HL Deb 29 March 1944 vol 131 cc324-57

LORD SOUTHWOOD rose to call attention to the problems of juvenile delinquency; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, as indicated by the terms of my Motion, I desire to direct attention to the problems of juvenile delinquency and to endeavour to offer some constructive suggestions. This matter of juvenile delinquency is one which has long occupied the attention of all who are concerned with social welfare. The Government, I know, are alive to its importance. Only last week the Home Secretary, in announcing his intention to set up a Council to advise him on the problem of offenders in general, stated that special attention would be given to the subject of juvenile delinquency. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has shown a very keen desire to improve the panels of magistrates appointed to serve in juvenile courts. It is particularly important that the whole question of juvenile delinquency should be examined—fully and thoroughly—especially now when the causes are aggravated by the abnormal conditions created by the war. In approaching the issue, it is of great importance 10 strive to get a balanced view. Many people are, I know, prone to exaggerate its extent. Let me emphasize at the outset that there is no doubt that the main body of the children of this country are thoroughly sound, well-conducted, law-abiding, and a credit to their parents. On the other hand, it is just as dangerous to underestimate as to exaggerate. With your permission, I would like to give some enlightening figures about children and young persons in England and Wales found guilty of indictable offences. But, first of all, may I say that I regard this problem not so much as a matter of statistics, but as a challenge to air social order?

Now here are the facts. In 1939 the total number of juveniles found guilty was 30,543; in 1940, the first full year of war, it was 41,878; in 1941 the figure rose to 43,216; in 1942 it fell to 38,181, and I am informed that the total for 1943 was approximately 38,500 It is of interest to note that these figures show that just under one in every 100 of the entire juvenile population in England and Wales within the ages covered—that is between 8 and 17—were found guilty of an indictable offence. And it must not be forgotten that for every child found guilty, there are bound to be many more who commit offences and who never come before the courts. In assessing the relative seriousness of juvenile delinquency, it is worth noting that even in 1938, the last year, before the war, the figures for children and young persons found guilty were 36 per cent. of the whole total of convictions in all courts, including adults. These returns indicate the extent of the problem in England and Wales. What about Scotland? I am informed by the Secretary of State for Scotland that last year there were 19,686 cases in which charges were proved. That was well over 4,000 above the figures for the first year of the war.

May I just for a moment speak of some of the causes of child delinquency? These are many and complicated. One of the chief is, unquestionably, bad housing with consequent overcrowding. Parents of families who live in houses with inadequate accommodation are compelled to encourage their children to go into the streets during their leisure hours to secure peace and quiet for the grown-ups and the very young. The only playing-place is the street, and the street is, unfortunately, too often the path to temptation and to wrong-doing. As one social investigator put it, "The street-corner is as morally dangerous for children as the middle of the road is physically dangerous to their elders." A squalid, sordid overcrowded home—the type of home in which all too many of our citizens are unfortunately condemned to spend their lives—is a breeding ground for crime. Another general cause of juvenile delinquency—possibly in war-time the principal cause—is what I might term the "broken family." By this I mean a household where either parent may have died, or be absent through causes other than death, such as legal separation, the father serving with the Forces, or the mother working in industry.

There are, of course, a great number of other causes, among them prolonged unemployment in pre-war days with the consequent deterioration of family life; low wages with the accompanying misery of debased living conditions; constant quarrelling among the parents; in some cases, deliberate cruelty or drunkenness. For these last-mentioned types, I do not think it inappropriate to suggest that it is the parents and not the young delinquents who need the corrective treatment. In war-time, apart from the absence of one or both parents and the consequent relaxation of discipline, there are of course a number of special reasons why juvenile delinquency is more prevalent. Among them there is the interruption of normal school life owing to evacuation and other causes; and there is the black-out which enables escapades to be made under cover of darkness. There is, too, the unhealthy stimulation of the period through which we are passing, and in all too many cases there are young people earning far more money than is good for them.

Now I ask your attention for a moment to the type of offences committed by children and young persons. Undoubtedly the main offences amongst boys consist of stealing and breaking-in and entering. A bicycle is left standing against a wall; the chance is easy, the risk seems small, and the bicycle is taken away. Perhaps a shop offers peculiar temptations—particularly the type of shop with open counters. Gas meters and automatic machines are broken into. Careless elders leave loose sums of money lying about. An untenanted furnished house may offer the prospect of easy plunder. All too often these youngsters, led by an adventurous lad, go about in gangs deliberately bent on wrong-doing. I think I am right in saying that over 5o per cent. of crimes committed by boys are done in groups of three or more. The boys who succumb most frequently to these temptations are chiefly in the twelve to fourteen age-groups. On an average, the thirteens are the worst. Think of it, my Lords, thirteen the peak age for juvenile crime!

I am speaking of "boys" advisedly, because the number of girl offenders of these ages is substantially lower. This is no doubt partly due to the fact that the girls are less adventurous, and, as far as indictable offences are concerned, the police, very naturally, are disposed to be more lenient and the parents to be more protective. Less than 10 per cent. of offenders found guilty of larceny and breaking-in are girls. Their danger age comes later. Many cannot resist the lure of shop-lifting—more especially in time of war, when the temptation is so great. There is, too, at the present time, the attraction of the companionship of men in uniform with its attendant consequences. And all social observers feel very disturbed at the increasing tendency of immature girls to visit public houses and to drink intoxicants—some even before they reach the age at which they are legally entitled to do so. One cannot always blame the publican; appearances nowadays may be very deceptive. Another important point that requires attention is the undesirable type of dance hall. I would like to make it quite clear that I am not condemning dance halls as such, if properly run. None but kill-joys would object to decent facilities for dancing but, unfortunately, there have sprung up during this war many dance halls which are nothing but a source of peril. Then in addition there are other offences, some of them of a highly unpleasant nature, better dealt with by doctors and psychologists. There are two further types of case that come before the juvenile courts which may broadly be termed "civil"—namely, children beyond the control of their parents and children who "stand in need of care and protection."

This brings me to the very important and vital issue of the work of the juvenile courts. I say that, viewed in wide perspective, the juvenile courts deserve the gratitude of every citizen. By the word "courts," I mean not only the magistrates, but the magistrates' clerks, the probation officers, the police and all concerned. May I be permitted to give your Lordships just one example of what I mean? Some little time ago the case of a young delinquent came to my personal notice. This youngster, who had set his heart on going to sea, had only one eye. He ran away from his home in London, reached Liverpool and roamed the docksides for several weeks trying to get a ship. How he lived during those weeks I do not know. Eventually he ran into the arms of a policeman and was put in a remand home pending inquiries. Again he ran away. He stole a seaman's wallet and came before the juvenile court. The boy, on hearing that he was to be sent to a remand home, begged that he should be sent to one where he could learn to be a sailor. Unfortunately none of the shore establishments would accept him—for he had only one eye. Instead, he was sent to a hostel, and was found a job with a furniture manufacturer. Once again he tried to run away to find a snip. Meanwhile, one of the magistrates had been doing everything in his power to help the boy to get to sea. One shipping official said it was unheard of—a seaman with only one eye! This kindly magistrate reminded him that there was once a sailor with not only one eye but with only on arm as well—and a very good sailor, too! Well, eventually the boy was found a ship. This was two years ago. Recently the boy put into Liverpool. He had been torpedoed twice, and was once for two days in an open boat. During his voyaging, somehow or other, he had managed to save nearly £100. He at once went to the hostel and offered to pay them for what they had done for him. He also called on the magistrate to thank him for his help when he had stood at the crossroads between a useful life and a life of crime.

