HL Deb 21 March 1950 vol 166 cc310-78

3.7 p.m.

LORD LLOYD rose to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the large number of crimes accompanied by violence occurring in large cities; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper to-day is an expression of a very sincere anxiety which I feel at the appalling number of crimes of violence which are being committed in this country at the present time. I feel bound to emphasise my reasons for putting down this Motion, because of a suggestion made by the Home Secretary in another place last week to the effect that those who dared to call attention to this state of affairs were doing so in order—to quote the Home Secretary's own words—"to create a sensational atmosphere." I should have thought that the present crime wave was in itself sufficiently sensational to make any such attempt unnecessary, and in any case. so far as I am concerned, I disclaim any such motive. I do feel, however, that there are many others who share my anxiety, not only in Parliament, where Questions have been asked in both Houses, but also in the country, where I believe there is growing concern at the extent and the brutality of these outrages. It therefore seemed to me appropriate that these matters should be considered by your Lordships at an early opportunity.

Like many others, I had hoped that the Government's reply to these Parliamentary Questions would have given us some reassurance, but I must confess that I found little comfort, either in the reply of the Home Secretary in another place or in that of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in response to a Question put to him by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in your Lordships' House last week. The substance of the Lord Chancellor's reply was that, since there has been a decrease in the cases of robbery with violence since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, passing Majesty's Government did not consider that there was any reason at present to reintroduce corporal punishment. The noble and learned Viscount was, of course, replying to a specific Question on the subject of corporal punishment, and clearly he was not bound to say any more than he did. But so far, it seems to me, all we know is what the Government are not going to do, and not what the Government are going to do to deal with this grave social menace. The impression left on my mind was that the Government were content to watch the situation and to take no positive action. I realise that this impression may be entirely wrong; and I hope it is. If it is, I feel that this debate will give the Government an opportunity of correcting this misapprehension on my part and of making their policy abundantly clear.

I do not for one moment dispute the figures that were given to your Lordships by the noble and learned Viscount last week, though—and this is important—I should like to remind the House that those figures dealt only with the first nine months of 1949 and therefore did not cover the last six months when, so it seems to me, the number of these crimes has shown a striking increase. I think it would be valuable to the public, since the latest statistics available are those for the year 1948, if the noble and learned Viscount in his reply could tell the House the most recent figures available to the Home Office, not merely for the crime of robbery with violence but also for the other main offences committed against property and accompanied by violence—burglary, housebreaking and shopbreaking, for example. As I have said, I do not dispute that there may well have been some decrease in robbery with violence since 1948. Statistics, however, do not alter the fact that it is impossible nowadays to pick up a newspaper without reading of some fresh outrage. Only yesterday three fresh cases were reported in the London area alone. I do not propose to give a long string of examples because your Lordships will be only too familiar with the kind of case that I mean. Perhaps I may give just one example, that of a lady of fifty who was attacked in a train by two youths armed with a gun, a cosh and an iron bar. She was beaten to within an inch of her life, and robbed of £1. What is so shocking, quite apart from the number or the ferocity of these attacks, is the proportion perpetrated by mere youths in their teens, and the number of their victims who are elderly women, incapable of defending themselves.

These are facts which are available to anybody who can read, and I believe it is these facts which are making a powerful impression upon the public mind, particularly in those areas of our large cities where these crimes are specially prevalent, where no woman dare walk alone in the streets at night and where the average householder is almost afraid to answer the door-bell in case he is hit over the head with a cosh. I cannot believe that the anxieties of these people will be allayed by the information that there was rather less of this kind of crime in 1949 than in 1948. I cannot help feeling that they must feel, as indeed I do, that, there is still far far too much of this kind of thing, and that it is time something was done about it. In any case, if we are dealing with statistics, it seems to me that it is the general trend over a period, and not the fluctuations as between one year and its immediate predecessor, that we ought to study. There are always these annual fluctuations, but I do not believe that they give us the true picture.

Last week the noble and learned Viscount gave your Lordships some figures for the crime of robbery with violence. He took, as I would have expected him to, the number of cases known to the police, because it is of course from the cases known to the police, and not from the convictions, that an accurate picture of the number of crimes actually committed can be obtained. The noble and learned Viscount told your Lordships that while for the first nine months of 1948 there were 711 cases of robbery with violence known to the for the first nine months of 1949 there were only 597 such cases—a decrease of a little over 100 cases. The criminal statistics for 1948 show that for the whole year there were 1,101 cases of robbery will violence, and therefore, on the assumption that this difference of about 100 cases between the two years did not alter materially during the last three months of 1949, it would be reasonable to assume that even in 1949 there were still about 1,000 cases of robbery with violence.


Eight hundred and sixty.


The noble and learned Viscount says 860. Well, if I am wrong in my facts, I hope that when he comes to reply he will set my mind at rest. After all, it is precisely for that reason that I have put down this Motion. At the moment, from the facts available to me it appears that there were about 1,000 cases in 1949.

I should now like to look for a moment at the period of nearly forty years between 1900 and 1939. For most of this period I have been able to obtain only average figures covering five-year periods. Nevertheless, I think that average figures present a sufficiently fair picture for comparison. During the whole of this long period, the highest yearly average of cases known to the police was 251, between 1900 and 1904. The lowest yearly average was 127, between 1915 and 1919. Between 1935 and 1939 the yearly average figure was 227. Compare those figures with the known figure of 1,101 cases in 1948, and with my estimated figure of 1,000 cases for 1949 (which I now understand from the noble and learned Viscount is wrong), and the real gravity of the present situation becomes obvious.

Perhaps one of the most striking facts that emerges from this study is that while for the five years immediately after the First World War the yearly average was 177 cases of robbery with violence, for the same period after this last war the average is about 1,000 cases; or, to put it in other words, three cases a day, instead of three cases a week. Another interesting comparison is between the figures for the periods immediately before and after the two World Wars. There are, and always have been, a number of experts who contend that there is invariably a great increase in crime immediately after a war. So far as robbery is concerned, this would not appear to be proved in any way because, if one compares the figures for the five years before the First World War—I admit that there has been an enormous increase since the last war—with the figures for the five years immediately afterwards, the yearly average shows a difference of only one case.

There have been equally significant increases in the other major crimes of violence against property as compared with 1938. In 1948 there were 2,500 more cases of burglary than in 1938; there were 24,000 more cases of housebreaking than in 1938, and there were 33,000 more cases of shopbreaking than in 1938. I do not, however, wish to weary your Lordships with any more statistics, nor do I think that necessary, for whatever the annual fluctuations may be it seems to me abundantly clear that there has been an alarming increase in the number of crimes of violence since before the last war and that this is a situation to which we cannot be apathetic. It is a situation which merits immediate attention. I am no expert in criminology or penology. My status in this matter is no greater than that of any man, woman, or child in this country— the status of a potential victim. Among all the experts who are taking part in this debate this afternoon, I am certainly the least qualified of your Lordships to pontificate as to the right course of action to be taken. Indeed, on this particular question the difficulties of the layman arc enormously increased by the fact that these very experts appear to disagree.

Before I say a word about these disagreements I would like to touch on one matter upon which I believe we can all agree—namely, the vital importance at this juncture of doing everything possible to assist and strengthen the police force. Never was there a time when a strong and efficient police force was more essential. As regards efficiency, I believe that our police force is still a model to the whole world and I should like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to the valiant efforts that they are making at the present time to fight these gangsters. But however efficient a police force may he, it cannot give of its best if it is seriously undermanned. If we are ever to overcome this crime wave, I am convinced that one of the most important things is that there should be more men on the beat; and I am quite sure that if the police force could be brought up to full strength it would be a most valuable contribution—perhaps the most valuable contribution—towards stamping out these outrages. That is what is needed more than anything else.

In 1948, the police force in England and Wales was, I believe, something in the neighbourhood of 12,000 men under strength, and the Metropolitan Police Force was nearly 5,000 men under strength. As your Lordships know, since that time the Government have taken action to stimulate recruiting by implementing some of the recommendations of the Oaksey Report. Whether the action that they have taken has proved sufficiently effective, or whether more urgent steps are needed to stimulate recruiting further, I do not know; but I am sure your Lordships would wish the noble and learned Viscount in his reply to tell us what success this action on the part of the Government has had in regard to recruiting, and, in particular, what improvement they have been able to achieve in the provision of housing for both single and married policemen.

I pass now to the vexed question of punishment for crimes of violence. As I have already said, this is a particularly difficult matter, because the experts disagree. However, there seem to be two fairly clearly defined schools of thought. There are those who believe that in cases of this kind corporal punishment is a deterrent; on the other hand, there are those who believe that, in principle, punishment is not a deterrent—that it has value only in so far as it reforms the criminal. They hold that if we wish to eliminate crime, we must first find out what turns a man into a criminal and then eliminate the causes of crime. I must confess that I have never been convinced that punishment is no deterrent to crime, although I certainly agree that the object of punishment should be not merely that of retribution but also that of reform.

Whatever I may feel about that, I am the last person to minimise the importance of trying to eliminate the causes of crime. I am quite sure that the man who has a decent job, a good home and ample opportunity for healthy recreation is less likely to become a criminal than a man who has none of these things. That, of course, is one of the many reasons why full employment is so valuable, and why the provision of houses is so important. Indeed, it is one of the main complaints that we on these Benches have against His Majesty's Government, that in our opinion they have failed to provide the houses which the nation so urgently needs at the present time. Equally important is the provision of proper facilities for recreation. The National Federation of Boys' Clubs and the National Playing Fields Association are doing splendid work in this sphere, and I hope they will continue to enjoy the full support, not only of the Government but of all right-thinking, citizens.

But more attention ought to be paid to other matters which have a bearing on crime. There is the question of the 15,000 deserters who are still at large in this country, and who inevitably, by their very position, are forced into criminal ways. That question has to be considered. But there are other questions, such as the effect of the cinema upon adolescent minds, and whether a rather stricter censorship of the worst type of gangster film might not well be imposed. Whilst I do not minimise the importance of all this, I cannot believe that such remedies alone constitute an adequate policy to deal with the present situation.

In the first place, these remedies are all, by their very nature, long-term remedies, whilst the problem itself is urgent and immediate. In the second place, these remedies have been applied increasingly over the last fifty years. Nobody, I think, will deny that these years have been years of progress. Noble Lords opposite may consider that the progress would have been more rapid and greater if they had been in power for the whole of the period. We may think otherwise, but everybody will agree that progress there has been—in education, in the standard of living, in housing conditions, in the social services and, not least, in prison conditions and in the reformative aspect of prison life. Yet despite all this material progress, instead of decreasing, violence has steadily increased. That, I suggest, is food for thought for those who believe that: by these methods alone crime can be eliminated. To my mind, the solution lies perhaps elsewhere. I do not believe that it is what is taught in the schools that matters so much as what is taught in the homes. The last fifty years have admittedly been years of great material progress, but they have, I believe, been years of a steady decline in the teaching in our homes of those Christian values by which alone this kind of thing can be brought to an end. It is in the restoration of the teaching of these values in our homes that I believe a long-term solution to this problem lies.

It is not with the long-term solution so much as with the short-term solution that we are concerned to-day, however. The Government have a duty to protect the life, the person and the property of the citizen of this country. This duty cannot be laid aside in the hope that one day better social conditions will render this duty unnecessary. For economic reasons, social conditions may well deteriorate. Even if they improve, I do not think there is any reason to suppose that that would have the desired effect. The people have the right to demand protection from this kind of thing now, and the Government have a duty to take urgent steps to deal with these pests to society. Whilst I respect the opinions of those who deny that corporal punishment is any deterrent to crime, I submit that they can no more prove their case than can their opponents who believe precisely the opposite. All that can be said with certainty is that whilst in some cases corporal punishment may be no deterrent, in others it may be a very great deterrent; and in no case-can it possibly be an incentive. For example, one cannot conceive of a particular man "beating up" somebody for the purpose of being "beaten up" himself in ret urn, but one can conceive of a man deciding against a course of violence because of the fear of receiving some of his own medicine.

For these reasons I felt that the. Government were very rash to select the year 1948–a year when the police force was 12,000 men below strength, and when the number of cases of robbery with violence was the highest for fifty years—to abandon corporal punishment. Had there been little crime, had the police force been strong, and had the general situation been more under control, the experiment might well have been justified. But, in the existing circumstances, it seemed to me that 1943 was the very last time to abandon even the most doubtful deterrent to this kind of offence.

Nobody can be enthusiastic about the imposition of corporal punishment. At the best, it should be a reserve power to strengthen the hands of the Judiciary in certain cases. And so far as I am concerned, the less it is necessary to use it, the better. Nevertheless, the Judges and the magistrates, in their great experience, can surely he trusted to use such a power with wisdom, and I think that this power ought to be there. Certainly, I can see neither sense nor justice in the present dispensation whereby the only people to suffer corporal punishment are the innocent victims of these vile attacks, whilst their assailants escape unhurt.

Nor can I ignore the opinions of the: one body of experts who more than any other seem to be reasonably unanimous in this matter. His Majesty's Judges devote their lives to dealing with these matters, and their opinions can surely not be lightly disregarded. It is, I think, significant that so many Judges should have publicly stated their opinion that not merely is corporal punishment a deterrent in many of these cases but that in many instances a sentence of corporal punishment coupled with a short term of imprisonment is a much more appropriate sentence than the long term of imprisonment which at the present moment is the only alternative. I know nothing of these matters, but it seems to me that if you take a young man of eighteen and send him to prison for fourteen years what you do to that man is, in effect, to give him every inducement to become a "hard case" for life.

