HL Deb 05 December 1962 vol 245 cc245-319

3.13 p.m.

THE EARL OF LONGFORD rose to call attention to the Report of the Working Party on Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence (Cmnd. 1406); and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper and to call attention to the pressing need for a Government scheme of compensation for victims of violence. I am glad to notice a very distinguished list of speakers to follow me. I am particularly glad to think that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is to wind up the debate, and also that I am to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, whom we have missed so much in the world of crime since he took to business; but I am glad to think that, like myself, he has found no necessary conflict between these interests, and I welcome back to the crime club one of its most distinguished and ardent members.

In moving this Motion, I appear to be pushing at a door which is at any rate ajar. The days have gone by when the late Margery Fry, that wonderful woman, was ploughing her lonely heroic furrow, encouraged by a few sympathisers, such as the late Lord Drogheda in this House and also, as time passed by, several Members of the House of Commons, of whom Mr. Prentice and Mr. Carol Johnson have introduced Private Members' Bills. Even as recently as June, 1961, the Home Office Working Party, which was set up by Mr. Butler, could argue in their Report that there is little evidence beyond what has been said from time to time in articles in the Press of public opinion about the matter". Even at that time, or by the time their Report came out in June of last year, they were already outdated, and I am sure that those excellent gentlemen would not deny today the degree of public interest and support if they looked at the Press cuttings which arose, for example, from the recent report of Justice, which, as your Lordships know, is a non-Party society of jurists.

I had the honour to be titular chairman of the Justice Sub-committee, although much greater experts than I did the bulk of the work. The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, who I am very pleased is going to speak later, as Chairman of Justice, commended our Report in a weighty foreword. Among the newspapers that I studied, perhaps the Daily Mirror spoke the most clearly and vehemently. It asked the question, Should innocent victims of cosh-thugs and gunmen be paid compensation for injuries which wreck their health and earning power? And they gave the answer, The Mirror says: Yes. So do all decent citizens". It would be going hardly too far to add, "So, it appears, do all decent newspapers." The Times avoided, as is its wont, too ardent a commitment, but referred to the strength of public feeling that something should be done about the many melancholy cases that are known to occur and referred also to the edge this feeling gives to the clamour for penal revenge. The Times was good enough to refer to the proposals of our Justice Committee as "novel and well-considered", and that I think was the general tone of the Press.

The Observer is confident in claiming that the principle of State compensation for victims of crimes of violence has been by now generally accepted. The Observer suggests that all that the Government have questioned is the practicability of any scheme and this question, says the Observer, has now been met by the Report of the Justice Committee. Whatever may have been the case a year or two ago, we do indeed seem to have reached the point where the country and the Government are largely at one in agreeing that a scheme is not only desirable but practicable. We seem to have reached the point where the only question which remains is what kind of scheme it should be.

The present Home Secretary, Mr. Brooke, answered Questions on this subject on November 8 in another place. He was asked whether he had studied the Report of the Justice Committee and replied [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 666 (No. 8), col. 1146]: I am studying this important question of compensation for victims of crimes of violence in the light of the report to which the hon. Member refers and also of reports by a Committee of the Conservative Party, by the Bow Group and by the Police Sub-committee of the Association of Municipal Corporations. I am not yet in a position to make a statement, but I hope to be able to before long. After further questions, he concluded: I do treat it as a matter of urgency, and, as I have said in public, I hope that it may fall to me to introduce legislation on this subject, but we have first to decide which of these various different schemes which have been recommended by responsible bodies is the best solution as a whole. So I think that we can fairly say that the principle is by now virtually accepted.

I would just add this further comment at this point on that aspect of the matter. I quote very strongly and respectfully what the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, said in his foreward to our Justice Report. Justice does not claim … that its own scheme is sacrosanct.… We welcome this Report by the Committee of the Conservative Party.… The Council of Justice … has suggested that there should be consultations with the Committee established by the Conservative Party so as to present to the Government at an early date a short statement resolving as we think possible such differences as exist between the two Reports. That seemed an eminently laudable suggestion, and I would only add, for the benefit of those who were not aware of it, that the Chairman of the Committee of Conservative Members of Parliament, until he became a Minister, was the present Attorney General, which no doubt gives the Report special significance.

I should now say a word or two about the principles involved. Why are we so sure by now that the State ought to accept special responsibility for the victims of violence? One answer, if there were time, would be to take a whole string of individual cases and challenge anyone to deny that in these cases the community ought to provide some compensation where it is not provided at all or, at any rate, to provide much more generous compensation. In view of the time factor, I will take, if I may, only one story to help us focus our thoughts, though it is far from an extreme example of the cause I am submitting, because in this story the victim has a good employer, has received some industrial injury benefit and hopes to receive some disability benefit. No doubt his compensation will be much less than he would receive in a Common Law action, which in this case would be, as the House would appreciate in a moment, clearly futile. There are many cases of much greater material hardship, though I think few more poignant, in one sense, than the one I shall offer to the House.

The Home Office White Paper mentions, for example, children, widows and those past working age who do not qualify under any form of National Insurance, and it gives some illustrations. It mentions a nineteen-year old girl whose skull was fractured by a man with a hammer; a girl of eighteen who was brutally attacked by a man in a country lane, who lost her voice and the use of her right hand for several months; a man who kept a general store, whose skull was fractured by a youth with the butt of a revolver; a middle-aged woman who was attacked when returning from a Church Service on Christmas Eve, whose teeth and ribs were broken and who lost the sight of one eye; and it mentions a man who was knocked down and killed in a London street leaving his widow destitute.

Those are cases, admittedly picked out as extreme cases, in the Report of the Home Office officials. My own example, the one I want to mention briefly, can be studied at greater length in an article written by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, in last Thursday's Guardian. It concerns a Mr. Kenneth Carew, a young West Indian, recently joined here by his wife, young children and widowed mother, who was employed as a London bus conductor on September 2. On that day, fourteen teenagers boarded his bus and soon made themselves objectionable. Some or them shouted, "Black man" and "rubber lips" at Mr. Carew. He found it difficult or impossible to collect their fares. The bus came to a stop. The teenagers gave the signal for the bus to restart. Mr. Carew, as was his duty, rebuked them, pointing out that it was his job to start the bus. Two of them attacked him, kicking him ferociously. He backed down the stairs, but a final kick caught him full in the face. He was admitted to hospital, where one of his eyes had to be removed.

The week before last two youths, aged sixteen and twenty, were sentenced to five months detention for causing bodily harm to Mr. Carew. In evidence, passengers said that they heard one of the youths say, "We had a fight on the bus and we kicked the conductor's eye out. It was smashing." According to this passenger, one of the youths said the conductor ran screaming down the stairs. In fairness, I should say that counsel for the young man denied that this young aggressor knew that Mr. Carew had lost his eye. At any rate, that is the story. Lord Altrincham reports that he was deeply impressed by Mr. Carew's attitude in adversity. He is certainly not indulging in what used to be called "bellyaching". But I need not continue. I cannot believe there is a single Member of this House or the general public who would deny that we, the community, ought to do far more to compensate a young man like Mr. Carew—even where there is a good employer and the Industrial Injuries Act works—than there is any prospect of our doing. I am taking him as one human being whose afflictions and injustices are representative of a good many.

When we are faced with that case, or other cases of the same kind, we feel with every fibre of our being that the State ought to accept a much greater measure of responsibility for paying compensation. Yet I suppose it is not easy to point to a simple principle behind our moral convictions in this kind of case. How can we justify requiring the State to pay a higher compensation to the victim of an assault than to the victim of an accident, where there are the same physical consequences? Or, if we come on it from another angle, how can one justify State compensation for the victims of violence without State compensation for the victims of other crimes, such as stealing? In other words, how can we justify compensation for victims of crimes against the person, and not justify it for crimes against property?

Those questions are answered at length in our own Justice Report and also in the Report of the Conservative Members of Parliament. If noble Lords will refer to those texts they will find, I think, in each case some arguments which appeal to them more than others. But I must leave noble Lords to make that study for themselves. I do not know whether my own Justice Committee would agree, but I am myself well satisfied with a summary of our reasoning which appeared in the Law Journal of November 9. It summarised our conclusions or our points in this way: The Justice Committee are of opinion that the State must accept some liability for the victims' injuries because it has a duty both to maintain peace and order and to provide effective civil remedies for wrongs.

A double duty, to maintain peace and order and to provide effective remedies for wrongs: that is how they summarised what seemed to them most important in our replies to the question I have put. I am not myself sure (perhaps the lawyers will tell us) what would be meant by asserting an absolute responsibility in either case. But surely no one will deny that there is on the State a double duty of some kind; to preserve effective peace and order, and to provide effective civil remedies. And where the State fails in both respects, the State cannot avoid an essential responsibility for the victim.

To-day, my Lords, we are most of us conscious of the two outstanding factors. The first is the large increase since prewar days in violent crime, though it is still, of course, a small proportion of the total crime. Secondly, we are aware of the fact (to quote paragraph 4 of the Home Office Working Party Report) that the right of the victim of assault against his assailant is seldom exercised—this seems to me a point of the first importance—because as a rude the assailant is either unknown or, if he is known, he has no means and is not worth suing. That, I aim sure, is a basic factor in the thoughts of all of us. We are aware that, at a time when other members of the community who are in need of help are increasingly cared for, this particular group of unfortunates are not only not being helped on a par with others, but are actually having a worse time with every year the crime wave continues. Their risks, in a sense, are becoming worse. If I am asked: "Is not this true, to some extent at least, of those Who suffer from crimes against property," I do not think I can give what would be regarded as an intellectually coercive answer, though I am very confident about the practical answer which ought to be given. I would certainly reply that what we are now proposing has no necessary implications for victims generally; but we shall be making a start—if you like, an experimental start—in a sphere where the problem is limited in size, where private insurance is much less feasible than elsewhere, and where the public, by a true instinct, is sure that the need and distress are greatest.

The factors I have just touched on, including the recent growth of violent crime, have no doubt helped forward recently the cause of compensating victims of violence. But, mixed up with them, has been a feeling, perhaps as strong and growing stronger, that the criminal himself should make some reparation to his victim. May I say, in passing, that penal reformers (and I hope that I nay describe myself as one) have sometimes been rebuked, in this House and elsewhere, for showing too much concern for the criminal and not enough interest in the victim. On the whole, I do not think that is fair. The difficulties of taking an interest in a victim and his family are much greater than some might suppose. I found that out some time ago, when I was anxious to start a society called the Friends of the Victim and it was difficult to know how to get started.

But, my Lords, I am not insensitive to this kind of criticism; and I often ask myself whether there is any justification for it. I have, for example, down on the Order Paper of the House, for "No Date Named", a Motion seeking justice for one Michael Davies who was condemned to death, and who is now widely believed to be innocent, for the Clapham Common murder in 1953. He was subsequently reprieved and seven years later was released. I hope and believe that one day a free pardon will be secured; but I hope also that I never forget that the injustices and sufferings of Michael Davies and his family are not to be compared with those of the murdered boy and his family. I hope that no penal reformers are ever careless in recognising the far greater sufferings of the victims in a matter of that sort. I hope that the active support of penal reformers for our cause to-day will finally nail the false allegation that it is the criminal alone who carries our sympathy.

In a small book on The Theory of Punishment which I published last year I looked forward to reparation by the criminal to the victim as occupying a much larger part in any constructive system of punishment in the future. But neither our own Justice Committee nor the Conservative Members of Parliament have shirked the disappointing truth that at the moment it is no good looking to the criminal for any substantial reparation. That will remain so while our penal system remains so backward and unimaginative and while the criminal in prison can still earn, in spite of the recent increase, no more than a few shillings.

Certainly, a really enlightened scheme of compensation for victims of violence would have two sides, the victim's side and the delinquent's side. But the delinquent's side of it cannot be introduced to any real effect—we say something about it in our Report—until there is a long overdue revolution in our penal system and in particular in our prison arrangements. But that must on no account be allowed to hold up the establishment of the first part of a full scheme—the compensation part—even if the State has to foot the bill in the first instance for nearly all of it. The Government White Paper concluded that the cost of a reasonable scheme was unlikely to exceed £1½R million; the Conservative Members of Parliament give a figure of £1 million; the Justice Committee of £1¼ million. All the figures are approximate. For once the Civil Service appear to be the most generous. But if any such scheme is worth introducing, as most of us feel very strongly it is, no one will regard the figures I have mentioned as in themselves prohibitive.

