925 I have noticed, and I am dismayed by it, that in the heart of the bad fellow the fear of being sent to prison has steadily been diminishing. I will give the House the reason. I had the honour to be in the chambers of a great criminal judge, who is still on the bench today, and whom we admire enormously. In fact, that judge, when I started in his chambers, thought I would never be able to stand it. I hated seeing people sent to prison, and hearing their wives scream, and seeing people faint in the dock. That happened regularly at the Old Bailey—scenes in which the evening papers delighted. They were horrible and genuine. Things are quite different now. It is true that the penal system has been very much ameliorated, it is far better.
Dartmoor Prison is very different from what it was when I first saw it. But those 2202 chiefly concerned are not so much afraid. There was wisdom in what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield said about there being a danger of making prisons quite attractive, but I confess that I would very much like to crush any idea that they are ultimately other than places of complete and dire misery. I would ask the House to believe that if a squirrel is shut up in the most beautiful cage, with the loveliest of food, it is not quite so happy, when all is said and done, as if it were running about outside. The same is true of a caged bird. In the case of human beings it is far worse.
I will now turn quickly to other matters which appear to me to be important. There is need for power to delay the preferring of a bill of indictment beyond the sessions to which a case is committed. There is no necessity for me to explain in detail what that means. It is a-nuisance when a bill of indictment comes in for Mr. Bill Sykes, who has been associated with Mr. Arthur Sykes, who is only caught a little later, and one cannot put them in the one indictment. There have to be separate trials of Arthur and Bill. It is a nuisance to witnesses and is an expense. On the subject of the depositions, a little bird has told me that possibly something is to be done about the taking of evidence in petty sessional courts. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure me that that is so. In 1945 there were, if I read the statistics aright, no fewer than 15,543 per sons committed for trial by jury, of whom 14,397 were found guilty. That meant the preparation of 15,543 sets of depositions, all being taken down in longhand, except in some very advanced courts, where they are able to type rapidly. It is an interminable nuisance for the witnesses and for the justices who have to sit there, sometimes day after day, and who have been known to sit week after week. It is hopelessly antiquated, and I am certain that some day or other the right hon. Gentleman will take action to get rid of a mass of this antiquated nonsense.
As to challenge of juries, I have only seen it happen once. It was done by a High Court judge, then at the Bar. He challenged a juryman at the Old Bailey, just for fun, to see what would happen. What happened was that the jurymen left the box. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. 2203 Peake) wanted to keep some peremptory challenges. I see absolutely no reason for it. It is a thing of the past, with an origin which has nothing to do with the present, and it ought to be put in the wastepaper basket. As for the taking of fingerprints, it depends to some extent on whether one likes or dislikes policemen. I believe that there are good and bad policemen, but on the whole I think the police are good, that the police force is a force for good. I am inclined to think that it is quite ridiculous that persons should not have their fingerprints taken. It would save the public an enormous amount of time and trouble. There is no reason why there should not be something about their destruction. It may be that some such provision is concealed in the Bill, and that I have not seen it. Those people who do not want to have their fingerprints taken are like the savages who do not like their photographs taken—there is a sort of idea that there is something indecent about it, almost like being stripped, which seems to me to be something which belongs to the past.
As for conditional discharge, I do not understand why a conditional discharge is to hang over the man or woman for only one year. What we generally do on the bench is to bind a man or women to be of good behaviour for two or three years. If during that period, they are guilty of evil behaviour, back they come, and they are liable to be punished. So far as I am concerned I do punish them. I do not believe in "telling lies in court by telling someone that they are to be punished if they come back, and then not do it. I do not quite understand why it has been limited to 12 months. There may be some good reason. I believe that it is wrong.
I would like to speak very strongly on something about which I feel very deeply. It has nothing to do with my courts; it has nothing to do with quarter sessions or assizes. I must confess that, however illogical it may seem not to record a conviction, however ridiculous it may seem to the official mind not to record a conviction, when a person has been found guilty of an offence, nevertheless, there is much sense in it and much real wisdom. I would like to quote one thing to show the House what is in my mind. The story will speak for itself. Take the case 2204 in the Gospel of St. John of the woman who was taken in adultery. Remember what happened—how she was set in the midst and she was accused, and her accusers went away one by one, the eldest going first, even unto the last. She was left there, and Jesus asked her whether there was no man to condemn her and she said, "No man, Lord." Then Jesus said:Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.I do not believe that, at that moment, the scribe took out his pen and recorded a conviction.
I think it is an important thing to be magnanimous and to be able to say, what I have longed to be able to say, to a man, "Look, we are going to wash the whole of this thing out." One is not able to do that at quarter sessions or assizes. One is not able to say," Go away. We will forget about it. Go back home and say that you have never been convicted." I believe that a lot of magistrates have enjoyed doing that. They have done right, and it has appealed to the fellow before them. But, no, this has upset somebody in the Home Office because it is untidy. An argument has been advanced, based on legal cases in the courts, and I believe that it could be got round easily. Never mind if it cannot be applied to every case, but let us be able to be magnanimous and big about it, and where we find some miserable wretch who has never done anything wrong in the whole of his life and is thoroughly penitent, let us say, "Go away, we will forget about it." That is the way to do things in the courts, instead of being ruled by the clerkly mind of some who are perhaps of my profession or the other branch of it.
I wish to say a few words about Borstal. I am by no means happy at the idea of sending many more people to Borstal. I think that Borstal is admirable in idea but is gravely hampered by lack of accommodation. I am not happy about Borstal. I would like to have seen an investigation not with the idea of discovering anything wrong about it—that is to say, any scandal; I do not think that for one moment—but I am not at all satisfied in regard to the results of Borstal. The reason for saying that is largely that we get such extraordinary different views about it. Some people say that it is very very good. Others say that it is not at 2205 all good. Some people say that so many persons are made worse in Borstal, and others are not at all sure about it.
I am speaking of professional men. I have seen Wormwood Scrubs. I do not know whether it is still being used in connection with the Borstal system as a temporary centre, but I drew my breath and wondered when I saw it. I am not at all sure that it is wise, as present things are, for the judges, or the recorders, or chairmen of quarter sessions, to send many more people to Borstal until the right hon. Gentleman has been able to give a little more information about it. I do not suggest that he should do that in this Debate, but I know that gradually he will improve things.
There is one extraordinary thing about the penal system of this country, that there is the most enormous gap between the judges, the recorders, the chairmen of quarter sessions, and the magistrates—in other words, the benches—and the people who run the prisons. The gap is really quite fantastically large. I do not think that anybody could contradict me when I say that there must be High Court judges who have had very little visual experience of the inside of prisons. Not long ago, I should not have been a bit surprised to find that several of them had never seen inside a prison. I doubt whether that is so now. Judges like Lord Justice Wrottesley take a very great deal of trouble about it. It is possible to become a magistrate without ever having seen the inside of a gaol. It is possible to be a recorder and never see the inside of a prison or approved school. It is possible to get on the bench and never have had to demonstrate to anybody that one knew the first thing about punishment.
There is one thing that is weird and extraordinary about the present system; we get the amazing situation that, at the London Quarter Sessions, there is a very highly skilled chairman, who was formerly Senior Counsel to the Treasury, and who is forced by the system to have sitting with him lay magistrates. It is a very curious system, because when I sit at Plymouth, I do not have to have lay magistrates, although he in London and I in Plymouth do exactly the same kind of job. Let not hon. Members think that he has complained to me about this, because, if he had done so, I should be the last person to speak about it here. 2206 These judges, who are highly trained, have to take the opinion of lay magistrates, and I cannot help thinking that that is a mistake.