Few of your Lordships, I imagine, would favour the return of the "cat." In 1948, this House passed an Amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which abolished the "cat" but retained the birch. This Amendment was rejected by the Government in another place, and was not insisted upon by your Lordships. I thought that the Government were wrong then, and I think that the Government are wrong to-day. I would therefore urge them, in view of the present circumstances, to reconsider the whole matter. If they do so, and if they decide, for the time being, to restore to the courts this sanction for use in appropriate cases, then I believe that they will be doing the wise thing. In so doing, they will in no way prejudice their right to try this experiment again at a later date, when circumstances are more propitious. If, on the other hand, they are not prepared to do this, then I think we have the right to ask them whether, in the first place, they are satisfied with the present state of affairs, and, if not, what alternative course of action they propose to deal with the situation. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I thought might be convenient to your Lordships' House if I were to speak at this very early stage because, in the course of what I have to say, I propose to offer your Lordships certain statistics which may be of value to those who come after me in the debate. I think that it probably would be for the convenience of the House that I do that at this stage; and if I can assist at the end of the debate on Thursday, by answering specific questions, then, with the permission of the House, I shall be very pleased to do so. Speaking for myself, I have no grievance at all about this matter being ventilated at the present time, nor have I the slightest criticism to make of the noble Lord who has just spoken for the way in which he has approached his task. I say nothing about a "sensational atmosphere." I wish I could set the noble Lord's mind at rest. I wish I could set my own mind at rest. I think the circumstances of to-day are in many respects very grave, and I shall, in the course of what I have to say, "nothing extenuate"—I wish that I could say "nothing set down in haste," because a good many of the figures which I now have I learned only in the course of the last hour or so.

This is a problem that confronts all of us. It is in no shape or form a Party question. We are confronted with a dangerous and difficult situation. We have to consider, with cool heads, what are the right steps to take in order to deal with it. I am certainly not going to pontificate about what I regard as an exceedingly difficult matter, nor am I going to assert that those who differ from me—in many respects I do not think many of your Lordships will differ from me—are necessarily wrong. The terms of the Motion which the noble Lord has moved are perfectly general. As I have said, I think it was right that the Motion should be moved. I think that the noble Lord has simply given voice to public disquiet which does exist. I believe there is reason for this public disquiet, and as a practical way of showing that that is what I think I shall ask your Lordships to accept this Motion; I shall not ask you to reject it. So far as Papers are concerned, all the Papers which I have are, of course, at your Lordships' disposal: I have nothing which I desire to conceal in any way at all.

Although the noble Lord's Motion is general, he did in fact introduce the debatable and vexed question of flogging. I think I should say here that the attitude of the Government upon this is quite definite, and I can leave it at that. The last Parliament, in its last year deliberately passed an Act of Parliament which did away with flogging. We have no intention of reintroducing it—none whatever. That is said, and that is simply said. But that does not mean that we are not prepared to cope with the situation. The old experiment whereby His Majesty's Judges used often to give a shorter sentence, with a sentence of corporal punishment added to it, is now impossible. They cannot now give corporal punishment. It follows from that, as the noble and learned Lord Chief Justice usefully pointed out the other day, that the shorter sentence is no longer appropriate and that longer sentences have to be given. We have to try to see what happens as the result now of not awarding the short sentence with a sentence of whipping, and of awarding the longer sentences which cannot now be cut down by the use of corporal punishment.

If your Lordships will consider the facts for one moment, you will remember that in 1937 (I think my dates are right) the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon—he was Home Secretary at the time—appointed a Committee known as the Cadogan Committee. That Committee reported in 1938. It was a powerful Committee composed of very sensible and level-headed people. They stated in the course of their Report that they had come to a unanimous conclusion. They had rot started with any preconceived ideas upon this matter but, they said, they were driven on investigation of the situation to the unanimous conclusion that corporal punishment ought to be abolished.

Again, before the war the noble Viscount, Lord Tern plewood—who was then Home Secretary—introduced a Bill into the House of Commons and in its Committee stage a very considerable majority of the Committee in that place endorsed tine proposal that corporal punishment should be abolished. It was only the outbreak of the war which prevented that Bill from going any further. Then in the last Parliament a Bill was introduced another place which sought to abolish corporal punishment. In the proceedings in another place there was no Division at all on the question. When the Bill came to your Lordships' House we had a most interesting debate on an Amendment moved by the Lord Chief Justice. The Lord Chief Justice and the noble Lord, Lord Roche, spoke in favour and the noble Lord, Lord du Parcq, whose loss we all particularly deplore on an occasion of this sort, spoke in a contrary sense. The Amendment was carried by a small majority. When the Bill went back to another place, this Amendment was rejected by a very large majority, some 230 odd to 60, and when it returned to your Lordships' House we decided not to insist on our Amendment. In these circumstances it would be politically impossible—and, indeed, impossible from every point of view—that we should now go back on the decision we came to a year ago, unless the figures available to us provided us with most cogent reasons for doing so. But as the figures seem to indicate no such necessity at all, I say at once that it is quite impossible for us to go back on that decision now.

My right honourable: friend the Home Secretary, has promised to undertake to bring some of the figures of the Cadogan Report up to date. Your Lordships will remember that the Cadogan Report, in the second Appendix, took the figures showing the number of cases of robbery with violence up to 1935 and also gave the number of persons sentenced to corporal punishment. The years differ very much, as your Lordships who have the Report before you will see, but the average number sentenced to corporal punishment for the thirty-five years under consideration was about thirteen a year.

In Appendix Ill the case histories of these people are followed. They show that on the whole—I think I had better put it in this way—the subsequent careers of those who were flogged were rather worse than the subsequent careers of those who were not flogged. I think it is fair to say that presumably those who were flogged would be the worst cases, and that criticism can he made of any conclusion drawn from those figures. But that is the position. The Home Secretary is perfectly willing to undertake to try to bring these figures up to date. I am saying "up to date," but of course we cannot bring them right to the current date, because to deal with the subsequent history of those sentenced requires a gap of a few years—perhaps we can give the figures up to 1940. It would be interesting to see what these figures revealed. I am only guessing, but I am guessing on the advice of those who know a good deal about it, when I say that they would probably reveal the same conclusion as the earlier figures before the Cadogan Committee. It will be a considerable task to obtain these figures, but when we have them I will certainly make them available to your Lordships.

I have seen some of our newspapers put the question in this way: "Cat or Cosh?" —that was the headline of a great newspaper. I cannot imagine a more misleading way of putting the controversy. The two are put as though they are alternatives. If it can be shown that they really are alternative, and that by giving the "cat" we can abolish the cosh, then there is a tremendous case for the "cat"; but the whole point of the controversy is: Is it "cat" or cosh, or "cat" and cosh? The argument is weak, because there is no evidence to show that the use of the "cat" prevents further crimes of violence. What we have to see is whether the longer sentences which now inevitably have to be given by Judges, whether they like it or not, are not a more effective deterrent than short sentences coupled with the "cat."

As I have said before, I think the Lord Chief Justice called attention to a public misapprehension. The public seem to think that what we did by abolishing corporal punishment was to show greater leniency to these criminals. That is a fallacious point, as the noble and learned Lord himself pointed out. It is inevitable that sentences now must be longer if we do not have the use of corporal punishment, and I understand that that was what the Lord Chief Justice was pointing out. Other Judges have pointed it out since. I hope—and I am one person who can say this—that Judges will not go on pointing, this out in a way which rather indicates that they are criticising the Legislature; because nothing is more certain than this: that the function of the Legislature is to pass the laws, and the function of the Judges is to administer them. Everyone who has thought the matter over carefully, will agree with me that it is essential that these two functions should be kept absolutely independent of each other. It would be as deplorable if we interfered with the administration of the laws as it would be if the Judges interfered with the making of the laws. I am not saying that it is being done—I do not think it has been; but I am saying that certain people think it has been done, and that is a misfortune. Judges are pointing out, as indeed they must point out, that in existing circumstances they must give longer sentences than hitherto; and I regard it as appropriate and essential that the Judges should say it and have the right to say it.

I believe that what we need far more than figures on corporal punishment is, first, certainty of arrest, and secondly, at the present time, a long and severe sentence following the arrest. I will deal presently with the question of the police, which I regard with the noble Lord as a matter of first importance in this question.

I have to trouble your Lordships with some statistics. I am afraid that I shall be rather wearisome, and I am sorry that I have not got them in tabulated form. The criminal statistics come out generally about June or July of the year, and when I am trying to deal with 1949 of course I have not the completed figures. I am trying, therefore, to simplify the figures, because I realise how difficult it is to follow them without seeing them. I think the right test of what the noble Lord said is to take the figures of crimes known to the police, because that is an indication of the totality of crime and is for that reason, I think, a better figure than the number of those found guilty. May I make this general observation, that as I follow through year after year I notice that the number of cases which are cleared up is slightly mounting, showing that the methods of detection are certainly not less but are more effective than they were? That is very satisfactory. I give this word of warning: one cannot collate the number of convicted persons with the number of cases that, in the police phraseology, are "cleared up." The reason for this is that a man on conviction will confess to a number of other crimes which he desires taken into account, and also that a jury do not know the past history of people they find not guilty in cases where the police are perfectly satisfied that they are guilty. That must be borne in mind.

I start with the broadest general survey of indictable offences, not necessarily of violence, but any petty theft, stealing from a shop, pilfering or petty larceny. In the year 1948 the number of offences known to the police were 522,684 and in the year 1949, 459,869. There is a satisfactory drop there. But there are two unsatisfactory features. The proportion of that total accounted for by juveniles—and I use that word in the sense of persons of under seventeen—has not dropped to the extent I should like. If I must refer to persons found guilty—and I cannot do it in any other way—whereas in 1948 the number of juveniles found guilty was 44,434, in 1949 the number of juveniles found guilty was 40,430. That is a drop from 44,434 to 40,430, but it is not nearly so substantial a drop as I should like to see. Secondly, I think in fairness we must remember that the year 1918, with which I am comparing 1949, was in itself a very bad year—it was the worst year.

Let me give your Lordships these figures. The comparable figure of all indictable offences known to the police for 1938 was 283,220; for 1939, 303,771 —I pass over the war years—for 1945, 478,394; for 1946, 472,489; for 1947, 498,576; for 1948, which is an "all-time high," 522,684; and for 1949, 459,869. Your Lordships will see that the 1949 figure is lower than the figure for 1945, 1946, 1947 or 1948, hut is still very much higher than the figure for 1938. There your Lordships see the position. I come to the next set of statistics I want to give to your Lordships.


May I interrupt the noble and learned Viscount? He started by giving us totals of indictable offences known to the police. I follow those. The noble and learned Viscount then passed to a comparison of a number of convictions. Is it in any way possible to know what proportion of these totals of indictable offences known to the police are believed to have been committed by juveniles?


Yes, I can tell your Lordships that. There is a sum involved, which someone who is a mathematician will do for me. The total number of persons found guilty of the 522,684 offences was 129,384. That 129,384 is divided as follows: the number of persons of seventeen and over was 84,950, and of persons of under seventeen 44,434 Therefore, the under-seventeens are approximately 33 per cent. Before I leave this table, the figures for the clearing up of offences are these: in 1948 42 per cent. were cleared up, and in 1949 44 per cent. were cleared up, I come now to a different question which the noble Lord was kind enough in a letter to indicate he would like me to deal with. I take now a table of figures relating to crimes of violence against the person. We find in the criminal statistics all sorts of figures relating to crimes of violence against the person, though they are not crimes of violence in the ordinary sense at all—for example, abortion and so on. I have selected from these crimes those which in the popular sense involve violence. I take murder, attempt to murder, threats or conspiring to murder, manslaughter, felonious wounding, malicious wounding, assault, rape, indecent assaults on females and robbery of all sorts. These are the figures for those crimes.

A NOBLE LORD: It is not robbery of all sorts?


Yes, it is. Under the appropriate section of the Larceny Act one subsection deals with robbery with violence, for which in the old days a sentence of flogging could be imposed, and another subsection deals with simple robbery for which the penalty was up to fourteen years. A third subsection deals with assaults with intent to commit robbery for which you could give five years—the Lord Chief Justice will correct me if I am wrong.


It is robbery with aggravation for which you can give life, robbery with violence for which you can give life, and simple robbery for which you can give fourteen years.


When I say "all sorts of robbery," I am dealing with those offences, In 1948 there were known to the police 11.780 cases, and 73 per cent. of them were cleared up. Persons of seventeen and over found guilty numbered 4,447, and persons of under seventeen found guilty numbered 871. Therefore the total number of persons found guilty was 5,318. I now come to 1949, and this seems to be a pretty bad figure. In 1949 the cases known to the police are 12,247, compared to the 11,780 for 1943. The proportion cleared up is 74 per cent. Persons of seventeen and over found guilty were 4,701, and persons of under seventeen found guilty were 894, making a total of 5,595. I was disturbed to see that 1949 was a higher total than 1948–to be precise, it was 467 more.

I have to break up the figures to differentiate between the various crimes. I find that the difference is accounted for, and more than accounted for, by indecent assaults on females—for which, I may say, incidentally, flogging was never a penalty. Whereas in 1948 the number of these assaults was 5,659, in 1949 it was 6,191. That is an addition of 532, which your Lordships will see more than accounts for the increase in 1949 compared with 1948, which was 467. That is a very serious figure. With regard to persons under 17 found guilty, they represent roughly 16 per cent. of the total for both the years 1948 and 1949. If these young people are not going to reform, but are going to lead a life of crime hereafter, then we shall be confronted with a most serious situation, because this whole group of law breakers will be added to the criminal population.

