HL Deb 23 March 1950 vol 166 cc445-520

4.7 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved by Lord Lloyd on Tuesday last, 'That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the large number of crimes accompanied by violence occurring in large cities.


My Lords, we are all agreed that my noble friend Lord Lloyd performed a most timely public service in taking his opportunity of putting down this Motion. I am sure we are also all agreed that: he opened the debate last Tuesday in an admirably phrased and moderate speech presenting the point of view which he wished to put before the House. The actual Motion deals with the prevalence of crime, and it is not surprising that the Lord Chancellor lost no time in accepting that Motion, for indeed no reasonable person at this time of day could resist the view that there is a lamentable amount of violent crime in our streets, especially of a sort which is comparatively novel and with which it has been very difficult to deal.

I do not at all agree with the sentiment—if anybody holds it—that public concern in this matter has been stoked up by sensationalism. That is not true. Your Lordships, treated as a body, are not usually over-excitable, and I am sure there is no member of this House, in whatever quarter, who does not feel that the public disquiet on this subject is completely justified. An appalling number of crimes of violence are being committed in this country at the present time; and it is not only the number—as I will venture shortly to point out—which is of astonishing magnitude as compared with the past; it is the brutality and the heartless wickedness of many of these outrages which so offends and distresses all of us. Therefore the Lord Chancellor was naturally moved to say at once on behalf of the Government that he accepted the Motion, thereby ensuring that we should have no Division. To tell the truth, am sorry that it will work out like that, because it would have been interesting and instructive to see how the judgment of your Lordships in different parts of the House is now framed on this very controversial question, which has been so fully discussed in the course of our debates. However, that will not be so; there will he no Division.

Although the Motion is accepted, we have already had one day's debate, and now we are to have a second, partly devoted to considering and stating clearly the facts and statistics, and partly to the extremely vexed question of what is the best remedy for this shocking state of affairs. If your Lordships will allow me (I will endeavour not to make the time I occupy too long) I should like to say a few words on each of these two aspects. First of all, as to the facts and statistics, I recollect that my noble, and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, when this matter was incidentally raised at an earlier stage, made the not unnatural comment that, after all, rightly understood, facts and statistics ought not to contradict one another. That, of course, is true. But it entirely depends upon whether the statistics are properly interpreted and whether they are correctly used. When statistics take the form of numbers we have also to remember that, though no doubt they have been most accurately recorded and calculated, they are all on the assumption that every other factor remains exactly the same as before.

First, as to facts, apart from statistics. I have indicated already that, in my view at least, the public are perfectly justified in saying that they have a clear grasp of the principal fact, which is that there is a terrible prevalence of certain classes of crimes of violence, largely of a new type. In my view, also, the serious-minded public feel humiliated to think that we are in danger of losing the reputation that London is one of the safest cities in the world, a city where any decent person, man, woman or girl, may walk safely about. Further, I think the public are horrified by the knowledge that so many of the people who have been perpetrating this class of offence are still at large. One does not need to look at statistics to find that out: it is much as though one were to say that an observant agriculturist can perfectly well tell you that it has been an unduly early spring, or an unduly rainy autumn, without consulting the tables of the meteorological office. But I have been devoting myself somewhat assiduously for the last couple of days to looking at these statistics as well as I could. Every Home Secretary and ex-Home Secretary knows something about the annual return of the criminal statistics for which he is or has been responsible, and if the House will allow me I should like in a few sentences to state what I believe are the salient facts which emerge from an examination of the statistics.

First of all, I think it was the Lord Chancellor who said, "Let us be careful of relying too much on mere averages." I recall that about two years ago, when the Archbishop of York, Mr. Basil Henriques and I were taking part in a conference on juvenile delinquency, Mr. Henriques—who, of course, is President of the East London Children's Court and a most experienced magistrate in that connection—told a story which illustrates very well and amusingly a possible danger. He told us that the headmaster of an East End school had reported on the good behaviour of the Jewish boys who were attending his school. But the headmaster went on to say that he was much worried about the crime among the Christian boys in the school. Mr. Henriques dolefully inquired what the statistics were, and he was told: "Why, 50 per cent, of the Christian boys in my school have been involved in crime in one way or another." Mr. Henriques, much shocked, then inquired, "How many Christian boys are there in your school?" and the headmaster said, "Two." Therefore, do not let us rely too much on figures, and especially averages. But it does seem to me that you can reach perhaps three important conclusions if you have the time and inclination to study these annual tables.

In the first place, take the years 1948 and 1949. The figures for 1948, as your Lordships know, are published and can be studied at length in the printed Blue Book. The figures for 1949 are not yet published, and we are greatly indebted to the Lord Chancellor for the trouble he took in getting these figures for our information and stating them early in the debate yesterday. But I think there is this comment to be made on those figures, and I should not be surprised if my noble and learned friend agreed with me. I myself have learnt from such experience as I had at the Home Office in studying this kind of question, that a comparison between two adjoining years for material for a criminal survey will not help one very much one way or the other. I do not say this with a desire to help one side or the other in the controversy, but I am not sure that everybody appreciates that the figures which the Lord Chancellor gave us for 1949 do not really help the people who believe we were right to get rid of corporal punishment. He first gave us some very big totals of offences known to the police, which looked at first as though there had been a certain improvement in the latter year, but he pointed out that that big total was arrived at by including crimes which really have nothing to do with the subject we are talking about. We are talking about crimes perpetrated with violence in order to get somebody else's property. Whether it is bag snatching, whether it is rushing into an office and trying to seize the till, or whatever form it takes, it is that form of violent crime against the person which is really the important topic to consider.

The Lord Chancellor, as I daresay many noble Lords noticed, gave us a figure which shows how that stands, and he said that if you were to take crimes of violence against the person—and he illustrated what he meant by that, and they are just the crimes it is important to consider—in 1948 there were 11,780 cases of such crimes known to the police, and in 1949 there were 12,247, which is an increase. But it is no good trying to use these figures and relate them to the fact that on a date in 1948 the law came into force which abolished corporal punishment. I do not consider that they really have any usefulness either way. If you rely on evidence of this sort as showing what happens when you have abolished the possibility of corporal punishment, you must imagine that juveniles study the contents of the Criminal Justice Act and observe the date on which it was passed into law; and that, further, they observe that the abolition of whipping did not take place when it passed into law but at a later date to be fixed hereafter by His Majesty in Council. There are not half a dozen of your Lordships at this moment who have any idea—apart from what we told on Tuesday—what that date was.

But there was a further circumstance about those figures which the noble and learned Viscount himself said he regarded—as I am sure he does—as very grave indeed, and that is the extent to which people under seventeen years of age have been convicted in these two years of that class of crime. I ask your Lordships to observe these figures because they are very distressing ones. In 1948–confining oneself to convictions—there were 871 juveniles convicted of this class of crime; in 1949 there were 894. There again, those figures, exact as they are, do not prove anything. There is no ground whatever for saying, as I think one or two people have said earlier in the debate, that this comparison between those two years really gives us any comfort. But I am quite clear myself—and I submit it with respect—that to rely on so short an interval and endeavour to draw a line is not helpful. What we need to do is to observe the trend over a long period.

In that connection there are just two facts which I would venture to mention, both of them. I think, very striking facts, and facts which I dare say are known to some of your Lordships already. The first is the really astounding difference between the number of cases known to the police in the period round about the First World War and the number during the present period. It is difficult to believe how great the difference is. The statistics, as your Lordships probably know, divide up crimes into different categories, and there are two columns—which cannot, indeed, be very strictly mathematically related but are nevertheless a strong indication. One: column shows the number of crimes of that category known to the police—and I may say, incidentally, that I suspect that that is very short of the number of such crimes that are actually being committed. I should suppose that there are a great many people in this Metropolis—girls whose bags are snatched and other people who are bullied or hustled into surrendering their property—who do not communicate with the police. That is not the fault of the police. Take the first column, which is the number of crimes known to the police in a year; the second group of figures is the much smaller number of convictions. Perhaps your Lordships will kindly observe these figures.

In the years immediately before the First World War, the number of robberies with violence known to the police of the whole country was 178–that is all. The figures did not increase after the First World War—in fact, in that period, the number of robberies with violence was 177.

How many robberies with violence are known to the police in the latest published statistics? The number has risen from the figure I have given to 1,101 in 1948. As for burglaries, what was the number of burglaries "before the First World War known to the police? I: was 1,612; and in the years following the First World War the figure was 1,448. But what is the number of burglaries known to the police in a single year now? The number is 4,174. When you come to other classes, such as housebreaking or shopbreaking, it is still worse. Therefore the public are perfectly right, even though they may not know these statistics, in feeling that there has been a most prodigious increase in the class of crime which we are considering.

Incidentally, I am sure—and I think the point is sometimes confused—that if you look at the figures you will not find that there was an increase in this kind of crime or any kind of crime immediately after the First World War. If you look at what happened before the First World War (your Lordships can find the figures on page 130 of the Cadogan Report) you will find that during the years of that war—1914, 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918–the number of convictions and presumably the number of crimes of this class, dropped. It is a very significant factor when you come to think of it. But nothing of the sort is true now, and it really looks as though before and after that period of 1914 to 1918 this kind of crime was committed mostly by adults—largely, of course, by the professional burglar; the juveniles were left at home while the men were away at the war, under conscription or otherwise; and during the years of war these offences very materially dropped in number.

Your Lordships will remember the story told us by Lord du Parcq—we all regret so much that he is not here to help us now. He told us of a professional burglar who had entered the Army in the First World War, had done very well, and ended up as an extremely successful sergeant-major. His colonel sent for him when he was getting his discharge and his gratuity and said to him: "I know your old record, but now you are going back, after having served honestly and gallantly for these years, I beg you to use your gratuity to set yourself up in some honourable business." The sergeant-major answered, "Sir, I am very glad to get my gratuity. I will tell you what I am going to do with it: I am going to buy myself a first-class set of burglar's tools." Lord du Parcq vouched for the truth of that story, which he had heard from the colonel himself. But certainly it is not true to say that crime increased very much after the First World War as compared with the figures before that war.

The only other statistical fact I want to mention is that, though that is true about the First World War, it is utterly untrue about the situation as it is to-day. I have been at some pains to compare and to prepare, if it is of interest to your Lordships, two or three contrasting figures as between 1938, the last year before the war broke out, and 1948, which is the latest year for which we have printed records. Listen to these figures. In 1938 robberies with violence—which, as I have said, at the time of the First World War or just afterwards amounted to 177–were 287. Of course, there was some growth of population and there were some changes in circumstances, but anyhow that was the figure.

Now, when the fighting is over and we begin to look at the police statistics after the Second World War, what is the number of robberies with violence known to the police? It has grown from 287 to 1,101, and it goes on substantially at or above that figure. Burglaries known to the police in the year before the Second World War were 1,515; in 1948, they were 4,174. In 1937 housebreakings were in the region of 17,000; in 1948, there were 31,578 cases known to the police—in a single year. Then, worst of all, is the class of crime which is called shopbreaking. Shopbreakings known to the police before the last war were 17,819; in the last recorded year, 1948, the figure for shopbreaking cases known to the police was 54,071. I hope I have not unduly underlined these matters or wearied your Lordships by reciting them, but it appears to me that those are the significant figures that appear in the statistics. Every Home Secretary in turn has to spend a portion of his life in studying these things. I hope and believe that I have brought together the figures which really matter.

If these crimes be due to the fact that there are still so many deserters floating about in our population, as was suggested on Tuesday last, I would respectfully urge that the Government should reconsider the question of an amnesty. It seems a frightful thing that, because a man under some great strain in the fires of war got away and failed to discharge his duty, he should go on year after year with no prospect of returning to his old address or even of joining his old friends, and without even the invitation of an announcement which might help him to wipe out his fear of making himself known and trying to make a new start. I hope that the Government will consider this matter most seriously.

Nobody doubts for a moment that a portion of the explanation is the most regrettable shortage in our police forces. I doubt very much indeed that, if we did get the extra 5,000 police required in the Metropolitan area, it would reduce the figures rapidly to something which one might tolerate—although it would make a difference. I believe that that is the feeling of all of us. My recollection is that not so very long ago, if one needed a policeman and one walked out of one's front door the chances were that an officer would be found in the course of the next block or two. To-day, one can often walk a mile in this Metropolis, and never see a policeman at all. As was observed by one of the speakers last Tuesday; not only is that a very unhappy circumstance, but it is the failure of the "man in blue" to be seen on his job, at his work, which no doubt has an important connection with the illegal and violent action especially of many juveniles. If those are the salient facts, I want for a few minutes to turn to the other question: What are we going to do about this really appalling situation? Of course everybody will agree in a series of measures which, unfortunately, are long-term measures. No doubt, the problem is partly due to the utter want of parental guidance in many homes; no doubt there is a lowering of the moral standards in some portions of the population. I must add, as my personal view, that I cannot altogether dissociate from the list of causes a decreasing respect for individual rights. All that is common-place, and one need not spend time on it.

I remember a speech which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, who has for years taken such a close interest in this subject, not only in this House but out of it, made some time ago. He said. "The nation is on a dangerous and slippery slope, owing to an increasing contempt for the law and a decline in standards of honesty." I am afraid we must admit that that is a diagnosis with truth behind it. But what I wish to observe about the matter is this: some of the attempts which are being made to alter that state of things are good, but they are all long-term remedies, and cannot be expected to produce better results for a considerable time to come. I am afraid that that is true also of improving the numbers of the police, for that, too, has turned out to be a very long-term remedy. I must confess that my view is that, unless there is a rapid and substantial reduction of this kind of crime in our streets—that is to say, violence, often brutally perpetrated, for the purpose of stealing somebody else's money or:goods—there will be an ever-increasing weight public opinion in sisting that a short-term remedy must be found.

That brings us to the heart of this most puzzling matter. It is no consolation, of course, for the man or woman who has been stunned by what is called a "cosh" and robber:, to be told: "We shall endeavour to increase the number and improve the quality of boys' clubs," or "It is hoped that longer sentences of imprisonment will produce an improve., meat." I must firmly state, with great respect to anyone who takes the other view, that I cannot for a moment accept that that impression in the mind of the: public is due to what is called "sensational journalism." It is not so at all. It is due to the sober realisation of the shocking fact that these crimes have so multiplied in number and in brutality—and, what is more, so many people who do them escape and are at large—that people inevitably ask: "Is there no short-term remedy which might be employed, and which would operate quickly?"

My Lords, my own record in regard to this question—not that it matters to other people—I must very briefly state. I was the Home Secretary who appointed the Cadogan Committee, and along with life was the then Secretary of State for Scotland. Between us we did our best to choose a team of people—sensible, sober-minded people, who so far as we knew had no strong previous unalterable convictions either way. The Committee was appointed in May, 1937. It made a unanimous Report in February, 1938, which recommended the abolition of the sentence of whipping, while retaining flogging in prisons for violent assaults on warders—about which I must say a word. I happened then to hold another office, but both then and later I read the Report very carefully. I do not think anybody who tries to judge this subject reasonably, with an open mind, even though he feels the strength of some arguments the other way, can deny that it is a very impressive fact that the Cadogan Committee reached that unanimous conclusion. I, at any rate, was so much influenced 'by it that when, in the House here, we had a vote on the Amendment moved by my noble and learned friend, the Lord Chief Justice, which would have got rid of the "cat-o'-nine-tails" but would have kept whipping, I did not vote. Like my noble friend, Lord Llewellin who also abstained, I did not feel that I was sure enough either way.

