§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (Cmd. 8932).I am sure that the House will wish me, in opening this debate on the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, first to express our gratitude to the members of the Commission for their long and arduous labours and for the comprehensive Report which they have presented. Whatever view we may take about particular recommendations of the Commission, I think we must all appreciate the industry and the patience with which Sir Ernest Gowers and his colleagues have examined every aspect of this most difficult question, and the time which they devoted to visiting other countries and collecting information which might throw light on the problem. We are greatly indebted to the Commission for its public-spirited work and for its lucid Report. It is a comprehensive storehouse of information which is of the utmost value to any student of the problem of capital punishment.
The House will recall the circumstances in which the Royal Commission was set up in 1949 by the then Government, after the debates on capital punishment during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill through Parliament in 1948, and I should like to remind the House of the terms of reference of the Commission, which were as follows:To consider and report whether liability under the criminal law in Great Britain to suffer capital punishment for murder should be limited or modified, and, if so, to what extent and by what means, for how long and under what conditions persons who would otherwise have been liable to suffer capital punishment should be detained, and what changes in the existing law and the prison system would be required; and to inquire into and take account of the position in those countries whose experience and practice may throw light on these questions.I think it is important that, in discussing the recommendations of the Commission, we should keep in mind those terms 2065 of reference and the fact that they were designed to preclude the Commission from considering whether capital punishment should be retained or abolished.
The question which the Commission was, in effect, required to consider was whether any practicable halfway house could be found between the existing law, under which every person convicted of murder, except a person under 18 or an expectant mother, must be sentenced to death, and the abolition of the death penalty. The Commission was also asked by the then Prime Minister to consider whether any change should be made in the method of execution, and by the Home Office to examine some subsidiary questions which did not strictly fall within its terms of reference, such as the present requirement that notices should be posted on the prison gate before and after an execution.
The Government have given very careful consideration to the recommendations made by the Commission; and I think it will be convenient to the House if, at the outset of this debate, I give some indication of the provisional views which the Government have formed. I use the word "provisional" advisedly. The Government have not as yet come to any final conclusion about the major proposals of the Commission. They propose to examine them again in the light of the debate this afternoon, and they will be very ready to give full weight to the views expressed, and the arguments put forward, by hon. Members.
The recommendations of the Commission cover a very wide field, but there are three which are of outstanding importance. The first is that the statutory age limit below which the sentence of death may not be imposed should be raised from 18 to 21. The second is that in all other cases the jury should be given discretion to decide whether there are such extenuating circumstances as to justify substituting the sentence of imprisonment for life for the sentence of death. The third is that the test of criminal responsibility laid down in England by the M'Naghten Rules should be wholly abrogated and that the jury should be left to determine, unfettered by any formula, whether at the time of the act the accused was suffering from a disease of the mind, or was mentally deficient, to such a degree that he ought not to 2066 be held responsible. Of these three recommendations, the first and the third were not unanimous, but were supported only by a majority of the Commission; while the second—as I shall point out later in more detail—is put forward in qualified terms which fall far short of a clear recommendation. I should like to say something about each of these three main recommendations.
With regard to the first, that is, the age limit, the Commission recommend the raising of the age limit by a majority of one—six to five. The main argument on which the recommendation of the majority is based is the view that persons under 21 cannot be regarded as fully mature and, however heinous their crimes, are often capable of reformation. The minority, on the other hand, while they recognise that a youth who commits a murder at the age of 19 or 20 may be capable of reform, and that in such a case reasons for clemency should always be sought and will often be found, take the view that the right course is to consider each case individually on its merits and not to exclude the operation of the death penalty by a rigid and arbitrary rule restricted to a particular age.
Like the minority, and everyone else, the Government share the natural desire to spare a young life wherever possible. But they are also disposed to agree with the minority that there are very strong objections to raising the age limit, and, in particular, that it would be dangerous and inopportune to do so at a time when crimes of violence on the part of persons between 17 and 21 are, unfortunately, so prevalent.
There has recently been a welcome decline in the volume of indictable crime generally, but the statistics of offences of violence against the person are less encouraging. In 1938, the number of persons between the ages of 17 and 21 who were found guilty of such offences was 163; in 1948, that number increased to 405; in 1951, it went up to 492; and in 1953, the figure was 603. The Government cannot think that this is a time when it would be right to remove a sanction which may deter such young men from committing murder.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
It would appear that there is a contradiction in what the right hon. and gallant Gentle- 2067 man is saying. He assured the House that the Government have not actually made up their mind. If that be the case, how can he tell us that the Government consider, even if they agreed to it, that raising the age limit may cause certain things to happen? Surely the consequence of that is to say that the Government are not prepared, at this stage, to agree to the abolition of the death penalty at all.
§ Major Lloyd-George
As I said at the beginning, the Government have come to provisional conclusions on the three main recommendations, but they will take account of anything which is said in the House today. I made it perfectly clear that their conclusions were not final, but provisional.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)?
This is rather an important question. I do not quite understand why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should wish to retain the death penalty for a class of youth upon a basis of statistics which seems to show that that death penalty has been completely unsuccessful in restraining them.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I was just pointing out that at a time when the figure is increasing it is not in the opinion of the Government—although the question may be argued both ways—a good idea to remove something which may be a deterrrent. Let me now go on to give the provisional conclusions of the Government on the other main recommendations.
On the second of the three main recommendations, which proposes the vesting of discretion as to sentence in the jury, the Commission expresses the view thatthe outstanding defect of the law of murder is that it provides a single punishment for a crime widely varying in culpability.The Commission goes on to say that what it refers to as this "rigidity" of the law is at present mitigated mainly by the use of the prerogative of mercy, a method which it regards as open to criticism on the ground that it leaves to the Executive a task which ought to be performed by the courts and it has, therefore, sought for some other method of doing what is now done by the exercise of the prerogative on the advice of the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland.
2068 The Commission rejects proposals for the division of murder into two degrees, on the ground that it is impossible to frame a satisfactory definition of murder in the first degree asno legal definition can cover all the multifarious considerations, relating to the offender as well as to his crime, which ought to be taken into account (and are at present taken into account by the Secretary of State) in deciding whether the supreme penalty should be exacted in each individual case.The arguments of the Commission against the introduction of two degrees are closely reasoned and they seem to the Government to be convincing. The Commission goes on to argue that the only practicable way of limiting the present liability to suffer capital punishment would be to leave the present scope and definition of murder unaltered and togive either to the Judge or to the jury a discretion to decide in each particular case, in the light of all the information before the court, whether the sentence of death is appropriate, and, if it appears to them that it is not, to impose or to recommend a lesser punishment.It rejects, for reasons which seem to be good and sufficient, the proposal that such a discretion should be vested in the trial judge. It concludes that the alternative of entrusting such a power to the jury is said to work well on the whole in countries where is has been adopted, and that, if it were adopted in Great Britain, a workable procedure could be devised, and that this isthe only practicable way of enabling the courts, instead of the Executive, to take account of extenuating circumstances so as to correct the rigidity which is the outstanding defect of the existing law.The Commission add—and here again I think it important to quote the actual words of the Report:We recognise that the disadvantages of a system of 'jury discretion' may be thought to outweigh its merits. If this view were to prevail, the conclusion would seem to be inescapable that in this country a stage has been reached where little more can be done effectively to limit the liability to suffer the death penalty, and that the issue is now whether capital punishment should be retained or abolished.The House will observe that this does not amount to a positive recommendation, but only to saying that, if it is thought essential to find a halfway house between the existing law and the abolition of the death penalty, all the other proposals considered by the Commission must clearly be 2069 rejected and this is the only proposal which merits serious consideration. This proposal was the subject of a debate in another place in December, 1953. It was severely criticised by distinguished speakers with long experience on the Bench, including the Lord Chief Justice, and by three former Home Secretaries.
The most serious of the many objections raised to the proposal were, briefly, these. First, that it was inconsistent with the traditional conception of the functions of the jury, whose duty has always been strictly limited to deciding the issue of guilt or innocence, and who have had no responsibility for deciding the appropriate sentence; secondly, that it would impose on them a responsibility which they were not equipped to discharge, since they would never have such full information about every aspect of the offence and of the offender as is available o the Secretary of State, and, even if they had, would lack experience of other murder cases, and would, therefore, have no general standard by which to assess the culpability of the accused in the particular case before them; thirdly, that it was not fair to ask 12 citizens selected at random, whose duty was already onerous and arduous enough, to bear this additional burden; and, finally, that it would lead to inequalities and anomalies in a field where the interests of justice imperatively demand the maintenance of a uniform standard.
The Commission itself recognised that the disadvantage of the proposal might be held to outweigh its merits, and stated the formidable objections very fully in its Report. The Government feel little doubt that it is unworkable and that it ought to be rejected.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the Commission's recommendation does not amount, in the alternative, to a recommendation to abolish the capital penalty altogether, would he make it clear—as I am sure he agrees about this—that that is because the Commission was precluded by its terms of reference from making any recommendation either way?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I thought that I had made that perfectly clear from the beginning. That was what the Commission thought was the proper halfway house, and the only one which it could 2070 think of. I thought that I had made it clear that it was precluded from making any recommendation.
There is one further point which I should like to make. It was widely suggested at the time of the publication of the Report that the Commission had said that the adoption of this proposal was the only alternative to the abolition of capital punishment. This is not so. What it said was that if this proposal, which it regarded as the only possible halfway house, was not found acceptable, then the search for a halfway house should be abandoned.
I pass to the third of the major recommendations, which relates to the criterion of criminal responsibility in cases where a defence of insanity is raised. The view taken by the majority of the Commission was that the present criterion contained in the M'Naghten Rules was so defective, in the light of modern medical knowledge, that it ought to be changed, and that the best course would be, not to frame a new and more up-to-date criterion, but to dispense with any criterion and simply leave it to the jury to decide whether, at the time of the act, the accused was suffering from disease of the mind or mental deficiency to such a degree that he ought not to be held responsible.
The grounds on which this proposal was based appear to be that any attempt to reduce the criterion of responsibility to words was, in the view of the majority, likely to be schematic and inadequate, and will, in any event, be irrelevant, because, in practice, juries ignore the M'Naghten Rules or any similar formula and simply ask themselves the question, "Is he mad or not?" Three members of the Commission—Dr. Radzinowicz, Dame Florence Hancock and Mr. Macdonald—dissociated themselves from this recommendation on the ground that, while the M'Naghten Rules were in some respects inadequate, it had not been shown that some criterion was not needed. In their view the advantage of a formula was that it served to limit the arbitrary element and to promote uniformity, as well as to help the jury to decide between conflicting views, whereas to have no formula at all would leave the decision, on which a man's life might often depend, to the uncertain variations of ethical standards and emotional reaction which might 2071 influence the minds of members of the jury.
These members, though they fully recognised that no formula could be perfect, thought that the objections to the M'Naghten Rules as they now stood would be substantially met by the adoption of a formula set out in paragraph 317 of the Report, which the majority of the Commission favoured to the extent of regarding it as a second best to dispensing with a formula altogether.
The Government have considered this question very closely. They feel little doubt that the view of the minority, that in England some formula is essential, is to be preferred. They recognise that the M'Naghten Rules are open to criticism, but they also note that the Commission itself recognised that the theoretical defects of the Rules lead to little hardship or injustice in practice.
They are impressed by the difficulty of framing a satisfactory amendment of the Rules, and by the wide differences of opinion on this issue among doctors, lawyers, and the general public, which were reflected in the Report of the Commission. In the light of all these considerations the view which they are disposed to take is that no advantage would be gained by disturbing the present position and that it is better to leave matters as they are.
Having stated the provisional view of the Government on these three major recommendations, I should like briefly to refer to the other recommendations of the Commission, which, as I have said, cover a wide field. The most important, I think, are the recommendations that the doctrine of "constructive malice" in English law should be abolished, with the proviso that principals in the second degree and accessories before the fact to felony should remain liable to be convicted of murder if the principal in the first degree is so liable; the recommendation that the law relating to provocation should be amended to allow a jury to return a verdict of manslaughter notwithstanding that provocation may have been by words alone; and the recommendation that a person who aids abets or instigates the suicide of another person—that is, the survivor of a suicide pact—should be guilty only of that offence, and not of murder, and 2072 should be subject to a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life.
All these recommendations would involve legislation. Some of them, I think it will be agreed, are not free from controversy, and some, at any rate, might be useful amendments of the law. The Government will be glad to take into account any opinions which hon. Members may express on these proposals today.
There are also a good many recommendations, especially with regard to the treatment of prisoners awaiting trial or under sentence of death or serving life sentences, which would not require legislation and which could be given effect by administrative action. A number of these recommendations have been accepted in principle and effect is being given to them already so far as is possible, although improvements in prison conditions, I am sorry to say, are inevitably limited at the present time by shortage of staff and unsatisfactory buildings.
The only recommendation of this kind to which I think I need refer is the recommendation that the mental state of every prisoner charged with murder should be examined by two doctors, of whom one at least should be an outside psychiatrist and the other usually an experienced member of the prison service. This recommendation has been accepted, and it is now the practice, where there is reason to believe that any question of difficulty is likely to arise in connection with the mental state of the accused, for steps to be taken to consult a psychiatrist from outside the prison service.
So far, I have spoken of the recommendations made in the Report of the Royal Commission. But I recognise that, if the proposal to give discretion to the jury finds little favour, the view may well be taken that, as the Commission itself says, we are driven back on the major question whether capital punishment should be retained or abolished.
There are two Amendments on the Order Paper which ask the House to express the opinion that, for a period of five years, persons convicted of murder should be sentenced to imprisonment for life, and that legislation to that end should be introduced forthwith. I do not know whether the Amendments will be called.
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were 2073 to say that I have selected the Amendment standing in the names of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and other hon. Members, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add:taking note of the Report of the Royal Commission, is of opinion that for a period of five years persons convicted of murder in the United Kingdom should be sentenced, in place of the death penalty, to imprisonment for life; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government forthwith to introduce legislation to that end.
§ Major Lloyd-George
In that case, Sir, perhaps I may be allowed to deal with it—I am sure the House will be glad to have an expression of opinion on that point—but before I do so I should like, with the permission of the House, to deal very briefly with my personal position in this matter.
I have always taken the view that, if a satisfactory alternative could be found, I should welcome the abolition of capital punishment—and, when I say satisfactory, I mean satisfactory as a deterrent and also something that is satisfactory to the public conscience—but that, until it was clearly established that such an alternative existed, the death penalty must remain and must be carried out in appropriate cases.
When the Criminal Justice Bill was before the House in 1948, I voted for the scheme suspending the death penalty for five years, and I tell the House frankly that, in doing so, I was very largely influenced by the statement made towards the close of the debate that Sir Alexander Paterson, who was one of the most enlightened Prison Commissioners, had changed his views on this issue towards the end of his life. It affected me, and it affected a good many other people, too. The statement was refuted a few days later by the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).
There can, I think, be no doubt that, when Sir Alexander told the Select Committee in 1930 that, in his view, life imprisonment would not be a tolerable alternative to the death penalty, he was giving his personal opinion, not merely the opinion of the Home Office, and that this remained his opinion until the end.
The views which I have consistently held have been reinforced by my experience at the Home Office, with the responsibility for the maintenance of law and 2074 order in this country; and I must add that the views that I shall express are the views of the Government.
The Government are opposed to the abolition of capital punishment, for three reasons. First, although there may be differences of opinion—and, of course, there are—about the deterrent value of the death penalty in general and in particular cases or types of cases, they are not disposed to reject the evidence of many experienced persons that it is a uniquely effective deterrent to professional criminals. In 1948, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields told the House that the Government could not advise them to dispense with this sanction at that time in view of the grave increase in crime and especially in crimes of violence. Since then, there has been a fall in the total volume of crime, but this is largely due to a decrease in offences against property, and, since 1948, there has been a continued increase in sexual offences and offences of violence against the person. In these circumstances, the Government cannot think that it would be right now to abandon the sanction of the death penalty.
Secondly, although the Government have carefully studied the views of the Royal Commission on the question of imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty, they are not convinced that the detention of some murderers for very long periods—I must underline, for very long periods—and possibly for life, whether in an ordinary prison or in special institutions for mentally abnormal prisoners, would not give rise to much more serious difficulty than the Commission expects.
Some of the most heinous murderers are mentally abnormal, and it may be that they could properly be detained in a special institution for long periods, but many—such as poisoners—are mentally normal and would have to be detained in prison for a very long time, even for life. It is unlikely that such men would be suitable for detention in an "open" prison, and their detention for more than 20 years in the conditions of a closed prison would be likely to lead to serious deterioration, as well as causing grave problems of security.
Thirdly, irrespective of these considerations, the Government have no doubt that it would be entirely wrong to abolish 2075 capital punishment unless there were clearly overwhelming public sentiment in favour of this change. The Government have no reason to think that public opinion is in favour of abolition, or of suspension. Indeed, they believe that the contrary is true.
The Amendment which is to be called proposes that the death penalty should not be abolished, but should be suspended for five years. I should like to say a word about this proposal. The Government take the view that the suggestion that the operation of the death penalty should be suspended for five years is entirely misconceived. Such a period would be much too short to enable Parliament to form a reliable judgment of the effects of the change. Moreover, if the experiment proved unsatisfactory, a difficult and confused situation might arise.
The suspension of the penalty would shift the onus of effecting a change in the law from those who propose abolition to those who proposed restoration of the penalty. Even if this were necessary and justified, it might be difficult to secure the passage of legislation to this end. In effect, therefore, such a "trial period" would be likely to prejudice the whole future consideration of the question, and. in fact, mean the permanent abolition of capital punishment under the guise of what purported to be an experiment. The Government have no doubt that if a change in the law were to be made, the right course would be to face the issue squarely and to abolish the death penalty outright rather than to purport to suspend it for an experimental period.
The question of capital punishment is one on which strong conscientious feelings are held and which it is proper to leave to a free vote, but it is my duty to tell the House that if the Amendment were to be pressed to a Division the Government could not advise hon. Members to vote for it.
Before I sit down, may I repeat what I said earlier in my speech, that while the Government have come to the provisional conclusions which I have stated on the Commission's principal proposals, we shall listen very carefully to all that is said today and we shall wish to take full account of the views expressed in this House.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
May I ask the Home Secretary one question? As to the second ground of objection which the Government hold, what is the position about murderers who are now reprieved? If the decision about long terms of imprisonment provides such difficulties in the mind of the Government, what is the position about murderers who are now reprieved? What is their fate? It cannot be an insuperable objection that the future of these men is full of difficulty. I should like the views of the Home Secretary on this matter.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I do not want to go into that at great length now, because my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will probably deal with it, but the hon. and learned Member will appreciate that there are people—this is the object certainly of the Home Secretary and it is supported by everybody—who, it is hoped, can be rehabilitated and made decent members of society; that is one of the most hopeful things that we have in this world. But there are other people, the hon. and learned Member will realise, whom it would not be safe to let loose on society. Those are the people who would set us a great problem. I am satisfied that it would be a problem, and an extremely difficult one.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I am quite sure that the House will recognise that, just as the Home Secretary found himself in some personal difficulty at one stage of his speech, I too have a past in this matter. I shall endeavour to discharge the task that now falls on me as openly and fearlessly as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did in explaining his personal position in the matter.
I join with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in expressing the thanks, I am quite sure, of every law-abiding citizen for the great care with which the members of the Royal Commission conducted the task that His late Majesty placed upon them of holding their inquiry, framing their Report, and making recommendations. The document that they signed will remain for a very long time as a mine of information to be argued about and to be considered, not merely by people of this country but by people in other States who may have to consider the same problem.
2077 The Royal Commission's recommendations are framed in such a way as to enable us to get clearly the exact position that we have to face in all the phases of this subject all the while that capital punishment remains. The Commission dealt with all the things that come on to the Home Secretary's table when a capital case is submitted to him for his consideration, and as far as am concerned no words of praise and thanks can be too high for those distinguished men and women who spent a very long time in considering these matters and who produced the Report for us. I join whole-heartedly in what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said.
The Home Secretary dealt with the Government's provisional conclusions on three of the outstanding matters, all of which we debate at the moment on the assumption that capital punishment remains. I take it that it will be better to pursue that course, so that when you call the Amendment that you have indicated, Mr. Speaker, we can then go on to consider, with the other matters cleared out of the way, the subject which, I am quite sure, is uppermost in hon. Members' minds. It is only right that we should give some consideration to these matters.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt with the question of the statutory age limit, the giving of a discretion to the jury and the future of the M'Naghten Rules as the three subjects on which the Government had reached what he called provisional conclusions. As I gather, on those three matters the provisional conclusions of the Government are that on each of them the existing conditions should continue.
I admit that on 14th April, 1948, at the opening of my speech, I said:We believe … that the time is not ripe for undertaking this particular reform. I do not myself believe that public opinion in the country is in favour of this Clause at this time." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 1083.]As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, a speech made later by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in which the authority of Sir Alexander Paterson was thrown against the views that I was advancing, had an obvious impression on the House. Such of us as were there that evening will admit that it was one of 2078 those occasions when the kind of gasp went round the House that indicated that considerable weight had been given to the refutation. I have said that because I want to be quite as frank to the House as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has been.
There has been this amazing piece of evidence about the effect of punishment on crime generally in this country that was part of the same Act of Parliament. We abolished flogging for certain offences. The offences for which a man could be flogged in this country were always most severely limited. Rape was not punishable by flogging. It was only robbery with violence and two or three other small crimes, like setting fire to one of H.M. dockyards.
§ Mr. Ede
The word "small" was, I admit, inappropriate. What I ought to have said was "infrequent crimes."
There was one amazing thing connected with the profession of horse knackers, which had become infrequent because the trade in horse flesh at that time did not pursue the lines that it had done in previous years, when it was a fairly frequent offence. Another of the offences was living on the immoral earnings of a prostitute. Flogging had not been very frequently employed in that connection for a good many years. We repealed that. The House did not divide against that repeal until, in another place, the Clause was altered and came back to us on Amendment. Even then, a large number of Members on both sides of the House voted in favour of the repeal of flogging.
While it is true, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says, that crimes of violence have increased, the astounding thing is that crimes of violence which were previously punished by flogging have decreased, and it is crimes of violence that were never punished by flogging, in any time that we need take account of, which have increased. The prophecies that were made in another place that this would lead to a great increase in crimes for which flogging was the punishment have been completely disproved.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman rested his case very largely on crimes of people between, I think he said, 17 and 2079 21. It is a group of people the members of which, at every stage when they were younger, were a matter of serious concern. It is a particular group which very largely suffered from the influences of the uncivilised conditions during the war and the years immediately following. There is no proof at the moment—indeed, the proof is all the other way—that their successors at their earlier ages are as prone to juvenile deliquency as they were. In fact, juvenile delinquency is falling to such an extent, that one of the problems, which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has to deal with, is redundant approved schools.