I have given this example to show that in many cases the human material with which the courts have to deal is good stuff and that often the crime may be caused by a temporary lapse rather than by a fundamental weakness of character. It is important also to distinguish between the crime that is the outcome of a desire for adventure and the crime that is the result of sheer wickedness or malicious mischief. I think your Lordships will agree that the spirit of adventure in our youngsters is a quality that we should encourage, not subdue. But the essential thing is to find the right outlet for high spirits and youthful exuberance. Ample facilities should be provided for organized games and pastimes for our young people to satisfy their natural desire for excitement and their instincts for companionship. Sport is essentially a British way of teaching discipline, teamwork and leadership. And here I may say that I have evidence that once boys become members of such organizations as the Boy Scouts, the Church Lads' Brigade, and boys' clubs, there is hardly an instance in which one of them comes before the juvenile court. As an illustration of this I understand that out of 2,168 cases appearing before the court in Liverpool in 1940, only 10 were members of clubs and Scouts and similar organizations.

So it means this, my Lords: find the means to encourage young children to interest themselves still further in such movements, provide them with more and better playing fields and playgrounds, open more of the school playgrounds during school holidays, give them facilities for spare time hobbies and pastimes, especially during the winter months, and a large part of the problem is solved. Here may I say I am very glad to learn from the debate in another place that provision is to be made in the new Education Bill for adequate playgrounds and playing fields. At the present time, there is undoubtedly a chronic shortage of children's playgrounds in this country and the inequality of distribution is most disconcerting. In Huddersfield, for instance, there are 29 playgrounds while in Glasgow, which has ten times the population, there are only 16. York has one playground for every 10,000 of its population; Mildlesbrough has one for every 40,000, and so I could go on.

It is gratifying to realize that there has been a remarkable change over the past few decades in the attitude of the courts towards juvenile delinquents. Round about the turn of the century the basic attitude of far too many magistrates towards a guilty juvenile was, "Here's a potential criminal. Let's punish him." Nowadays, certainly in the urban centres, and in many of the rural areas, the approach is, "Here is a child who has gone wrong. He has the potentialities of a good citizen. What can we do to help him to become one?" In the old days birching was regarded as the universal remedy. In England and Wales—apart from Scotland—no fewer than 3,385 birchings were ordered by the courts in 1900. But in 1938, the last pre-war year, the number was down to only 48. It is true that during the war the number has increased. For instance, in 1941 it was 546 and in 1942 it was 321. But even this is a substantial decline on the old days. Now, what is the reason for it? Experience has proved that birching is neither deterrent nor reformative. I know there are many people who say, "I got thrashings from my father and my schoolmaster when I was a boy. It did me no harm: in fact, it did me good." That may, or may not, be so; I cannot say. But a beating from a parent held in affection, or from a schoolmaster held in respect, has a vastly different moral effect from a birching given by the police.

In the latter case, parents and relations—quite misguided, no doubt—are apt to express sympathy with and pamper the culprit; other schoolboys lionize and hero-worship the "tough guy" who has been punished. So far from frightening the boy, the tendency is that the delinquent, anxious for more popularity among his school-fellows, will repeat the offence. Very often, too, the punishment is regarded by the delinquent as the price paid to society for committing the crime. He has squared the account. He thinks it was worth it. He does it again. This has been proved to be the case over and over again. During the early part of last year the magistrate of a provincial juvenile court examined the records of last fifty cases of birchings and found that forty out of those fifty children had been re-charged in the court for a subsequent offence. As a chief probation officer in Wales remarked only the other day, "You can whip vice into a child, but you can never whip it out of him." Surely healing is better than hurting.

But the final word on the non-efficacy of birching ordered by juvenile courts was pronounced by the Report of the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment, published in March, 1938. This Committee consisting of experts—magistrates with outstanding qualifications, doctors, civil servants and a distinguished K.C.—came to a unanimous conclusion, unanimous, my Lords, after an exhaustive examination of the evidence, that "corporal punishment should be entirely repealed." Entirely repealed! I am glad to say that many magistrates have fully accepted and act upon this conclusion.

This is undoubtedly true of the juvenile courts in the larger centres of population, but, unhappily, magistrates in some of the rural centres as also some chief constables, in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales, cling to the outworn idea, that birching is an effective deterrent. One reason for this is, in my view, that many magistrates serving in juvenile courts are so far advanced in age that it has been difficult, if not impossible, for them to think themselves into the mind of the child and cast about for the right method of remedial treatment for the young offenders who come before them. Let me say at once I have never been a believer in rigid age limits. I have known men, and women, who at 70 and even older are as sprightly as youngsters. On the other hand, I have known people with a complete rigidity of mind at 35. But generally speaking—and, after all, this is only human nature—the middle-aged and younger folk are more likely to have a sympathetic understanding of the failings of the young than are those whose infancy and adolescence are a very long way off. This is recognized by all who have studied the problems of juvenile delinquency; it is recognized by the Home Office; it is recognized, I believe, by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. In a word, we need on the bench more fathers and fewer grandfathers—more mothers and fewer grandmothers.

Many of us were extremely interested in the efforts made at the end of last October to secure improvements in the age-groups of magistrates elected to the panels for juvenile courts. A few weeks ago I put a question in your Lordships' House asking His Majesty's Government if they could supply any information about the consequent changes. Your Lordships will forgive me if I give some facts based on the reply. Of a total of 8,191 magistrates only 2,444 are aged 54 or under. No fewer than 3,022 (this is 37 per cent.) are aged from 6o to 69, while there are 368 between 75 and 89 years of age. I submit that this is not a satisfactory state of affairs and the sooner the position is remedied the better. But the age-group is not the only angle from which to approach the question of securing the most suitable types of magistrates for the juvenile courts. I strongly advocate the appointment of more magistrates with the right type of experience for this kind of work. I would stress most emphatically the desirability of appointing more working-class magistrates. I do submit very earnestly that the work of the juvenile courts would be immensely improved if those who sit in judgment on accused juveniles are reinforced by men and women who in their own lives have known the meaning of poor homes, of overcrowding, of malnutrition, of the perils of the streets, of the lack of recreational facilities.