I come to the last section of my remarks, and inevitably I must summarise what is said. To be fully understood, it must be studied in the Report concerned. Granted that a scheme is desirable and that the State should largely pay for it, what should be its main features? The Justice Committee divides its conclusions under the main headings of "Scope of Compensation", "Nature of Compensation", "Position of the Offender", "Administrative Machinery" and "Procedure". Under "Scope of Compensation" it abandons the attempt to provide an a priori definition of a crime of violence and defines it instead by reference to a schedule of offences rather more than thirty in number. The offences begin with murder, manslaughter, riot and unlawful assembly, and include grievous bodily harm and bodily harm, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse and incest; though on this last item of incest there were considerable differences of opinion. It also includes attempts to commit those offences.

The Conservative Committee also drew up a schedule of about the same length which is not widely dissimilar, though there are a number of differences. When it came to the nature of the compensation, the choice at first seemed to lie between two types of schemes. On the one hand, there might be something like the Industrial Injuries Scheme, under which periodical benefits are based on loss of faculty and what amounts to a flat-rate principle of subsistence; and, on the other hand, the lump sum awards of the Common Law based on reparation to the victim for his expenses and loss of earnings—which, of course, may differ greatly between two men suffering from the same injury—loss of the amenities of life and loss of life expectancy.

For reasons set out at length in the Report neither principle of benefit seems to the Committee quite satisfactory on its own. The Justice Committee therefore recommend what they call a hybrid scheme, based at once on the needs of the victim and the nature of his injuries. This means, in practice, under their scheme, that victims who are not earning—old people, widows and housewives, for instance—would receive lump sum awards. Those who are gainfully employed would receive reviewable weekly payments for loss of earnings based on the principle of reparation and not of subsistence. Therefore, presumably, as with Industrial Injury benefits, dependants of a victim should receive a weekly payment related to the income formerly received from the victim, or a lump sum award to cover the cost of resettlement.

The Conservative Committee appear to proceed on a different principle here, for they recommend that compensation should be assessed on the basis initially of Common Law damages. But in order to meet the difficulty that a Common Law damages scheme might result in wide variations of compensation for similar injuries—the difficulty, shall we say, that a rich businessman, if he really lost earnings while away from his business, might get far more than a wage earner for the same injury—they set an upper limit to the amount of compensation payable. It does not appear likely that in practice their awards would differ much from the awards of our Committee, and that conclusion is reinforced by the very similar calculations about the cost of the respective scheme.

As regards the position of the offender, we actually say in our Report: Once the victim has received compensation from the State his right of action against the offender should be taken over by the State, which should seek to recover a contribution from the offender if it is economically practicable, and only to the extent that it does not impede the offender's rehabilitation. The Conservatives, in their recommendations, which once again should be studied in the text, do not seem to see the problem with eyes very different from ours, but in neither case, as I warned the House earlier, is it expected that there will be, in the near future at any rate, much substantial return from the criminals.

Finally, I come to administrative machinery and procedure. Under our scheme a new tribunal would be created, to be known as the Crimes of Violence Compensation Board, to be composed of a legally qualified chairman, a doctor and a justice of the peace, of whom one should be a woman. The Board would be assisted by a full-time secretary and would move round the country if necessary. There should be, under our scheme, an unfettered right of appeal to the Court of Appeal on any question of fact or law. If there is thought to be any important difference—I do not know whether one would say there is or is not—between the Justice plan and the plan of the Conservative Committee, it lies here. Under the Conservative M.P.s' plan claims would have to be submitted in the first place to what they call "a specified official". This gentleman would appear to be a member of a Government Department, whereas our tribunal would be more independent and judicial, which, to us at any rate, seems in favour of our plan. If liability were denied or the claimant were dissatisfied under the Conservative plan he could take the criminal either to the High Court or to the county court, so that in the last resort the victim would finish up in the Court of Appeal under their scheme as under ours.

The House must form its own opinion as to whether these differences are major or minor. I would not myself treat them as major. But surely there is no one who would claim that the difficulties can now be regarded as insuperable. Given the will, and that surely now exists all round, at least one sensible way exists to the goal; and possibly more than one. The present Home Secretary has said that he personally hoped that he would have a chance to bring in legislation on this subject, as I mentioned earlier. If he manages to do so, he will give special pleasure to an old room mate of his like myself—and, may I say, an old friend, which is not always quite the same thing. The pleasure would be added to if a decision could be announced or gently anticipated to-day by a still older friend in the form of the present Lord Chancellor. But time and political opportunity do not wait even for Home Secretaries and Lord Chancellors. The night cometh when no man can work. I hope and pray that the Government and the Home Secretary will legislate while their sun is still high in the heavens, and will lead us in unison to this elementary piece of justice for the innocent and to the removal of a growing blot and burden on our social conscience. I beg to move for Papers.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has introduced this difficult and interesting topic to your Lordships' House in just the sort of speech we might have expected of him, comprehensive, erudite, compassionate and very nearly right. I add this small qualification—and I ought perhaps to join him with his colleagues in Justice, who produced this admirable and interesting Report—that I think in the course of this Report they tend to underestimate the administrative difficulties. It is not, as the noble Earl says, impossible, but I think it is going to be more difficult to produce a workable scheme than either he or his colleagues on Justice think. Therefore in my view no criticism attaches to Her Majesty's Government for not having taken action already upon this matter; it is a very difficult matter. If your Lordships read the three Reports to which the noble Earl referred earlier you will see that they conflict on quite a number of important points, and the Government were wise to wait until they had all the voices collected and could make certain that they were properly informed on a problem which I believe would be more difficult in practice and in principle than is generally realised.

Nevertheless, I feel that the time has come for Her Majesty's Government to act. I think it is no longer a question as to whether some scheme should be devised but merely how it should be devised, and when. What are my grounds for saying this? I think all of us who come to this problem with a fresh mind are brought up straight away against the difficulty of deciding whether we consider that the State has a duty to recompense the victim of violence. I have formed the opinion, for what it is worth, that the State has no absolute duty but has a qualified duty, land I say it for this reason. It is the duty of the State to preserve law and order. If the State fails to do that, then the State has a duty to repay for that failure. It is no good our getting up, as we do so frequently, and imploring the Government to have stricter rules, for instance, about obtaining a revolver, thereby drawing attention to the fact that it is not the duty of the citizen to take the law into his own hands, and then saying that if the State fails to preserve that law and order we have no rights against the State.

I also think there is an analogy to be drawn from the situation during the war, when the State took upon itself the duty to recompense all those whose property was damaged by enemy action. That was an almost absolute duty, although of course there was a contribution from insurance, as there is to a certain degree from all of us who subscribe to the Welfare State, the scope of which is increasing daily, and which I think would not be stretched beyond acceptance if it were to include the victims of violence. The National Insurance Scheme and the National Assistance Board, I think, are inadequate to fill this need.

We tend to be confused also by the hypothetical standard case. I will not take the terrible case of the bus conductor Mr. Carew, because that is an exceptional one, thank heavens! but the case we always take as an example is the case of Bill Sikes going to a little village shop and coshing an old lady over the head. That appeals to everybody's sentiments and sense of justice at once, but the difficulty is that it is a pretty rare type of case. It is also a straightforward one. The rest are much more difficult; and Bill Sikes's case represents only about 3 per cent, of the cases we shall have to deal with.

It is an unfortunate thing that nowadays such is one's fear of being cashed oneself or being involved in some uproar that the police have the greatest difficulty in getting anybody to come to their aid when there is an affray, or to give evidence afterwards. I well remember the late Lord Birkett, of affectionate memory, telling us in this House of a case when he was a young man at the Bar which arose out of an affray on licensed premises in the East End. He was cross-examining one of the witnesses of the affray and he said, "Why did you not come to the aid of the plaintiff?"; and the witness said, "Because I did not know he was going to be the plaintiff". That is the real situation which will have to be coped with by administrative action.

There are a few things which must be imponderables in any scheme. Let me for a moment rehearse one or two of the ponderables. First, any scheme we devise must not interfere with the work of the police or the courts. That is important. Second, its cost must be reasonable. We have been given by the noble Earl three sets of figures this afternoon, and perhaps the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to bring us up to date in his estimates of cost. We want to be careful here. We are always crying aloud for Government economies, and at the same time proposing new ways of spending money. We all say that Government expenditure must be cut to the bone, "but not my bone". We are all accustomed to hearing our elected representatives in another place saying that there must be a vast reduction in Government expenditure, "but not in my constituency". Let us be quite clear that we are asking for a considerable sum of money to be expended upon this.

The noble Earl has also drawn attention to the need for differentiating carefully the types of crime to which such a scheme might apply, and the three appendices in these three Reports again show the difficulty of reaching a conclusion. What about the risk of fraud, which I think can be considerable? What about the crimes arising out of provocation—family rows, husband and wife squabbles? What about public house brawls and injuries arising out of things of that sort? The noble Earl touched also on the difficulty of coming to a decision in cases of sexual offences. I think this point was highlighted quite recently by the wise words of that wise Judge, Mr. Justice Stable, who observed in a case of rape at the Assizes that he wished that young ladies who got raped would stop getting raped earlier in the proceedings than they do.

We shall also have to consider this important question of reparation. I was glad to hear the noble Earl touch upon a subject which he and I have debated in your Lordships' House on many occasions. Of course we must do all we can to put Bill Sikes, to whom we of course give legal aid, in a position not only to support his wife and children whilst he is in prison, but also to give reparation to the little old lady whom he has coshed. How on earth can we do that if we give him no decent work to do in gaol and pay him a pittance for what little work he does? This is an important question of penal reform which we have discussed at length on many occasions. I only wish that the trade unions, who have given a little lead in these matters in the past, would do so more vigorously and try to abolish this old heresy that if you employ a main it gaol and give him a decent wage you are encouraging some form of slave labour. This just is not true. This is a vital point that I think the Government will have to tackle soon.

I returned two or three days ago from a fortnight's trip to South Africa. As the result of that trip to South Africa I am of course the leading authority on all South African affairs, and my book will be published shortly! I did notice, however, that they have a form of punishment in South Africa, largely I think for traffic offences, though not wholly confined to them, which we might well consider here. They send a man to gaol, say for three years, but only at the week-ends. He works during the week to support his family. He earns enough money to make reparation to the man he has knocked down or injured, and yet he is also punished for his offence. This was news to me, and I earnestly commend the Lord Chancellor, when he is next tackling penal reform, to consider this South African example. It has the additional merit of combining the two worst features of those two deplorable institutions—the English week-end and the five-day week. I never discovered whether you are supposed to write a "bread and butter" letter to the Governor of the gaol every Monday morning when you come out.

There are certain considerations, therefore, which govern this subject; and the scheme which the noble Lord favours which may well be the right one. Whatever scheme we eventually devise not only must be fair but must be seen to be fair by everybody. That is why I, for my part, favour damages and the court scheme rather than the one that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, suggested, though I am not going to quarrel with him about that. I think that some pilot scheme should be launched in the same way as legal aid was launched by a pilot scheme.

What advice are we to give to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack? I think we can tell him that the Government have been quite right not to be rushed into hasty legislation. They have been quite right to emphasise the difficulty of finding a satisfactory solution. But we think that the voices have now been collected and the time has come for the Government to tell us how they would like to act on this matter. It is going to be difficult, but it is not going to be insuperable. We do not for one moment expect that the Government will be able to produce legislation to-morrow. I ask the Government to disregard the advice of those who say that "this is the thin end of the wedge". The British Constitution is stuck full of wedges which the common sense of the public has never driven home.

I hope we shall not listen to those who suggest that this is a precedent, that no other country has done it. We in this country have always been pioneers in social reform and nearly every form of social reform was once one man's private idea. I hope we shall disregard the advice I saw put forward a few weeks ago in a letter in one of the legal papers—I am sorry I have forgotten which—which said that the scheme would be difficult to administer, inequitable in execution and illogical in scope. All right; but "where there's a will, there's a way", or, to be more exact, where there is a political will the Treasury draftsmen will find a way. If we do not believe that, look at the confiscatory legislation that crops up so frequently, in the Finance Acts, the Income Tax law, capital levies, capital gains tax. This is all full of provisions which could perfectly well be described as "difficult to administer, inequitable in execution and illogical in scope". Where the politicians have the will, the Treasury draftsmen have jolly well found a way.