I now come to my next set of figures. I will deal with that particular type of robbery which was punishable by flogging. By way of parenthesis, may I just remind your Lordships of how unsatisfactory I at any rate have always thought the old law about flogging was? Your Lordships may remember the case which I mentioned, about that frightful assault in Sunderland where seven young menthe eldest of them I think was 21–took hold of some decent and respectable girl sitting in a public park, took her into a wood, and whilst two held her down, five of them raped her one after the other. When they had finished their disgusting task they opened her handbag, in which she had a £1 note and a fountain pen, which they took. Now technically they became liable to be flogged. What for? Not because they raped this girl, but because they stole the fountain pen and the £1 note. I must confess that it has always seemed to me that if we are going to have flogging it should not necessarily be confined to crimes of violence in the nature of robbery, but should be applicable to all crimes of violence.

However, I am now dealing with statistics of that type of robbery which was punishable by flogging. I gave your Lordships the figure for the first nine months of 1948, a figure of 711. I am able to give your Lordships the figures for the last three months of 1948, which is 267, making a total for the year 1948 of 978. Incidentally, I may say that the dark season of the year, December, is the worst month for this business. Therefore the total robbery with violence figure—that is, in the technical sense, of the crimes which were formerly punishable by flogging—is 978. In the corresponding period of 1949, the first nine months, the figure was 597, and in the last three months, 263–making a total of 860. I tried to see whether I could get any further statistical help about these figures, and I have been able to obtain the figures for London and the thirteen largest cities which comprise one-third of the total population of England and Wales. I give your Lordships these figures. From January to September, 1948–I cannot complete the year—there were 331; from January to September, 1949, 306. In October, 1949, 32; in November, 1949, 33; in December, 1949, 46; in January, 1950, 39, and in February, 1950, 39. Those are the figures up to date. Your Lordships will observe that the figures for London and the thirteen largest cities account for approximately one-half of this class of crime, whereas the population is only one-third. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to regard this class of crime as in any way confined to London and the big cities, because as your Lordships will see there is a considerable quantity of this crime outside London and those thirteen cities.

There is one other set of figures which I must give—I apologise for doing so, but I think it is right that I should. These figures relate to crimes of violence against property — housebreaking, burglary, shopbreaking and that sort of thing. The total known to the police for 1948 was 112,665, and the total known to the police for 1949 was 91,445, a fairly substantial drop. A feature of this which I do not like is that in the year 1948 approximately 50 per cent. of those crimes were committed by young people under seventeen. It is true that they embrace such small crimes as breaking into a small sweatshop or something of that sort. Nevertheless, 50 per cent, is a very formidable total. Of the persons found guilty, 12,656 out of a total of 23,580 found guilty of those crimes in 1948 were young persons under seventeen. In the year 1949, 10,337 out of 19,502 persons found guilty were young persons under seventeen.

This state of affairs led me, a year or so ago, on a Motion of the most reverend Primate, to suggest that he should be brought in touch with the Home Secretary and that he should try to get the public conscience stirred and arrange conferences to try to tackle this terrible problem of crime amongst the young. The juvenile delinquency figures for 1948 had shown a very large increase over the figures for 1947. There had been a 26 per cent. increase in the number of boys and girls under fourteen found guilty of indictable offences at Magistrates' courts, and a 23 per cent. increase in the number of boys and girls between fourteen and seventeen found guilty of indictable offences at magistrates' courts. Thanks to the Archbishop and the fact that he put down a Motion, the Home Secretary and the Minister of Education summoned a conference at which a large number of local authorities, juvenile court justices, teachers and voluntary organisations were present, together with both the Archbishops. That conference discussed both causes and remedies. It was held in March, 1949, and your Lordships will find a brief account of its conclusions in the introduction to the Memorandum on Juvenile Delinquency which was issued jointly by the Home Office and the Ministry of Education. The result of that has been that a large number of the various local authorities have held their conferences and have got to work trying to evolve schemes and methods of dealing with this very serious menace. Of those who have not yet held their conferences, a considerable number are going to do so soon.

I find that in the year 1949, as compared with 1948 there was a decrease of about 7 per cent. in the number of boys and girls under fourteen found guilty of indictable offences in magistrates' courts, and a decrease of 11 per cent. in the numbers of boys and girls between fourteen and seventeen found guilty of indictable offences in magistrates' courts. Although that is a reduction compared with 1948, nobody should be satisfied by it, because the 1949 figures, thus reduced, are substantially more than the 1947 figures and, Heaven knows, the 1947 figures were high enough. I am sorry for having had to arrange it in this way, but I think that gives your Lordships the sort of material which may he useful.

Now I come to the subject of the police. Here again I think there is some cause for disquiet, but things are better. First, in the provinces the authorised establishment as at September, 1938–that is to say, before the war—was 42,269. In 1946 the authorised establishment was raised to 44,647. As at March 1, 1950, the establishment was raised to 50,604. Now for the strength. In September, 1938, the provincial police forces were only 2.4 per cent. below strength. In January, 1946, they were 23.8 per cent. below strength. In March, 1950, in spite of the fact that there is a larger establishment, they are 13.4 per cent. below strength. The prospects for recruiting amongst the provincial police forces seem on the whole to be good. Average figures are apt to be misleading; but I may say that whereas some towns and district are yielding unsatisfactory results, other districts are more satisfactory—for, so far as I know, no apparent reason. Take, for instance, Devon and Plymouth. Devonshire is 20 per cent. under strength, but Plymouth is up to strength. Coventry is no less than 36 per cent. under strength, whereas Nottingham is only 1.3 per cent. under strength. Leeds is 4 per cent. under strength. Birmingham is 28 per cent. under strength. Liverpool is 17 per cent. under strength. It looks to me as if it is rather a problem of the large towns. Whatever the reason is, the problem is a baffling one. Speaking by and large, however, the position of the provincial police force is easing considerably.


If I may interrupt the noble and learned Viscount for a moment, I believe I am right in saying that the reason why Plymouth is in a better position than Devon is that houses are being made available for police in Plymouth, and not so much so in Devon.


There may, of course, always be some special local conditions, but frankly I do not know in general what the reasons are.

Now for the position of the Metropolitan Police Force. It has gone up slightly. Its authorised establishment is 19,737. There is a 21 per cent. deficiency to-day, which is much more than I like it to be. Are we making it good? To some extent we are. The effects of the improvements recommended by the Committee presided over by Lord Oaksey, came into force on July 1, 1949. Up to that date the net increase in the strength of the Metropolitan Police Force was only*2.4 per cent. and since that date the average monthly increase in regular strength has been 16* per cent.—which is nothing like high enough, but at any rate it compares favourably with* 2.4 per cent. I hope and believe that the improvement will be maintained. The authorities have decided—and I think rightly—to drop slightly in some respects their standard requirements. It is a fact that a very large percentage of recruits for one reason or another have been rejected; and I am sure we are right, if we possibly can, not to lower these standards. I think there has been some slight lowering in the standard of height, but not of anything else; and I am sure that that is right.

With regard to housing, police authorities are not, of course, housing authorities, but as a rule the policy has been that police should make their own arrangements for housing. I very much hope that local authorities will he rather more generously inclined towards the police than they have been heretofore. It is a fact, I think, that in the past local authorities have been not quite so forthcoming as one would have hoped; and I trust that as a result of this debate local authorities may feel that the police ought to be very high on their list of priorities. The number of houses owned by police authorities is quite small as compared with the whole figure.


I believe I am right in saying that it was said in earlier debates on this subject that the local authorities do not recognise a priority for the police. They recognise priorities for a number of things but, it was stated, I think, that they do not recognise a priority for police. Will they do so now?


I do not know. But there is nothing binding or fixed in the matter of priorities, so far as the local authorities are concerned. I hope that, as a result of a circular which is now going out, the authorities may make some improvement in the position.

I have tried to put this matter in a completely non-controversial way. This is a very grave problem and I think the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has put forward this Motion focusing public * See Col. 481. attention upon it is all to the good. I sincerely hope that by these various methods and in various ways this great problem may be solved.


May I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether, when he mentioned flogging, he referred only to the use of the "cat" or did he include also the use of the birch?


What I was saying was that we did not contemplate altering the present position, and I meant all forms of corporal punishment.


Will local authorities be allowed in the future to provide tied houses for police?


I am afraid that I cannot answer that question at this stage. I will find out if possible.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, the course that the debate has taken shows how great is the debt of gratitude we owe to the noble Lord who raised it. It seemed to me that he made a most able and comprehensive speech. with a great deal of which I find myself in agreement. If I disagree with him on one single point, it does not detract from my respect for the way in which he put his case, for the very useful course that he has taken in drawing the attention of the country to the grave state of affairs and, in particular, for having elicited from the Lord Chancellor a series of very important statistics. I share to the full the public anxiety. I do not delay over the details of the statistics. I am prepared to accept the fact that there has been a serious outbreak of violent crime and that there has been an equally serious increase in juvenile delinquency. Nor do I approach these questions from any sentimental angle. Indeed, the proposals for dealing with dangerous criminals that I made in 1938, when I was Home Secretary, and which have since been embodied in the Criminal Justice Act, make the law more and not less severe for hardened offenders.

Nor do I fail to recognise that conditions have changed since 1938 and that the problems of the war and the after-war have brought into the forefront a number of new and very difficult factors. It is from this background that I approach the problems raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and I ask myself these questions. How can we best re-establish respect for law and order? How can we raise the moral standard of the people, the moral standard that is really the greatest of all safeguards against delinquency and crime? How can we help the police to succeed better in detecting crime and in protecting the community from it? Those seem to me to be the three cardinal questions of to-day. In a few minutes I propose to try to give what I regard as tentative answers to them. I purposely say "tentative." I realise as clearly as anyone that questions of crime and delinquency are very complicated and are dangerous to generalise about. When I ask myself: "What is the line that looks most favourable for dealing with them?", I look in two directions. I look first in the direction of intensive training and, if necessary, long terms of imprisonment. I look secondly in the direction of strengthening the police forces to a much greater extent than has even been suggested by the Lord Chancellor this afternoon.

Training, of course, has been the central principle of our penal institutions for a good many years. Ever since the introduction of approved schools and Borstals, the great body of penal workers have taken the view that, particularly with the young, there is needed, not a short sentence but a long period of training. It was upon this principle that we made a further step in advance in the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 We then adopted proposals starting detention centres where young criminals could undergo a period of treatment but, most important of all, we adopted a proposal of what is called corrective training—namely, a long sentence of corrective training in a special institution for dangerous young offenders. I ask the Lord Chancellor to-day whether, before the end of this debate, he can tell us to what extent these institutions have been started and whether there are yet any lessons than can be drawn from the training that is being given, particularly in the corrective training centres and in the detention centres. I think that anyone who has been closely connected with penal questions for a period of years will agree with me when I say that this line of intensive training is in the long run the most hopeful line for dealing particularly with young offenders. I do not say that any of us is yet satisfied with the results.

One of our difficulties is that, although most of these methods have now been adopted for a good many years, there is still a considerable obscurity as to how exactly they have worked. Only to-day I have written to the Home Secretary to ask him to provide us with much fuller information upon the actual results, say of juvenile courts, say of probation, say of approved schools, a an at present we possess. I am told, for instance, that there are no records available of cases where an offender has been out on probation twice. I am told again that in the case of children who are sent to what arc called senior approved schools there are no records as to whether they have been in junior approved schools. I do not weary the House this afternoon with these details. What I wish to emphasise is that we need a much more systematic approach to the statistics of these questions than we have had in the past. I myself believe that what is needed is a series of methodical and systematic inquiries directed, it may be, by some central body at the Home Office and working for choice through the research departments of the various universities. I think that as a result of those inquiries we should better understand which of the present methods is proving the most effective, and where the lessons of experience tell us that we need changes. They would tell us whether reforms need to be effected or not. In any case, from the experience that I have had, I am sure that it is along the line of intensive training and, if necessary, long terms of imprisonment in special institutions, that the best hope lies for reducing the figures of violent crime.

I come now to my second point, the question of the police. I am convinced that a great deal of juvenile delinquency to-day is due to the fact that in many districts, particularly in some of the new housing districts, the children never see a policeman from one end of the week to the other. I am convinced that the mere sight of a policeman on his beat in the street would prevent many of these children from doing some silly act, it may be of bravado, that in the end may lead them into much more serious crime. I can never forget the fact that if you look at the records of the worst criminals you will find that in almost every case they started their criminal career with some quite petty offence as a juvenile. I believe that in many cases those petty offences could be stopped by having a policeman walking up and down the street, embodying in the district the law and order that has got to be respected.

The Lord Chancellor gave us a number of figures about the present state of the police force, and seemed to me (I hope I am wrong) to give a more favourable impression of the situation than I believe is actually the case. I have here the figures of the Metropolitan Police. They show that even upon the present inadequate establishment the Metropolitan Police are 4,300 men short. That is not the end of the story. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has himself said that the establishment has not been raised since the war. I have calculated—and I base my calculation upon inquiries I have been making—that the Metropolitan Police is to-day between 6,000 and 7,000 men short of what ought to be its adequate strength. The Lord Chancellor said that since the first Report of the Oaksey Committee recruiting has been improving. I agree that it does show an improvement, but, according to the figures that I was given last week, it is so small an improvement that it will take more than twenty years before the establishment of the police is finally reached. My figures show that in the last six months 707 new recruits joined the police and 536 men have left. That means an addition of 171 in the course of six months. Noble Lords can calculate as to when at that rate the ranks of the Metropolitan Police will be filled. I do not wish to go into any detail about the many reasons that are holding up recruiting for the police. Some of my noble friends and myself hope to have a full debate upon the subject after Easter. It is sufficient for me to point to this great shortage which I put at 6,000 men in the Metropolitan Police and 7,000 men in the provinces. I am convinced that we have to take this shortage into constant account when we are considering the reasons for these outbursts of violent crime and the best ways of restraining them.

