HL Deb 05 March 1869 vol 194 cc691-715

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl of Kimberley.)


said, this was an important measure, and in the right direction; but at the same time he thought it would require careful consideration in Committee, for there were many of the clauses which, in his opinion, were not calculated to carry out the object which its framers had in view. He thought that in an important question of this kind it was better to proceed tentatively than to attempt too much at one time, and so incur the risk of failure. He had himself considerable experience in dealing with the criminal classes, and he thought there was an omission from the Bill of a large class of criminals who were not felons but misdemeanants. As instances of the kind of misdemeanants who might properly be brought within the provisions of the law he would mention the passers of base coin, who were considered only as misdemeanants, but who certainly belonged to the class of "habitual criminals," because they were usually the companions of thieves and assisted them to carry on the trade of thieving, and they ought to be put in the same category with them. He believed also it might be worth their consideration, as they had dealt with pawnshops, to deal also with the marine-store dealers. He believed that in numerous instances these shops were receptacles for stolen goods, and he would ask his noble Friend whether it would be too much to deal with them in a Bill of this kind. There was already, indeed, an Act of Parliament that dealt with receivers, but men of this class who had been previously convicted were as much "habitual criminals" as any other of the criminal classes. There was another omission in the Bill. The Bill dealt with the owners of those houses where thieves found a lodging. He thought that was a proper provision, for the persons who kept those houses were often more criminal than the thieves themselves. But the clause required a very clear definition of the word "owner," and he would suggest some such definition as was contained in his noble Friend's (the Earl of Shaftesbury) Artizans' and Labourers' Dwelling-houses Bill, where the word "owner" was defined to mean the occupier of the premises. Upon the whole, however, he agreed that the measure was a step in the right direction, but it would be better not to press it too far at first, and he would be glad to assist his noble Friend in perfecting its provisions in Committee.


said, he approved of the Bill, but there was some alterations he wished to suggest in it, and which he hoped his noble Friend would think worth consideration in Committee. He agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Portman), both that it was a good measure, and that it required a great deal of consideration in Committee, if its ob- ject was to be effectually accomplished. He understood that the Bill was directed to offenders against property, and that it was not intended to deal with offenders against the person. In that view he had one or two observations to make on its provisions. He wished to point out to their Lordships the great power—the too great power, he thought—that was given to magistrates to act against criminals. By the 10th clause, by the first of three circumstances enumerated, it was provided that any magistrate who had a reasonable suspicion against a person who had been twice convicted might I sentence such person to imprisonment for one year, and he alone was to be the judge whether the grounds for such suspicion existed. This was a mere arbitrary power which could be enforced without assigning any reason against an industrious and reformed convict whom the magistrate disliked. The 14th clause shifted the burden of proof, in the case of the receivers of stolen goods who had been previously convicted, from the accuser to the accused. He objected to that in the case of persons put on their trial for the first time, but, if surrounded with proper precautions, he thought it might be applied to persons who had been previously convicted. But then arose the difficulty which he pointed out last year in reference to the Bankruptcy Bill. It was scarcely possible to put a man on his trial and say that he should be convicted unless he could prove his innocence, and yet to refuse that person the right and the power of giving evidence on his own behalf. Then, if they gave the accused that right, they must also give the prosecution the power of cross-examination; and this would lead to the introduction, to some extent, of the system of examining prisoners, which was adopted in continental courts. Whether that was a proper mode of endeavouring to discover the truth, he need not now give an opinion: but their Lordships must consider the change which would thus be worked in the jurisprudence of the country if that system were introduced here. Another point in the clause in question he wished to notice was the provision that a man might be brought before a magistrate if he had once been imprisoned for any offence. But this surely did not mean if a man in a drunken row knocked down a constable, and was sent to gaol for it, that that should be such an impeach- ment of his honesty as to put on him the burden of proof if he were afterwards accused of theft, or that a man who had committed manslaughter should be held to be, primâ facie, guilty of a burglary committed on his neighbour's house. Offences against the person ought to be distinguished from offences against property. There was another suggestion he wished to make. His noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley), in introducing the Bill had dwelt with much force and had brought forward valuable statistics to show the great number of persons who made a trade of thieving—who formed a sort of army making war upon society. He believed that was true; but he thought that if we merely endeavoured to repress crime by punishment we should succeed but very imperfectly. It was a recognized fact, that there was a great disposition on the part of children to follow the vocation of their fathers, and in the case of the children of thieves there was