It is high time that the Lord Chancellor and the right hon. Gentleman got together and talked tactfully to the legal profession so that a marriage could be arranged between the legal profession and the Home Office, or, probably, the Prison Commissioners. They might do something in the way in which we started in September, 1943, when 26 of us who were recorders managed, with the help of the Recorder of London, through the Home Secretary and the Middle Temple, to persuade a Prison Commissioner to come and talk to us. It was simply fascinating. It was private and confidential, and it still remains private and confidential, although there is no reason why I should not have told the House about it except that it was private. If this sort of talk could be started between judges, recorders, chairmen of quarter sessions and the administrators of the prison system, it might make for great success. There is nothing more futile than when a man on the bench sentences another man to, say, 21 months' imprisonment, and the man being received into the prison when the prison authorities wonder what on earth the judge intended by the sentence, while the man who has, in fact, passed the sentence knows little or nothing of prison conditions and results. Why that is so I cannot imagine.
I have also heard that a High Court judge, not long ago, sentenced a man to imprisonment in the second division. That was in the Central Criminal Court, and the judge was astonished when I talked to him afterwards and said that it did not make the slightest difference whether he had said "second division" or not. I have an idea that there are many people in this House who did not know that, either, so ignorant are we about the system. I agree with the Webbs when they wrote:We suspect that it passes the wit of man to contrive a prison which shall not be gravely injurious to the minds of the vast majority of the prisoners, if not also to their bodies. So far as can be seen at present, the most practical and the most hopeful of prison reforms is to keep people out of prison altogether.In my opinion, criminals are made; they are not born. It is the devil's own 2207 work making them, and my own opinion is that the reformation of many of these unhappy people is mostly achieved by themselves; it is very rare to find the real reformation of a bad fellow. The man who goes to prison and comes out and never commits an offence again, is probably not one who has been reformed by somebody else, but a man who has reformed himself. If it is the devil's work making a criminal, his reformation is the work of a saint.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Dr. Santo Jeger (St Pancras, South-East)
It is exceedingly difficult to follow a Member with such an extensive legal knowledge as the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) but I am fortified in my disagreement with a good many of the things he said by the fact that, just as one may criticise a shoemaker who says, "There is nothing like leather," so one may be equally critical of a criminal lawyer who discourses on the Criminal Justice Bill. The hon. and learned Member really made two speeches. He began by expressing agreement with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) and ended by deploring the necessity for prisons altogether and agreeing with statements made by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb that the best way of dealing with criminals is to keep them out of prison. I agree with the second portion of his speech, but not with the first portion, because I regard the sentiments of the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield as containing the essence of unenlightened obscurantism.
I want to say a few words about a point which has not been dealt with by any other hon. Member. The prisoner who has been sentenced, and who makes an appeal against his sentence, is confined to prison and is subjected to certain restrictions with regard to letters, visitors, and so on. When a prisoner makes his appeal, a certain interval elapses from the moment when he is sentenced to the time when his appeal is heard. However long that interval may be, the time is not reckoned in his sentence. If his appeal is upheld, he goes free, and the whole thing is washed out. If his appeal is dismissed, he then starts his sentence on the very day on which it is dismissed. Consequently, he will have been in prison for a few 2208 days, a few weeks or even months, none of which period counts towards the serving of the sentence time.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who led for the Opposition, made a very sound remark when he talked about our very old prisons which are built in very old styles, and which are out of date for their present purpose. The sanitation of many of these buildings is very inadequate. Not only is the inadequate sanitation part of the structure of the building, but, in our administration of prisons, we actually tend to make the sanitary question very much worse. We lock up our prisoners for long periods—14 or 14½ hours—in individual cells which measure 7 feet by 13 feet, by about 9 feet high. They stay in these cells for this length of time, with no opportunity of getting out in order to relieve themselves from a sanitary point of view. They have a chamber pot, and they have to sleep in that cell which is really a lavatory, and not a very well ventilated lavatory at that. The door is not unlocked until the morning. When it is, the prisoners take these chamber pots, which they have filled during the night, to a landing recess. This landing recess has a W.C. on it, which is used for depositing the slops from the chamber pots. Each of these landing recesses, I am informed, serves about 20 people. We ought to be able to do something about that kind of prison administration.
I have some other criticisms to make of our prison administration. I happen to be a convinced Socialist. The Socialist philosophy which brought me here—I regret to have to introduce party politics into this—was not only an economic philosophy; it was a philosophy which contained a certain definite attitude towards my fellow man. It was one of great humanity to my fellow man, and of uplift to my fellow man. I do not want to see him excessively punished; I want to see him lifted from the poverty which probably caused a great deal of his crime, and I want to see him educated and trained to be a better citizen. I am not the sort of person who likes to cry stinking fish about my own profession, but I regard the medical attention in prisons as inadequate. I believe that most prisoners get a perfunctory kind of medical attention, although I agree that many prison medical officers are skilful, 2209 admirable, take their duties very seriously, and give their charges very good medical care. But I would like to see every medical officer in a prison compelled to have a diploma in psychological medicine, and to attend refresher courses in psychological medicine to keep him up to date. It is now widely accepted that a great deal of crime is due to mental disorder and mental deficiency. Our prison medical officers should have a far greater knowledge of this kind of thing. That knowledge should be available to them for the good of themselves, of their prisoners, and of society.
There are one or two other alterations that I would like to see in prison administration. I would like prisoners to be allowed to smoke. I say this with no longing for smoking myself—for a considerable time now I have been a non-smoker—but I do not think that people who have made a lifelong habit of smoking should be completely deprived of it. Then I want to see the abolition of such punishments as solitary confinement and the imposition of bread and water diet, and I would like also to see the abolition of the flogging of prisoners inside prisons. I do not regard flogging as a deterrent. There have been numerous cases in which men who have been flogged inside prisons, and outside, have had to be flogged more than once. They have not been deterred from continuing their life of crime or, rather, disobedience to very severe discipline. I feel they have been handled wrongly, and that if they had been handled properly, with the right sort of psychological approach, there would have been no necessity for them to be in a position where corporal punishment was considered necessary.
I have other views about flogging. The psychological side of medical knowledge today associates the act of flogging with a good deal of sexual perversion. Historically we have had Rousseau who told us in his own "Confessions" how much he enjoyed being slapped by his teacher when he misbehaved himself; so much so that he deliberately misbehaved himself in order to get further beatings. That is the passive side of the business. Then we have a long history of flagellation in the development of various religious orders. We can trace all this right up to the celebrated crimes of Jack the Ripper, which again was a series of 2210 purely sexual crimes. There is the masochistic basis in the suffering that one receives when one is flogged, and the sadistic basis on the part of those who order the flogging, those who witness it and those who carry it out. I am not suggesting that this sadism and masochism are necessarily deliberate and conscious, but there is a basis of this kind in every one of us, and it can easily be developed and extended, and turned into a real perversion. Therefore, I am very strongly opposed to the retention of flogging in any form, and I believe its abolition will have a very definite effect in lessening the brutal atmosphere that exists in so many of our prisons.
I want prisoners to be given useful work. I do not think it is necessary for a prisoner to be set to work sewing mail-bags by hand. I think that is antiquated, and should be relegated to the past along with the picking of oakum. Many of these unfortunate people who, in many cases, are the victims of a bad system of society, should be given work which is useful to the community and to themselves. They should be enabled to earn a living wage and, having paid for their upkeep, they should be able to save a little so that they will have something on which to start life when they come into the normal outside world again.