Your Lordships will see that I have taken two questions, training and the police, as the questions which I believe really matter when we are facing the difficult problems that confront us. I have purposely left to the end the question of corporal punishment because I do not believe it is the kind of method that is really going to make much difference to the problems that I have been discussing. I do not argue to-day the moral aspects of corporal punishment. I have my own personal views upon the subject. I believe that on the whole judicial corporal punishment lowers the general moral standards of the country. But for the moment I set aside that argument; and I set aside the other argument that judicial corporal punishment is brutal. The Lord Chief Justice admitted in this House on June 2 that there was an element of brutality in the "cat," and that it often did permanent harm to an offender. Lord du Parcq, I remember very well, added that in his experience flogging left a hardened criminal more hardened than he was before.

But I do not delay upon arguments of that kind; I concentrate upon two and two only. First of all, it is my convinced opinion that corporal punishment is not an essential deterrent for suppressing the outbursts of violent crime that are making us all so anxious. I believe the long terms of training and imprisonment to which I have alluded are a much better deterrent. Put at their lowest they keep the violent criminal segregated for a length of time; put at their highest they enable us to give these young offenders a long period of intensive training which will eventually reform them. Secondly, I believe that judicial corporal punishment is ineffective. At the magistrates' courts it has been abandoned, not because the magistrates thought it was wicked or immoral but because they thought it was of little use and that it often did much harm. It is a significant fact that although it was in 1948 that the provision authorising whipping as a sentence in magistrates' courts was repealed, whipping sentences in magistrates' courts had practically become obsolete before that date. I think that in the year before the Act was passed, the number of sentences of that kind, which at one time had been many hundreds—sometimes indeed running into thousands—was reduced to ten or twenty. Magistrates, as a whole, had abandoned it because they had found it useless for their purpose.

Finally I hope very much that we shall not be deflected from what really matters in these penal questions by what I believe to be a quack remedy. I want a much greater concentration on the kind of points which I have been discussing this afternoon—the problems of training, the improvement of our probation system, the introduction of necessary reforms, it may be, into Borstal institutions and approved schools. I am very much afraid that this outcry for recourse to corporal punishment within only a few months of the action of Parliament in abolishing it will, if it succeeds, not only be ineffective for repressing crimes of violence but will deflect the minds of the people of the country and the activities of social and penal workers from these much better directions in which we believe that, with persistence, we can eventually greatly improve the present state of affairs. It is on those grounds that, while pressing the Government for further information upon the subjects with which I have dealt, and while thanking the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for having taken the firm stand which he has taken on this question of judicial corporal punishment, I maintain the view which I expressed ten years ago upon the objections to judicial corporal punishment, and express the hope that as the result of this debate the country will see that there are other and much better lines along which we can advance.

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, I share the gratitude which has already been expressed to the noble Lord who opened the debate on this subject in what I felt was a very forcible and fair speech. I found myself in almost entire agreement with him, except upon one matter. We all of us, I am sure, share with him indignation at the cruel and savage crimes of which we read only too frequently in our newspapers. I think it is a terrible fact that there are large numbers of elderly people and others who are terrified of opening their doors at night, in case they may find some ruffian trying to enter, and that there are many all over the country who are terrified of walking alone in the streets after nightfall. There is a strong feeling of indignation and anger against those who commit these crimes, and support is given to the Judges in doing their utmost to stamp out these crimes with sentences which express the indignation of the people. I am not, however, convinced that flogging is the right remedy.

I am not taking a very strong line, or the principle that all corporal punishment is wrong on every possible occasion. I do not believe that. I believe that there are cases, especially among juveniles, when corporal punishment is thoroughly salutary and legitimate. But that is quite a different matter from judicial sentences of corporal punishment. The question which I ask myself, and which I want to put to others is: What is the evidence that corporal punishment inflicted by judicial sentence is a deterrent? I have heard statements made frequently that it is a deterrent, but so far I have heard no kind of evidence in support of what too often is taken for granted. I think there is a good deal of evidence to the contrary. Take, for instance, what happened in the Middle Ages, when attempts were made to fit the punishment to the crime, and it was felt that imprisonment, with all its horrors, and even death itself, were not sufficient. The worse the offence the more terrible was the torture which was designed as a fitting punishment. In the Middle Ages, we know, torture, flogging, and all sorts of terrible penalties were inflicted increasingly upon men found guilty of crime, but nowhere do we find that there was any decrease in the amount of violent crime in consequence.

I think Montaigne, in one of his essays, well expressed his criticism when he wrote: All that exceeds a simple death appears to me absolute cruelty. Neither can our justices expect that he whom the fear of being executed by being beheaded or hanged will not restrain, shall any more be awed by the imagination of a languishing fire, burning pincers, or the wheel. That view might well be applied to the present situation. I doubt very much whether a man who knows that if he is detected and convicted he will be sentenced to a long term of imprisonment will be deterred by the possibility of a flogging. That was certainly the view of the most important Committee, to which reference has already been made this afternoon and which reported in 1938. That Committee declared that, After examining all the available evidence, we have been unable to find any body of facts or figures showing that the introduction of a power of flogging has produced a decrease in the number of offences for which it may be imposed, or that offences for which flogging may be ordered have tended to increase when little use was made of the power to order flogging or to decrease when the power was exercised more frequently. That was the unanimous conclusion of a very powerful Committee. Although I think that the period since flogging was abolished is too short to enable us to rely on any statistics, so far as there are any statistics they show that these crimes have been on the decrease.

Perhaps I may give your Lordships an illustration from my own experience. Some forty years ago when I was vicar of a parish, I regularly used to visit the local prison. One of my parishioners—not one of my congregation—was sentenced to be flogged as a rogue and vagabond. He was one of the worst men I have ever known. He lived on the proceeds of prostitutes, and knocked them about with his knuckleduster when they did not bring in sufficient money. I visited him in prison in the ordinary course of my duties and I found the man absolutely terrified, in a state of abject fear. I heard from the police that the others involved in the same crime had hurriedly left the town. But I also found that the officials and warders of the prison were filled with consternation at the thought that they had to carry out this sentence. The warders, pretty tough men, found it in some way degrading that they should have to flog an adult. The man was flogged, and served his term of imprisonment. I made inquiries from the police some months afterwards. They said that the man had gone back to his old profession, and the people who had left the town had returned to it. I believe that that has been the general experience, that a flogging is not a deterrent. It would be a far greater deterrent if we had a sufficient number of police to make it certain that every crime would be detected and the criminal brought to trial, convicted and severely sentenced. As has already been pointed out, our police are insufficient in number. They are not only insufficient in number, but they have placed upon them all sorts of duties which take them away from their primary duty of arresting criminals and protecting property and persons.

I want to speak now on what I feel is much more important than the question of punishment; that is, bow best to stop the sources of crime. As noble Lords who have already spoken have pointed out, there is a large amount of juvenile crime. The figures given to us by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor are most alarming and disturbing. I believe that if we knew the past history of those who have recently been convicted of brutal crimes we should find that they had previously been before the magistrates and that as juveniles they had from time to time committed various offences. There is undoubtedly a large pool of juvenile delinquents, and the question is, how can we dry up this pool? What are the sources which are perpetually feeding it with new recruits? I am sure that there is not one simple answer to the sources of juvenile crime. It is partly due to the atmosphere of excitement and restlessness of the war years, partly (though I think only partly) due to gangster films, and partly to bad housing. Partly, also, it is due to the ignorance of religion on the part of a large number of these children. It is one thing to tell them that dishonesty is disobedience to God, and quite another to tell them dishonesty is an offence against the social order.

All these considerations have tended to increase juvenile delinquency, but it must be remembered that the great majority of children are subjected to the same considerations and yet they are not delinquents. After all, it is only a minority who come before the courts or offend against the law. It is becoming increasingly clear, I believe, that the juvenile delinquents are those who come from unsatisfactory homes. The root of the mischief is to be found in the home. I am not bringing a railing accusation, levelled generally against parents. The great majority of parents feel full responsibility towards their children, and many parents living in most uncomfortable and crowded surroundings have a very high sense of duty towards the unbringing of the children. But all the evidence goes to show that the great majority of juvenile delinquents come from unsatisfactory homes.

In the Medical Journal this week there is an extremely interesting article by Doctor Bowldy, who says that: two factors can be picked out which are specially common in the history of persistent delinquents, and differentiate them from children suffering from other forms of maladjustment. These are:

  1. (1) Prolonged separation of the child from his mother or established foster-mother during his first five years. Such separations are of not lass than sis months during which the child is with complete strangers. …
  2. (2) A child's being more or less unwanted by parents who are themselves unstable and unhappy people. …"
This doctor shows, with a mass of evidence and statistics, that there is general agreement that the unhappy home and the unhappiness of parents are two of the main causes which lead to juvenile delinquency. In addition to that there are undoubtedly a number of parents who feel no responsibility for their children, who make no attempt to enforce discipline and obedience and let the child run wild. It is not always the fault of the parents. Homes are often so overcrowded that it is impossible for parents to keep the children in when they ought to be off the streets, but welfare workers are unanimous in their opinion that a great deal more could be done by parents insisting on discipline.

An interesting suggestion has been made by the Warrington and District School Matters' Association, which is quoted in the Manchester Guardian to-day. The paper says: If the parent is primarily to blame for his child committing a crime, then it is the parent who should compulsorily appear in the juvenile court, side by side with his child, the parent who should pay for damage to property, the parent who should be placed on probation. That may be a rather drastic suggestion, but I am certain that some method must be found of bringing home to the parents that they are responsible for the misdemeanours of their children.

This problem of juvenile delinquency and its connection with the unhappy home, the home in which the parents have been separated by divorce, or in which the parents are perpetually quarrelling, is a problem which concerns both the Church and the State. It is a moral as well as a civic problem. It is impossible in these days for the Church to get in touch with all these people. It is easy to say that this is the obligation of the Church, but it is impossible for the Church to carry out fully the duties which many wish to see it fulfil. But the State, through its schools and through its welfare associations, has a large number of different ways in which it can get in touch with all these homes. I had hoped very much, though I am afraid I gave the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor no notice of this, that we might have had a report on the results of some of these conferences on juvenile delinquency which are being held in various parts of the country. These conferences have been held in many places, but in the places where I have made inquiries, so far as I can learn, not enough conferences have been held. But these conferences ought to be able to produce a large number of extremely valuable recommendations which might later be acted upon. I hope very much that in this debate we shall not dwell overmuch on the question of flogging, which after all is a minor matter in connection with the whole field. I hope we shall try to see how best we can reduce the pool of juvenile delinquency from which later on the older delinquents come.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, my only justification for intervening in this debate is that twenty-five years ago I was a magistrate in Glasgow, and sitting as a very young magistrate alone in the courts I was perhaps more than usually impressed with the responsibility of my office and became interested in the whole problem of the causation of crime and the treatment of the criminal. In the years immediately before the war, I was concerned in the organisation and the running of one of the child guidance clinics which was attempting to deal with the great problem of juvenile delinquency and juvenile maladjustment which has been referred to as probably the great source of most of the later and more serious crimes. I do not pretend for a moment that as a result of that experience I became, as my wife did, an expert in that particular field, but only, like the noble Lord who introduced the debate, one of the more than usually interested men in the street in this matter. We are greatly indebted to the noble Lord for introducing this debate, and I am sure there is no speaker who would not wish to express agreement with him in the concern which he feels about the crimes of violence which are disturbing the community to-day: nor would we wish to fall behind hill in expressing our sympathy with the victims of that violence and with those whose lives continue to be disturbed by the fear of violence if they carry out their normal pursuits.

The most reverend Primate referred to the fact that we feel angry when we read in the newspapers about these crimes of violence. I would suggest, with all humility, that, however angry we may feel about them, we are not likely to get very far in dealing with this serious problem if we approach it in a mood of anger. We know from our private lives that decisions made in anger are seldom wise ones, and on a matter as serious as this that is even more likely to be the case. Anger is, of course, the natural reaction to these crimes of violence, but to make decisions in that frame of mind would be a mistake. It is unfortunate that when the question of judicial corporal punishment is raised in connection with crimes of violence there is apt to be just as much emotion displayed by those who advocate flogging as by those who oppose flogging. I doubt whether the emotional state of either body of opinion leads us very far in the matter.

Unfortunately, the people who might make the greatest contribution to the long-term understanding and treatment of this problem have been very badly served by their publicity—I refer to the psychiatrists and psychologists, whose work in the long run must provide the ultimate solution. No responsible psychiatrist or psychologist would claim to-day that they have any ready-made answer for the problem. They will make modest claims in respect of the contribution that they have to make, particularly in the field of juvenile delinquency and in one or two related fields. They are too well aware of the vast amount of research that still remains to be undertaken, and of the very limited amount which has been done up to date. Unfortunately, popular journalism on the subject has given the impression that the psychiatrists and psychologists, to use the current phrase, claim to have all the answers. The natural reaction to that from the man in the street is to discredit the claims and the genuine work of the psychiatrists and psychologists. I would suggest, with all regard to the economic difficulties of the country to-day, that, if possible, His Majesty's Government should make more funds available for research in this particular field—and not in any isolated part. It is, I suggest, a social, medical and psychiatric problem. The research which has been done in the past has been too small and has not been sufficiently coordinated between those three different aspects of the problem. I hope that, instead of our natural and proper emotion on this subject to-day being directed in some unconstructive direction, we shall see to it that something useful arises from it. One of the useful things, I suggest, would be a greater and much more coordinated report on the whole social, medical and psychiatric field.

