§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.
§ Bill read 3a (according to Order).
§ LORD LEIGH
My Lords, I have an Amendment to move upon Clause 9, Sub-section B, that the words "in addition to or" be omitted. The effect of this will be to do away entirely with the preliminary imprisonment of children sent to reformatory schools. I believe I am correct in saying that in no country throughout the world but England is it found necessary, or believed to be necessary, that children should qualify for the reformatory schools by passing through the prisons. I remember 35 years ago accompanying a well-known head of French reformatories, M. de Metz, to discuss the subject with the then Home Secretary, Sir George Grey, and M. de Metz at that time expressed himself strongly against children being sent to prison at all. In every reformatory in England there are registers kept showing the history of all the boys; and if any of your Lordships would refer to those registers, as I have done on many occasions, you would find that something like 75 per cent, of those children have parents who have absolutely and entirely neglected them, and are not fit to have the management of them. And if you would refer, also, to the same register, you will find that when the children leave the schools something like 90 per cent. of those who have passed through the reformatory schools are doing well and earning their livelihood in an honest manner. I think, therefore, it is clear, and I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that it is not the fault of these poor children themselves that they have had to go to the reformatory schools, but that they have been really suffering punishment for the faults of their parents. I am convinced that the gaols are not fit places of punishment for children, and I think I may 643 speak with some authority as being an old Visiting Magistrate of my county prison. I have never found that a child who had been passed through the prison was benefited or improved by going there, but that, on the contrary, he left the gaol much worse in character than when he went into it. It is upon those grounds that I strongly object to children being sent to gaol befors being sent to a reformatory school. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ Amendment moved, in Clause 9, Subsection (b.), line 32, to leave out the words "in addition to or."—(The Lord Leigh.)
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
My Lords, the present Bill differs a good deal from the existing law in one or two respects. Under the existing law it is required that the offender shall undergo a preliminary imprisonment of at least 10 days before going to the reformatory school. It was thought, after inquiry by the Royal Commission, unnecessary to go as far as that and to that extent. I entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am very glad that this provision should be done away with, that it should be necessary to send the child to prison before he went to the reformatory school at all. This Bill, therefore, has been drawn upon different lines, and that proviso making it necessary for the Magistrate to send the child to prison before going to the reformatory is entirely done away with by this Bill. But now the noble Lord wants to go further. The clause to which he objects is in thesewords—Where a youthful offender is convicted of an offence punishable with penal servitude, or imprisonment, and either appears to the Court to be not less than 14 years of age, or is proved to have been previously convicted of an offence punishable by penal servitude or imprisonment, the Court may, in addition to, or in lieu of, sending him to a reformatory school, send him to prison.I think, my Lords, that is a very proper power to give to the Magistrates. It seems to me it is quite right they should have that power. The compulsory enactment is done away with, but power is left to the Magistrate, if he thinks it right, to send the offender to prison in addition to the reformatory school—to send him there first. I hope, therefore, 644 the noble Lord's Amendment will not be carried.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ LORD NORTON
My Lords, I have given notice, of an additional clause, the effect of which is this: that where the punishment of children by imprisonment is necessary, it should not be imprisonment in the common gaols, but in places suitable for the purpose. I am supported in that view by the answers to a Circular which has been sent round to all the Petty Sessions in England. I think, also, by the Report upon which this Bill is founded. Now, the addition I want to make to this clause provides for children, if they are imprisoned at all, being sent to "suitable places for the imprisonment of children," which, to my mind, should be a properly fitted lock-up in connection with the police stations attached to every Petty Sessions in the country, or else the Government should provide proper places in the neighbourhood of a few Reformatories in different parts of he Kingdom. That represents no great cost. Aggravated cases of juvenile crime do not come within my proposition. They will, of course, be treated in a different manner from ordinary juvenile offenders. In ordinary cases of juvenile crime imprisonment should not be in a common gaol. I am fortified in that view by the opinion of the Commissioners. If the noble Viscount will refer to the 27th page of the Report of the Commissioners, he will see that the Commissioners give the arguments brought before them in favour of using common prisons for children, and the arguments brought before them, which were much stronger against using common prisons for children. They suggest that all punishment of children should be short, sharp, and apart from the subsequent schooling. The argument against using common prisons for the purpose of a great number of witnesses was that the system was mischievous, that it deprived the gaol of all its terrors as a means of punishment, tended to harden and corrupt young offenders by inevitable contact with older criminals, cast a permanent taint upon their characters, often preventing them from obtaining employment, and added to the difficulties of their restoration to a respectable life. Those are very strong reasons, my 645 Lords, against sending young children to a common gaol. The arguments the other way, in favour of sending young offenders to prison, are confined to only aggravated cases of juvenile crime, which, as I say, do not come within the purview of this Bill at all. Therefore, those arguments are not directed against my proposition at all. As I have said, the whole weight of the Commissioners' opinion is that imprisonment is not a proper punishment for young children, at least not in a common gaol. It is the opinion, also, of the Commissioners that in the great majority of ordinary offences committed by boys whipping is altogether a far better punishment than imprisonment. But if imprisonment is the sentence passed by the Magistrate, then there should be suitable places provided for it. That is the whole proposition that I have to make to your Lordships, and I hope that the noble Viscount may be willing to accept the addition to this clause which I propose.