Is there a public demand for this? I do not know, but I think there is. I have conducted my own private Gallup Poll over the last few days, and I have found nearly unanimous support for this idea. Admittedly, most people have not studied it with much care. I admit that merely because there is a public demand for something it is not necessary for the Government immediately to do it—otherwise my Right of Privacy Bill would have been on the Statute Book a long time ago! Is it workable? Yes, I think that, with care and interest, such a scheme can be made to work. It need not be expensive and it can come to be understood by everybody as a fair scheme.

I hope that the note upon which I wish to end will not appear unduly cynical. I do not think I am guilty of wild or extravagant language or unnecessary hyperbole if I say that the popularity of the Government is not at the moment at its zenith. Fervent supporters of the Government such as myself frequently pray that the Government should be given more chances to do something which is both popular and right. My Lords, here is their chance.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, at the outset of the observations with which I am going to burden your Lordships I should perhaps make a personal disclaimer. I shall speak not as a onetime lawyer but as the Chairman of the Society called "Justice", under whose auspices the Committee presided over by the noble Earl conducted its inquiries. I should like, if I may, to say how grateful all of us must be for the way in which the noble Earl led that inquiry, and for the fact that he has introduced this Motion in your Lordships' House to-day.

But Justice, incidentally, is not as the noble Earl suggested, an organisation of jurists. That word is quite foreign to the English legal vocabulary. I well remember a long time ago, when I was a student at the Bar, proposing the toast of the first Earl of Birkenhead, and thinking to flatter him I referred to him as "that great jurist". He took up the phrase and said that he had never been so insulted in his life. Justice is an organisation of practical lawyers, many of them eminent, most of them with a great deal of experience in the ordinary practice of the law. Many High Court Judges belong to it. The present Attorney General was a member of its Council. I can assure your Lordships that the Society, as well as the Committee presided over by the noble Earl, is a most down-to-earth body. Had I not been Chairman of Justice I doubt whether I should have thought that the fact that I am, or was, a lawyer entitled me in any special way to intrude my views upon your Lordships' House at this time. I am not at all sure that at this stage of this matter this is a problem for lawyers at all.

When it is a question of conducting an inquiry into matters which are obscure, and of producing some objective report about them, lawyers can, of course, be very useful. That service they have already discharged in this matter, both in the Report of the Committee presided over by the noble Earl and in the Report of the Conservative Policy Centre's Committee. When it is a question of drawing up the final details of the scheme, once the policy has been settled, lawyers are again very useful; and I have no doubt that Parliamentary draftsmen will be able to deal with this matter in a most useful and not very protracted way when the Government settle the broad question of policy. That is the problem we now have to consider and decide: not a matter of detail; not, indeed, what the facts are, because these are clear; but what is the policy which we should adopt in regard to this matter? Do we provide some system of compensation for the victims of crimes of violence or do we not?

My Lords, lawyers—and I regret to say this—have not in general, perhaps (of course, there are many notable exceptions), taken a very conspicuous part in promoting reforms in our system of law and administration. A great many beneficent reforms have been accomplished since the days of that very great lawyer, Jeremy Bentham, but in general, apart from the notable exceptions to which I have referred, I think it is true to say that lawyers have not taken a leading part in securing them. I think that our training as lawyers is perhaps inclined to make us a little technical, sometimes tediously technical, and occasionally to make us also a little obstinately obscurantist. But at this present stage of the matter there is nothing which specially concerns a lawyer, except in so far as he may be connected with the administration of the criminal law and that he comes face to face with the sometimes extremely distressing cases more frequently than, fortunately, do ordinary people.

Some ten years has now passed since the late Miss Margery Fry first brought this matter to public notice. That very remarkable woman, in her great concern for the problem of the criminal, never forgot the problem of the criminal's victim. This was certainly not only because she realised, as she did, that the absence of any provision for compensation for the victim tended to accentuate the public's desire for vengeance against the criminal, and so stood in the way of a more efficient system of punishment, but because (as I well remember when I talked to her about this matter, when she was first considering it) she had, as we who knew her all realised, not only an intense sense of justice but also a regard for personal human suffering.

That was a long time ago, and whilst I do not for a moment deny the difficulties that exist in drawing up an appropriate scheme, there has been quite a long time to consider what might be the details of such a scheme. I take it that at this time of day nobody really doubts that some scheme for compensating the victims of crimes of violence should be promulgated, and that these victims should no longer be thrown, as too often they now are, upon the Public Assistance Board: a body which, however human its administration may be—and I believe it to be entirely human—still retains for many respectable people a sort of stigma of the old Poor Law.

I do not think that it is necessary or useful to attempt to-day to justify the case for a reform of this kind by any elaborate theoretical or philosophical speculation as to why the State should intervene in a matter of this kind. Exactly the same kind of speculation might have been raised, and indeed many people did raise it, at the time when many of the provisions of the Welfare State which are now taken for granted were first introduced. The noble Earl has referred to public instinct in this matter, and I would venture to say that very often in a matter of this kind public instinct is sound, and should not be disregarded. There certainly is now a public instinct that the Welfare State ought to make provision for these cases. The public do feel, as the Conservative Party's Committee very well pointed out, that the State has a special kind of responsibility, and that they, as members of the public, have a very special kind of responsibility, for the victims of crimes of violence.

The noble Lord who has just spoken reminded the House that it is peculiarly the function of the State to maintain law and order, and that the private citizen is not allowed to take the law into his own hands; indeed, he is not allowed to use against the criminal the same sort of methods that the criminal may use against him. If, then, the State fails, as inevitably it sometimes must, in its duty of maintaining public order, it is right, so runs public feeling in this matter, that the State should see that the victim does not suffer too much.

Nor do I think that it is useful to take time in any over-nice reconciliation of the provisions of any particular scheme in this field with existing arrangements for different classes of case. If one attempted that kind of exercise it would take time, although it would not be impossible to produce a completely logical unity between all the schemes that we have for insurance or compensation of one kind or another. That is, of course, not the way that we normally proceed in this country. There are many institutions which it would be exceedingly difficult to justify on any ground of logic or pure principle. If I may say so, the noble Lord on the Woolsack is one of them, being as he is a member of a political Cabinet, on the one hand, and the head of an objective Judiciary, on the other, and at the same time competing with the Attorney General for the thankless task of being the chief legal adviser to the Government. The Constitution of this country is full of anomalies, but the notable thing about it is that it works. I hope that we shall see how well it works later on this afternoon, when the noble Lord on the Woolsack announces the acceptance, at least in principle, by Her Majesty's Government of what is suggested in the Reports of these two Committees.

My Lords, I am always a little frightened when I hear it said that this proposal or that proposal will produce difficulties or anomalies. That is almost always the refuge of the little man who is too timid or too lazy to do something new. Of course a scheme of this kind will produce anomalies. What of it? It is an anomaly now that if I go home to-night and my house is destroyed by rioters I shall be able to obtain compensation for it. But if, at the same time, they knock me on the head and injure me for life, I shall not be able to secure a penny. Nor do anomalies of this kind, or practical difficulties in administration, assume any greater importance because somebody elevates them into the category of matters of principle. This again is, of course, a favourite device; but when it is said that something is a matter of principle, nine times out of ten it is nothing of the kind.

The noble Lord who preceded me in addressing your Lordships' House, referred to the possibilities of fraud, to the difficulties which might arise in cases where there has been provocation, to the undoubtedly difficult question of girls who have been assaulted and, in consequence, have babies. None of these difficulties is new; they arise every day in the courts of this country. Actions can be brought in the ordinary course, for damages for personal injuries against a person who has committed them, if he is found and if he is worth firing at. When actions of that kind arise, questions of fraud come in at once; questions of provocation have to be taken into account. But the courts do not sit back in dismay: they find no difficulty in solving these questions in the ordinary course of their administration. All these difficulties might have been envisaged—and, indeed, they were—when the various schemes of social insurance, that have been introduced progressively into our social system, were first mooted. The difficulties that arise in regard to this little proposal are as nothing compared with those raised when it was first proposed that we should introduce a system of legal aid in this country. So I hope that your Lordships' House will not be dismayed by the difficulties—and there will be difficulties—which will arise in setting up a scheme of this kind and getting it into operation, or by the possible anomalies which it may create. The difficulties, the anomalies and the human suffering are to-day far greater; and this is what we seek to remedy.

My Lords, I take it that the question now is not so much whether as when a scheme should be introduced. Certainly there remains a choice of machinery, as the noble Earl has indicated. There are differences, though not, I think, differences of very great significance, between the various schemes which have been put forward. I myself am certainly not particularly wedded to any one of them. I think that a good and a practicable scheme could be based on either of the two major proposals which have been made in this field; and it certainly would not be beyond the wit of man, and that so exalted type of man, the Parliamentary draftsman to produce a better scheme by a combination of the proposals contained in these two main Reports. This is not, I apprehend, an occasion for attempting to draft the details. The important thing now, perhaps, is that the theoretically better should not become the enemy of the practicably good. Most of us, I feel, would feel satisfied with any of these schemes that have been canvassed in this matter.

For my own part, I would certainly wish to keep alive—although I appreciate the difficulties of it—the possibility of obtaining restitution or damages from the criminal. The difficulties are by no means, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, tended to suggest, on the part of the trade unions, although there are difficulties there. Perhaps a major difficulty is that the prisons contain a floating population and it is very difficult to organise that population into any useful and economic form of work. But certainly I agree, if I may say so, with the noble Lord. I should like to see a situation in which prisoners were organised, so far as possible, into doing economic work, for which they were paid reasonable earnings, and in which against the earnings credited to them in that way, there might be claims, perhaps in some order of priority; first, for the victims of their offences; secondly, for the support of their dependants; and, thirdly, for their own maintenance in prison. But no such possibility as this, of pursuing advantageously claims against those who had committed these crimes of violence, could possibly do away with the necessity for a State scheme. And in a State scheme, I should like to see some provision for compensation for pain and suffering, for physical injury, together with a standard weekly payment for loss of earning capacity, and a payment limited to an assumed earning capacity not too much in excess of that which is contemplated by our industrial injuries legislation.

My Lords, all this can be worked out—and I cannot believe that it would present them with any overwhelming difficulty—by those whose task it is to implement policy decisions. We ought perhaps to remember (and I am sure the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will never forget it) the example of the very great Prime Minister who got things done, and got them done quickly, by the device of presenting a Minute to the head of the appropriate Department: Pray let me have within 24 hours, and on half a sheet of writing paper, a scheme to implement the policy decision indicated above. That is the sort of spirit in which I hope the noble and learned Lord will approach these matters. This is the moment for the policy decision; and in this, as in a number of other matters of Governmental activity, what is needed is courage. If I may say so with great respect to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack—the new incumbent of his very great Office—many of us in the law, and outside the law, look to him to start taking a firm step forward to the accomplishment of many needed reforms in our law and in our administration. I commend this scheme to the noble and learned Lord and to your Lordships' House, as a very modest first step in this direction.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, those of us who are concerned with this social problem owe a great debt of gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, both for the leadership which he has shown as head of the Committee of Justice which drew up that notable Report which set the issues so clearly before us in this matter, and also for the lucidity with which he has presented his Motion before the House to-day. I am only sorry, personally, that owing to the untoward climatic conditions prevailing outside this House this afternoon, it may not be possible for me to be in the House as long as I had intended. If, therefore, it is necessary for me to leave before the closing stages of the debate, I hope that the noble Earl, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, will not in any way construe that as an act of discourtesy.

I think that undoubtedly there has recently been a considerable change in the attitude of the general public towards this matter of compensation for victims of crimes of violence. Not long ago, in such a debate as this, I am confident that we should have heard some such argument as this: "The law cannot provide for every eventuality. In life, we all have to bear a certain amount of injustice. Cases in which injury are caused by acts of criminal violence are very rare, and if indeed one is one of the extraordinary victims of this kind of injustice, then that is just too bad and we have to carry on and bear it as best we can". Such argument has not been used this afternoon, and I think it is unlikely that it will be used, for the whole climate of opinion towards this problem has radically changed—and it has changed not only among politicians but also, I think, among the general public.

There is some evidence of this in the fact that the two Convocations, of Canterbury and York, which are representative of a very wide area of public opinion, when they debated the matter of capital punishment not only demanded that it should be abolished but also added a resolution that suitable compensation for the relatives or dependants of the victims of homicide should be provided. I think there is no doubt that, in the general public opinion, this matter is urgent and necessary; and, therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, says in his preface to the pamphlet produced by Justice, the only question which remains is how it should be done, and when.