scarcely any alternative. They became thieves because they were educated in the way, and had no other trade to apply themselves to. To strike at the root of the evil he would suggest that if a man committed felony, all his children under the age, say of ten, should be taken from him and educated at the expense of the State. That, unquestionably, was a new proposition, and it would require great consideration. It might perhaps be said that it was putting a premium on crime, and that a man who wanted to provide for his children need, in that case, only commit felony to accomplish his object; but he believed the effect would be just the contrary. He believed no respectable person would commit felony for such a purpose; and that if we knew more about the feelings of thieves, their Lordships he believed would find that there was among them a particular species of morality, that they were not devoid of natural affection; that though they considered themselves the enemies of society, yet they had fidelity towards each other and affection for their children, and he believed their Lordships would find that to take their children away from such persons would be a very effectual mode of punishment: and he believed the expense, which would no doubt be considerable in the first instance, would be more than re-paid by the diminution of crime in after years. Whether he should feel it his duty to press this in Com- mittee would depend on the support it was likely to receive. There were two matters to which he might refer. It was very desirable that something like uniformity should be established in the punishments awarded to prisoners. With the Judges at Westminster Hall there was, whether expressly or impliedly, a scale by which punishments were awarded for different offences; but with magistrates and at quarter sessions, there was nothing of the kind. Undoubtedly, a large latitude and discretion must be permitted; but he still thought that it was possible that some scale might be established which would do away with the glaring differences which so frequently appeared between the punishments awarded in different parts of the country for offences of precisely similar character. He would also throw out, as a suggestion, whether it was worth while to make a criminal plead at all either guilty or not guilty, with the almost certain knowledge of everybody that, if he pleaded not guilty, in nine cases out of ten the plea was a falsehood. He ought simply to be put on his trial as soon as his identity with the person mentioned in the indictment was admitted by him or proved, and he should not be encouraged, as he is now, to utter a deliberate falsehood on a solemn occasion when the discovery of truth was the real object. These, however, were but subordinate matters. He had merely thrown these suggestions out for the consideration of his noble Friend, and would assure him that he would do all in his power to assist him in carrying into effect what was the real object of the Bill—the reduction in the number of criminals and the better security of property.


said, there was no doubt in his mind nor, he believed, in the minds of their Lordships, that some change in the law was absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, their mode of dealing with criminals hitherto had not been a success. He agreed with the general scope of this Bill, but on the other hand, he thought it might be very easy to carry the principle on which the Bill was framed too far. No doubt the object which the release of convicts on tickets of leave was intended to attain was to afford to the convicts so released the opportunity of returning to industrial occupations, and earning for themselves an honest livelihood. When the Act of 1864 was passed it was made imperative upon persons holding tickets of leave to report themselves to the police in the districts where they resided—that regulation had been greatly complained of by many persons, because if these persons were periodically, month after month, obliged to appear at a police-station, which sometimes might be at a considerable distance from their residences, there was a great chance of the fact coming out that they had once been thieves, and then they were likely to lose their employment, by which means the great object which was sought to be obtained by the issue of those tickets was at once defeated. But the new Bill went further, and gave power to a police-constable to take up any individual without any offence, but on mere suspicion. This would make it still more difficult for persons of that class to avail themselves of any opportunity to do good to themselves or to obtain employment. He thought the power given to a single policeman to apprehend, or to a single magistrate to commit such a man on mere suspicion was not only too great, too vague, but represented a principle hitherto unknown to our law. He did not object to the rules and regulations with respect to licenses. They might make them as stringent as they pleased, he had no fear that under the control of the Secretary of State they would be made too hard. What he should suggest was, that the fourth clause of the Bill should be struck out. He approved of many of the suggestions of the noble and learned Lord who spoke last, (Lord Romilly) but he certainly could not agree with his suggestion that the State should take and educate the children of criminals. He did not believe, indeed, that such an inducement would lead any respectable man to become a thief; but there was a pretty large class which, though not criminal, was not very respectable, and the temptation to them of having their children provided for by the State, he feared, would be stronger than they could, resist. With respect to the clauses that dealt with houses which were the habitual resort of thieves, he would remind their Lordships that many of them held licenses, and he would suggest that for the first offence the license should be taken from them, whether it was granted by the Excise or by the magistrates. He trusted that a Bill so important as the present one would receive full discussion at their Lordships' hands.