Next in importance to the magistrates I would place the probation officers. They are a fine body of men and women to whom the country owes a debt of gratitude which is very far from being generally realized. It is they who make the skilled and sympathetic inquiries about the character of the accused delinquent, the nature of the child's home—all the factors of environment that culminate in wrong-doing. It is they who, after the finding of the courts, have to supervise the children put on probation. They perform, too, valuable services in many homes by acting as conciliators between the parents and often assist with the after-care of young delinquents. They need to exercise the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. If there is any section of the community which deserves better conditions and better status—better pay and better prospects of promotion—it is the probation officer. And there are not nearly enough of them. In fact, there is a deplorable scarcity, especially in rural areas. But the corps of probation officers, however efficient, cannot do the whole work. There is need for far more Child Guidance Clinics. In these centres the naughty, the wayward, the abnormal child is carefully studied by highly-trained teams of workers who search for the roots of the trouble and prescribe the remedies with, in very many cases, the most satisfactory results. Let us have more of these clinics. For they play a great part in the work of reformation, and it is reformation, not punishment which is the main principle of the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933. Probation is, and roust be, the main method of achieving the reformation. This is amply justified by official figures. The result of those children put on probation is as follows: Children under 14, 65.3 per cent. of successes; young persons aged 14 and under 17, 68.2 per cent. of successes. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that these results are most encouraging.

I realize that certain supplementary methods are absolutely necessary and although I know that approved schools have an excellent record of cures, the less that remand homes and approved schools are used, the better. Whether we like it, or not, there is always the stigma attached to having been at a remand home or approved school. I submit that in no circumstances should there be recourse to prison. Of course, the best treatment of all is probation in the child's own home if improvements in environment and the co-operation of the parents can be secured. Where home treatment is unsuccessful, where conditions are so bad that there is no prospect of improvement, increased use should then be made of the boarding-out principle: that is placing the young offender in the care of foster-parents or "fit persons" as they are called. These foster-parents must, of course, be most carefully selected and adequately remunerated. Conditions created by the war may prove to be of help in this way. Many people, especially in the rural areas, have now had some years of experience of caring for evacuated children of all types. When these children return to their parents' homes, as most of them presumably will, it should be possible to compile an extensive list of potential foster-parents of the right type who could be entrusted with the care and guidance of young delinquents.

In my opening remarks I said that the present state of juvenile delinquency was a challenge to our social order. One cannot study this problem without becoming conscious of its wider and deeper implications. Its causes are, I suggest, more attributable to training and environment than to any inherent wickedness in human nature. By all means let us hasten to apply remedial and ameliorative measures, but let us also with all possible speed—I repeat with all possible speed—set about creating those conditions in which such reproaches to our social standards as juvenile delinquency will gradually become things of the past. It is an old saying, but still a true one, that it is better to prevent than to cure. What, then, are we to do? In past speeches, in your Lordships' House, while dealing with children and adolescents, I have stressed the need for better housing, better nutrition, family allowances and better education. I have advocated the extension of youth services. With regard to housing, it is a fact that at the present time some 300,000 families are living in dwellings that have already been, or but for the war would have been, condemned as slums. As the war goes on property, owing to the shortage of labour and materials, is bound to deteriorate and the number of families who live in these sordid and almost intolerable conditions is bound to increase. The wonder to me is that, under such conditions, juvenile delinquency is not even more prevalent. The rehousing of slum dwellers should, in my opinion, be given a very high priority.

We all welcome the new Education Bill. Let us hope that the new approach to education will be designed more and more to produce good citizens as well as good scholars. It is of the first importance that the development of the brain should go hand in hand with the development of character and physique. Let us hope, too, that everything will be done to hasten the time when it will be possible for more personal supervision to be given to each child, specially the backward child who, in a large class, is so often liable through boredom and a feeling of hopeless inferiority to find an escape in mischief. Only too often does he start as the truant and finish as the habitué of the juvenile courts. In an overcrowded class, too, it is impossible for the teacher to observe and select those children who call for special treatment. It is so important to remedy this, because it is so much easier to deal with a tendency to delinquency in its early stages than it is later on when bad habits have been formed. Much, too, will be gained by the encouragement of closer ties between school life and home life. And in education of the younger generation I firmly believe there is nothing more vital than the spiritual side. There is a growing danger that the new world which our young people will inherit will be one in which material values may be set above spiritual ones. Although this new generation may have all the outward trappings of what we call civilization, the road we are travelling may well—without spiritual guidance—be taking us right back to the dark ages. Let us, at least, do all we can to save our children from that.

Of social security there is no need for me to speak. The banishing of unemployment, the provision of adequate medical services, the granting of children's allowances—these alone would do much to ameliorate the social disease of juvenile delinquency. I do not say that juvenile delinquency can be entirely eliminated. This is, I know, impossible. But I am certain that it can be very substantially reduced. There will unfortunately always be delinquents of all ages. Life has, and always will have, misfits in all classes of society. But I am convinced that the community can rescue very many of the children who set their feet on the path of wrong-doing. A child guided into good behaviour is a citizen added to the State. But, my Lords—and these are my final words—above all I wish to re-affirm my conviction that in our planning for the future we can create a standard of life in which juvenile delinquency and many of the evils which beset this generation, cannot flourish. The re-shaping of our social order for those who will live in the world of to-morrow is a great challenge; but it is also a great opportunity. I beg to move.


My Lords, I think the House is indebted to the noble Lord for drawing attention to one of the most important events on the home front. I need not trouble your Lordships with statistics because the noble Lord has already given them to you, but I should like to mention one or two figures in order to illustrate my meaning. The latest available figures for juvenile delinquency in indictable cases concern the three-year period ending August, 1942. These show a considerable increase for the first two years, but a decrease in the twelve months August, 1941, to August, 1942, and this decreasing tendency is continuing. The chief increases occur with boys under fourteen and with girls in the fourteen to sixteen age group. Taking the figures for 1939 before the war, the increased delinquency in 1940–41 among boys was as much as 56 per cent., but in the case of girls in the fourteen to sixteen age group the increase was 122 per cent. The noble Lord has given you the total figures. I propose only to give you the percentages because they are easier to remember. As compared with 1939, the last year before the war, the increase in 1940 was 33 per cent., in 1941 the increase was 52 per cent.—I am taking boys and girls in all classes—and in 1942 it had gone back to 3o per cent. and is still going back a little.

We need not, however, rush to hasty conclusions upon this matter. In justice to the children of England, it should be said that compared with the total school population the figures are exceedingly small. What is the total school population? In 1938, the last complete year before the war, there were between the ages of five and fourteen over five million children in school and between the ages of fourteen and seventeen there were over two million. If you compare with that total population the number of juvenile delinquents in indictable offences you will find that it is not much more than one-half of one per cent. When we remember the fact that we are at war we must feel some cause for thankfulness that the figures are not worse. Still, the figures are disquieting and cannot be regarded with complacency. Will you permit me, therefore, to offer a few observations—although I recognize the importance of the debate which is shortly to be resumed—and to make some suggestions?