I would like to say a few words about capital punishment. I do not want to go into the matter in great detail, but I think we can divide murderers into some very simple categories. There are the impulsive murderers, the people who have uncontrollable impulses which no sort of punishment can possibly deter. Then we have those people concerning whom the hon. land learned Member for Exeter spoke at such length, those murderers who very carefully calculate and work out the possibilities of being caught. I do not think that a murderer who was in possession of his right senses and who worked the thing out, would really be a murderer if (he ever anticipated being caught.
Therefore, the mere fact that capital punishment exists, the mere fact that he-will be caught and will be executed, is not a deterrent, because he thinks he is going to dodge the punishment in any case. A large number of murderers suffer from some degree of mental aberration either before or during the act of murder, and these are people 2211 who, if the plea of insanity can be upheld, are not executed under our present law today. I think it is the fact that out of every 11 murders committed, we hang only one murderer; that the other murderers are not found, or for one reason or another, are not hanged. The majesty of the law ought not to demean itself by inflicting the death penalty in so small a proportion of cases. It is not a case of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth if, of 11 murderers, only one is executed.
I am sorry to see that, in seeking to fulfil some aspects of the Labour Party's policy, we have had, as it were, more than one bite at the cherry. We have had one bite at the Lords' question, and we shall probably have to have another go at the House of Lords later on; we have, in the history of Labour Governments, made more than one attempt to settle the future of the coal industry. I do not want to see now one Criminal Justice Bill which goes only part of the way we want to go, and, subsequently, another Criminal Justice Bill to take us still farther along our road. I should have liked to see the whole thing dealt with in one comprehensive Bill. While I see a great deal in this Bill to applaud, and while I want to congratulate the Home Secretary, and those who are responsible for it, upon having produced a very fine and impressive Bill, nevertheless, I do regret that we have not gone along the whole road we want to travel.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Gage (Belfast, South)
I think that the most important and, perhaps, the only criticism of this Bill is that it is notable not so much for what is in it as for what it omits; and I want to do what is, perhaps, a very unusual thing for a lawyer; I should like to make the Home Secretary a present of some advice about the Bill and, perhaps, some criticism which, I hope, will prove helpful. The first thing I would say is that the emphasis of the Bill is, obviously, on the offender rather than on the offence. I make no complaint about that—nobody would—but I think it should be balanced.
Those of us whose business takes us to the criminal courts know that, very often, the real tragedy in a case lies not so much in the criminal but in the unfortunate widow who has been robbed of her 2212 savings by some unscrupulous rogue, or in the householder who, having gone down to investigate a noise in his house, has his face slashed with a razor. Those unfortunate people go to the court to give evidence, and when the case is over, they see the criminal go away to go through—and it is very proper that he should—the massive machine of reparation, while they, the unfortunate, injured persons, have to go to repair what are sometimes—and it is no exaggeration to say so—their shattered fortunes, as best they may without assistance from anyone.
There is a perfectly simple method of dealing with that, which I think could well have been introduced in a Bill of this kind. I have never seen any reason why, at the end of a case, the court trying it should not certify that the injured person should be compensated. The amount of compensation could be easily assessed by the sheriff's court, which exists for that purpose of assessing compensation. The court could have the prisoner before them to be examined as to means. Provision ought to be made whereby some of the compensation is paid by the State. The State spends, and rightly spends, a great deal of money on the reform of the criminal. Some money should be spent on those unfortunate people—respectable, honest people—who have lost a great deal through the criminal. As all lawyers know, the procedure to recover the proceeds of a theft from a criminal is always very difficult. Quite often, it is found that a man has a lot of money, but unless it can be traced as having come from the crime, it cannot be handed over to whoever may he injured. If this proposal were adopted, the judge could, when he gave his certificate, order that the money be impounded and be paid into the sheriff's court, pending assessment of compensation.
The other questions I wish to raise concern procedural matters. I was glad to hear my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) draw attention to the taking of depositions in the lower courts. Any indictable cases have to be heard before a magistrates' court, and in nine cases out of ten, the result is a foregone conclusion and the man is committed. A great deal of time is spent by the clerk writing it all out, and some courts have typewriters which are noisy and annoying. Witnesses have 2213 to come to the court, and a lot of money is spent, with the result that in the end, the man goes to the higher court and often pleads guilty. The simple way would be to give the man an abstract of the evidence which is to be called, and then ask him if he desires to have his case heard before the magistrate, as he might, and if he has any evidence he wants to be heard. I am certain that if the sanction were given to the magistrate to award costs to prevent frivolous cases, this would have a great effect in saving the time of witnesses and magistrates, and that no injustice would result.
My other point is more a matter of jurisdiction. I am sorry that particular types of crime can only be tried at assizes and cannot be tried at quarter sessions. I cannot understand why bigamy should not be tried at quarter sessions. I think that it was permited in the 1938 Bill, but the provision was removed in another place.
§ Mr. Gage
If that is so, it is all the more reason why it should be in this Bill, because with paid chairman of quarter sessions nowadays, there is no reason why the offence should not be tried at quarter sessions. If this could be done, a great deal of time would be saved at assizes, and I cannot believe that any injustice would result.
I think it is a pity that my next point has not been dealt with by this Bill. From time to time, insane people who are incapable of knowing what is happening come before the justices. It is clear that if they get to assizes they will be unfit to plead, and yet the magistrates have to go through the whole rigmarole of asking whether they wish to cross-examine, warning them that they need not say anything, and so on. Many magistrates think that it is a farce and that they should have legal aid, but unfortunately there cannot be legal aid unless the man asks for it. When one asks an insane person if he wants legal aid, he may, of course, as a measure of his insanity, say, "No, I do not want anything to do with lawyers." The courts ought to be allowed to give legal aid without being asked to give it. Very often an accused person does not know 2214 the defences open to him, and it would be a great help if, in those cases, he was given legal aid without having to ask for it.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
The hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting point. He is asking that these allegedly insane people, who, subsequently, may be even unfit to plead, should be given legal aid in the lower court. Surely, what they want is not legal but medical aid. If they are insane or mentally defective in any way, what they want is a report by a psychiatrist, so that subsequently the case may be perfectly understod both in the lower and higher courts.
§ Mr. Gage
Certainly, they need medical aid, but they may not have committed any offence, and they may require legal aid to submit that the offence has not been committed and that there should be no committal. In those circumstances, I should say that all courts, at all times, should have power to give legal aid.
§ Mr. Ede
Would the hon. Gentleman advocate that the person receiving legal aid should be compelled to accept the advice that the legal representative thought fit to tender? On occasions, in my experience, prisoners have felt that the legal aid they have received has been a hindrance rather than a help in the presentation of their case.
§ Mr. Gage
Of course, no one can be compelled to take advice, and I should have thought that every Member of this House knew that, but that is no reason why a man should be debarred from access to advice if it is considered that, in certain cases, he would benefit by it. He can always refuse it, but surely he should be allowed access to it?
We have heard a great many interesting speeches upon the question of prison reform. I have heard, and I believe it to be a fact, that one of the difficulties with long-term prisoners is that they have not enough to do. I would ask—and it is not a matter, perhaps, that should go into the Bill—the right hon. Gentleman to consider what educational facilities and also facilities for work—perhaps even physical training—can be given to these people, because there can be nothing more soul-destroying for a long-term prisoner than to find himself sitting in prison with nothing to do. I 2215 believe that at present half the cause of the unrest among long-term prisoners is because they have no enough to do.