I think, my Lords, that the principle of this Bill it is impossible for any one to gainsay. Certainly, the principle is a perfectly legitimate one, that those who have been guilty of repeated offences should, after the expiration of their sentences, for the better security of society be placed under constant supervision. But then the character of that supervision must depend very much upon the greater or less discretion with which it is exercised. If you carry the supervision beyond a certain point and make it too stringent—as by this Bill I think it certainly will be—you probably run the risk of a great evil, because you will be shutting up more closely than they are now shut up all the openings to employment and access to industrial occupations. A man watched at every step and moment of his existence, and becoming more notorious, as he is sure to be before long by the action of the police and a thousand other circumstances, will find the door of ordinary employment shut against him, and will be driven to the choice between violence and starvation. Your Lordships will recollect that, when the Bill of 1864 was before this House, your Lordships listened to the arguments which I used, and rejected the proposal rendering it imperative upon a ticket-of-leave man to report himself to the police once a month. The House of Commons, however, restored the clause, and your Lordships not insisting on your Amendment, the Bill containing that provision received the Royal Assent. I am satisfied, from the minute inquiry that I have been able to make, that the provision has been nearly an absolute failure. I know that the eminent man, whose recent loss we so much deplore—Sir Richard Mayne—thought otherwise, and that the system had been successful. I do not think that the success was such as Sir Richard Mayne anticipated. It must be remembered that the stringency of that provision drove many of the principal thieves from London, and thus though the effect of that provision might have been in some degree to purify the metropolis, I do not believe it in any way purified the country. For a long time a vast number of these men did not and have not reported themselves, although it is true that a large number have done so. The noble Earl has stated, on the authority of the late Sir Richard Mayne, that the police have through this clause been en- abled to procure employment for a good many of the ticket-of-leave men. When the noble Earl made that statement I have no doubt that he altogether believed what he said, but he has adduced no proof, and I think I may safely defy him to do so. It may be that some situations have been obtained for these men through the exertions of the police and the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society; but the direct action of the police in this direction has been vain. At any rate, of this I am certain—that, whatever Returns the police may make of the places they have obtained for released convicts, they have not obtained anything like the number that those men obtained for themselves before the adoption of so stringent a provision. The burden of the provision, indeed, presses upon them with great weight and severity, and many—I have heard from some this very day—who have been anxious to forsake the life they had been loading have found this clause a great obstacle, because the result of their reporting themselves is frequently to reveal the fact that they possess tickets of leave not only to their employers, but—what is a more serious evil—to their fellow-workmen also. The greatest obstacle to the employment of these men at present is the body of men with whom they are to be associated. Now, my Lords, let me point out to you in what way this extended system of supervision would act. I desire to guard myself against possible misrepresentation in respect of what I am about to say of the metropolitan police. I admit that the superintendents, the inspectors, the sergeants, and a very great majority of the men of that force are honest and upright men, and discharge their duty with efficiency, and in a manner that entitles them to the thanks of the community; but we must remember that the police force is a very large body. It consists of some 7,000 or 8,000 individuals, and in such a number it is impossible but that there must be some individuals of indifferent character. From time to time we see in the police reports cases in which bad conduct has been proved against policemen; but what is proved in private we do not see; but if we had access to the records in the offices of the Police Commissioners we should find that the Commissioners have to deal with many cases in which complaints are privately made of members of the force, and that men are dismissed because it has been found that they are unworthy of being trusted. Again, I say that these are only exceptions to the general rules and that the majority of the body discharge their duties honestly and properly. But when considering the power, proposed to be given to police-constables by the 4th clause of this Bill we must not forget that we are about to put great power into the hands of some men at least who are exceptions to the general rule. Now, my Lords, the 4th clause states that— Any constable or police-constable may, without a warrant, take into custody any convict who is a holder of a ticket of leave. The clause then goes on to state that the police-constable may take such holder of a ticket of leave before a magistrate, and that, if the prisoner is unable to show that he is pursuing an honest course with the view of gaining a livelihood, the magistrate may send him back to the punishment from which he had been relieved. There are many men who having been convicted, and having subsequently obtained tickets of leave, are now earning an honest livelihood and are in the receipt of good wages. Now, though the policeman might say nothing to the man yet it might be pretty clearly conveyed to him that unless he were willing to pay hush-money he would be arrested and exposed. It is easy to get up a case of suspicion against a man. He may be made to pass through a suspected locality or may be accidentally brought into the company of persons whom there is good reason to suspect. A bad policeman could effect this by indirect means. Well, the holder of the ticket of leave goes before a magistrate, and what happens? He proves that he is earning an honest livelihood, and the magistrate dismisses him. He returns to his work, and his employer dismisses him also. It has occurred before now that men have been dismissed by their employers under somewhat similar circumstances, and will be likely to occur still more frequently under the present Bill. How can you compensate a man for such a loss as that? You cannot do it; and yet you expose men who may be earning an honest livelihood to the danger of that happening to them if they refuse a demand for hush-money, or in any other way give offence to a dishonest police-constable. I know at the present moment a young man who, though convicted, is now in re- spectable employment, and in the receipt of good wages. He is living in terror lest, under the circumstances to which I have referred, this provision having become law, he may be brought before a police-magistrate, and with the