There is a society called the Magistrates' Association which consists of about 4,000 magistrates. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack is President of the Association. I happen to have the honour of being the Chairman and I sit frequently to preside over their council and their committees. I hear many of the causes which these magistrates allege to be the cause of juvenile delinquency and many of the suggestions which these magistrates make for making the matter better. An inquiry by the Association in 1941—that was the peak year—shows that the main offences were larceny, breaking and entering, and wilful damage, while about one-quarter of the total number of girls coming before the courts were care or protection cases. The main causes contributing to juvenile delinquency appear to be lack of parental control, unhappy homes, social conditions, and I am afraid I must add, although I do not want to do people an injustice, the indifference of some parents to their responsibilities in regard to the children.

In addition, there are increased opportunities for stealing owing to bombed premises and to the temptations which the noble Lord has already mentioned offered by the open-counter store and other methods of trading. Another contributory cause, although I do not grudge high wages, is the high wages being paid to young people. On some other occasion I may have to draw your Lordships' attention to the effect of that on older persons, who find quite young people getting £8 or £9 a week while they get only £2 or £3 or £4. It leads to a great deal of discontent. The war has aggravated these causes, although we must remember that even before the war juvenile delinquency was increasing, especially among boys. It has been aggravated by the war, by the calling-up of the fathers and the absence of mothers on war work, which inevitably lessens control in the home and leads to general disorganization of home life. It is probably just beyond the confines of this debate to discuss the question of immorality or to discuss the question of drunkenness—too much drinking amongst young people—but I would like to say in passing that I hope very much that some notice will be taken of the letter from Congregational ministers published in The Times a couple of days ago, urging that something should be done with regard to "treating."

What can we do for these cases? All the available returns show that there is considerable shortage of approved schools and in addition there is need for better classification in approved schools, especially in girls' schools Naturally, I have not visited these schools. I am simply telling your Lordships of the evidence before me. New schools have been opened during the past few years but not nearly enough to meet the present condition. What is the result? Juvenile delinquents are kept waiting for vacancies for long periods and they have to spend the time either in remand homes or in their own homes from which it is often desirable to move them without delay. As a consequence, remand homes are badly overcrowded, and it is considered undesirable that those who are on remand and those who have already been dealt with by the court should be in close contact for any length of time. In addition there is a lack of educational facilities in the remand homes and, as a consequence, those waiting for vacancies in approved schools are likely to be less amenable on reaching their school. This shortage of remand home accommodation also results in care or protection cases being housed with delinquent children, with the possibility of bad effects. Under Section 54 of the 1933 Act the remand homes can be used as places of detention for a period not exceeding four weeks. The Association feels that this provision cannot be adequately used owing to the overcrowding in the remand homes, and that special places for detention might be provided. Another method of easing the situation would be the provision of observation centres to which children and young persons could be sent for a fuller investigation than is possible when they are under remand.

So far as the courts that deal with these cases are concerned, that is to say the juvenile courts, they are doing their work extremely well. I have on several occasions taken the opportunity afforded by an invitation, of sitting at the juvenile courts in London, and I should like to bear testimony to the admirable work that they are doing. I will not trespass upon your Lordships' time now, but had there been more time available, I would have given you one or two illustrations of the extraordinary difficulties which face not only the children and the parents but the courts themselves.

The Magistrates' Association have been holding many conferences up and down the country. They have been well attended by magistrates from many parts. Acknowledged experts have addressed them, and I have no doubt these conferences have done much good. Some criticism has been passed upon the age of magistrates but thanks to the efforts of the Lord Chancellor these criticisms have been, to a large extent, met. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Southwood, and very naturally, that people of an advanced age could do equally as well sometimes as people who are not so old, but, speaking generally, for these juvenile courts it is better to have men who are more in touch with children and more able to appreciate the difficulties of child age. A hopeful sign, too, all over the country, is that the justices in many large centres have seen to it that magistrates of too advanced an age shall not be appointed to the juvenile courts, When these first came into being magistrates used to elect the whole bench to sit as a juvenile court, which was a most unfortunate proceeding, but in many towns now—it would be invidious to mention them, though I have a list of them—a special committee is selected by the magistrates to select those who, in their opinion, are best fitted to sit in these courts. While, therefore, criticism is useful and welcome, there is reason for suggesting that the critics should ration the use of their adjectives.

There is one matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Southwood, referred which I should also like to mention and that is the case of the working men magistrates. Your Lordships know that many of them have sat upon the bench with credit to themselves and with advantage to the country; but permit me to mention only one point on which I desire to express no opinion, but which comes up at almost every meeting of the Magistrates' Association. That is the difficulty that working men have in attending a magistrates' court to do their work. There are two difficulties. There is the difficulty of broken time. You know what that means. It means that a man has to give up a day's wages in order to attend. Then there is the difficulty also with regard to travelling expenses, especially in rural districts. I mention these facts in order that some public notice may be taken of them. I do not desire to express any personal opinion on the matter, but I cannot help mentioning it and pointing out that these factors do sometimes make a difference, and they have to be considered by a working man before he can accept an offer to sit upon the bench.

There are two other matters to which I desire to draw your Lordships' particular attention. The first is what to do to assist those who have committed offences. The second is what to do with, and how to assist, those who are exposed to temptation but have not committed offences. In other words, I wish to address you for a few minutes only on the question of probation and the question of prevention of crime. Permit me as one who was one of His Majesty's Judges for many years and has presided, as has my noble friend Lord Roche, over Assizes in nearly every county in England and Wales, to pay my tribute to the probation system. No organization has done more for the reform of those who have offended against the law. The system is of recent growth, starting with the Probation of Offenders Act of 1907, and allow me to say that it is of vital importance to see that this system should work efficiently and smoothly. I doubt whether it can be said to be working efficiently or smoothly for the reasons which I am about to give. Possibly it is still suffering from growing pains, and it may be that the service has developed faster than experience has been acquired. Yet it is already a pronounced success, and I hope you will allow me to take this opportunity of saying that a large measure of that success is due to the devoted work of officials at the Home Office. The recent announcement by the Home Secretary that he is setting up an Advisory Committee on the treatment of offenders is a welcome step in the right direction. It is an effort in which both civil servants and outsiders can co-operate. Civil servants have recently been much criticized; but they can take it. No doubt civil servants perform their duties faithfully, and if you get one who is keen on his job he is not unnaturally anxious to see that it is properly done. It may even be that he will consider it his duty to offer tactful instruction to inexperienced enthusiasm. But after all no cause will succeed without enthusiasm.