I hope we may take heart from that in the belief that the traditional good sense and good behaviour of ordinary British citizens are now being restored, and that we are recovering from some of the inevitable effects of the war years. As this group came into the picture in their later years, it was to be expected that there would be an increase in violent crimes. It is an increasing commentary that this increase has not been in the crime—because really there is only one crime that we need take into consideration—for which the severe penalty of flogging was abolished. I, therefore, am myself not prepared, without a great deal more consideration, to agree that we should pay too much attention to what happens to those in a particular age group who have been difficult in the earlier age stages of their lives.
Now we come to the question of jury discretion. I am bound to say that when I read the Commission's recommendation I had an instinctive feeling of revolt against it. I have not myself been convinced that we can make it workable. It would after all prolong the agony for the jury, and would make a further special demand on the powers of the jury to give continuous consideration to the aftermath of hearing the evidence in cases like this.
I wonder what goes on inside the jury room. I was once foreman of a coroner's jury. I have sat at quarter sessions and wondered by what processes jurors have, on occasion, managed to evade the specific hints which have been dropped to them by the chairman in his summing up. But I had a little enlightenment as to what happened, because, on at least two, and, I think, three occasions, I had 2080 a letter from a juror after I had announced my decision about a recommendation.
The juror said, "You have let me down. I stood out for a long time against a verdict of guilty. Then the foreman said, 'We have been here a long time and you are the only person standing out. If we make a strong recommendation of mercy, will you then fall into line, and if you make a strong recommendation of mercy you can rest assured that the Home Secretary will grant a reprieve'." I did not grant a reprieve when, after consulting the trial judge and asking him the grounds on the evidence for making a strong recommendation for mercy, the judge said, "I really have not the remotest idea." That is what happened.
Let us be quite certain of this. Heavy as the responsibility is on the Home Secretary—and no man who has held the office would wish to belittle the weight of the responsibility for a single moment—it would be far heavier on the juror who might have to decide whether there was to be a statement that would mark a man out for execution. For instance, that statement of the jury would have to be unanimous, at any rate in England, before this could happen. I do not think that 12 ordinary well-meaning citizens called together to discharge this heavy responsibility of declaring guilt or innocence ought to have this further heavy responsibility placed upon them.
I read the recommendation of the Commission as getting as near as they could to saying: successive generations have so dealt with this matter now that improvements which can be made are so small in comparison with the tremendous issues at stake that it is up to those who have the responsibility for making the political decision to make up their minds one way or the other. I must regard the inclusion in the Report of the suggestion about the jury system as reducing the possible alternatives to an absurdity, and compelling the House to face up to the main issue of whether capital punishment should or should not be abolished.
I do not go so far as that with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the third point, because I think that to leave the M'Naghten Rules unreformed would be to ignore the plain recommendations of the Commission, and, if I may say so, the weight of evidence that was brought to bear on them. After all, the Rules 2081 were composed at a time when our knowledge of the way in which the human mind works, and, occasionally, fails to work, was far less complete than it is today.
I think we would all agree, without subscribing to all the intricacies of modern psychiatry and the specialist doctrines of some of its professors, that we know a great deal more and that a great deal more has been established than was the case when the M'Naghten Rules were framed. I cannot help thinking that there would be an advantage to jurors if they had something more in accordance with modern modes of thought than the M'Naghten Rules to help them in the decisions they have to make.
I come to the matters which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned as among the lesser recommendations. I agree with him that prolonged detention in the present prisons for the most violent type of prisoner is something which humane people could not readily tolerate. I hope that his experience will agree with mine that the ordinary murderer who is reprieved is among the mildest mannered and best behaved inhabitant of Her Majesty's prisons and presents very little difficulty indeed. He generally falls in fairly well with prison routine, is reasonably helpful and can be generally regarded as a person who, after a period of punishment that is, in his case, probably more retributive than reformative, can be released on society and is unlikely to give us any further trouble.
There is a small, hard core of very violent people. Until the prison service is able to do something rather better for them than at present I am not, at all sure that I do not sympathise with the representations which were made to me by an Anglican clergyman of very high standing about a prisoner who was under sentence of death. It appeared that this prisoner might be reprieved. The clergyman brought to me the wish, expressed by the prisoner to him, that the prisoner should not be reprieved as he did not wish to waste for years in prison. The reform of the present system and the building of new prisons are matters which deserve early consideration. I hope that the schemes prepared by the former Home Secretary will fructify under the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's care and that we shall soon be able to consider this phase 2082 of the subject without the misgivings about long detention that I have just expressed.
On the question of the deterrent effect of the death penalty, I must say—and I use these words advisedly, because I have given a great deal of thought to this matter—that I do not think the case for deterrency is proved either way; that is to say, I do not think that the people who say that it is a deterrent can prove their case from analogy with other countries. Those who say that it is not a deterrent have no statistics from this country, because we have never had the opportunity of trying it. This is the conclusion to which I came, and I was Home Secretary for a longer period than any other Home Secretary since the Great Reform Act of 1832.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not say that with any suggestion of flippancy, like the man who survived the French Revolution and who said that that was his only achievement during the Revolution. I was in that office for a long time, and I probably had at least as many cases to consider as any Home Secretary in the last sixty or seventy years.
I came to that conclusion, apart from two or three men like Heath and Haigh, cool, calculating gamblers in these matters, who managed to get away with it a surprising number of times. With all the other men, if you had said to them on the morning they committed the crime, "Before night, you will be in danger of the gallows, "they would have laughed at you. A little too much to drink—and, after all, the amount of drink that puts a man off balance varies from individual to individual very considerably—and a little sexual excitement introduced, and something is done, a blow is struck, that places the man in jeopardy. He did not consider for a moment—he did not have the chance to consider—the effect of the punishment that he might be incurring.
As far as I could see, very few of the people who stand in jeopardy are those to whom any colloquial rendering of the words "malice aforethought" would have any real application. As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman gains in experience he will possibly be able to check that 2083 statement. Therefore, I am not convinced that the deterrent has been proved either way.
I doubt very much whether, at the moment, public opinion is in favour of this change, but I doubt, also, whether, at any time during the last hundred years, a plebiscite would have carried any of the great penal reforms that have been made. The appeal in the time of Romilly was always to the belief that public opinion would not stand it, but there are occasions when this House has to say that a certain thing is right, even if the public may not at that moment be of that opinion.
I want to deal with a matter that is entirely personal, just as the Home Secretary did. If ever there was a clear case, when the papers came on to my table, that a man was guilty, it was the case of Evans. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton dealt with this subject in a book that was published in connection with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), a book to which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) contributed a foreword. He wrote this:The most worrying aspect of the Evans case is precisely that Evans's guilt appeared so clearly proved. No criticism can be directed against judge, jury, counsel or police, and yet the apparently cast-iron case was unquestionably a false one. No single reason advanced by Mr. Humphries in his address to the jury is relied upon by Mr. Scott-Henderson in supporting their verdict. It does not matter in the least if Evans may have been guiltyof something upon the basis of some other case. His trial proves once and for all that a case that appears absolutely clear may yet be a false case.Let me recall what happened. It is the last thing to which I shall ask the House to listen. Evans was found guilty of the murder of his infant daughter. He was charged, at the same time, with the murder of his wife, but as he had been found guilty on the first case, the second was never heard. He asserted that the man who had murdered his wife was the other man living in the house. The evidence was overwhelming against Evans and then, years afterwards, the bodies of six women were found in that house and the other man admitted the murder of those six women. If those facts had been known to the jury at the time, they might perhaps have found Evans guilty of murder in conjunction with Christie; I 2084 doubt whether they could have found Evans guilty of murder in any other circumstances.
I was the Home Secretary who wrote on Evans' papers, "The law must take its course." I never said, in 1948, that a mistake was impossible. I think Evans' case shows, in spite of all that has been done since, that a mistake was possible, and that, in the form in which the verdict was actually given on a particular case, a mistake was made. I hope that no future Home Secretary, while in office or after he has left office, will ever have to feel that although he did his best and no one would wish to accuse him of being either careless or inefficient, he sent a man to the gallows who was not "Guilty as charged."
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:taking note of the Report of the Royal Commission, is of opinion that for a period of five years persons convicted of murder in the United Kingdom should be sentenced, in place of the death penalty, to imprisonment for life; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government forthwith to introduce legislation to that end.The House will recall that the proposal made in this Amendment, and, indeed, the proposal made in the following Amendment on the Order Paper in the names of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, is precisely the proposal which, on a free vote of the House in 1948, the House accepted. It would now be the law of the land had it not been for the rejection of the Clause in the House of Lords, and had the House of Commons had its way in 1948 the hope which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just expressed about present or future Home Secretaries would have been fulfilled in his own case.
As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary said when he moved his Motion, the House will recall that it was arising out of what Parliament did in 1948 that the Royal Commission was set up whose Report we are now considering. He said, rightly, that in and by its terms of reference the Commission was expressly excluded from considering or reporting upon the question whether the death penalty should or should not be retained. Its terms of reference were limited to the question of 2085 what modifications or qualifications ought to be made in the law on the basis that the death penalty remained.
The House may recall that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, was pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Leslie Hale) as to why he had limited the terms of reference of the Royal Commission in that way. My right hon. Friend replied that he had not left it to the Royal Commission to determine the issue of capital punishment because, in his opinion, that was not a question to be determined by Royal Commissions but one to be determined by Parliament. I, for one, agree with him.
A year or two later, when the events happened with an account of which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields concluded his speech, I sought to reintroduce, in the form of a one-Clause Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule, the proposal which Parliament had accepted in 1948. That was opposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now Solicitor-General. His ground for advising the House not to accept my Bill—and the House accepted his advice—was that it was better to wait until the House received the Report of the Royal Commission.
We now have that Report and the Government propose to take note of it—and that is all. I propose lo take note of it and to see what light is thrown by its recommendations, limited by the terms of reference as they were, on the question which the Commission could not consider but which we must consider. In other words, what light does the Royal Commission's Report throw on whether the death penalty should be retained or not? I doubt whether any of us who take part in this debate will find anything new to say. This matter has been well canvassed and discussed over a great many years. I think it is fair to say that all the arguments are known and that they have been repeated over and over again; there are some good arguments each way, and the question, ultimately, is where, in the last resort, does the balance fall?
I do not propose to go into all the questions which the House quite properly discussed in 1948. I propose to look at the question again in the light of the Royal Commission's Report and see 2086 where we get then. But, first, I should like to say a word on the question which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman very effectively, but quite fairly, put, namely, "Why do you not propose to abolish the death penalty altogether? If your arguments are good and if the balance falls where you think it falls, then you make out a case for abolishing the death penalty; you do not make out a case for suspending it for five years."
I think that is an argument which it is one's duty to meet if one is making a proposal for a provisional suspension for five years and not for total abolition. I propose to meet it in this way. I take the three main grounds which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave—as he was careful to say, on behalf of the Government—for rejecting the idea of abolishing the death penalty, and I hope to persuade him that this five-year proposal provides the most convenient method of dealing with each of the Government's main objections to abolishing the death penalty altogether. When the Home Secretary said that the Government's decision was only provisional and that they would consider very carefully all that was said in this debate, I hope he meant to include in that not merely what he said about the Royal Commission's recommendations but what is said about this Amendment, too.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's first point was that the Government are not in favour of abolishing the death penalty because some crimes of violence are increasing and because we ought not to abandon what may be a deterrent. That is, of course, a two-edged argument. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields quite rightly said, no one can prove a speculative proposition. No one can establish, in fact, whether any murders were prevented by the existence of the death penalty, or whether any more murders were committed where the death penalty was not in force. Nobody knows. It is purely an inference which may be legitimately or illegitimately drawn.
Suppose the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's figures had been different; suppose he had said that since 1948 the rate of violent crimes had gone steadily down year by year. Would he not have said, "Is this the time to remove so effective a deterrent?" It would have been a very strong argument, and I 2087 should have thought a rather stronger argument than the equally speculative proposition—I think both are speculative—that "We must keep this powerful deterrent to violent crime because we have got a powerful deterrent and violent crime is increasing."
What I say to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is: try it for five years and see. It is quite true that even then the conclusion will not be logically watertight, but it will enable us over a period of five years to see whether the trend is violently different, whether it is effective at all, or whether there are more murders when we suspend the death penalty. If there are not, who would want to keep the death penalty? Even "The Times" this morning, in what I hope, without disrespect, I may call a particularly obtuse leader even for "The Times," says that nobody wants the death penalty for its own sake.
There is one overwhelming argument which, if it could be established, might remove all objections to the death penalty. If it were really established that we reduce the rate of murder by inflicting the death penalty, one might say "Keep it by all means." But I say that if that cannot be proved, and if we can show by a sufficient trial period that we can have the death penalty abolished and not increase the number of murders then there is strong reason for thinking that the experience of this country will be very like the experience of all other countries which have tried it, which is certainly that the incidence of the rate of murder is not appreciably affected, either way, by whether there is a death penalty or not.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's second point was that life imprisonment would be a worse penalty than capital punishment. But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman concedes that there are some murderers who ought not to be hanged. He does not say that it is the worst murderers who ought to be reprieved. He said that where there are extenuating circumstances the murderer ought to be reprieved, and he therefore concedes that, by and large, his present practice when he reprieves a man is an improvement, a mitigation of the penalty and not an aggravation of it. If that is so, he has a period of five years in which 2088 he can experiment in every way possible to find some form of penalty other than death which will fit these cases. Why not try it?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's third argument was public opinion. He said that public opinion is not yet ripe for the abolition of the death penalty, and he said, by implication, that we must wait until it is. I say to him, with great respect, that it is possible to misconceive what the situation is. What a man thinks at the beginning of an argument is one thing; what he thinks at the end of the argument may be quite another.
I concede that if the Home Secretary walked up and down the streets of our big cities, casually button-holed people standing at bar counters and asked them for a quick opinion, in favour or against the death penalty, he would get a majority of negative opinions. But that is before the argument starts. I think it is clear that no rational person, whatever his opinion at the beginning, has heard the argument through both ways without, at the end of it, feeling very grave doubts, at the least, whether this penalty can morally or politically be justified.
The period of five years gives the right hon. and gallant Gentleman just what he needs for his third argument. It gives him, by an experimental, provisional period, a chance of educating the public by the results of trial and so getting them accustomed to the state of affairs of which, one gathers, he would be in favour if only he were satisfied that public opinion would support him.
The education of public opinion on these matters is a slow and difficult process and I can conceive of no better way of educating and informing it, if that is what we want to do, than showing them a provisional trial period of five years and, at the end of it, being able to say to them, "You see, it is not so dreadful. The United Kingdom, our country, is not so far behind in civilisation all those other countries of similar background and history and social make-up which have been able to dispense with this penalty without harm."
§ Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)
Is it not a fact that there is positive proof that wherever there is the remotest contact between people and the murderer, there is no difficulty in getting public 2089 opinion, in that particular case and for that person, in favour of the abolition of the death penalty?
§ Mr. Silverman
That is probably true, and to that extent it assists the argument which I was developing.
I must say that I failed altogether to follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in the final point which he made. It may be that I misunderstood him. It seems to me that what he was advancing as an objection to a five-year trial period was, in fact, an objection to abolishing the penalty outright without a trial period. It sounds so violent a contrast with what I thought the right hon. and gallant Gentleman intended to say that I may have it all wrong, and if that is so I shall be grateful if he will correct me.
What I think he said was this: five years is too short. Supposing that, at the end of five years, the case had not been established, we should then have to come back to Parliament to reimpose the death penalty; and that might create a very difficult political situation and we might not be able to do it. I think that was his argument. But, of course, the purpose of suspending it for five years instead of abolishing it is to avoid that very thing. If we pass an Act of Parliament which suspends it for five years and at the end of five years are satisfied that we have made a mistake, then the death penalty is automatically restored without our coming back to Parliament at all. It is only if we abolish it altogether and then change our minds that we have to come back to Parliament to get it restored.
It seems to me that, unless II have misunderstood what he said, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman got it completely the wrong way round. If we want to be able to restore it if the experiment does not work, then for goodness' sake let us not abolish it outright but let us suspend it for a trial period. We shall then be able to restore it without any political difficulties of any kind.
That is all I want to say about that subject, and I come now to the Royal Commission's Report, about which I shall be quite brief. It seems to me to be quite clear, I think beyond controversy of any kind, that the Royal Commission was unanimous about one important thing. This was a very distinguished Commission, whose members spent a long time and much effort on their task. I should 2090 like modestly to concur in and endorse all the compliments and gratitude which have been expressed to them by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and my right hon. Friend. I agree that here we have a storehouse of the whole of this controversy and that no future examination of this problem will be seriously possible without reference to the Commission's Report.
At the end of the argument, what did the Commission unanimously decide? It unanimously decided that the present law was wrong and ought not to continue. And the Government have decided to take note of that and to do nothing—so far, provisionally; so far they have decided to do nothing. I have quoted this before; I am fond of it and I will quote it again; the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's distinguished father once said of an earlier Prime Minister, "The right hon. Gentleman is continually stumbling across a great truth and picking himself up and going on as if nothing had happened."
That is what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is doing. The Royal Commission tells him, "Whatever you do about it is your business. We will make such recommendations as we can make within the limits of our terms of reference. You may not like them. It is the best we can do within those limits, and if you do not like them you must do something else. But what we are unanimously telling you is that the present law is wrong."
If the present law is wrong, is the House of Commons going to refuse to change it? If we send the matter to a Commission of this kind, in order to sift all the evidence, weigh everything in the balance and present a Report and then, after two or three years, it comes back to us and says unanimously, "This state of affairs is wrong and ought not to continue, "is the House of Commons going to say, "Let it continue," or is it going to say, "Let it stop"?
In what respect did the members of the Commission say unanimously that it was wrong? It was no great discovery; it was not very original. But they were not appointed to be original. They were appointed to find out the truth, however obvious and well-known the truth was, and what they reported is what we all knew before—that is to say, that if we have a crime so varied as murder, we ought not to have one rigid, automatic 2091 penalty for every form of that crime, especially where the penalty is the capital punishment which we cannot recall if we make a mistake.
They did their best within their terms of reference. We told them, "Do not tell us whether you think it ought to be abolished. Tell us how you think it ought to be modified, if in any way. Tell us how you think it ought to be qualified, if at all." The members of the Commission have said to us, "Since you forbid us to tell you what we think about the death penalty itself, then we must do our best to tell you how it may be modified or qualified to remove this defect that, by the present law, you must wring the neck of everybody who is guilty of murder, no matter how great or how little the moral turpitude involved in the particular case with which you are concerned."
The Commission examined all sorts of ways of doing that without abolishing the death penalty. It said, "Why not have degrees of murder?" and went into that question with great care, but unanimously decided that that does not work. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman agrees, and so do I. When the House of Lords defeated our proposal in 1948 it defeated it because it said, "Here is a series of types of murder, abolish the death penalty in all other cases, but keep it for these because public opinion will not tolerate any mercy." So I and my hon. Friends negotiated with my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary and said, "Let us abandon our Clause and see whether we can devise a new Clause in which we will retain the death penalty for just those categories for which the House of Lords says we must retain it and abolish it for the others."
We produced a very remarkable document, doing our best—like the Royal Commission—within our terms of reference.
§ Mr. Silverman
I fully accept my share of the responsibility. My right hon. Friend came to me and said, "You cannot have your Clause, the Lords will not give it to you. But if you like to try for something else, try for something else." I said, "All right, I will try for something else." I accept responsibility for that. We worked at it together and I accept my share of responsibility for this ungainly conjunction of incompatibles which we formed into a Clause by way of amending the penal code.
The House of Commons accepted it and we sent it back to the House of Lords. The very people who rejected our original proposal on the ground that it would not cover the special cases, said, when they received our Clause which specifically set out to meet those special cases, "This will not work, no jury will be able to understand it." So they rejected that, also. [An HON. MEMBER: "Abolish them."] I am not complaining. I think it might have worked, but I agree it was a very difficult and anomalous thing.
I do not quarrel with the Royal Commission when it said, "This will not do, you cannot categorise it." If we are precluded from saying that the death penalty should be abolished altogether, if degrees of murder will not do, if special categories of murder will not do, what are we left with? The Royal Commission gave the only possible answer in those circumstances. Whether we like the answer or not, it was the only possible answer.
The Commission said, "Since you must differentiate and you cannot differentiate by categories, you must differentiate case by case." That is the origin of the main unanimous recommendation—since we ought not to have the death penalty in all cases, deal with one case at a time and judge each case on its merits. Short of abolishing or suspending the death penalty, the only possible answer to that is to continue the present practice of allowing the courts to inflict the automatic, rigid penalty and then leaving it to the Home Secretary to advise Her Majesty to exercise the Prerogative of mercy to fit some other penalty to the crime if some other penalty is better.
Of course, there is a radical fallacy there. We are using the Prerogative of mercy for something which is confessedly 2093 not mercy at all. Mercy begins where justice ends and if we use the Prerogative of mercy in order to do justice because the legal system does not do justice that is not mercy at all. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had a little experience now of trying to do it by way of Prerogative. I hope he does not think that those of us who from time to time have pressed him and his predecessors very hard on individual cases have done so because we did not appreciate how onerous a job he had to do, or sympathise with him, or sympathise with his necessary protective devices to prevent his mind being influenced by pressure of one kind or another. But the public will not understand that, nor tolerate it much longer.
I am not going to deal with the merits of any cases, but I take three and only mention them. I defy any rational human being to find any common basis on which the three decisions can be reconciled. Derek Bentley was short of 19 years; he was a mental defective. He had committed no act of violence himself. If he was guilty of murder at all—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) thinks he was not—he was guilty of constructive murder and not of murder in fact. That boy was hanged, yet the process is said to look for reasons not to inflict the capital penalty. I say no more about it; there it is.
The other day there was a woman who was certified insane by the prison doctor. She was hanged. A week or two later a farmer in North Wales was convicted on the clearest possible evidence of murdering his partner because his partner wanted his own money back. He murdered his partner so effectively that no trace of the body was ever discovered. That raised a legal question which was fought out in the courts and was decided in the Court of Criminal Appeal. No one thought of taking it any further—[HON. MEMBERS: "They did."]—although they might have done so.