inevitable consequence of being discharged by his employers. Depend on it that hundreds of men in that position are now watching the progress of this Bill. I do not object to stringency of punishment provided you accompany the system with such safeguards as will keep men from being exposed to the danger of losing that employment without any fault of their own. I think, indeed, it would be well if you wish to carry the whole of this Bill with its stringent provisions, you must introduce something very similar to the regulations for criminals in Ireland; you must have a public officer to whom must be committed the charge of the discharged criminals—a man who would exert himself with a view to their welfare, and who might be the means of obtaining for many of them an honest livelihood. Certainly, if something like this be not done, I am much afraid that a provision such as that which I object to in this 4th clause will create a new kind of crime, to which men will be driven by a feeling of desperation. I do not believe that the number of professional thieves is nearly so great as has been stated. The number of persons who are loading a dishonest life may be 20,000 or even more than that; but, when we speak of the "habitual criminals," the persons who give themselves to robbery and burglary as a profession, and desire no other mode of living, I believe the number might be reduced to one-third or one-fourth of 20,000. I believe you will effect a great deal in putting down crime by stringent measures as against the receivers of stolen goods and the keepers of marine stores, the latter denomination being only another name for receivers of stolen goods. The dealers in marine stores should be required to take out a license. Then with respect to smelting-pots, no one should be allowed to use smelting-pots except under the superintendence and supervision of the police, who should regulate the hours at which the smelting-pot was to be used. But, my Lords, it is not only to dealers in marine stores and the keepers of smelting-pots that stolen goods are disposed of. I believe that the largest depôts for such articles are beer-houses and low public-houses, By means of these places facilities are afforded for enormous plunder in London. Into them stolen articles are carried in detail and deposited until a heap is collected, when a person calls and takes the collection away, leaving a sum of money for the person or persons by whom the goods have been deposited. My Lords, I do not think that in this country, and with the advance of what may be called civilization, it will ever be possible to put down the practices of those who carry out robbery and burglary on principles of high art. The 20,000 robbers and burglars, of whom mention has been made to your Lordships, are vulgar practitioners; the highest order of thieves and burglars are persons of high intellectual power, scientific knowledge, and very considerable ingenuity, who, if they were engaged in honest pursuits, would, many of them, be sure to rise to high distinction. This class is much more likely to increase than diminish, because the whole of their system has been reduced to a complete science. No one can doubt their ability who has seen some of the instruments they have constructed. I heard of one of them the other day who has great skill in chemistry and photography. He boasts that in a very short time he could open any safe or break through any door that could be devised. I am told that this higher order of burglars and thieves meet from time to time as a kind of British Association for the advancement of science. In their conclave they compare notes and talk over the advances that have been made in their art. Those men are proud of their intellectual powers and glory in their practical achievements. I by no means concur in what has fallen from a noble and learned Lord this evening that the children of thieves are always thieves themselves, and that being such they should be specially regarded as objects of the public care—it is by no means the case. With the many and various temptations around them, we have almost as much to apprehend from the children of the better, as from that of the most degraded classes. Now as to another point. At present the law passes a far severer penalty upon the commission of the second offence than upon the first. I am not going to plead on behalf of those who have sinned once and a second time; but I wish to state that I believe that in a great number of instances the man is less guilty in committing the second offence than in committing the first. You may go through the list of all the thieves in the metropolis, and you will find very few instances in which the first offence was committed under the pressure of distress. The first is generally committed under the influence of bad associates, a desire for money, habits of gambling, the company of abandoned women, or similar causes. Nineteen-twentieths of first; crimes are caused by these things; but on the second occasion crime is often perpetrated under circumstances of the greatest distress. A person has been convicted of an offence and sent to prison. He comes out—he has lost his character—and finds it impossible to get a living by honest means. He commits a second theft, and is punished more severely for it than he had been for his first offence. It is right that he should be punished for the second offence; but I think he should be punished with a degree of mitigation if it be found that he has committed the second offence under circumstances which make it more excusable than his first offence had been. We are not considering, in the present Bill, the question of the repression of crime generally, but of the repression of habitual crime. The repression of crime is a much larger question, but I believe it may be treated with great hopes of success if we proceed to deal with it in the right way—by getting hold of the children of the poorer classes, bringing them up in the way they should go, and providing them with decent and honourable employment. By means of existing institutions many thousands of these children are now engaged in industrious occupation. There is another subject which I cannot pass over on the present occasion, and to which your Lordships' attention will very shortly have to be directed—I mean the class of cheap literature of the day which exercises a most deleterious and deadly influence over the children of all classes—an influence so great that even the parents of the worst families complain of the effect produced upon their families. The seeds of evil sown by this means will not fully ripen for some years, but if this class of literature be not repressed, in ten years' time its consequences will crop up in the most deadly proportion. I hope at some future time, with your Lordships' per- mission, to bring before you the whole subject—not with the view of asking your Lordships to pass a law upon it—because I believe it is beyond all law—but to set public opinion to work, which alone is capable of effectually dealing with this source of evil. I thank the Government heartily for having brought in a Bill of this character, and I hope that, with a few Amendments, the measure may be made to fulfil the important purpose for which it was intended.