Now as to the efficient working of the probation system. One cardinal point must be emphasized. It is not sufficiently manned. Forgive me for giving your Lordships' a statistic or two. In 1941, which is the last year for which I have the figures available, there were just over one thousand probation officers—1,011 to to be exact. Of these 542 were full time, 396 of them being men and 146 women. Out of that total there were too in London. There were 469 part-time probation officers. I think now that there are between 630 and 650 full-time officers. There ought to be many more. Why do I say that? The probation officer, as your Lordships well know, has to look miter a number of young people, and sometimes older people as well, and the number that he looks after is called the case load. It has been thought from experience that the proper case load which a probation officer can manage is fifty to sixty. I believe—I have been given these figures and I pass them on to your Lordships—that the number is now between eighty-five and ninety. A probation officer with a case load of that size cannot be expected to give his full attention to it.

I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I quote one passage from an admirable book on the probation service published in 1938 by the Home Office. On page 41, it says: There is abundant evidence that a great many full-time officers are seriously overworked. It is usually said that a man probation officer can supervise 60–70 cases, according to the nature of his district, and a woman rather less. And on page 42 there is a paragraph which reads as follows: It is clear that the volume of work of many probation officers is more than they can properly undertake. The consequence is that even with a conscientious probation officer some of his work must be ineffective or neglected. The present position is fair neither to the probation officers nor to the probation system. I do not complain of the probation service; en the contrary, I praise it. All that I want to do is to increase the numbers of full-time officials.

As to the smooth working of the probation service, here it is no use mincing language. I do not think that the probation service is quite happy in its present position. There is some uneasiness and unsettlement in the service. I believe that a good deal of the trouble arises from the fact that the members of the service are moved about too frequently. I have figures here, but I am not going to trouble your Lordships with them. It frequently happens that when men have been quite a short time in one place they are moved to another, and that makes a considerable difference not only to the man himself but to the justices, who very much dislike to see a man whom they have trusted and consulted moved to another place. Moreover, the probation officers feel that they are charged with one of the most difficult of all duties, the duty of serving two masters, because they have to serve under their own justices in their locality, and to a certain degree the Home Office have to supervise their work. This is not the occasion to discuss that matter, but those who know and value the probation service would desire that anything which affects its efficiency and smooth working should be removed.

Let me come to my last point. I ventured to tell your Lordships that I would address you first on what to do with those who had committed offences. I now want to say a word about those who are exposed to temptation but have not committed offences. If I did not know of the important debate which is to follow I should like to enlarge on that matter, but I can sum the position up in one sentence. What is to be done for those who are tempted, but have fortunately not yet fallen? I do not think that it is possible to sum up the whole of the causes, but they may nearly all be summed up in one sentence: you will cure this when you have the rightful employment of leisure. A very valuable pamphlet was published by the Home Office in June, 1941, from which I should like to quote this: At the beginning of the war, many clubs and similar facilities were removed owing to premises being converted to other use and the leaders of these activities being absorbed into the Army or other work, and the result was that many clubs which were started to enable these boys to have some place in which to use their leisure ceased to exist. Fortunately this matter was taken up by the Board of Education, and, as your Lordships know perfectly well, the Board of Education have now established centres and have made a great improvement in this matter. The pamphlet states that at the outbreak of the present war the Government decided that the Board of Education should undertake a direct responsibility for the social and recreational welfare of young people who have left school, and that a National Youth Committee should be set up to advise them and to see what could be clone in the matter.

We hear a great deal nowadays about State interference, but it seems to me that in this matter at any rate most will be done by voluntary effort. It has been my good fortune to meet very many young men from time to time in the last three years, and I know that most of them have a social urge to do something for their fellow creatures. It leads some of them to take Holy Orders in one of the Churches, but many of them will not do that because it binds them for life and occupies the whole of their daily life. I think that one of the most hopeful signs, however, is the help which we shall get from our young men who will devote themselves to this work, and, although at present the figures are disquieting, I feel no doubt as to what will be the result when these matters are cleared up and these young men get to work. I am obliged to your Lordships for listening to me for so long.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a quarter of an hour. I too am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Southwood, put this Motion on the Paper, although I am afraid that I cannot agree with him in what he says about birching. From hard experience I know that birching is a deterrent; and while I am on this controversial and political subject, because it is a political subject I want to debunk—I think that is the word—the propaganda one hears to the effect that birching and caning are bad for people because they brutalize those who use them and also the victims. I know that nearly all your Lordships have been caned in your youth for the benefit of your souls, and, looking round your Lordships' House, I cannot see any signs of brutalized faces. I feel difficulty in addressing you on a national question such as this, because I live on the other side of the Border, and Scottish laws and methods sometimes differ from the English; but children are the same everywhere, and especially naughty children. The reasons for children being naughty and the ways of curing them are the same all over the country, so that I hope that you will bear with me if I talk largely from a Scottish point of view.

There has been a serious increase in juvenile delinquency in Scotland since 1938, but owing to the energetic action of the Secretary of State for Scotland—and we have not for a very long time had a better one—there has been some improvement lately. Some time ago he held a conference in Scotland which was very good for the various local authorities who had not taken much notice of this question, and now I think that I can say that throughout the whole of Scotland there has been considerable improvement, and very many fewer juvenile delinquents are being brought before the courts. I do not want to be too parochial or provincial, but the matter has been very carefully considered in the county in which I have the honour to live, and we have gone into the reasons and the remedies very thoroughly

As has been rightly said, lack of parental control and responsibility is a very important element. Children are given too much pocket money, and allowed to stay out much too late. There have been many instances of children of eight or nine years of age committing offences at ten o'clock in the evening and sleeping out all night. The re-establishment of regular hours for children is most important. Home conditions are one of the factors which produce delinquency. It cannot help the good behaviour of children if, as mentioned by Lord Southwood, owing to overcrowded conditions children on their return from school are sent by their parents into the streets, where all sorts of temptations are to be found. Nor does it help them if both parents are working. There have been cases of children returning from school, making their own tea and then going out to a cinema, and meanwhile the parents come back and they go out also. The children come back and go to bed before their parents return, and thus parents and children only meet at breakfast. Another factor is the variability of discipline in many homes. Sometimes it is very strict, at other times very lax. Ordinary routine and consistent discipline towards each member of the family equally are very necessary. In the county of which I have the best knowledge, 40 per cent. of the delinquents come from good homes where there are orderliness, discipline and decent surroundings, so that one is bound to look for reasons other than bad housing and overcrowded conditions.

A very important incentive to delinquency is environment. I know of a burgh where 4 per cent. of the juvenile population are delinquents and there are five areas of delinquency. The least bad area is in the centre of the town. The majority come from the areas of new housing schemes where 9.3 per cent. of the children are delinquents. In the last three months there has been great improvement. The chief reasons for juvenile delinquency are lack of cultural and educational amenities. There are inadequate shopping facilities and long distances to go for entertainment; there is in fact nothing to interest the children in or near to their homes and, as many of them want amusement and excitement, they will go a very long way to get it. It is in the going to and coming back from school and from these entertainment centres that the temptations to delinquency occur. The long-term remedy is obvious. All larger housing schemes should have community centres; each housing scheme, or group of housing schemes, if more convenient, should have its church, its school and its community hall, its sports ground, with pavilion and baths.