Nevertheless, there is first this matter of principle which must be established: is this indeed a legitimate claim upon society in general? I believe that the justification for the claim is to be found in the spirit which underlies the whole of the Welfare State. We are learning more and more that we are indeed each other's neighbour, and that neighbourliness imposes an obligation upon each to care for the welfare of the other. So we consider it right and proper that in society the more fortunate should care for the less fortunate; that the wealthy should have an obligation towards the poor and the privileged towards the under-privileged. I think that we are learning this lesson especially in the realm of the responsibility for crime in society.

When we have given full place to recognition of the exercise of free will and to the responsibility which each individual has for his own acts, there remains the fact, which has never been clearer than it is to-day, that much crime is the result of the social climate within which our young people are being brought up. So long as society complacently allows adolescents to feast their eyes and minds on glamourised acts of violence; to buy and read, as they can freely, salacious and pornographic literature and to be surrounded by an atmosphere of indifference to the claims of proper moral standards, then society must accept a large measure of responsibility for the crimes of its citizens, and their consequences. When we witness convictions for crime, it is not merely a case of, "There, but for the grace of God, go I". In large measure, one is already involved, and is already partly responsible for the act of the criminal. And it follows, therefore, that if society, by its indifference to those things which inculcate proper behaviour, continues to make its contribution to the breeding of criminals, it must also accept a large measure of responsibility for the consequences of criminals' acts.

But if we once accept the principle that it is a legitimate claim upon society as a whole that it Should at least in some measure compensate those who are the victims of criminal violence, we are nevertheless faced with a situation which bristles with problems of every kind: putting into practice the principle which we have accepted and giving it legislative form. There are the problems of defining the cases of criminal violence which shall be the subject of compensation; the problem of defining those who shall be beneficiaries under a compensation scheme; the problem of devising a form of administering the scheme; the problem of deciding to what extent it is right and proper to require the criminal to make reparation; and, perhaps most difficult of all, the problem of constructing a system which will be incapable of being manipulated by dishonest and unscrupulous people for their own benefit. All these matters, as the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, has pointed out, are by no means insuperable, but they will need most careful scrutiny and meticulous examination when the measure to put the principles into effect comes to be drawn up.

I would wish to comment only briefly upon one or two aspects of the many problems which will have to be solved. First, as regards the type of crime which is to be covered, it seems to me that there is a fairly reasonable yardstick in that the scheme should cover only those forms of violence which cannot normally be covered by ordinary insurance schemes. This would exclude crimes which involve the deprivation of property, and would also; exclude injury through motor accidents. It would, I believe, be unjust to exclude all injury from sexual violence; and I should hope that it would be possible to include those who suffer mentally as well as those who suffer physically from some act of violence, even though that may be difficult to establish.

Secondly, as to the question of who should be the beneficiaries under a compensation scheme, this is recognised as a particular problem in the various reports that have been produced. The most acute, I suppose, concerns family disputes, for it is here that there is the greatest possibility of dishonest collusion. I should hope, however, that the scheme would make it possible for the children to benefit from its provisions, should they have been the victims of criminal assault by parents who attack their children or are guilty of criminal negligence towards them. The scheme should make it possible for children to receive such compensation as will enable them to establish themselves later in life and to recover from the initial crimes and handicaps to which they have been subjected.

With regard to the liability of the criminal himself, it is, I think, generally accepted that if it is possible to devise a scheme whereby the criminal is required to make some contribution to the compensation, this should be done. It is, however, not so easy as would at first sight appear, for, as has been pointed out, any considerable burden laid upon the criminal might well retard his rehabilitation in society after he has served his sentence. I agree, therefore, with the view of the noble Earl, Lord Longford; and, although it is desirable that a responsibility should be laid squarely upon the criminal himself, yet the implementation of this principle must await such reforms in the penal system as make it a viable proposition.

Finally, I would comment on the type of scheme which should be evolved. I do not believe that the comparison with an industrial injuries insurance scheme is a valid one in this case, since the compensation to be granted must, to some extent, be related to the particular circumstances of the nature and extent of the injury, and to the circumstances of the person injured. I believe, therefore, that the scheme must be based on Common Law damages.

I am impressed and attracted to the argument of Mr. Egerton in his note of dissent in the pamphlet produced by Justice. He points out that a legal remedy for victims already exists in the form of an action for tort; and the reason why it can so seldom be invoked is the ineffectiveness of the remedy against criminals. He points out that all that the State need, therefore, to be asked to do is to see that the judgment which is obtained against a criminal is met from public funds, and therefore the State should underwrite the judgment. I hope that very careful investigation will be given to Mr. Egerton's point of view, for I share the layman's instinct, the legal layman's instinct, against a proliferation of special tribunals to deal with particular matters in judicial cases. If it is possible for the existing courts of the land to deal with this matter I believe that that would be more desirable. If, on further scrutiny, it appears that to work through the existing judicial system would be too slow and cumbrous, then I should support the main contention of the Justice Committee that a separate tribunal should be set up to determine claims for compensation from which there would be appeal to the High Court.

My Lords, in the further consideration that will be given to this important matter the argument will no doubt be put forward that this is not the only form of injustice which has to be borne by certain citizens; that there are other injustices equally pressing; and that we ought not to do anything about the one without remedying the other. I am not myself impressed by this form of argument. I believe that society must progress by dealing piecemeal with each occasion as it presents itself. We have here a clear case of injustice and we ought to do our best to remove it. In doing so, we ought to record our gratitude to those courageous reformers who have had the imagination to see the need and to stir the conscience of the public. Not for the first time has a woman been responsible for goading the conscience of society into facing a situation which it ought not to tolerate. As in the past Florence Nightingale, Octavia Hill, and Josephine Butler, so in our generation Margery Fry has uncovered an area where undeserved suffering is inflicted and has shown the way by which it may, to some extent at any rate, be relieved. I trust that we shall show our gratitude to her for her generous and courageous imagination by making the necessary provisions to take this step towards a juster society.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, we are to-day in search of a principle. I think we shall all agree that there are cases such as have been referred to already this afternoon, like that of the West Indian or the small shopkeeper who was hit on the head, where the State should compensate the victim. But upon what principle? My noble and learned friend, Lord Shawcross, in his introduction to the Report of Justice, pleads for an acceptance of the simple principle that the innocent victim of violent crime should be entitled to compensation from the State for his personal injuries. My Lords, the key word, as I see it, in the principle thus stated is the word "entitled": entitled to compensation from the State; entitled as of right, with all the machinery of tribunals or the courts for the enforcement of it.

Let me say at once that there are some victims of violent crime who should be entitled as of right against the State. I refer, of course, to the policeman who in the course of his duties is killed or injured. There was the case we heard judicially the other day, of a policeman who sprang on to the bonnet of a motor car in order to try to catch the offender and was thrust by the offender against oncoming cars and killed. Or there is the case of the gallant naval captain, Captain Binney, some years ago, who stepped into the path of escaping bandits and was run down by them. All those who are killed or injured in the line of duty are entitled to compensation, just like the soldier and sailor killed or injured in the course of war. To those we should all concede entitlement as of right. But once that is dealt with, let me say that it is very difficult to find a principle of entitlement.

It is indeed a misfortune to be a victim of violent crime—one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall any one of us in our path through life. Let us help the victim all we can, by ourselves, with our welfare services, and the State may do all it can of its good nature. But to cast upon the law the task of ascertaining entitlement for the victim of misfortune seems to me an almost impossible task. Let me take a sentence out of the Report of Justice which refers perhaps to one of the most common crimes of all the violent type—that of the husband who kills his wife, the children being left destitute. This is what the Report says: We recommend that whenever a person dies as the result of violent crime compensation should be payable to his dependants. If a husband kilts his wife the children should not be left without provision for their own maintenance merely because the incident arose out of some domestic disagreement. My Lords, where will this carry us? In this morning's Times newspaper we have such a case reported. Four small children were orphaned as a result of a shooting tragedy at Stockton-on-Tees yesterday. What happened? Husband and wife, a young couple, had separated and parted. As usual, the wife had gone with the four children to her mother. The husband had gone to his mother. I do not know whether the cause was jealousy or what it was, but a few weeks later the husband returned, shot his wife dead, then his mother-in-law and finally shot himself. The four children were orphaned. There are all the welfare services of the State, all the sympathy of neighbours and all the charity which we can afford for these children. But can we go further and say that there is a claim for entitlement, as under the Fatal Accidents Act, for large sums to be demanded as of right from the State? Are these children in any different position from that in which they would have found themselves had their mother and father been drowned in a bathing accident, or both been cut off in a motoring accident? Can we really give entitlement against the State for compensation in the one case and not in the other?

I can call to mind many cases I have tried which could rank as misfortunes. The husband, devoted to his wife kills her, being insane. The father who has a boy of ten to whom he is devoted takes a cerebral tumour; his brain is affected, and he picks his son up and throws him 25 feet into the river below and injures him. These are misfortunes indeed. But are they cases where there is to be entitlement for these misfortunes, as of right, against the State? Of course, if the State were at fault, the State should pay compensation. Miss Margery Fry, whom I had the privilege of meeting, thought that the obligation to the victim of crime rests primarily on society, which has failed to protect him against crime and can alone effectively compensate him. And the report of Justice almost seems to put the blame on the State, because it says: The citizen is not normally allowed to carry and weapon which could be used to defend himself against violent attacks. In the cases I have put, I would suggest that no fault or blame can be attached to the State. Can we really suggest that the State, which, as our State does, provides the best police force in the world —and they do their job very well—is to pay compensation to be assessed on the ground that the State itself is at fault?

I should like to suggest some difficulties that arise. I know that there are many cases (they are given in the Report of the Working Party) where compensation should be given, but I suggest that this is not a matter for lawyers and for legal entitlement. What should happen is that the Government themselves should provide a fund, maybe supported by charitable bodies, too, which can be allotted ex gratia for those deserving cases by sympathetic administrators, without all the paraphernalia to entitlement, rights at law and tribunals, as the right reverend prelate suggested.

Let me take a case which the Working Party gave and which they suggest, I think rightly, cries aloud for compensation. It is described in the Report as follows: A man who was walking with his wife in a London street was knocked down and killed by a drunken stranger, who was subsequently found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The widow was left destitute. Our heart goes out at once: she should receive compensation from the State. But not, I suggest, as a matter of legal right. This case is not distinguishable in principle from the rest, from the case, for example, of the wife whose husband is killed by a drunken motorist. If the one gets compensation from the State, why should not the other? The only reason, I suggest, that the Working Party or Justice did not recommend it, is because the motorist is insured and his insurance company will pay damages. Otherwise there is no difference between being knocked down by a drunken man on foot and being knocked down by a drunken man in a car.

Let me remind your Lordships that in all cases of violent crime the victim is already, by law, entitled to damages and full compensation from the criminal as of right, if he can find him and get him before the courts. He or she is just as much entitled in law to damages from the violent robber or violent rapist as from the violent motorist. And the violent motorist, with his dangerous driving and drunken driving, is just as guilty of a crime as the violent robber. Wherein lies the difference? The difference is that the State has provided a system of compulsory insurance for motorists, but has not yet provided it for criminals. This proposal at bottom means that the State is asked, as a matter of law, as a matter of entitlement, to underwrite the criminals in their obligation to pay damages. And if the State is to underwrite this as a matter of law, who is to pay the premiums? This is not like compulsory motor insurance, where there are thousands of motorists who pay premiums. The taxpayer must pay the premiums for this compulsory insurance, unless the Government choose to institute compulsory insurance for criminals and collect their weekly contributions.

Indeed, it is not easy to draw a parallel with motor insurance here—although it is drawn—because in the case of victims of crimes it is realised in all these Reports that the victim should recover compensation although the criminal is not found (and he is not found in more than half the cases) or is found and acquitted. But, after all, he may be acquitted on a legal technicality. In a case of rape, a man may be acquitted, though he is as guilty as could be, because his victim has not corroboration of her story. In all these cases, the Working Party and Justice argue that the victim must be entitled to compensation.

Compare that with motorist insurance. If you want to get damages from a motorist, you must obtain judgment against the other side, or show that you can get judgment. Even with an escaping bandit, who drives recklessly along the road and knocks you down, you have to get judgment against him. You must know the man. Even though he is not insured, the Motor Insurers' Bureau will pay you if you get a judgment. That is the agreement. But if you cannot find the man and cannot sue him, there is no right at law for you to get compensation from the motorist's insurance. In the case of the escaping bandit which I have put—the man who is not found and escapes beyond trace—if the victim has a right to compensation, ought not the State to compensate him? At the moment the Motor Insurers' Bureau may pay ex gratia. That is where it comes in, and that is what I suggest should be the position here in cases where it is impossible really to formulate satisfactorily a legal basis of claim.