I regard this measure as being, in many respects, a most valuable one, as it is, undoubtedly, a move in the right direction. In some respects, indeed, I should be inclined to say it scarcely goes quite far enough, while many of the clauses will require to be much modified before the Bill becomes law. I will not, however, trouble the House with any general observations upon the principle of the measure, but will content myself with referring to the remarks that have fallen from my noble Friend behind me (Lord Hylton), and from the noble Earl who spoke last. They both dwelt upon the fact, which is, after all, one of the most interesting facts of the whole measure, indeed the very essence of it, the supervision of discharged criminals. I want your Lordships to remember that transportation having now ceased, and ceased within only a few years, we have not as yet experienced the full effects which will result from turning out our criminals upon the country, and we must expect that, in a few years hence, a much greater number of criminals will be discharged upon the country than has been the case in former years. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley), in introducing the Bill the other night, told us that at the present time 1,500 or 1,600 criminals were discharged annually from the Government prisons; that that number would shortly amount to 2,000, and in a few years it might amount to 3,000. But, in addition to that number, there are upwards of 100,000 prisoners discharged annually from the various county and borough prisons, and I venture to say that a large proportion of these 100,000 criminals are quite as able and quite as apt in deteriorating and contaminating the rest of the population as the 2,000 or 3,000 convicts turned out from our great establishments. Under these circumstances, we have this alternative before us—we must devise means either for the absorption of these criminals into the great mass of the population, or for dealing with them by supervision. I do not see myself that there is any other alternative open to us in this matter. If we do not place discharged criminals under supervision we must take means to facilitate their absorption into the great bulk of the population. I cannot quite agree with the noble Earl when he says that the system of supervision has never been resorted to before, because it was adopted in the Act of 1864, and has been carried into operation with, as I am prepared to contend, very considerable success. The noble Earl dwelt upon the hardship which he says this system of supervision must entail upon its objects. I am far from saying that occasionally hardships might not have to be endured under its operation; but it must not be forgotten that Sir Richard Mayne, whose experience was so varied and so extensive, thought favourably of the system of supervision; and also General Cartwright, who has likewise had very considerable experience, reported in the most favourable manner of it. The system of supervision instituted by the statute of 1864 was that the discharged convict should report himself periodically to some person appointed for that purpose by the chief constable of the district. It is perfectly true that there have been evasions of those conditions; but the reason of those evasions is that each district has acted as it were by itself. Each chief constable has acted on his own authority, without very often being in communication even with the chief constable of the next district. The result has been that many persons have evaded the conditions by transferring themselves from one jurisdiction to another, where there was no means of identifying them, or of following them in any way. The Bill, however, provides a distinct remedy for the defects in the present system by directing that it shall be further extended, and it further provides that the system shall be consolidated, organized, and regulated by the establishment of a central criminal registry in the metropolis. I look upon the establishment of a central registry as the keystone of the whole system, and the Bill, by providing for it, will prove a great boon, because it will prevent many of the hardships and abuses which were pointed out by the noble Earl as likely to result from the adoption of a general system of supervision of discharged criminals. In that registry, which it is now for the first time proposed to establish, the whole of the antecedents of the discharged prisoners will be carefully entered. I had myself, last year, the opportunity of seeing in Liverpool a registration office which has been established there in order to provide for exactly the same object, and I understand, on the same principle, as that sought by the present measure. I inquired very carefully into the operation of the office, because I was most anxious to know what the manner of its working was; and so far as the inquiry led I satisfied myself that that registration made the supervision of the district a very effective piece of police machinery; and, so far from acting with any hardship toward the persons registered, it obviated all abuses, the convict himself entering into free communication with the officers of the registration department, who were frequently able to provide the men with honest employment. If the registry provided by that Bill could be of a similar character, and could act in the same way, he was convinced that it would be a great boon and benefit. I must, however, take the liberty of pointing out to the noble Earl opposite, who has charge of the measure, what I anticipate will prove a great improvement of one of its provisions. The noble Earl proposes to place this registry under the control of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Now, I think that the registry ought to be in close and direct communication with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but I do not think that it should be placed under his control. The Commissioner of Police has already a large amount of business continually pressing upon him, and if this registry is to be effective it will require very careful and attentive management. Under these circumstances, I think that it should be placed under the control of an officer specially appointed for that purpose. In the next place the metropolitan police force is but one authority out of many, and there is no reason that I know of for investing it with peculiar privileges and powers; and, lastly—which is the strongest argument of all—my right hon. Friend must remember that the police are employed in detecting and hunting out crimes, and are constantly acting as prosecutors, while the officer placed at the head of this registration department would be acting just as much in the interest