With regard to probation, which has rightly been given an important place in this Bill, I welcome those provisions, and I agree with the hon. Member who said that the most important matter in probation is to get the right type of probation officer. They vary all over the country. I have seen many of them, some first-rate and some not so good. One thing that would assist is to make it obligatory upon a probation officer to submit a report upon every probationer every three months. Most probation officers submit reports frequently, but it should be made obligatory to submit them to the justices. It would keep the probation officer up to the mark and by that means keep the probationers up to the mark, and it would be very important to the justices. Justices who have put a man upon probation would then be able to follow his progress all the way through and they would be able to see whether they had done right or wrong and how probation was acting upon him. It is part of the justices' training that, by following the effect upon a man and by keeping in touch through the probation officer with the probationer, they can see in future cases what people they should and should not put upon probation.
I wish to support what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter in regard to fingerprints. I have never really been able to understand the objection to having one's fingerprints taken any more than to having one's photograph taken. I think it arises from knowledge of the fact that there is a library of fingerprints in Scotland Yard and that there is something vaguely dishonest about it all. I cannot see why an honest man should not have his fingerprints taken. I believe that in America they do a great deal of propaganda about it, pointing out to people how useful it is to people who are run over by a car, or who meet with any sort of accident. I am told that people voluntarily flock to have their fingerprints taken before they go on a journey. I really cannot understand why people should not do it here. The objection to fingerprints is rather nonsensical.
I could not agree with my right hon. Friend about peremptory challenge to 2216 jurors. I have only once heard it done. It was great fun, because no one knew how it should be done. My client, who was going to be tried for a serious offence, suddenly said to me: "See that foreman of the jury? He is the old blackguard who was sitting on the bench below, when I was committed." He did not say "blackguard"; he put the matter rather more robustly. I saw what had happened. The chairman of the committing justices had got on to the panel of jurors. So I resolved upon peremptory challenge. The chairman of the justices was delighted. He left. Of course, I could have challenged for cause. I had never heard a case of peremptory challenge where the accused person could not have challenged for cause. It is a sensible thing to get rid of the practice. It has really been gone for the past seven years, and nobody has heard a word of complaint from anyone with regard to it.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary why he has abolished entering into recognisances in connection with prosecuting an appeal to quarter sessions from the magistrates. I was not able to understand why that practice is to cease because it has been of some importance. Someone who wants to appeal to quarter sessions from a decision of the justices now has to enter into recognisances either by himself or by someone else. I think that is a matter of importance. If that is abolished it may happen that people will enter a frivolous notice of appeal and, having done so, and got bail, will perhaps disappear, so that a great deal of money will have been spent needlessly by the respondent to the appeal in preparing for the case. I should have thought that entering into recognisances was a harmless thing, and I should not have thought that anyone would be unable to find a recognisance in order to prosecute his appeal.
As I have said, this Bill is one that we must welcome. I am sorry that there are things not in it which ought to have been in it, but it is of great importance in that criminal justice in this country should rest on a sure foundation. The Bill is a step forward. It is a slow and hesitant step, one that might have been bolder, but that is the only criticism I have to make of it. I am certain that it will be approved in Committee.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Corlett (York)
I would like to confine myself to one aspect of this Bill, namely, juvenile delinquency. I do so because I have had rather a close interest in it, for, many years ago, longer than I care to remember, I was taken before a court as a juvenile delinquent. Since then I have been privileged to serve as a magistrate in a juvenile court, so that I can claim to have seen the problem from both sides. I think we can all agree with the Home Secretary when he says that the key to the problem of the habitual criminal lies in the treatment which the young offender receives on his first appearance in a juvenile court. If that is true there is all the more reason why we should be very careful about the choice of magistrates for juvenile courts. They should be appointed only if they have the necessary qualifications and experience for the task, and I am not at all sure that, in many cases, we have made that the condition. If we had, I can hardly believe that we would have had some of the result which we see today.
I believe that we should take every care to see that magistrates in juvenile courts are given every possible assistance to make a wise decision. They need the school record, the evidence of the probation officer, and the medical record of the child, particularly in border-line mental defective cases. I do not think that any mentally defective child should ever be sent to an approved school. Yet we all know that there have been cases where such children have been sent to these schools. The problems in approved schools are difficult enough, without having them made worse by the presence of mentally defective children. One of the greatest difficulties facing magistrates in juvenile courts is that they often have to make a decision whether they should put a child on probation again, or send him to an approved school. This dilemma is constantly facing magistrates. They know that the Lord Chancellor says that he views with great concern the growing tendency to place people on probation for the second and third time. All the statistics bear out his concern.
They know too, that children develop anti-social habits at an early age, and approved schools desire, if they are to 2218 have success with these children, to receive them before they are settled in their criminal ways. Magistrates are torn between these views and their natural reluctance to send any child to an approved school. If they send a child to an approved school they know they are depriving him of his liberty, of his normal free life. That is a very terrible punishment indeed to a child, and any magistrate worth his salt will hesitate a long time before he will send a child to an approved school, particularly if the child has not committed any offence, and is being committed for care and protection.
I am a profound admirer of approved schools. I believe they are doing a grand job in very difficult circumstances. I consider that much of the criticism of them is ill informed, but even so, I would hesitate a long time before I sent a child to an approved school, admirer though I may be of the work which they are doing and for two reasons. Many of those children who are before the courts come from broken homes. In the recent case which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) and I had to consider, I do not think either of us was surprised to find that many of these children came from broken homes. If they come from broken homes they are deprived children. They are deprived of normal family life, of normal opportunities, of normal encouragement and normal correction, and such children have not a normal outlook. Very often too, they are below the average in education.
I do not think that sending such children to an approved school is solving the problem at all. It is rather shifting the problem. It is dealing with effect rather than cause. If we could find the cause of the broken homes we should find we had nearly solved the problem of juvenile delinquency. We should pay more attention to getting at the cause and not to the effect of the problem, and our aim should be to send the child to the best possible home substitute. I am not certain that the approved school is the best possible home substitute. In my opinion the best home substitute is a home with foster parents. I agree that is very difficult and that they are hard to find, but I would be quite prepared to pay much more to foster parents than we are paying today. I would like to see a determined drive made to secure more foster parents. I think if we were to pay more and if 2219 we made that drive we would secure them. Incidentally, and very incidentally, it would be very much cheaper than an approved school because the cost for a child at an approved school is roughly 75s. a week, and we do not pay anything like that amount to foster parents.
I would also like to see a wide extension of the present provision of hostels and homes for children above school age. I think the children's branch have tackled that problem well and I hope it will be developed further. Another alternative would be the establishment of some sort of system of long-term remand homes for regional areas, and he retention of present short-term remand homes for the less difficult cases. In our remand homes we know there are far too many varieties of cases, and all of us are critical of remand homes. On my own bench I have refused to send children to our remand homes, because I was so dissatisfied with them. We have put that right. We can be, and we ought to be, critical of remand homes, but we must remember that they have been under the control of county councils and county boroughs only since 1933. Therefore, their final development is yet to be determined. So I would suggest to the Home Secretary that he give careful consideration to the possibility of developing a system of long-term remand homes. I do not think he means these detention centres to take their place—they would be somewhere between—but I was delighted when he said he would have a say in appointing the heads of these remand centres and detention homes.
Another alternative to sending a child to an approved school would be to set up, as I believe the Home Secretary intends, these regional remand centres, which I would prefer to call regional observation centres, particularly if those centres are properly staffed with capable psychiatrists and psychologists to whom these children could be taken for advice and help. Let us then assume that we have considered all these measures and have failed to keep the child out of the approved school. Then far more care should be taken to consider whether he could be sent to a short-term approved school. The short-term approved schools are among the many very fine innovations of the Children's Branch of the Home Office. The Children's Branch is ceaselessly making these grand innovations.