§ Mr. Silverman
At any rate, it was thought by the Attorney-General to be so clear that it did not raise a point of sufficient public importance to justify 2094 taking it to the House of Lords. That man was reprieved.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
I do not mean this offensively, but is it in order to discuss in the presence of the Home Secretary and an ex-Home Secretary particulars of individual cases in which the Prerogative was considered?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not asking any Home Secretary to discuss any of the cases; I am saying that if we do not abolish the penalty, if, nevertheless, we want to vary the penalty, if, nevertheless, we want to reject the recommendation of the Royal Commission that the jury or the court shall decide, then we are driven back upon the present method of using the Prerogative of mercy as though it were a judicial process.
When we examine how that works, we find that it does not satisfy the most elementary test of a judicial process, which is that normal intelligent beings of some experience shall understand it. Nobody understands it, and the practice prevents the Home Secretary from explaining it. So where are we? We are left, then, with the Royal Commission's revolutionary proposal.
I agree with all those who say that this is a very difficult thing to do. It makes a change in our law, not quite so revolutionary a change as some think, but it undoubtedly makes a substantial change. It is hard to work and it places too heavy a responsibility on the jury, and all the rest of it. Are we going to reject that too? If we do, then we are driven hard up against the question which the Royal Commission has posed to this House, whose responsibility it is.
Now, then, do we propose to do what everybody knows ought to be done, that is, to differentiate between crimes of different moral culpability? If we cannot think of any other way, we are driven back on abolishing the death penalty altogether, or at least, as we propose, suspending it for a provisional trial period. No one of the other recommendations matters in comparison with that. All the other problems, the age of execution, insanity, degrees of moral culpability, and all the rest of them, cease to be problems if the death sentence goes.
2095 It is only the penalty which makes it a problem; it is only the rigid capital penalty that raises all these nice questions with which they are dealing. There is, in parenthesis, the method of execution. It seems to me that the world would have lost one of its most valued and treasured chapters of moral literature if the ancient Greeks had used the services of some ancient Pierrepoint instead of a cup of hemlock. I doubt whether Plato would have had the material to write those wonderful pages if Socrates had been hanged. But these are subsidiary questions and the main one is the one with which this Amendment deals.
There is an occupational disease about Home Secretaries. I have known several Home Secretaries deal with this matter in the nineteen years during which I have been a Member of the House of Commons. There was Sir Samuel Hoare, now Lord Templewood. He was Home Secretary when I first heard the House of Commons debate this matter, and he opposed the abolition of the death penalty. Then, in the House of Lords in 1948, he supported its abolition as he had always supported it before he was Home Secretary.
Then there is the case of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. He always led the fight for the abolition of the death penalty, but in 1948, when he was Home Secretary, he opposed it. Now there is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. In 1948, he voted for this very proposal which we are now discussing, but now, on behalf of the Government—as he was very careful to say—he opposes it. He explained it, yes, but when he came to deal with the grounds, I, perhaps mistakenly, read into it some doubt whether his mind really went with his words.
§ Major Lloyd-George
The hon. Gentleman has it wrong. I must make it clear. When I said to the House that I was completely misled by what was said in 1948, I meant it, and, if I may say so, I am not the only one. The hon. Gentleman made some reference to what happened on that occasion. I am not sure that the Clause would have been carried if a statement had not been made which completely misled several people.
§ Mr. Silverman
My hon. and learned Friend will reply to that later, but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not said that he would have voted —
§ Major Lloyd-George
No, I am not aware of that, and, if I may, I will answer the hon. and learned Gentleman. The opinion which I held, and I repeated it today, I still hold. If a satisfactory alternative were found, then I should be satisfied. The evidence given by Sir Alexander Paterson whom the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned was that, in his opinion and with all his experience, there was no alternative. He did not regard long imprisonment as a humane alternative to capital punishment. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that that view had been completely altered, and that is what affected me.
§ Mr. Paget
This point has been put, and I think it convenient that it should be dealt with. In winding up the debate in 1948 I was mistaken, not in saying that Sir Alexander Paterson, before his death, had changed his mind on this issue but in the smaller sphere of saying that he had joined the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. Sir Alexander Paterson attended the funeral of Mr. Corbett which was carried out in the Quaker fashion where the friends of the deceased rise and make a statement. Mr. Ayles, who was a Member of this House, was also there. On that occasion, Sir Alexander said—just before his death—that he now believed that the time had come to abolish capital punishment.
§ Mr. Silverman
Sir Alexander Paterson is, unfortunately, deceased. We have to make up our minds for ourselves, not on the basis of what Sir Alexander thought, but on the basis of what we think ourselves. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tells me that he would retain the death penalty because he thinks it a more merciful thing than the present alternative, then I am bound to believe him, but I am bound, at the same time, to say that I am very greatly surprised to hear that opinion expressed by a Home Secretary who does reprieve now and again from the death penalty to life imprisonment in what he thinks are the most deserving cases. Therefore, while I do not question what he says, he will forgive me for saying that I do not find it very convincing.
2097 To conclude, I beg the House to give this thing a trial. About deterrents, I think that Francis Bacon said the last word some 300 years ago. He saidThere is no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it makes and masters all fear of death.I think that is true, and that it is accepted as true by all of us in our own experience of life. If the death penalty is not a deterrent, then get rid of it. I would like to see this House, not by a party political decision and not régimented in any way, but with each of us exercising our own conscientious judgment as we think fit at the end of the argument decide that, at any rate for five years and as a provisional experiment, we should bring to an end this barbaric and obscene futility.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
I beg to second the Amendment.
The one ambition in the minds of all hon. Members is to discover the means by which murder shall be as infrequent as possible. Even if the Amendment had not been called, it would have been very difficult to discuss the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment without considering whether hanging is or is not a necessary and effective deterrent. For whilst I appreciate everything that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary said about the terms of reference of the Commission, nevertheless almost all of the Commission's recommendations obviously depend upon the answer to that question.
Let us take, for instance, the recommendation that the age for hanging should be raised from 18 to 21. Unfortunately, as my right hon. and gallant Friend said, a very large proportion of murders are committed by people between those ages. Therefore, if one takes the view that hanging is a necessary and effective deterrent, one can obviously say, "Why should we be deprived of protection against this class of people who are most likely to murder us?" On the other hand, if one takes the view that hanging is not a necessary and effective deterrent one is in favour of raising the age to 21, but equally logically one can say, "Why not abolish it altogether?"
We have, therefore, to face the question whether hanging is a necessary and 2098 effective deterrent or not. It is a subject to which I have given attention for a very large number of years. Through my necessarily amateur inquiries into the experience of abolitionist countries some years ago, I reached three conclusions. The first was that it was very difficult, if not impossible, to find a country where the murder rate had increased after the death penalty had been abolished. Secondly, where there was already a trend of decrease, that trend continued after abolition. The third, which interested me particularly, was that when one had States of the same sort next door to one another, such as in Australia and America, some of which had and some of which had not abolished the death penalty, the curves of increase and decrease of murder coincided with surprising fidelity irrespective of whether the States were or were not abolitionist.
Therefore, I reached a conclusion which I afterwards found much more eloquently summarised in Lord Temple-wood's book, where he said:The statistics upon which I make my assertion that in no country has the abolition of capital punishment increased the murder rate, are based upon figures taken over a period before and after the abrogation or repeal of the death penalty. These figures not only show that there has been no increase in the rate of murder, but also that there has been no check in any downward curve where the rate of murder was already falling at the time of abolition. The experience of the thirty-six abolitionist States clearly shows that abolition does not increase the number of murders. I do not go so far as to say that it reduces the number of murders. I restrict myself to the assertion that it does not increase the number.That was the state of inquiry which Lord Templewood had reached at the time the Commission reported. Therefore, I came with great interest to the Report of the Commission to see whether it supported Lord Templewood's assertion or not.
Appendix 6 of the Report deals with foreign experience considered country by country. In the case of the United States, Professor Sellin sums up:The important thing to be noticed is that, whether the death penalty is used or not, or whether executions are frequent or not both death penalty States and abolition States show rates which suggest that these rates are conditioned by other factors than the death penalty.In the case of Belgium, the Report states:In so far as these statistics are a reliable guide, they do not suggest that the abeyance 2099 of capital punishment has had an adverse effect on the number of murders.The phrases referring to Denmark and Italy are substantially the same.
Since we last debated this subject, New Zealand has turned from a condition of abolition to a condition of capital punishment, but it returned at a time when the murder rate was already falling. The Minister of Justice, who moved the Motion for the renewal of capital punishment, specifically stated that he did not base himself on statistics. There is only one example in all history of an apparent increase after abolition. That was in the three Swiss cantons of Aargau, Solothurn and Thurgau in 1874, where in the next two years, the murder rate went up from 1.9 to 2.4. However, if one takes the murder rate for a period of 24 years after that and compares it with the 24 years before, it went down. There was this one solitary instance of a small increase. Apart from that, the evidence seems overwhelming that Lord Templewood's generalisation is justified.
The Commission itself sums up in three sentences the deductions from these statistics when the Report states:Prima facie the penalty of death is likely to have a stronger effect as a deterrent to normal human beings than any other form of punishment, and there is some evidence (though no convincing statistical evidence) that this is in fact so.The Commission also states:We agree with Professor Sellin that the only conclusion which can be drawn from the figures is that there is no clear evidence of any influence of the death penalty on the homicide rates of these States. … The general conclusion which we have reached is that there is no clear evidence in any of the figures we have examined that the abolition of capital punishment has led to an increase in the homicide rate, or that its reintroduction has led to a fall.Therefore, I conclude that the substantial result of the Commission's inquiries is to support Lord Templewood's contention.
There is, therefore, no reason whatsoever to imagine that, contrary to the total experience of country after country, abolition would be followed by an increase in the murder rate, certainly not an increase on any dramatic scale. In the same way, some of the other incidental points which hon. Members and other people reasonably and fairly put forward in favour of capital punishment are effectively answered in the Report.
2100 My right hon. and gallant Friend very fairly drew attention to the passages of the Report which bear witness to the fact that the police are opposed to the abolition of capital punishment. As far as it goes, I accept that as an argument on the anti-abolitionist side, because we all admit the desirability of carrying the police with us in any reform. On the other hand, we have to consider not only what the police think but whether the police are right.
On that matter again, some years ago I made some inquiries about the experience of gang warfare and the murder of policemen in certain abolitionist countries in Scandinavian countries and in Holland and Switzerland. I received the reply that such things are unknown. They are phenomena found almost solely in countries which have capital punishment.
The case seems so very strong that it is important to consider what are the two answers to the appeal to foreign experience. The two answers are these. On the one hand, there are some people who tell us that foreign experience is irrelevant to this question. We all perfectly well understand that statistics and facts must be used with care, that it is a false logic to say that, because in a single instance A is followed by B, B is necessarily caused by A. We know that each country has its peculiar problems. We also know the way in which it is legitimate to use facts and statistics. Where we have a large number of instances where there is such a sequence of A being followed by B again and again, one is entitled to wonder if A is not the cause of B.
In this case, we have as remarkable a cross-section of world population as one could imagine. The experiment of abolition has been tried in thickly-populated countries like Holland and in thinly-populated countries like Norway; in agricultural countries like Denmark and in industrial countries like Belgium; in Latin countries like Portugal and in Nordic countries like Sweden; in English-speaking countries like Queensland and some American States; in Christian countries, and in non-Christian countries such as Travancore. One could not imagine a more complete cross-section. If, from all these countries with their 2101 varying experience one gets this unvarying lack of great difference after the abolition of the death penalty, we are entitled to say that the frequency of murder has not so much to do with capital punishment but that other factors are clearly more important.
Another point raised is that our capital punishment is, perhaps, more merciful and more scientific than the punishment adopted in some other countries. When the matter was debated seven years ago, I recollect that Lord Simon made the point that the present prison system in Italy contained certain features which would be intolerable in this country. No doubt he was perfectly correct, but it is very difficult to see what his point proved. We are under no obligation to imitate the undesirable features of the Italian prison system. There are abolitionist countries such as Sweden and Switzerland which have extremely good prison systems. If we want to go abroad for models, we can surely go to the best models rather than to the worst. We need not, however, go abroad for models. It is a matter for very careful consideration what we should do in detail, but it is not our concern at this moment.
What we have to establish is that an alternative of the present system is not an insoluble problem. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that if only he could be provided with convincing evidence that there was an alternative he would like to be an abolitionist. I would with respect advise him to look at page 229 of the Report, where he will find a discussion of the opinions held in his day by Sir Alexander Paterson. I do not wish to go into it all now, but in paragraph 653 the Home Secretary will find this:The Home Office at that time did not dissent from that view. But in giving evidence before us, though they still said that 'prolonged detention for more than ten or twelve years makes it increasingly difficult for [the prisoner] to re-establish himself in outside life and increases the risk of mental or physical deterioration, ' they added that developments in prison administration in the last twenty years have materially altered the conditions of confinement for prisoners serving long sentences, and continued: 'While therefore the Commissioners remain of the opinion expressed [in 1930] that a very long sentence of imprisonment is and must always be a dreadful thing, they do not consider that in present conditions its effect on prisoners would be such that it ought not to be contemplated'.We entirely appreciate the candour with which my right hon. and gallant Friend is 2102 dealing with this case but, in all friendliness and open-mindedness, I would ask him to consider whether that Home Office opinion does not provide him with the answer he confessed he was seeking, and whether he cannot join us in the Division Lobby tonight in favour of the abolitionist cause which he admitted having so deeply at heart.
There is another point. People say: "If these be your opinions and if you think that capital punishment by hanging is of comparative irrelevance to the number of murders, I see that you are not greatly keen on hanging, but why do you make such a fuss of it one way or the other? Why do you think the matter so important?" In answer to that, I will say just three things. The first is that my own interpretations of my religious views are such that I would not say that in all circumstances is the State forbidden to take human life; but I would say that the State is forbidden to take human life unless it is abundantly proved that it is necessary for it to do so. Hon. Members must make up their minds as to what importance they attach to that aspect of the problem. It is obviously not a point for detailed discussion in this House.
My second point is this. When I spoke on this matter seven years ago, I said that I did not think that in modern circumstances in this country there was a grave risk of an innocent man being hanged. I said that that was not one of the arguments upon which I based by case. I must confess that some things that have happened since have made me a great deal less comfortable about that view. I had intended to say two or three brief sentences about the Evans case, but after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) it would be indecent for anyone else to intervene on that topic.
My third point is that in considering the effect of hanging we have to consider the effect on three different classes. First, we have to consider the effect on the murderer. Then we have to consider the effect on any officers who, in one capacity or another, are called upon to take part in the execution. On that there is very little controversy. Everyone agrees that it is profoundly painful and distressing to have to take part in such executions. I think—indeed, I know—that people who do 2103 not believe in abolition join with those who do in mitigating as many details of such executions as they can. On the other hand, should hanging be proved to be necessary, then I believe we have a right to say to those people that, unpleasant though it may be, they must carry out this unpleasant task. The whole issue is, of course, whether or not hanging is necessary.
Thirdly, the effect on the public at large should be considered. No one who follows English public opinion today can seriously doubt that there is, throughout the nation, a morbid obsession with the topic of murder. Many will have read the George Orwell essay "The Decline of the English Murder, "in which he notes that the murders of our grandparents' day had, at any rate, their comparatively intelligible motives, but that a horrible feature of our life to day is the growing prevalence of the murder of mere beastliness.
§ Mr. Robson Brown (Esher)
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving way, but the statistics in Table I, in page 329, show quite clearly that of 146 recorded murders tabled therein 90 were of a form and kind where there was obviously some kind of premeditation and beastliness is not mentioned at all; shame and disgrace—one; sexual passions—none. The figures do not agree with my hon. Friend's contention.
§ Mr. Hollis
There have certainly been a number of murders recently which I should consider beastly murders.
§ Mr. Hollis
No special point turns on the argument. My general point, which nobody can dispute, is that there is an obsession with the topic of murder in our national life at present. Many people say, "This is just human nature, and there is nothing that you can do about it." However, if we turn to the Scandinavian countries or Holland, we find that the whole atmosphere is very different. The method of splashing murder cases in newspapers as in this country is quite unknown in those countries. I have no doubt that a large part of the morbid interest in murder in this country comes from the drama of the situation in that a man is on trial for his life. I am perfectly certain that if the deterrents are 2104 to be effective, they should be as humdrum and undramatic as possible.
If we were to abolish capital punishment for the moment I believe we should have a great improvement in the public attitude towards crime. That in itself would be a good thing, but not sufficient as an overriding case for abolishing capital punishment. However, we should have a general improvement over the nation, and in the long run, if other factors were favourable, it would lead to a decrease in a number of murders.
Murder cases appeal to the million; and this in their case only means that they read the newspapers and meditate on the details. But I believe that this morbid fascination is likely to be enough to push the small number of psychopathic individuals just over the border, and placing a dramatic aura around murder is just the way to make murder more common. If hon. Members want authority for that, I have two authorities for them according to their taste and outlook. Those who like modern psychology can go to Dr. Jung, and those who do not like modern psychology can go to Dickens and read "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Barnaby Rudge," and they can then take their choice as to the authority which they accept.
Hon. Members who were in the House at the time will remember that when we debated the matter seven years ago what was in many ways the major speech against the abolition of the death penalty was that by Lord Waverley, who at that time sat in the House as Sir John Anderson. As everybody recognised, he spoke with a peculiar degree of authority on a topic of this sort. Lord Waverley made a very remarkable speech on that occasion. In making the key speech against the abolition of capital punishment, Lord Waverley frankly admitted that he thought that hanging had no deterrent effect in the case of constructive murder, crime passionnel and political murder. Thus, by the confession of the most responsible advocate of capital punishment, a very large proportion of the crimes for which people were condemned to death were crimes for which capital punishment was irrelevant.
I believe that ever since Lord Waverley's speech the House and the country have been under an obligation at least to do something about the prob- 2105 lem. I believe that the obligation has been generally recognised. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the late Government sought to discover whether there was a halfway house between abolition and the present law. The late Government made an experiment with a new Clause, but that was not happy. The present Commission was then set the same task, but, through no fault of its own, it has—I believe that this is the general feeling in the House—failed.
The Commission has recommended the repeal of the M'Naghten Rules. There is a great deal to be said for that, but it is not a fundamental change in the situation. The Commission has tried to discover whether it is possible to divide between two sorts of murder, but it has decided that it is impossible to do that, and I believe that that is correct. I believe that the House generally agrees that the Commission is correct. The Commission has recommended, though with no very great enthusiasm, an experiment at jury discretion. I do not feel much enthusiasm for that, and it does not appear that the House feels much enthusiasm either.
I believe, therefore, we are now faced with a situation in which something has got to be done. There is an obligation of honour to do something. An honest attempt has been made to find a halfway house, but it has failed. It is demonstrably untrue that catastrophic consequences will follow abolition. Much the simplest solution to the problem is that of abolition.
It is very important to solve the controversy, because the controversy itself is a very large part of the trouble. Nothing has made a greater contribution to keeping this country in an unhealthy condition than the simmering on of this wretched, miserable controversy. I do not think that anybody can doubt in his bones that abolition will come before long. The House would render a great service to the country if it expressed the opinion that it should go now.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Basil Nield (City of Chester)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) divided his speech into two parts. In the first part he presented his 2106 case for the Amendment with great clarity, and in the second part he proceeded to discuss some of the proposals in the Report of the Royal Commission.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Something which occurred a moment ago aroused some interest, and I think the House would like your guidance. Once when I was charged with the duty of winding-up a Bill the Chair ruled that I could not be called if a Privy Councillor was on his feet, and the Table at that time informed me of the absolute rights of Privy Councillors. I do not believe in those absolute rights. However, what I want to know is why on one occasion the rule goes one way and on another occasion it goes another way. This is not a political matter. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) was on his feet when you called the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Privy Councillors are generally called when they rise. However, they have no right; it is a custom to call them.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is not in the Standing Orders. The Chair is entitled to call whom it wishes; and I called the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester.
§ Mr. Nield
I hope the House will want to hear what I have to say, and I am very anxious to hear what the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) has to say in due course.
I was pointing out that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne divided his observations into two parts. I was about to say that I wished to make the major part of my speech upon the general proposals, or one aspect of them, in the Report. However, it is obviously proper, in my view, that I should express my own opinion upon the extremely important issue raised in the Amendment. The hon. Member uttered words to the effect that if it could be shown that the removal of the death penalty would have the effect of increasing the number of murders his objection to it would be swept away. Am I wrong in saying that?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong. He has got it the wrong way round. I said that I should be prepared to tolerate the continuance of the death penalty if it could be shown that its retention prevented murders.
§ Mr. Nield
I do not think that that is very different from what I said. What the hon. Member means is that if, by abolishing the death penalty there is going to be an increase in these crimes, then nobody could tolerate it for a moment. Of course he takes that view. Of course my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) takes that view.
Some of us will have seen that only today some unfortunate woman has been foully strangled within a few miles of this House; and if we do anything which involves even a risk of increasing hideous offences of this kind, we clearly do the greatest disservice. It is because I am convinced that to do away with this penalty would, or might, increase the number of these capital offences, that I must oppose the Amendment.
It has been rightly said—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—that it is extremely difficult to prove whether the death penalty operates as a deterrent. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne made the same observation. On the other hand, those of us who, by reason of our calling, are brought into touch in the courts with these cases must form an opinion from our experience. All I can say is that it is my convinced view that this is the most compelling deterrent of all.
§ Mr. Nield
May I finish this sentence. I do not want it to be thought that I am seeking to avoid any question?
I suggest one line of thought which is very important. It is that—again in my opinion, and it must be such—a great many criminals are deterred from carrying arms, because they know that if they do and, in an emergency use those arms, they may be faced with a capital charge.
§ Mr. Rogers
I should just like to know if the hon. and learned Member held the same view about the abolition of flogging.
§ Mr. Nield
I did not. My recollection, and I was a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the matter upstairs on the Criminal Justice Act, is that we were in a large measure in agreement on that aspect.
I should say that the final, ultimate, and most cogent of all deterrents is the contemplation of the death penalty. I think it right to express these views after, let it be said, many years experience in the courts and having been engaged in many of these cases. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, in his speech, pointed out that one important aspect of the Royal Commission's Report was that dealing with criminal responsibility on the part of those who are mentally abnormal. It is correct that in Chapters 4, 5 and 6 of the Report the Commission discusses that question, and it is to that question that I desire to address myself now.
I should immediately say to the Home Secretary that I do so because I am not convinced that the provisional view, to which he has given voice on behalf of the Government, is right on this aspect of the matter. It has for a very long time been recognised that if a man, at the time of committing an unlawful act, is so mentally disordered that guilt ought not to be imputed to him, he ought not to be held liable to conviction and punishment under the criminal law. No one surely can deny that humanity requires that that should be so.