But for what it may be worth, I have to some extent, modified my view. It does not seem to me that this question of a sentence of moderate corporal punishment, in what the Judge with all the circumstances before him thinks is a rare but necessary case, is a question of morals on which all the high-minded men are on one side of the line and all the low-minded men are on the other. I really cannot accept that classification. It seems to me that it is a practical question; and, in view of the fact that a good many of us (though I agree not quite in the same circumstances), may have had some experience of this sort of moderate chastisement, whether as giver or receiver, I listen with a good deal of surprise to the people who say that they do not know of any reason why it should he regarded as a deterrent. I find it impossible to accept all the arguments that are used on one side, or, indeed, all the arguments that are used on the other. For example, supposing the Cadogan Committee or a similar Committee equally impartial were sitting now, could we be confident, in the light of these new and most disturbing figures to which I have called your Lordships' attention, that the Cadogan Committee or its successor would have reached the same conclusion? Supposing they had known that since they were appointed robberies in the street, largely of a new and brutal kind, had increased five times, and that in 1949 the number of juveniles convicted for this sort of crime was bigger than it ever was before. I do not know, but it seems to me to be using the Cadogan Committee's Report really too hardly to suppose that their conclusions—which, mind you, were reached at a time when the figures of crime were coming down, before the war—really rule this matter for all time.

Then there is another aspect. I share the view of Lord Oaksey—and I really have not heard the answer to it that there seems to be a certain want of logic in the Cadogan Report. When it comes to discussing what is to be done with convicts who make violent assaults on their warders, what the Report says at page 110 is this: We are fully satisfied by the evidence that the fear of corporal punishment has a strong deterrent influence on prisoners who might otherwise commit serious attacks on prison officers. I agree with that. One of the most difficult duties of a Home Secretary is to study for oneself all the details of one of these cases and to make up one's mind whether the recommendation made by the visiting justices, that the man should be subjected to the infliction of the "cat-o'-nine-tails," should be carried out. If the members of the Cadogan Committee were satisfied that in that case the infliction of that sort of punishment had a strong deterrent effect, what I want to know is, why does it deter? It is perfectly obvious that what they meant is that at least in that case it deters, because other prisoners think that that game is not worth the candle, and it may be that the person who has made the attack feels that he will never do it again.

If your Lordships will reflect for a moment, you will realise that the answer which is given by those who take the other view, is no answer at all. I have heard it said that, after all, in that case there is nothing else which can be done. But that is no argument whatever. If the particular punishment so strongly recommended by the Cadogan Committee does not do any good—does not deter—well then, it is as 'useless as though the chaplain in the prison chapel read the man's name out once a week for a year. It is manifest of course, that they did take the view that, at any rate in that case, there was 'a deterrent effect.

For my part, I fully appreciate the arguments—I think they are strong arguments—that may reasonably be put up against corporal punishment. Because of appeal judicial whipping sometimes cannot take place promptly. The duty laid on the whipper is unpleasant. Perhaps more profound than either of those is the view which many people hold with great solidity of mind, that the community ought not to rely on authorising the infliction of physical pain. I certainly do not ridicule those arguments at all. Two arguments are used which some people think dispose of the whole matter out of hand, but which I must say appear to me quite unacceptable. Even the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, in his speech the other day said he was waiting for the evidence that corporal punishment inflicted by judicial sentence is a deterrent. I do not suppose that many of us have had occasion to come into personal contact with that kind of treatment by judicial sentence. But if the question is, whether that sort of moderate chastisement does or does not in many cases prevail for the purpose of securing better order and obedience, it is enough to say to many of your Lordships, "I wonder what school you were at"

There is a second argument which not only does not appeal to me but raises a certain indignation in my mind. There is an illustration of it in a letter published in one of the London newspapers to-day. The gentleman who wrote that letter thought fit to include this sentence. Psychiatrists know what the Judiciary do not—that there is the closest causal connection between the advocacy of corporal punishment and the indulgence in sadism. I am afraid that the cocksure confidence which that sort of psychiatrist shows, when he claims that he knows all about it and that the Judiciary do not know anything—the arrogance of one view and the utter contempt for any other view—does not make an appeal to people who are trying to reach the right conclusion. I feel, therefore, that we are serving a very useful 'purpose in having this debate, even although it does not lead to a final expression of opinion. I noticed that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said that it is: impossible that we should now go back on the decision,we came to a year ago. He used the word "now", and I think that he is right. I cannot imagine our attempting to legislate in a contrary sense within so few months of Parliament making its decision. To that extent, I entirely agree,

The only other point which I would make—and I make it very briefly—is this. It seems to me that in considering this matter we have to hear in mind that there are two kinds of people who have to form a judgment about it. Most of us discuss it as legislators, as reformers or as citizens who want to do what is right; and we balance the arguments in an abstract way. But there are people in our community who have to know objectively much more about the subject—I refer to the Judges who administer the criminal law. I do not know at the present time the answer which ought to be given to the Judge who says: "I have before me this youth of seventeen. I know that, by the law, I must not, in any circumstances order that he should he whipped. I have sometimes thought it right in the past to order a whipping accompanied by a short sentence, but, as the Lord Chancellor has said, that is impossible now, and that, instead, this youth must have a long sentence." I think everyone ought to consider what that involves.

A youth of seventeen, who perhaps has committed some horrible offence, is semi to prison for, possibly, ten years. When he comes out, it may well be that his whole life is spoilt. He is too old to serve an apprenticeship, and it is too late for him to make a start. I hope very much that he comes out of prison an improved man, though as long as three prisoners are kept in one cell, I do not think one can be sure that that will he the case. Then what is to be done in the case of a young person under seventeen—a juvenile, perhaps one who is even too young to be sent to prison at all? The whole tenor of the teaching which I endeavoured to imbibe in the years when I was at the Home Office and sat at the feet of Sir Alexander Paterson are. other great and merciful reformers was that long terms of imprisonment are a terrible danger, and you may in many cases, though you are trying to improve a man, in fact make him worse. That is tie reason why, in dealing with people in our prisons, we let them know that they will be able to get out earlier by good conduct and encourage them to do all they can to get out as soon as possible.

My Lords, that is all I have to say, and am sorry to have occupied your Lordships' attention for so long. But I am tremendously troubled about this matter, and I cannot honestly say, after much study of it, that I have made up my mind. But what I have endeavoured to say to your Lordships has been said with a desire to show not only how serious is this matter but also what are the considerations which, as I think, should guide one in reaching a conclusion. Having said that, I am sure that it will be to the great satisfaction of your Lordships that I now give way to the Lord Chief Justice of England.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, the object of this debate, as I understand it, has been to endeavour to focus public attention upon the disgraceful and, I would add, disturbing outbreak of violence which has recently occurred in this country. It is inevitable that in the course of this debate much attention has been and will be given to the question of corporal punishment. I did my best—and I am not ashamed to say so—when the Criminal Justice Bill was before this House to endeavour to have some form of corporal punishment retained, because I believed it the right thing to do. It is true, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, reminded your Lordships on Tuesday, that I suggested the abolition of the "cat" and the retention of other forms of corporal punishment—not merely the birch. Had my endeavour been successful, it would have enabled one form of corporal punishment to be given which I think has been too often forgotten. In the past, boys who had done wrong could be caned.

It may interest your Lordships to know that not so very long ago one of His Majesty's Judges did order a boy to receive six or eight strokes of the cane. The Governor of the gaol came to him in great perturbation and said: "Your Lordship must have meant the birch," "No I did not," said Mr. Justice Croom-Johnson—for that was the Judge—"I meant the cane. It is for me, under the Statute, to prescribe the instrument, and that is the instrument I prescribe." "But," said the Governor, "we have not got a cane." "Well," said Mr. Justice Croom-Johnson, "go out and buy one." The judge did not do as I should have done in similar circumstances—put my hand in my pocket and given sixpence to the Governor and told him to go out and buy a cane. I am told that a thick file of correspondence afterwards came into existence discussing the question as to who was to pay for the cane.

Too often, I think, when we are discussing the question of corporal punishment, we are apt to talk about flogging. The reason why I wanted to get rid of the "cat" and to keep the cane or the birch was not because I believe the "cat," as administered nowadays, is a brutal instrument. As the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, told your Lordships, the "cat" nowadays is not a terrible instrument, it does not hurt any more than the birch, if the birch is properly laid on by a chief warder who knows his business. But there seems to remain in the public mind memories of the days when the "cat" consisted of nine leather thongs with knots at the end of them, and consequently, when a man went into prison and was given the "cat," he was apt to be treated afterwards as a martyr or a hero. When given the birch he was an object of ridicule when he came out of prison—and a good thing too, for nothing kills so quickly as ridicule.

I will not take up the time of your Lordships by telling you at length of the experiences of members of the Western Circuit, but we well remember how at Portsmouth Judge Radcliffe stamped out in less than twelve months the robbing of drunken sailors by men living on the immoral earnings of prostitutes. He gave quite short sentences—sentences of six weeks, or three months, or something of that sort—and twenty strokes of the birch. The friends of the convicted men used to wait for them as they came out of the prison, stand close against the wall, if I may so put it, and make gestures at them, ridiculing them. As I say, that form of crime was stamped out in less than twelve months. I ventured to predict when I spoke on this subject earlier that the abolition of any form of corporal punishment would cause additional violence.

We have had many statistics and I do not propose to take up time by examining them in detail, because that has already been done by the noble Viscount who has just spoken. When whipping was abolished on September 4, 1948, the day on which that section of the Act came into force, it took some time for that to filter into the minds of the criminal classes. No doubt they still thought for a time that they would be subject to whipping. The following figures concerning the City of Liverpool, where we are told that crime generally has decreased, have just been sent to me by the Judges on the Northern Circuit at the present time. For the sixteen months ending February 28, 1949, there were 14 cases of robbery with violence in the city, and for the same period ending February 28, 1950, there have been 26–that is, an increase of nearly 100 per cent. Out of the total number of 60 crimes on the calendar just disposed of by Mr. Justice Oliver, 15 were robbery with violence or armed robbery—one involving murder in which two prisoners were concerned—and the other 13 were all men who had committed these crimes between November 10 and January 17. In my view that is not a pretty picture. It is not one on which anybody can look with complacency.

I am not sure whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Oak soy, said this to your Lordships the other day, or mentioned it to me privately afterwards, but I have never known, and he has never known, and no Judge that I know has ever known, a prisoner willing to plead guilty to robbery with violence. He will plead guilty to robbery, and to robbery with aggravation (which means that two or more are concerned in it or that a man has been am-led with an offensive weapon at the time, though he has not used it) but they will never plead guilty to robbery with violence, because they know and fear what the consequences might be. But whether or not there has been an increase in a number of these crimes, what I am quite certain of is that violence has increased, is increasing, and must be stopped. We have to find some way of stopping it.

The use of the cosh or some variety of that dreadful instrument—your Lordships have possibly seen pictures of them; I can assure your Lordships that a cosh is one of the most horrible instruments you can depict—is extraordinarily on the increase, and the most disturbing feature of it is the youth, or comparative youth, of the prisoners. Let me say at once that it is one thing to deplore, as I certainly deplore, the abolition of all forms of corporal punishment, and quite another to demand its reimposition. My reluctance to demand its return is because I think there is nothing worse than continually altering the penalties imposed by the criminal law. The position as I see it is that Parliament deliberately abolished corporal punishment in 1948, with practical effect from 1949–though it is true it took in the autumn assize of 1948, If we are to press for and succeed in getting its reimposition now, who is to say that in the next Parliament (and many people think it cannot be long before there is a new Parliament) might not take it off again? I cannot say that I visualise with any favour a see-saw of that description.

Let me remind your Lordships of what: happened in 1948 with regard to capital punishment. As soon as a clause which would have had the effect, if Parliament agreed to it, of abolishing capital punishment, was moved in another place, against the advice of the Government, and carried, the Home Secretary announces. that in all cases of murder, pending the passing of the Act, he would advise reprieve, I ventured to say in this House that I thought the action of the Home: Secretary in that respect was illegal. When your Lordships stood firm to retain capital punishment, the: clause abolishing it was dropped, and capital punishment was restored. In the interval several murderers, murderers of a very bad description, were reprieved. The murderer of police constable Edgar, who was shot like a dog by a burglar, the steward on a liner, who first raped and thee strangled a girl and pushed her body into shark-infested sea, and several other murderers, were reprieved. Then, when your Lordships stood firm, that policy had to he abandoned and capital punishment remained the law of the land. I cannot think that sort of up-and-down is a good thing for the criminal law of this country and it is certainly not a good thing for the Judges who have to administer it. That is why I am not pressing for the reinstatement of corporal punishment now.

The only alternative that seems to be left is heavy sentences, but on this I ask your Lordships to remember two things. The first is that every sentence must be really heavy, and the present position with regard to remission should be borne in mind. The old system whereby a man earned marks for good conduct has been abolished, I understand, and unless, indeed, there is some prison break or frightful assault on a warder every mar: now has a remission of one-third of his sentence. So, when considering the protection of the public, it is just as well to remember that when a man is sentenced to five years he will serve only three years four months—and so on clown the scale. When a sentence of ten years is given, something like six years eight months will be served. If heavier sentences are given these men will remain in prison longer. The prisons are all overcrowded According to some figures I received from the Home Office only this afternoon more than 2,000 prisoners are put three in a cell in different prisons. The staffs are overworked and the prisons are understaffed. I believe it is no easier to recruit for the prison service than it is to recruit for the police service. Where are we to put these prisoners, and who is to look after them? I do not know. But I think it is the only alternative we have.

The second thing is that if heavier sentences are to be given, and if that is the only remedy, the courts must not be deterred by the youth of the offender. That gives me an opportunity of saying that though in certain newspapers, and in another place, it was suggested that I was heading a call for the reinstatement of corporal punishment, I have done no such thing. I think that possibly arose from some remarks I felt compelled to make at the Old Bailey in sentencing two youths for the most appalling case of personal violence one could imagine. One youth of seventeen and the other of fifteen, with a heavy pistol and a murderous cosh, had so battered an unhappy and defenceless woman of fifty-five or sixty that it was a wonder she was not killed; and they left her moaning and bleeding on the floor of a railway train. These two boys stood before me, and in passing sentence I said that it was not for me to question the wisdom of Parliament in altering any sentence. For it is not the duty of a Judge to question the wisdom of Parliament from the Bench, and it is not desirable that he should do so. But perhaps I may he permitted to do it on the floor of this House, because I am speaking here in a different capacity.

