§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 15, line 12, at the end, to insert:(2) Without prejudice to the provisions of Subsection (2) of Section fifty-five of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933 (which enables a court to order the parent or guardian of a child or young person charged with an offence to give security for his good behaviour), any court may, on making a probation order or an order for conditional discharge under this Part of this Act, if it thinks it expedient for the purpose of the reformation of the offender, allow any person who consents to do so to give security for the good behaviour of the offender; and Section twenty-three of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, shall apply to any security so given before a court of summary jurisdiction as if it were given under That Act by a surety.Under the existing law a probation order is made upon the probationer's entering into a recognizance, and the recognizance may be with or without sureties. The Bill abolishes recognizances on probation, and the general powers of a court to take recognizances do not extend to taking them from a surety where the principal is not himself bound over. There is power under Section 55 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, to order the parents or guardian of a child or young person charged with an offence to give security for his good behaviour, but there are cases where someone other than a parent or guardian may be a suitable person.
I can recall a case at quarter sessions where a number of lads were brought in front of the court, and the local schoolmaster, who was a personal friend of mine, went into the witness box to give evidence about his knowledge of these youths' characters, and expressed his confidence in their reformation if a certain course was adopted by the court. The chairman of quarter sessions said, "That is very interesting testimony. You know these lads very well. Would you be content to be one of the sureties for their good behaviour and to take an interest in them in the future?" My friend agreed on the spot, and, as far as I know, the result was satisfactory in every way.
1230 There are on occasion citizens of that type, who might be willing to take an interest in a lad or a girl or a group of young people, and undertake to be responsible for their oversight during the period of probation. It is very desirable that these non-professional probation officers should be encouraged wherever they are willing to act. I hope the House will agree that this is a very desirable Amendment to make to the Bill, so that such persons can, through the act of good citizenship, be available for this purpose.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
I should like to add my word to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sorry. Anyway, the right hon. Gentleman need not be so haughty over what from us on this side of the House is a term of the highest approbation. I should like to join the right hon. Gentleman in acclaiming the proposal which is put forward here. I was often in a position, sitting as recorder, when some such proposal as this would have been very useful. I have never found that in reality, fortunately, we are short of these public-spirited people, and I can only join with the right hon. Gentleman in hoping that these excellent results will occur.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
The Government have every good intention in this proposed Subsection, but there is a weakness on which I would like clarification. It is intended, of course, thatany person who consents to do sowill apply to a person of probity and integrity such as a schoolmaster, as has been mentioned by my right hon. Friend. But I can conceive of a case where a young offender has been brought into crime or wrongdoing through the influence of someone who is not a person of probity and integrity—a wrongdoer himself who may have some bad influence on the young offender and who, because of his attachment to that person, would be prepared to stand surety. That situation would be possible under these words,allow any person who consents to do so".I was wondering whether the Home Secretary would look into this matter with a 1231 view to inserting qualifying words such as:allow any person of good character to do so.This may be a minor point, but the words "of good character" would ensure that the offender would be rescued by the help of somebody of good character.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)
I wish to make a somewhat similar point to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin). Unlike him, I have no fears that the court will give its consent lightly. There is the operative word "may" in the Amendment, and I take it that the court would exercise very careful discretion before they allowed someone in effect to take the place of the probation officer. I would like to emphasise that nothing should be done that would automatically substitute other people for the probation officer, and that only someone who was acceptable as a suitable alternative to the probation officer should be the person visualised in this proposal. On that understanding, I would like to express my full support of this Amendment.
§ Mr. Ede
By leave of the House, I will draw the attention of my two hon. Friends to the words which are immediately before those quoted by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin):If it thinks it expedient for the purpose of the reformation of the offender.It is clear the court would not put Mr. Fagin over the Artful Dodger. I think it is clear that we have taken steps in the Clause to ensure that the person chosen shall be a suitable person. I want to say nothing which decries the professional probation officer, but there are some cases —on occasion a member of a Rotary club —where someone is willing to undertake the supervision of youths. There are people of that description—sometimes the employer may be a very suitable person to use. I hope that the work of supervising the probationer will not become an entirely professional matter.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Attorney-General
I beg to move, in line 31, at the end, to insert:(4) In proceedings before a court of assize or quarter sessions under the foregoing provisions of this Act, any question whether a probationer has failed to comply with the requirements of the probation order or has been convicted of an offence committed during 1232 the probation period, and any question whether any person in whose case an order for conditional discharge has been made has been convicted of an offence committed during the period of conditional discharge, shall be determined by the court and not by the verdict of a jury.There was some doubt on the Clause as it was originally drafted—I think it was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller)—how it was to be proved to the satisfaction of a court of quarter sessions or assize that a probationer had failed to comply with the conditions of a probation order. Was the matter one to be tried by a jury? In what other way would it be dealt with? This Clause provides that that question, and also the question whether a probationer has been convicted during the course of the probation period, should be determined by the court and not by the jury—by the judge and by justices and not by the jury.
§ Amendment agreed to.