It may appear to be a digression, but I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the great improvement that has taken place in the treatment in mental hospitals in this country, particularly over the past thirty years. It is true that long before that time we had, in fact, got away from the old, more barbarous treatment: we no longer flogged the mentally afflicted or insane when their mania came to its highest point. But even thirty years ago we were still using the methods of the straitjacket and the handcuffs. Today the straitjacket and the handcuffs have been abolished, and our mental hospitals are quieter and happier places than they have ever been in their previous history. I know that the development of new and more subtle drugs has helped in that direction, but undoubtedly the greatest advance in that field is not due to the drugs but to the great research which has gone into the problems of mental disturbance. My suggestion is that, just as that improvement in the treatment of mental disease over the thirty years shows a great raising of the level of our civilisation, equally, if in the years to come a corresponding increase in research into the field of the causation of crime can give us a similar raising of the level of treatment, and the level of result, we shall have done a very great work indeed.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would wish me to congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down on the speech he has made. We shall look forward to hearing him again in the future on the topics with which he has dealt so ably to-day, as well as on other topics.

I should not intervene in your Lordships' debate to-day were it not that, although I am not a penologist, and, in a sense, do not regard myself as an expert on the question we are now debating, I have spent twelve years of my life as a King's Bench Judge, going on circuit and attending assizes in every part of the country. Not only that; I lived in the same house with my father, except for the four years of the First War, during the whole of the eighteen years when he was a King's Bench Judge going the circuits in the same way. Although I am not sure that that constitutes one an expert upon these matters, yet it brings one very closely into touch with them. I must confess that throughout the time that I sat as a King's Bench Judge, whenever I had to try a case of robbery with violence, if I considered the violence was sufficiently serious I ordered the man to be flogged, either with a "cat-o'-nine-tails" or with a birch. I am not aware that my sentences were ever interfered with by the Court of Criminal Appeal or by the Horne Secretary.

With the greatest respect to others who take a different view, I adhere to the opinion that flogging has a deterrent effect. I think that those of us such as Judges, police and prison officers who are in the closest possible touch with the criminals themselves are in a position to form a better opinion about the effect which such sentences have upon the criminals than any of your Lordships who sit here in the comparative comfort of your Lordships' Chamber, and who may be informed by statistics which do not deal with the particular facts of the case but deal simply with the broad categories into which the offences may be classified. It is a quite different experience to have the detailed facts of a case of robbery with violence proved before you, to see the man there, awaiting sentence and knowing that he may be flogged, than to sit here and listen to statistics such as those which the noble and learned Viscount or the Woolsack has given us to-day.

The Lord Chancellor has admitted the serious position which exists, but he has announced the decision of the Government that no alteration will be made in the law which was passed in 1948. What I want to emphasise, among other things, is not so that there have been more cases of robbery with violence but, as I understand from my friends in the King's Bench, that those case have been accompanied by far greater ferocious violence than they were in the past. I have heard, and perhaps your Lordships have heard, too, of the sort of thing which has been done. It has been reported in the Press that, with the most diabolical cruelty, men have invented new forms of knuckle-dusters with which to inflict the grievous harm that they do upon their victims. Bicycle chains, which give the men longer reach, are fitted with leather to guard the men's hands, with the bicycle chain over their knuckles. And there are other forms of knuckledusters. That is the sort of thing which is being used up and down the country, and I do not believe for one moment that long sentences will in any way stamp out this wave of violence which is going through the country at the present day.

I said just now that I thought that Judges, police officers and prison officers know far more about this sort of criminal than any one else. In the Report of the Cadogan Committee in 1938, it was stated … that the Judges of the King's Bench Division consider that corporal punishment operates as a useful deterrent, and are of opinion that it is desirable to retain the existing powers to impose sentences of corporal punishment … That was the opinion of His Majesty's Judges in 1938. That view was rejected by the Committee, but the extraordinary thing is that the Committee, after the most careful consideration, came to the unanimous conclusion that corporal punishment should be retained for any violence upon prison officers. Surely that shows that when one is in close touch with the men themselves one appreciates that the thing which deters them is the fear of corporal punishment.

I am not going to trouble your Lordships with long readings from the Report. but what the Committee said on that was this: We are thus satisfied that the fear of corporal punishment does exercise a strong deterrent influence in restraining violent prisoners who would otherwise corn nit serious assaults on prison officers. That was the unanimous opinion, and I find it difficult to understand what the most reverend Primate has told us about the views of prison officers who dislike inflicting corporal punishment upon prisoners, when through the years up to the present time the prison officers have insisted, and all the prison authorities have insisted, upon corporal punishment being retained for attacks upon prison officers. Now I, in my simplicity, am unable to see why prison officers should be protected by corporal punishment whereas poor old women, young women, old jewellers and bank clerks, are not. In my opinion, it is simply because the prison officers know the man, and know the danger they are in. Of course, victims among, the public, spread as they are all over the country among many millions of other people, are without any voice in your Lordships' House or in the deliberations of Parliament. If a vote were to be taken from the victims, then I feel certain that the vote would unanimously be that corporal punishment should be inflicted.

The Cadogan Committee went on to investigate in detail the cases of 440 people who had been convicted of robbery with violence. A certain number of them had been flogged, and a certain number of them had not. Only two of those who had been flogged had ever committed crimes of violence again. There is put before a Judge on circuit the whole record of the prisoner whom he has to sentence. He has, in a short form, a record of exactly what the man has done before, and what sentences have been passed upon him. Never in the whole of my experience have I come across a man who has committed robbery with violence and been flogged who has done it again. In the cases which were investigated by the Cadogan Committee, there were only two in which men who had committed robbery with violence and been flogged had done it again. Doubtless they committed other offences, for, as I think the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said, they were men of extremely bad character; but they did not face the risk of the "cat" again. To my simple mind, that indicates that the "cat" or the birch—any form of corporal punishment—is a deterrent.

In the present circumstances I have no hope that the mere imposition of a long sentence will stamp out this menace. Lone sentences, when the prisons are so full that it is unavoidable that two or three men have to be put into a cell which was intended for one, provide a situation which must be a nightmare to many people, though possibly a source of social enjoyment to others. It is a terrible state of affairs that several men should have to be put into these single cells. I cannot but think that long sentences for robbery with violence, imposed upon young men, are not the most appropriate remedy.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, in introducing this Motion, has rendered a very great service. He delivered what must be considered by common consent a very able speech, in form and manner most acceptable to the House. His Motion also has already evoked a great deal of valuable additional information from the Government. I am glad that the Motion is to be accepted and that we shall have, in due course, further information on this subject, in the form of additional Papers. I propose not to range over the wide field covered by some previous speakers. In a desire to save your Lordships' time I shall limit myself entirely to one question which has aroused most public attention to-day and to which the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken devoted the main part of his speech—namely, corporal punishment. I am one of those who, on this subject, find themselves entirely in disagreement with Lord Lloyd and Lord Oaksey and able to support the opinion expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and by the most reverend Primate.

This matter was fully discussed in this House in June, 1948. It was discussed up to a very late hour—about eleven o'clock—when the House was very thinly attended and the Division taken was a small one. It is a good thing that now, literally in the light of day, we should have a discussion on the same subject. I cannot agree that since that debate in 1948 any additional facts have come to light which would justify Parliament taking a different course now from the course taken at that time. What has taken place is that great attention has been drawn to the matter and some of our most eminent Judges have given great prominence to it. It may be, of course, that in some particular instances the cases have been more brutal than in those days; but, for the most part, they are cases such I as the courts have had to deal with year by year, both since and before the war. The only new fact that has emerged since our previous debate is that these cases have decreased in number. In 1948, there were 978 cases of robbery with violence; in 1949, there were 860–a reduction of one in seven. Crimes against property generally have tended to go down. The total number of such cases in 1948 was 112,000, and in 1949, 91,000–a reduction of one in six and over 20,000 in a single year.

As it happens, in The Times of to-day's date I noticed this paragraph: A substantial decrease in the amount of crime, including juvenile crime, in Liverpool, is disclosed the annual report of the Chief Constable. Reported crimes numbered 18,958, the lowest total since 1945, and a reduction of 4,151 on the figure for the previous year. Therefore it looks as if the terrible increase in crime which followed upon the late war, as a similar increase followed on the First World War, is now beginning to abate. However, experience of a single year is not sufficient on which to form a firm opinion. At the same time, I am quite sure that if the figures had been the other about since the abolition of flogging, if the number of these crimes had gone up by one-sixth or one-seventh, we should not have heard from Lord Lloyd and Lord Oaksey and the Lord Chief Justice that statistics are of no value and, in the words of Mr. Justice Streatfeild, that "facts are more important than statistics." They would have said, "I told you so; you would abolish flogging, and the result has been an increase of one-sixth or one-seventh in these crimes." This is a case, surely, where those who are opposed to flogging are entitled to think—


Perhaps I may be allowed to interrupt to point out that I have never said that statistics are of no use. I do not think I have ever expressed any opinion in public or in private such as the noble Viscount attributes to me.


I apologise to the noble and learned Lord. I thought he was one who had expressed such a view, but I acquit him of that charge and he leaves the court without a stain on his character so far as I am concerned.


I hope the noble Viscount will forgive my interrupting, but neither did I say what he attributes to me. I said that we ought not to look at comparisons between one year and another and that it is to my mind more important to take the statistics over a longer period.


I thought the noble Lord said that he rather put aside statistics as the main factor in the matter, and certainly several people have stated, that they regarded the quality of these crimes as more important than their quantity.

Lord Oaksey has mentioned what I take to be the Report of the Cadogan Committee on the number of persons who had been sentenced to flogging and who had committed second offences. It was pointed out that the number was very small. May I enlarge a little on that and make rather fuller reference to the Report of that Committee? The Committee considered the statistics of those persons who had been committed to prison for robbery with violence over a period of ten years, 1921 to 1930. There were 440 of them. Of those, 142 had suffered the punishment of flogging, and those who had not suffered it numbered 298. As the noble and learned Lord quite rightly said, there were only two who had suffered flogging who committed the offence a second time, but I think one ought also to take into account the 298 who had not suffered flogging.

As to that, the Committee say that of the 298 who were not flogged, three were later re-convicted of robbery with violence. But two of these men were mentally unstable, and it seems very doubtful whether either of them would have been restrained from committing the second offence if they had been flogged on the first occasion. They point out that the experience with regard to those who were not flogged was practically identical with those who were flogged, and consequently the sentences of imprisonment without flogging had proved just as effective as those with flogging. But they point out with regard to other serious crimes that of those 440 who had been convicted of robbery with violence, after their discharge those who were not flogged committed another serious crime but of a different type to the number of 44 per cent., which is a very high total—four out of every ten of those men who had not been flogged committed another serious offence. But of those who had been flogged 55 per cent. committed another serious offence. Therefore the whole argument that this is an effective deterrent, that no man would commit the same sort of crime again if flogged, is disproved by ten years' experience of cases where they have committed other serious offences and evidently have gone back to a life of crime, at all events so far as the second offence is concerned.


My Lords, may I ask, first of all, whether it would not be reasonable to assume that the worst cases are those who get flogging sentences; and, secondly, whether the offences that I gather that these men committed afterwards were ones for which flogging was not the punishment?


The latter is correct, the former may be correct. I do not think we can draw the conclusion from it that was in fact formed just now by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, who quoted these very figures as indicating the effectiveness of the sentence of flogging, from the fact that only two people who had been flogged committed the same offence another time. That is textually true, but I cannot draw any conclusion from that argument favourable to the imposition of flogging. No one in these debates has even attempted to answer the one argument based upon experience, which is derived from the fact that in Scotland for very many years past there has been no flogging for these offences. No one has said that the position in Scotland is worse than it is in England. No one has ventured to point to Scotland and say: "Here you have no flogging and therefore the offences are more frequent and more violent." No one has advanced that argument at all. We have had an experiment made in Scotland. Fiat experimentum in corpore nobili. We might be guided by that experience or, at all events, I think we are entitled to ask the advocates of corporal punishment to give some answer to the argument that the experience of Scotland disproves their case.

With regard to the offences against prison officers, which the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken has mentioned, the reason why corporal punishment is retained for violent assaults upon prison officers, with the approval of all who have been Home Secretaries and who have been opposed to flogging as a judicial sentence, is simple—because there is no other alternative. We do not say that flogging is not a deterrent; of course it is. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said that people were divided into two classes—the prison reformers who did not believe that punishment was a deterrent, and others who all think that punishment is a deterrent.




No—punishment. The noble Lord referred to the general philosophy of penal reform in lieu of punishment.


That is correct. I think the extreme prison reformers would go so far as to say that no punishment is really a deterrent.