I hope that I shall never go to the length of questioning from the Bench the wisdom of Parliament. I said to these youths that the result was that I must now pass a sentence upon them of a class that I was sorry to have to pass on young fellows like them. To pass a sentence—which I did—of seven years on people of seventeen or fifteen years of age is a terrible thing to do. It is true that in the case of the boy of fifteen I was enabled by a section in the Children Act to say that he should be detained in a place to be selected by the Home Secretary; but that did not apply in the case of the boy of seventeen. If whipping had not been abolished, I could have given those boys what I venture to think almost everybody in their innermost hearts would agree they thoroughly deserved—that is, a whipping and a short sentence. As it is, I had to pass upon them a sentence which I hated to have to pass. I ask your Lordships, which is the better: to give them a whipping and a short sentence, or for them to serve the sentence that I had to pass? Could I have sent them to Borstal for that offence? Borstal means detention for thirteen or eighteen months. I say that would be a derisory thing to do in a case of such brutality as those boys displayed.

What is the alternative? I have never received a satisfactory answer from anybody. We are told in season and out of season—and I entirely agree—that prison is the worst thing for the young and it should be avoided whenever possible. But, as I say, Borstal is not a suitable punishment for this crime and, therefore, there is nothing left, so far as I can see, except prison. Some people who write letters in the papers—such as the letter quoted by my noble and learned friend Lord Simon just now—seem to delight in picturing Judges as elderly sadists who go round the country desiring to send everybody to prison if they cannot flog them, and to flog them if they can. I do not believe there is any more untrue picture that could be painted. There is not a Judge on the Bench, so far as I know, who does not realise to the full—and I sincerely assure your Lordships that I do—how bad it is to have to send boys and young people to prison for any length of time. How often do we endeavour by every means in our power to get out of doing it if we can! But, surely, there comes a time, as in a case of murderous brutality, when there is nothing else to do, if only for the protection of others. Are we to think only of the boy? Are we not to think of the battered and bleeding victim who lies on the floor? Are we not to think of the others who may 'be exposed to the same fate? Perhaps in those circumstances it is better that the boy should be locked away. But do not then talk as though we Judges are doing something horrible in sentencing the boy to prison. We are doing it because it is the only thing to do, and so that the other lieges of His Majesty may not be treated in the same way.

I suppose there is nothing that is agitating the public so much now as the amount of crime there is among what are generally called the adolescent. I am not very fond of talking about juvenile delinquents: I think it is dignifying them with a grand sort of name, and we might just as well talk about bad boys and girls. Is the reason for juvenile delinquency far to seek? I know that you can go into the causes of it—bad homes, lack of education, lack of police, and so forth—but there is another aspect which I believe is very much at the back of it, namely, the impossibility now of punishing ally young people. You just cannot do it. The worst that can happen is that they can be sent to an approved school until they are sixteen, when they can be sent to Borstal. I have been over some approved schools, and I cannot see any element of punishment in them. I had sent to me a copy of a letter written by a boy in a remand home in the county of.Durham. It was some time ago, but the letter has been kept. He wrote to his father after he had been sent to the remand home. The offence for which he had been sent there was a shocking attack upon a girl, and at the time he wrote the letter the girl was still lying unconscious. It is to remand homes that the young have to go until you can find the approved schools to which they can be sent. He says in the letter: Dear Father, Just a couple of lines to say that everything went okay and that the place is fine. Every Thursday we go to the pictures, they call the picture hall the Cosy. The picture we are going to sea on Thursday is the picture that was on the Ritz not so long ago. They call it Laddie son of Lassie. The first day I arrived we had cricket. Also around the place we have strawberry beds, about three hundred heads of lettuce, a bed of potatoes, a greenhouse with Hg flowers on each side. That is all very well. He goes on: We wake up approximately half past eight"— that is the time they get up— go outside the door, put our sandshoes on, walk downstairs and get a good refreshing wash. After that we go over to the gymnasium and have a good half hour physical training. By the way I am sitting in the gym, writing this letter. After that we are finished with our P.T. and the boys stand in a line and start to smell "— that means, to smell from the cook-house— and the bogs will say bacon for breakfast and we all go and get our breakfast. I hope your Lordships all get bacon for breakfast these days. He continues: We can get a second cup of tea. To-day we are going to play games such as table tennis, draughts, dominoes, cards, then we read American comics and library books. Do you think you could send me some magazines and a toothbrush and a tube or tin of toothpaste? Well, I guess that is all I've got to say until visiting day and so I will say goodbye from your loving son. That is the place that boy went to. Your Lordships no doubt notice that there is not one word of inquiry or expression of regret for the girl who was still lying unconscious front that boy's action.

No one recognises the value of probation or the magnificent self-sacrificing work that probation officers do more than I. But the time is coming when we have seriously to think, is probation to be treated as an end in itself, or ought it riot to be treated as a means to art end? Is it to take the place entirely of punishment? To put a. boy on probation and under the probation officer, surely, means that you should put him under the care of a man who will try to make him go straight in the future. But if these boys know—as they all do, and as very often they tell the police they know—that no one can do anything to them except put them on probation, the thing becomes perilously near to a farce, be cause as I say, probation is not punishment. I t is quite easy sometimes to escape the observation of the probation officer, who probably has far more youths to look after than he can possibly manage. There is really nothing worse than probation orders being made time after time. Do not think I am blaming the magistrates; there is nothing they can do except that. These two boys whose crime I described to your Lordships, I hope in not too lurid terms, had both been on probation twice; they were on probation at the time they committed the offence, and they planned the outrage when they met at the Probation office or just outside the office.

When I have people before me, of whatever age, for these murderous attacks, whether they are felonious wounding or whether they are robbery with violence, I am afraid I cannot stop to think whether misplaced parental control, lack of police officers or one thing and another is responsible for it. We have to deal with the matter objectively: the man is there in the dock and we have to sentence him there and then. If we could find some way of dealing with this violent crime, I should rejoice. At the present time I feel a sense of frustration about it. I am told that frustration is one of the things which causes juvenile delinquency. Perhaps I am too old to be classed as a juvenile delinquent, but I can assure your Lordships that it is a great and difficult problem which faces us. I have told your Lordships briefly why I do not feel able to press for a return of corporal punishment yet—I say "yet," as did the Lord Chancellor, because I believe that if this wave goes on and cannot be stopped, the demand for an attempt to stop it by corporal punishment will be overwhelming. Then it must be applied, and I hope to goodness that it will not be applied too late.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my flower to the bouquet of congratulations which have been offered to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, on his speech in moving this Motion. What I particularly liked about it, if I may say so, was that in advocating that every possible step should be taken to bring the recruitment of the police up to establishment, he put first things first—at any rate from the point of view of the short-term solution of this very difficult problem. If there is one thing which penological science has made absolutely clear, it is that much the most effective of all deterrents is the certainty of arrest and punishment. We can argue until we are blue in the face as to whether flogging will deter a man from committing a violent crime, but there can be no dispute as to the fact that if there is known to be a policeman in the vicinity it is very unlikely that the violent crime will take place.

This point was put forcibly and picturesquely in a noteworthy article in The Times the other day when the leader writer said: The old woman in the lonely lane, followed by the predatory hooligan with a 'cosh,' might be saved by his last-minute reflections on the unpleasantness of the 'cat'; she will certainly be saved if a constable comes round the corner in time. Undoubtedly that is an absolutely true observation. Therefore, it is a question of real urgency as to how we are to step up recruitment in the police force. During the course of this discussion, a number of your Lordships have suggested that one effective stimulus for recruiting would be to ensure that every police recruit has a reasonably good house in which to live. I think the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack went a good way to accepting that proposition when he described the circular letter which was being sent out to local authorities asking for priority in this matter. I myself am convinced that this would be the most effective stimulus to recruiting that one could find, but I confess that I am not satisfied that the course which the Government have adopted, of circularising the local authorities about it, will he adequate. We have been told in this House more than once that ever since the end of the war local authorities have been asked to give priority to police needs in housing, though so far they have always refused to do so.

There can be no doubt that the fabric of our whole society depends on the due and effective administration of the criminal law; the foundations of the complex society in which we live rest upon that. Unfortunately, as so often happens nowadays, we are too apt to take the foundations for granted. I would suggest that, as in the war years, when society was directly attacked by our enemies from overseas, we were prepared to take really effective measures to deal with the problem, and among other things were prepared to requisition houses where necessary—for example, for the provision of accommodation for officers in the Fire Service, in which I myself have taken part—the Government should be prepared to go as far as requisitioning houses in order to provide accommodation for the police. This problem is of such importance. I would go further than that: I would urge them to take into their own hands the job of building the houses. We now have a very energetic Minister of Works, and I have no doubt that if he were given a target, particularly in London where this problem is obviously of outstanding importance, to provide, say, 2,000 houses by the end of the year, he would be able to tackle the job and produce the goods. By means of requisitioning and direct building I believe we should be able to provide, say, 4,000 houses by the beginning of l9.5 and I would he prepared to lay very long odds that that would have the effect of bringing the establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force up to the level at which we wish to see it.

I have no doubt at all—and in this I rather disagree with the noble and learned Viscount. Lord Simon—that that would have a considerable effect on the crime statistics in London.. Incidentally, if I may interrupt my argument to deal with the question to which he devoted a good deal of time—as to why corporal punishment should be retained for attacks on warders in gaols, and not in other cases of violent crime—the answer is surely that the certainty of punishment in respect of a crime of that kind is absolute. The man has practically no possibility of escape and, therefore, any sort of severe punishment is an effective deterrent. He is already in prison so he cannot be deterred by imprisonment, but he can by the certainty of corporal punishment. I think that is clearly the answer to that particular point.

I said that I considered this police solution as the short-term solution of this problem, Ism when the police have arrested the culprit, and he has been put in prison, society is faced with a heavy bill for keeping him there. We lose his labour and. what is perhaps worst of all, the chances are that when he comes out he will take to crime again, because the rate of recidivism is very high. The only possibility is that while we have him there we can reform him, and that is why penologists attach so much importance to the problem of reformation. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said that penologists regarded deterrents as a matter of no particular importance in punishment, and that reformation was everything. If he will think about it. I think lie will see that while we do not take that view about deterrents we naturally concentrate a good deal on reformation, because if the man is reformed then society gets a good citizen back to carry on with the good work.

A little later the noble Lord went on thought rather unfortunately—to throw ridicule on attempts to eliminate the causes of crime. He said that the penologists 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. I was a little disappointed that he should have taken this sceptical view about this important matter, because I believe that it is one of real importance. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord. Archibald—in what I thought was one of the noteworthy contributions to this discussion—took up that particular point in a maiden speech. Surely it is very important to try to prevent these lads and young men from becoming criminals at all. E have always found it amazing that in this country hardly anybody is prepared to take part in any sort of work towards preventing evil from getting 1:;oing; but as soon as the thing has got under way, then we are prepared to spend millions of pounds to cure it. At the present time we are spending over £400,000,000 a year on curative medicine—dentistry and other things—but we are not prepared to find a few thousand pounds to keep going one of the most important experiments in preventive medicine at the Peckham Health Centre, which is being wound up for want of a small sum which might be found out of this £400,000,000.

It is the same with crime. Think of how much material loss this tremendous waste caused by crime represents to the community every year. And there is not only the material loss but the loss in spiritual values also: we lose a very great deal of human value in these hardened criminals. Yet there is no institute of criminology; there is only a small department here and there in the universities, and on them practically no money is spent. I think it is time that we were prepared to take much more seriously this question of studying methods of preventing crime.

I should like to turn for a minute or two to the question of the young criminal, which has been discussed earlier. We should all agree, I think, that his criminality seldom arises from any innate viciousness in the lad. It is often the natural instinct for adventure finding outlets in unfortunate ways. This has been realised more and more over recent years. Unfortunately, it has rather led the courts to regard a little house breaking and a spot of gang robbery by these young ruffians as a venial offence, a sowing of wild oats, and these youths in many cases are all too leniently treated. The spirit of adventure is undoubtedly the: material for building up the finest characters. It is also the material out of which the hardened criminal and the pest of society is sometimes made. I have said it was a maxim of penology that the certainty of punishment is the best of all deterrents. But these lads know that they will probably not get punished at all. Indeed, the coming before the court is all part of the adventure. All that happens is that an old gentleman says, "Go away, and don't do it again "—and that is treated, very naturally, with derision. This has a most unfortunate effect on the police themselves. More than one chief constable has complained to me that his police will not be bothered to take up boys who are behaving in this way when they know perfectly well that this sort of thing will happen when the lads are brought before the court. In this way bad habits are built up on this instinct of adventure; and the lad who, had he been properly handled, might have made a good citizen, becomes a hardened criminal.

I was rather disappointed with the Lord Chief Justice's criticism of the probation system, which was, I thought, in rather harsh terms. The probation system has made a tremendous contribution towards this problem of delinquency. It is a British invention and, if effectively used, works very well indeed. I received only this morning a copy of the report of the Probation Committee of Stockton-on-Tees, and it is a remarkable document. There they have three probation officers, and the result has been a real diminution in juvenile crime over the last year or two. Never at the height of the post-war peak of juvenile crime did it go up to what it had been in 1938, which is, in itself, a remarkable fact. Last year, it actually went down from over 300 to just over 200–an improvement of over 50 per cent. That shows what can be done by effective use of the probation system. The report shows that whereas in 1948 they have twenty-five lads in an approved school at a cost of over £5 per head, the figure went down last year to six lads. They have saved, as a result of this policy, considerably more than the salary of the probation officers.


What would the noble Lord say about the case at New Cross, referred to by the Lord Chief Justice, where both these lads were under probation at the time?


I am not sure how far I am in a position to deal with that case, but I believe that the probation officer had, in fact, advised the Bench not to renew the probation of these boys, and the Bench took their action against his advice. Like anything else, probation is a method which has to be used with discretion; and I entirely agree with the Lord Chief Justice that from time to time it is wrongly used.

I should like to say a few words about one or two other matters, more particularly the question of crimes with violence, which, as a result of very proper public feeling, has given rise to much discussion here and throughout the country as a whole. The situation is very bad. The figures which the noble and learned Viscount gave on Tuesday show that, at any rate, it is rather better over the last year than in 1948. Indeed, while the diminution in crime as a whole was something like 12 per cent., in respect of these violent crimes there was a diminution of as much as 16 per cent. In other words, it was distinctly better than the average improvement. I cannot agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that this matter has not been, at any rate to some extent, worked up by the Press. In 1948, when the figure was much higher than in 1949, there were something like three of these cases every day, but the Press did not concentrate on them. Over recent weeks they have been concentrating on them. One noble Lord said, "I never open my paper without reading of a case." The Press convey the impression that it is a matter of very great gravity.


Is the situation not one of very great gravity?


Of course it is, but it is wrong for the Press to "star" it in the way they have been doing over recent weeks. I regard it as sensationalism. I believe that to some extent the Judges also have taken part in this, and I think it is unfortunate. When one of the Judges says that facts matter more than statistics, and says it a day or two after the Home Secretary has given statistics in the House of Commons, many people think—though no doubt that was not in the learned Judge's mind—that he is criticising the accuracy of the figures which the Home Secretary is producing, and it makes a bad impression. I think and hope that after this debate the learned Judges will take rather more care before making pronouncements of this kind from the Bench.