I am very much in sympathy with what has been said about the lack of sports grounds throughout the country. In Scotland it is just as bad as it is in England. If we could only have in these housing schemes football grounds, pavilions and baths for the children it would make all the difference in the world. I know it sounds very expensive and unreal and perhaps impracticable to carry out, but I cannot help thinking that this is an ideal for the Government to strive for. It may not be possible at once but in time surely they could do something on these lines. I believe that member hip of youth organizations is a strong preventive of juvenile delinquency, and youth community centres, if properly run, would tend to keep young children off the streets.

There is another aspect of the question, and that is the administration of juvenile courts. The justices who sit there—and I am talking about Scotland—very often know little about the law, and they are advised by the clerk of the juvenile court. Nevertheless, they endeavour to the best of their ability to interpret the spirit of the Act of 1937, and many people with knowledge of juvenile courts have noted the care which the justices exercise in reaching satisfactory decisions. We all know how terribly complicated some of these cases are. The courts in Scotland are handicapped in several ways. I do not know if it is the same in England, but in Scotland there are usually three justices in each court. The chairman is the same each time, the others attend in rotation from the juvenile panel. This is not entirely satisfactory, because in the case of those who attend by rota an interval of six months sometimes elapses before their turn comes and they are apt to get out of touch with procedure and treatment.

I never know whether the Secretary of State for Scotland reads your Lordships' debates, but I hope he does for I am putting forward points which many people in my country feel are very important. A fine of £1 is the maximum which can be imposed on neglectful parents for delinquency in school attendance and that is far too lenient. I am on a school management committee and time after time the parents are fined £1 and that penalty makes no difference at all. It certainly ought to be increased to £5 at least. Another point is that the fine should be paid by the children themselves out of money saved for the purpose. Parents should be discouraged to pay the fines for them. One of the strongest deterrents to parents who neglect their children is the bond of caution whereby the parents guarantee their children's behaviour by paying £10 into the court. It is found in Scotland that parents very rarely forfeit the money.

I think your Lordships will agree that the probation system has worked extremely well, but in certain areas there is no doubt that more probation officers are required; certainly more are required in my part of the world. In Ayrshire the probation officer has an amount of work greater than is justifiable and I hope that more will be appointed. The appointment of a woman probation officer has been recommended. The late Lord Hewart, formerly Lord Chief Justice, once stated: Rightly used probation can be the means of saving thousands of children every year from a repetition of their crimes. Statistics for the year 1937–38 reveal that 50 per cent. of the younger offenders in England have been dealt with in this way and success is as high as 70 per cent. I think the number of probation officers in Scotland is quite inadequate to meet such a demand as that for their services. And so I do hope again that the Secretary of State for Scotland reads your Lordships' debates.

There is another method connected with courts which has met with great success and that is to bring all first offenders charged with criminal offences to a police office where a policeman talks to them and gives them a caution. When this has been done—I am speaking about one particular burgh—82 per cent. of such offenders have given no further cause for complaint. Where this method has not been adopted minor charges are dropped by the fiscal and then it appears to the child that no action has been taken, which of course has a bad effect. But while juvenile delinquency is bad enough, the problem should not be exaggerated. I have figures which show that out of 3 per cent. of the young people of Ayrshire who appeared before juvenile courts in 1942, 70 per cent. were first offenders, very few of whom had any subsequent offences. Moreover, 40 per cent, of the offences were of a trivial nature—things that we have all done in our youth. I wonder how many of your Lordships can say you have done nothing in your youth which would have brought you before the juvenile court of to-day. I know I cannot.

Next to the influence of the home, the most important contribution to the problem of juvenile delinquency is the school. The new Education Bill provides some contribution, but the teaching of moral character is a matter which depends a great deal on the approach of the individual teacher, whose efforts are greatly handicapped by the size of classes and the extraneous duties he has to carry out, which, in contradistinction to the three R's, are sometimes described as the three M's—Milk, Meals and Money. It is because we consider in my part of the world that this training of character is very important that a committee of teachers has been formed in Ayrshire to study the part which the school can play in the moral education of children. The Church, too, has a vital part to play and the reform of religious education is a matter of deep concern to the Scottish Church authorities. The syllabus of teaching in the Sunday schools has been closely examined and the appointment of a full time organizer approved. His duty would be to organize training classes for Sunday schools, to visit Sunday schools and the homes of children who are lapsing. I cannot help thinking that that is a good innovation.

To sum up, I would urge that any policy for dealing with juvenile delinquency should aim at the re-establishing of home life and the responsibility of parents, the development of the community in all housing areas, including facilities for attendance at psychological clinics, and in my opinion, the setting up of residential schools. The home, the school and church are vitally important. Again I bring to the notice of the Secretary of State for Scotland that at present the approved schools, remand houses, and probation homes are all under different authorities. There should be complete integration of all forms of treatment under the general education scheme.


My Lords, I should like to emulate my noble friend who has last spoken in guaranteeing to your Lordships that I shall not take long. I shall try to make it five minutes, but I should be sorry not to join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Southwood, for moving his Motion. The subject is of the first importance. We were, I am sure, all impressed by the obvious humanity which actuated every word he spoke. Speaking for myself, I agree with so much that he said that I am sorry I shall have to offer a note of caution as to one or two of the matters he covered. I agree entirely about probation. Probation has been a great success, and in spite of these elements of friction, at which my noble friend Lord Sankey rather darkly hinted, between the Magistrates' Association and the Home Office—as to which I know not—on the whole it is working well. If I may give an instance of its success, I was only this morning reading, for the purpose of presenting at the Quarter Session next Tuesday, the report of the Area Probationary Committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman. The figures were, roughly, that 150 boy cases were under the superintendence of two probation officers, and I do not think that 75 case-load was too much. All but eleven of these terminated their periods satisfactorily. That is a high proportion. Of the girls, there were many fewer for the reasons indicated by my noble friend—some 35—but the proportion of non- success was rather greater—four. As a rule girl cases, when they occur, are more obdurate. They are mixed up with questions of sex and matters of that kind which make them more difficult. Speaking broadly, however, probation is a success and a great contribution to humanity.

One must not find fault with civil servants who cannot answer back, but it is legitimate, perhaps, to join with Lord Sankey in praising the Home Office and, if I may, to go so far as to say that the special thanks of the young people of this country are, in my opinion, due to Mr. S. W. Harris, of the Home Office, who has been, if not the father, at least the foster father, of the probation system in this country. I do not think we ought to leave altogether out of account the Borstal system. Considering the very obdurate material with which it has to deal, the fact that. Borstal succeeds in some 80 per cent. of its cases, roughly speaking, is a marvellous testimony to the system and to Mr. Alec Paterson and his team who have developed that system.