But even if it were possible, how difficult it is with justice to draw the line. The right reverend Prelate said, "Let us put aside all questions of violence resulting in loss of property, because they are mainly covered by insurance." But the heart-rending cases are not covered. There is the case of the little old couple who have their £500 or £1,000 saved in the house and which the bandit takes. They may be shocked and frightened to death by his entry, but under none of these schemes would that old couple be able to recover that £500 or £1,000.

If this scheme is given as of right, how can we logically stop at personal injuries? We must cover also the heartrending cases of loss of property which may ruin a person, or the heart-rending frauds. The right reverend Prelate will know how clergy or poor people have been defrauded and lost all their means. How can you stop at personal injuries? The Report of Justice says that we must allow rape with violent crime to be the subject of compensation, but that we must not give compensation for the psychological effects of rape. Those are the serious consequences in rape, the psychological consequences. Why not give the psychological—


My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord quite accurate when he says that the Justice Report does not allow for psychological damages? I understood that it did allow for them in cases where physical injury—


Cases where there is physical injury, yes.


Rape cases are obviously cases where there is physical injury.


My noble and learned friend Lord Charley is quite right. The Justice Report confines their exclusion of damages for psychological injuries to where there is no physical injury. But I would suggest that there are many cases of rape where there are only psychological injuries. They are the principal injuries, anyway. The reason why they exclude that is the danger in deciding between the fraudulent claims and those that are not fraudulent. It would be quite impossible to decide. That is one case that they put.

Let me take another case. In the schedule of crimes the sexual crimes are included. For instance, supposing a man of 24 or 25 has sexual intercourse with a girl of 15½, and she has a baby. That is to be the subject of compensation towards the maintenance of the child, as I read the Report. In addition to all the welfare services, such a girl should have compensation to help her maintain the child. What is the difference between that and a girl with whom a man has sexual intercourse when she is 16 years and one month? I would suggest that there is tremendous difficulty in drawing any just and fair line between those victims who should be compensated and those who should not. It is yet another ground for saying, "It is not a case for legal entitlement." It is a case, I suggest, where there should be a fund, well administered, from which payments can be made ex gratia to deserving cases. That is the form the scheme should take and—mark you!—I would plead also, as has been done already, for some way in which the criminal can be made to pay his share.

Something has been mentioned about earnings in prison and the difficulty of obtaining it to pay compensation. When I was in Poland I went to one of the big prisons. They had inside the prison a printing works where the men were able to work and produce good printing work for firms outside. They were allocated full wages which were used partly for compensation for the dependants of victims and partly for the prisoners when they came out. It is a long way ahead. Cannot something of that kind be done? I would suggest an ex gratia scheme. Perhaps the Government can see their way to contributing enough so that the really deserving cases could be compensated ex gratia. I would submit that what is suggested is, as a matter of principle, unworkable and perhaps not right as a matter of legal entitlement, with all the machinery of tribunals and courts.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, this is an anxious problem, and I think the remarkable and, if I may say so, rather wonderful speech that we have just heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, points to the difficulties of the problem. I may say that with the majority of the noble Lord's speech I entirely disagree, but I am anxious not to be side-tracked into referring in detail to the points which he has made and disputing with him, because I should detain your Lordships very much too long. There are certain aspects of what he said with which I most heartily concur.

The first thing I feel about the subject matter we are discussing is that if it is true, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, that there is no precedent for a scheme such as this in the social welfare of the world, then I think it is high time that this country set such a precedent. We should lead, and we generally have led, the world in matters of social reform, and if nobody else has yet embarked upon it I think we should seize our opportunity to do so. We have heard a good deal during the debate about the case of the little old lady who gets coshed. I think the reason why we so often connote her in our minds with the crime of human violence is because she has such a sentimental appeal that the Press invariably publicise her case. But I think, too, that it has been made clear that what we might call "the little old lady case" is a very small minority indeed of the total volume of cases in which victims occur as a result of crimes of violence.

I, for my part, have not the slightest doubt that the principle—and I believe it is a principle—is right that there should be compensation payable to such victims. But if, for the purpose of the argument, we accept that for a moment, we immediately begin to run into difficulties, and the first difficulty of course is, who pays? My answer to that would be the person pays who is responsible; and we then get to the exceedingly difficult point of trying to decide who is responsible. I would suggest four categories of responsibility. The first is the State, which has already been referred to; but in mentioning the State as number one I would disassociate it from society and I would treat it purely as the executive of the will of the people in so far as it fails to provide an adequate safeguard to the public. We all know and are very proud of the excellent work and service which our police forces perform throughout the country, but no one could claim that they are or, indeed, could be perfect; and, therefore, to the measure of their imperfection I think they must be held to have some responsibility.

The second category, which has hardly been mentioned this afternoon except to some extent by the right reverend Prelate, I would put as the home, the Church and the teachers who have not succeeded in bringing up, through the educational system, the criminals of this country to a knowledge of the obligations which should be inherent in every citizen. The first responsibility in this category I put upon the home, and I believe that is one which must be lodged there, because clearly the responsibilities of those who bring up the young must extend a very considerable way. It is they who have the first opportunities, and who should not shirk those opportunities, of instilling into the human mind not only the principles of right and wrong but the obligations of right and wrong as well. So far as the Church is concerned, I feel that all of us who are concerned with the Church must admit some failure in our obligations, in so far as we have failed to reach such a large number of people in this country with the realisation of the obligations of sin.

My third category is the one which was so very well put by the right reverend Prelate, society itself; and that is why I sought to differentiate the State from society. I would add one extra reason to that given by the right reverend Prelate and that is the tendency of the present time for so many people in society to seek to cast their responsibility on to the State and so to avoid it themselves. The other reason, your Lordships will recall, is the way in which society to-day panders to crime by positively enjoying crime at secondhand as a form of entertainment, in cinemas, on television, in theatres and in reading material, particularly in the popular Press. I consider that society carries very heavy responsibility in this matter.

In the last of my categories of responsibility I would put the criminal. He, of course, first and foremost, the primary person of responsibility, and I put him with a very heavy responsibility indeed because the number of criminals who really, genuinely, do not know that they are doing wrong is infinitely small. Practically every criminal knows full well that he is doing wrong; he does it deliberately and he does it for his own personal gain. Therefore I put his responsibility exceedingly high.

My Lords, if we do consider that compensation should be paid, I am in agreement with those noble Lords who have sought to limit the compensation to the effect of personal injuries. I feel that we cannot extend the scheme into compensation for material loss. Even in the case illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Denning, a large part of the responsibility for the loss by the old couple of their life-savings lies entirely upon them for keeping £1,000 in their house; and I do not think that one can extend this scheme, with any possibility of effecting justice, to questions of compensation for material loss, which, as the noble Lord himself pointed out with great power, is easily and frequently covered by insurance.

There must, of course, be many borderline cases and all borderline cases create cases of hardship, but at the present time the cases to which we have been referring are all cases of hardship, and if we can succeed in eliminating hardship in the vast majority of those cases we shall be meeting the situation very considerably, even if we have to leave a small minority of cases of hardship on the borderline. There must, I think, also be many exemptions to the principle—and here I differ from several of the noble Lords who have already spoken. For my part, I would except from the principle all crimes committed in the home. One reason for this is because of the responsibility, to which I have already referred, which lies upon the home. Another reason is obviously the difficulty of proof; another, that there would be much more difficulty in eliminating fraudulent claims, and, further, much more difficulty in avoiding passing any benefit to the criminal.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, indicated, in cases in which children are affected, while they can never be adequately compensated, they, nevertheless, are normally taken care of under the welfare sections of our State. Another group of cases which I, and I think moist of your Lordships, would exclude are the cases of sexual offences, excepting, I would suggest, any cases where a conviction has been obtained. That, the noble Lord, Lord Denninig, would say, is not logical. I agree with him that that is certainly not logical. But it is practical, and I believe that there again it would be a good thing to do, because it would make possible some form of reparation by the criminal. The other class to which reference has already been made is the case of motoring offences, but I believe that the principle is right and that it can be adequately limited to prevent abuse both on the part of the taxpayer and on the part of the State.

The next question which arises is what compensation should be paid. I have listened to the arguments which have been deployed, and I have studied the Reports which have been made, and I. for my part, reject, as the right reverend Prelate rejected and for the same reasons, the possibility of a scheme based on the analogy of the Industrial Injuries Scheme. I believe that that would be bureaucratic and indecisive, and it would not produce what is wanted. On the other hand, I believe a scheme based on what has been called the court scheme would be perfectly practicable; there is ample precedent for it. It would carry greater confidence in the minds of the public. It would be much more likely to defeat fraudulent claims. It would be much more flexible and it would be able to give awards which would meet the needs of the case.

Finally, we come to the perhaps most difficult question of all: who pays? My conclusion as to that is not unlike the conclusion which was reached by Justice. It is that the State should indemnify the victim. To those who are what I might call pure lawyers in this House that may come somewhat as a shock; nevertheless, I believe it is a sensible shock and a sensible thing to do. The criminal, if found, should be the primary culprit; but, whether found or not, the State should indemnify the victim and should be put into a position to be able to extract from the criminal such damages as the State has to pay to the victim. As we have already said, the State and society are both involved in responsibility, and so it does not seem unreasonable that they should share the biggest part of the responsibility for payment.

Incidentally, such a system would be an excellent answer to the case quoted by the noble Earl who introduced this debate, the case of Mr. Carew. There damage has been done by two youths of sixteen and seventeen, who were sent to prison for short terms. No damages could be extracted from them at the present time. Therefore, under the scheme which I have suggested to your Lordships the State would compensate Mr. Carew; it would thereafter be continuously in touch with the two criminals, through the National Insurance and other schemes, and so when they came out and were earning what probably, in their case, would be very substantial wages, the State would be able to step into the shoes of the victim and recover from them such proper sums as a court would allow to recoup the compensation which had been paid to Mr. Carew.

I reject the principle, which I am glad to say I have not heard in this House this afternoon, that if a criminal is punished he should not also be expected to make reparation. To my mind there are two entirely separate things: first, the breaking of the law which he has committed and for which he is punished, and the second, the damage which he has caused and for which he should make reparation. If a person unintentionally commits damage as a result of his negligence—for instance, if I am walking down the Strand and suddenly feel the blood surging in my veins at the height of spring and start twirling my umbrella and poke somebody's eye out with the end of it—he is liable to compensate in damages for negligence. Why on earth should not a criminal be required to compensate a person in damages if he puts his eye out by hitting him on the head with a pick handle? I can see no difference in it at all, and I am quite sure that reparation should, wherever possible, be extracted from the criminal.

I feel, therefore, very strongly that in the first instance if it is possible the victim should recover compensation from the criminal. If that is not possible then the State should step in and indemnify. The State should pay the compensation but should retain the right, and retain it for a very long period, if necessary, to recover a proper proportion, if not the whole, of the compensation which it has been required to pay from the criminal. On these lines I believe we could do some justice to a very large majority of the victims who at present do not receive compensation, and at the same time I believe that we should be taking a very serious step forward to take the profit out of crime and so reduce a considerable proportion of the crime that is committed in this country at the present time.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by re-echoing the thanks which so many of your Lordships have extended to my noble friend Lord Longford for initiating this debate this afternoon, and still more for all the work which he and his fellow members of the Justice Committee have put into the solution of this exceptionally intractable problem. Because I entirely agree with those who throughout the course of the debate have pointed out that although the scope of this particular social anomaly is not a very wide one its solution gives rise to very difficult problems indeed.

I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, will forgive my not following him in the very interesting analysis which he made of this problem in the earlier part of his speech. I think I ought to say that I hope that your Lordships will not agree with him that certain sections of this area of compensation should, as it were, be cut out. That would lead to a very lopsided scheme and would only accentuate the difficulties of working any scheme which the Government might introduce. It would be much better, I think, to cover the whole of the ground, rather than attempt to cut out injuries arising in connection with family disputes and matters of that kind. I entirely agree with him that very often in the family dispute the victim is a good deal to blame. But the Justice Report certainly, and I think also most of the other Reports which I have looked at on this matter, propose that the tribunal, whatever it is, which deals with these matters should take that into consideration and treat it in a sense in the way contributory negligence is treated when an action for negligence is heard in the courts.