When the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, came to discuss this question of reviving flogging, I did not feel that that part of his speech was so effective as in its earlier parts, not because I disagreed with it but because it did not give me the impression of really wanting to reintroduce flogging. Like so many members of the public, he was worried by the situation and would have recourse to flogging just because he could not think of anything more effective to do. That is exactly the situation which led to the Garrotting Act of 1861 which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, discussed in some detail, and which the Home Secretary at that time described as panic legislation introduced after the reason for the panic had subsided, or words to that effect. He then traced the rather discreditable history of this business in which, as he said, Parliaments from time to time "have been stampeded."

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a significant episode in the criminal history of Belgium, which is hardly known in this country, as emphasising the importance of not allowing ourselves to be stampeded in this way. After the First World War, there was a considerable outbreak of gang robberies and murders in Belgium. Gangs of young ruffians of the kind that we have heard about this afternoon attacked lonely farms, held lap the farmers and sometimes burned their feet to make them disclose where their valuables were kept. In some cases there was murder. There was an agitation for the revival of the death sentence in Belgium, which had not been enforced for about sixty years. The Attorney-General took part in this and advocated that one young murderer, I will call him Pierre, should be executed. At that time the great statesman Mr. Van der Velde happened to be Minister of Justice. He said: "No. This is a barbaric punishment. I would resign from the Government rather than assent to a revival of capital punishment." And so the man was not executed, but was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment.

Within a few weeks of that happening, this wave of gang robbery and murder had subsided. No more was heard of that type of crime. But if Mr. Van der Velde had not been Minister of Justice at that time and stood out against it, and if the Attorney-General's advice had been taken, they would have reintroduced the death sentence in Belgium, and when the murders died away everybody would have said: "Post hoc propter hoc: We have abolished murder by re-establishing capital punishment." The corollary of this case is that this young Pierre, after serving his sentence in prison, where he was a model prisoner, was released and is now a happily married man with a family and a business, and is a valuable member of society. That emphasises the view put forward by the noble Viscount that we should not allow ourselves to be stampeded in this way.

I should like to add a little to what was said about corporal punishment being a deterrent. The noble Viscount discussed very carefully the Report of the Cadogan Committee. I should like to add one or two points to the points which he made. There are, of course, two ways of looking at this problem of deterrents. There is the question whether the criminal who is flogged will commit a similar sort of crime again; and there is the question whether other people who might be criminals in that type of crime will be deterred by the fact that they know that there is a good chance of their being subjected to flogging. On the first of those points, as the noble Viscount pointed out, the Cadogan evidence, though not very strong, is slightly to the effect that it does not deter a man from committing again that, sort of crime. I should like to add to that a little piece of evidence which comes from a colleague of mine, a young criminologist who is working in tie University of London on the subject of recidivism at the present time.

He has taken a random sample of 270 recidivists. It happens that out of that 270, only eleven have been subjected to corporal punishment. Of those eleven, three were flogged and eight were birched. The interesting point is the subsequent histories of these men. In the case of the three who were flogged, all three have later been guilty of crimes of violence—two of wounding with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, and the third of robbery with violence. Of the eight who were birched, the first has since been convicted of robbery with violence; the second of robbery with violence; the third of aggravated assault; the fourth of aggravated assault; the fifth of three aggravated assaults; the sixth of rape; the seventh was implicated in the Dartmoor mutiny, which your Lordships may remember; and the eighth, although not guilty of violence against other people, has more than once tried to take his own life. Does not that strongly support the case of the noble Viscount that by subjecting those men to this punishment of flogging or birching the result is likely to be that they will be confirmed in their violent attitude towards society?

If I may look at the other question, the question of flogging being a general deterrent, I should like to add to the evidence which the noble Viscount placed before your Lordships two other pieces of evidence which I hope may strengthen the case he made. The first is in connection with what happened in the West Indies. Not so long ago there was an outbreak of "praedial larceny" in the West Indies, and flogging was reintroduced for dealing with that. "Praedial larceny" is the theft of growing crops, such as the carrying away of sugar cane. Let me take Jamaica as one example. In July, 1942, flogging was reintroduced in Jamaica for the purpose of dealing with this type of crime. The average number of whippings per month for the rest of the year was fifteen. By 1945, when the discussion took place in another place, the number had gone up from fifteen to twenty-eight per month; in other words, it had almost doubled. During the same period, the monthly average of convictions had gone up from sixty to seventy-seven. In those circumstances how can one say that flogging is an effective deterrent?

The other case that I take is evidence of a rather negative character in connection with Scotland, which was also referred to by the noble Viscount. Your Lordships will remember that Scotland abolished corporal punishment many years ago. That being so, if flogging were really an effective deterrent we should expect to find that the recent wave of crimes of violence was much more serious in Scotland than in this country, because until just over a year ago we had flogging and they did not. But the reverse is the case. The Home Office have kindly provided me with some statistics on this matter. I qualify what I am going to say by telling your Lordships that the ingredients of robbery in Scotland are not exactly the same as they are in this country. Therefore, what I am saying is to some extent qualified by that fact.

The average number of robberies in this country and Wales before the war was 227 per annum. In Scotland the number was 121. That pre-war average in England and Wales went up in 1947 to 976, which was about four and a half times as many; but in Scotland only to 386, which was just three times as many. As your Lordships have heard, in 1948 it increased again in England and Wales to 1,101, which is over five times the prewar figure, while in Scotland it actually went down from 386 to 353.


Is that robbery with violence?


They are cases of robbery generally but they include the violent cases, and as the noble Viscount knows, most cases of robbery involve a certain amount of violence. My Lords, in the face of all this evidence, can we say that the case for re-establishing corporal punishment has been made out? After all, surely we are all agreed that it is a brutal punishment to inflict upon anybody, whether it is the "cat" or the birch. From the point of view of pain and nervous shock, a well known doctor has decribed it as equivalent to an operation without an anesthetic, and its psychological effect is often even more serious because it may make a man a permanent and hardened criminal. My Lords, before we go back to this sort of thing, surely those who are in favour of flogging have a very heavy burden of proof to discharge; and surely the whole of the discussions during this week in your Lordships' House have shown that they have not in fact discharged it.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I have a Motion on the Order Paper on the subject of Part II of the Oaksey Report, and asking what steps the Government are going to take to implement any of the fifty-five recommendations contained in that report. I propose to leave that Motion on the Order Paper with a view to a debate on that point at a later date.

During this debate we have listened to great experts, men who have in the past. held the office of Home Secretary, to Judges on the Bench, and many others with great experience of life in this country. Rut so far I have not heard anybody who has been a policeman address your Lordships. I am the first to speak as one having occupied a high position in the police in days gone by. I have no right, nor do I intend to presume, to speak for the police. I was for a very short time with them—only four years; but, in those four years I felt I learned a lot, especially through the criticism that I received. I think I was more publicly criticised for three years of my time than any other public or police officer has ever been—and I learned a lot. I understood and admired the police in those days, but as I have said, I am not presuming to speak on their behalf, only to pass on to you such knowledge as I think I acquired during those days.

The debate on Tuesday and to-day is on Lord Lloyd's Motion on "the large number of crimes accompanied by violence" occurring in large cities in this country at the present time. I would here add my congratulations TO the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, on his opening speech. To my mind it divides itself into three parts—first, the prevention of crime, which can he achieved only by the police; second, the catching of the criminal, also by the police; and third—which this debate has discussed roost—the punishment of the criminals or the improvement of their conditions so as to prevent others committing a crime—in other words, providing a deterrent. Many noble Lords have already contributed to this debate on the question of punishment, or on the question of whether any punishment should he given. I thoroughly agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, who spoke on Tuesday, especially when he said: 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 her!. Further, Lord Oaksey said: I, in my simplicity, am unable to see why prison officers should he protected by corporal punishment, whereas poor old women, young women, old jewellers, and bank clerks are not. My Lords, I thoroughly agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, said, and I agree more than ever with what the Lord Chief Justice said to-day. After hearing the letter which he read, I think one may come to the conclusion that we are now not punishing malefactors at all.


If the noble Viscount will allow me, I think the letter that was read referred to a remand home to which the boy was sent, perhaps for a few days. Most of the inmates there would he persons who had not yet been sentenced at all and might be proved innocent. That is why they are treated in that way. That is not the penalty that was imposed upon the boy.


I understand. En the short time that I was in the police, I got to understand all about remand homes and that sort of thing, and how people were treated when they were remanded.

It is well known that there has been a great outcry in the Press which has been reflected in speeches in both Houses of Parliament and outside, on this controversial question of flogging or whipping. There have also been discussions about the abolition of the death penalty and the greater use of the prerogative of reprieve: also on improving conditions in the prisons, giving the prisoners greater comforts, having prisons without bars and changing the life of the prisoners. Many seem even to advocate that punishment should not mean what is ordinarily understood by the word "punishment," but that criminals should be given some form of social education, or whatever the clever brains like to call it, which will improve their outlook on life, change their characters and turn them into law-abiding citizens, and they argue that this can be done better by improving the standard of life and living conditions in the prisons. That is what a large number of people think. I read a letter in The Times this morning—I think it was from a clergyman who had worked in the East End. He used these words: Human parents of all nations, and animal parents, all find a proper degree of physical punishment necessary to train their young. Therefore it is natural and not wrong. But, like everything else, it can be pushed too far, and then it 'becomes wrong. It is really a question of degree.


Did the noble Viscount also see a letter in The Times from a man who described himself as an ex-convict, who speaks of the deplorable effects which result from flogging?


I read that too. It may be that I am very stupid on all these things, or that, to copy Lord Oaksey's words, I am simple-minded or old-fashioned in my latter years, but I do not understand why some people should think that a criminal should never be punished. It is my opinion that a criminal should be punished according to the seriousness of the offence he has committed; he should be made to feel that brutal crime is going to be stopped. It seems at present that the victim suffers, but he has no redress. The criminal is given an easy time, with the chance to better his education and his standard of life; he has no need to pay for his misdeeds. If his victim is not insured, he gets nothing back; he loses all—even his life sometimes. The malefactor, when he is caught and sentenced, gets everything free—free food (sometimes better food than we do), free clothes, free books and free cinemas, all at the expense of those he has robbed, who pay the taxes. I feel that the malefactor benefits not only by his crime, but by the punishment that is meted out to him. The malefactor, by reason of his crime and his sentence, very often comes out with substantial advantages.

I should like to tell your Lordships a little story which I believe to be true. This sort of thing has not happened in England yet, but I wonder whether it soon will. An African was sentenced to death for murder, was reprieved, and was given a life sentence. After he had done eighteen years it was decided that he should be released. On his release, the ex-convict at once sent a petition to the King, through the usual channels, saying that he thought the treatment which he had received was unfair. He stated that he had given faithful and loyal service to His Majesty for eighteen years, and in his old age he was turned out to face an unfriendly world without means of support. Is that the way we are going? I am wondering whether someone soon will begin to suggest giving the criminal, after he has done repeated terms of imprisonment, a pension.

Now, I must refer for a few moments to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I may be misinterpreting him—indeed, I hope I am—but, from his speech, I gathered that he thought that some of the opponents of the abolition of the death sentence or of flogging are the natural successors of those who in medieval times put men on the rack or subjected them to the torture of the thumbscrews. I hope that that is not what the noble Viscount meant. We are as sincere as those who advocate lighter punishment. Our only thought is to take the best measures to put a stop to these crimes.


As the noble Viscount has rather invited me to give an explanation, may I say that I used the phrases to which he has referred simply as an illustration in discussing the question of principle as to whether or not the infliction of physical pain should form part of the penal code of a civilised country. I was not referring to present advocates of the birch, nor was I comparing them to the people who inflicted tortures with the rack and the thumbscrews. It is the principle of inflicting pain that I object to.


I fully accept what the noble Viscount says, and I am very glad to hear it, but I think that his speech may well have given a wrong impression to many other people besides myself.

I should like now to refer to what was said on Tuesday by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He said—I am reading from Hansard: 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 in 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? The noble Lord then went on to say: Not many noble Lords have put forward a plea for that.… and certainly I do not know of any noble Lord who has put forward such a plea. I do not think it ought to go out that such a plea was raised here. There is no one in your Lordships' House, I am sure, who would be prepared to go back to the principles which were followed in medieval times, or who would consider returning to the practices of those days.

I am one of those who believe that to-day crimes on defenceless people for gain are carried out with far more brutality than they have been during the last twenty-five years. I feel, too, that the police must be thinking, as I am on this subject.

I have dealt with only the third point which I referred to in my opening remarks—namely, the punishment of the criminal. I feel that the most important point is the prevention of crime, and for this it is essential to bring the police force to the required minimum establishment. As the noble Viscount, Lord Temple-wood, said in his admirable speech, 6,000 men are needed to bring the Metropolitan Police Force up to strength. In the last six months, according to the figures given by the noble Viscount and quoted in Hansard, a gain of 171 recruits has been recorded to fill this large gap. That means that at that rate of progress it will take over seventeen years to bring the Metropolitan Police Force up to strength. To my mind that is a terrible thought, and rather alters the impression which the Lord Chancellor gave when he said that the net monthly increase in the 'Metropolitan Police Force has improved from 2.4 to 16 per cent., which he said compared favourably. I do not think that the noble and learned Viscount intended to give the impression that the improvement was so rapid as that.


May I answer the noble and gallant Viscount upon that point at once? By an error of mine or by an error of the shorthand writer the words "per cent." come in there. That is a mistake. It ought not to be "per cent.", but "men per month." The comparison is between 2.4 men per month and 16 men per month. Sixteen is, obvious!y, a good deal larger than 2.4, but I agree with the noble Viscount that unless we improve on that figure of 16 men per month, and raise it to a much higher figure, it will take a very long time to bring the police up to strength.


I agree with what the noble and learned Viscount has just said. I referred to the point because the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, has dealt with some statistics this afternoon. Sometimes when a percentage is given, it does not give the same impression as if the actual figures were given, and vice versa. I hope this improvement will go on, but judging by these figures there is still a long way to go. T his recruitment: of men for the police force is the mast important point of all. When we have got the establishment up to strength, we can then see how crime stands. I feel that this question of shortage of police is of the first importance and I would like to give notice now to your Lordships I intend to raise it in your Lordships' House at an early date after Easter, so that we can discuss fully the fifty-five recommendations of Part II of the Oaksey Report aimed at increasing the number of recruits joining the police force—a matter which has only briefly been referred to in the debate to-day and on Tuesday.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, with all due respect to noble Lords who have already spoken in this debate, I do no: propose to pay any attention in my speech to statistics, or to enter into controversy as to the need or otherwise for corporal punishment: that is a matter in which it seems to me each side is satisfied that: it is right, and when 'we argue about we end by coming out of the same door through which we went. I am concerned, like the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, as a potential victim of the present outbreak of violence which we are now experiencing. One fact that to my mina renders consideration of the masses of statistics somewhat ineffective is that we have reached a condition of affairs which is, perhaps, without parallel in living memory. Many people are now afraid to go out of doors at night, women are afraid to venture out alone, or to answer a knock on the door lest there is trouble. A fortnight ago an incident of that kind happened in my own road, a quiet residential road. In the morning of the day a knock came to the door, and when the elderly woman answered it she was immediately struck over the head and knocked senseless by two young ruffians, who went in and did the same thing to another elderly lady, and ransacked the house.