of the ticket-holder as against him. His business should be quite as much to find them honest employment as to prove that there had been a previous conviction; and he ought, accordingly, to stand as an independent and neutral authority. I would wish to see the authority at the head of this department occupying an intermediate position between the police and the discharged convicts. It is by no means one of the least merits of this Bill, in my eyes, that it contains provisions affecting the sentences of magistrates at quarter sessions and the punishments awarded under them. I know very well that it is a delicate matter to limit the discretion of the justices in awarding sentence. We discussed that question at length some three or four years ago. I recognize the validity of the argument that, if you have Judges, able, competent, and trustworthy men, it is well to place trust in them and repose in them every discretion. But the real answer is that which was touched upon by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Romilly) that there is great diversity in the sentences of the Judges and magistrates at quarter sessions, and that if you can, by legislation, give them some standard and scale according to which they may frame their sentences, you are seeming a very valuable object of judicial practice. It is not to be forgotten that the Act of 1864 did adopt the principle of limiting the discretion of the justices by laying down a certain minimum sentence. How far and in what way their discretion is to be limited is a question of degree into which I will not enter. It is a very difficult question; but at the same time it does seem to me that there are some principles which emerge from the wilderness of surrounding difficulties. The Bill contemplates two cases—that of a man who has been twice, and that of a man who has been thrice convicted of felony I will take the case first of a man who has been convicted twice. The Bill is perfectly right, I think, in treating the second conviction as a proof of incorrigible guilt; for I am sorry to say that I believe, generally speaking, in spite of what fell from my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) a second conviction is evidence that a man is becoming a confirmed criminal. I have certainly known cases where the fact was otherwise, and also cases where it was doubtful. But, on the other hand, I think it clear that the punishment for the second conviction ought not, under any circumstances, to be less than the punishment for the first. This is not a principle laid down in the Bill, but I think it well worth consideration whether such a limit as that might not be imposed. In awarding sentence too much regard is had very often to the value of the thing stolen rather than to the offence committed against the law. A man, for instance, whose first offence consists of stealing a sheep is committed to prison for nine or twelve months; but if, on the next occasion, he carries off some eggs he escapes with a couple of months' incarceration. I am convinced that is a mistake, and that the practice is harder in its results upon the criminal than if it had imposed upon him a severer sentence. Nothing can be more mischievous to the district to which a man belongs than his return after a short period spent in prison. Then, take the case of a man who has been convicted of felony for the third time. The Bill very rightly acknowledges that it is necessary to impose upon such a man a sentence of seven years' penal servitude. But I venture to ask my noble Friend why he stops there—why he limits the punishment though the offence may be repeated. The principle which should be acted upon is that punishment should go in proportion to the number of convictions. If seven years' penal servitude be a suitable punishment for three convictions, fourteen years would not be too great a punishment for four, and twenty years for five or six convictions, as the case might be. And this leads me on to say that I do believe in many of these cases it is a great misfortune that we do not impose longer sentences of incarceration. Numberless cases come before the criminal courts in which there have been as many as thirty convictions—sometimes forty, and I have known myself where there have been even fifty. It is idle to say that the subject of so many convictions is not absolutely and hopelessly hardened; they belong to a class of persons on whom punishment is really wasted, and the only thing that remains is to shut them up for the rest of their lives and keep them out of the possibility of doing any harm to society. I believe that such a course is best for them and for society, and that no objection to it can be reasonably urged, The convict establishments of this country are already paying their way, and the surplus cost is very light; on the other hand, if you look at the cost which a criminal puts the State to in his detection, trial, and other criminal proceedings, it is perfectly clear that the cheapest course for the country would be to shut him up. As far as the man himself is concerned, it is also the most humane and the kindest course. He exchanges a most miserable state of life outside the prison walls for one of comparative cleanliness and order inside. And if you calculate the time which such a man has spent in prison, broken only by the shorter intervals during which he has been let loose and again re-captured, it will be found that the difference between the period actually spent in prison and a life-long sentence would really be very slight in amount.


wished to know why the operation of the Bill was to be confined to England and Wales? In one place, and in one place only, was the United Kingdom mentioned, and that was in the clause which provided for the establishment of a register of convicts. If the measure was attended with the degree of success that was anticipated, he feared the criminal classes would find existence in England so disagreeable that they would take refuge across the Border, or across the water, as the case might be—which would naturally prove very disagreeable to the country receiving them, which had already a sufficiency of the class manufactured at home. He was, of course, quite aware that the criminal law of Scotland differed in many respects from that of England; and, consequently, the clauses of this Bill might not in all respects be applicable. But he was informed that the Bill did contain provisions which were applicable to the case of Scotland, such as the clause which proposed upon a person once convicted the burden of subsequently proving that he was earning an honest living; and perhaps the Government might usefully refer the point for the consideration of the Law Officers.