One recollects that the traditional definition of murder is that which comes from Coke in the 17th century. It starts with these words:When a man of sound memory and of the age of discretion unlawfully kills … with malice aforethought.Of course, the phrase "of sound memory" sounds rather strange to modern ears, but I have no doubt that in the context in which it is used it means "of sound mind and understanding." It is thus implicit in the definition of the offence itself that only a person of sound mind ought to be convicted of the crime.
Under the present procedure, as hon. and learned Gentlemen will know, when a man is found insane, the jury is required to give a special verdict, which is that of guilty of the act but insane at the time. In my view, and I have held it for some time, that is not logical and 2109 I agree with the proposal contained in the Commission's Report that in such circumstances the verdict should be one of not guilty. A person found insane should be acquitted of the offence, there being retained, of course, the right of keeping the acquitted person under restraint—so long as his condition requires that to be done.
This may seem a somewhat small procedural matter, but I think that it will be recognised as one of principle. I hope that the Government may think it right to take steps to see that this matter is changed and that a verdict of not guilty is substituted for the present special verdict.
It will be realised that the law presumes a person to be sane until the contrary is proved. It is one of the few instances where the burden of proof is upon the accused person to establish his insanity, if that is his defence. Here, of course, is the real problem, because the range of mental abnormality may be from some minor eccentricity to mania. The fundamental and intensely perplexing problem is what must be proved in order to establish insanity, which would amount to a defence.
For well over 100 years the test which has been applied in the courts is the test laid down by what are called, I think inappropriately, the M'Naghten Rules. From these rules is drawn the test upon which every jury is directed in every case of this kind, and I dare say there may be many hon. Members who do not recall how these rules came into being.
The position is that a man called Daniel M'Naghten, who suffered from a delusion that he was being persecuted by Sir Robert Peel, shot and killed Sir Robert Peel's secretary, a Mr. Drummond, in mistake for Sir Robert Peel. He was tried for murder and acquitted on the ground of insanity, and the trial caused public concern. Thereupon, the House of Lords asked the judges of the day to express their opinion as to the criminal responsibility of those who suffered from insane delusions.
The judges did express their opinion, and it contained these words:To establish a defence upon the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved that at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to 2110 know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.May I ask the House to notice this: from these rules which, as I say, have been the guide in these questions for so long, in fact, since 1843, it is clear that the fundamental requirement is that there should be shown to be a disease of the mind. I would suggest that is clearly right. It should remain so.
But the rules go on to say that, having established a disease of the mind, the defence must continue so as to prove a defect of reason of the sort described. It is around these words "defect of reason" that controversy has ranged over a number of years. Is it too strict a requirement? May there not be—and let me say that I am convinced there are—cases where a man knows the nature and quality of his act and knows that it is wrong, but, by reason of a disease of the mind, cannot prevent himself from committing it?
May there not be, not merely a defect of reason but a defect of will which should constitute a defence? In this connection it will be remembered, at any rate by my hon. and learned Friends, that it has been decided that an irresistible impulse, or an uncontrollable impulse, is not a defence, and I have always doubted the righteousness of that. Logically, if there be a disease of the mind which renders a man incapable literally of resisting an impulse, I cannot in logic see why that is not a defence. I ventured to say that in the evidence which I gave before the Royal Commission.
The M'Naghten Rules in this connection have been criticised by very distinguished persons and bodies of persons for a long time, along the lines that if a man is prevented by disease of the mind from controlling his own conduct, that should amount to a defence. It was Sir James Fitzjames Stephen who took this view very clearly in years gone by, and indeed for this there was judicial support; because one reads in the Commission's Report that in 1840 a man called Oxford was tried for shooting at Queen Victoria, and Lord Chief Justice Denman, directing the jury, said that the accused should be acquitted,if some controlling disease was, in truth, the acting power within him, which he could not resist.That, I think, is a matter 2111 It will be within the recollection of some hon. Members that in 1922 the Lord Chancellor of the day set up a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Atkin, as he then was, to inquire into this problem. It is to be noticed that among the evidence called before that committee was evidence from the British Medical Association to the effect that a disease of the mind which rendered a man incapable of resisting or controlling his conduct should be a defence.
That committee reported to that effect when it said:It should be recognised that a person charged criminally with an offence is irresponsible for his act when the act is committed under an impulse which the prisoner was by mental disease in substance deprived of any power to resist.No doubt the Commission whose Report we are considering was impressed by the evidence which they had upon this subject.
As it seems to me, the principal argument against any alteration of the M'Naghten Rules would appear to be this: they have worked well for a long time; they have been liberally interpreted, and indeed they have been stretched by the jury if circumstances appeared to require it. For my part—and I would urge my right hon. and gallant Friend to observe this—I feel that in a matter of this importance, when a man may either be acquitted or sentenced to death, the rules should be adequate to embrace the sort of case which I have put to the House; that liberal intepretation or stretching should not be necessary, but that the rules should cover it.
In this connection the Commission has presented two alternatives, the members of the Commission being divided in their views. On the one hand it is suggested by a minority that the M'Naghten Rules should be amended and extended so as to add that insanity is proved if disease of the mind renders the accused incapable of preventing himself from committing the offence.
On the other hand—and this is the recommended proposal; as it were, the preferred proposal—it is suggested that the M'Naghten Rules should be abrogated and the whole question left at large for the jury to say, looking at all the circumstances, if they find insanity or no. I 2112 am not able to support the latter proposal. I feel that a formula should be devised so that the jury may have an objective standard by which to decide the issue.
On the other hand, I certainly incline to the view that the most serious consideration should be given to the question of giving effect to the former alternative, namely, that a formula devised for the guidance of the jury be adopted, and the M'Naghten Rules extended in the way proposed by the Commission so as to include these other cases where, owing to disease of the mind, the mind does not go with the act, so that there is no offence. Were this change made, it might well be that it would provide a further protection for those whose mental affliction should in justice excuse them from criminal responsibility.
§ 6. 19 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
I desire to intervene shortly in support of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
I think that we all start from one common ground of agreement, whatever view and whatever conclusion we may come to regarding the question of abolition or not. That is that there is something utterly repellent in the infliction of the death sentence. According to our particular inclinations we use words like "immoral," or "uncivilised," or "shocking," but broadly speaking what we are all pointing to, whatever adjective we may choose, is the fact that we are deeply disturbed at the idea that a human being is deliberately and solemnly done to death by the will of society, in whatever circumstances.
In his speech the Home Secretary used a word which I should like to borrow. It is a dangerous one, but I think that it is apposite in this context. He referred to the question of onus. His approach to the matter was that much as he disliked the death penalty—as I am sure we all do—he felt that it would be unsafe to abolish it unless he was certain that some equally effective deterrent could be put in its place.
Is not that really putting the onus in the wrong place? If we start from the assumption that there is a practice which is inherently barbaric, and which everybody, deeply and profoundly, feels ought 2113 to be dispensed with if it possibly can be, is not the only justification for its retention convincing and irrefutable proof that without it society would be seriously harmed?
In adopting the view which he has done, and which he says is that of the Government, the Home Secretary is really treating the Report of the Commission as if it had not been made. The question surely is whether the death sentence is such a unique deterrent that, inevitably, if it is dispensed with society must suffer harm and innocent victims be made sacrifices to murderous instincts on the part of individual miscreants.
It is upon that precise question that, after the most exhaustive investigation of all the evidence on both sides—including that consisting of what one might call personal reaction and personal conjecture and that consisting of statistics—the Report has come down in favour of the view that it is impossible to draw any conclusion of any validity as to the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent, and the relative possible effectiveness of alternative penalties.
I put it to the Home Secretary and to the House—because we are all proceeding to exercise our judgment on a free vote and independently, as we should in a matter of this sort—that that leaves the matter in this position: ex concessis here is something which is inherently horrible. Investigation has shown that it is impossible to draw any safe conclusion to justify it.
It is said that the death penalty is a very good deterrent. So far as I am aware, that is really the basic argument which is put forward in support of it. That is obviously what was uppermost in the minds of the Home Secretary and the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield). I think that everybody would accept that, broadly speaking, those people who believe in the retention of the death penalty test this question by asking themselves, "Is it or is it not a unique deterrent." The Report entirely cuts the ground from under the feet of those who believe in the death penalty for that reason.
Some hon. Members will agree with me, and others will violently disagree with me, that the final and ultimate test is not necessarily whether or not it is a 2114 deterrent. I do not believe that the fact that the death penalty may be a good deterrent is, of itself, necessarily and alone sufficient to justify its retention. If it were enough to justify barbarity to point to the fact that it was an effecive deterrent, it would surely be an equal justification for even more barbaric and severe penalties.
Nobody in this House or in the country would for a moment suggest that in order to provide the most effective of all deterrents we should reintroduce some form of physical torture. Indeed, if anybody made such a suggestion to those who most ardently believe in the retention of the death penalty, the reason why that suggestion would be rejected out of hand and with indignation would be that it was in itself uncivilised and abhorrent. But those are precisely the grounds upon which I protest against the death penalty.
Where is the line to be drawn? If the death penalty itself is uncivilised, why draw the line at the death penalty and say, "We shall accept that uncivilised thing, but we shall not proceed further and accept the infliction of sonic sort of physical pain which would be an even more effective deterrent"? That is why, at the outset, I do not accept the question of whether or not the death sentence is uniquely effective as a deterrent as being a conclusive test.
I urge the further consideration, which was developed by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), that one must measure against any advantage—if there is one—or any effective deterrent power in the case of the death penalty, the disadvantage which consists in the harm done to society by the infliction of the death sentence. This is a matter which depends upon personal impression and conjecture. On this point I certainly have with me the hon. Member for Devizes, whose reaction is entirely the same as my own and, I believe, the same as that of many people.
One has to consider what happens when a murder is committed. A manhunt begins; the people become enthralled by the fact that a man is being chased; the picture of the wretched creature sometimes appears in the newspapers—a horrid-looking object who is known by everybody to be at bay and running for his life; he is almost inevitably apprehended, and there is then 2115 a morbid interest as to what he will say. Then begins the battle in the courts, and the varying fortunes from day to day as the evidence points this way or that. Then there is the speculation as to what the jury's verdict will be, then the appeal, and after that the presentation of petitions bearing the signatures of those who sympathise with the convicted man.
Then, finally, come the ghastly and unutterable happenings of the night before and the morning upon which the man goes to his death. It is said that ordinary people are not conscious of all that, but we have only to go into any gathering of ordinary people to see them all bent over the newspapers, reading all the macabre details—and the spice of it is that a man's life is at stake. That is why all this is blazoned over the newspapers; that is why it is such excellent copy, and that, I suggest, is why it has a brutalising effect upon society.
One must approach matters of this sort with no hysteria, and it is doing a disservice to the House to overpaint the picture. I hope that no hon. Member thinks that I am doing so. I am trying not to. Our society is built up upon a sense of kindliness, of a dislike of the infliction of suffering, a hatred of brutality and the infliction of death.
These murders unfortunately happen from time to time, and the same procedure goes on each time. The whole account is given in the newspapers, and all the lurid and graphic details are drunk in by millions of people. My personal conjecture is that, in the long run, little by little, imperceptibly and without our being conscious of it, it is bound to blunt that sense of kindliness upon which our civilisation rests.
One has only to look back at the history of the last 50 years to realise what a delicate fabric civilisation is, and also to realise how utterly dangerous is anything which tends in the least to undermine the foundations on which that fabric rests. So I urge that consideration, as did the hon. Member for Devizes, as constituting a counter-balancing disadvantage that should be weighed in the scales, even if it is thought that it is shown and demonstrated that there is an advantage to society in the added effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent.
2116 One cannot look at it wholly in isolation. We must consider it in its context, and we must weigh the good, if any, and the bad that comes from it. I put it to the House that the bad outweighs, and I believe in the long run easily outweighs, the good. The evidence has been exhaustively examined already. The Commissioners state as their considered opinion that the statistical evidence is quite inconclusive. They might possibly, as an hon. Gentleman opposite pointed out, have gone a little further in the direction of saying that a conclusion can be drawn from it, because they point to the record obtained from States in America where conditions were comparable, in some of which there was a death penalty and in some of which there was not.
As they point out, in paragraph 64 of their Report, in those States there was, broadly speaking, a corresponding fluctuation in the figures of violent crime which seemed to exclude the operation of the death penalty as a really effective influence in determining the figures for violent crime. At any rate, they said that the figures, so far as the statistical side of the matter goes, will not lead to any result.
The rest of the evidence, I think one must describe it, without any offence to any of those who gave it, is evidence dependent on a purely subjective approach. It is a guess. The Royal Commission said that, in its considered view, the evidence, so far as it could tell, led to this conclusion: that, prima facie—and that means probably, or far from certain—the death penalty was a more effective deterrent than other penalties in the case of normal people.
In this House, we are normal but we are not the sort of people who are to be deterred. We are not inclined to crime. I put it to the House that that conclusion by the Royal Commission is one in the face of which it is unsafe for the Home Secretary or the Government to say that the death penalty ought to be retained because of its deterrent value.
I would also put this consideration before the House. I believe that a great deal depends on what society gets used to as the supreme penalty. At the moment, we are used to the death penalty as the supreme penalty, but suppose that we had no death penalty, and that instead it was recognised that all that lay before 2117 a murderer—a person who committed the worst of all crimes—was a long period of imprisonment, so long as really to terrify the ordinary person.
I think it may well be—again, I may be mistaken, and one cannot dogmatise on matters of this sort—that, once society had become accustomed to that as the supreme penalty, it would possess great and perhaps equally deterrent power, not because it was a long term of imprisonment, but because it had become accepted as the worst thing that society could do to one and the supreme penalty that could be imposed upon one.
When we discussed this matter in 1948, we were, after all, still in the shadow of the aftermath of the war. It had ended some three years before, and it is now 10 years since it ended. We have got back to peace-time habits and to the ethics of peace-time existence, so far as we ever shall for many years to come, and perhaps in our lifetime, because blood is still being spilt in many areas of the world at this very moment. That being so, it behoves society to make up its mind definitely whether it wants this penalty to go on. It is a proceeding which, by its character, is not one which can just be accepted as part of the normal course of events.
We cannot justify the death penalty because it is of long standing, and because it is that to which we are accustomed. If men are to lose their lives, they must lose their lives only as the result of the considered will and expressed and determined purpose of society, after carefully going into the matter. It is for that reason that I support the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne.
As the House will be aware, there is a similar Amendment on the Order Paper in the names of certain right hon. and hon. Friends of mine and myself, which is in identical terms, except that it omits reference to imprisonment for life as an alternative to the death sentence. That difference was deliberate, because it was our purpose to leave open the question of what the alternative should be. The Home Secretary has said, and many people think, that there is something even barbaric in a long period of imprisonment, such as must be inflicted on the worst criminals—poisoners and so on.
2118 Many people say that that is uncivilised in itself, and that they are not prepared to accept it. In our Amendment, we deliberately left open what the alternative should be. Obviously, it has to be long, but it need not necessarily be so long as to cause the deterioration of the culprit. At any rate, if the alternative sentence is long—and, of course, it must be long, and everybody accepts it—surely, it is a matter for prison reform so to alter the conditions in which the culprit would live during his years of imprisonment as to prevent them being such as to be likely to cause a breakdown in his spirit.
For these reasons, we put down this Amendment, and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne put down his Amendment, because, there being uncertainty as to the deterrent value of the death penalty, and that being the only justification, if there can be any justification for such a thing, we think that there should be a trial period in order that society may be able to resolve that uncertainty by its own experience.
The Home Secretary says that five years will not give us the answer we want. If so, let it be longer. Let it be 10 years. Let it be such period as can place society in a position in which, with confidence, it may answer the all-important problem which is before us. For these reasons, I very much hope that a majority of hon. Members will feel that it is their duty to go into the Division Lobby tonight in support of the Amendment.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I am sure that no one would for a moment doubt the sincerity and conviction of the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice), the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), and those who are associated with him. I very much hope that, if I put forward a different and contrary view, I may have the same indulgence and leave of the House, since I speak with equal sincerity.
I have perhaps the advantage that, unlike most of those who have spoken so far, I have no previous record. There are others, of course, who have, and I think that it is perhaps rather significant that there is this difference of opinion, this changing of mind. It seems to show that people's minds on this subject and in this House are still in a state of flux. 2119 That, I think, is a matter which we ought to take into account when considering the Amendment, because I feel it is necessary to bring the House back for a moment or two to the Amendment.
We have really heard very little at all about the Amendment. Most of the discussion today—and certainly some very interesting, attractive, stimulating and moving things have been said—has been on the question of whether capital punishment should be abolished or not. The Amendment expressly and carefully refrains from suggesting any such thing as that. It is said that there is to be an experiment. Therefore, I very respectfully venture to warn hon. Members who have not made up their minds upon the question—and I think that there is quite a number of them here—that they should be very careful what they are doing when they come to vote this evening. After all, it is to them that the arguments should be addressed today.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne does not want a five-year experiment. He wants capital punishment abolished now. The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend does not want an experiment. He is convinced about it. We have only to listen to him to realise that. Then there are those, on the other side, whom nothing will convince that it should be abolished. But the people interested in the subject this evening are those who have not made up their minds, and, quite frankly, the appeal of the Amendment—if it is to appeal to hon. Members in that position—must be on the basis that the five-year experiment is going to do something. I ask the House to consider quite calmly and quite dispassionately what it is going to do.
The object, normally, of an experiment is to gain experience. What is the experience that we shall have gained at the end of five years? Does anybody seriously think that the next five years are going to produce statistics of any greater assistance than those which we now have? Thinking about it in, perhaps, a more concrete form than we have been hearing about it in the last hour or two, what are we really going to have before us at the end of five years which will help us to make up our minds any more than we can now?
2120 We are going to have five years' time, but we shall not get five years' experience, because, after all, some of the best murders of 1955 may well have been committed already, and in the last year there will, perhaps, be a different consideration in the minds of some people. We are told by the Report that interesting and useful figures are those of crimes of murder believed to be murder by the police. Whether that is a good and reliable thing or not, it is, at any rate, something which the Commission thought useful. I find that over four years those figures were 173, 141, 147 and 119.
What do those sort of figures teach us? Those being the sort of figures—suppose we have A, B, X and Y—which we shall take over four years of the experiment, what inference is anybody going to draw from them? None whatever. If one looks at the figures of the convicted for the same period, we find 30, 25, 36 and 28—no trend of any kind in the four years before the Commission's Report. No information is provided by those figures.
So what position are we going to find at the end of the five years? We may possibly have some statements alleged to have been made by convicted people or something that somebody thought of from talking to them or from looking at them, or the report of some psychiatrist. What position are we going to be in? We shall be in the position that we shall not be able to form any judgment at all from statistics, as the Report of the Commission shows that it was not. What is going to happen then?
I suggest that we ought to think of the speech which would be made in 1960 by the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend. Cannot hon. Members hear him getting up and saying, "What right has the House to put back this dreadful thing which we have taken away unless it can prove it is necessary to put it back?" [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful to hon. Members because by their applause they are making my point so clearly. What we are going to do by this Amendment, if it is accepted, is to create a fait accompli. [Interruption.] If any of my hon. Friends had any doubt as to the object of the Amendment, they have now had the answer given to them.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I respectfully suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he got it the wrong way round. 2121 If we were to abolish capital punishment altogether in 1955, and wanted to reimpose it in 1960, then, indeed, we should have to do what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says. But if this Amendment, or legislation to implement this Amendment, were carried, then, in 1960, the death penalty would be automatically restored unless the House of Commons or Parliament intervened to extend the period.
§ Sir L. Heald
I think that the House took my point, and hon. Members opposite have saved me time in making it any further.
There is another point of a more general character I wish to mention, which is that in this country we have never taken kindly to experimental legislation. It is not the work of statesmen, but of mere politicians. Some of us have had experience of what happens when experiments have to be unscrambled. It very often produces some most unsatisfactory results, into which I cannot go further at the present time.
Experimental legislation carries in its train the necessity for other experiments, and I should like to know, in due course, whether my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary would be able to give an assurance that, if the experiment were put into force, he could be certain that he would not have to arm the police. That, I think, is the sort of consideration that one has to bear in mind. If we are going to try experiments, then let both sides take part in them, because, otherwise, we might find ourselves taken somewhat to task by the people of the country.
I have spoken as regards the negative practical effect, and I would just add the point that no Home Secretary, and no one with any administrative experience of this matter, has suggested that we should get any valuable information or experience from such an experiment. That is an interesting fact. After all, if the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who gave a slight indication of the way in which the weathercock was turning—although he did not say anything very definite—had felt that this would be a really valuable and useful experiment which would produce material upon which the House of Commons might be helped to make up its mind, would he not have said so very clearly? Perhaps which- 2122 ever of my right hon. Friends replies to this debate may be able to give us a little information on that point. I hope that he will.
As regards the question of the onus of proof, I would remind the House of what was said on that subject in the previous debate, which sums up what I want to say in the clearest possible way, when Sir John Anderson, as he then was, dealt with the subject. He had been asked whether this was something which would give assistance in arriving at a conclusion. This is what he said:As regards the proposal that abolition of the capital sentence should be tried for a period of five years, to that I am absolutely opposed. I do not believe that it can provide any useful lesson.He went on to say:I should regard it merely as an evasion of the real issue, an evasion which would quite subtly shift the onus of proof from where it ought to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April. 1948; Vol. 449, c. 1005.]That is what I was saying before, and it certainly is not an original thought of my own.
The same thing was put into words by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Jowitt in another place. He said:But, whatever the conclusion we ultimately reach on that problem"—that is on the question and the abolition of the death penalty,I feel that we must face up to that problem frankly and boldly, and must not try to arrive at the abolition of capital punishment by a mere side issue or subterfuge."—[OFFICIAL R4EPORT, House of Lords, 16th December, 1953; Vol. 185, c. 150.]I venture to suggest that it would be a matter for very wide consideration as to whether intentionally or not, it does not matter, the Amendment is not a mere subterfuge. It is not a matter of conscience in any way when we are considering whether or not an experiment is worthwhile. It is a matter of conscience as to whether we vote in favour of the abolition of capital punishment or against it.
Tonight no one will expect for a moment those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of the Amendment to vote in any other way except one. I certainly do not expect anything I say to have the slightest effect upon them. But I do say that anyone who has not made up his mind on this 2123 subject ought to think very carefully indeed before he accedes to the temptation of easing his conscience by saying, "That is all right; we can let it run for five years."
I do not believe that it is a question of letting it run for five years at all. I believe, as has been stated quite widely outside this House by representative organs of public opinion, that it is merely an illusion to think that this is an experiment. It is an attempt, quite genuine and perfectly proper, to take the House by storm tonight on this Amendment.