None of those who have spoken in this House on the same argument that I am advancing has ever said that. We are not all of the school who take the extreme view of the pacifist, who says that you must submit to any violence rather than repel it by force. Similarly, also there must be penal law and penalties, and severe ones where necessary. When we come to the inside of a prison, where a man may be already serving a long sentence, and we do not wish to put him to death for an assault upon a warder, there must be some penalty, otherwise the lives and limbs of the warders will be in peril every hour from some of these exceedingly violent people who are found in prison. Such a man cannot be sentenced to a long sentence of imprisonment because he is already suffering that. Consequently, nothing would be done to him for this assault. For that reason only, so far as I can remember, the Cadogan Committee recommended the continuation of this penalty for that one offence. But in the other cases where an alternative is open, then we say that corporal punishment ought not to be applied.

Frequently in the course of the history of penal reform we read that Parliament has been stampeded by a series of cases of great violence, with the invention of methods of cruelty such as the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken has mentioned. In such cases, people got very excited and said: "We must do something. What can we do? We will introduce flogging, or extend flogging." There was the case of garrotting in 1862–the choking of certain old gentlemen walking along the streets in Westminster and Mayfair. It became rife at that time and there were a series of offences of that type where the criminal was arrested and punished. When at last a Member of Parliament himself suffered garrotting, then the House of Commons in its wrath passed speedily an Act to make that offence punishable by the "cat." But, before that had been done, the police had taken measures which were to some extent effective. After criminals had been arrested and punished that Act was passed. The crime had begun to decline. Ever since then there has been a legend that garrotting was stopped by the "cat" and that nothing else would have done it, whereas every Home Secretary since that date has always explained in Parliament that that is historically untrue, and that garrotting was stopped before the Act was passed; it had begun to decline and eventually it completely disappeared.

Again, in regard to Liverpool there was at one time 3 series of terrible crimes and a "flogging Judge," Mr. Justice Day, went there, determined to stamp it out. For several years he went there to the Assizes, and the number of floggings that he ordered was very great. At the end the number of crimes was practically the same as it was at the beginning. Flogging was not a remedy; the crimes declined for other reasons. Soon after the war, too, there were a number of crimes of what were called smash-and-grab raids, made possible by the use of the motor car and by the depletion of the police force, particularly in London. There were quite a number of them for some months, and jewellers and others were almost terrorised. However, the advent of more efficient police measures, of more policemen, of cruising cars with radio apparatus wandering about the streets, able to be summoned by the 999 signal, was very effective. A number of these men who were guilty of this crime were arrested, and that fashion of crime disappeared; and afterwards one heard practically nothing of it. I am convinced that if at that moment Parliament had been stampeded into passing a law to impose flogging for smash-and-grab raids, ever afterwards people would have said: "See how effective flogging is. The moment it was imposed the raids ended." Flogging was not enacted. The raids ended, but no one mentioned that they were ended by the adoption of proper methods for the prevention of that type of crime.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, has mentioned particular cases in his experience, and the Lord Chief Justice has done the same. I should like to recall the voice of Lord du Parcq who spoke in the last debate and afterwards died, to the deep grief of all who knew and loved him. He said that he belonged to a minority of Judges, those who did not approve of flogging. Since he no longer lives to tell us his views perhaps I may be allowed to quote a few words from his speech in this House on June 2, 1948. He said: Lord Roche, whose experience is greater than mine—I say quite unfeignedly that I regard any opinion of his on such a matter as this with the most profound respect—has told us of an experience with one offender. Although I had no liking for corporal punishment as a penalty, I thought that in a bad case I had no right, whatever I may have thought about it, not to carry out what was on the Statute Book, showing the intention of the Legislature. In one case, and in one case only, of robbery with violence, I ordered a flogging. I must confess that I think now that I was quite wrong. By what appeared to be a mere coincidence, it happened about a year afterwards, when I was again on circuit, a local paper fell into my hands and in it I read—I am not saying this is a strong argument; it is one incident, and I do not reason from one incident—that the man whom I had ordered a flogging hat again come before the court for some serious crime, and the police officer in charge of the case had said that since he had been flogged in prison he had become a much more desperate character than he had ever been before. Lord du Parcq went on to say of the Committee: They say, further, that experience had shown—and it was the evidence of a great many people accustomed to prisons, knowing the men who bad been flogged and how it had affected them—that on the whole there was a serious danger that the tough man, the hard man, was made tougher and harder and more desperate. But the essence of the matter is whether we think that the infliction of physical pain is a proper element to have a place in our penal law. That is the real issue. It was the medieval practice to clip a man's ears, to cut off his hands, to flog him, to put him on the rack or subject him to the thumbscrews. Those are medievalisms which have given way to the civilisation of the modern world. The Lord Chief Justice agrees now that that is so with regard to the "cat." He says that he thinks the "cat" has an element of barbarity in it, and therefore he would not re-enact it. But some of the Judges did not hold that view; until quite recently they were prepared to defend the "cat." Now they do not do so, but say that they would be content with legislation which was limited to the birch. On that the Committee on Corporal Punishment say this: It is commonly supposed that the birch inflicts much less pain than the cat-o'-nine-tails; but we have been assured, by witnesses who have had long experience in supervising the administration of both types of punishment, that as it is administered in prisons a birching is almost, if not quite, as painful as a flogging with the 'cat'. My Lords, those are the main reasons why I am against this proposal to reintroduce corporal punishment. I would add a quotation from a speech of my old chief, Mr. Asquith, who in a debate in the House of Commons as long ago as 1900, on a Bill proposing an extended use of corporal punishment, said: I regard the suggestions made in this debate as a revival of the theory, at once fallacious and barbarous, that a man who commits a peculiarly brutal offence should receive a proportionately brutal punishment. I can imagine nothing more repugnant to the most elementary principles of justice and common sense than to say that, because a man has committed a savage offence, those whose duty it is to enforce respect for the law should begin that man's punishment with a correspondingly savage treatment. Let me add a few words with regard to the effect of this debate upon the question of juvenile offenders. Although the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, who moved the Amendment to retain the birch, said in his speech that he was not himself thinking of juvenile cases, Lord Roche was speaking of them, and advocated the restoration of corporal punishment for boys. Therefore it is not a matter foreign to our debate to-day and one must deal with that point, however briefly. The Committee pointed out that the juvenile courts themselves had abandoned the use of the birch for boys because they found it was ineffective. They said: Our conclusion is based on the practice of the more experienced juvenile courts which have discontinued the use of the birch, not on a priori grounds, but because they have found it less effective than other methods. The Committee took statistics in regard to two selected centres, a large seaport and a manufacturing town, in which 574 children had been birched by order of a court. Two years later it was found that of the 574 children, 440–76 per cent., or three out of four of the whole number—had come before the courts having committed a fresh offence. That is the reason why the number of birchings ordered by the courts in England and Wales, which at the end of last century was 3,385 in a single year, had been reduced in 1936 to 166–and since then much lower. The Committee say of that: In the great majority of juvenile courts in England and Wales the use of the birch has been entirely discontinued. That was not on the order of Parliament, nor as a result of legislation, because the power still remained; it was discontinued because it was found to be ineffective and better methods could be adopted. The most reverend Primate and others have indicated what those other methods should be.

An American novelist wrote: Every new generation is a fresh invasion of savages. That, of course, is an overstatement; but it is true that new generations born into civilised society have to be taught the requirements of a civilised life. It does not come naturally to all, although it does to many. If there is no one to teach them, if their parents do not teach them, if their schoolmasters do not teach them, if they have not friends or surroundings that inculcate proper moral standards, then they may grow up and have their life in a circle where the law is despised, in one of those pockets of criminality which exist and always have existed in great and crowded communities. Then, if they grow up in those circumstances they may grow up as criminals.

The most reverend Primate said that their parents ought to be brought into this problem, that their responsibility ought to be made clear before the court. In 1908 I had the honour of introducing the first Children Act, which set up the juvenile courts, and I included a provision that the courts might impose penalties upon parents when they had not fulfilled their responsibilities if the delinquency of a particular child was shown to be due to their neglect. That provision, I think, has been very little acted upon. I agree with the most reverend Primate that it would be better if it were revived, and if it were brought home to parents that it is their business, as agents of society, so to speak, to eliminate the "savagery" that may appear in the coming generation. The exercise of Their influence, together with certainty of detection through better police methods, and greater use of the probation system (and now, when nearing the end of my political career, I look back also on the fact that I had the honour of introducing the probation system in this country in 1907), are the important factors for getting rid of juvenile delinquency. That section of public opinion winch pursues the line that corporal punishment should be revived, is, I am convinced, on the wrong tack. It should be the business of this House, as leaders of public opinion, to discourage it.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am startled to find myself speaking in a debate in which I am whole-heartedly in agreement both with the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. Whilst I hope that this will not be regarded as a precedent, I would like, if I may, with respect, to say that I think that both have made out an almost unanswerable case in justification of the decision which His Majesty's Government have taken in this matter. Lord Lloyd has cast his Motion in wide terms, and the most reverend Primate has rightly asked us to regard those wider terms as the more important of the two matters which we are discussing. Nevertheless, public opinion has undoubtedly asked Parliament to consider the question of corporal punishment and that subject has now been considered in sufficient detail, submit, for us to see pretty clearly what the answer are. The first question is one which has been raised more prominently outride the House than inside it. It is this: Is the public conscience so shocked by the violence of some of these crimes as to insist that equal violence be done in return to the guilty party? Putting it another way, should we in fact return to the doctrine of "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?" Should we endeavour to make the punishment fit the crime? Not many noble Lords have put forward a plea for that, but it has been raised frequently in letters to the Press, the suggestion being that a ruffian who has made an old woman suffer pain should be repaid with pain. Surely the answer to that barbaric idea was effectively given in the words of Mr. Asquith which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has just quoted.

The second question is this: Have crimes of violence which were previously punishable with corporal punishment increased since corporal punishment was abolished in number or in violence? The question of violence, I must confess, worries me a little. It is difficult to sec bow one can reach any decision. One can look only at the headlines, and headlines are not always wholly reliable. I myself am not yet satisfied that there has in fact been an increase in the violence of these crimes. I believe it is rather the publicity that has increased, but I stand ready to be corrected. As to numbers, it appears to me that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has given, for the moment, a complete answer. I should have been of the same opinion as I now am even if the numbers had gene up a little. I should have been satisfied that we were not yet in a position to say that the abolition of corporal punishment had brought about an increase in crimes of violence. If we had watched the figures for a year or two we might have been able to say that, but I think that we should not even then have given the present system a fair enough trial. As the figures are—though I must confess that my head has been whirling with figures for the last two hours—I think they indicate that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has for the time being a complete answer.

One further point I wish to raise is this. When we took this decision during the discussions on the Criminal Justice Bill, I was of a different opinion. I had then been convinced by arguments put forward by the Lord Chief Justice and other Judges, and I would still be prepared to change my mind again if the evidence showed that the step which the Government took has proved a complete failure. But so far there is no such evidence to satisfy me. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, spoke about the past age of barbarism, and so did the most reverend Primate. I remember that when we passed the Criminal Justice Act some eighteen months ago, an article commenting upon it appeared in one of the German newspapers. I have not that article with me, so I cannot quote it accurately to your Lordships, but the gist of it was this: Once again England, always a leader in matters of humanity and humane principles, has taken a step along the road towards greater humanity. I remember that I was much impressed by that comment, coming as it did from a German source.

It would be very easy now if the facts were not as the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has stated, for us to say: "Right, we have made a mistake." And it is easy to correct a Parliamentary mistake. Parliament passes an amending Act and reverses its previous decision. We could do that easily. I believe, however, that if we did that it would he the most tremendous confession of failure, it would be a step backwards along the road of humanity. We should pause long before deciding to take such a step, and we should have a great deal more evidence than we now have before we decide upon it. As I have said, I am still prepared to be convinced that the step that we have taken is wrong. But I am not yet convinced.

Another point which I wanted to make —but I will not weary your Lordships by repetition—was that the police must be given every aid which we can possibly give them. Could we for instance relieve the police of the burden of "chivvying" 10,000 to 20,000 deserters—it may be that I am exaggerating but I take those figures from those last given to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Addison. If we did that, surely it would help greatly the police. We must recognise the inherent danger in the fact that between 10,000 and 20,000 men are at large in this country for many of whom crime is the best way, and for some the only way, of grabbing a living. That seems to me an urgent social problem which we still have to solve.

The only other point I wish to make is this. I have been shocked beyond measure to see quite responsible people advancing the following theory. They say that one of the reasons for the present crime wave is that for six and a half years young men have been taught to shoot and kill, and therefore we should not be surprised if they come back to this country from the war and turn into gangsters. That is a most shocking slander on the Armed Forces. During the war, dogs were trained to guard prisoners of war, thereby saving manpower. Those dogs were taught to be savage. At the end of the war we found that some of them were so savage that it was not safe to return them to their rightful owners, and they had to be destroyed. Are we to apply that same argument to the cream of the British Armed Forces?

I have been doing a little research work on my own account, though I do not claim that my statistics are any more reliable than most statistics. I have spent an hour going through the files of the Daily Telegraph in your Lordships' library. I had to examine 34 cases of crimes of violence of the type of which we have been speaking this afternoon before I could find one in which the accused man seemed likely ever to have seen a shot fired in anger. It is the most shocking slander on the Armed Forces to suggest that the fighting men, the submarine crews, commandos and paratroopers, are so lacking in moral discipline that they should come back and lapse into gangsterdom. I suggest that if we were to carry out proper research into this matter we should find that very few of these young hooligans and thugs had ever seen active service, or been taught how to kill in the Forces. That is all I wish to say. I came down to the House prepared to be convinced that the Government were wrong; I think it is only right to say that I remain the more convinced that the Government are completely right.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, I have been most interested in listening to the speech of the noble Lord who has preceded me. I think he stated his case with great frankness, and there is much in his speech that commends itself to your Lordships. I was particularly interested in the two points that he raised, towards the conclusion of his remarks. In the first place, he said that it would be a good thing if we were immediately to deal with the 10,000 to 20,000 men who were deserters from the Services. I think there is a great deal of sense in that statement. I agree with the noble Lord that one of the causes of the violent crimes we have at the present time is that we have permanently in our midst this large body of people who, whatever their failure in the past, are now deprived of any means of making a decent living. It seems to me time that we should revise our policy and give these men a chance of coming back into the life of civilised citizens in our society.