With regard to my noble and learned friend Lord Denning, I was sorry to find that he was not on the side of the angels this afternoon. I usually find myself in agreement with him, but I sometimes think (I hope the noble and learned Lord will forgive my making this little "dig") that it is almost more important to him to be in a minority than to be on the side of the angels. And he has certainly been in the minority of one this afternoon. I think his arguments were well met in advance, if I may say so, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, and also by the right reverend Prelate. It is easy enough, in any scheme introducing a new social contribution, to point out that there are anomalies. Lord Shawcross pointed out that in the legal defence arrangements, which have been such an outstanding feature of the administration of law in this country in the post-war period, numerous anomalies were found at the beginning; and, indeed, in the arrangements as originally made those anomalies were obvious. We have been spending the last ten or twelve years gradually getting rid of them, until now the scheme is much better than the one originally introduced.

Lord Denning's general views on questions of this sort, apparently, are views which we left behind at the turn of the century: that the ordinary misfortunes of life should, in effect, be put up with by the sufferer or dealt with on a charitable basis. The whole history of the last fifty years and more has been against that, and the noble and learned Lord is trying, like Mrs. Partington, to swoop back the tide of social progress which has been flowing so strongly over the last fifty years. This sort of argument was advanced from the time of the Employers' Liability Act, in 1880, in respect of almost every proposal which was brought forward, and eventually put on the Statute Book for relieving the difficulties which are bound to arise in a modern, complex society, and which undoubtedly arise in this connection. The noble and learned Lord worships at the shrine of the Common Law. But Common Law just did not provide remedies in all these cases. That is why we have had to have this social legislation and the proposals which are before your Lordships this afternoon, to give a new entitlement based on an Act of Parliament; in my submission on exactly the same lines as many entitlements which certainly did not exist at Common Law and were not dreamed of by the common lawyers, but which have been established by the social legislation which we have been so busy enacting over the last fifty years or more.

I said that this was an intractable problem—and so it is. It is not altogether surprising that the Home Office Working Party, whose useful Report has been referred to not too often this afternoon, and who no doubt approached this problem with great good will, appointed by the late Home Secretary, whose interest in this matter we all very well know, and whose work over the whole field of criminal law we all appreciate so much, should have been rather worn down by these difficulties. And certainly in many ways the Report conveys the impression of a defeatist attitude. I myself (no doubt the noble and learned Lord would agree with many of the difficulties which they found) particularly disliked the way it lays down, in rather contentious terms, that the idea that the State has any responsibility in regard to this matter is a "fallacious and dangerous doctrine". That is just the sort of point that was continually made when insurance against unemployment, insurance against sickness, insurance against many of the other social problems and difficulties which arise in the modern world, were advanced by the reformer in the earlier years of the century, and continuously and particularly by the Party to which I have the honour to belong over the period immediately after the end of the last war.

Although this problem in this country has only recently received attention, it has quite a long history, and I have been a little disappointed to-day at the lack of appreciation of the fact that proposals of this kind were already being made as far back as the middle years of the last century. This proposal for restitution, as it has usually been called by the continental penologists, was particularly associated with the name of the great Belgian criminologist, Prins, who was active at the turn of the century; and, of course, in this country it is particularly associated with the name of Miss Margery Fry, to whom I would add my own tribute to those which have been paid this afternoon—a tribute of reverent affection.

Prior to his appointment of the Working Party the Home Secretary had himself asked a Hungarian refugee lawyer and criminologist, Dr. Schaeffer, to prepare a report on the experience of other countries. I was a little disappointed when the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, suggested that nothing had been done in other countries, because Dr. Schaeffer's report shows that quite a number of attempts have been made to handle this problem in other parts of world. To me it is rather strange that the Home Office Working Party, for whom Dr. Schaeffer's report was apparently prepared, do not seem to pay any attention to it in their Report; nor, so far as I have been able to find out, did the Justice Committee. Yet there is a great deal of extraordinarily interesting work in it, because Dr. Schaeffer made an intensive survey of the arrangements in different countries in many different parts of the world.

I was interested to hear Lord Mancroft talking about his recent experiences in South Africa. He referred to the way arrangements are being made for handling this particular problem. On the whole, it must be confessed that in Europe not a great deal of success has been achieved in dealing with the problem. Few States have been prepared to provide the subsidy which the very character of this problem makes it necessary that the State should provide if victims of violent crime are to be indemnified. The main concentration has, of course, been on providing a more efficient method of getting at the criminal himself. That is the primitive reaction to this problem and one that goes back a long way: in fact, the earliest Anglo-Saxon criminal law was almost entirely concerned with how much the criminal paid to the person he had injured, or to the members of his family. It is only in comparatively recent times that this right of the victim to be compensated has been allowed to drop out.

Of course, if prisoners are able to earn wages, as has been pointed out several times this afternoon, either in prison or by being let out of prison to work in factories or workshops, there is a great deal to be said for this approach of putting the primary responsibility for compensation upon the prisoner himself. That has been done in a number of countries, particularly in France, where, as I expect your Lordships know, for many years now it has been part of the penal system that the prisoner should work and earn ordinary wages such as a man who is not a prisoner earns working in a factory or workshop outside. They have a rather elaborate scheme by which some of the money goes to pay for his upkeep in prison, some to his family, and some towards compensating the victim of the crime. On the whole, Dr. Shaeffer finds that this works with reasonable success. There are similar schemes in Finland and in Turkey; and in Cuba there was a particularly interesting scheme in operation—whether it still exists under the new régime I do not know—by which a fund, as it were, was built up partly by State subsidy and partly by contributions from those criminals who were ordered by the adjudicating court to pay into the fund. The criminal did not directly compensate the victim of the particular crime, but paid into a central fund out of which a court might make an award to a particular victim of crime which would compensate him to that extent. So that there a fund was built up partly by contributions from the State and partly by contribution from the criminals themselves. There is another interesting scheme in Mexico, but I think I have said enough, in quoting from this distinctly interesting book, to show your Lordships that attempts have been made with more or less success in different parts of the world to handle this problem.

We certainly shall not be the first country to deal with it, if and when the Government decide to tackle the matter in the way the noble Earl has begged them to do this afternoon. And, of course, as the Justice Report points out, and as the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, has emphasised this afternoon from many points of view the victim of crime in respect of property is already compensated, not only under the Riot Act but very frequently under probation orders. An order is made that the criminal who is placed on probation shall compensate the victim of his crime. These probation orders are more often made in relation to damage to property than in respect of injury to the person. That, of course, is very natural, because that type of crime is more satisfactorily dealt with by means of a probation order. It is not every court that wishes to put the violent criminal on probation, and more often, for the sake of the community, he must be shut up in gaol.

This foreign survey emphasises the difficulties and complications of this problem. Like most other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, I should be the last to try to skate over them. But we must remember, and remember all the time, that there is here a very real social problem in regard to the needs of these people; it is not just a sentimental matter, but a very real problem. Although some of the cases which have been referred to by different speakers this afternoon are cases which wring the heart, I do not think one ought to allow oneself to feel that this is just a piece of sentiment. It is a very real social injustice that exists at the present time, and it is one which it is urgently necessary, I think, we should put right as quickly as possible.

My Lords, I do not want to take up a great deal more time, but there are one or two matters arising out of the Justice Report on which I should like to comment very briefly before I resume my seat. There is the question of the two types of scheme. I was very much attracted by the ingenious hybrid solution which was suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. On the whole, I tend to agree with the right reverend Prelate and Lord Brentford, that, so far as possible, the matter should be left to the adjudication of the ordinary courts. I would suggest that where a man has committed a crime and has been brought before a court and been found guilty, the tribunal should be allowed to deal with the question of compensation there and then, while the material is before it. In this type of case it is very important to get the matter handled quickly. The main argument against using the ordinary court system is the delays of the law. I should think that this is a type of case that could be dealt with pretty quickly. The lengthy interlocutory proceedings necessary in ordinary litigation would seldom be called for here. Therefore, I think that as a rule this type of case could be got on with quite quickly. There is a difficult period just after the injuries are sustained, and it is important that the matter should be dealt with quickly. That is why I think that the hybrid scheme has a great deal to be said for it.


My Lords, I do not want to quibble over differences between the schemes, but, as I think I pointed out, under the Conservative scheme—which in this respect is slightly nearer to what is called relying upon the ordinary law than ours is—the case in the first place would go before some special official, presumably a departmental officer. It would not start off in the law courts.


My Lords, I am not advocating the Conservative scheme in any way. I think that it should be possible to make some sort of arrangement under which payments could start quite quickly and be taken into the final adjustment of the situation which might be reached at a later stage by the judge who tried it.

The industrial injuries method was put forward by Miss Fry, and I remember that she consulted me about this on several occasions at the very beginning. She was not wedded to this scheme in any sort of way, but felt that it provided a possible practical solution. As has been emphasised by more than one speaker, Miss Fry was an exceptionally practical woman as well as being a tremendous idealist. When I said to her that I, as a lawyer, preferred the ordinary procedure of the courts, she said "I agree with you. I should, too—if the thing could be got going". It seems to me that we have now these different methods of industrial insurance, and that in this sort of way it may be much easier to get a favourable response from Parliament and from the Government. The great thing to do is to get something done and to get it done as quickly as possible. I am sure that Miss Fry herself was not in any way wedded to the "Industrial Injuries" method and would have welcomed any common sense way of handling this problem.

I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, said about the courts being qualified to handle difficult problems of this kind. They are not always handled quite so easily, perhaps, as he suggested. Some of these cases are very difficult for the judges to deal with. But the point is that they do deal with them, and, on the whole, deal with them in a satisfactory way. I imagine that the reason why straight psychological injury is excepted from the Justice Report is the difficulties which the courts have found in dealing with such injury in ordinary cases of tort. Many of us think that the courts ought to be more ready in a modern society to deal with such cases, because problems of psychological injury are likely to happen more and more. I was a little disappointed to find that the Justice Report in allowing compensation for psychological injury confined itself only to those cases where there had also been physical damage.

Finally, I entirely agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, said about the importance of associating the criminal with the compensation. Even if he cannot actually pay, I think it is very important that it should be brought home to the criminal that he has in fact done injury to some fellow human being. I rather felt that the Justice Report dragged its feet a little on this particular side, and I was glad to hear the noble Earl in his opening remarks take a rather stronger line. Of course, I agree that if the rehabilitation of the prisoner were going to be interfered with by an order that he should pay compensation to the victim, we should not have the order, but I cannot imagine that there are many cases where the rehabilitation of the prisoner is going to be interfered with in that way. In fact, I myself would have said that the moral rehabilitation of a prisoner cannot take place unless he appreciates the injury which he has done to his victim. The prisoner will not in fact be morally rehabilitated unless he realises that he is culpable in that respect and faces up to the fact that every decent citizen will look to him to make some sort of compensation. Therefore I hope that this side of the matter will not be too easily dismissed, and that when the Government come to prepare their scheme they will make some sort of arrangement under which the criminal himself may have this particular aspect of his crime brought clearly home to him.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say how very much I agree with the approach to this problem taken by my noble and learned friend Lord Denning. If in saying that I blacken myself irrevocably in the eyes of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Chorley, opposite, I am very sorry. But I would venture to doubt whether either my noble and learned friend Lord Denning or I myself will necessarily forfeit our angelic status merely by disagreeing with the noble Lord.

My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Denning drew a distinction in this case between the entitlement of any person who is the victim of a crime of violence to some form of compensation to be paid to him by the State, and an alternative method of meeting, I think, exactly the same social issue by means of a fund, possibly on the lines of that which only recently may have existed in Cuba—which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley—for some form of ex gratia payment system not involving any necessary entitlement in law. If that is, as I believe it to be, the correct approach, many of the analogies which have been drawn in all these Reports seem to me to be not only inappropriate and unpractical but even misleading. First of all, they are inappropriate, I think, when talking of the imposition of any liability—to use a neutral word—on the State to pay compensation at all; and even more misleading when it comes to the actual working of any scheme that may be invented.

The Working Party from the Home Office asked two fundamental questions. They said, first of all, "Why should the State pay at all?"; and, secondly, "If it should pay, why should it pay only in the case of crimes of violence against the person?" I think that both of those questions can be very much more easily answered, and answered in favour of having some payment, if the analogies of tort, or fatal accidents, or some benefits under an industrial injuries scheme are removed altogether from the arena.