That was not an isolated instance there are plenty of reports about such happenings in the Press. There is an atmosphere of fear abroad. People are afraid to give evidence because of reprisals. I have a life-long acquaintance with a part of London where a good deal of this sort of thing is prevalent. I am also in touch with one or two institutes for young people. I think I have a firsthand knowledge of the problem, and my view is that there are some things that can be done almost immediately, even though we are short of police, to grapple with the problem. In various parts of South London there are places known as milk bars. These are dangerous places where many of these criminals foregather. They are well known to the police, who know that certain gangs are always to be found in them. From my own knowledge I could quote cases where the police have not made the arrests which they might have done, because they have said they are sick and tired of taking young people up before the juvenile court and then hearing somebody pat them on the head and say, "Be a good boy and don't do it again." That is no exaggeration.

All these things tend to accentuate the trouble about which we are complaining, although some of them may seem trivial. Many young people to-day have too much money. They do not know the value of money; they spend it in all sorts of ways that are harmful, and resort to all sorts of means to get it. The cinema does provide an incentive to crime. One has only to listen to the young people when they come out and watch their conduct afterwards to see the bad effect the cinema has on them. I hope I shall not offend in certain quarters when I say that there is a lack of proper teaching in our schools. Youngsters are not taught as they used to be the difference between right and wrong. And I may seem to be old-fashioned when I say that I believe a serious responsibility lies in the lack of religious teaching in the schools and elsewhere. That has a tremendous effect on the lives of young people themselves.

It is no good repeating our suggestions. I know that some things can be done. There are evening institutes and clubs for young people. I know that some of these places have been the scene of attacks by these young ruffians. What is important is the type of leadership in these institutes; it is upon that that their effect depends. The leaders must be people with a vocational call, not just somebody with a job to do. I would instance an institute in South London which is probably the biggest in the country, a mixed club with a membership running into four figures. The principal is a young woman. This institute has received the praise and commendation of the police for its work in that neighbourhood, one of the worst in London. The members have an interest in running the club. To a large extent they discipline themselves, and they have found their own methods of meeting these young ruffians when they come round and attempt to commit acts of violence. But that cannot be done unless we have the people who can win the respect and esteem of the youth. I suggest that something more might be done along these lines. This institute has not all the amenities of the clubs for which huge sums of money are raised. It is run in an ordinary L.C.C. school building, and when one goes in there it is always a hive of activity, both recreational and educational. These youngsters take such a pride in the institute that when they are called up to the Services they correspond with it and come back when on leave. The experience of this institute indicates that even under present conditions something can be done.

A new danger is growing up. In some districts vigilante groups have been formed. These could develop into something much worse than the disease they set out to remedy. Unless steps are taken to make such groups unnecessary, then we are in for a bad time. As has been emphasised again and again, one cure is an increase in the police force. On the vexed question of corporal punishment, frankly I find it difficult to make up my mind. I feel there is an inclination to go too far the other way. Many of these young people have a strong streak of vanity which is often the compelling force in this trouble. I think that probably a few strokes of the cane and an experience of some of the pain they have inflicted on others—for example, in such dreadful cases of brutality as throwing paraffin on a squirrel and setting it alight—would have a good effect. We have a very good women police force and many policewomen are trained in judo and that sort of thing. I suggest that they should get on the track of these young people. The humiliation of being arrested by a woman will have far more effect than anything else we can think of. I think that might be a matter to which we could give some attention.

I venture to say, however, with all humility and respect, that to a large extent the debate has missed what I believe is the fundamental question—namely, that the acts of violence and the outbreaks of hooliganism which we deplore to-day are surely the outward signs of an inward sickness of the whole social order. The whole system of moral conduct and law has collapsed, not only here but elsewhere, and all over the world people are living in an atmosphere of violence. These things are hound to have their effect. More and more we regard purely material things as more important than persons. Those are the things which are fundamental and to which attention has to be given. We need to examine our conduct and our sense of values. We are content now to measure everything by the purely material, and we are paying for it in this way. Just as our own pound has been devalued, so has our moral and social conduct been devalued. That is bound to have its outward effect in the deplorable happenings of the present time.

The fact that the Government have accepted the Motion, but have indicated that they are not going to make any alteration with regard to corporal punishment, has to some extent cramped our discussion. At the same time, I say that we can carry it a little too far. There is a case for corporal punishment in certain circumstances. Other steps, such as have been indicated, of giving further help to those carrying on the work of reformation, would give great and permanent benefit. I have nothing but praise for the way the police have acted in the difficult circumstances in which they have to work at the present time. Again and again I have seen how they have been the means of stopping what might have been serious outbreaks in certain districts. But they cannot be everywhere: their movements are watched and known by these people.

It has been said that there is no viciousness in these young criminals. That just is not true. Some of these young people are really vicious and as depraved as human nature can be. You will not overcome that sort of thing by soft words, and calling it by something else. What is the cause of it is probably a matter for further discussion and consideration. I feel that the result of this discussion when it goes out to the public will be disheartening to many of the people who are still living in great fear—who are afraid to go out in the evenings, afraid even to open their own doors, and who are living under this threat of violence, robbery and general lawlessness. It seems to me that this House—and the same remark applies to the other place—has not yet been able to find a remedy. I do feel that some slight measure of corporal punishment for young people (not for adults—I do not think for a moment that that is likely to have any permanent effect), and a greater consideration for the officers in charge of these various schemes, institutes and clubs for the reform of these young people, will have a lasting effect and be of great benefit.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, at about this time of day one usually begins to talk about "this late hour," and I can assure your Lordships that I will not unduly detain you. I have followed this debate and the way Parliament have approached this question with the greatest possible interest and care. It first arose in the other place in the form of a Question and Answer. In replying, the Home Secretary said: No, sir, I do not agree. I think that for certain purposes additional publicity has been given to these cases, and the heavy penalties that I have read out will be sufficient, if inflicted, to deal with the matter. I wonder what the Home Secretary meant by that? I have always been told that it is a most dangerous thing to impute motives, and I am glad that most of the speakers in your Lordships' House have steered clear of that danger. However, I was surprised to notice in the speech of my noble friend Lord Mancroft that he attributed motives. The noble Lord said: 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. I hope that those of us who put forward a view here may be exonerated from any charge that we are doing so in order to obtain publicity, or anything else. What we are saying is what we sincerely believe—and other speakers this afternoon have emphasised that fact. Parliament, in their wisdom, decided to do away with corporal punishment. We are obviously faced with a very grave situation. What has been so remarkable to me in this debate is that it seems to depend on whether you sympathise with the victim or with the aggressor. Broadly speaking, that is the division.




I am coming to what the noble Lord said in his speech in a minute. We have listened to speeches like that which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and that made by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, dealing with the question in a calm and detached way, as if we were discussing something that was of interest, and that sort of thing, but not a problem of the greatest gravity.


Does not the noble Earl think we are more likely to come to a proper conclusion if we discuss it in a calm and detached way, than if we allow our emotions to affect us?


Yes. But the point I desire to make is this: I have as much sympathy with the victim as with the aggressor.


So have I; everybody has.


I would like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, whether he would have made the speech which he made this afternoon, to which we all listened with great interest, if his wife, his sister or his daughter had been concerned in the frightful crime to which the Lord Chief Justice referred. Could you say you do not believe in corporal punishment, or anything like it, if one of your nearest and dearest were affected? I very much doubt whether the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, would have been able to make his speech in the way he did if one of his nearest and dearest had been affected. It is a fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, said in his remarkable speech, that people are becoming terrified. It is the fact—as the noble Lord also mentioned, and it is a point with which I had intended to deal—that we are faced with the possibility that people will take the law into their own hands if the situation gets much worse. We are faced with the possibility of the substitution of mob law for criminal law. It would be a bad day for the country if that were to come about.

The question is, what is the best thing to do? We are told that it will be a good many years (the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the Lord Chancellor said this) before the police force can be recruited up to its proper strength. The prisons are full to overflowing. What are we to do? It seems to me that if corporal punishment is not to be reimposed, there will have to be a special house of detention, possibly, as has been suggested to me by my noble friend Lord Hawke this afternoon, on the same lines as those adopted in the Services during the war—a prison or place of detention where the most stringent discipline will be imposed with no question of going to cinemas, or any such pleasant amenities. It seems to me that we shall have to establish something like that if we want to bring the seriousness of the matter home to the criminal population.

It is also said that we must not have corporal punishment because we are too soft nowadays. The noble Lord, Lord Strabogli, more or less said that in his speech. The noble Lord's speech struck me as being remarkable, coming from one sitting on the Benches opposite. He said, speaking in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Airlie: 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. I cannot help saying it—what complete rubbish! I am sure the noble Lord will forgive me, because we know each other very well. But surely the last war, if it proved anything, proved that the people of this country, the ordinary man and the ordinary woman in the back streets, can go through things like the blitz. Did they not have to put up with plenty of pain, anguish and all the rest of it? Of course they did. Whether you can put up with it or not does not depend on the class from which you come.

There has been a certain amount of criticism of His Majesty's Judges. It seems an amazing thing that His Majesty's Judges, who know the question inside out, and who know the problem with which they are trying to deal and for which Parliament has given them the responsibility, should be criticised. No fewer than eight of His Majesty's Judges have said: "We cannot give you the "cat" or birch, or corporal punishment in any shape or form, caning of any kind, so we have to give you a long term of imprisonment." As the Lord Chief Justice said, what an awful thing it is to have to send a comparatively small boy to prison for seven years! It will turn him into a gaolbird and not a reformed character, and I hope that we shall try to find some other solution.

Since we had our debate on Tuesday, two interesting things have happened. The Prison Officers' Association issued a statement which was reported in the Press, and if your Lordships will forgive me, I will read it. It is as follows: The announcement by the Lord Chancellor that longer sentences are to be imposed for crimes which were previously punished by shorter sentences and floggings, means that there will be an increase both in the total prison population and in the numbers of prisoners who have been guilty of crimes of violence … Unless there is a substantial increase in the rate of recruitment of suitable men and women, and unless the rate of wastage of experienced staffs is reduced, the policy announced by the Lord Chancellor will add to the serious difficulties now confronting those responsible for prison administration. That seems to me a most serious thing. There is another quotation I should like to give. The Women's Guild of Empire—whatever that is—announced publicly that: Women can no longer feel secure from brutal attacks which are so often fatal. And they advocate corporal punishment.

These cases cannot be disregarded, and I feel that building up all over the country there is an opinion that something must be done—not necessarily the reimposition of corporal punishment. I was impressed by the considerations put forward by the Lord Chief Justice in that respect this afternoon. I feel that something should be clone rather than merely wait for the police force to be brought up to their proper strength, and. for the effect of long terms of imprisonment to be felt. I cannot help feeling that Parliament will have to think very seriously what it is going to do. I will not take up more of your Lordships' time, but I would say that I entirely support the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and I hope that His Majesty's Government, if they will not give way to us at this moment, will keep the matter under review and that Parliament will be able to make its weight felt. I hope that corporal punishment will be brought back, because I see no alternative.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a long (though not a bit too long, in view of the importance of the subject), interesting and, to me, most instructive debate. I am certain that the effect on most of us must have been to a large extent gloomy, but it has at least this cheering feature: that we have been assured on behalf of the Government that they do take a very serious view of the situation in which we are involved. I suppose that means that they will apply their best minds to supplying some solution to it.

At this hour of the evening I hesitated a great deal as to whether I ought to occupy your Lordships' time, and especially did I think so after listening to the speech delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, with every word of which I agreed, and which expressed far better than I can a great many of the ideas which have been passing through my mind. In particular, I should like to emphasise what he said on the subject of the danger of some public revulsion resulting in the formation of vigilante committees or bodies of that kind. That would be fatal to the administration of our criminal law, and to general law and order throughout the country. Generally speaking, as I listened, and as I thought beforehand of this debate, I threw back my mind fifty-six years to the moment when, with a very new and very white wig, I first entered the Crown Court at Liverpool in 1894. I asked myself what changes in the administration of the criminal law had come about since then, and how they affected the matters we are now discussing. Leaving aside questions of pure procedure—the Evidence Act and the Indictments Act—there seemed to me to be four. There was first the great cutting down of the heavy sentences to which I was accustomed when I was first called to the Bar. Secondly—or perhaps I ought to have put this first—there was the gradual disuse, followed by the total abolition, of corporal punishment. Thirdly, there is the institution of the probation system and, fourthly, the growth of the Borstal Institution.

The first two changes, the long sentences and corporal punishment, I would like to take together. I want to be quite candid to the House. I regretted two years ago the decision which we reached then, and I regret it still; but I am not here to say that the abandonment of corporal punishment for adults is the sole cause or anything more than one—perhaps not even one—predisposing cause of the situation in which we now find ourselves, or that its restoration will cure all the troubles from which we are suffering. Again, I wish to be candid. I believe that corporal punishment for an adult is a deterrent. I find it difficult—it shows how differently our minds are constituted—to understand anyone who does not accept that dogma. I ask myself whether, if I had any inclination to heat old women into insensibility with a cosh, I should not be deterred by the fear of being beaten, and I am perfectly sure that I should.

In this connection, looking at the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I should like to say that the date to which I have already referred, 1894, is for this purpose a somewhat crucial date, for it was shortly after the time when Mr. Justice Day had visited Liverpool. Of recent years we have heard it announced again and again that Mr. Justice Day's visits to Liverpool, and the sentences which he imposed, were not the cause of the decrease of violent crime in Liverpool. All I can say is that although I was not there when Mr. Justice Day was there, I arrived immediately afterwards. If you had asked any policeman, any member of the Bar engaged in criminal practice or any Judge who had sat, either in the court of assize or in the court of quarter session, he would have unhesitatingly told you—as indeed was common knowledge at the time—that the comparatively quiet state of the Liverpool streets was largely due, and perhaps wholly due, to the sentences which Mr. Justice Day imposed. The other story has been told so often—I know that it is told in perfectly good faith by the noble Viscount—that the people who tell it have come to believe it. But it really is not true. Those violent measures produced a very great improvement—an improvement which I had plenty of opportunity for observing during the few years when I continued to frequent that court.

The second question is that of long sentences. I was brought up under influences which peculiarly indicated to me that one of the great troubles with which we were faced at that time and one of the great causes of crime, was the long sentence; and nothing was more welcomed by prison reformers than the cutting down of sentences to what people came to regard as fairly reasonable periods. I do not like to obtrude my own personality too much, but I must say that, like some Judges exercising a much higher jurisdiction than I do, I never send a man to prison for any lengthy time except with the greatest possible reluctance. I ask myself whether he is likely to benefit from the time spent within those walls. Prison is a much pleasanter place now than it was then, but the appalling aridity of the life, the boredom of the years of sitting down with no interest in life and no hope near enough to be any good, are things which I should have thought ought to be avoided by any means possible. Therefore my great criticism of the abandonment of corporal punishment for adults is that it forces His Majesty's Judges to impose instead heavy sentences of imprisonment.