Having said so much, I just want to say one word about causes of delinquency. It is a mistake to think that delinquency is all cite to the war. Of course it has increased during the war, when fathers and mothers have been otherwise occupied and the police are very much diminished; in our county they are down much below strength owing to the needs of the Forces. Of course it has increased, but it was progressing and increasing before the war, to a very grave and considerable extent. Lord Southwood, Lord Sankey, and the noble Earl who last spoke have suggested one real cause that goes far deeper than housing conditions. That is want of discipline exercised by the parents. If you go a little further back than that, it is due to a large extent to the diminished size of families. Members of big families are not spoilt so much as only children, or two children. Big families have a way of disciplining themselves. That is at all events one of the causes. The very striking fact to which the noble Earl alluded that in new housing estates, where there was no bad housing, there was very marked juvenile delinquency, shows that it is not a question of housing. I myself think it is largely due to the spoiling of children at home and to a lack of discipline. Mothers, perhaps, have snore to do with it because boys are more spoiled by mothers than are girls. Perhaps that is a contributory reason why boy delinquency is continuing ahead of girl delinquency.

There is only one other subject on which I desire to say a word, and that is the question of corporal punishment. I do not want to flog everybody; that would be a grave mistake. You should flog last and not first; but it would be a grave error to regard flogging as inhumane and to abolish the remedy of flogging in cases where it is really needed. There was a Bill ready to be brought before Parliament when the war broke out—the Criminal Justice Bill—on which the Home Secretary of that day did me the honour of asking my opinion because I happen to have been a Judge of first instance for seventeen years and Chairman of Quarter Sessions for ten years more, and am still. I frankly told him that in my judgment the Bill was a good Bill, taking it on the whole, but that there was one very bad clause in it which I intended to oppose to the utmost of my power, and that was the clause abolishing corporal punishment. That is my view. I shall give your Lordships reasons and explanations when, if ever, that Bill comes before this House, but the last thing I wish is to do so now. I conclude by again thanking the noble Lord who brought forward this Motion.


My Lords, there is nothing much that I can add to the very valuable debate that has already taken place, but I should like to call attention to one serious source of error in the statistics we have been given. In considering the figure of children convicted of indictable offences, we must remember there has been a certain improvement in the juvenile courts. Previously many children were not brought before the courts owing to a feeling that the courts were not suitable for children. The result of this has been an apparent increase in juvenile crime, whereas it is actually due, in great part, only to an increase in the number of children charged. No doubt if we reform the courts further still more unruly children will be brought before them, but let us not be persuaded, by a mere increase in the figures of children charged, to believe that the reforms are a failure or that our children are so enormously worse than they were in previous years.


My Lords, there is to follow this debate the concluding part of the very important debate which began yesterday and on which my noble friend Lord Cherwell is presenting the Government's view. I shall do my utmost, therefore, to confine what I must say, in concluding the present debate, in the shortest possible time. No one in a few minutes can make a full survey of this most important and complicated matter, and therefore I should be serving the House best if, subject to answering one or two specific points, I call attention to the real nature of the development which has taken place in our country in connexion with children who commit offences. It really is a silent revolution which has taken place, the way in which children charged with crimes are dealt with in courts of law, and it is a revolution that has taken place in our own lifetime.

If my noble friend Lord Samuel were here—I know he is compelled to be away—I should take special satisfaction in saying that the beginnings of this matter are very closely associated with himself. I remember it well. In the year 1908, in the first House of Commons of which I was a member, there was introduced a Children Bill by the then Under-Secretary of the Home Office who was my noble friend. That was the Bill which first established juvenile courts to deal with children and it was an immense revolution as has become obvious in the course of years. The Probation Bill I think had been passed the year before and these matters have developed largely under that benign influence in the Home Office to which I was glad to hear Lord Roche refer. Then there was the Children and Young Persons Bill of 1933 with which Mr. Oliver Stanley was specially associated. I rather think Lord Samuel was again at the Home Office.

Now what was the nature of this revolution? The broad stream of tendency had to be noticed. It is really this—the problem of what the law is to do with the child who commits crimes. That is obviously one of great practical applications. If you read our literature you can see it cropping up in a hundred ways. Everybody has I hope at some period read Water Babies and knows what a very bad boy Tom was, though he does not seem to us to have been very bad. And Dickens is full of cases drawn from life in which society was completely puzzled and driven distracted by the fact that a crime had been committed by a child, and what were you to do about it? We recall pictures of Mrs. Fry visiting Newgate and observe how many children there are hanging about in the prison room. It was an immense revolution that began to take place when this country decided that, while it was perfectly true that children did commit what in the case of adults are called crimes, the problem of what to do with the children was a distinct problem. Instead of talking about children's crimes, we use this most unpleasant phrase "juvenile delinquency"—but perhaps basic English will have some shorter word for it. This country realized that this was a specially difficult problem because, though the thing that was done was very wrong, it was very likely done out of mischief, it was very likely done without due planning and deliberation, it was very likely associated with high spirits or with bravado or with a desire to say that though you were not old enough to be a soldier you still understood what a soldier might do in case of special provocation. Therefore the idea arose that we must have a different system to deal with juvenile crime because the object is to secure that, though undoubtedly the juvenile has committed crime, he shall be so treated as not to do it again.

That was the central feature of it and I think that if you take the different matters which have been adopted and put together to complete this new system, you see very remarkable progress in the development of the treatment of crime for the benefit of citizens at large. The figures quoted just now by the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, show how very seldom in his neighbourhood children who have come before juvenile courts come before them again. How extremely significant that is; it is all because of the methods that have been worked out and on the whole have been well devised for their purpose. Many of your Lordships, I have no doubt, have seen a juvenile court at work and some of you may be members of one. If it is wisely guided, a juvenile court is not merely a collection of soft-hearted people who want to deal with the poor little darlings without any possible severity. Not at all. It is a highly developed technique which has been most carefully worked out and is admirably applied by those who know best how to do it for the purpose of really making the treatment served out fit the mistake or offence that has been committed.

It proceeds on an obvious principle which would seem ridiculous to our ancestors but which everybody recognizes now—namely, that children should not, if possible, be sent to prison. That is the worst thing you can do to them if you want to prevent children from committing offences. When occasionally I hear, as I do in my present office, of a child who, because there are not enough remand homes, has been put for the time being in a general prison to await ultimate treatment, it is one of the things that make me rage, for as sure as possible when that child comes out that child is a hero to some of its worst companions. It is a little hero because it has been with criminals of an adult type, it has been probably petted and treated with the greatest possible kindness by people in the prison, and there is not a single experience which that child has suffered that is not a bad influence. Therefore, you must have a careful and elaborate system.

