§ 36. Mr. Sydney Silverman
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many young persons absconding from approved schools have been imprisoned during the past six months without any charge having been preferred; in what portion of the prison they are confined; by what legal authority the imprisonment is authorised; and how many of such young persons are persons who have never been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence.
§ Mr. Ede
Most absconders are returned immediately to the school when apprehended. Those under 17 who are not so returned are lodged in a remand home temporarily. During the past six months, eight boys and 22 girls over 17 were lodged in prison for short periods pending my decision whether they should be charged with absconding: most of them were placed with persons on remand or awaiting trial, and some in the prison hospital. In such cases the Prison Governor concerned is authorised to take charge of the absconder by the school managers under paragraph 13 of the Fourth Schedule to the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. Fifteen of the girls and one of the boys concerned were originally committed to an approved school as being beyond control or as falling into bad associations or moral danger and, therefore, in need of care or protection.
§ Mr. Silverman
Will my right hon. Friend take the opinion of the Law Officers as to how far it is lawful to imprison young persons without charge and without trial?
§ Mr. Ede
Before the Criminal Justice Act came into force, school managers had power to charge a boy or a girl with absconding, and the practice then was to 2912 bring immediately before a court any person charged by the managers with absconding. Section 82 of that Act made it necessary for the school managers to get the consent of the Secretary of State before charging a person with absconding, so that arrangements had to be made for detention. When remand centres are provided under the Criminal Justice Act, the approved school absconders, like other persons between the ages of 17 and 21, will be lodged in a remand centre, instead of in prison. I will take the opinion of the Law Officers on the point raised by my hon. Friend, but I am assured that the power exists.
§ Mr. Silverman
Is it not the present position that a change in the law which was intended to protect a young person from prosecution, except with the leave of my right hon. Friend, is now operated in order to keep young persons, many of whom have never been charged with any criminal offence at all, for at least seven days in prison? If that is the case, ought not the arrangements to be reviewed?
§ Mr. Assheton
Would the right hon. Gentleman make quite certain that these children do not come into contact with criminals, which, in fact, does happen on certain occasions?
§ Mr. John Paton
Will not my right hon. Friend agree that, no matter how difficult these girls and boys may be, the last place on earth which is likely to have any reformatory effect is a prison?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, so far as these difficult girls are concerned, they are not criminals and have never been charged with any criminal offence? They suffer from too bountiful a nature, I suppose, but that is surely no reason why they should be placed in prison?
§ Mr. Silverman
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is in the highest degree undesirable to place anybody, let alone young persons who have never committed any crime, in prison merely because of the administrative convenience of the Department or the lack of accommodation elsewhere?
Mr. H. D. Hughes
As there is now surplus accommodation in approved schools, particularly for senior girls, will my right hon. Friend consider transferring some of these buildings which are not fully used for that purpose for the purpose of remand homes?
Mr. Wilson Harris
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the general opinion is that, if anyone is to handle this job, like the case of these difficult girls, he is precisely the man to do it.