There have been many arguments put forward, both in the various Reports on this subject and in your Lordships' debate this afternoon, on why the State should in certain proper cases pay compensation. But none of those arguments seems to me to have gone so far as to make the State's liability analogous to that of an individual in tort, as the law now recognises this to be. That responsibility of an individual results from an act which he himself did and thereby damaged the person who is claiming the damages from him. Surely that, or the position under the Fatal Accidents Act, which is admittedly one stage removed, is nothing whatever like the situation which the State would have to be in if it were to be made responsible in any way for paying compensation to some of these victims. Then, in an industrial injuries scheme the person receives some sort of compensation because he has involved himself in a scheme expressly designed to cover the sort of situation which has arisen, and a scheme, moreover, to which he and his employer both, as I understand it, contribute. There is nothing of that nature whatever in any of the suggestions that have been put forward in respect of compensation for victims of crimes of violence.

My Lords, I think that the State is not responsible for payment in the same sense as either in tort or under any of these industrial schemes, but in an entirely different sense altogether, if at all. I do not think there is any known concept that we have in this country—whether in the law or even in social reform—which approximates to the sort of responsibility that we are now seeking to put on the State. So, therefore, I hope that these analogies, which I believe to be false, will not be allowed to fog the issue, because I believe quite firmly, notwithstanding what I have said, that there may well be—and I think there are—proper cases where the State should bear some form of responsibility for payment. But I do not think that it should be based on any of the hard and fast rules which attempts have been made to impart into this concept. If we look at it this way, and avoid any entitlement on the part of the victim to compensation, it seems to me quite logical that the State should, at this stage at least, stop short and pay compensation only in the case of crimes of violence to the person. These will be ex-gratia grants and, if the State is making them out of grace, there is no reason why it should necessarily go further in the concept than it feels it can do at any one time.


My Lords, the noble Viscount says that in these cases where he thinks the State ought to pay—I gather he thinks there are quite a number of cases—the State has a duty, a social responsibility. He wants to avoid the word "entitlement", and maybe there is some lawyer's catch here, but it is what most people would understand as a social responsibility, a duty. In that case, surely the individual who is going to receive this benefit is entitled, as the word is used in any ordinary language, to look to the State which has this responsibility towards him.


No, my Lords, I do not consider this to be purely a legal quibble at all. If the noble Earl will wait a little longer so that I may develop my speech, I think he will see that I have another aim, also, in avoiding the word "entitlement".

As I was saying, I do not think that there is anything necessarily objectionable in answering the second question raised by the Working Party, "Why should we stop short at crimes of violence against the person?" if we stick in this matter to this idea of an ex-gratia grant in compensation by the State. If that is so, then surely the key word which appears in all these Reports in this connection must be the word "discretion", because the State surely must have the widest possible discretion in deciding which are the proper cases in which to give its liberality to these victims.

I think that this necessarily must indicate the sort of tribunal which would be proper in this case. To start with, I think it must be quick and informal; and, secondly, I think it should be able to find out in the fullest detail all the facts, and some of the inferences, which it would need to take into account before it distributed public money in this way. I do not believe that the procedure of the courts of law in this country would be the right procedure for these problems.

My Lords, I think there should be, to start with, a basic limitation on the application of the doctrine which we are now discussing. I do not intend to go into the question of the list of offences which are appended to most of these Reports as being suitable starting grounds for the compensation of the victims, but I think that there should be some such limitation and that it will have to be laid down in whatever Statute introduces this new scheme. But once that background has been stated—and, of course, it could probably be extended or contracted if it was found to be wrong—thereafter I believe that, whatever tribunal it should be (and no doubt it would have to be one constituted somewhat on the lines suggested by Justice), it would have to be very flexible and it must have the widest possible discretion. It must have discretion, I suggest, my Lords, to deal with the facts of each individual case entirely on their merits, and this would contain a discretion to look at such things as the domestic situation which gave rise to any particular incident, at provocation or at some such matter of that kind which would qualify the effect and the favour with which they might look upon the particular claimant.

I think they should also go into the facts very fully from the point of view of revealing any fraudulent claims and be able, when in doubt, not to give any compensation on the ground that they suspect a claim of being fraudulent. I think they should also have full discretion to take account of other benefits which a claimant might be able to receive from other sources in the Welfare State, and so be able to avoid duplicating, by their jurisdiction, benefits received from elsewhere. I think they should have discretion—and this is a point which seems to have caused great difficulty as between the industrial injuries scheme system and the courts system—to be able to give different sorts of compensation in different cases without necessarily any statutory control whatever. In some cases, they should give a lump sum by way of compensation: in others, they should be prepared to make a weekly payment if that is the more suitable. It does not seem to me to be very difficult to give them the proper jurisdiction, to give them the discretion to do that.

Finally, I think the difficult matter of giving compensation even where the criminal himself has been acquitted, whether on a technicality or otherwise, or where no prosecution has been able to be brought, should also be able to be dealt with by the tribunal under its discretion. No doubt at the beginning this discretion would be hard to put into operation, and it might seem in some cases that fairness had not been altogether upheld; but I think that in the end, and probably before very long, some sort of code of practice would emerge, as so often does in the case of these tribunals, which would make it very much easier for them to deal with the cases that came before them.

But, my Lords—and this is where I should like to put one point to the noble Earl opposite—there are inevitably going to be some cases (and quite a lot of cases, too, for one reason or another, whether for domestic reasons, for provocation, for fraud or for some other reason) where a claimant would not get compensation, where it would not be thought proper that he should receive public money as a result of something which may unfortunately have occurred to him. What strikes me as being most important in this field is that that person should, if possible, not fed a grudge against the system which has denied him the compensation that somebody else receives; and I believe that if you state this problem in terms of entitlement from the State of compensation for victims, you are much more likely to leave a grudge in the mind of the unsuccessful applicant than if you merely deal with it on the basis of an ex gratia payment, where it is thought proper by a wise tribunal that the claimant should have some money.

From those generalities I should like to put one specific point to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and ask him whether he would be prepared to consider this question a little further, because it is a problem which has been dealt with both by the Conservative Political Centre document, by Justice and by the Working Party, and Justice disagrees with the other two upon the answer to the particular problem. The problem is that of children who are born as a result of crimes of sexual violence—for instance, the obvious crime would be that of rape, but many other crimes of this nature have been put in the Appendices of these Reports, and from all of them, or most of them, it would be possible for children to be born. The Working Party and the Conservative Political Centre have both come down on the side of denying any form of compensation under any scheme for the benefit of these children—and I think, for the most part, for the benefit of their mothers as well. The Justice report, however, has been more forthcoming.

Now, my Lords, leaving out of the question altogether the matter of physical or psychological injury to the mother in the commission of the crime of violence (because that seems to me to be no different from the injury in any other case of crime of violence), there is, I think, a very difficult consideration to be taken into account in respect of (the child. The Justice report has pointed out that the existing benefits under the National Insurance Scheme are not intended to cover the full costs and loss of earnings suffered by a mother during the time of her confinement and the birth of her child. This being so, there will no doubt be proper cases, at any rate in my view, where some additional sum might well be awarded to the mother to cover her losses over that period if she, as a result of some hideous crime, has unfortunately had a baby.

Secondly, once the child is born there are further problems which will arise and face this unfortunate woman. She may, despite everything, desire to keep the child, and this may very well, as practice I think has shown, prove best for the child itself—and it will certainly be cheaper for the State than having it maintained at a local authority's expense. However, she clearly will not be able to work in a full-time occupation, and, therefore, in some way her earnings are bound to be smaller than they would otherwise have been. It may be said that she can have the child adopted, but this is not necessarily so, because if the putative father is known to be a violent criminal it may prove almost impossible to get anyone to adopt the child, and, willy-nilly, it may be left with its mother.

Finally, if that happens and she cannot, because of the circumstances of its birth, bear to keep it at all, she may attempt to get the local authority to look after it. But even in that case the local authority is entitled, although I hope that it would not, to demand from the mother a sum of money for the keep of the child. It seems to me that circumstances would clearly arise in some of these cases where a very good case for compensation could occur. I hope that some of the analogies that have been produced in these Reports would not stand in the way of my noble and learned friend in coming down rather more favourably on the side of the mother in this sort of situation than the Home Office Working Party did before; and possibly, also, in the case where the mother of a child conceived in this way has died in the course of childbirth.

My Lords, the discretion in these cases would certainly have to be used with the greatest care. No doubt there would be children born of young girls under the age of 16, and one knows well from experience at assizes how often they may be consenting parties or, at worst, instigating parties, and clearly the tribunal would have to go very carefully into the facts of the individual case. So, too, would it if incest were to be one of the crimes of violence which came within its ambit. I think it would turn out that the number of cases falling into this category would be very small but, none the less, extremely deserving; and I hope, therefore, that my noble and learned friend will look carefully at this problem and at the points that have been made in the Justice Report on it.

I think the other problem that would arise in this field is the question of the length of time within which the victim of the crime should report the occurrence to the police in order to qualify himself or herself for the attention of the tribunal. In some sexual cases it would be much too short to say the qualifying time should be one week, as has been suggested. I think an extension would be needed if my thesis were to be adopted by Her Majesty's Government. I am sorry to have kept your Lordships so long, but I look forward very much to hearing the reply of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and I hope he will be able to indicate to your Lordships that some scheme of the nature that has been discussed this afternoon will soon be introduced in some form.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say just a word or two. I know that it is getting late, and I promise to be short. First of all, I was delighted to hear the noble and learned Viscount just now coming to the aid of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who came in for some rough handling at Lord Chorley's hands. I, too, was going to venture to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in his plea for the ex gratia fund but I feel that I am something of a lightweight, if not physically, at any rate when it comes to giving support to the arguments of noble and learned Lords. But perhaps the support of two members of the junior Bar is at least better than the support of only one. For what it is worth, I thought the ex gratia payment fund scheme had great attraction, and if it should be thought that this might involve a large strain on the Exchequer it is perhaps worth mentioning that the Working Party, in paragraph 13 of their Report, say this on the question of the amount of money likely to be involved in these cases: If this were to become a compulsory contributions scheme, the contribution of even one penny a week from all insured persons would raise far more than would be required for the purpose. In the context of the sort of sums of money that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to wrestle with in his annual Budget speeches it would appear that this would net be a very large sum. Furthermore, I suppose, the fund would be replenished to some extent by the reparations that would be received from criminals.

I would make one other point. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mancroft, in support of this afternoon's Motion, made the plea that the argument should not be used against it that it was the thin end of the wedge. My Lords, even the great eloquence of Lord Mancroft will not stop the use of that argument, and that fact has to be faced. I think the most recent plea for special treatment of people who are injured was mentioned in the Financial Times last Monday. It appears that quite a number of people living near London Airport were injured last year by particles of ice and other objects which fell from aircraft. In view of the fact that 160,000 aircraft a year take off or land at London Airport, this is perhaps not so surprising as it would seem at first sight. Of course those people have a legal right to claim damages from the aircraft operator. But in practice it has been found quite impossible in nearly every case to trace the particular aircraft concerned; and even if it were traced the unfortunate injured person would find himself suing somebody in a foreign country, and that would not be very easy for him. So the Association of Municipal Corporations, not surprisingly, put forward a plea for these people that they should receive compensation on some special basis. I do not suppose that they were surprised when their application was turned down.

I think the point is that when a crime of violence occurs it creates much greater abhorrence in people's minds than any accident, unless the accident is of huge proportions. One cannot help feeling that, as time goes on, in the case of a disabled person who has been injured some years previously he and his friends, and society generally, are going to come to take the view: "Does it matter so much how the injury was sustained? It did not happen from any fault of his. Is it right that the amount or quesion of his compensation generally should depend upon how he sustained his injury? The important thing is that he sustained it through no fault of his own." That being so, I should have thought that where an interval elapses and the question of how the original injury was sustained ceases to matter, the position is reached when these particular victims are going to say: "If a victim of criminal violence is to be compensated, why not us?" As a result, the door is going to be opened wider (at any rate, it is going to be pushed very hard to be opened much wider), than purely on the question of compensating victims of crimes of violence.

It is no use the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, asking people not to talk about this being the thin edge of the wedge, because it is, in a sense, the thin edge of the wedge; and that argument is certainly going to be used. This is not intended to be an argument against the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Longford. It may be a good thing that the door should be more widely opened, but let not the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, resent the pressure to open the door wider. That is all I want to say.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a most valuable debate, and although at one time I thought it was going to be one-sided, in the end it turned out that there has been a good deal of difference of opinion, and I believe that that is most helpful. At this time of night, when we are all anxious to hear the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, I do not propose to inflict myself on your Lordships for very long.