After Clause 9, insert as a new Clause: "No such youthful offender, except in case of aggravated crime, shall he punished by confinement in a common gaol; but, if sentenced to imprisonment, shall be kept In a lock-up connected with the Petty Sessions where he has been sentenced, until a suitable place of confinement be found for him connected with some certified reformatory."—(The Lord Norton.)
§ THE EARL OF RAVENSWORTH
My Lords, I have no doubt the House entirely sympathises with my noble Friend in his desire not to subject children even for a probationary period, by whatever name the punishment may be called, to the contamination of a prison. But I want to know where these places are to be found. At present they do not exist. And I want also to know when a child is ordered to be shut up and is not to be let out for a certain period what is he to do? He may be there for seven or 14 days; and I should like to know who is to look after him during that time? I venture to think there may be other places than a prison where a child may be detained and looked after, where he can be punished without the necessity of being contaminated by being sent to prison. The law requires that a child who is to be sent to prison must be sentenced first, but to enact that a child must not go to prison, but to some other 646 place, before you know that such other place exists, or arrange for what the child is to do, or who is to take care of him when he is sent there, is, I must say, rather wild legislation.
§ LORD NORTON
If your Lordships will allow me, I should like to point out that the proposal to imprison for short terms young children in lock-ups is not a new thing. It is done at the present time in Scotland; and if such places are not to be found I propose that the Government should make the necessary provision at police stations, or connected with some few reformatory schools themselves.
§ THE EARL OF POWIS
My Lords, I think it very undesirable that youthful offenders should be kept for an indefinite time in lock-ups. There are a great many police stations and lock-ups where there is no suitable accommodation for children, and where there would be nobody to look after them. The noble Lord who moves this Amendment speaks of having special lock-ups constructed in certain places to be used for this purpose, but this clause would confine the imprisonment to the particular lock-ups connected with the Petty Sessions where the child was sentenced. The "suitable places" which he proposes do not exist, because places of that kind which do exist are used merely for keeping adult prisoners at the present time for a day or two until they can be removed to the county gaol. It might very well be that a week or 10 days might elapse before the child could be sent to the reformatory school which the county is connected with, or subscribes to, and as a considerable delay might take place before he could be so got rid of, it would be necessary that there should be some one to take care of him. Therefore, my Lords, I think it would be very undesirable that a child should be kept in a lock-up which was certainly not built or intended for the purpose of keeping children in confinement for any considerable time.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
My Lords, I have already pointed out to your Lordships that it is only under certain circumstances that the Magistrates would ever think of sending children to prison; they would not do so if they could possibly help it, unless they were compelled. But when a child is sent to 647 prison, he must have the protection which the prison laws give him. When the children are in prison they are protected by the law, and it is the duty of the prison officials to see that proper precautions are taken in respect of their health, clothing, and food. When we come to these imaginary places which, according to the noble Lord's suggestion, are to be built at some time or other at somebody's expense—I do not know whose—I cannot imagine what security we shall get that proper discipline would be enforced, and that the children would have that protection which a prison affords under the Prison Acts, Acts which have been very carefully drawn. The noble Lord quoted the evidence which is given on page 27 of the Report of the Commissioners, but he entirely forgot, I think, the object for which the Commissioners quoted that evidence. It is for this reason: They say that on no subject are prison managers more unanimous in opinion than in regard to the conviction and imprisonment of children being sent to the schools. I must ask the House, therefore, not to accept this Amendment, because I think that, in the interests of the children themselves, it would be an extremely hard measure.
§ THE EARL OF RAVENSWORTH
I am very sorry to trouble the House so often, but I should like to say a few words on Clause 22. It is only two or three days ago that I presented a very important Petition from the Mayor and Corporation of Chichester against this clause. That clause makes it for the first time compulsory upon every County Council and every Borough Council to contribute to the expenses of management of every such school, at the rate of not less than 2s. 6d. per week. Up to this time these contributions have been optional, and I want to know very much, from the noble Viscount, what are the grounds upon which that optional payment has now been converted into a compulsory subscription. This is a very serious amount, as it involves a large amount of expenditure for the purposes to which your Lordships are asked to give your sanction. I, therefore, hope there may be some reason given for that which has hitherto been an optional payment being now made compulsory. I would call attention to the fact that in 648 all the other clauses it is stated that the County Councils "may" do so and so, but in this particular clause the little word "shall" which is introduced in substitution for it, is very potent, indeed.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
I may explain that' this is practically an arrangement with the Treasury, which, I think, would be to the advantage of the County Councils. They gave up their right as between the Councils and themselves inter se to the contributions from the parents, and, therefore, they say they think it right that they should have the power to make these payments compulsory. The matter was considerably discussed in Committee. By the arrangement with, the Treasury, the sums of money contributed by the parents, which used to go to the Treasury, are given up, and this, charge was substituted.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.