If hon. Members are prepared to accept in principle the total of it—permanent abolition of capital punishment—then of course they are perfectly right in supporting the Amendment. But if they are not, then I say they have no right whatever to vote in favour of it.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I think that the principal point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) was dealt with by the intervention of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). If his emphasis is on the onus of proof—and he made a big point of that—I say that I feel that the onus of proof is on those who want to hang a man.
As to his other point about the five years—I admit it quite frankly—I hope that in those five years there will be a good deal of public discussion before any irrevocable step is taken. I go further and say that if the right hon. and learned Member or any other hon. Member is not satisfied that five years is a long enough period, it might not be asking too much if they would seek to amend it and let us have a longer period.
In the Report of the Royal Commission, the members come down as near as they can, at every stage, in favour of advocating abolition, but they could not do so because of their terms of reference. Not being able to do that, they resisted the temptation, but they came to their most important finding in paragraph 65. I was surprised that the Home Secretary did not refer to that at any time in his speech. I would remind the House that the last words in paragraph 65 go to the root of the matter because a great deal in the speeches we have heard has been on 2124 whether capital punishment is a deterrent or not.
The Report states:The general conclusion which we have reached is that there is no clear evidence in any of the figures we have examined that the abolition of capital punishment has led to an increase in the homicide rate, or that its reintroduction has led to a fall.That, surely, is the most important sentence in the whole Report. Is it surprising that the Commission should have come to that conclusion? After all, in the debate today, we have had affirmation from the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield) that, in his opinion, capital punishment is a deterrent. But we have had no one seeking to argue or bring evidence to that effect. What evidence has come before us has been in accordance with the findings of the Royal Commission.
We have the fact that we should not think of potential murderers reacting to deterrents as do ordinary men. We know that one half of the men and women tried for murder each year are found to be insane. We must remember, too, in connection with this word "insane, "that Christie was—to put it mildly—a trifle odd but not legally insane. They are not ordinary normal people.
Secondly, we have had pointed out the fact that in the course of the last 130 years or 140 years we have had a change, in that capital punishment used to be applicable to more than 200 crimes, and as the deterrent of capital punishment has been lifted from those offences they have not increased; they have declined in number.
We have had reference made to flogging. The fact is that since flogging was abolished those offences which were previously floggable have also declined in number. We have the illustration, which was given in the Report, of the adjoining States in the United States, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are next door to each other. In Rhode Island, there is no death penalty. In Massachusetts, there is a death penalty. The racial origin of the people and type of communities in the two States are indistinguishable one from the other.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I know both States well, as does the hon. Gentleman. Does 2125 he say that Rhode Island is very different from Massachusetts?
The fact is that in both States the murder rate is almost exactly the same, and it has been so since 1920. If we take two other States, New Hampshire and Maine, which are also States next door to each other, with a State line between which has nothing to do with history or race or anything except the incidence of settlement, we find the same. One State has capital punishment and the other State has not. Again, the trends are almost the same.
In the face of that evidence, of the arguments that have been advanced, and of the concluding sentence of the paragraph which I have just read, to the effect that the Commission came to the conclusion, after examining all the evidence, that there was no evidence that the abolishment of capital punishment had led to any increase in the homicide rate how can it be said that it is a deterrent? We require the discharge of a heavy burden of proof.
I hope that the Home Secretary will deal with one point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey, because it worries me. The point is whether the police would be in danger if this experiment were carried out. We can only go on what evidence we have, to show whether, when capital punishment has been abolished, there has been an increase in armed robbery or in the carrying of arms by robbers.
In paragraph 255, the Select Committee says:We have had no evidence … that after the abolition of capital punishment in other countries there has been any increase in the number of burglars arming themselves.I should like the Home Secretary to deal with the point because it is important.
I make no apology for supporting the proposed experiment. I have said why. No one has produced evidence that there is a possible disadvantage to the community. I know that we are a unique country, but I cannot see that we are so unlike other countries that we should be the one exception to all the others, and that if capital punishment were abolished for this short period we should run the risk of increased violence during those five years.
And there would be the possible advantage—we cannot put it higher than 2126 that—that some innocent man or woman who might otherwise be executed would have his life. We have heard references today to the case of Evans. There are other cases in recent years which have caused a good deal of disquiet. In view of the awful finality of the death penalty, this experiment is justified. There is no evidence that there would be any increase in murders in the five years, and we are quite certain that during the five years no innocent person would be executed.
§ Mr. Osborne
What type of evidence would the hon. Member like at the end of that five years to justify the reimposing of the death penalty?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I do not believe that I can go much further than what I have said earlier. In those five years there will be a good deal more public discussion. I mean that. I want public discussion. I do not think the public understand the full implications of the matter, and the reasons for and against.
§ Mr. Osborne
It is important to those of us who are not absolutely certain about what to do to have an answer on this point. After those five years of experiment, and if the hon. Gentleman has not made up his mind conclusively, what evidence would he like from the statistics of those five years to convince him that it is necessary to go back to where we are today?
§ Mr. de Freitas
I have made up my mind on quite different grounds in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, but I believe there should be a period of public discussion of the matter.
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), who seconded the Amendment, referred to one or two European countries. That was an important point. I came face to face with the attitude of other Europeans when I had to help European lawyers to draft a Convention on Extradition which covered capital offences. One of the complications was the acute repugnance that those Continental lawyers had for anything to do with the death penalty.
2127 Many Continental countries have clauses in their extradition treaties saying that they will not extradite anyone if he is to be charged with offences which involve the capital penalty. In the case of Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, the Saar, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Italy Switzerland and Portugal, we find that not one of those countries has capital punishment. We should consider whether we differ so much in culture and outlook from the Scandinavian countries and Holland that we could not learn by their experience. Surely it cannot be said that we are any more industrially overcrowded or have greater social problems than Belgium. Belgium has much greater overcrowding and greater industrial concentration than we have. Surely we have something to learn.
Let us look at the negative side. We find ourselves in these islands bracketed with Spain and France as the only two countries in Western Europe which still have capital punishment. Surely that must make us think about the matter. It is no accident that it was during the time of Mussolini's Government in Italy that capital punishment was reintroduced by the Fascists. The Fascist Minister of Justice said, in reintroducing it, that he was not doing so because of statistical evidence of any value, but because it conformed to the whole spirit of Fascism. I do not want to press that point too far.
I support this Amendment because of the delicate balance of civilisation to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) referred, and because in this age of mass destruction—
§ Mr. de Freitas
Of course. They have it in many totalitarian countries. I am delighted that my Lincolnshire neighbour has appreciated one of my points, which is that it exists in countries where the State seeks complete domination over the people. That is why the first thing the Italians did after the war, 'when the Fascist régime had gone, was to abolish the death penalty. That is why it was abolished in Germany immediately after the war.
In an age of mass destruction, and especially in the age of the hydrogen 2128 bomb, it is important that we should treasure anything which makes us regard human life as the greatest and most precious thing there is, as something which the State should not be permitted in any circumstances to take away.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
I find myself very largely in agreement with the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). I am particularly impressed by his reference to the concluding sentence of paragraph 65 of the Report about the effect of the abolition and the reintroduction of capital punishment on the homicide figures.
The hon. Member and myself have both served on the legal committee of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. I can endorse from personal experience what he said about the absolute and violent repugnance of most Continental lawyers to the death penalty. It is not so strange that I should feel as the hon. Member does, because I am proposing to speak in support of the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), to which I have already put my name on the Order Paper. Before doing so, I want to say a brief word about the Report itself.
It is a very remarkable Report, particularly in its appendices. I am certain that it will be regarded for many years to come as a most important and valuable reference work on the great, controversial subject of capital punishment.
As the Report points out, there is perhaps no single class of offences which differs so much in character and culpability as that of murder as defined in our law. The murderers may be men, women, youths, girls, or they may be hardly older than children. They may be normal, feeble-minded, neurotic or insane. The crime may be understandable or pitiable or, on the other hand, callous or brutal. It may be unpremeditated or very carefully planned, or it may be committed in the course of carrying out another crime. There may be no murderous intent at all and the death of the victim may depend on an accident. Yet by the ancient doctrine of constructive malice, of which we have already heard something tonight, the killing is legally murder.
2129 Finally the underlying motives may show a wide range of human emotions, such as cupidity, revenge, fear, lust, jealousy, anger, and even political fanaticism, as I know from my experience in Ireland. Or there may be no intelligible motive at all. Yet for all these varieties of murder our courts today have no alternative but to pronounce sentence of death once the accused has been found guilty by a jury. And unlike some other countries where capital punishment is still imposed, such as the United States of America, there are no degrees of murder in the United Kingdom. Our law still demands a life for a life as it did in primitive times, regardless of the circumstances.
Of course, the law does not always get a life for a life, and that is due to two particularly mitigating factors. The first of these is the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of mercy. If we look at the figures given in the Report of the number of murders between 1900 and 1950, we see that, so far as males convicted of murder were concerned, about 40 per cent. were reprieved and, so far as women, about 90 per cent. The details are all given in the Fourth Appendix to the Report with some interesting and striking examples. Then there is the second mitigating factor of the reluctance of juries in certain cases to see the death penalty passed. The Report quotes two distinguished judges—Lord Justice Denning and the Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard—referring to the fact that juries have refused to bring in a conviction where they have not thought it appropriate, although their verdict might be contrary to the facts of the case.
It has appeared from the interesting debate we have had so far this evening that there is a fairly widespread feeling in this country that the supreme penalty should be reserved for the more heinous offences. The Royal Commission has made a number of recommendations to which reference has been made. There is the proposal to abolish the doctrine of constructive malice, which is an ancient doctrine but which has now been completely outgrown by the needs of modern times. Then there is the proposal that the defence of provocation should also include a case where provocation is by words alone. Thirdly, it is suggested that the survivor of a suicide pact should 2130 not be regarded as guilty of murder unless he or she killed the other party.
I do not imagine that great exception can be taken to those relatively minor but by no means unimportant proposals. The proposal for the raising of the age at which an individual can suffer capital punishment from the age of 18 to 21 is perhaps more controversial. Of a major character are the proposals which were referred to in a particularly striking speech made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield), to revise the M'Naghten Rules in cases of insanity or mental abnormality.
Of the two proposals, it certainly seems preferable that, rather than sweep away the M'Naghten Rules altogether, there should be an additional proviso which brings in the conception of irresistible or uncontrollable impulse. A recent case which is in the minds of everyone in this House is that of Straffen, a young man who went to Broadmoor having killed one girl and, having broken out of Board-moor, proceeded to kill another little girl. There is no doubt that Straffen was fully conscious of the nature and quality of his act and that he knew that what he was doing was wrong. In that respect the M'Naghten Rules did not cover his case, but it was demonstrated to be perfectly clear that Straffen was an individual of a very low mental standard, and it would have been a monstrous miscarriage of justice to carry out the death penalty which was passed on him at Winchester Assizes.
Finally, there is the most controversial proposal in the Report, that which leaves to the jury a discretion, once the accused has been convicted, to decide whether there are any extenuating circumstances. The general opinion, which has been expressed tonight, was summed up in the leading article on the subject in "The Times" this morning, that this proposal may be taken as still-born.
The real issue, which is brought out strongly at paragraph 611 of the Report and has already been quoted, is whether capital punishment ought to be retained or abolished. If it is agreed that it should be abolished or suspended for a trial period, then all these other recommendations, admirable in their way, are not really necessary. Since, however, the Royal Commission was expressly precluded from considering the question of 2131 whether capital punishment ought to be abolished or not, in the circumstances it did the best job it could in establishing what has been called a half-way house.
This issue as to whether we abolish capital punishment or not is one which must be faced, however, and we must face it tonight. I propose to face it by going into the Lobby in support of the Amendment to suspend the death penalty for a trial period of five years. Let me say straight away that I have been impressed by the arguments from this side of the House that suspension for this trial period might be tantamount to abolition. The matter was very clearly stated in the leading article in "The Times" of today, which said:In practice, suspension and abolition are identical. If either was followed by—and considered by Parliament to have caused—a notable increase of murders, it would be necessary to repeal it without waiting five years; if there was no such increase the Act of suspension could as well be permanent, since nobody wants to preserve the death penalty for its own sake.I have no intention of traversing the familiar ground of argument in any detail for or against capital punishment. I will content myself with stating briefly why I am against it and why I am in favour of the Amendment. This is a matter to which I have given considerable thought over a period of some years.
In the first place, I am not satisfied that capital punishment is a truly effective deterrent or has the unique deterrent effect which is claimed for it by its advocates. Those who support it claim that without the death penalty there would be an increase in murders, and those include—and our attention has been drawn to this by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary—the police, prison officers and some judges whose views are summarised in paragraph 61 of the Report. I must say that I am not impressed by this argument at all.
Similar arguments were put forward in the last century when it was proposed to abolish hanging for such offences as stealing 5s., cutting one's name on Westminster Bridge or impersonating an outpatient of Guy's Hospital. On the occasion of the proposal to abolish the death penalty for those offences. the then Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Ellen-borough in another place, declared that 2132 if this Measure were allowed to pass into law, no man's property would be safe.
On the contrary, I think that experience has proved that the death penalty is not more effective in preventing murder than other penalties which can be substituted. such as life imprisonment. I know that some previous speakers have alluded to life imprisonment in certain circumstances as causing a deterioration in the prisoner's constitution. On that, I think it is worth while looking at what Mr. Pinker, of the Central After-Care Association, said in examination before the Royal Commission, in paragraph 655 of the Report:In the old days, if a man had served 10 years, I think there was a very great danger of his becoming institutionalised. … Under present conditions I think that a man could serve 10 years in one of our modern prisons and go out and fit in with modern conditions quite easily.That view has been supported by the Howard League for Penal Reform, who consider that a prisoner could be detained for even longer than 10 years without any ill effect.
The value of deterrents can be assessed in two ways, first of all as it affects the individual, and secondly, as it affects the crime rate in general. On its effects on the individual, the Report has something interesting to say in paragraph 59:We have been told that the first thing a murderer says when he is arrested is often, 'Shall I be hanged?' or 'I did it and I am ready to swing for it, ' or something of that kind. What is the inference to be drawn from this? Clearly not that the death penalty is an effective deterrent, for he has not been deterred; nor that he consciously considered the risk of the death penalty and accepted it …On the second question, that of general deterrents, we should look at the experience of other countries, as the hon. Member for Lincoln said. All the major European countries, with the exception of France, have abolished capital punishment, as also have certain of the United States of America and certain of the Commonwealth countries. When evidence was given before the Select Committee which considered this matter some years ago, the Belgian Ministry of Justice representative said:The average of capital sentences has never been higher than it was during the period when the instrument of capital punishment was actually in use. … The lesson has been learnt that the best means of inculcating respect for human life is to refrain from taking life in the name of the law.2133 More recently, before the Royal Commission, Dr. Paul Cornil, the Secretary-General of the Belgian Ministry of Justice, referred in his very interesting evidence to a series of robberies with murder which occurred quite recently and for which the death penalty was demanded in his country. The Secretary-General explained that the then Minister of Justice refused to accede to this demand, and then he said:And then a strange thing occurred. Almost suddenly that series of robberies died away without any apparent cause. … Whenever I relate this incident I cannot refrain from pointing out how narrowly we escaped a grave danger. Suppose for a moment that this man … had been put to death, and then that special kind of crime had disappeared almost immediately, what a victory for the advocates of capital punishment! They certainly would not have hesitated to conclude that this improvement was due to the deterrent effect of capital punishment, and it is quite probable that the death penalty for the common law criminal would have been reinstated and retained for a long time.I only want to refer to one other person who appeared before the Royal Commission, and that is Professor Sellin of the United States who has made a special study of murder statistics all over the world. He gave as his conclusion that whether the death penalty is used or not, both death penalty States and abolition States show rates which suggest that their rates are conditioned by other factors than the death penalty.
That brings me back to the sentence from the Report which the hon. Member for Lincoln quoted—the sentence to the effect that there is no clear evidence in any of the figures which have been examined that the abolition of capital punishment has led to an increase in the homicide rate or that its reinroduction has led to a fall. That is all I wish to say on the subject of deterrents.
There are two or three other reasons which have actuated me to feel as I do on the subject. One is the reason to which reference has been made by the hon. Member for Lincoln, namely the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, the possibility that an innocent man may go to the gallows. I am prepared to admit that this possibility is remote, even that it is very remote, but I do not think it can be dismissed. Until human judgment becomes infallible, there will always be a certain risk of an innocent person being hanged so long as we retain the death penalty for murder.
2134 Take the case of Oscar Slater, who was condemned to death in 1909 for a murder which he did not commit. Admittedly Oscar Slater was reprieved, but for weeks his life hung by a thread and he spent 19 years in prison before his innocence was conclusively established.
There are other cases—not very many of them, but there are other cases—one of which has already been mentioned, which are not free from doubt. There is the case of Timothy Evans, of which I will say little, because the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) mentioned it in his very interesting speech. I will say nothing of it beyond this: had I been a member of the jury which sat at the trial of Timothy Evans in 1950, and had I known the true facts about Mr. Christie, I might have hesitated before concurring in the verdict of "Guilty."
There is also the case of Norman Thorne, who was convicted of murdering his girl friend in 1925. His defence was that she had committed suicide and that in a fit of panic he had buried her body. Three expert witnesses gave very striking evidence confirming the suicide theory. But, in spite of that, Norman Thorne was hanged. Then there was the case of Walter Rowland, the murder in an air-raid shelter in Manchester in 1947. Rowland was executed in spite of the fact that another man confessed to the crime, subsequently withdrew his confession, but was convicted of another murder, found insane and sent to Broadmoor.
Reference has been made, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), to the effect of executions on prisoners and prison staffs, and in this connection a former Home Secretary, Lord Templewood, said that in his opinionthere is no doubt that, in spite of much official evidence to the contrary, executions have a most disturbing effect upon the inmates of a prison, whether staff or prisoners.If anyone wants to know what that effect is like, in my humble judgment he cannot do better than read the moving verses in "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." Although they were written 60 years ago, they are as true today as they were in 1896.
There is one other point which has not been mentioned, and that is the effect of executions on the relatives of executed persons. It inflicts the most terrible suffering on the innocent relatives of a con- 2135 demned person. The late Stacey Aumonier, the writer, put it like this:Have you ever tried to visualise the feelings of a mother on the night before her boy is to be hanged? (and no crime is going to kill maternal love; rather it will make greater claims on the protective instinct). The agony and horror which you and I, representing the State, must inflict upon this perfectly innocent woman must be more terrible than any pain the murderer can inflict upon his victim. And as with the mother, so may it be with the wife, the lover, the sister, the father, the brother, the children and even the loyal friend. To all these people life must become numbed and meaningless at the time, and for ever after a haunted wilderness where the demons of revenge for ever lurk.I can bear that out from personal experience from my conversations with the father of Derek Bentley, whose life has been ruined by the terrible affair in which his son was involved and whose wife has had a complete nervous breakdown.
It may be said, "What of the murdered person's relatives?" But how can capital punishment alleviate their suffering? A second death cannot undo the first. Capital punishment does nothing for the murdered person's relatives. But to reorganise our prison industries and make the murderer work in prison to help to support his victim's dependants, as is done in Sweden, would be a much more sensible way of showing sympathy with the murdered person's relatives than merely advocating vindictive punishment.
I come to my conclusions. Tonight I will go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, and others who support his Amendment, with a clear conscience. I am convinced that the retention of capital punishment is a retrograde action today and I believe in my heart that suspension for this trial period of five years would be a great step forward along the road of civilisation and humanity. I am certain that it is only a matter of time before we in the United Kingdom follow the more enlightened example of most Continental countries and relegate the hangman and the horrible tools of his trade to the barbarous past.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
I have listened anxiously and carefully to the very long speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Belfast. North (Lieut.-Colonel Hyde). Although he made his 2136 observations very well and as a forensic effort it was much to be admired, his speech has left me in the position of being unable to detect any cogent ground that justifies support of the Amendment.
The House should recognise the context in which we are having the debate on the Amendment. In the ordinary way, in a debate on the Report itself, there would be no vote at all. What we should do, quite properly, would be to scrutinise the contents of the Report and make suggestions and criticisms in order that the Government might have guidance; but the one thing which would not happen normally would be a vote.
What is the essential issue which confronts the House in this debate? Not this Report at all, but the Amendment which has been put down because an opportunity has been taken, through the present debate on the Report, to resuscitate a discussion which we had in 1948. As I shall show in a moment, there is no vestige of reason why we should change the opinion which the House finally then registered.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Unless we can show that public opinion has changed between then and now, or some other good reason, we have no right, because of some sentiment, to do what we individually would like to see done and completely ignore what public opinion wants.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I will not give way. There is not much time. A good deal of time has been taken already.
We heard a speech by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice)—a most attractive pronouncement—but am I not right when I say that the appeal which he made was more to the heart than to the head? How did he approach it? I sympathise with him. I should not like anyone to think that I had not got feelings of humanity and mercy. Of course, "humanity" and "mercy" are holy words, but mercy should season justice and not weaken it. That is the aspect of it to which we must come.
What did my right hon. and learned Friend do? His whole case was based upon this sort of reasoning, and anyone 2137 who looks at HANSARD tomorrow will be able to confirm it. He said that the death sentence is repellent. We all agree that it is repellent, but what I say is that murder is also repellent. What we are faced with is not only the question of the death sentence being repellent but the question whether the death sentence has something of a deterrent nature which makes what is even more repellent—murder—less likely to happen.
My right hon. and learned Friend then said that we are confronted with the terrible picture that human beings are being killed by society. He said not a word about human beings being killed by other human beings. That sort of argument and that sort of sentiment will not really do in a grave matter of this kind when the House is not so much sitting as a popular assembly, as it usually is, but when, as it has to on occasion, it has changed its role and becomes, as it were, a judge in the matter.
Let us look at the next thing that my right hon. and learned Friend said. He urged us to picture the plight of the culprit, and he drew a picture of a hapless individual under the terrible ordeal of the death sentence. But what about the unfortunate victim and the victim's bereaved family?
My right hon. and learned Friend then went on to say that when these things happen we get gatherings of people and we see a morbid interest being taken by them in the murder which has occurred. I can think of another gathering. I can think of the melancholy gathering of the family of the murdered man. That surely must be considered as well. The conjuring up of the sentimental ideas to which I have referred really will not do. My right hon. and learned Friend said that ours is a society which is based on non-brutality. Certainly, and if we can prevent murder from happening, we are enforcing that very principle. What the House has to consider tonight is whether we shall contribute to brutality by removing the death sentence, instead of doing the contrary.