There are other objections to heavy sentences, on which I will not dwell, but those of your Lordships who are as old or anything like as old as I am must remember that we all regarded this gradual trend towards shorter terms of imprisonment as one of the greatest improvements in the administration of criminal law that had been known for probably a hundred years. I think we who are actively engaged in the administration of justice are all agreed that a short sentence in itself is bad. Of course, "short" and "long" are relative terms. I mean by "a short sentence" one which is not long enough to enable a man to get any advantage from the prison discipline, but is long enough to enable him to learn all the other criminals can teach him in the exercise of his craft. I think that all interested in the reform of criminal law were reasonably agreed that the very long sentence must never come back, hut, on the other hand, that the short sentence was almost equally inefficacious in dealing with the criminal.

I pass to "ameliorations," as they would be known in the administration of the criminal law, and first the probation system. I am ready to give the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, all the praise he would desire for his part in instituting that system.


I do not desire any.


A great deal is due to my old friend and teacher, Lord Haldane, who had this matter very much at heart. During the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill of 1922, he bent all his energies to perfecting the system and getting it on its feet. I am thinking of courts which are of lesser jurisdiction than those over which the Lord Chief Justice presides. Magistrates in magistrates' courts and courts of less on must have come to regard the probation system as it went along as representing a magnificent and courageous effort on the part of those who started it. It is an immense amelioration in the working of the criminal law. But in order that it may remain successful, something more is required. The probation officers with whom I have come into contact have appeared to me to be admirable beyond expectation in the performance of their duties. They have carried them out with diligence and faithfulness—and with common sense, which is high praise in an occupation which lends itself to excess of sentimentality. But they cannot do everything.

We have before us at the sessions people who have been put on probation once, twice, three times and four times, who break their probation and are merely put on a further term. That is not treating the system fairly, and it is not treating the offender fairly; and it is by these means that the young offender is created. He is taught to believe that he need not care and that all that will happen when he gets to court will be, as the noble Lord, Lord Amnion, said, that some old man will pat him on the head and say, "Go away and be a good boy"; and he just laughs and commits the offence again. So long as this practice continues, probation will become less and less valuable, until it becomes a mischief and not a desirable thing at all. How that can be remedied I do not know. I do not approve of urgings from the Home Office on magistrates or upon Judges as to what sentences they should inflict. I think these things should be discussed at associations of magistrates such as the Lord Chief Justice constantly addresses in the country. They must take a sterner view. The things for which these juveniles are brought up must be punished as offences, and the young offender must at an early stage be made to see that if he offends, then he will be punished.

Hitherto I have talked of corporal punishment only for adults. I am far more interested in the question of corporal punishment for the young. I believe that if we had abandoned corporal punishment for adults in the Criminal Justice Act and. maintained it for the young we should have retained something which was really most valuable and we should have lost nothing. What is the magistrate to do? He has before him a boy whose "high spirits and instinct for adventure" have to be quelled. Mine were quelled at a very early age by the application of the proper remedies. I believe that if you could birch the boy properly and give him no sentence at all—patting him, of course, on probation—you would give him a much better chance than you do by just patting him on the head. I am not asking the Government to go back on what they did two years ago. But I am, I know, expressing views held by many other persons wiser than myself: that a sharp short punishment is what is necessary and what should be applied.

I should like to say a few words about Borstal. I do not know enough about Borstal, by either experience or teaching, to express a competent opinion. I have a suspicion that the claims made for the system are sometimes pitched too high, and this causes persons such as myself to slip back rather the other way and criticise, perhaps unduly. But there are two matters connected with the Borstal system which I think have a great deal to do with the creation of the young criminal. With the open Borstal institution the boy can go out when he likes. It has been my lot to sit in a county which, for good or contains a Borstal institution from which the boys habitually run away. When they run away they break into the shops in the little town in the middle of which the institution is situated, until there is, to all intents and purposes, a kind of reign of terror amongst the small shopkeepers. Having broken into the shop, a boy's aim is to get money and clothes and walk to London, and as he walks up to London he breaks into lock-up shops on the way. He is usually apprehended when he reaches London, probably trying to do some larger housebreaking. He comes up then to be tried for his more recent offence. It is curious—I do not understand what it means—but when he is called upon he usually says: "Whatever do you, do not send me back to Borstal." Whether or not that is on the same principle as the entreaty of the rabbit to the fox, "Do not throw me into the briar patch," I do not know. At any rate, that is what he says.

It is difficult to know how to deal with such a boy. I understand that usually he is sent back to Borstal or, if not, that he receives a sentence of imprisonment. In some circumstances, a sentence of imprisonment is the only possible remedy. If he is given a sentence of imprisonment, either the Home Office or the Prison Commissioners (I do not know which) promptly pull him out of prison and send him back to Borstal. That makes a fool of the criminal law. The boy in Portland knows that he can walk out when he likes, he can take a pleasant ramble, his high spirits and his spirit of adventure can be completely gratified, and he can have some open air. He comes up, he is scolded (perhaps he is sentenced to a term of imprisonment), and back he goes to his Borstal and the whole business begins all over again. One finds boys who have broken out or walked out three or four times. That cannot be a good thing for the system itself, and it cannot be a good thing for the formation of the boy's character. His character is supposed to be rectified and corrected in the institution.

What is the solution to this problem? I do not know. One would be put an end to open Borstal, but I frankly admit it is a very difficult question. It leaves one, as one usually is on the Bench when these things happen, completely unaware of the proper course to take. With the boy rather than with the man, when you arrive at the really difficult part of trying an offender, which is that of settling what the sentence is to be, you ask yourself: "What ought I to do with this boy for the protection of society and in his own interests?" There is really no effective answer.

I do not ask anything extravagant of His Majesty's Government, for I know that they will not do what I ask, but I think the young offender ought to be beaten and, if possible, not given a term of imprisonment. But I fully admit that the question is so puzzling and difficult that no certain voice of wisdom can be heard. I am afraid I have spoken at greater length than I ought to have done, and I have not made any constructive suggestion—for which again I apologise. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, would understand that when my noble and learned friend was speaking about probation he did not intend to make, and did not in fact make, any attack upon the probation system.


The noble and learned Lord said the very opposite.


What my noble and learned friend said is what I myself have tried to say—that it is a system which may, if we are not careful, be ruined by its misuse. So far as my noble and learned friend and those Judges who sit with him in the Court of Appeal are concerned, they show what they think of the probation system by not infrequently altering sentences of imprisonment to directions for probation.


My Lords, I am exceedingly glad to hear that from the noble Lord, I could only wish that the Lord Chief Justice had stayed during my speech. When I first had the honour to become a member of your Lordships' House, I was given to understand that one stayed during the speech of the speaker who immediately followed. I would have liked to have this from the Lord Chief Justice himself. I felt that what he said would be disheartening to many probation officers in the country. I am glad to know that he did not intend to dishearten them. In those circumstances, I gladly withdraw my criticism.


My noble and learned friend in fact did utter words of praise for the probation system and for the probation officers. I happen to know, from frequent conversations I have had with him, that that is how he feels about this subject.


If I misunderstood the noble and learned Lord, I gladly withdraw my criticism.


So far as leaving the House is concerned, I have spent many quarter-hours trying to get tea at the most appropriate opportunity. Perhaps my noble and learned friend wished to refresh himself. I am sorry for speaking so long. I know that noble Lords who sit on the Front Bench opposite take as serious a view of the situation as we take. I know that eighteen months ago they did not agree with us in the view which we took of the undesirability, particularly at that moment of time, of abandoning the appropriate method of corporal punishment in appropriate circumstances. I should like to say once more that I believe that it is necessary—and I hope, although I suppose it is a faint hope, that it might be done at an early date—to see corporal punishment reinstituted for the young, for I am perfectly certain, as the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, is certain, that the time to catch the criminal is before he becomes a criminal at all. It is only by dealing with the young at the proper time that we can ever stop this crime wave—though I do not wish to use exaggerated words. I do not think I can take the matter any further, so I leave it there.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to address you for only a short time on two or three points. I feel most strongly on this question. The first point is whether this has been a newspaper campaign or whether it has been run by His Majesty's Judges. Why has it arisen? I do not consider—I may be entirely wrong and at difference with the Lord Chief Justice over it—that everything is quite so bad as it has been painted. It is certainly not so bad as the outbreaks of crime were in places like Chicago. I think that to return to corporal punishment would be one of the gravest retrograde steps that we could take. It would not stop the crime. Of course, robbery with violence is a terrible thing. I should like to say this to the Lord Chief Justice. Yesterday, in answer to a question of mine, he said that the top punishment for robbery without violence was fourteen years. That, I understand, is the statutory maximum. Of course, I have not been able to look up all the instances in which this sentence has been given, but I have had the opportunity of finding out when the Lord Chief Justice last gave a sentence of fourteen years for robbery without violence. I stand subject to correction by him, but I believe he has never given it.


Of course I have not.


Of course he has not. And that is the crime—robbery. Why does violence occur? It occurs when the robber goes into a house and is discovered. There are many in this House—in my own case it has happened three times—whose homes have been entered by robbers. Each time I happened to be absent. My cook, an old lady, fortunately with wisdom, put a dressing table against her door and did not go out. The robbers were never found. But I am certain of this: that if she had gone out, violence would have been committed against her. Robbery is a crime we have to stop. If you look at the cases which go through the courts and which come before us as magistrates, you will find instances of a man getting off again and again through the shortening of his sentence. I am in entire agreement with the very strong point made by the Lord Chief Justice on this question of remission of sentence. If a Judge of the High Court, with all the information in front of him and all the knowledge he possesses, thinks it right that someone should receive a sentence of five years' imprisonment, then the term of imprisonment should be five years. It is this remission of sentence that is causing so much of the trouble.

Robbery is a very serious crime and, as has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and many others, it can be stopped only by an increase in the police. It is true we are short of police, but there are two ways of increasing the powers of the police. One is by not using the police for useless jobs such as they are doing to-day. In many cases they have to undertake all sorts of jobs which have nothing to do with them. I can tell you, very briefly, of an instance connected with myself. In 1889 my father went to India and shot a tiger. He brought his rifle back with him, and ever since then, twice a year, I have been. bothered to find this rifle so as to get a licence for it. I have not the foggiest idea where it is, but sergeants and other policemen have wasted time coming to see me because I cannot produce that rifle or say where it is. Surely some other person could do that while the policeman might be stopping a robbery or saving somebody from being knocked down in the street. It is in such tasks that I think there is a great deal of waste at present. The police are for the protection of property and the person, and should be used for that. Recruiting can be increased by better conditions in housing, and better remuneration. I have no doubt that that will come, but let us first stop the waste there is to-day of the time of our police. The feeling that most of us share has been well summed up by nearly everybody who has taken part in this debate—namely, that no one wants the return of flogging. It will never do any good. Short sentences are not a solution. What is wanted is protection for the individual from the evil man. We shall have to get more prisons, and more prison warders, and when we lock a man up we must see that he remains locked up.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, I rather hesitate to intervene in this debate at all, because it has been so comprehensive that almost everything that can be said on this subject has already been heard by your Lordships. Indeed, I do not rise to add to what has already been said with such force and authority during this debate, but merely to try as best I can to sum up the issues which have emerged from the speeches that have been made. In doing so, I desire, like other noble Lords, to compliment and congratulate most warmly the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, upon the really remarkable speech with which he opened this debate. If I may say so, I think it will greatly add to the reputation which he already enjoys here. I think, too, that it will be generally agreed that this debate has shown your Lordships' House at its best. The present wave of violent crime is just the type of topic with which a Second Chamber is most fitted to deal. It is of burning interest and, as we all know, the public are genuinely and deeply anxious to hear the views of those with long experience on this subject as to the steps which are most appropriate to call a halt to the present unhappy situation.

I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, who unfortunately is no longer in the House—I hope he will forgive me if I refer to him in his absence. He attributed the great concern of the public, as evidenced by the references in the Press to these crimes, to sensationalism. I cannot share that view, and I am sure that most of you do not. Indeed, I have a slight impression, if it is not unfair to the noble Lord to say so, that he himself resented the mention of these crimes because it interfered with the views which he personally held. Perhaps it is unkind to say that, but that is certainly the impression I gained. I think he would have felt very much happier if the Press had refused to mention them at all. That, of course, is a line of thought which anyone may hold. But I have always felt that it was the duty of the Press to tell the truth to the people, and I personally hope that they will go on performing that duty. It is far better that one should face facts, and not hide one's head in the sand.

In the old days, the greatest pride of this country, as we all know, was a general respect for law and order, which made Britain the safest country in the world. My Lords, could anyone make such a claim at the present moment? Every day we read in the morning and evening papers of savage attacks on law-abiding citizens—on old people, young girls, and even on children. The noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, said just now that he did not find the situation so serious. Of course, that depends on one's standard of seriousness. I may well have a different standard from that of the noble Lord. I can only point out to him that the Lord Chancellor himself, in the speech which he made on Tuesday, described the situation as very grave, and I think that, coming from him, that carries conviction to the noble Lord as well as to myself.

Two years ago I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to Southern Rhodesia. There I stayed on a farm, far from any other white man, surrounded by a great native population whom we are sometimes accustomed to regard as the backward races. But out there no one thought of locking his door at night. The front door of the house was left open; the doors of one's sleeping quarters were similarly left open. But in London, in the very hub of the British Commonwealth and Empire, where it can be done every door and window in any house is now barred and locked by the householder. As the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, himself said, when there is a knock at the door of a house the woman almost looks through a grille before opening it to see who is there. That is an intolerable and humiliating state of affairs, and I am sure it will be agreed by all of us that something must be done to bring it to an end.

The reasons for this present outbreak of violent crime, as has been pointed out by various speakers in the debate, are many and various. No doubt it is materially, and perhaps largely, due to the war. The Lord Chief Justice, I gather, would not accept that. I will explain what I have in mind. There are deserters who are still roaming the country. I would not myself attach too much importance to them. I thank that they provide a sort of picturesque background, and that people are inclined to pay more attention to them than is perhaps deserved. But, of course, it is true that in a country—I am not making any Party political point here—where every citizen has to have ration cards and other permits for the things he has to use, and even to get the necessities of life, a man who is not able to obtain such cards and permits undoubtedly does become something in the nature of an outlaw, and has to depend upon his wits. To that extent deserters have been a greater danger since the end of this recent war than was the case, say, after the end of the last war.