With regard to the noble Lord's second point, I air one of those who put the argument of which he so greatly disapproves, but I would put it in a different way from the one which he castigated, a way which I think would probably meet with much less, if any, of his disapproval. It is not the men who have been in the war, who have taken part in the fighting. and who have been trained to acts of violence which they repeat when they come home, who are responsible; it is the people who have not been in the war, and it is particularly young children who read about the war and about violence, who read the glorification of acts of violence without understanding the cause of it, who think they would like to do what they are taught their elders did a few years back. That is what makes a great deal of juvenile crime. It is well known that people who are deprived of expression through the proper channels adopt methods of expression through improper channels; and the.children whose only contact with war has been to read stories of what they are taught is heroism, think they will find the heroism in attacking harmless people, and they go forward to commit crime in consequence.

That brings me to the crux of the matter. We are told that corporal punishment is a great deterrent. On this point I am in full support of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I do not think many people deny that every form of punishment, corporal as much as others, is a deterrent. The question is, whether the "con" is not greater than the "pro." It may well be that some people are deterred from acts of violence in the future, but the question is whether the imposition of a violent penalty is not such an irritant of an already turbulent and disordered mind that it creates for society a far graver problem in the future than it did in the past. I recognise the great debt we owe to His Majesty's Judges. They have imposed upon them the distasteful task of hearing and sifting evidence in some of these horrible cases, and the indignation which they feel at the outrages inflicted on quite innocent and often elderly people is only part of the indignation which is felt by the whole community and which I feel, in common with all others who take my view in this matter. The way in which the Judges uphold the highest traditions of impartiality and of justice in our courts is one of which we are tremendously proud. We listen to them, therefore, with attention, when they give their views on this matter, with which they are brought into daily contact.

Nevertheless, we are here as legislators and it is our duty to examine all the evidence in these cases and all the views of those connected with them. As, in my opinion, the crux of the matter is the after-effects on the prisoner's mind, a matter which the Judges are not appointed to deal with, and have not the time to deal with, we feel that the testimony of those who have that duty must be taken in preference to the testimony of the Judges. The statistics which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has produced from the Home Office records and the attitude of those in the prisons seem to us more important than the views of the Judges. I hope I shall not be regarded as presumptuous in challenging the views of His Majesty's Judges, but while we should listen to them with deference and respect, we should not accept their version of the facts as the final word.

Let us disabuse our minds of a good many confusions. Many of your Lordships were at public schools in your youth and suffered and inflicted corporal punishment. I also was at a public school and shared that experience. But, after all, those were very minor affairs. Though it might have been very unpleasant at the lime, it did not bulk very large, and I do not suppose it did either very much harm or very much good. But, as the most reverend Primate has said, that is an entirely different thing from the infliction, with all the majesty of the law, of corporal punishment. Either corporal punishment is trivial and unimportant and easily forgotten, in which case it does not work as a deterrent, or it is very severe and amounts to an attitude of the community that what is forbidden to one man is right and proper on the part of society to inflict on a man who has transgressed the law. If it is the latter, in my opinion, so far from deterring the man, it stimulates his worst passions; it stimulates not only the worst passions of the man but also the worst passions of those who inflict the punishment. That I regard as an evil thing.

It is our duty as legislators to protect society from these outrages, and I agree with the Lord Chancellor when he says that if it could be shown that the infliction of corporal punishment on adults was a real means of reducing the number of atrocious attacks upon members of society, it certainly would be a strong argument. But I see no such evidence; all the evidence I see is in the opposite direction. If I thought that the infliction of corporal punishment on the individual was the best way of reforming him, of reclaiming him and making him again a good member of society—if he ever was one—then, equally, I should be in favour of corporal punishment. But I see no evidence in favour; again, all the evidence is in the opposite direction. I do not agree that, even if it does not protect society, and even if it does not help to reform the individual, nevertheless corporal punishment is justified on the ground that it gives vent to the indignation of the community against the crime. I do not believe that giving vent to indignation is something that is worth while if it is injurious to the two objects which I contend are the sole purpose of justice to bring about.

So we come to this. Corporal punishment, as I see it, is the wrong remedy. We have to find means of securing respect for the law and reducing violence in other ways. We have to see to it that children's minds are not perverted by glorification of violence, cruelty and evil ways. It is not merely in the cinema that these things are evident: you can pick up a paper almost any day and find in it some glorification of violence. I feel also that the war has been partly responsible, as in many cases fathers were fighting at the front, mothers were working in munition factories, and the children were left to bring themselves up by running about the streets. Some of us saw after the First World War the terrible pictures of the Russian children who, during the war, had become almost wild animals. We did not get as bad as that in this country during the recent war, but undoubtedly there was a great loss of control of children.

The essential remedy is to be found in stopping at its source the intention to commit crime. But in so far as we fail to do that, how are we going to treat the criminal when we have caught him, convicted him, and sentenced him? There I agree largely with the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. I think we have to devise inside our penal system methods for handling the criminal and, if possible, bringing him back as a sane, healthy member of civilised society. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, may say that some people are so hard that it is impossible. That may be so; it is not for me to say. If it be so, then the only thing to do is to keep them out of harm's way and protect society by their continued incarceration. My view is that that would apply in very few cases. If you ask me what precise method I should adopt, I frankly say that I am not an expert on these things, and I do not know. But we have much to learn from the doctors and psychologists, and under their advice we have to discover a means of bringing sound pressure to bear upon the people who have been guilty of the crimes, to improve their future outlook on society. It is by those means, and not by the false means of attempting to terrify them by inflicting violence and torture upon them, that we shall attain the protection of society and the improvement of the attitude of the individual towards life.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, like many of your Lordships, I find myself in a distinct quandary in regard to this question. Many of us are not experts, though by the end of Thursday we shall once again have heard the best advice from members of your Lordships' House who are most qualified to give it. Many of your Lordships would, like the Minister in another place, prefer to describe yourselves as just ordinary people, and it is as an ordinary person that I venture to address your Lordships this evening. Some of us have had experience in prison work, and others have not. I have had very little, but I have had sonic. To my mind, this matter is so difficult that three times I tore up the notes I had made and decided that I had better not speak. Then I came to the conclusion that perhaps the opinion of one more who could be classified as outside the expert line would do no harm, and I should put my views forward.

I do not Jive in this city, but on my fairly frequent visits to London, and especially lately, I am bound to admit that I am horrified to find that, in these times, as has already been said by the most reverend Primate, men have to consider carefully whether it is safe to allow their womenfolk to go about the less well-lighted and less frequented parts of the city unaccompanied; and this applies perhaps ever more to their children. If a woman gets a ring at her doorbell, or a knock at the door, she now considers it wise to have a chain put on the door in order that it will not open wide enough to allow somebody to force his way in. I feel that this is a dreadful indictment on this country of ours, and it seems to me it is about time fiat those to whom the government of this country has been entrusted should set themselves to govern, and take heed of what is really becoming a call of the people to take action.

As I have already said, I cannot claim to have had a great deal of experience of prison work, but I have had a little, and from that I know there are some experts —officials, governors of prisons and others—who do not believe in corporal punishment. We know from the Press and from what has been said to-day that some of His Majesty's Judges do still advocate a return to the old method of correction. Even if they do not advocate the "cat," at any rate they think we should return to the birch. Those who have had some experience of prison life will agree that one of the first principles is to try and establish co-operation on the part of the prisoner when he comes in, and to encourage him to get himself out again and to become a decent man and citizen as early as he can. Some officials maintain that if the prisoner has been birched or beaten co-operation is difficult.

As an ordinary citizen—and it is as that that I speak to-clay—it appears only reasonable to say that the state of affairs which is existent to-day has reached a point when there is a real call and need for a review of the whole situation. I myself regard this question as almost on a par with that of prohibition in the United States. To put a law on the Statute Book, or to withdraw it from the Statute Book before the country is ready for it, is to court failure. That is exactly what happened in the United States in regard to Prohibition, and that is what I feel there is reason to suggest is happening here to-day. Obviously—and I think it is obvious to us all—we have not yet found the right answer to this question in this country. Personally—and I say this with all deference—I am not satisfied that in this country the youth, or the youthful adults (and I say that specifically because of what I shall say later) are yet ready to forgo all forms of corporal punishment. We know that the "cat" is a very brutal thing. I understand that those who have had either to witness it or administer it have all come to the same conclusion: that they wish neither ever to administer it again or to see it administered. They also express the view that there is great difficulty in finding the right person to administer that punishment.

I need not dilate upon this point because it is obvious, and I personally doubt whether a return to the "cat" would he right. But matters cannot remain where they are. Some remedy must be found and, as has already been said, it must he a short-term remedy. Therefore, I am going to raise one or two points, and make what perhaps might be termed one or two suggestions. The first thing I am going to say—it has been mentioned before, but not 'very fully—is in regard to the effect of publicity. Most people who have had to deal with children, and perhaps older people generally, realise that the one thing you want to avoid with a child is to bring him into the public eye. Well, that is exactly what is happening every day. You open your paper and find that a great deal is made of all that is happening. Take even the theft of that tithing smack, the "Girl Jean," in Arbroath. Why write it up in enormous headlines? I realise that we cannot nor would we wish to muzzle the Press. That is the last thing we want to do, because we know that it is run generally by very high-minded people, and I am quite certain that if it was put to them more strongly that real harm is being done to the youth of this country by the publicity given to crime, they would be the first to wish to co-operate in that regard.

The second suggestion I want to make —I know it is rather revolutionary—is that we should explore as to whether there is not some method of trying to identify these young hooligans to the public, so that the element of ridicule can come in once again. It is a long time ago since there was a ducking stool; it is a long time ago since people had their heads shaved. Possibly some people might say that somebody had committed a crime when really he had a frightful disease. But, after all, we could always paint a young hooligan's head blue. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I do believe that a suggestion such as this is not entirely without sense and that it could be explored. Somehow, we must bring these young hooligans into ridicule, and in that way we might possibly bring them to their senses earlier.

The question of more police on the beat has been mentioned. We know that that is a vital need and we have to see that if possible it is brought to fruition as quickly as possible. Housing, of course, is one of the difficulties in the provinces. Finally, we come to the question whether we are to bring back the birch. The Government have told us that they are not going to do so. Well, I am sorry. I do not believe in the "cat," because I think it is beyond the pale. We have reached a stage when we have grown out of that very brutal action. But I do believe that if we could bring back the birch and give it not only to the young boys but, as I said, to the youthful adult, we should bring in an element of "infra dig." Nobody likes being birched at the age of eighteen or twenty. It is very "infra dig." I am quite willing to admit that I have been beaten—not birched—when I was young. I did not like it. I have forgotten it up to a point. I was seventeen at the time and I had my house colours at Eton. I had not committed the offence, either, which was even worse; but I frankly admit that the memory has remained with me.

Looking back over my past life when I was beaten, quite frequently the number of the strokes and the tool which was going to be used to administer that thrashing played a very large part in deciding whether I should try to repeat the crime, or even do it for the first time if there was any chance of being caught. I maintain that there is something in that point. It is known that strokes with the birch are extremely painful, but they have this advantage: that they are not so brutal and they do not mark for life. They do perform a certain office on the mind and that is what we want to get at, as well as somewhere else. If it is really decoratively and well administered, I believe there is nothing like it. It is a long time since many of your Lordships suffered from it, but I must admit that I still remember it vaguely at the back, and I should think twice before committing an offence which might bring it upon me again. Whatever the answer is to this problem, it is a knotty point; perhaps I have looked at it from the lighter side and it is not a light subject.

There is one other matter which I should like to raise which has come up again and again in this debate in your Lordships' House, and that is that there is in these days a tendency to consider matters such as this too much from the perpetrators' point of view. May I ask: What about the receiving end? What about the raped? What about the "vermin" who have been coshed? I suggest that these pleas for a review of this matter should not be just airily swept aside and described, as I think they were described in another place, as "mere emotional outbursts." I submit that that was a most unfortunate remark. How would whoever made it feel if his wife had been knocked down and worse, or if his child had been interfered with? How would one of your Lordships feel if that had been the case? I submit that this is a reasonable outburst. It is one which the people want to see answered, and it is one that should be attended to at the earliest moment.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, we have reached the stage when one begins to say, "At this late hour I do not intend to detain your Lordships." I certainly do not propose to speak at length on this most important topic, but I must answer one or two points made by the noble Earl who preceded me, when he spoke of rape and the need of adequate punishment. We should have to go back not only to the old law, but to pass a new law, because, as the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor explained to us, unfortunately perhaps, raping was not one of the crimes for which flogging could be administered. There had to be a direct brutal assault as well as the sexual outrage.


I would pass that.