The most compelling test to decide the matter of suspending capital punishment has not really been developed tonight. It has been argued that there are no figures, or any evidence even to indicate that capital punishment is a deterrent. I beg to differ. I hope in a moment to demon- 2138 strate that there is very concrete and definite evidence in figures. The important thing that we have to consider in this respect is crimes of violence, and by that I include murder, which is the major crime of violence, but that is only a matter of degree. We must take into consideration all kinds of violence, because that is an element which is important in considering the question of the removal of the death penalty.
There has been a steady rise in the number of crimes of violence. I will give the House the figures, and I beg it to observe the steady rise because I believe this to be the crucial test of the whole question. The figures are: 1948, 3,183; 1949, 3,303; 1950, 3,839; 1951, 3,929; 1952, 4,127; and 1953, 4,285. The figures for 1954 are not yet available.
This is a responsible assembly, and hon. Members are here to protect the public and not to satisfy any personal sentiments that they may have about this matter. Let us start from that point. It seems to me that if we are dealing with murder and the removal of the sentence for murder, we have to look at the rest of the crimes of violence and see what effect they have on the question of murder and capital punishment. The figures which I have given include murder, manslaughter, wounding and other offences of violence against the person. I have given the House the figures which disclose a scale which is definitely upward. If we take the extreme figures we find that there is an advance of well over 1, 000.
Now let us look at the figures for murder. In 1948 there were 40 cases; in 1949, 33; 1950, 38; 1951, 22; 1952, 41; and 1953, 26. Again, the figures for 1954 are not yet available.
I submit that the question of the suspension of the death penalty cannot be separated from the question of the position as regards crimes of violence. It is clear on the official figures I have quoted that there has been a decline in the number of murders. Surely I am entitled to say that if there has been a decline in the number of murders, then capital punishment apparently has some deterrent effect, because it is perfectly clear on the other hand that imprisonment has not deterred crimes of violence other than murder, because the figures for other crimes of violence have all gone up steadily.
§ Mr. Ede
As I said in my speech, the convictions for the crimes of violence which were formerly punishable by flogging have gone down with the lowering of the penalty. The hon. and learned Gentleman is giving us the number of convictions for murder. It would have been interesting if he had given us the figures of murders known to the police.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
With great respect to my right hon. Friend, I do not see the point of his intervention. I was dealing purely with the statistics for crimes of violence. I was not referring to crimes which were subject to flogging or anything of that kind at all.
I am dealing merely with the fact that the figures show a steep rise in the number of crimes of violence. I ask the House to note that it is quite obvious that imprisonment has had no deterrent effect on acts of violence. That is shown by the increase. Murder, however, has gone down. I am in my submission, therefore, entitled to argue that, as murder has gone down, there is some sort of deterrent somewhere, and I am entitled to believe on the facts that the deterrent is capital punishment. After all, death is the strongest deterrent, and there is no reason to suppose that it does not exert its dreadful influence in this lethal sphere. That appears to me to be an absolutely reasonable deduction to make.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
It is surely axiomatic that, as long as crimes of violence are upward, no legislative body responsible for public security and order could weaken the sanctions of the criminal law. We have no other interest in this grave matter except to do what is right.
Let us look at the serious problem of penology that will arise, if capital punishment is abolished. I put it to the House that we shall have to revise the whole penal scale. That may sound a very tall order, but it will nevertheless have to be done, because otherwise there would be such a disparity between the penalty for murder and the penalties for lesser crimes that the public would not tolerate the position of disproportionate scales of punishment.
2140 It must be obvious to hon. Members that the penalty for murder must be much more severe than the penalty for other crimes. In that context it is proposed, instead of having capital punishment, to substitute imprisonment for life, or, as it is put in the Report, during Her Majesty's pleasure. What does that mean? The answer, as will be found in this country and everywhere else. is that the offender will usually serve nine years' imprisonment at the most, and probably less.
I can give the House two cases in 1949, one where in the case of murder only four years was served and another in which only five years was served. It is on record that since 1949 no sentence, as a rule, has been longer than nine years. The reason is clear and reference to it has already been made. It is that such is the effect, of moral and physical deterioration, on the individual concerned that it would be cruelty and torment to allow the sentence to go beyond that period of confinement.
If it were made more severe than that, it would be substituting a punishment worse than capital punishment. It is accordingly, the duty of the House to compare this period of four to nine years' imprisonment with that given for other crimes. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), when he was Home Secretary, introduced a very valuable Criminal Justice Act under which there were several important penal reforms. One of them created what is now known as preventative detention.
That is used in cases where there is such a persistent criminal that it is perfectly clear that, unless he is put away for a considerable time, he will be a menace to the public. He has to be sent to prison for a long term so that the public may be protected. It is quite common now, as those who are concerned with the administration of criminal law know, and as those who read their newspapers can easily ascertain, to send people to preventative detention for 10 years, or even longer.
Preventive detention may be for a series of crimes, such as housebreaking and breaking and entering premises, but all definitely below the gravity of murder. That is frequently happening and indeed it is necessary, because, as I have said, these people have to be put away so that 2141 the public may be protected. In manslaughter cases sentences of 10 to 14 years' imprisonment are in proper cases imposed. Look at the case of fraud. One does not like to recall unhappy memories, but the House will recall only recently that there was one familiar case where seven years' imprisonment was given. It is not many years ago when a sentence of imprisonment for fraud of 14 years was imposed. I do not want to mention names, because it would be cruel to do it. For housebreaking, particularly where there is the carrying of arms, the Court has to impose a very severe sentence indeed.
Is it right therefore in these circumstances to do away with capital punishment and substitute imprisonment for life and put murder in the same scale as these other crimes to which I have referred? That really is the issue and the simple fact and that is what the House has to face and decide. In my submission, public opinion would not tolerate the position for a moment. Public opinion would not tolerate there being a lesser scale than at present for crimes of violence. Is anyone going to persuade the House, in a position where crimes of violence are rising, that now is the time to reduce the present penalties? Yet that would have to happen, if the punishment for murder were approximated to the punishments for other crimes, because public opinion would rightly insist that other sentences should be reduced accordingly.
Therefore, I really do ask the House to consider that before it goes into the Lobby tonight on an Amendment which comes to us, not because anything more has happened than was the case previously when this House debated it, but comes to us, because of the discussion on this Report. It is an Amendment which has been put down by those who fervently desire to see the abolition of capital punishment. I do not criticise them for that. Their humane instincts apparently tell them that capital punishment is something to which they cannot subscribe and of which they would like to see the end.
But that is an abstract matter. It is not to be decided by that abstract test, but by this positive test and this test alone: is the removal of capital punishment in the light of crimes of violence as they are today going to make murder all the more likely? Are we to take away 2142 what in the figures appears to be a strong deterrent, namely the fear of the death penalty? That is the issue. Nothing I have heard tonight and nothing on record and nothing I have seen so far in the Report would justify me—although I abhor the death penalty as much as anybody else—in not carrying out what I feel to be my duty to go into the Lobby tonight and vote against the Amendment.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) has stated a case towards which I am sympathetic in principle, although I do not think I quite agree with some of the arguments he adduced in favour of it. Certainly, I do not suppose that anybody in this House likes the death penalty, and I have a feeling that this issue is one similar to many which we have to face up to in this House sooner or later—that if we cannot always have the best we ought to have the one that is least bad.
Tonight, I find when considering this matter that, however much one may dislike the death penalty, one has to consider whether anything which would be put in its place would be less barbaric. The right hon. Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) made an extremely moving and sincere speech which must have impressed the House, even those Members who disagreed strongly with it. He spent some time dealing with the appalling effects of life imprisonment, though life imprisonment is, in fact, not more than 10 or 12 years in the end.
I have looked most carefully through the evidence given before the Royal Commission by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the prison chaplains, because one thing we have to face up to when dealing with this subject is that murder is not merely a crime against the State. Many of the witnesses emphasised that this also is a crime against God as well as the State. So it seems to me that here we are automatically put in a difficulty, because if it is true that the crime is a crime against God as well as the State, then are we right in solely judging this matter through the State?
The Archbishop of Canterbury did say something before the Royal Commission which I think is of the utmost importance in this debate. He said, in answer to 2143 question 4130 on page 338 of the evidence given before the Commission:Positively society is upholding a fundamental principle and embodies it in its law—that the supreme, in the sense of the least reversible crime, is to kill a fellow citizen—and it upholds that law by the gravity of the penalty.I think all of us would agree that murder is an extremely grave crime to commit. I am not the least impressed by those who say that the only reason for retaining the death penalty is as a deterrent to others.
I do not believe that to be the reason why we ought at this stage to retain it. I believe it is because there is no other form of penalty to be found which is going to be fairer to murderers of the future than that penalty which we have exercised in the past. It is a question of somehow matching the penalty to the crime, not in the sense ofAn eye for an eye, and a tooth for a toothbecause in my understanding of Christianity I should say that that cannot possibly be justified at all.
§ Mr. Philip Bell
I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that it is necessary to be careful with that quotation. It does not really mean taking an eye for an eye, but that not more than an eye should be taken. One is not bound to take an eye, but one must not take more.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I cannot resist the temptation of observing that I do not see what more we could take than a man's life.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
What I am trying to emphasise is that, when a murderer is condemned, whatever the penalty is it ought not to be imposed in a spirit of vengeance, but the penalty which is imposed upon him ought to match the enormity of the crime.
There is one extraordinary omission in the evidence put before the Royal Commission by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the prison chaplains. Apparently none of them put before the Commission any evidence relating to the difference in the state of mind of a person after he has been convicted compared with before his 2144 conviction. I think—and I have thought about this a great deal—that one is inevitably faced with the fact that murder is a crime against society and that society has set up machinery to deal with the crime.
It is the responsibility of the State, as representing society, to prosecute the person accused of murder and either to secure his conviction or to establish his innocence. But once that stage has been reached, I wonder whether it is right solely to leave it upon the State to decide what ought to be done with him. I should have thought it was a matter of considerable interest to all Churches, irrespective of their denomination, to discover whether, when a person had been convicted, there was any sign of repentance or not.
I do not think that any jury could possibly judge that, nor can I believe that any judge should be asked to do it. The only people, in my opinion, who could possibly judge it are those who are experienced in examining the spirit of men and women. Therefore, I would argue that, if we are prepared to accept murder as a crime against God and the State, the Churches cannot wash their hands of what happens to a convicted murderer.
There may be those who say that no man, having committed an appalling crime like murder, could ever become sufficiently a new man in order to have truly repented for the enormity of his crime, and that he must be given a very long time indeed to become a new man so that someone can assess whether one murderer should be treated more leniently than another. Of all things about which we must be sure, however, what stands out is that whatever the law decides on the issue of convicted murderers, there should be no unnecessary delay.
I feel that if there is any deterrent in a penalty the conviction of life imprisonment is greater than the death penalty, though I will add that it is very hard for any of us here tonight—at least I hope it is—to visualise what would be our reactions if we had been pronounced guilty of murder. Our estimate here of the state of mind of a convicted person must be purely hypothetical. But my own feeling is that I would fear a long term of imprisonment more than the ending of the matter very quickly.
2145 I am supported in that view by the evidence given before the Royal Commission by one of the prison chaplains from Edinburgh. He actually quotes a man whom he calls "a lifer" as saying how much better it would be to have the whole thing settled by being hanged. That comes actually from a man who is serving a life sentence, and what he has said was conveyed to the Commission. I think it is something which ought to make this House think. There are men who believe it is more cruel to condemn people to life imprisonment than to hang them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members doubt that let them read the evidence which was given before the Royal Commission by this prison chaplain from Edinburgh.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has seriously suggested that this suspension of the death penalty for five years is worth a trial, and some hon. Members, who I think are supporting the Amendment, said that if it be a question of difficulty because of the present prison conditions, those conditions should be improved. If anyone admits that the conditions in the prisons are such that long imprisonment is likely to be more cruel in certain cases—not all—than hanging would be, I say that this is not the time to implement the terms of this Amendment.
However much I regret the fact that we are faced with this appalling issue; however much I feel that murder is an appalling crime which ought not only to be the concern of the State but also of the churches; however much, in other words, I may disagree with the present legislation, I say that what is proposed in the Amendment is infinitely worse. I do not believe that the prisons today are so organised as to make its proposal a humane thing to do. Although I believe that in the long run—perhaps 20 years ahead, who knows?—capital punishment will vanish from this land, I say that the arguments in favour of it being abolished now have not been made conclusively; and I do not believe that they can be so made for some time to come until even more thought has been given to this matter.
As the Government have asked for our views, which we hope they will consider, I would ask with all sincerity that they approach the leaders of the Churches. I 2146 ask the Government seriously to consider whether something should be done to bring in the Churches to consider whether a convicted murderer who is really penitent should receive better treatment than a murderer who is completely unrepentant. That is the great omission in the Report of the Commission and in the evidence of the Churches given before the Commission. I consider that to be essentially a Christian matter, for surely one of the greatest of the Christian principles is that a sinner who repents should be given another chance.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
One of the suggestions in the Report is that the jury should be invited to say whether a man should hang or not. The judges have no option. Is it now seriously suggested that we should call in the Archbishop of Canterbury to decide a problem of that kind? That would seem to be the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke).
§ Major Legge-Bourke
May I make it absolutely clear that I would leave it entirely to the State to decide whether a man be guilty or not? All I suggest is that the Churches should have a say in deciding what should happen to a convicted man.
§ Mr. Allen
I am obliged for that intervention. That is the point I was trying to make.
Of course the jury will decide, as they do now, whether a man be guilty or not. There is now an automatic death sentence by the judge. One of the suggestions in the report of which I heartily disapprove is that it should be left to the jury to decide the penalty. I think that would put far too great and grave a burden upon the jury. The duty of a jury, especially in a murder case, is burdensome enough without putting that dreadful decision in its hands, especially as some of us know how some juries come to a conclusion.
I doubt if there are any lawyers who have not had some inside information about what happens in a jury room, and most of us could surprise the House with stories. But to suggest that the Church should have any means of intervening or of deciding on the sentence—death or imprisonment—is a suggestion which so 2147 far is unique to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely.
§ Mr. Allen
I do not know whether there are any hon. Members of this House who are in a state of mind to be persuaded one way or another. I made up my mind in 1931, and I have never wavered since, although I have given consideration to all the evidence. In that year I had the burden, the almost intolerable burden, of defending a murderer in circumstances in which no one could say whether he be guilty or not. Day after day, during the hearing of the evidence in the magistrates' court, I said that there was no evidence against the man, and it went on for seven days.
At the end of that period I was still convinced that there was no evidence against this man charged with murder, and I said so, but the magistrate did not agree. The case went before a jury at Liverpool. We had five more long days there, and in my view there was no evidence given then against that man. After an absence of less than an hour, a Lancashire jury found that man guilty of murder, and an audible whistle went through that court as they announced their verdict because members of the jury—[Laughter.]
§ Mr. Allen
—had made up their minds before the witnesses went into the witness box by statements made in the Press during the course of the proceedings in the lower court. Although people outside had changed their view, the jury were unconvinced.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) knows the circumstances. It was felt throughout south-west Lancashire that the man was doomed. Never had the Court of Criminal Appeal reversed the decision of a jury on evidence. It had reversed a jury's decision on matters of law or misdirection, but never had there been an occasion where a jury had convicted a man of murder and where the Court of Appeal had said, "There is no evidence whatsoever, and we are going to let this man off." But the 2148 miracle happened, and the Court of Appeal did say, "There is only suspicion, there is no evidence."
That was a case of touch-and-go, a case of a man whom many people believed to be innocent and many believed to be guilty, and who was saved practically at the last moment. I am convinced, from the cases of which I have read, such as that of Adolf Beck and the Slater case, that there is a sufficient chance of a grave miscarriage of justice in murder cases to justify at least the abolition of the death penalty for a five years' trial period.
Quite recently, in my court at Blackburn, an appeal came from the magistrates' court in the case of a man aged 70 convicted before the magistrates, and rightly on the evidence, of stealing lead. The evidence given by three witnesses—a man, his wife, and another person—was that this man had been seen coming away from a school with stolen lead in his possession. In the face of that evidence the magistrates could do no other than convict him, and they sentenced him to six months' imprisonment.
He had spent between six and nine weeks in prison before he came, on appeal, before the quarter sessions. His case throughout had been, "I am innocent. I was never there. I did not touch anything." When counsel for the prosecution rose he did not persist in saying that the man was guilty. He said, "The police admit that there has been a very grave miscarriage of justice here. All those three witnesses were wrong in their identification. A man has now come forward and has confessed, and this man, we say, is wrongly convicted, and the appeal should be allowed."
That was a case of stolen lead. The magistrates were quite justified in their decision, and, had that been a murder case, with three witnesses to identify the man a jury would have been justified in finding him guilty.
§ Mr. Allen
This happened at Blackburn Quarter Sessions. The police were quite satisfied that the man who had come forward and admitted having committed the crime was guilty, but that did not alter the fact that 2149 the other man had spent over six weeks in prison, convicted of a crime of which he was wholly innocent.
I would leave this thought in the mind of anybody who has doubts about this matter. Supposing that that man, instead of being accused of coming away from a school with stolen lead, had allegedly been seen coming away from the scene of a murder, and three witnesses had identified him and he had been found guilty? Is it likely that the real murderer would have confessed his guilt?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
On a point of order. Can you give Scottish Members some guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? The Motion before the House is in the name of the Government, and it includes the name of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Many of us would like to know if there is to be a statement upon Scottish law by the Lord Advocate.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
I think that I have heard something of every speech that has been made in this debate. I want to say at the outset that I cannot support the terms of the Amendment. I have heard some very convincing and sincere speeches in favour of it, but my feelings at present are certainly inclined very definitely the other way. I cannot help feeling that the House has to assume the responsibility of maintaining the peace, and I should certainly hate to feel that we were in any way responsible for allowing the death of some innocent person rather than the death of some convicted murderer. I cannot see any justification for the removal of the death penalty.
Before this debate began, I did not wish to discuss the broad topic which has taken up all but one speech—the question of abolition or no. I wanted to remark upon one or two points contained in the Report and some of the suggestions which have been made for Parliament to concern itself with. I should say, first, as a kind of declaration of interest, that I have been in practice as a psychiatrist, examining offenders on remand from the courts, although not on capital charges. Secondly, I was for a few years the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the late Home Secretary, 2150 and I should like the House to take it from me that I am not in any way briefed by him or by any of the efficient officials who served him. The opinions which I am expressing are personal ones.
§ Dr. Bennett
He is the late Home Secretary as seen from this place. His translation to another place brings effectively to an end his life in this House. I may be speaking somewhat parochially.
As the question of insanity and mental abnormality takes up 84 out of 212 pages in Part I of the Report, dealing with the liability of murderers to suffer capital punishment, I feel that this side of the question is one which should properly have attracted my attention, and I want to remark upon two points. One is the general problem of criminal responsibility and its assessment, and the other is the examination of the prisoner and the disposal and treatment of the abnormal prisoner.
The M'Naghten Rules have been discussed at great length in the Report and in this House this afternoon. It is generally understood that they are a help in dealing with the definitely criminal or definitely insane. They are clearly useful, but they have frightful shortcomings, and these relate not only to people who are borderline cases or are difficult of assessment. I should like to give one example to show how very misleading these Rules can be.
The case I have in mind is that of a man who was suffering from a depressive psychosis. This is a really thorough insanity, and the sufferer is sunk in gloom and obsessed with the belief that he has committed the unforgivable sin. He feels disgraced, full of self-reproach, and that he is unfit to live. That form of insanity is commonly of a temporary nature. It can occur in a perfectly decent citizen and is quite easily curable.
If such a man murders his wife and family in such a state of mind—as has occurred on more than one occasion—he certainly knows the nature of his act and also that it is unlawful, but he is driven to act by his own internal delusions and his belief in his divine inspiration, or whatever he may claim, and he feels that he can save his family from the contami- 2151 nation of association with himself only by ridding the world of them.
That man must be guilty of murder, and must be condemned to death under the M'Naghten Rules. It is very fortunate that juries are not bound by this rigid doctrine. In paragraph 234 of the Report, the Lord Chief Justice is quoted as having said:I think a jury can always be trusted to do justice, where it might be impossible to bring the case strictly within the M'Naghten Rules, but everybody would say that the man's acts were the acts of a lunatic.In paragraph 322, the Lord Justice General is quoted as saying something similar, namely,However much you charge a jury as to the M'Naghten Rules or any other test, the question they would put to themselves when they retire is—'Is this man mad or is he not?'.It is very fortunate that we have that discrimination from this otherwise inflexible rule, because if the really insane can be convicted of murder as being sane, it stands to reason that those deranged in lesser degree run much greater risk.
It must be faced that the M'Naghten Rules are dangerous and misleading, and only approximately do the job for which they were intended. But then comes the problem of what shall we substitute, and what alternative can we find, and the answer, of course, is "None." I have tried to think of formula, and I know that many much more intelligent men than I have tried, and that nobody has got anywhere near it. We are still where we were when Lord Blackburn wrote in 1874 these words, which are also quoted in the Report:To that I can only say that on the question what amounts to insanity, that would prevent a person being punishable or not, I have read every definition which I ever could meet with, and never was satisfied with one of them, and have endeavoured to make one satisfactory to myself; I verily believe that it is not in human power to do it. You must take it that in every individual case you must look at the circumstances and do the best you can to say whether it was the disease of the mind which was the cause of the crime, or the party's criminal will.We cannot find a substitute formula, and of that we may be satisfied. We cannot do without a formula at all, and I think that is established in the Report. We cannot abrogate these Rules, so what can we do?
2152 The first thing we can come to is the concept of the irresistible impulse, to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield) referred earlier in the debate. That was suggested by the British Medical Association in paragraph 264, and, of course, when we talk about the irresistible impulse, we are immediately reminded of the unresisted impulse. So I think that it is not possible to argue that the irresistible impulse is the best way to evaluate the less obvious forms of derangement.
As my hon. and learned Friend also said, diseases of the mind should not only be referred to as defects of reason; the term should be broadened to cover defects of will. Most mental diseases, as we know them nowadays, are regarded as defects of the emotions, and in these diseases I think it is true to say that the emotions govern the will. The difficulty there is that, if the control is supposed, as it is, to be vested in the reason of man as a reasoning being, and the emotions are supposed to be controlled by the reason, I think that the will is supposed to be controlled by the reason, but when the will is controlled by the emotions, surely that implies a defect in the reason. Therefore, to that extent, the definition in the M'Naghten Rules will have to cover any other form of mental derangement. I hope I have not made that even more obscure than it was before.
