HC Deb 18 February 1982 vol 18 cc397-8
16. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will initiate a fresh study of the feasibility of introducing corporal punishment as an alternative to imprisonment for crimes of violence and vandalism.

Mr. Mayhew

No, Sir. Judicial corporal punishment was abolished in 1948 and the advisory council on the treatment of offenders recommended in 1960 that it should not be reintroduced. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the recommendation remains valid, particularly as reintroduction would be a breach of our international obligations.

Mr. Taylor

As the policy of shorter sentences and the eroding of deterrents has been accompanied by a massive upsurge in crime and appalling congestion in the prisons, may I ask why my hon. and learned Friend is not willing to consider corporal punishment with the same open mind that he directs to other alternatives to imprisonment? Has he noticed that since corporal punishment was abolished on the Isle of Man there has been a 78 per cent. rise in crimes of violence?

Mr. Mayhew

The advisory council, which reported in 1960, took account of the public's view that corporal punishment should be reintroduced. It examined comprehensive research on the subject. It concluded that the statistics on the deterrent effect of judicial corporal punishment suggested that it was not especially effective. I remind my hon. Friend that the United Kingdom is a member of the European Convention on Human Rights. In many quarters it was thought a good thing that the European Court last year pronounced against the closed shop. We must take care not to seem to be in favour of only those parts of the law that may suit us.

Mr. Flannery

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman take note that a powerful section of the Tory Party still believes in 1982 that it can flog mankind into submission? Does he realise that only a complete change in the Conservative Party's policies to get working people back into work will lessen the approach to violent crime? Does he accept that we shall have more violent crime if the Government continue with their present policies?

Mr. Mayhew

I give the hon. Gentleman the credit of supposing that he knows that every word of what he said is rubbish.

Sir Albert Costain

Has my hon. and learned Friend's attention been drawn to a letter sent to the Home Secretary by one of my constituents stating that rape is such a dreadful crime that castration is the only proper penalty? Does he agree that that would be making the punishment fit the crime?

Mr. Mayhew

I sympathise with the sense of abhorrence that inspired what lay behind the suggestion of my hon. Friend's constituent. However, certain practical problems might attend that sentence.

Mr. Hattersley

The Minister has spoken of the importance of our accepting all the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. If Lord Scarman turns out to be correct in the Harriet Harman case, and the Home Office is at fault according to the European Court, will the Home Office withdraw its case and not press for costs?

Mr. Mayhew

Not even the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman could persuade me that his supplementary question has anything to do with the original question.