My Lords, I take a deep interest in this question, because the early part of this Bill—the most important part of its principle—is nothing more nor less than an extension of that principle of police supervision which I myself induced your Lordships to throw out in 1864. The Bill came here late in the Session, and the clause which your Lordships struck out was reinserted in the Bill in the other House; and now, after a space of four years, your Lordships are asked, not only to retain that principle of supervision, but to extend it much further—and to carry it, indeed, to such an extent that, I do not hesitate to say that, if Parliament should pass this Bill in its present form it will be the duty of every man who takes an interest in the welfare of the criminal classes of the country to get the system of ticket of leave abolished altogether. Already the supervision exercised is such as to neutralize all the advantages that lie at the bottom of the ticket-of-leave system—namely, the enabling a certain portion of the criminal classes, after they have undergone their punishment, to be again absorbed in the population. Under this measure, however, a man once convicted would be an object of continued persecution and supervision; he would be liable to be hunted down by any policeman who was his enemy, and sent tack to prison under circumstances of great exaggeration. I am very glad, from the remarks of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Portman), who is so high an authority, and the noble Earl who takes so deep an interest in these matters (the Earl of Shaftesbury), that this question will be seriously debated in Committee, and I trust that those clauses will be struck out. I wish to say one word on this principle of police supervision. Surely it would be well to consider whether, in admitting this principle—very new, alien to the habits of our people, and liable to be abused by some members in so large a body as the police—we are gaining anything of substantial value sufficient to authorize your Lordships in departing from your former legislation? If you can show me that the effect of adopting the principle of supervision will be such as really to root out the criminal classes, or even to make crime so difficult, so annoying, and so miserable as greatly to lessen the number of persons who are addicted to it, no doubt in such a case no theoretical principle of the liberty of the subject ought to stand in the way. In 1846 I had the honour of introducing a Bill into the House of Commons for introducing the reformatory system. Experience has since shown that all attempts to check the progress of crime in England by legislation of this kind, unaccompanied by preventive measures, have been totally useless. What is this Bill? I venture to say it is not the Bill of the present Government or of any Government at all—it has come to them from without. It is true that a distinguished authority has told us lately that this is the proper course of legislation, and that in obeying the voice of public opinion the Government did its duty. Now I must say that I think this author of this Bill ought to be named. The real author of this Bill is Sir Walter Crofton. It is the embodiment of the principles on which that gentleman consistently acted in his Irish practice, and which he has urged very strongly upon England for some years at public meetings and otherwise. No doubt a great deal of good has been done in Ireland; but there is this difference between the two countries. The measure has been in a great degree carried out in Ireland under Sir Walter Crofton's personal superintendence and that of subordinates whom he educated in his system. In this way the measure has, no doubt, been productive of great advantage in Ireland, and the evils incident to police supervision have been very much reduced. Now, however, we are asked to carry out a measure in England with all its disadvantages of a departure from our established social system, and to do it without any such men as Sir Walter Crofton or his trained subordinates to superintend its working. What will be the practical result of the Bill if it becomes law? That a large number of the criminals of this country may, at any moment, be taken up by the police and sent back to prison. And for what amount of incarceration? For a year. Have your Lordships reflected on the enormous number of men who are now living under distinct police supervision, who are known to the police both by sight and by name, and any one of whom, if this Bill passes, may lie apprehended and committed to prison for one year? I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that not less than 1,000 persons might be taken up under this clause. If the effect of that would be to clear the country of so many criminals I am not the man to demur to it; but when the year is over the men will come out again, and they will find themselves under the same circumstances, equally incapable of any other life than that which they have pursued, and there will be no other resource but to send them back to prison for another year. I agree with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) that if you wish to deal finally and absolutely with these criminals there is no other way of doing it except by some form of imprisonment for life. In short, whether in respect to severity on the one hand, or laxity on the other, there is more in the Bill to criticize than to applaud. I shall be glad if the clauses of this Bill can be considered in a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. My noble Friend cast some slur on the proceedings of the Select Committees of this House; but during the short experience I have had in your Lordships' House, I have never seen a mode of discussing serious subjects in which matters have been more fairly stated and more deeply judged and considered than in Committees of your Lordships' House. I trust that, in any event, when the clauses of this Bill come before your Lordships they will receive the greatest consideration.


said, he hoped the Bill would not be referred to a Select Committee. It was desirable that such a Bill should be brought directly under the consideration of the public, and that could only be done by a discussion in the full House. He trusted the Government would not allow the measure to be frittered away by the elimination of the clauses relative to police supervision, because the principle of police supervision was the essence of the measure. He quite agreed with what was said by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) as to the necessity of providing an able coadjutor for the Chief Commissioner of Police, to assist him in the discharge of the increased duties which would necessarily be thrust upon him. He begged to differ, however, from the noble Earl, who thought that a trifling second offence should be as severely punished as a grave second offence. So far from an extreme punishment for a trifling second offence being desirable, or likely to promote the object in view, it would have quite a contrary effect. For himself, he thought it was very doubtful whether a man who had been convicted three or four times was ever afterwards absorbed in the honest and industrious portion of the population. There was a great deal of truth in what had been said as to the desirableness of finding some sort of employment for criminals in certain cases, and he hoped some mode of doing this would be devised in connection with the registry to be kept for criminals. With respect to punishments, there was undoubtedly a great advantage of having a scale, so as to introduce some degree of uniformity; but such a system could not be rigidly carried out, and it would be better in all cases to leave a latitude for circumstances that might arise. Still there should be rather more classification than was contained in the Bill. In its essence the measure was a good one; it was a great attempt to meet an admitted and increasing evil. It was necessary to do something, and he believed the measure proposed by the noble Earl would meet with the general concurrence of the House.


