HC Deb 15 April 1948 vol 449 cc1284-6
Mr. Younger

I beg to move, in page 58, line 42, at the end, to insert: (3) Where the age of any person at any time is material for the purposes of any provision of this Act, or of any Order in Council made there under, regulating the powers of a court, his age at the material time shall be deemed to be or to have been that which appears to the court to be or to have been his age at that time Those hon. Members who have sat throughout the proceedings so far will be glad to meet this Amendment. We have already removed a phrase relating to persons appearing to be of a certain age in some 20 or 30 places in the Bill, and this is the Amendment which we are proposing to insert in its place. It defines the procedure under which a court shall determine what is the age of a person who comes before it. I have already explained the point of this at an earlier stage, and it is really consequential on all the other Amendments we have accepted.

Mr. West (Pontypool)

Is the actual age of the young offender to be taken into consideration or not? If it is, then I do not think that my hon. Friend's Amendment affects that purpose. The actual age ought to be taken into consideration. Let us take a simple case. We may have a young offender whose age is 16 but, by reason of physical development, may appear to the court to be 18. If he appears to the court to be 18 years of age, that is deemed to be his age. If that is so, then an offender of 16 years of age can be sentenced to imprisonment, and if my hon. Friend desires to effect by this Amendment that the actual age of the offender is to be taken into consideration, then it could be done by the insertion of a few words that in the absence of proof as to the actual age his age shall be deemed to be the age which he appears to be. As the Amendment is drawn, I respectfully submit that it does not effect that purpose at all.

Mr. Ede

I rather think that my hon. Friend is on a sound point. I do not know what age my Under-Secretary might be taken for by people who did not first consult Dod. I know that I was somewhat surprised, when I consulted Dod, to find what a veteran I had appointed as my Under-Secretary. Therefore, I think it would be desirable in another place that we should put in some words which will ensure that, unless there is proof to the contrary, this shall be deemed to be the age. Some of the young children who come before the courts are somewhat like Topsy. It is difficult to get birth certificates and reliable evidence as to their age, and in such cases it will be necessary to adopt the procedure in this Amendment. But where the biological age can be demonstrated beyond doubt, I think it is desirable to make it clear that the court is not then to say, "Well he looks older or younger," than his birth certificate would make him out to be.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Hale

I beg to move, in page 58, line 45, to leave out from "offence." to the end of line 47, and to insert: for which the court is required to impose a sentence of imprisonment for life. This Amendment is purely consequential on the passing of the new Clause, (Suspension of death penalty) yesterday.

Mr. Benson

I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.