2220 The short-term approved school is one of the wisest, and I am glad that more are being provided. I believe that if a child is sent to such a school for 6 or 12 months, he can be helped to resolve many of his difficulties. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter and I were rather interested to find in one of these short-term approved schools a very big boy from one of our most famous public schools. He had got rather out of hand in this public school and they could do nothing with him, but he was quite a success at this short-term approved school and his old headmaster used to come along and ask how it was done. The school was certainly helping this lad to get rid of the problems that were troubling him, and I am quite certain that he will get rid of them and make a man of himself. We should do still more to use these short-term approved schools.
Suppose that we determine that the boy must go to an ordinary approved school. We must then go into the matter with very great care. To what sort of approved school are we to send him? Are we to send him to an all-in approved school where they are expected to deal with all types of difficult children? I do not believe any all-in approved school can deal with all these types of difficult children. The boy must be classified. We must find out what is wrong with him, and he must be sent to a type of school that is equipped to deal with his type of difficulty. That is absolutely essential. The Home Office have bravely tackled this. During the very difficult war years they set up an experimental school at Aycliffe, near Darlington, and hon. Members who are interested might like to go and see it.
I never liked the report of the Curtis Committee on that school. I never thought' they made an adequate survey, and I never thought they were justified. I prefer the report of the Scottish Committee. Mistakes may have been made, but it is an experiment. There are bound to be mistakes, but there have been triumphs and successes as well, and I am very glad that the Children's Branch is setting up more and more classification schools. Unless we classify a child we cannot deal with him. I am glad that the Roman Catholics are also considering the possibility of setting up a classification school for their children.
2221 I suggest to the Home Secretary, however, that he should consider a very different form of classification for these children. The present form is too limited and we shall not solve the problem of classifying only according to age, sex, religion and geography: we should take a leaf out of the Education Act, 1944, with which the Home Secretary was so closely connected, and consider if we can classify the children according to age, aptitude and ability. When all is said and done, the Home Office are putting into operation the building and accommodation regulations of the Education Act. That is a very great step forward and they are to be congratulated, but I would like them to consider classifying in the way that we classify under the Education Act. I cannot see why there should not be a grammar school for the type of boy who is bright and intelligent. There are such children in approved schools. We ought also to have another type for the maladjusted and unstable child, the most difficult of all, and for the rest we should set up schools for children who are backward and retarded and who are perhaps educationally below par, because those children demand and require a practical approach to their problems. Classification should be tackled on those lines.
Having tackled classification, what about the provision of the schools themselves? What about the provision of the staffs? What about the provision of managers? The provision of approved schools has been typical British provision—haphazard and chancy. We have left it to anybody to provide them. Any voluntary organisation, any individual could provide approved schools. True it is a statutory duty on local education authorities to cover any deficiency, but they have been very loath to do so for various reasons. As a result, out of the 141 approved schools, only 30 belong to local education authorities, so 111, or over three-quarters of them belong to voluntary organisations. It was not surprising then that when the war came, and there was a great need for approved schools, there was a woefully inadequate supply, and again the Children's Branch had to get busy running all over the country to try to provide such schools. To their great credit, they set up and equipped and staffed 60 out of 141 under those difficult conditions.
2222 It is a real triumph for the Home Office to have done it, but we ought to do the thing in a very different way from that. Just imagine the Home Office officials scouring the country in a time of great need, first, to find a suitable building, then to find whether it was available and, having found that, to equip it and then, having to search the country for someone to be chairman of the managers, that somebody generally being a very busy person; then, having persuaded him to take on this new job, having to persuade him to find somebody else to act with him on the board of managers. That is no way to provide a board of managers. That is no way to provide a school or a chairman. Often, of course, we succeeded- in getting very good bodies of managers, sometimes not so good—I will put it no lower than that—but we must remember that the powers of managers of approved schools over the children are greater than the powers of managers of any other type of school. Therefore, we ought to take very careful steps to see that those who are appointed managers of those schools are as carefully selected as juvenile court magistrates.
Most vital of all is the question of the staff. I think we shall agree that if we have classification, buildings and equipment, none of those are of any avail unless we manage to get an adequate and efficient staff. There we have failed, because the schools are not attractive to the majority of the profession. The work is onerous, the hours are long, the living accommodation is often poor for the staff, the children are difficult—they cover a wide age range and a still wider attainment age. Coupled with that is the fact that residential life interferes with the outside activities of teachers. So we have failed to recruit adequate staffs. In fact, far too many staffs in the approved schools have no recognised classification whatever and have never trained in any way for the job. That is a serious statement of affairs indeed.
The ideal solution would be to hand over all these schools to the local education authorities, but that is completely impossible. Surely, however, we could have all these schools handed over to the local education authorities in a supervisory way? In spite of what the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) said. I still feel that these 2223 schools are educational establishments and they are voluntary schools. Other voluntary schools in this country, primary and secondary, are under the supervision of the local education authority, and I cannot see why it is impossible to place these types of voluntary schools under similar supervision, because then they could be integrated within the general education system. If they were so integrated, the authority and the managers together might make the schools more attractive and so staff them more easily. The authorities and the voluntary school managers could then consider encouraging teachers to take service in such schools as part of their normal work. They could consider it as part of their promotion scheme when work is undertaken in such schools. Only by methods such as this shall we ever be able to recruit adequate and efficient staffs. It would be a good thing for the teachers, for they would have had a wider experience when they went back to their normal schools, and it would be very good for the children to have an ever changing supply of efficient, competent, qualified teachers.
But there is a more serious aspect, the question of supervision and recreation. I think the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) will agree with me that this is perhaps one of the greatest problems in the approved schools. These are big lads and girls, and supervision and recreation is essential. It cannot be left to tired residential staff, or enthusiastic volunters. If the service were integrated, we would be able to secure through the authorities competent, qualified, capable teachers, who specialise in that type of work, who could undertake supervising recreation.
I am pleased that we have the present Home Secretary in that Office, as, although it will be difficult to hand over these schools, or to get voluntary bodies to agree, because of the difficulties—the worst of which will be the religious difficulty—I cannot imagine anyone more qualified to deal with that, because he played such a large part in settling the difficulties in the Education Act. He knows the questions and the answers; he knows the difficulties and the solutions.
§ Mr. Corlett
I do not put it beyond the ability of my right hon. Friend to obtain an agreed answer. I think he is the one man in the House who could do so. And he has a very powerful weapon to hand, for when all is said and done, the whole expense of the maintenance of these schools is borne by the State, and the local authorities. The voluntary managers do not provide a single penny for the maintenance of these schools. That is a very powerful weapon for the Home Secretary to have. I am sure the voluntary managers realise that position, and will be prepared to work with the Home Secretary to find a solution to this staffing difficulty. It is vital that the difficulty should be solved, and I am quite satisfied that my right hon. Friend will have the full support of everyone in this House in trying to solve it, because we are all determined that nothing and nobody shall stand in the way of the redemption of these unfortunate children.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
I cannot claim the experience of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett) of juvenile courts and the treatment of young offenders, and I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him in that line. On that part of the Bill it surprises me—bearing in mind that so many of the children and young people who come before the courts do not come from homes which have been broken up, but from perfectly respectable homes, where the patents are contented with each other—that so little is done to bring the parents before the courts. In many cases in which a child has broken away from home against the wishes of the parents, if the parents and children could be confronted in court in as friendly a manner as possible, there might be a reconciliation which would be for the benefit of the child.