You must first have this system of probation officers, and I do join heartily with those in this debate who have spoken warmly of them. It is most difficult work to do and this is a case where the results prove the method to be right. You choose a man or woman, who has had some training in the matter if possible, under the order of the court to visit the home from which the child comes, to see the child and see the child's parents from time to time, and to report to the court as to the results which are observed; and thereby without punishment and without rigid rules you do as a matter of fact exercise this benevolent influence which saving thousands of children from developing into a life of crime. The greatest possible thanks are due to probation officers all over the country. I will not deal with the points mentioned by my noble and learned friend Lord Sankey, except to say I will certainly have them inquired into.

The second thing is this, there are many cases where you cannot deal with children satisfactorily simply by sending them back to their own homes. There are cases where you do really need to apply an arrangement for boarding them out with foster-parents in the country districts round about their homes. Very often a boy who has been living in a town has, by order of the court, to live with selected foster-parents, not too far away, but in the country. He begins to discover that the country has got its own interests and its own attractions. He begins to make up his mind for a better kind of life, largely under the influence of some decent woman, probably, who is acting as his foster-mother, not excluding the real parents from visiting the child but none the less trying to put him into the new media and giving him a new start in life, putting his roots into better soil. That again requires a very careful technique which has had to be worked out, mostly by the Home Office in this last generation, and has done no end of good.

There is yet another matter which my noble friend Lord Southwood commented upon, the approved schools. Approved schools were given that name, I think, in 1933 because of the objection which was rightly felt to the word "reformatory." Undoubtedly the reformatory boy was very often somewhat handicapped by the fact that he had been to a reformatory. If people were only logical they would realize that the trouble is not that he had gone to a reformatory but that he had done something which caused him to go to a reformatory. The reformatory may have done him all the good in the world. Still, the reformatory is not exactly an introduction to polite society. I very much doubt, however, with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Southwood, whether he was quite right in saying that the same thing is true of these approved schools. These approved schools are provided for children who have done wrong and they are given their own proper names. They are not called approved school No. so and so. In fact a very good one might be called the "Southwood School." No boy would be handicapped because he had received some of his education at the Southwood School. It is quite possible, by taking suitable action, to prevent this sort of taint. Then I come to the remand home. I referred to that, incidentally, when I spoke of my sense of disturbance when I came across a case of a child who had actually been sent to an adult general prison while waiting for inquiries. He ought to have been sent to a remand home. There are not enough remand homes, and my noble friend was right when he said that more are needed.

These illustrations show how we really are engaged in examining a silent revolution which has taken place in our lifetime and is having most beneficial results on the future of children. I do not know that I entirely agree with the remark made by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, that the statistics are fallacious. He suggested that the explanation of the fact that the number of children who have been convicted of crime had increased during the war might be that there was more resort to juvenile courts than there used to be. That is true up to a point, but the fact that there was a very sharp difference in the numbers between 1938 and 1931 requires another explanation. What is really startling is that while the figures go up in 1940 and 1941 they do not continue to go up after that. There is a very marked decline. We have not got back to figures as good as those before the war but we have certainly got back to much better figures than those of 1941. Why is that? It cannot be due to an improvement in parental influence; the relaxed influence of the parents of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roche, spoke very seriously just now has, I fear, continued. I think it is largely due to the fact that during the first years of the war there was so much evacuation, so many schools were closed down, and there was a general air that everything was in a distracted state. Opportunities for high spirited boys to go in recklessly for what are called crimes were very considerably increased.

But when you got the major part of the juvenile population coming back to ordinary schools and when all the valuable influence of the schools was operating again—and I should be inclined to add when you got operating the pre-Service training corps for boys reaching the age of sixteen years: a very considerable influence, I think—you really began to get the child population back to its more natural habits. Unquestionably, however, war-time is a time which is likely to provoke all sorts of irregularities in youth. An important thing is that the juvenile courts give opportunity of distinguishing between the cases where what has been wrong is due to high spirits or emulation—there is a good deal of gang mischief nowadays—and cases where it is due to bad character and possibly bad leader- ship. We shall see less of these irregularities at the end of the war.

Meantime, I want to call attention to the fact that we have been living through a generation in which this silent revolution has taken place of getting rid of the old idea that the bad boy must be punished and sent to prison with the result that he was likely to remain bad, and substituting for that the idea that after all boys and girls have much less natural restraint against certain forms of temptation than sedate old people, and consequently you can devise a system which I think the Home Office has done much to promote which will turn boys and girls, notwithstanding wrongdoing, into good citizens instead of bad citizens.

I ought to add, perhaps, one word about something which has been said by several speakers on the subject of the composition of the juvenile courts. In the case of juvenile courts in London, the selection of members is made by the Home Secretary. Undoubtedly some of the best juvenile courts are to be found in London. In the country the provision is that the members of the juvenile courts shall be selected by the magistrates themselves to serve for three years. In a great many cases that system has also worked very well. It has the advantage, of course, that a good deal of local knowledge can be applied in making a selection. But I am not in every part of the country very well satisfied with the results. Undoubtedly there is a tendency in the case of some benches to keep people on the juvenile panel year after year while (they are getting older and older. I was told the other day a story from the North Country of some children playing in the street who found great satisfaction in acting a scene in a juvenile court. There was very great competition among the children as to who should get the beard. When the beard had been duly allotted to the fortunate actor or actress the juvenile court began, in which the use of the beard combined with a number of grimaces seemed to indicate that the children thought the president of the court was rather old.

On the other hand, I do not think you can deal with this aspect of the problem by simply defining an age as a rigid limit. It is true that some people of more advanced age are better suited to sit on the bench at juvenile courts than some younger people, but I cannot say I am entirely satisfied that we have got in the country the best system. I hope very much that the efforts that have been made by myself and my predecessors are going to secure on the whole a better selection through the introduction of new blood, especially when the war comes to an end. In the meantime we must often be content with what older people can do. I do not desire to keep your Lordships longer, but I should like to join with those who have thanked the noble Lord for his balanced view of this matter which is very helpful. Although many things may seem of greater excitement or greater moment, it is well that your Lordships' House should review from time to time with knowledge the working and development of this vast reform connected with juvenile delinquency.


My Lords, as there is another debate to follow—the debate which was adjourned yesterday—I do not propose to keep your Lordships for more than a moment. I only wish to make quite clear, and I hope that I made it clear in my speech, that I am not in any way criticizing the juvenile courts. Great improvement, as we know, has been made in them in recent years. As your Lordships are well aware, the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary have done much to bring about improvement, and the object of my speech was merely, if such a thing were possible, to encourage these improvements and to speed them up. I am sure we are all greatly indebted to the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack for his exposition of the present position. What he said was extremely encouraging, and it leaves me with nothing else to do but to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.