Yes, there is something to be said for that. But with regard to the question of indignation, the natural outlet for that is not the knowledge that away in some prison somebody is being birched, but by going back to the old-fashioned public lynching, as in certain of the Southern States of the United States of America even to this day. That is your best way if you need an outlet in the form of revenge. Furthermore, the noble Earl should recognise, I suggest, that, at any rate in our early days, there was a difference in the upbringing and the psychology between the young lads the various classes. The noble Earl said that he was beaten. I, too, was beaten, both as a young midshipman and as a boy at school. Most of your Lordships have been beaten in one way or another and we can all say, as we always do, that it has done us no harm. But the young lad of the working class family to-day is more sensitive to corporal punishment than the lad from the so-called governing classes of our time. The noble Earl can joke about it and make your Lordships laugh good-humouredly about the fact that it did him no harm; but it does not follow that that applies to the case of a young lad from a working class home. He is more sensitive.


Why is he more sensitive?


Because he is not brought up in the same tradition and because he does not start with the superiority complex with which the noble Earl evidently began. The noble Earl has a military tradition, and he must know that people of his class, as soldiers, can stand more hardship and pain than even the best of the lads from the agricultural or other labouring classes. That really is a fact, and it was proved in the last war.

This has been an amazing debate. I thought that I, with my noble friend Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, and a few others, would be in a very small minority; that there was going to be a hue and cry in your Lordships' House for the restoration of corporal punishment and that we might hope merely to bring a little sanity into the debate. But, on the contrary, one has seen a change of opinion almost as the debate went on. I think that is a great compliment, not only to this Chamber but to the whole Parliamentary system.

I hope the debate will do a great deal of good in this way. We have all agreed that the most urgent short-term policy is immediately to increase the police forces. I think we should be prepared to take all necessary measures to improve pay and conditions for the police. We shall have to re-examine our policy of allowing the police to find their own lodgings and accommodation. It is not easy in any large town to-day to Lind comfortable quarters of the kind which a policeman needs, where he can sleep in the daytime because of his work at night. We are told it is better to lot policemen live amongst their neighbours and let their children mix with.the neighbours' children instead of segregating them. But when we have large numbers of unmarried policemen who have difficulty in finding suitable lodgings, we should speed up the building of suitable barracks or hostels, with gymnasia, canteens, recreation rooms and so on for the younger policemen. Above all, a great drive by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and those who work with him is needed, to step up immediately the recruiting of the police and thereby to fill these deficiencies. I hope that this debate will have done a very great deal of good in that respect.

Lord Airlie spoke of the Press. He was, as he no doubt knew, on most dangerous ground in suggesting any interference with the liberty of the Press.


I said that I had no intention of attempting to muzzle the Press. I should be the last person to wish or attempt to do that. I do not believe you could muzzle the Press, even if you wanted to.


I am agreeing with the noble Earl: I believe that there is too much publicity given to certain forms of juvenile crime. I cannot help noticing that the so-called comic strips which are read by children and which appear in newspapers with very large circulations, though they are very well written and proper and decent enough, do mostly concentrate on various forms of crime—violence, murders, poisonings, abductions and so forth. These are very popular—but there is all the time this background of publicity of acts of violence. This is in addition to certain cinema films and now some of the television plays. In addition, there is the matter mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and which I ventured to raise with the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in a Supplementary Question to Lord Howe's question the other day. Many of these young men who are giving trouble now were children during the war years, and many were out of control. The fathers were at the front and the mothers doing war work; the children were evacuated, perhaps to uncomfortable homes, or else they remained in the big cities as the so-called "dead-end kids." Some lived by looting bomb-damaged buildings, and so on. They are now young men. That is one explanation of the apparent wave of crime which is being made so much of in this debate.

There is one matter which has not been raised in this or the previous discussion on this subject in your Lordships' House, and that is the experience of corporal punishment in the Services. I refer particularly to the Royal Navy—though the same arguments apply to the Army. The old Navy was recruited to a great extent from a very rough section of the population. Also some of the men had been taken up by the press gangs and were unwilling seamen. But they were splendid fighting men, and we know their prowess in the old wars. There were officers who believed that discipline could be maintained amongst the seamen only by flogging with a "cat-o'nine-tails." That practice fell into desuetude largely through the captains themselves hesitating to apply this punishment. Parliament ultimately abolished it by law, but it was retained in both the Army and the Navy long after it had ceased to be a common form of civil punishment. Particularly in the Navy there was resistance from the old officers, the Board of Admiralty and the admirals, who said that without this punishment discipline could not possibly be maintained. In some cases, they said, it had turned an unruly character into a good seaman. All the arguments were put forward which we heard put forward by the noble Earl a few minutes ago for the retention of the birch. It was said that flogging was a deterrent and did not do any actual harm of a lasting character. Fortunately, Parliament prevailed, and we see the result to-day. Every man of war carries a "cat-o'nine-tails," and I think there are one or two offences for which flogging can still be inflicted; but in the whole of my time since I first went to sea there has been no case of a man being flogged with a "cat-o'nine-tails." Yet discipline in the Navy has never been better than it is to-day. Discipline at sea has progressively improved all the time. The statistics of imprisonment and detention and the more serious punishments show that there has been a steady decrease in crime and misdemeanour in the Services, and particularly in the Royal Navy. Nowadays the Navy is most law-abiding. Drunkenness has almost disappeared amongst the bulk of the officers and ratings of the Royal Navy. When I first went to sea, drunkenness was rife and the curse of the Services. There is now very little desertion or violence. Mutiny is almost unheard of. When, unfortunately, there was a mutiny between the wars, it was a comparatively "law-abiding" affair, if I may use that word. There was no violence attached to it. That is in spite of the fact that the older school of naval officers were convinced that the "cat" was necessary to preserve discipline and as a deterrent against crime. I think that that history and the history in the Army (with which I will not trouble your Lordships now) are similar. The history of punishment by the infliction of corporal pain in the Services ought to be more widely known. It has not been mentioned in any of the debates in your Lordships' House on this most important subject.

I think that anyone reading the leading article in yesterday's Times headed "The Rod" must have been impressed by the marshalling of the evidence from the Cadogan Committee which reinforces the effect of the statistics given by the Lord Chancellor to-day. Particularly it points out that the idea that garrotting was put down by flogging is erroneous. I am not quite old enough to remember the agitation caused by garrotting, although I can remember the later agitation arising from a similar wave of crime to that one, in which the "cat" was advocated once more; the case of garrotting was mentioned and embodied in the evidence. It says here clearly that garrotting was not brought to an end actually by the "cat"; the end was brought about by other causes. It mentions Mr. Justice Day in Liverpool, where gang violence had become prevalent in the '80s and early '90s of last century, and where such crimes actually increased after the flogging assizes. I submit to your Lordships that the whole case is very well summarised there. I defy anyone with an open mind to read the actual historical evidence there adduced without coining to the conclusion, which has been only reinforced the latest statistics given by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that the case for flogging is non-proven.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to keep your Lordships long, nor do I intend to compete with the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, and the noble Lord who has just sat down in the exchange of personal reminiscences. I was struck by one phrase used by the noble Lord who has just spoken which seemed to be immediately understood by the noble Earl, though it rather puzzled me. The noble Lord said that the working class are more sensitive than the governing class. I did not know which he meant by "working class," or what he meant by the "governing class," but evidently he meant it in the same way as the noble Earl took it. I think perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, was a little out of date in the phrase he used.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I tried to make it clear that I was referring to the generation when the noble Earl and myself were youngsters, when class differences were much more marked and the whole upbringings were different. I agree that there has been a useful levelling.


Passing that by, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, not only on bringing this subject to our notice but also on the admirable speech by which he introduced it. We are all agreed that we want to find some deterrent for these crimes of violence. They have increased since the war—not only this last year, but since the war. It is largely due, not to the people who were in the Armed Forces but to a certain number of the youngsters whose fathers were away during their most formative years, who perhaps were evacuated from their homes and their home surroundings and who were brought up in these difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, we are all agreed that in some way or other we need to deter them because this ought to be a country, as it has been for years, where old and young, strong and feeble, can walk the streets without fear of violent attack, unlike some cities that I could mention but which, for tactful reasons, I will not. Here we have rather prided ourselves that that was the state of affairs, not only in London but also in all the cities, towns and villages of Great Britain.

I do not believe that we are discussing flogging with the "cat" now. It is not suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice, that we re-introduce the "cat." It is a question of the birch. We are all agreed that the birch is a deterrent, otherwise we should not retain it in prisons for assaults on prison officers. A long term of imprisonment is also a pretty effective deterrent. For the moment or two that I shall detain the House, I want to look at this question from the point of view of how best we can reform the prisoner. Take the case of that young man of seventeen, to which I think the noble Lord. Lord Lloyd, referred, who had made a brutal assault upon a woman in a train and was given, quite properly, as that kind of offence has to be stopped, a sentence of seven years' imprisonment. That is seven years' imprisonment at the age of seventeen.


No. I am not quite sure of the exact case to which the noble Lord is referring, but there was a similar case where a young man got fourteen years at the age of eighteen.


That may be a different case. I was thinking—perhaps I am wrong—that it was seven years. At any rate, whichever it is, there is a youth of seventeen going to prison for seven years and being there at any rate for five-and-a-half years. He is still of Borstal age. He will not be with his own contemporaries but with older "lags," older men, whom he will find in prison. I am not at all sure whether it would not have been more humane to give that fellow some strokes with the birch and then send him to three years' Borstal—to give him a good birching not in the Borstal institution but in a remand home or prison, and then send him to Borstal to see whether they could not reform him in the next three years. I do not believe that that fellow is coming out of a prison sentence of seven years—still less after fourteen years —anything but a man hardened to doing the same kind of thing again. I do not think we shall reform that person in that way.

With great respect, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, that a birching is anything akin to torture, which was the word he used. It is not. It is a good sharp corrective for a man who, having had it, need not suffer a long term of imprisonment. If we are all saying, as the Lord Chief Justice has been saying, and as I think the Lord Chancellor said to-day that longer sentences must be tried, whether the Judge likes it or not, I am not at all sure that that is more likely to reform a man, or is more humane, than to give him a quick, sharp birching and a short sentence in the appropriate place—which for these young offenders is a Borstal institution. I would not merely send them to Borstal, because of course that is not enough; that does not draw enough distinction between the crime of violence that has been committed and the offences for which people are normally sent to Borstal institutions, such as an ordinary shop-breaking without violence. But I am horrified to think what is going to be the real effect on some of these young men of sending them to prison for a long sentence.

The most reverend Primate was right when he said that a lot of warders feel concerned at having to inflict the "cat." Of course that does not apply so much to the birch. Nobody ever believed the headmaster who said: "This gives me more pain than it is going to give you." Nobody in the course of the whole history of mankind ever believed him in that, and I do not think that most ordinary prison warders would object at all to giving the birch. But if it is reintroduced it ought not to be given in the prison or Borstal institution in which the man is to serve his sentence. It ought to be given in some separate penal institution, so that the first introduction of a prisoner to the governor and warders whom it is hoped may do something to reform him will not be the governor supervising, and the warders inflicting, corporal punishment on him from the start. That is not the best way of starting the right relationship.

I know that a great deal of the agitation to get rid of corporal punishment started with the prison staffs, as did the agitation to get rid of capital punishment. If I may digress for one moment from corporal punishment, I hope that before long we shall have one prison set apart for receiving men sentenced to death; that when a man is due to be executed there will not be all that commotion which one finds in the ordinary prison where other people are kept on ordinary sentences. We ought to have one prison set apart with a special staff. Equally, if we ever reintroduce corporal punishment, that ought not to be given by the warders and under the supervision of the officers who are going to try to reform that person. I hear the noble Lord opposite say that that gives away the whole case. Indeed, I do not think it does. What I am saying is that we ought to have this known deterrent so that if people commit these crimes of violence, carry revolvers, manufacture coshes and things of that sort, they know they may get whipped with the birch. That might deter quite a number of them. One does not know how many people have been deterred in the past, because they have never come before the courts at all; they never come into the statistical table. Once the deterrent has been used, then treat the offender exactly as an ordinary prisoner in his own age group. If he is a young man, after he has suffered that extra penalty let him have his proper training at a Borstal institution.

I should like to add just one word about deserters. I always thought that the policy with regard to deserters who gave themselves up was wrong. It was suggested that they should be treated leniently. Two or three men chose to give themselves up. They were immediately tried by a district or general court-martial, and given a couple of years' detention. My Lords, by this time, if their only offence was that of desertion, those men ought to be given a free pardon. Let them then re-establish themselves, not under aliases or whatever it is they are doing. Some of them by now are probably living under an alias, and are well established in work. But some have not yet reached anything like that stage, and I am certain that because of the stigma attaching to them they are helping to till this bandit class. We ought to take steps now to see that a free pardon is given to those men. Let it he publicly but quietly done, so that they will have no excuse for not settling down to a decent life, as they certainly should do.

My Lords, I am doubtful on this matter of whether the birch should be reinstituted for crimes of violence. The last time the subject came before this House, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, I was neutral. Now I am coming round rather to the idea in favour of, not the "cat", but the birch. But we shall have to wait to ice how things go on. If by these long sentences we cannot deter people from these acts of violence, then I believe we ought to give, not to the general magistrates but only to the King's Bench Judges and perhaps to approved chairmen of quarter sessions, the power of using this additional deterrent, because deterrent I certainly think it is. I believe that we should wash out such phrases as "torture" and things of that sort, and realise that a birching does not do a man a great deal of harm. Indeed, it may just check him and in many cases it would be kinder to give a young man a sentence of the birch than to send him to prison for three, four, five, six or even seven years at a wretch—an appalling thought, at the formative age of his life. So if we find that we do not cure these waves of violence, ultimately we shall perhaps be more humane in saying that once more we will introduce what, after all, is not such an inhumane method.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Simon, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Fortescue.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.