I wish to pass straight on to the question of the abolition of the death penalty. To my mind it is a counsel of perfection which should be the aim of every civilised community to abolish the death penalty at the right moment. Experience in all civilised countries in which it has been abolished, as is well known, is that it has led to a diminution in the number of homicides. I hope we shall not fail to abolish it here some day. To my mind the question is not whether we shall 2225 abolish it, experimentally, but when we shall abolish it finally. Experimental abolition, or suspension for a number of years, seems to be somewhat farcical and insincere, for this reason. Once the death penalty has been suspended, I very much doubt whether it would ever be restored, even if it were in the public interest to do so. I say that because any Government or any Parliament called upon to revive the death penalty, or not to continue its suspension, might well shirk from doing so lest they should be regarded as taking a harsh or retrograde step. I do not know of any recorded case in any country in which the death penalty has ever been restored once it has been suspended.
§ Mr. Renton
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member, who no doubt will give the information when he speaks. I have only seen the detailed figures, compiled by a society anxious to stress one side of the case, in which there were no cases of revival recorded. Even with these cases in mind, I still suggest that it is fundamental that generally the abolition of the death penalty has led to the desired result; that is the general experience.
When we talk in terms of suspension we must bear in mind that in reality we shall almost certainly be taking a final step. Therefore, the question really proposed in the suggestion contained in at least one of the Amendments which will come before us is, "When shall we abolish it?" If I considered that immediate abolition would not lead to an increase in the number of murders, or, more particularly, if I believed that it would bring us back to the prewar average of murders, I should be in favour of immediate final abolition without any question of suspension. Doubts must obviously arise whether this would be the result. The Home Secretary has today given us the Government's point of view. I welcome that lead, because as my right hon. Friend said, it is only the Government, with all the knowledge at their command, knowledge gleaned from commissioners of police, the judicial authorities and all concerned all over the country, who can properly assess the potential threat, if there is one, to the internal security of the country.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. and learned Member is no doubt correct in that point, but I do not see how it alters the fact that when it comes to finding out what the security position—for want of a better expression—is in the country, the private Member cannot be such a good judge as the Government, who have all the figures and all the necessary information at their disposal.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. and learned Member must know that there is a great deal of information which I am sure he would not now be able to pick up, but which would probably he at his disposal if he were a Member of the Government in the Home Office.
We must bear in mind then, the following factors before we lightly take the step of abolishing or suspending the death penalty; first, the large amount of crime, which is itself due to numerous factors. Unfortunately, crime is a sort of barometer of the unhappiness within the community; and the shortage of goods and the existence of black markets are obviously strong causes. There are probably more firearms in circulation in this country than ever before. Certainly, there are more people who know how to use them. There are still several thousand deserters at large and living on their wits. Also, we must record with regret that there are a number of ex-soldiers of the Allied armies who in the war served bravely and faithfully, but who, nevertheless, are known to be turning to a life of crime in many cases. The question is whether these facts create—as apparently the Government consider they do—such a state of security as would make it inadvisable to take the risk of abolition or suspension. The Home Secretary must be the best judge of that.
Whatever is done, I hope that we shall not attempt to solve this difficult problem by creating degrees of murder or of homicide. That has already been done under the Code Napoleon, applicable over a large part of the world, and also under Macaulay's Indian code, which was followed in the Sudan and several British Colonies. If any hon. Members have experience of the administration of those two codes, as I have, having had 2227 to try cases of homicide under the Italian penal code, they will know that it is a most uncomfortable situation. One knows perfectly well that a man's, life may depend upon quite artificial legal niceties. A man may, literally, be "hanged by a comma." With all the skilful advice which the learned Solicitor-General, his colleague, and the Lord Chancellor might give to the Government, I feel that it is beyond the wit of man to invent a clear definition of degrees of murder which, when it comes to be worked out in practice, will be completely just and will leave no doubt in the minds of people whether or not a man should hang.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Is the hon Gentleman aware that it has been defined in the Indian penal code and that it works there with great success and justice?
§ Mr. Renton
I am aware that it has been defined in the Indian penal code. Indeed, I have just said so., Certainly, in the case of the Sudan penal code, in the working of which I have had personal experience as a defending officer and as legal adviser to the court, it is materially the same as the Indian code, and I would seriously dispute whether it works satisfactorily. I found the definitions extremely vague and difficult to explain to lay members of a court. In the case of a jury, I should have thought it would lead to endless wrangles and to the possibility of serious injustice. Therefore, I say that it is unfair, not only to an accused, but also to judges and jurors, that the tremendous issue of deciding guilt which may end in the application of the death penalty, should be put upon them, in such a way as to depend upon legal niceties which unavoidably arise when we start trying to analyse the distinction between various types of killing.
I agree on one point, however, with the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), for I read a most interesting letter that he wrote to "The Times" suggesting that we should not place upon the Home Secretary the burden of deciding when there should be a reprieve, and that judges are in a much better position to do it. I do not complain for one moment of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman himself, or any of his predecessors, have exer- 2228 cised, on behalf of the Crown, the right to arrange that there shall be a reprieve.
I think that it has been done as fairly as it could be in the circumstances, but we have to remember that the Home Secretary does not have the advantage which judges have of seeing the accused, hearing the witnesses and breathing the atmosphere' of the case; and, while not wishing to take away from the Home Secretary the power which he has at the moment, I feel that we should give that power to the judges, and that the death penalty, instead of following automatically, should be a matter, like all other sentences are, within the discretion of the court.
If I might just conclude my remarks with regard to the death penalty, I say that there is no such thing as suspension, that final abolition at the right moment should be our aim and that this is not the right moment. Let us have no subtle distinctions or carefully-worded categories for different types of crime; and, if we are to retain the death penalty, let the judges decide whether or not it is the proper punishment.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
May I ask the hon. Member a question? He is in favour of judges having discretion. Is he in favour of the judges having that discretion in the case of a death sentence, and is he not aware that, in a murder case, he has no such discretion now?
§ Mr. Renton
I am sorry if I have not made myself clear to the hon. and learned Member. I know that judges have no discretion with regard to the death sentence, and I think they should have.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen rose—
§ Mr. Renton
I really have not the time to give way again. I have given way for several interruptions.
I wish now to develop the main point which remains to me. I welcome this Bill in general, because it deals with two major problems in the administration of criminal justice—the problems of young offenders and persistent offenders—but I am bitterly disappointed that the opportunity has not been used for curing what, to a junior barrister who has had a certain amount to do with the criminal law, appear to be the three main defects in our procedure. Two of these defects have been mentioned already by my hon. 2229 Friend the Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage).
First there is the fact that witnesses, jurors and members of the legal profession are kept waiting about so much. I think the Bill might have gone very much further in the acceptance of written evidence in cases where neither the prosecution nor the defence require the attendance of witnesses for cross-examination. Under the Defence Regulation which is made permanent, there are certain cases only when that may be done. I suggest that these might very well be extended. Another thing which would save a good deal of time is a change in the rule about surrendering to bail. The present rule is that the offender should surrender to bail at any time during the assizes. Anyone who really wishes to be a thorough nuisance could come about four o'clock on what appears to be the last day of the assize and say, "Here I am, what about it?"; and the chances are that he will be put off to the next assize and might get a few weeks' further freedom. A great deal of time could be saved if the person on bail were directed to surrender on a particular day, not necessarily the first day of the assize.