The intention or idea of the principle of the irresistible impulse, I am sure, is a good one, and we all know that, but I think that it would entangle a jury in a welter of hypothetical motivations, and provide a happy hunting ground for the preferring of insincere pleas of irresistibility which it would be very difficult for a jury to refute. It requires altogether too much hypothecating and too much subjective imagining for a juryman to put himself in the other fellow's place. In fact, it is too subjective a test, even in the modified form which the Commission recommend in its Report.
Can we think of any more objective test? Juries are certainly not qualified to split hairs on psychiatric issues, but they are qualified, as I see it, to judge sanity and to recognise conduct within normal limits, and, therefore, they can be expected to see the prisoner objectively. I suggest to the House this idea as a modi- 2153 fication of the M'Naghten Rules in place of that suggested by the Royal Commission. I should say that, if the answers to the first two existing questions—whether the man knew the nature and quality of his act, and whether he knew it was wrong—is "Yes," it will be possible for the jury then to ask this further question: "Were the actions consistent with sanity?" If the answer is "Yes," the picture is clear, and the case goes along the ordinary course of justice.
If the answer is "No, "it would seem to me that it would then be possible for the jury to bring in a finding in some such terms as these: "We find the prisoner guilty on the facts of the actions with which he is charged, but we do not consider his actions to be entirely consistent with those of a sane man, and, therefore, recommend him to mercy."
If there cannot be any degrees of murder or a division of the trial into two parts on the question of sanity—and I am sure that there should not be—and if the judge is not to have the discretion, which I am sure he should not have, then he must pronounce the sentence of death in the modified form suggested and the Executive would then take note of the jury's opinion and of the judge's observations on it. I do not think that that would commit, limit or trammel the Secretary of State any more than would any other recommendations at present, and it would allow the finding of some form of partial irresponsibility which has not yet been postulated.
The other point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is that I certainly support the Commission's proposals that the prisoner should be examined psychiatrically by independent consultants. I have worked with the prison service, and I know that it is completely unjust to say, although it is a widely held opinion, that prison doctors are on the side of the prosecution because they form part of the custodial machine. I do not believe that, but that is the feeling. Therefore, it is most important that the examination of a prisoner should also be conducted by an outside consultant.
I think it equally important that senior prison medical officers who are qualified in psychiatry should also render a report. The report of the outside consultant and of a senior prison medical officer, together with the reports of the custodial staff, 2154 would, I believe, constitute a very strong body of psychiatric opinion on the prisoner. This would still, of course, allow the important right of the defence to call whom it pleased, but it would discourage attempts to produce psychiatric opinion for the defence which might not be particularly sound. It is well known that the defence sometimes tries out psychiatrist after psychiatrist until it finds one who is willing to try to sustain an unsustainable defence. It can be said, in fact, that many are chosen but few are called. I think, therefore, that this system would go far to meet these abuses which, I must say, disfigure our Sunday papers and do not do either the law or psychiatry any good.
In past years, I have spent a lot of time in trying to form some opinions about the psychopath. It is very difficult to identify him, and it is only in recent years that people have agreed that there is such an entity at all. Even now the definition is a very loose one. I am a little surprised that in the Report there is no reference to one quality which would help juries to determine what is a psychopath, and that is the fact that, although there are no typical psychopathic crimes, there is a thread which runs through all psychopathic misdemeanours, which is the lack of gain from what he has done.
In crimes committed by psychopaths, whether murder or lesser offences, the gain is nearly always negligible, and is outweighed by the loss in the not very long run. That being so, it surely adds to the belief that the psychopath cannot be regarded as sane. I think it important to bear that fact in mind if we are in future, as the Commission says we should, to regard the psychopath more readily as an abnormal entity.
Although I plead sincerely for this unattractive category, the explosively psychopathic or epileptic people, I am not pleading merely for their lives. It is often regretted that psychiatrists are inclined to do so regardless of the facts. I think that we should try to look after these chaps if they are to be condemned and sent to one of the special type of colonies such as that which has recently started building and which I welcome most wholeheartedly, the East-Hubert establishment, which has been wanted for a long time. One thing that 2155 I should like to say in that connection is that it is no use sending people to this kind of colony if they are not to have treatment. One thing about which I am sure is that we cannot carry out treatment if we do not get co-operation, and we shall not get co-operation if we cannot get some sanctions, and we shall not get any sanctions against these people unless we have indeterminate sentences. Dr. Stürup of Denmark has pointed that out.
It is easy to see why that should be so, because, after the prisoner has been through the ordeal of the trial, he is greatly relieved on being sent to a relatively pleasant colony. He then becomes rather high-spirited and entirely scornful of the surroundings, and he will then become intolerant of the administration. If he has received a finite sentence for a number of years he is going to wait for the end of that sentence, and good behaviour is not going to make it much better for him. He knows that the end is coming. If he knows that he has to wait to be allowed out on licence and that he will receive privileges only in return for good behaviour and a willingness to conform on his part, I feel that the chances of carrying out treatment and reforming and reclaiming the man are very much better than they otherwise would be.
So, although psychiatrists are commonly regarded as soft-hearted, and sometimes even as soft-headed as well, I put these two requests alongside each other. One is that the psychopath should be regarded more readily as responding to clemency, and the other is that he should be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure. I do not think that hanging or imprisonment will do any good with regard to the abnormalities of these borderline cases. I feel that he should have the opportunity to overcome them.
Those of us who occupy ourselves in psychiatry know very well how inexact a science it is. Indeed, many people say that it is not a science at all. Although it is obviously a very slippery and imprecise subject and very difficult to get a hold on, and, although many psychiatrists regard the law and its processes as very clumsy, I hope that the shortcomings of each of these professions will be regarded with tolerance by the other. I certainly cannot do better than refer to the final 2156 words of the minority Report of the Commission, which were:… as Stephen said 70 years ago: In dealing with matters so obscure and difficult the two great professions of law and medicine ought rather to feel for each other's difficulties than to speak harshly of each other's shortcomings.'
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
I was very interested in the hon. Member's attempt to explain the M'Naghten Rules, and I should like to know whether he realises that in asking that the jury should determine the sanity of the prisoner he has, in fact, reached the same conclusion as the majority Report of the Commission, that the M'Naghten Rules should be abrogated and the question left to the jury.
§ Dr. Bennett
I thought that I regarded it as an expansion of the M'Naghten Rules, not an abrogation, because they can still be used and their findings are still valid. But in the indeterminate case that adds a little more precision to what otherwise would be quite cloudy.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich, North)
I do not propose to follow in detail the argument of the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), but I shall refer to the most important argument put forward when I am dealing with the subject of the M'Naghten Rules.
It seems to be the opinion in this House that one necessarily must be a lawyer if one is to speak with authority on a matter of this kind. The speakers to whom we have listened from the back benches today have been chosen from the legal profession. I wholly dissent from the idea that lawyers have any special qualification whatsoever for determining the issue involved in this question.
It is not a legal decision which we have to make tonight. It is a social decision, a political decision, a moral decision, and while it is true that lawyers who have special experience of the criminal courts are entitled to give us the benefit of their experience, I rather resent the attitude of so many of them that they have a monopoly of authority in a matter of this description. I protest against the idea that this is a question to be decided by legal pundits.
I want to use the time at my disposal to comment on the speech made by the 2157 Home Secretary. He said that he had been greatly impressed with the value of the Commission's Report. So have I, but I show it by treating the Report much more seriously than did the Home Secretary. After telling us what a valuable survey it was, the Home Secretary informed us that he proposed to do nothing about its main conclusions.
He emphasised properly that the main subject at the back of the discussion—whether or not capital punishment should now be abolished—was precluded from the consideration of the Commission, but it must have struck everybody who read the Report that that question overshadowed all the arguments and the discussion that took place during the deliberations of the Royal Commission over a long period of time. The Commission could never get away from it or divorce its discussions from it, although it was actually precluded from mentioning it in the Report.
At the time the Commission was appointed, I deplored that its terms of reference were so narrowly drawn that they would vitiate the work of the Commission and make it impossible for the Commission to come to proper conclusions on the matter it was examining. The Commissioners themselves comment that when they came to examine their terms of reference and tried to give effect to them they discovered that they were engaged upon an extremely narrow quest; and their conclusions bear that out.
Today the Home Secretary gave us what he called the "provisional" views of the Government. If the statement that he made, the arguments he used, the manner he adopted, and the precise form in which he gave us the information, express the provisional views of the Government, I ask myself what the expression would be of the Government's definite and final views. Nothing could have been more decisive than what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said.
He singled out three main points. One was the proposal of the Commission to raise the death-penalty age from 18 to 21. It was deplorable that he should have to inform the House that the Government proposed to set their face definitely against that quite reasonable proposal. Everything that the Commission was con- 2158 sidering and had been asked to do was concerned with limiting the application of death sentences and making hangings fewer rather than more. That was the purpose of bringing the Commission into being. When the Commission makes this proposal to the Home Secretary that we should cease to hang minors, young lads, and I suppose young women, the provisional reply of the Government is that they propose to do nothing about it.
Again, with regard to the M'Naghten Rules, the Home Secretary told us that he proposed to do nothing, although those rules were drafted upon a formula composed by judges 100 years ago, long before the immense modern development in psychology and psychiatric science. None of these things was dreamt of when the M'Naghten Rules were formulated. For many years there has been discussion in important committees on these matters. The Atkin Committee which sat 33 years ago under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Atkin was mentioned today. Its main proposal was that the doctrine of uncontrollable impulse should be added to the existing provisions of the M'Naghten formula.
I was astonished to hear the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham, who has left us now, no doubt in order to get some much-needed refreshment. The real logic of what he was arguing was in favour of the first proposal of the Commission, namely, that the M'Naghten Rules should be abrogated.
Everybody knows that they are incredibly rigorous and inflexible. Everyone knows that the result of their application in the courts is to confine evidence as to the sanity or insanity of the accused within too narrow limits. No one disputes that. The discussion which is taking place now is whether we are to extend the Rules, whether we can find a formula for their extension that will satisfy the judges. That is the point at issue.
Nobody would attempt to defend the present formula except that nothing better can be found, and the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham seemed to argue for the extension of the M'Naghten Rules, though perhaps not to cover what he said he found it impossible to find a formula for — the doctrine of uncontrollable impulse. But is there anything to prevent us expanding the formula in such a way 2159 as to allow a court, on a question of sanity or of insanity, to take into consideration all the extra factors and considerations that were brought within the examination of the prisoner's sanity by the Home Office Medical Commission subsequently appointed?
Why should that process not take place in the trial court, instead of it being deferred until there is a condemnation to death and someone is sitting in the condemned cell? I suggest that this is one thing to which the Home Secretary might have turned his attention, instead of giving us the completely negative reply which he gave us earlier.
Now I want to refer to the third main point made by the Home Secretary, that of giving a jury discretion, of allowing a jury not only to decide a verdict of guilty or not guilty, but, having reached a verdict of guilty, further to consider whether there are extenuating circumstances of such a kind as would justify that jury in deciding that a man or woman should not be hung.
I say at once that I share the doubts of all who have spoken about that proposal, because it does something that is revolutionary in the practice of our courts: it puts upon a jury not merely the burden of deciding on questions of fact placed before them at the trial as to whether or not the accused is guilty; but, having found the accused guilty, they are then asked to embark on a further examination of a totally different kind for which I think a jury is completely unfitted, because they are asked in the second examination to find out and assess the culpability of the prisoner.
In fact, they would be asked to apportion blame, to make an assessment of his moral responsibility. That is an enormous burden which no one who understands the jury system would suggest should be added to the existing responsibilities carried by juries. In condemning this proposal the Home Secretary said he did so because he believed it was unworkable and because he thought it represented a half-way house; in other words, that the Commission was proposing to try to limit the death penalty.
I want to bring to the notice of the House what the Commission said on this subject. In paragraph 595, the Commis- 2160 sion says—and this is the problem that we are trying to meet:It is not questioned that the liability to suffer capital punishment under the existing law is rigorous to excess. We cannot but regard it as a reproach to our criminal law that this excessive rigour should be tolerated merely because it is corrected by executive action. The law itself should mitigate it.That is the problem that we are trying to meet by this so-called half-way house. It is "a reproach to our criminal law" that we are trying to remedy.
The Commission went on to say:We are satisfied that as long as capital punishment is retained, this"—that is, jury discrimination—is the only practicable way of correcting the outstanding defects of the existing law.The Home Secretary turned that down, but he made no mention of any possible alternative to correct those outstanding defects of the criminal law that the Commission was trying to meet. [Interruption.] I cannot stop in the middle of my argument. I have sat here all day. I have been waiting here about six hours trying to say this.
The point is that the Home Secretary, in rejecting that idea, offered nothing in its place. Therefore, apparently he is prepared to allow those grave defects characterised in those terms by the Commission to continue unchanged in our existing system. That is not good enough, and the Home Secretary will have to think again.
I have one further point to make, and then I will resume my seat, because I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) wants to speak. Sir Alexander Paterson's name has been quoted in this House. It was quoted by the Home Secretary when he said that in the 1948 debate his opinion had been influenced by discoveries that he had made about Sir Alexander Paterson's views. In my opinion, there is a profound misconception about what Sir Alexander Paterson actually said. Hon. Members may study the words for themselves in the 1930 Select Committee Report.
Sir Alexander Paterson was saying then that a lifetime of imprisonment under the penal conditions existing then was not a good alternative to the death penalty. But he was not arguing that the death penalty should remain indefinitely. What he was 2161 really suggesting was that the death penalty was better than the penal conditions then existing. It was, in fact, a criticism of our prisons.
Sir Alexander himself lived long enough to see the main objectionable features to which he was referring removed from our prison system, and I very much doubt, if he had been able to speak to us at any time during the last seven or eight years, whether he would have repeated the words he uttered in 1930. Therefore, let us not have him cited again in that connection.
It is surely a very significant thing that for 100 years now the continuance of this penalty has given rise to commission of inquiry after commission of inquiry. There has been a periodic heart-and-soul searching by large sections of the people about the nature and the consequence of this penalty, and I suggest that a penalty which carries with it such an utter repugnance among great sections of our community is a penalty that brings the law into contempt, and I hope the House tonight, on a free vote, will vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
I have been asked to sit down at nine o'clock. It is not ten seconds to nine and I see no reason why I should not obey my orders. But perhaps my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—we are comrades for the day—will allow me a couple of minutes, however, because I feel very deeply on this subject, no less deeply than I felt six or seven years ago when we did away with hanging.
Today's debate has not been as emotional as the previous debate, and I think that very lack of emotion shows that we realise that the gallows are under sentence of death. I do not care what the result is tonight; the gallows have a short time to live, and I believe that is a splendid thing.
It would not be the first time that this country had shown a great example to others, although I know that other countries have abolished hanging. We are living in an era of the scorched spirit; the finest brains of our country are dedicated to the manufacture of implements to take life. It has to be done and we do not criticise it; we are thankful that they are there.
2162 But here is a chance for the House to give a declaration of faith in the human spirit. I profoundly believe that the hanging of criminals and the publicity which makes heroes and spectacular figures out of these wretched creatures is a bad thing. Once we take away hanging there will be a change in the criminal classes, too.
Just before the previous debate I went to see the governor of one of our prisons in which hanging takes place. I mentioned this in the previous debate. Let me remind the House what he said. It was, "I hope you fellows in the House of Commons will do away with the gallows because of the wild excitement which debauches the rest of the criminals when an execution is taking place. The man who kills is the aristocrat among criminals. Do away with the death sentence and he becomes the lowest form of criminal in the criminal world. The criminal world will turn against him."
The county chief constables have an association, and I can tell the House what was said to me by one of the most important chief constables of a county in Great Britain—and I will give the Attorney-General his name if he wants it. This man said, "We meet and discuss this problem. We have an association. I can tell you that 80 per cent. of the county chief constables want to do away with the death penalty."
I have thus quoted two men in the front line in the war against murder—a man who has to superintend the hanging and a man representing those who have to fight the crime. I would put that fact against all the utterances of bewigged and begowned lawyers who have spoken in the House today, and for that reason, among others, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Many times from this side of the House I have shouted to him to sit down. Today I hoped that he would go on, and he did.
§ 9.4 p.m.
We have had a long and interesting debate, and I shall say something about the speeches of those who have taken the view different from mine. I will deal later with the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), and I will also deal with the speeches of my hon. and learned Friend 2163 the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), whom I regret not to see in his place, and the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke).
As far as I could understand it, the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester was this: crimes of violence which were not capital had increased in number, murder had not increased; therefore hanging was a better deterrent than other deterrents. How the movement of two variants shows the different effects on two constants constant throughout the period I do not quite follow. However, actually that is not quite necessary, because my hon. and learned Friend's unique capacity for being wrong did not let him down. He got the statistics backwards. In fact, cases of wounding decreased slightly and cases of murder went up slightly. My hon. and learned Friend can draw what conclusions he likes from that.
I am glad to see the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely enter the Chamber, because I wish to say something about his point of view. Apparently, he was not particularly concerned with the death penalty as a deterrent. He wanted it because the penalty matched the enormity of the crime. I have heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it is news to me that imitation is the sincerest form of reprobation. I cannot for the life of me see why, because on religious grounds, on social grounds and on grounds of our emotions we regard killing in cold blood as the worst of crimes, we should choose for that very reason to imitate and commit the crime ourselves. That is a point of view which I have never been able to follow.
I also found it a little odd that the hon. and gallant Member should say, "Well, of course, I assume that capital punishment will be abolished in the next 20 years." Why should it fail to match the enormity of the crime less 20 years hence?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I wanted to tell the hon. and learned Member that I certainly did not think that the argument that the punishment matched the crime would be any less forceful despite the fact that in the future the country might very easily abolish the death penalty.
§ Mr. Paget
Do not let us go on with that because time is rather short.
I want now to deal with the speech which, naturally, distressed me most. The Home Secretary told me that his vote on the last occasion was given because I had deceived him. That surprised me. I have been on the terms on which one is here with hon. Members on both sides of the House, but during the last seven years I had never heard from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman or anybody else the suggestion that I had deceived him. I was also surprised because, in the days before 1948 when we were working on the amendment of the law that we then brought forward, one of the persons on our inner committee and one of the first signatories was the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's sister. In those days I was certainly under the impression that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was a firm opponent of long standing of capital punishment. I am sorry if I was wrong.
However, my surprise makes my regret none the less, and I want, if I can, to put my offence right with him. Let me see how I deceived him on the last occasion. Sir Alexander Paterson, in evidence in 1931 before a Select Committee of this House, said the then prison conditions were such that he regarded a life sentence, or a sentence long enough to be a sufficient substitute, as more cruel than death. That observation in Sir Alexander's evidence had a profound effect on the House. I informed the House that, as a result of the prison reforms very largely introduced by Sir Alexander himself, that no longer held good and that Sir Alexander was of opinion before his 2165 death that the prison system had so improved that the long sentence which would be necessary could now take place without the deterioration he had feared in 1930.
I gave the wrong reasons for that conclusion, although I still believe it was Sir Alexander's opinion at the time of his death. Whether that be so or not, the only relevant question was this: had the circumstances changed between 1931 and 1948 to such an extent that the long period of prison, which must be an alternative to death, was no longer crueller than death itself? That was the question in 1948. It is the question today.
On this, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary need no longer rely upon the opinion of Sir Alexander Paterson. He has got the opinion expressed by his own Home Office. I refer to the Report, paragraph 653. Sir Alexander's evidence is quoted. It ends:'I gravely doubt whether an average man can serve more than 10 continuous years in prison without deterioration'.Then the Report goes on:The Home Office at that time did not dissent from that view. But in giving evidence before us. though they still said that 'prolonged detention for more than 10 or 12 years makes it increasingly difficult for (the prisoner) to re-establish himself in outside life and increases the risk of mental or physical deterioration, ' they added that developments in prison administration in the last twenty years have materially altered the conditions of confinement for prisoners serving long sentences, and continued:'While therefore the Commissioners remain of the opinion expressed (in 1930) that a very long sentence of imprisonment is and always must be a dreadful thing, they do not consider that in present conditions its effect on prisoners would be such that it ought not to be contemplated'.So I can therefore—
§ Mr. Paget
Very well.The Scottish Home Department were less sanguine. Mr. Cunningham told us that 'those with considerable experience of prison administration would view with grave concern a sentence of imprisonment extending beyond 10 years.'The Home Secretary has an assurance from his own Department which he said I wrongly gave him last time and which convinced him. I hope therefore that his 2166 conversion at the end of this debate will be as sudden and dramatic as he would make us believe it was last time.
I believe that there are three main reasons why we should abolish capital punishment. They are practical, legal and moral. So far as the practical is concerned, I think that there is only one question really concerned. Is capital punishment a greater deterrent than other forms of punishment? In other words, does capital punishment mean less murders? I would concede immediately that there may be cases—Professor Sellin gave this evidence before the Commission—in which the idea of hanging does actually and of itself stop the murder. There may be such cases, but they are rare. Cases where murder is caused by capital punishment are rare, but they exist. I will mention two or three of them.
First there is the case of Marjoram, who was executed in 1930. He was one of those types of persons who was imprisoned for a small offence, and while in prison had cleaned out the death cell which had been occupied by a man called Fox, who had murdered his mother. Marjoram had admired Fox, and he announced that he would commit a murder more dramatic than Fox's. When he came out of prison he tried to murder a policeman but lost his nerve. Then on Blackheath he murdered a perfectly innocent girl. He achieved his ambition to occupy the cell which Fox had occupied, and he was taken to the gallows making a joke with the hangman, which obviously he had rehearsed in his imagination for a long time before.
There was another man called Rhodes who deliberately killed because his exhibitionist complex made him wish to feature in an execution. Another case of quite a different sort was that of Heath, one of the most savage and horrible murderers of our time. Heath, a sadist, killed a woman called Mrs. Gardner, probably accidentally. He treated her most cruelly. He tied her up and beat her, and she suffocated. That probably was not his intention, because he had done that kind of thing before. Finding a body on his hands, he thought he could make a defence of insanity if he killed another woman. He attacked a young girl called Miss Marshall and murdered her in a wood with terrible savagery. He left clues to connect himself with the girl. 2167 There was no semen or anything like that to indicate that there was any sexual aspect to the second murder. This was a murder by a man to make a defence of insanity because capital punishment existed.
Those sort of cases are, of course, rare, but there is another type of case which exists more abroad than here, and that is the gang case. Nothing suits a gang leader better than capital punishment. Once a man has written his name in blood he is no longer in a position to betray his comrades, because both he and they know that if he betrays them they will all be avenged by the law. For that same reason, in a revolution how constantly does one find fearful atrocities committed because leaders want to commit their followers to actions so grave that there can be no turning back. In that sense capital punishment has been part of the cement of the gang and places where gangs rule, like Chicago, New York and Paris, are capital punishment areas. Those are examples where it is a direct cause.