, before replying to one or two of the objections which had been made against some of the provisions of the Bill, which he would do very shortly, wished to clear away some misapprehension which existed out-of-doors with reference to a statement he made the other night as to the value of convict labour. It was extremely important that there should be no misunderstanding on this point. Those who looked to the judicial statistics alone might think he had been incorrect in stating that convict labour re-paid the expense of the maintenance of the convicts; but a memorandum had been prepared upon the subject by Colonel Henderson, late Director of Convict Prisons, which showed that the estimate made by him had not been made in any mere arbitrary manner, but was based strictly upon facts. That memorandum, which was open for the inspection of noble Lords, was to this effect— The valuation of the labour of the convicts employed on the public works at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Portland is arrived at by actual careful measurement, priced out on a Schedule of Prices which have been approved by the three public Departments—namely, the War, Admiralty, and Convict Departments, for whom the convicts work, and a resumé of the details of the measurements is published annually by the Directors of Convict Prisons and laid before Parliament. Every possible effort hag been made to render these measurements and valuations unimpeachable, and the whole system will bear the most rigid investigation. The remissions are governed entirely by industry, tested by measurement of work, good conduct being a sine quâ non; misconduct involving loss of credit gained by industry. The reports of prison chaplains do not affect a prisoner's remission. Passing from this point he desired to make one or two remarks upon some suggestions that had been thrown out in reference to the Bill, and for which he felt very much obliged. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had adverted to the great hardship that would result from convicts upon license being required to report themselves monthly to the police. He quite agreed with the noble Earl in that observation. It was obvious that such a system would put these men to great inconvenience, for if they were in employment, they would have to ask leave once a month in order to go and report themselves to the police. That would prove a great hindrance to the man in the way of earning his livelihood, and was not at all necessary for the purposes of proper supervision. All that was wanted in reality was that convicts at large upon license should report to the police any change of residence. This gave quite sufficient control over him, and the monthly reporting system might therefore be very well dispensed with, and he understood that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had no objection to such a course. Clause 5 of the Bill provided that the Secretary of State might insert in any license, granted under the Penal Servitude Act, conditions different from, or in addition to, those contained in the Penal Servitude Act. This would, to a very considerable extent, meet the objections of his noble Friend; for he was not at all disposed to disagree with the noble Earl in thinking that the police supervision should not be carried too far. He thoroughly agreed with his noble Friend that, in exercising control over the convicts, care should be taken not to exercise it in such a way as to prevent them returning to honest employment. If they made these men desperate they would become worse instead of better, and caution was consequently essentially necessary. While this was so, however, they would all be of opinion that a certain amount of police supervision was not only necessary, but might be maintained without injury to the convicts. Colonel Henderson had pre-I pared a memorandum upon the present mode of conducting this supervision in the metropolis, and in order to give their Lordships correct information on the subject before the Bill went into Committee he proposed to lay the Paper on the table with a view to its being printed, and similar information would, if possible, be procured from other parts of the country. He wished the House to observe that the great object of the Bill was to make the supervision more perfect, as at present it was not sufficiently satisfactory in consequence of the absence of the registry and that species of supervision which it was now proposed to establish. His noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) had made some objection as to the mode of keeping the register; he would see if improvement could be made in that respect. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) drew a melancholy picture of the position of thieves and ill-doors unable to obtain employment in consequence of the supervision they were now subject to, and he was astonished to hear the noble Earl go so far as to say that a man was rather better when he committed a second offence than he was on the commission of his first offence. If that were so, it would, be hard to say to what degree of improvement he might have arrived when he committed his tenth offence. Neither could he go along with another noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) who thought that the punishment of a man should be increased in severity in proportion as his offences multiplied. That would be proceeding upon the reverse of the principle of forgiving one's adversary seventy times, and would rather be rendering him liable to seventy times more punishment than he might receive for the first crime. Such a continually ascending scale of punishment could not be carried out. The Bill went quite far enough when it declared that the minimum sentence for a third offence should be penal servitude for seven years. A noble Lord who spoke early in the debate (Lord Hylton) had directed attention to what he called the evils that might arise from vesting very large powers in the hands of a single policeman. When their Lordships came to read Colonel Henderson's memorandum, however, they would find that these large powers were not vested in the hands of a single policeman,—at all events, not in London—because that functionary had no power to arrest until he had reported to the Chief Commissioner and received instructions. That was the principle upon which the system of supervision embraced in the Bill would be worked out. Judging from the debate which had taken place the general feeling of the House seemed to be in favour of the Bill; and he thought that when the measure went into Committee it would be perfectly possible to discuss all the Amendments which might be desirable. He had been asked why the Bill was not extended to Scotland? The reason was because the criminal law in Scotland differed so very considerably from that of England that it would be impossible or inconvenient to embrace the two countries in a single Bill. Should this Bill be passed he had no doubt that the introduction of a similar system into Scotland would be looked upon favourably.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday, the 15th Instant.