Then there is the general contempt for law and property, which I am afraid war inevitably brings in its train, and which is perhaps the worst of all its legacies to humanity. Then there is the fact that many young people have been deprived of the discipline of their fathers, often during the most formative years of their lives. There is also—and this I agree is very important—the lack of religious teaching to which the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, referred in, if I may say so, a very wise and practical speech this afternoon. Some would add, also, the bad effect of crime films, in which criminals are often presented to the public in the nature of heroes. That does not have much effect on adults, but it may easily have a bad effect on children. These are only some of the reasons which have led, I believe, to increases in the criminal classes, and which have encouraged young people in particular to embark on evil courses which they would never have contemplated in the years before the war.

The question is: What is to be done to deter them? That is tie real purpose of this debate. I entirely agree with the most reverend. Primate the Archbishop of York, who spoke on Tuesday, that it would be unwise to concentrate too much attention on flogging. Whatever view we may take on this subject—I take a quite definite view, as I shall show in a few minutes—that, clearly, is only one aspect of our problem. So far as the ultimate cure is concerned, I should have thought that it would be generally agreed that the greatest deterrent to crime is the certainty of punishment. If every lawless-minded person was certain that he would not, to use a vernacular phrase, "get away with it"—that applies to both young and old—no doubt he would think a great many times before embarking on a career of crime. That is the ideal towards which we must all aim. For this, as has been said many times during the debate, the paramount need is an adequate police force.

That is a subject which has been touched upon by various speakers in the debate, by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, and by other noble Lords who have spoken since. I understand that it is likely to be a subject of further discussion after the Easter Recess, and I should like to leave any detailed comments upon it until then. Of course, it would be idle and dangerous for us to shut our eyes to the fact that the police force to-day—though, as I understand, completely living up to the high traditions which have always actuated it—is quite inadequate in numbers to deal with the wave of crime which is now sweeping the country. What is to be done to bridge the gap until the police force is built up, till housing for the police is provided—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, very rightly referred to this afternoon—and until the certainty of punishment is re-established? What is to be done until then?

A great many suggestions have been made in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, I think, referred to the desirability of multiplying boys' clubs, which, of course, give healthy amusement to a great number of young people, keep them off the streets and out of bad company. Clearly that would be a considerable help, but the difficulty of multiplying them sufficiently must always limit their power for good. Then there is the possibility, referred to by the most reverend Primate, of enlisting the aid of parents in instilling a spirit of discipline in their children. I think that is clearly wise. Parental discipline is evidently better than any other if it can be exerted. The only difficulty, as I see it, is that many parents to-day seem unwilling to enforce discipline on their children. I do not know why it is so. It certainly does not apply to all parents, but it does to a considerable number. One wants to be in a position, I think, to bring a certain amount of pressure to bear on parents themselves. I believe that the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, on Tuesday, that the courts should impose penalties on parents who did not fulfil their responsibilities to their children, was a valuable one. I believe that if the courts were willing to do this—I understand that it is in fact possible for them to do so, though the power is rarely used—the effect would be immediate and salutary. We should find parents diligent in telling children "where they got off." By all means let us try all these remedies, whether they are likely to have immediate results or are of a long-term character.

But the question which above all we have to examine to-day—and I think we cannot evade our responsibilities—is: are other more immediately stringent measures also needed? It is, of course, in this connection, that the question which has occupied a very large part of our discussion has been raised—should corporal punishment be restored to the Statute Book? This, as all of us who were in this House at the time remember, was the subject of most anxious discussion when the Criminal Justice Bill was before your Lordships' House—I think nearly two years ago. The power to order such punishment was cut out of the criminal code in another place, it was put back again here, deleted again in the House of Commons, and then, finally, we accepted their decision—though with considerable misgiving and, I think, against the advice of the majority of the Law Lords.

Since that time the situation has deteriorated to such an extent and the prevalence of ferocious attacks—I would emphasise the ferocity of them—has become so much more general, and public opinion is evidently so deeply disturbed, that I think it is only right that we should, as we have done in the last two years, consider the matter further, whatever conclusions we may come to. There is no question, I am sure, of anything sadistic, either in your Lordships, or in the British people. We do not like corporal punishment for its own sake, and in particular the vast majority of us are firmly opposed to the penalty of the "cat" on the grounds that it is savage, though I was interested to hear from the Lord Chief Justice that the character of this punishment has now considerably altered and that it does not now hold the terrors which it used to have. But there is increasing evidence, I think, that the public is becoming more and more disturbed—and I think that the Government should realise this—that the penalty of birching is entirely ruled out, even in cases where it is clearly the only appropriate penalty.

For that reason I deeply regretted that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor found it necessary to state so unequivocally that the Government were unwilling to consider the reimposition of this penalty. The noble and learned Viscount said it was politically impossible, unless there was definite evidence that it would improve the position. I understand that is what he said. It was notable and most regrettable that the Government showed no such hesitation in abolishing corporal punishment, although equally there was no definite proof at that time that that would improve the position. Therefore I do not find that argument very impressive. I can see that there are strong arguments for not switching about from one decision to the other, a point which the Lord Chief Justice made with considerable force, but that is an administrative point, and I cannot see that there is any political argument against it. The duty of the Legislature is to do what is right, and if, thereafter, conditions were to show that a wrong decision had been reached or that the situation had changed, I think it would be right of Parliament to revise their decision.

The noble and learned Viscount added—and I think this is an interesting point —that from his inquiries he found that the subsequent careers of those flogged were worse than the subsequent careers of those who had not been flogged. The noble and learned Viscount went on to say, very fairly, that that might only mean that only the worst cases had been flogged. Though the noble and learned Viscount put his argument with extreme fairness, I think it is entirely irrelevant to the case put forward by supporters of corporal punishment. After all, the Lord Chancellor's argument might equally be used about long terms of imprisonment. I understand that many of these men who have been sentenced to long terms have returned to their old courses immediately after leaving prison. That is not at all an unknown thing. As I see it, the question is not whether every offender has been deterred by corporal punishment from a repetition of his offence, or whether all potential offenders have been discouraged from committing offences; the question is whether any offenders have been deterred and, if so, what number. As to that, so far as I have heard and read the debate, the Government have given no evidence at all. For that reason I submit that the question of reimposing this penalty deserves rather more objective reconsideration than the Government appear yet to have given it.

In considering this question, it seems to me that there are two different categories of offenders who have to be taken into account. First, there is the hardened criminal, the "tough," of whom Bill Sykes was an early example—brutal, callous, a real enemy to society. Secondly, there is the young offender who is not so hardened and probably sins often as much from irresponsibility as from vice. It seems to me that these two categories should be considered separately, and they do not necessarily present the same problem. I should like to take the second category first. Here, it seems to me, there are two objects which we should seek to attain. First, we obviously need to provide a deterrent to prevent the offender or any other offender from embarking on a similar evil course. But, equally, in the case of young offenders the possibility of reform must always be borne in mind.

Like, I suppose, other noble Lords, I read the other day of a horrible case of two youths who walked into a jeweller's shop, held the jeweller up with a revolver and, when he resisted, shot him. The evidence at the trial—and I read only what was in the newspapers—seemed to show that one boy had been strongly influenced in committing that brutal and ruthless crime by what he had seen on the films, which had given him a warped view of life and a sort of perverted sense of adventure. That boy obviously had been guilty of murder, which is the most heinous of all crimes, and no one would seek to condone his offence, but it is not necessarily true to say that the boy is a hardened criminal. Rather is it true to say that he was completely lacking in any proper code of morality and his sense of values was entirely wrong. I should think that exactly the same thing might be said of the little boys to whom reference has already been made, who drenched an unhappy squirrel in paraffin and then burned it alive. Nothing could be more atrociously cruel, but it is a thing which little boys might conceivably do without being aware of the horrible nature of their offence.

I believe—and this is the point I am leading up to—that the truth is that many children, and I would say many children in all walks of life, have, not an instinctive sense of right or wrong. That has to be inculcated into them, partly by instruction and partly by stern punishment. That punishment is how they learn they are doing wrong, and if they are not punished they never learn at all. They need, to use a very old saying, a sharp lesson, and the sharper and more immediate the lesson, the better. I should have thought it was no good sending boys of that kind to long periods of detention or imprisonment. I was interested to hear what the Lord Chief Justice said about the case of the two young boys, one fifteen and the other seventeen, who made a savage attack on a lady in a train.

I was shocked, as I expect other noble Lords were, at the sentences imposed on those boys. I thought it a terrible thing to send boys of that age, one to seven years' imprisonment and the other to seven years' detention. From what the noble and learned Lord has said, I agree that he had no option under the law as it is. He could not give any other sharper or more severe punishment. But I entirely agree with him, and many other noble Lords will also agree, that it would have been far better to beat these boys and give them shorter sentences, and send them back to normal life when they had paid the penalty for what might have been, to some extent, irresponsibility.

I know the view is widely held that there is something degenerating about the very fact of corporal punishment. I read the leading article of the Daily Herald on Monday, which described corporal punishment as degrading alike to those who administer and those who receive it. We must all recognise that that is a view which is sincerely held in many quarters, but I hope that those who hold it equally recognise that many of us do not share it. As the House knows, at public schools corporal punishment has for many years been a common penalty for any infringement of the rules and customs of the school. I do not believe that any of us who has undergone that punishment has suffered permanent moral injury from it, nor have I noticed that it has had a markedly deleterious effect on headmasters and others. The noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in the speech he delivered to your Lordships on Tuesday, dismissed school beatings with a wave of the hand as being quite unimportant, and not to be taken seriously at all. No doubt with the passage of years the headmaster has lost his original terrors for the noble Lord. That is one of the compensations of advancing age. But I feel sure he would have taken a very different view at the age of 15. At that age I am certain the headmaster would have appeared to him, as to many others of us, as invested, to use the noble Lord's own words, "with all the majesty of the law."

We treat these cases lightly, but I sincerely believe that in the public schools the existence and the possibility of corporal punishment has performed a valuable function, perhaps through ridicule as much as through pain, in instilling a sense of discipline. I believe that same spirit might be instilled by judicial beatings. I am not recommending very heavy beatings for children, but I believe there are occasions when it would be the best penalty, and there would, in fact, be nothing degrading or humiliating about it.

Moreover, one must remember that in the cases which have been under discussion in this debate, unlike the schoolboys I described a few moments ago, the offenders have all been guilty of brutal and violent assaults upon their fellow citizens, generally from the sordid motive of personal gain. I should have thought these assaults were infinitely more degrading, both for the culprits and for the victims, than any stern retribution that might be meted out by the officers of the law; and to object to such retribution merely on the grounds of humanity is surely neither reasonable nor sensible. It is penalising the good at the expense of the bad, and it might well inflict a lasting stigma on the young offender himself who, as an alternative, would be condemned to a long period of detention or imprisonment. I certainly should not advocate corporal punishment as a common practice, or as a general rule, but I believe that for boys and young people beating may be one of the kindest penalties in the long run.

I now come, briefly, to the category of hardened criminals—that is to say, the men of more mature years, who are old enough to know better, and who are merely callous and brutal thugs. Here I take it that the question of reform in the majority of cases does not arise. It is extremely improbable that many of these men could ever be reformed—they are probably too old for that. The only hope is that the severity of the penalty will make such an impression upon them that they will not take the risk of undergoing it again. Whether it has that effect or not, I do not know—I have not the experience. That is a matter for the experts, for the Judges, for the police, for the prison governors, and so on, who have experience of such crimes and know the subsequent histories of the criminals. I assume that beating has some deterrent effect even upon hardened offenders from the fact that (this was mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey) it has been retained in the Criminal Justice Act for offences against warders.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said in his speech this afternoon that there was an explanation for the difference in these particular cases, which was that, as these men were already under detention and could not get away, there was certainty of punishment, and the fact that they could be beaten was a greater deterrent. We should all agree with that: the mere certainty of penalty is a great deterrent. But the noble Lord did regard it as a deterrent in the prisons, and that is the point we have been trying to make.


The explanation is the explanation of the Cadogan Committee, not mine.


That makes the Report of the Cadogan Committee a little more illogical than I thought. As I say, whether beating is as effective in the case of older men as in the case of young men is, to my mind, more doubtful. I should have thought quite a good case could be made for sentencing them to long terms of imprisonment, merely because they were too dangerous to be allowed about among their fellow citizens. That is a matter upon which I do not presume to dogmatise, though I was impressed, as was the noble Earl, Lord Howe, by the statement of the Prison Officers' Association, to which I feel the Government will have to give serious consideration. It is clear that the prison officers themselves think that if more offenders are sentenced for longer periods the prisons and prison staffs will be unable to control them. That, of course, is a matter of administration, but it is an important one.

What I believe is certain—it is my personal view only, and not shared by everybody—is that the power to inflict corporal punishment ought to be put back on the Statute Book for use where no other penalty will meet the case. The Judges, as we know from their speeches in this House—and we have heard a great many in the last two or three years—are certainly not monsters of cruelty; they are wise, just, experienced men, who I should think could be entrusted to administer the law with moderation and humanity. If they thought corporal punishment in individual cases was the only penalty that could be imposed, both from the point of view of the offender and of the community—and both are important—they would no doubt impose it; but not otherwise.

Above all, if I may say so (and this is practically the last thing I want to say to your Lordships), do not let us get into the frame of mind of thinking that a fundamental moral issue is involved in this question of corporal punishment. I know that view is sincerely held by a number of people in this country. As I see it, it is closely akin to the pacifist attitude which reprobates the use of force in any circumstances whatever. But it is emphatically not the view held by British people as a whole. They are sensible, and they are robust: they may not like beating, but they dislike even more being "beaten up." They are shocked and horrified at the continuation of these crimes of violence against old people and helpless young girls, and they are becoming more and more determined that this state of affairs shall not be allowed to go on. On this question, as I believe on a number of others, your Lordships' House is far more in harmony with the mind of the British public as a whole than are many Members of another place. Therefore I beg the Government not to close their minds to the possibility of an alteration of the law in this respect, even if they will not agree to it now. Surely they must see that the present state of affairs disgraces our country before the world. We have had the advice of the Lord Chief Justice and of many other Judges, both in this House and in the Courts. We have had the advice of many others who have the highest reputation and long experience of offenders of this kind.

There was in the Daily Telegraph a letter from a clergyman—others of your Lordships may have seen it—which I found very impressive. This is what he said: I have spent twenty-two years of my life as an East End parson in the real old East End, and have known many hooligans and criminals, some of whom had been flogged. From my talks with them I know that flogging is a deterrent. I should like to see the 'cat' abolished, or at least never used till a birch or cane had been tried. But I have known men glad that they had been birched. It had pulled them up, and made them think. It had saved them, and very nice fellows some of them were. That is the view of a moderate, humane and broadminded man, as will be seen by his view of the criminals in question who had been reformed by this method. He evidently knows what he is talking about. Your Lordships will notice that this clergyman supports corporal punishment both as a deterrent and as a vehicle for reform. I submit to your Lordships and to the Government that that is the sort of advice, by people who have had practical experience, which should not be lightly rejected.