I hope hon. Members will take to heart what was said by the hon. Member for South Belfast about the unfortunate victims of crime. As things are at present, all that he can get is his property restored to him if it happens to have been recovered; but, if the thief has sold it, he cannot, except by taking civil proceedings, get any money out of the thief through the criminal court. Even if the offender—perhaps a robber with violence—is known to have considerable funds, the unfortunate victim cannot get his doctor's bill paid. One could enumerate instances where, as the law stands, the unfortunate victim has to go to the trouble and expense of starting civil proceedings, if he wishes to get redress, even though, in such proceedings, the evidence will be just the same as in criminal proceedings. Surely, this is the time to rectify that matter.
My last point is that, running through the whole of our criminal law, there is a cleavage which amounts to a very serious defect. It is the distinction between felonies and misdemeanours. That distinction has an old historical foundation, and is now quite illogical. It is quite 2230 without present justification, and has some most peculiar results. The historical reason was that felonies, being considered the more serious crimes, involved the forfeiture of the property of the convicted person, whereas misdemeanours did not. Although the Forfeiture Act abolished forfeiture for felony, except in certain cases, the distinction is retained, and has many peculiar results. One, for instance, is that a person can be arrested without warrant on reasonable suspicion of committing a felony, but not on reasonable suspicion of having committed a misdemeanour, To give an example of that, if a person steals a penny off a table, he can immediately be arrested without warrant; but if, by fraudulent misrepresentation, which is a misdemeanour, he steals a whole herd of cattle or a motorcar, he cannot be arrested without warrant. Another interesting result is that felons may not stand for Parliament or vote at elections; but misdemeanants, apparently, may do so, even though their crimes may have been very serious, and their sentences of imprisonment very heavy.
An attempt was made to remove this distinction in the Criminal Code Bill of 1880 which never got on to the Statute Book. It is possible that the Government and the lawyers of that day funked it, because this cleavage which flows through the criminal law overspills into other branches. There will be a good deal of tidying up to do when we get to that stage. But the longer we leave this cleavage, the harder it will be to get rid of it. Therefore the Government should very seriously consider using this opportunity now. I wish them all success in the improving of this Bill, and I shall do all I can to help them in doing so.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I took part in the discussions in 1938, but, before they began, I made some propositions in this House to the Home Secretary then in power, and I also had discussions with him in his secretary's room. While he did not accept my propositions, he did accept modifications of them, and I would like to know whether they are still operating. I made a proposal in this House one night which caused great hilarity. It was based on the fact that families visiting their relatives in prison were often under very great financial liability. I suggested that, instead of the families 2231 visiting the prisoners, a prisoner with good conduct should be allowed to visit his family. The Home Secretary of the day did not accept that, but he agreed that, where, say, a prisoner was detained in Parkhurst and his family lived in Newcastle, he should be transferred from Parkhurst to the nearest prison to his home. I should like to know if that is still going on. The other point I raised was that families going to visit prisoners, particularly when children are among the visitors, are somewhat shocked to see the father, son, or brother in prison clothes. The then Home Secretary decided to make an experiment in one or two of the prisons, whereby when the prisoners received visitors they would change out of their prison clothes into their own clothes. I do not know whether that practice is still being carried out, but I hope it is.
I hope the idea of detention centres for young prisoners will be proceeded with, and that the authorities will make certain that those centres are as far away from prisons as possible. In Wandsworth prison there were lads under 25 years of age. They were kept in a separate part of the building. They were recognised by a black spot on their arm, and were known as "spots." These young lads always wanted to make a brave show before the older prisoners, and at every opportunity they created a disturbance in the prison. The warders did not know what to do with them; they were a source of continual complaint. I remember remarking at the time that Shakespeare must have had experience as a prison warder, because he makes one of his characters in a fit of irritation declare:Out, damned spot!When young prisoners associate with older prisoners—and this applies equally in the case of juveniles who go to the various remand homes or to Borstal institutions—the younger ones always tend to misbehave in order to make an impression on the older people. I hope that when we get these detention centres they will be situated well away from prison and from anything associated with prison life.
There is another point to which I wish to draw special attention, and if I get an opportunity of serving on the Committee I will certainly put down an 2232 Amendment on it. There is reference to the abolition of penal servitude; with that I agree. There is reference to the abolition of hard labour; hard labour is now meaningless in prison. Reference is also made to the abolition of division. The second division is meaningless; one wears different coloured clothes, but one has the same conditions as the ordinary prisoner. Reference has been made by one or two speakers to the abolition of flogging outside prison and to its retention inside prison. Flogging inside or outside prison is a brutal practice which we should not encourage. But it is one of those things which strikes the imagination of anyone who gives it a thought. People readily see it as something brutal. Why do we hear so much about the brutality of flogging and its serious effects on those who administer the flogging and on those who receive it, and so little about the other method, the most exquisite torture of prisoners that it is possible to conceive—the silent cell; Galsworthy wrote a play entitled "Justice." It is many years since I saw that play, but I remember that on the stage was a cell and we saw the prisoner going nervously crazy until he was battering against the door.
I have heard prisoners battering against the door very often. Night after night they sit silent and alone in a cell. Some of the nervous lads would pace up and down, up and down, and then, in a fit of nervous desperation, they would start yelling and hammering on the door. What did they require? They required company and medical attention. What did they get? They were sent down to the silent cell, from which everything had been taken out except a stool. There is no more exquisite torture than the suffering of a man in such a cell. There is a new prison in Scotland, a modern prison. I was round visiting it. I helped to build it; when I was a prisoner myself I did a bit of building on it. I have been round visiting it since then. I was taken down below, a cell door was opened, and inside that cell there is a great concrete, hollow block with a door in it—inside the cell—into which the prisoner is pushed. There is not the slightest possibility of any sound of any kind ever penetrating into that block. I have seen men myself—I honestly have—who have been threatened with a nervous breakdown. I have heard them banging on the doors and then put down in the silent cell; and when they 2233 came up their eyes were staring from their heads because of the ghastly suffering they had endured. I hope it will be possible to do away with that sort of thing.
I hope, too, that the right will be established of prisoners to talk to one another in the normal manner in the exercise or in the association. I was in prison at a time when it was an offence to talk to another prisoner. Talking was prohibited. If one spoke to another prisoner one was liable to be sent to the silent cell and given bread and water diet. Then the silent rule was done away with. I was in prison when the silent rule was done away with. Then one talked to another prisoner, and the warder would say, "Stop that talking." Then if one talked once again to his fellow prisoner, he was punished not for talking to the prisoner, but for disobeying an order. In some prisons they are allowed to walk round in pairs and talk. There should be no objection to prisoners talking in the exercise or in the association. The warder should have no right to stop them carrying on normal conversation. We must have in the prisons only the absolute minimum of rules and regulations, with the understanding always cultivated amongst the prisoners and the warders that the prisoners are expected to keep what rules and regulations there may be. At the present time there is the maximum of rules and regulations, and every warder is conscious of the fact that the prisoners will break them at the first opportunity, and every prisoner is conscious of the fact that the warder expects the prisoner to break them.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) referred to Wakefield. The difference there is that the governor who was there, and who inaugurated the new system at Wakefield believed in that principle of having the minimum of rules and regulations instead of the maximum. The governor who went up there spent night after night with the hon. Member for West Fife when the hon. Member for West Fife was a member of the institution down there at Wandsworth. Night after night he spent discussing with me in the cell how the prison should be run in order to obtain the very best results from the point of view of the reformation of the men—instead of punishing the men and turning them out of the prison worse than they were when they went in.
