HC Deb 15 April 1948 vol 449 cc1274-8
Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 44, line 32, to leave out from "is," to "under," in line 33.

I am indebted to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) for having called attention to the point which is made by this Amendment. Words are introduced at an earlier stage to ensure that a person could not be transferred from prison to Borstal if he was below the lowest Borstal age of 16. It was suggested by my hon. Friend that if there were a case, say, of a boy in prison, who was suitable in all respects for transfer to Borstal, it might be better to transfer him to Borstal in spite of the fact that he might be a few months under 16. This has been considered, and my right hon. Friend thinks that this is a sound point, and consequently by this Amendment the words that put that limitation of age upon the power of transfer are omitted.

Amendment agreed to.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Grimston

I beg to move, in page 44, line 44, to leave out from "term," to the end of the Subsection.

On the Order Paper the line is misprinted as line 45. We had some discussion in Committee on this provision, by which the Home Secretary can make transfers of persons from prisons to Borstal if he thinks it is desirable. It appears, however, from the language used in the proviso, paragraph (a), that the transfer may be made to Borstal for a longer period than the unexpired term of the sentence. The words in the paragraph are: (a) as if for references therein to three years and four years there were substituted respectively references to the unexpired term and a period being the sum of the unexpired term and one year. It would appear that the Home Secretary can increase the sentences without going to the courts. During the discussion the Home Secretary said that that was not so, that the words did not have that meaning, and that he had power only to sentence to Borstal for the unexpired term of the original sentence. However, he said he would look at the matter again to see if this were the correct interpretation of the present wording, and that, if necessary, he would find some less obscure wording to make it quite clear that he had no power to increase the sentences. Nothing has been put down on the Order Paper to that effect, and so I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would explain the position.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to second the Amendment.

I think it is clear as a matter of construction that this Clause does confer on the right hon. Gentleman the power of increasing the period during which a young person under 21 years of age can be deprived of his liberty either in prison or in a Borstal institution. I think I am right in saying that the power conferred on the right hon. Gentleman by this Clause is entirely unprecedented. While I think a good case can be made out for saying that a young person sent to prison should be transferred to Borstal rather than remain in prison, if Borstal is likely to prove effective in his case, I am not at all sure that the great power which this Clause appears to give of extending the period during which that person can be deprived of his liberty should be left to the sole discretion of any Home Secretary.

It is, surely, a novel power for any member of a Government of this country to have, there being no trial, and no right of appeal, apparently, from the right hon. Gentleman's decision. I must say that I think the wording of the proviso here makes it quite clear that the effect of what the right hon. Gentleman can do is that he can add to the term during which a young person is kept away from his family and relations, and during which he is under the control of public authorities—that the period may be extended to be in excess of the period of detention awarded by the court which convicted him of the offence.

Mr. Ede

Earlier this evening we received compliments on the improved drafting effected by certain Amendments which were accepted, and I regret that the drafting in this proviso should still appear to give difficulties, although I admit that it is obscure. I have done my very best to persuade the draftsmen to provide better wording, because I am sure that there is no difference between the two sides of the House on what we want to do. I am assured that we are in fact doing what we intend. I am advised that the effect of the Clause is governed as follows. A sentence of Borstal training involves detention for a maximum of three years and supervision for a period from release until the expiration of four years from the date of the sentence; that is, the maximum period of detention plus one year. As I understand it, if at the end of two years a person sentenced to Borstal training is released as having sufficiently profited by that training to be allowed to return to his home or to employment, he is then under supervision for two years; that is, the time to which he was sentenced plus one year.

The Clause says that if, in the case of a person transferred to a Borstal insti- tution under the Clause, the unexpired term of imprisonment is less than three years, then for the three years' detention one substitutes detention for the unexpired term, and for the limit of supervision one substitutes the limit of the unexpired term plus one year. Let us suppose that when a youth goes to a Borstal institution he has 18 months still to serve. He will serve a maximum of 18 months in the Borstal institution, plus 12 months under supervision—30 months altogether. He will, of course, be under supervision for a year, which might not be so if he remains in prison. I hope that none of us will regard the period of supervision as equivalent to a sentence.

I have tried to make the position as clear as I can. I am advised that the somewhat complicated wording of the Clause means what I have said. However, I will persevere to see if I can find legal wording to give effect to what I have stated, more or less colloquially, which is certainly the intention, and which would meet the objection raised by the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment. I am certain that we all intend to do the same thing. I am advised by a draftsman, whose work has been very highly complimented during the course of the evening, that he has succeeded; but I will see if he can exercise his ingenuity a little further to find words which will make it as clear to the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) as it is to the draftsman at present.

Mr. Grimston

Perhaps I might speak again with the leave of the House. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. As I understand it, I should be correct in saying that this reference to one year is to provide for the year of supervision after having served the sentence.

Mr. Ede


Mr. Grimston

That explanation certainly appears to me to be all right, but I must confess to be still puzzled by the wording. Perhaps some draftsman in another place may be able to bring some fresh light to bear on the subject. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will still pursue the matter to see if it is not possible to improve the wording.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

May I put a point to the right hon. Gentleman which has caused a little trouble? The Subsection says: Provided that if on that date the unexpired term of his sentence is less than three years those provisions shall have effect That refers us to the provisions in the Second Schedule. If we turn to the Schedule, we find that paragraph 3 states: If before the expiration of four years from the date of his sentence"— that is the period including the time of supervision—the person involved has failed to comply with any requirements, he may be recalled. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the paragraph, he will see that it states: They may by order recall him to a Borstal institution; and thereupon he shall be deemed to be unlawfully at large and shall be liable to be detained in the Borstal institution until the expiration of three years from the date of his sentence, or the expiration of six months from the date of his being taken into custody under the order, whichever is the later. It seems to me there is a possibility that the person may be recalled less than six months before the end of the supervisory period, in which case he will have to serve six months from that period, which slightly enlarges the time. That is a real possibility, according to the wording. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman desires this, or whether this is a matter which has not been considered.

Mr. Ede

This is a new point, and it shows how complicated is the whole matter. I am not going to give an answer to so skilled a cross-examiner without having the opportunity of taking advice, but I will have the whole matter investigated—I am certain there is no difference between us. We desire that the term of detention shall not be extended, but there is no objection to reasonable supervision for the same period as anyone who had been originally sentenced to Borstal would have undergone. That is what we wish to achieve, and I will devote my energies to ascertaining that we are not going beyond that.

Mr. Grimston

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.