By all means let us take all the other measures which enlightened opinion suggests. Let us get at the children and young people through boys' clubs, through their parents, and in every way that seems likely to turn them to better paths. By all means do not let us abandon the hope of reforming even the older and the more hardened criminals. But do not let us reject the very possibility of sharper remedies. Remember the words of this clergyman which I have just quoted: I have known men glad they had been birched. It had pulled them up and made them think. To make them think, as I see it, is exactly what we want to do, for once they begin to think there may be the beginning of better things. In the interests of the country and of the men themselves I beg the Government to keep an open mind on this question. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor will be able to go at any rate as far as that in the speech with which he winds up this debate; otherwise, if I may say so, I believe most profoundly that the responsibility which they have to shoulder in the future may prove a grievous one before their fellow men.

7.42 p.m.


My Lords, I can speak again only by leave of the House, and at this late hour I do not know whether your Lordships desire me to do so. If I may take it that I have the consent of the House I will try to put into a short space of time what I want to say. May I start off by stating the view from which I myself approach this problem? I am not one of those who believe that there is anything intrinsically wrong or immoral in using corporal punishment. Personally if I were satisfied that corporal punishment would prevent these crimes I should be in favour of it. The only reason that I think we should not have corporal punishment is that, so far as I can see, corporal punishment has not proved an effective deterrent. That was the attitude which was taken by the Government two years ago. With the greatest respect to the noble Marquess, I would point out that Parliament passed that Act two years ago, after a full discussion, and that it was a mere accident that it was not passed before the war.

What have the figures since shown? I agree—and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, made this point—that it is an error to base too much upon figures by comparing one year with another. And I think, if I may say so to the Lord Chief Justice, that it is an error to compare this Liverpool Assize with the last. But still, so far as the figures go—I put it no stronger than this—they bear out the case against the use of corporal punishment. What we find is this. Comparing 1948, when for the greater part of the year there was corporal punishment, with 1949, when for the whole of the year there was no corporal punishment, we see that the figures of cases of robbery with violence are substantially lower in 1949 than they were in 1948.

I would say this to the noble Marquess. It seems to me that it is perfectly idle to go back to another place and say, "Now we want you to reverse what you did in 1948." I can imagine this sort of colloquy taking place: "Upon what ground? What do the figures show?" We should have to say: "Well, since you abolished corporal punishment I am bound to say that the crimes for which you could have given a flogging have gone down." They have gone down in an atmosphere where other crimes, or at any rate certain other crimes, have increased. It therefore seems to me that what sensible people should do at the present time is this. If they take my point of view and the point of view of the noble Marquess, there is nothing inherently wrong in corporal punishment; but it is a question of expediency, and they should be prepared to see what happens. At the present moment I can give you only the figures for 1949, and I am sorry that I have had to give you those in rather an undigested form. Let us see 1950. Let us see 1951. No one can say what Parliaments of the future will do, but if we find that this class of crime has gone up then we may have to retrace our steps. If, on the other hand, we find that the present tendency—although I have never said that the situation is not very grave—is continuing, then let us rest where we are. That will give the noble Marquess some satisfaction, but further than that I cannot go.

My view about punishment—and I do not know that I shall differ from the noble Marquess at all here—is this. I have given a great deal of thought to this problem for many years, and like other people who have given thought to a problem for many years I find at the end of it all that I am not quite certain. I was much more certain before I started to think about it. I confess that I believe punishment is an evil, and to justify punishment, therefore, it must be justified on the ground that it is preventing a greater evil. Thus punishment should be justified on the ground of deterrence, and even possible reform. Wherever we can we should combine both. In capital punishment there is no question of reform; it is justified on the ground that it is a deterrent. I am quite certain that the idea that we can best effect deterrence and reform by savage sentences—by that I mean not merely length of time but the sort of treatment in prison that prevailed in the eighteenth century—is profoundly wrong. We must see that the treatment to which we subject these people is humanising although, of course, there is a danger that we may go too far the other way. I was not unduly impressed by the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice about the remand home, for the very reason that it was a remand home. Many of the boys there would not have been convicted, and it is impossible to have one system for the boys who have been convicted and another for the boys who have not. If, on the other hand, it had been an approved school, then I should take that as an obvious case of having gone too far in the other direction.

Is whipping a deterrent? For my part I believe it is, and I think the Cadogan Committee believed that it was. Their view is very simply expressed. They say in paragraph 55, of their Report: For reasons which we have already indicated we believe that corporal punishment can only be justified on the basis of its value as deterrent"— we should all agree about that— and we have therefore made every effort to determine the extent to which a sentence of corporal punishment may contain some special element of deterrence which is not provided by a sentence of imprisonment or penal servitude not combined with corporal punishment. It was not that they decided as they did because they felt corporal punishment was not a deterrent, but that it had not a "special" deterrent effect which was not provided by imprisonment.

Now I come to consider for a moment the horrible case that the Lord Chief Justice mentioned, that of the two boys "beating up" that woman in the train. Quite frankly I put this to the noble Marquess. It seems to me that a birching in those circumstances is absolutely irrelevant. It is nothing to the point at all—and why? Because it is nothing like severe enough. If you were to go back to the old system and gave a birching once a month during the sentence, I could understand the significance of birching. If you tell me that a crime of that magnitude can be treated by the sort of remedy which may be provided for a small peccadillo like stealing a sweet from a shop, or something of that sort, when what you have is a most brutal "beating up," and nearly a murder of this elderly woman, then you tell me something that I cannot swallow at all. If seven years, which was the sentence given to that boy by the Lord Chief Justice—and knowing the Lord Chief Justice as I do I should suspect that in this case he erred, if at all, on the side of leniency—was an appropriate sentence, it seems to me that to give the boy a lesser sentence merely because he has had a birching would be to do something absolutely wrong. To say that that sentence of seven years compares with a sentence of six months and a birching is not to compare like with like, and it is to say something which, in my submission, is wholly irrelevant.

As to the birching of boys, I was never birched myself but I was caned a great deal, arid I have a healthy and vivid recollection of it to-day. I do not think it did me any harm or that any of the masters who administered it turned out to be sadists, but I am a little doubtful whether it did me much good. It taught me to be cunning and to learn what sort of things to avoid. But birching or caning by a schoolmaster is a wholly different thing from a caning by order of a magistrates' court. Experienced magistrates have often pointed out that there is, among other factors, the time element. After all, at school you have done something naughty—"cheeked" a master or been persistently lazy—and you get it then and there; and that is a very important feature of it. But to take a boy before a magistrate and then to have an interval with perhaps the possibility of an appeal, and then in a cold-blooded way to take the boy away and birch him, is fundamentally a different thing. A man who knew more about this than anybody I know, the late Sir William Clark-Hall, a juvenile court magistrate, started his magistrate's career with the use of corporal punishment, and he had no moral or sentimental objection to it. But he gave it up quite deliberately because he came to the conclusion that it was not an effective deterrent. You will find that the most experienced juvenile court magistrates in London, I believe almost without exception, have given it up, not on highfalutin or sentimental or moral grounds, but simply because they did not believe it was any good.

So far as probation is concerned, it is, of course, a most admirable system, but one which, like other systems, can be very much abused. If you have a fellow up time after time, and bind him over and put him on probation and never give him a punishment, you are likely to do him grave injury. My theory about the hardened lag who is beyond reform—and I am afraid we must admit there are such—has always been that he should be punished from a rather different point of view, Reform is out of the question; deterrence, I think, is almost impossible. But the public have a right to be protected from these people. I should like to take them away to a South Sea island where they could have every modern convenience, with billiard tables and so forth, and have their ladies with them; and I would say, "Now there you stay; society is not going to be plagued with you any more." If there were such an island suitable for this purpose, a sort of St. Helena, I think there would be something to be said for the idea. At any rate, that is the idea lying behind the system of preventive detention which was specified in the Act of 1948.

I should now like to answer one or two specific points, if only as a matter of courtesy. May I first take the question raised by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York to which the noble Marquess has just referred? It is the fact that to-day, under Section 55 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, if the court decide to impose a fine, damages or costs for an offence committed by a child or young person, then, unless the court are satisfied that the parent or guardian has not conduced to the commission of that offence by neglecting to exercise due care, the court in the case of a child must, and in the case of a young person may, order the parent or guardian to pay. That same section also provides that in the case of a child or young person charged with any offence, the court may order his parent or guardian to give security for his good behaviour. I have had inquiries made to-day about this matter, and I am told that the power to order a parent or guardian to give security for the good behaviour of the child is freely exercised by the London juvenile courts and that these courts also, to some extent, use their power to order the parent to pay damages or costs.


Is it not a more general point that is being made by the noble and learned Viscount? These powers of the court would apply to magistrates' courts in the country for small offences, and to juvenile courts. Are magistrates all aware of this fact? It seems to me very necessary that steps should be taken at once to circulate this information.


It has been on the Statute Book for forty years.


I believe it is fairly commonly known, but I am reluctant that the Home Office should circularise magistrates on a question of this sort. I do not think that that would be a desirable practice because it would look as though the Home Office were dictating to magistrates. I hope that the observations I am now making will be widely reported in the Press and that magistrates will be reminded, in case any of them do not know, that there are these powers under the Act of 1933 and that it has been suggested in this House that more use might be made of them. I think it is most important to bring home to the parents their responsibility for offences committed by their children. So far as juvenile delinquency is concerned, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York asked me about the result of the conferences that have taken place. I cannot tell him more than this. Out of 145 local authorities, 65 have already held conferences and 21 definitely propose to hold them. Only about a dozen say they do not propose to hold one. But the important point is not the mere holding of a conference, but the bringing together of the various representatives of the local services—education, probation, police and so forth—as a clearing house of practical experience and as a means of encouraging the individual services concerned to take action. We are circularising all these authorities, and as and when we get answers they will form one of the Papers that I shall most certainly make available in order that your Lordships may see how we are getting on.

I am not stopping now to deal with houses for the police or police pay. That, as the noble Marquess said, is to be the subject of a special debate. As regards deserters, I agree with the noble Marquess that a good deal more is made of this matter than perhaps should be. The facts seem to be that the number of deserters outstanding at the end of 1949 was about 19,000. More than 10,000 of these had addresses in the Irish Republic and about 1,000 of that number were "multiple" deserters—that is to say, persons who have deserted two or three times, having joined different regiments. It is estimated that the number of deserters at large in this country is not more than about 8,000. It may well be that the number is considerably less. I cannot, of course, tell your Lordships the number of those deserters who are engaging in crime, but the experience of the police and the Service Departments suggests that a considerably large number of them have somehow or other managed to restore themselves to normal lives and to normal occupations. In the view of the police, there is no reason to think that any substantial proportion of the total number of crimes of violence is attributable to deserters. Of those deserters who are engaged in crime, it is likely that many are men who had criminal records before they deserted, so it may not be so much a matter of men resorting to crime because they were deserters, as of men deserting because they were criminals. I myself do not think that deserters contribute very much to the present problem of crime.

I want to make an observation or two now on a different matter, which is not capable of statistical proof—that is to say, the degree of violence which is being used to-day. In a statement the other day, Mr. Justice Streatfeild indicated that in his view the quality of the crime was worse and more violent. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, said the same thing, and in so doing obviously was repeating the impression he got from his fellow Judges. So far as the Metropolitan Police District is concerned, the Commissioner of Police has informed the Home Secretary that he has no grounds for thinking that crimes recently committed involve any greater degree of violence than those of the past. As regards the rest of the country, differing opinions are held. Three chief constables of the larger cities said that they had come across crimes recently which they thought were marked by more extreme violence than the crimes of previous days. But the other chief constables said that they had had no similar experience. It is not a matter on which—if I may use a word that was used the other day—one can pontificate at all; yet so far as the police authorities are concerned, undoubtedly the balance of opinion is that it is not the fact that the quality of violence used in these crimes is greater than it was before. I cannot go further than that. Obviously, the opinion of the Judges who go round the country on circuit and see these things for themselves is a factor to which we should all of us attach considerable weight.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, in a most interesting maiden speech, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, whether we could do something to increase or assist scientific investigation into these matters. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, particularly suggested that universities should be called in to help us. But a good deal of research is already going on. A study of the methods of the diagnosis and treatment of juvenile offenders, financed by the Carnegie Trust, has just been completed at Redhill approved school, and the result is shortly to be published. Cambridge University are now starting a piece of research into the question of sexual offences, and recently the Carnegie Trust has appointed Mr. John Mack, Stevenson Lecturer in Citizenship in Glasgow University, to survey the entire field of juvenile delinquency. In the past the Home Office have made material freely available to research workers, and they are actively considering how the statistics which they collect could be made more useful for research purposes.

I apologise for taking up your Lordships' time. It all comes to this: that I feel the situation is undoubtedly grave, but we can fairly claim that 1949 is better than 1948. I sincerely hope that 1950 will prove to be better than 1949. I myself believe that the most important and immediate thing that we can do is to try to step up recruiting to the police force. It is a very difficult problem. I often think that the Home Secretary in dealing with the police is dealing more with the wives of the police than with the police themselves. If he can satisfy them, he can satisfy the police. At a time when there is a considerable demand for labour it is difficult to get men who have to be out at night, and have to be on duty on public holidays. If we can solve that problem, we shall make the best contribution that we possibly can towards reducing these crimes of violence. I have endeavoured to show throughout this debate that, whatever else may be said about the Government, no one can say that they are complacent in this matter or that they are not aware of the danger which exists. I express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, for having given us, by putting down this Motion, the opportunity for a most interesting and useful discussion.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I propose to say as little as I possibly can. I put down this Motion because I felt that there was cause for very grave anxiety. I am glad that the Government agree with me. I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount that he has given a practical demonstration of that agreement by accepting this Motion. I am also glad that the noble and learned Viscount said that the Government were prepared to take steps to cope with the situation. So far, without any qualification, I have been very glad. But what I am not quite so happy about, to be perfectly frank, is the steps that the Government have proposed in this debate to take about the situation. I agree that the prevention of crime is the most important thing to be considered. I feel that, although some improvement in recruitment for the police forces has been registered, there is still a good deal more to do. If the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is right on the present recruiting figures it will take seventeen years to bring the police force up to strength. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will be as good as his word about the police, particularly as regards housing. I cannot help feeling that something more than a circular is needed for the local authorities. Cannot we bring to bear more pressure upon them to provide the police with housing?

On the question of deterrents to crime, I do not propose to re-start the controversy about corporal punishment. I accept the difficulty of immediately doing anything about it, but I was relieved to hear the noble and learned Viscount say that the Government were still prepared to keep an open mind about it, supposing the figures became very much worse. At the moment, I ask no more on that. I cannot help slightly deploring the existing alternative as regards the younger offenders. It seems to me that long sentences for young offenders are a bad thing, because they mean that the boy's life is taken away from him—he has no chance; he must become a hard case. To have that as the only alternative is a very serious step, and it is one that disturbs me a great deal. The only excuse is that it acts as a deterrent. Of course, although we have had much evidence to the effect that corporal punishment is no deterrent, we have had extraordinarily little evidence on the question whether the long sentence is any better deterrent. All we can do at the moment is to watch the situation. I cannot pretend—I say it quite frankly—that I am entirely satisfied with the methods that the Government have so far put forward to deal with the matter, and I must reserve the right, if the situation does not improve, to raise this matter again.

On Question, Motion agreed to; the said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.