But I think more important is where capital punishment is an indirect cause, one of the things that contributes to a murder, one of the things which brings a man to the emotional state in which he would commit murder. When, as we often hear it said, we can look to ourselves and say, "I am sure that the prospect of hanging would stop me, "we are making a completely wrong test, because it is quite unnecessary to have anything to stop ourselves. With the vast majority of us it would be possible to abolish the death penalty and to put a reward in its place, and still we could not be made to commit murder, because it would be horrible to us.
One of the natural inhibitions of mankind which makes our society possible is this incapacity, this national instinctive loathing of killing in cold blood. It is not peculiar to ourselves. If one watches two wolves fighting, one will find that the weaker wolf will suddenly stop and offer his neck to the stronger. The stronger wolf will growl and make a fuss, but he will not touch it, because this inhibition against striking when the most vulnerable point is offered applies to the wolf pack, as to many other animals, and to a great number of human beings. Therefore, 2168 when we look for a deterrent, we do not need to look for one which will affect the ordinary person; but one which will affect that very small percentage of humanity which, in any event, is capable of committing murder, that is, the unbalanced section of humanity.
In the Report on Capital Punishment, it was said by the psychiatrists who gave evidence that persons who are neither psychiatric nor mental but display a gross defect in reality sense include persons having strong suicidal tendences, conscious or unconscious, and persons within whom the urge to exhibit themselves is strong. Those are precisely the sort of persons who commit murder—people who have a suicidal urge, because a failure to respect one's own life is associated with a failure to respect the life of others. That is why we find a third of the murderers immediately commit suicide.
It may be said that they prefer that to hanging, but the same amount commit suicide in countries where there is no death penalty. There is that association between homicidal and suicidal tendencies. It is the egotist; the person who builds up his own drama; who dramatises himself; who brings his own emotion up to the exaggerated importance that brings him to action; that is the man who can kill. It is the death penalty in its dramatic aspect, the masochistic idea of the gallows and its drama, that helps to build up the state of mind which makes that man kill. It is a contributory cause.
Many of us who have defended murderers have found this statement recurring, "I made up my mind I would swing for her." The average murder is by a man of a woman in circumstances of self-dramatisation—"I made up my mind I would swing for her." That is what helps to build up the state of mind which can do this essentially abnormal act, an act abnormal to humanity.
Thus I say that when we look at these statistics we find that the Commission has not faced what the statistics really reveal. It has merely said, "In these statistics we can find no evidence at all that the death penalty reduces murder." If we look at those statistics we shall find, as a recognisable statistical trend, that there is less murder and less homicide when the death penalty is not imposed.
2169 I have dealt with the practical alternative. The Commission who examined this question has no doubt at all that the present system—not of 1931 but of today—is adequate to deal with these long sentences. If there is any doubt about that, is it to be suggested that our prison system is so much worse than that of all the other countries who have abolished the death penalty and who have experienced no difficulty in connection with it? Again, is our character so much worse than the characters of those across the sea who have had no difficulty: in dealing with the matter since they abolished this terrible penalty?
That is my practical objection to the death penalty. I am convinced in my heart and mind that, so far from stopping murder, the death penalty is a cause of murder. In the last debate, it was put with tremendous force that an innocent man can never hang in this country. I am not going to add to what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon. Certainty is not available to mankind. God may know; mankind can only assess the probabilities. Our law is not based upon certainty; it is based upon a balance of probabilities, and when a jury finds a man guilty it says very little more than, "On the balance of probabilities we believe him to be more likely guilty than not guilty." It is not a question of certainty, and juries are directed that they need not be certain. They have not got to exclude every other possibility.
Let me read the summing up of Mr. Justice Glyn-Jones in the Merrifield case, which resulted in an execution. The Judge said:Counsel for the defence has said to you more than once that the prosecution must exclude every chance and every possibility that the inferences they ask you to draw are mistaken. That is not the law. You need only deal with such possibilities of error as you think reasonably likely.
§ Sir L. Heald
Would the hon. and learned Member say whether there is a reference to the balance of probabilities in that summing up? If not, from where does he get it?
§ Mr. Paget
What else does what I have read mean? Let us examine the evidence in that case. Professor Webster, who had been chief of the Forensic Laboratory at Birmingham for 20 years; who had been the prosecution's witness in every 2170 murder case on the Midland Circuit since I and, I believe, the former Attorney-General came to the Bar, and had been relied upon by the prosecution as the foremost pathologist in the Midlands, gave evidence in that trial that the deceased lady had died a natural death. Against his evidence was that of another pathologist, who said that she had been poisoned.
The jury, coming to a conclusion upon an issue between two experts—and an issue upon which, frankly, they were not competent even to express an opinion, upon the direction which I have read— found Mrs. Merrifield guilty, and she was allowed to hang for a murder which Professor Webster said had never taken place. There is the finish of it. So much for certainty.
Now, in conclusion, I want to say—and I am absolutely frank about this—that, whatever others feel, I shall still feel the way I do because I believe that murder is wrong, that killing in cold blood is wrong, and that we do not make a right by putting two wrongs together. In our hearts and souls we know, when we see these executions taking place—and all who take part in them know—that we have been in contact with something that is profoundly evil. I believe profoundly that we do not match good by doing evil and that which we know to be evil. To kill unnecessarily—here is the word which is wrong—and here I will deal with the point of the former Attorney-General's argument—[Interruption.] I gave five minutes to the other side.
I will now deal with the arguments of the former Attorney-General, who said: "You want to change the balance of proof. It is for you to prove your case. It is you who want to change the established law." In a deeper sense, it is not we who want to change. It is the Government who want to change. They want to make the most vital change of all—the change from life to death. That is the change which the Government ask us to make, and I would say that before we have a right to kill people in cold blood, we must be sure—not doubtful, not wondering—that there is a real and over powering reason for that which we wish to do. Nobody has suggested such a reason. The burden of proof should be squarely on the Government if they want 2171 to kill. That burden of proof has not been taken.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) thought it proper to conclude his oration by saying that the burden is on the Government if they want to kill. I do not accept that as a correct description of this debate, and I may say to him, too, that he has given me less time in which to answer the debate than he said he would.
I have a task to fulfil for which I do desire to have a little time—because not only have I to reply to what has been said on the main debate on the Commission's Report, but also to what has been said in the course of the debate of the Amendment. It would, indeed, be discourteous of me if I did not spend a little time in making some reference to the main recommendations of the Report, which, after all, is what we started out to discuss today.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary referred to the three main recommendations of the Commission and to the Government's position with regard to them. I was interested to see that, assuming that the death penalty remains, there was no real criticism of the Government's provisional decision in regard to the recommendation about youths between 18 and 21. I was also interested to see that the Government's view upon the Commission's recommendation with regard to jury discretion has really been accepted in all quarters of the House.
The discussion that did take place upon the recommendations of the Report was upon the M'Naghten Rules. I must say that I wish that we had had a longer time to discuss these rules, because they are of great importance, and I should have liked to have said a good deal about them myself. All I can say now is that what has been said will, of course, be most carefully considered. I think the House agrees that if there is a formula—and I think that the balance of opinion is that a formula is useful to a jury—it would be extremely difficult to find one which improves upon the M'Naghten Rules and so could be used to replace those rules.
2172 With those preliminary observations, I now turn to the main issue of today's debate, the question of the Amendment. Opinion in the House, so far as I can judge, having heard most of the debate, really falls into four distinct groups. There are those who are in favour of the abolition of capital punishment and who support the proposal for suspension, perhaps because they think that that is more likely to be accepted by the House. On the other hand, there are those who holding equally sincere convictions, who are opposed to the abolition of the death sentence because of what they believe would be the serious results which would follow that step. Then there are those who are not convinced one way or the other, but who think that this so-called experiment should be tried; and there are those who are also not convinced one way or the other but who are satisfied that this is no time for such an experiment.
The Home Secretary expressed the Government's view, and there is no need for me to repeat it. I wish to say, however, that I hate murder trials quite as much as does the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. I have never attended one unless it was my duty to do so, and I have never understood the desire of some members of the public to witness the spectacle of a person being tried for his life.
I doubt whether there is anyone with experience of such trials who is not affected by them, and who does not thoroughly dislike them. But, in approaching this question, we really should try to put our personal feelings on one side and not let them affect our judgment on what, I believe, is a most important issue, and one which may affect not only the lives of a number of people in our land, but also the maintenance of law and order.
The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) said, and said correctly, that we all have a hatred of brutality. We all wish that there were no murders committed in this land of ours, and one hopes that the day may come when that will be the position. But before I deal with the detailed arguments, I wish to say that I do not think that the real issue before the House is raised by the terms of the Amendment quite as clearly as it could be. I think that the 2173 real question before the House tonight is the question of whether or not this House is in favour of abolition.
The Amendment asks the Government to introduce legislation, the effect of which could only be to take away the death sentence. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who moved the Amendment, said that in five years the situation should be reviewed. Of course, Parliament can always review the situation in less or more than five years, but that is something which, I believe, is put in to make the pill a little more attractive to those who are a bit uncertain about it.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said, "We suggest suspension so that the Government of the day will not have to bring in a Bill to bring back the death penalty." But I feel sure that those who are now supporting the Amendment would certainly take action just before the period of that suspension lapsed, and that then we should probably find some of those who have made such eloquent speeches tonight saying, "You cannot put back the death penalty. The experiment has been for far too short a period." This is what we say in answer to the proposal so eloquently put forward by the hon. Gentleman: The issue really is—are we to suspend the death sentence now? Is the House in favour of that, whatever may happen in the future, because we cannot bind another Government. The Amendment is, I think, put in this form to make it attractive to those who are not convinced, but who say to themselves, "Why not try it?" I hope to satisfy them that there are, indeed, weighty reasons for not doing so.
I am sorry that the Royal Commission was not invited to give its conclusions on this question. As has been said in the debate, the members of the Commission were deliberately precluded from doing so. The Leader of the Opposition made the reason quite clear. The reason he gave was that the Commission would be bound to produce a majority report and a minority report, a somewhat odd and unconvincing reason to me. But if we had had a majority and a minority report, we should, at least, have known with certainty which way the majority went and what their reasons were.
The Commissioners were, however, led by their terms of reference to have regard 2174 to some evidence on this issue. Their Report as to that evidence and what they say about it, is, I think, most valuable. If they had had to express a conclusion on this issue, they probably would have had to go into it much more fully and deeply instead of treating the evidence as incidental to their main inquiry.
I hope that no one will think that I do not regard those who have voiced objections to capital punishment as not being entirely sincere and as not having voiced them on conscientious grounds. Before I say anything about the objections, may I summarise quite briefly what I believe to be the only possible ground, and the true ground, for the retention of the capital sentence. It was put quite briefly by Lord Waverley in this House in 1948. He said that thejustification for the capital sentence … must be sought in the protection of society, and in that alone."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 998.]That is the gauge, that is the test. That of course, raises the question: Is it a deterrent, and if it is to what extent is it a deterrent?
The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend said in his speech that the onus is on those who seek to retain it to justify its retention. His view was that it has not been proved to be a deterrent and, therefore, that it should go. I would urge, on the other hand, that the correct approach is surely this: we have had this law for many a long year, and those who wish to change it have to prove their case for the change.
When we read the conclusions of the Commission and the evidence, we see how difficult it is to prove the case either way conclusively. We get a different answer according to whether we ask the question one way or the other. I would say myself that if it is a deterrent it is only if it is an effective deterrent, that it can be regarded as a weapon for the protection of society. When we read the Report and the passages cited in it we see that the view is held by a large number of responsible people that if it has a deterrent effect at all it has a unique deterrent effect.
I will not take up time by reading the whole of the passage written nearly 100 years ago by Sir James Stephen, which is set out in the Report, in paragraph 57. 2175 It is said there—and I will not quote the whole of it—No other punishment deters men so effectually from committing crimes as the punishment of death. This is one of those propositions which it is difficult to prove, simply because they are in themselves more obvious than any proof can make them.He was talking of the death penalty as a deterrent. [Interruption.] Some hon. Members may not agree with him.
§ The Attorney-General
He was dealing with the death penalty generally as a deterrent, as contrasted with other deterrents. [Interruption.] I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow me to address this argument to them in answer to the arguments that have been advanced. They may not accept it and they may disagree with it, but I hope that they will allow me to put it in the short time available to me.
My view, and the view that has been expressed throughout the years, is that there is no other punishment under our laws that has, or can have, such a deterrent effect. One knows that that cannot be proved up to the hilt, but surely it must be so, as a matter of common sense, when one contrasts the death penalty with a term of imprisonment.
It is no answer to that statement to say, "We have so many murders committed each year, and it is no deterrent at all." One might equally say that because we have so many burglaries committed each year imprisonment is no deterrent at all. I have never heard it suggested until tonight that the imposition of the death sentence has increased the risk of murders being committed, and I do not think I could find anything in the Report in support of that statement.
The truth is—to summarise the position—that the death sentence has a deterrent effect which varies according to the nature of the individual. The Commission has said, in paragraph 68, that that was its prima facie conclusion. It also refers, in paragraph 59, to the general indirect effect of the death penalty.
The police say that there is one particular category to whom the death penalty is a deterrent, and that is the criminals. The view has been expressed 2176 that criminals are directly deterred by it from using lethal weapons to accomplish their purpose or to avoid arrest, and that, indirectly, it induces them not to carry weapons lest the temptation to use them be too strong. That is the view of the police, whose duty it is to protect society, and whose experience and knowledge of the criminal classes should be accepted. Great weight should be attached to their considered view.
It is also the view of those who are in the prison service. Let me give the example of a reprieved murderer serving a life sentence, a violent brute; and there are some. Suppose that while serving his sentence he kills a prison officer. If there is no death sentence, the worst that can happen to this double murderer is that he goes on serving the life sentence which has already been imposed upon him. Surely we should not weaken the protection which the law gives to those in the prison service. We owe them a duty not to do that. We rely upon them to see that those who are reprieved do not escape.
Some murderers will commit a second murder. [Interruption.] Yes. Does anyone on the Opposition side doubt that if Straffen escaped there would be another small girl's life in danger? Surely we should not weaken that protection.
Take another instance. What about the professional criminal who knows that the next time he is convicted he will be sentenced to preventive detention for maybe 10 years. If capital punishment goes, may he not be tempted to use violence to avoid capture, violence which may result in death? A reprieved murderer now usually gets from nine to 10 years. Of course it may be said, "Well, if the death sentence is abolished, the life sentence will really mean a life sentence and not a sentence of from nine to 10 years." That, I gather, is what hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest.
The right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend drew attention to the fact that in the Amendment which bears his name there is no reference to the alternative. With great respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he dealt with that very vaguely. He said that, of course, these people must be kept in custody for a long time, but that they must not be kept in such conditions or for so long that deterioration to health results.
2177 But the problem which would confront us is not the problem that now arises in relation to persons who because of mitigating circumstances are reprieved; the problem with which one would be confronted would be the detention in safe custody, and maybe for a very long period, of those who would not now be reprieved because of the brutality of their crimes, and who could not be allowed any liberty because of the risks that might be involved.
It does not really matter whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman likes to give those institutions names other than prison institutions; it does not matter whether special provision is made in special places for that category of person, because I find it difficult to believe that prolonged detention in such places, maybe for 10 or 20 years, would not result in deterioration in health. Reference has been made to what Sir Alexander Paterson said on that issue—it was quite clear—and what the Commissioners said has also been referred to.
I think the Commission was a little optimistic as to what would be the result of prolonged detention. In my view, there is no satisfactory alternative at the present time to the death sentence, either as a deterrent or as an alternative punishment for the convicted person, an alternative which would satisfy the public conscience.
I am cutting my remarks as short as I can, and I say in conclusion that one cannot ignore the increase in crimes of violence to which my right hon. and gallant Friend referred in moving this Motion. I submit to the House that, in view of the figures he gave, this is not the time to try the experiment proposed in the Amendment. It is not the time either to abolish the death sentence or to suspend it, and it is not the time to reduce the protection to society, whether it be the protection that the law affords to warders, to men, women, or children.
Those in favour of abolition base their arguments on many grounds, and chiefly on the use of statistics, as I think the House will agree after listening to this debate. They compare country with country and statistics before and after abolition in a particular country. However, I am sure the Commission was right when it said that it is almost impossible 2178 to draw valid comparisons between different countries, that interpretation of the relevant statistics involves doubt and difficulty.
We are asked now to take a chance, for it cannot be proved—and I think the House accepts this—that in this country the suspension or abolition of the death sentence—its removal as a deterrent—would not result in some person being murdered who would have remained alive if the death sentence had remained. That, I say, cannot be proved. It cannot be proved that that will not happen, and we are asked to take a chance, to run the risk that some such persons will be murdered.
I do not believe that the mass of the people in this country want us to take that risk. I do not think that they want the protection of society weakened in any degree. I think they regard the death penalty as essential for the preservation of the security of life in our society. Before any such drastic change is made, there should be clear evidence that it is the public desire. I do not think that there is any indication that public opinion on this issue has changed at all since 1948.
§ The Attorney-General
Over the years our history has shown us that we have continually reduced the severities of our criminal law. There was the reference earlier to hanging for sheep stealing and so on. That is our history. We have pruned and pruned, and now we are being asked to prune still further. In the present state of our society, I do not believe that that can safely be done.
We are, as I say, invited to take a chance. Indeed, that is recognised, because it is recognised by this Amendment that it is not proved that abolition will not result in someone being murdered who, if the death sentence stood, would remain alive. I ask hon. Members opposite in all seriousness to consider this point. I know, from listening to their speeches, how they feel. But have they considered at all what the results would be if the experiment which they are asking the House to make failed? I do not suppose that any one of us would suffer as a result of it, but if there are cases where the death sentence is now a deterrent, then I suggest that suspension of the death sentence is a most dangerous 2179 and risky step in the present state of our society.
Knowing, as we do, the rising figures of crimes of violence, and that the figures for the first nine months of 1954 are much bigger than the figures for the first nine months of 1953, I suggest that we really should not run this risk with others at this time. The Government's view is that
§ it should not be run, and I therefore ask the House to reject this Amendment, which I am sure is contrary to the wishes and desires of the vast mass of the electorate.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 245, Noes 214.2183
|Division No. 34.]||AYES||[10.0 p. m|
|Aitken, W. T.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Wrwk & Lgtn)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Errington, Sir Eric||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Finlay, Graeme||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Fisher, Nigel||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Assheton.Rt. Hn. R. (Blackburn, w.)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Barber, Anthony||Fraser, Sir Ian (Mcmbe & Lonsdale)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Beach, Ma]. Hicks||Gammans, L. D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Glover, D.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Gooch, E. G.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Bennett, Sir William (Woodside)||Gough, C. F. H.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Graham, Sir Fergus||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Marples, A. E.|
|Black, C. W.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maudling, R.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Mellor, Sir John|
|Braine, B. R.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Heald Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Heath, Edward||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Neave, Airey|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Noble, comdr. A. H|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Butler.Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hope, Lord John||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Carr, Robert||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Osborne, C|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Horobin, Sir Ian||Page, R. G.|
|Clarke, Col. Sir Ralph(East Grinstead)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Perkins, Sir Robert|
|Cole, Norman||Howard, Hon. Greville (St Ives)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Colegate, Sir W. A.||Hudson, Sir Austen (Lewisham, N.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Cooper, sqd. Ldr. Albert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hughes Hallet, Vice-Admiral J.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Crockshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Hurd, A. R.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Crouch, R. F.||Iremonger, T. L.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchiey)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, M.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Davies, Rt.Hn.Clement(Montgomery)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|De la Bere, Sir Rupert||Kaberry, D.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambert, Hon. G.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lancaster, col. C. G.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Leather, E. H. C.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Russell, R. S.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Drewe, Sir C.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Scot, Sir Donald|
|Sharples, Maj. R. C.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'le'bne)|
|Shepherd, William||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Heref'd)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Soames, Capt. C.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Webbe, Sir H. (L'nd'n & Westm'r)|
|Speir, R. M.||Thompson, Lt-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Spent, Rt. Hn. Sir P (K'ns'gt'n, S.)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.||Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)|
|Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Tilney, John||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Tuche, sir Gordon||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Turner, H. F. L.||Wills, G.|
|Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Storey, S.||Turton, R. H.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Studholme, H. G.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)||Vosper, D. F.||Sir Robert Grimston and Mr. Nield.|
|Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Adams, Richard||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Albu, A. H.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Monslow, W.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Grimond, J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Hale, Leslie||Mort, D. L.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Moyle, A.|
|Baird, J.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Hamilton, W. W.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Hannan, W.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Beswick, F.||Hargreaves, A.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Sevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orbach, M.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hastings, S.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hayman, F. H.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Oswald, T.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Herbison, Miss M.||Owen, W. J.|
|Boardman, H.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Padley, W. E.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hollis, M. C.||Paget, R. T.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Holman, P.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Brook, Dry den (Halifax)||Holmes, Horace||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Holt, A. F.||Pannell, Charles|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hudson, James (Ealing. N.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Parker, J.|
|Parkin, B. T.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paton, J.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Peart, T. F.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Popplewell, E.|
|Clunie, J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Porter, G.|
|Collins, V. J.||Janner, B.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Craddook, George (Bradford, S.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Rankin, John|
|Crosland, c. A. R.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Reeves, J.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech||Rhodes, H.|
|Daines, P.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Kenyon, c.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Deer, G.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Ross, William|
|Delargy, H. J.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Royle, C.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lawson, G. M.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Lee, Miss Lennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lewis, Arthur||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacColl, J. E.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Fienburgh, W.||McInnes, J.||Snow, J. W.|
|Finch, H. J.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Follick, M.||McLeavy, F.||Suskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Foot, M. M.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Fort, R.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Steele, T.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mallalieu, J. P. w. (Huddersfd, E.)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Manuel, A. C.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Galtskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maude, Angus||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Gibson, C. W.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mellish, R. J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Warbey, W. N.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Thomas George (Cardiff)||Weitzman, D.||Williams, W. R. (Droyisden)|
|Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||west, D. G||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Wheeldon, W. E.||Willis, E. G.|
|Thornton, E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Usborne, H. C.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Viant, S. P.||Wigg, George||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Wade, D. W.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Walker-Smith, D. C.||Wilkins, W. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wallace, H. W.||Willey, F. T.||Mr. Kenneth Robinson and|
Resolution agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (Cmd. 8932).