2234 Up in Wakefield he organised them in groups. There were groups of six or seven prisoners all working together, and dining together. Each week a different man was responsible for the conduct of the group. That system should be applied generally in the prisons—a system of having groups of prisoners working together, with a particular man responsible for each group, and with the right of that man to approach the Governor or the chief warder whenever anything required rectifying.
I remember that when 12 of us were there in Wandsworth, it was not a month before one of the lads was in trouble with a warder. We whispered among ourselves, and it was decided that I should see the governor. I saw him, and he told me that I could not represent the others, but could only speak for myself. I told him that I wanted to speak for the others, and that it would save a lot of trouble. He said that he did not care about trouble, because they could handle trouble—of course, they had the silent cell below. I told him that if there was trouble, there would not only be trouble in the prison, but trouble outside, and that while he could handle trouble inside the prison, he would not be able to handle the trouble outside. He finally agreed that I should speak for the others, and I became the first shop steward in one of His Majesty's prisons. The fact remains that there were the best results from the point of view of administration. I want to impress on the Home Secretary the value of placing a measure of trust in the men in prison, and of having the minimum of rules. I suggest that he should form the men into groups, and let one man be the leader of a group for a month, and then let another take his place. It worked very well in Wakefield. It would be to the advantage of the administration, as well as to the advantage of the prisoners.
I want the silent cell abolished, as well as flogging. I hate flogging, and I should hate the sight of flogging. I should like to see someone who is sentenced to flogging brought into this House, and a Member invited to do the flogging. Would any Member on the other side do it? No, they would think it too degrading; but it seems that there are other people not so touchy who can be used for that purpose. I am against flogging, but if one of the two were 2235 to remain, I would prefer to see the silent cell abolished, because it is a form of torture which can drive a man off his mind. If I am a member of the Committee, I shall try to get these improvements in the Bill on behalf of the men who have to face imprisonment for crimes which are often the result of the rotten conditions imposed by the people represented by hon. Members opposite.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow Central)
Would the hon. Member advocate to Mr. Molotov, here in London, the same leniency in the case of Russia?
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Price - White (Caernarvon Boroughs)
It is seldom that I inflict myself on the House, but on this occasion I am inspired to say a few words by the humanitarian principles which actuate this Bill. I do not propose to discuss the penal autobiography of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), except to say that should it unfortunately happen in the future that I and the hon. Member seek to enjoy His Majesty's pleasure, I can think of no one with whom I would rather share that pleasure and exhilaration than the hon. Member—there certainly would be no question of silence.
I wish to take up three very small but nonetheless important points in regard to the new system of probation, which we all welcome. I hope that it is rather more appreciated than I fear it is by certain benches in this country. I am not criticising the benches of magistrates. I think that, throughout the country we are very fortunate in the amazing amount of voluntary, social work done by our magistrates. They vary, it is true. I have the utmost admiration, as one who appears before them on occasion, for the work so done, especially by those diligent in their attendance. It might not be appropriate at this point, but I wish there were some means whereby those appointed to the Commission of the Peace, who were not, without good reason, diligent in their attendance, could be removed instead of imposing all too great a burden on those magistrates who take their duties seriously; and also if there could be a removal of the situation 2236 which so often happens, perhaps more markedly in some parts of the country than others, of magistrates attending a court on a particular occasion for an obviously particular purpose. That is a complete negation of justice appearing to be done.
I was interested to hear the Home Secretary, when introducing the Bill, state that all too many people regarded the question or the penalty—the House may call it what they will—of being bound over as "getting off." That is the case, as I know from personal experience. Therein lies the fact that I fear that the whole question of the probation system is not fully appreciated either by benches or by those who appear before benches. I can tell the House from experience that there is a grave dissimilarity and disparity in the usage of the power to bind over by various benches throughout the country. I could tell the House of clients who come to me in a professional capacity, and who say, quite bluntly, "What will I get; bound over I expect," and I am bound to tell the House in all honesty that I tell them that if they could exercise such accuracy of prophecy on the race course they would soon be very rich men, because invariably that is what does happen.
Then there is the case of the B.B.O.—both bound over—which is all too frequently a case of common assault, and I regret to say that I find that, in the main, the two participants are both of the female sex. Nevertheless, I feel the magistrates at times are abusing the whole system of probation in that they seek the less difficult way out of a difficult situation by binding over both parties. With every respect for our magisterial system, that is not carrying out the duties of the bench to the full. I trust that the provisions introduced by this Bill will be studied and applied rather more carefully and intelligently than they have been on certain occasions in the past.
I would like to take the opportunity of concurring in what several hon. Members have said about the excellent work done by the probation officers. They are not all perfect, and no Member of this House—and long may it remain so—is perfect; nevertheless the probation officers, male and female, in the main, have done a magnificent job of work in the administration of the probation system. I would 2237 like to see in a more marked degree greater personal contact man to man, if I may put it so, between the probation officer and the person for whom he has to exercise that parental jurisdiction, out of which so much good can come if it is properly done.
The second point is about fingerprints. It has been said on both sides of the House that there is nothing very objectionable in Clause 33. I see a grave danger of an abuse of a constitutional right. The Clause is far too wide. It says:Anyone who is brought before a court.For what? For parking a car in a cul-de-sac, or for exceeding the 30-mile-an-hour speed limit? At the whim of a police officer not lower in rank than an inspector, is the offender in such cases to have his fingerprints taken? I feel there is a grave danger of abuse of a certain constitutional and individual right of freedoms in that of which we are very proud. On the other hand, there is nothing objectionable in the physical operation of having fingerprints taken. One hon. Member has referred to the position in America. If fingerprints are to be taken at all, let it be general. Let it not be done through the police court at the whim of a police officer who may have, police being only human, certain reasons for taking the fingerprints of this or that person. The innocent person does not mind his fingerprints being taken. It is the old lag, the expert, who hates the operation and avoids it if at all possible. Do not let it be done upon such a spurious, wide and loose principle as in the Clause, relating to any person who is brought before a court.
§ Mr. Price-White
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but nevertheless my distaste for the Clause remains. I would rather see all the citizens of this country have their fingerprints taken, so that we did not have to bother any more about these bits of card called identity cards, of which I venture to say many hon. Mem- 2238 bers in this House are not in actual physical possession at this moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh "] I can assure hon. Members that there is one hon. Member who is guilty.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff & Barry)
Would the hon. Member agree that there must be no conviction before fingerprints are taken and that that is the crucial test?
§ Mr. Price-White
I quite agree. There should be no taking of fingerprints before conviction. After conviction it is a very different matter. There I think lies the gravamen of the situation.
I was concerned to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to the increase in charges against young children. Whether that is due to the inevitable aftermath of wartime or to lack of parental control I do not know, but I am certain that there is a disquieting tendency on the part of very young people to go a little further than childish mischief. They are very often blamed for acts which are in fact committed by adolescents, yet there is undeniably a strange disregard for public and private rights. There are such things as the defacing of newly planted trees and of benches in parks, and other petty things which should play no part in the properly educated social system. Maybe the fault lies with our system in the schools.
I would like the Home Secretary to take counsel with the Minister of Education to see if it is possible for the whole of the Bill and the motives underlying it in their fullest and broadest intention, to be translated at the earliest moment to our children, young as they are, as soon as they are fit to appreciate it. Let them know, in appropriate form, what this Bill aims at doing, in preventing and helping them from the very begining. If through our education system, the Bill could be implanted in the minds of our very young people I feel that the fear that disturbs the right hon. Gentleman would very largely disappear. The Bill, not only on the Statute Book hut throughout the whole of our schools and homes would complete the very fine purposes which it sets out to achieve.
Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Snow.]
Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.