Although I say that there has been a considerable conflict of views, I think that, in the long run, we shall all agree that every noble Lord who has spoken accepted the doctrine—I will not call it the principle—that compensation in some form should be paid to some victims of violence. I can go as far as that, though it has been suggested that these are merely people who suffer misfortunes like many others and therefore have no particular right to be compensated. Even the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who was the most violent exponent against the doctrine of entitlement as of right, came out with the view that there should be a sum of money set aside by the State for distribution—he called it ex gratia, and so did the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—among people who are the victims of crime.

I cannot help feeling that the noble and learned Lord's bark is worse than his bite, because he has to face up to the implications of the State's providing ex gratia payments. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said that they could be paid out at the discretion of the tribunal. Does he mean absolute and unlimited discretion? Would he then give the tribunal directions about how they should use that discretion? He would. Would he give them a maximum that they should pay out? Yes, he would. Would he define the crimes of violence which should lead to compensation?


I said that.


I am bound to say that the discretion is gradually being whittled down more and more.


If the noble Lord reads my speech to-morrow, he will see that I set out five distinct heads of discretion which I thought the tribunal should have; and before that point, I said that there should be a list of crimes.


I do not think that there is any need for me to read the noble Lord's speech to-morrow, because I remember the heads of discretion he referred to. And they are all items which any tribunal, whether it be a court or the kind of tribunal, having discretion, which the noble Viscount wants to set up, or an informal tribunal, would inevitably have to take into account. Of course, they must take into account the degree of provocation. Of course, they must take into account various other matters. So, although we appear to be starting at different points, it seems to me that we have arrived at the same end: that there should be some body set up to use public monies for the purpose of compensating victims of crimes of violence.

Whether the crimes for which compensation should be paid should be all those set out in the Reports of the various Committees is, to my mind, a Committee point. If the Government are disposed to introduce legislation upon the subject, presumably they will set out a list of crimes in respect of which persons will be able to go to some tribunal and ask for (I must not use the word entitlement) an ex gratia payment as compensation. At that stage, we can look at it and see whether or not the schedule of crimes is what we want. The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, for example, has set out certain crimes for which he thought compensation should not be paid. But these are not big difficulties. What we expect, and what I hope the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to tell us, is that he accepts the principle and that he will give the Home Secretary the pleasure, to which he referred last November, of introducing legislation on the subject. Mr. Brooke then said: I hope that it may fall to me to introduce legislation on the subject, but we have first to decide which of these various different schemes which have been recommended by responsible bodies is the best solution as a whole. No doubt the Government have considered the various schemes and will be able to-day to give us the benefit of their consideration. What I am hoping to hear from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack is that the Government have accepted the principle of compensation, or of ex gratia payments (I really do not think we are very far apart), and which of these schemes or which combination of schemes he proposes to introduce.

I do not want to bring the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, to his feet again, but I would ask him, if there is to be am absolute discretion in the tribunal, whether there would be any appeal. I think that that follows. The noble Viscount was anxious that people should not have a sense of grievance. I do not think that a sense of grievance would toe removed if they felt that discretion had not been properly exercised, or that, on the facts of their case, they ought to have been compensated because the facts were similar to those in another case where a person had received compensation, by telling them that they are not claiming as an entitlement as of right, but are merely claiming an ex gratia payment. I think that it is almost unavoidable, if we set up some tribunal of this kind, with discretion, that there should be a right of appeal, if we are to give satisfaction to the general public and to those who are going to make claims.

My Lords, I said that I would not be long. I hope that I am keeping my promise. I felt that it might be useful if I pointed out that there is not all the difference between us that might be indicated by the language used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in trying to indicate that he was against entitlement as of right. The fact is that, like everybody else, he would like to see those unfortunate people who are the victims of crime compensated. Indeed, if I gather the tenor of his speech, probably he thinks that this does not go far enough, because some cases are not covered. Well, perhaps they can be covered by an ex gratia payment. At any rate, let us deal with those with whom we are definitely concerned to-day.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat has spent a good deal of his time in making some comments on the suggestion put forward by my noble and learned friend Lord Denning, and the noble Viscount, about a discretionary ex gratia scheme. I shall say something with regard to that at a later stage in my speech, if I may.

I should like to start by saying that I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that we have had a most interesting and valuable debate, and that we are all indebted to the noble Earl for spending his 57th birthday—and I should like to wish him many happy returns—An raising this subject on his Motion to call attention to the Report of the Working Party on Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence. I hope he will forgive my making the comment that I do not think we heard so much from him, or from other speakers in the debate, about the Report of the Working Party on Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence. Most of the debate has been taken up with discussing the Report of the Committee of Justice, over which the noble Earl presided, and perhaps, if I may say so, insufficient attention has been paid to the Report of the Working Party which is the subject the noble Earl selected for debate to-day. This is, I think, the first occasion on which this subject has been fully discussed in your Lordships' House, although I understand that some time ago the Motion was tabled but circumstances intervened which prevented its discussion. In view of its importance and the wide range of this debate, I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I take up some time in my reply.

Since the Report of the Working Party was published this subject has been studied by a number of outside bodies: the Conservative Party Committee, presided over by Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, a Committee of Justice presided over by the noble Earl, the Bow Group and the Association of Municipal Corporations, have all produced reports on this topic. The Government are grateful to them for the work they have done, and for their views. As might be expected, they differ to a considerable extent in their conclusions, but all these bodies agree that the innocent victims of crimes of violence should be compensated for the injuries they suffer, and that that compensation should be restricted to compenisation for personal injuries and not be given for loss or damage to property.

I have listened to nearly all of the debate to-day. I was unable, I am sorry to say, to hear the speech of my noble friend Lord Brentford and the whole of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Charley, but I think it is right to say that none of your Lordships has differed from these two propositions. There may be, of course, as my noble and learned friend Lord Denning has pointed out in what was, if I may say so with due respect, a very remarkable and interesting speech, cases where the injury received by the victim of violence is slight and where the victim of a cruel and heartless fraud suffers far more than a victim of violence. A widow reduced to penury by fraud, the loss of his life's earnings by an aged person mo longer able to earn, may lead to very considerable suffering: indeed, greater suffering than comes from just a broken bone. But it is, I think, the general view that if there is to be any compensation for the victims of crime, it should be limited to the victims of crimes of violence. For the innocent victims of such crimes we all feel sympathy, but we feel that sympathy alone is not enough. I think that has been the view expressed throughout this debate from all parts of your Lordships' House, despite differences of approach and different attitudes as to how the matter should be dealt with.

I think there is also a general feeling in all sections of society outside this House that something should be done to aid them, and many different suggestions have been received by the Government on that subject. Among the bodies to which I have referred, and in your Lordships' House to-day, there is no unanimity of view as to What should be done. My Lords, if provision is to be made for the victims of violence I should prefer to justify it, if I had to justify it, on the ground that it is right to do it; on the ground, as the Conservative Party Committe has put it, that the public feel a special sense of responsibility for the victims of criminal violence—your Lordships will see that that is a sentence quoted from their Report. I should not seek to justify it on the ground that if a crime of violence is committed the State has failed in its duty to protect the citizens of this country and should on that account pay compensation.

As my noble and learned friend Lord Denning has pointed out, many crimes of violence can occur without the State being at all at fault. The Working Party commented on this proposition of basing liability on the ground that the State had failed in its duty, and said—and rightly said, in my belief—that such a proposition is both dangerous and fallacious. I must confess that I was surprised to see that, despite their well-founded observations, the Committee over which the noble Earl presided sought to suggest the existence of an obligation on the part of the State to compensate for crimes of violence. I do not propose to spend more time on this point. If we make provision for compensation in such cases, then at least let us do it, not on account of arguments based on any pseudo-legal principles, or on any alleged breach of obligation by the State, but because it is a right step forward to take in the development of our social policy.

If it is a right step to take, then regard must be had to the problems involved, The Conservative Party Committee in their pamphlet said: It would probably astonish most people to discover how many and what important questions must be answered if a workable solution to this problem is to be found. My Lords, they were quite right. One simply cannot ignore the problems involved. The Working Party drew attention to them, and it is no use shutting one's eyes to them and pretending they do not exist, or have been solved, when in fact they have not.

In his preface to the Report of the Committee of Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, went so far as to say: There are no great, certainly no insurmountable, practical or administrative difficulties: there is no great involvement of public funds. I will come to the involvement of public funds later, but to-day the noble Lord said that none of the difficulties is new. That may well be the case: they have been made known and brought to public notice by the publication of the Working Party's Report. But it does not mean that they are any the less difficult. I am not seeking to suggest that the difficulties involved to which attention has been drawn are insurmountable, but they are certainly very formidable. To say that there are not great difficulties is, in my belief, entirely wrong and totally unjustified. No one who has read the Report of the Working Party could fail to appreciate their reality and, my Lords, I feel it to be my duty to remind your Lordships of some of them.

This in itself creates a difficulty for me for I do not want anyone in your Lordships' House or outside to get the impression that the Government are unsympathetic to claims for compensation for such victims. That is not the case. What is the case is that there is no easy solution to these problems, and that is the reason for the time that has been taken and is being taken in considering them. I do not want it to be thought that the Government are against any form of compensation and it would be wrong to draw any such inference from what I am about to say.

While there are some victims of crimes of violence whom your Lordships would unhesitatingly say should receive compensation, I venture to suggest that there are other victims of such crimes whose claims to compensation your Lordships would equally unhesitatingly reject. We have had instances in the course of the debate to-day of victims of the first category: the woman, the child, the aged person, who is brutally assaulted and suffers grievous injury. They not only command public sympathy but there is, as I have said, a very real and widepread feeling that they should receive compensation.

But there are other victims of crimes of violence. Take for instance a brawl in a public highway in which, say, half a dozen men are involved and two receive injuries, which may range from cuts and bruises to a fatal stab wound or a fractured skull, and the rest run away. The two who have been injured are victims of a crime of violence. They may, of course, have been two innocent persons set on by a gang. On the other hand, they may have instigated the fight or they may be members of a criminal gang who were attacked in retaliation for some similar injuries inflicted on members of a rival gang. If they instigated the fight, if they were members of a criminal gang, would it be right that they should receive compensation from the public purse, from the taxpayer, for the injuries they have received? Public opinion would, I am sure, react strongly against any suggestion that respectable citizens should, in a sense, subsidise gang warfare by compensating the casualities.

Take another case which may look simple at first sight. A husband beats his wife in their home and does her injury. There is no doubt at all that she is a victim of a crime of violence. She may be wholly innocent or she may have nagged him beyond all endurance. Should she have a claim for compensation? And if she is compensated, may not the offending husband benefit indirectly from his crime? The Committee of Justice suggests that in such a case there should be some procedure analogous to payment of money into court. But even if there were some such procedure, I think the court might find it very difficult to give the wife money without her husband benefiting from it

My Lords, I have given these two examples to illustrate the need to make adequate and satisfactory provision for distinguishing between victims of violence. At the one end of the scale there will be victims who your Lordships may feel should certainly receive compensation for their injuries; at the other end, those who your Lordships, with equal certainty, would say should not. In between there may be a wide range of cases as to which opinions will differ. And I would just say this: that any scheme, any workable scheme, must provide for distinguishing between the two categories, for drawing a line between the victims of violence.

It is not so difficult to draw up a list of crimes of violence—both the Committee of Justice and the Conservative Party Committee have done that—but it does not follow that every victim of a crime in the list, however it is compiled, should receive money from the State, although I think it was indicated by the noble Earl when he opened this debate that it really was enough to produce a list of crimes of violence. That, in my submission, is not the case.


My Lords, I cannot imagine what gave the noble Lord the impression that I thought that the whole job had been done by producing a list. I spoke for 31 minutes, which I hoped was long enough, but, of course, I could have gone on for ever.


My Lords, it may be that if the noble Earl had gone on for ever I should still have been left with the same impression. I based that observation on a passage which I thought he said, but we can no doubt correct it from Hansard, or I can correct my impression; at any rate, I am glad to hear from the noble Earl that this is not his view. But the Report of the Committee of Justice dealt very lightly with the procedure for distinguishing between victims of violence.

I want to turn now, if I may, to the size of the problem. The Working Party, in paragraph 26 of their Report, said that the total number of offences for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, felonious wounding, malicious wounding, indictable assaults, rape and robbery in England and Wales (excluding murders of children under the age of one) in 1959 was 15,524, of which 10,760 were malicious woundings, the majority of which, in their view, would not warrant compensation. And they felt, if I might remind your Lordships, that the total number of successful claims in 1959 would not have exceeded 5,000, and in their opinion the number would in fact have been considerably less. I mention those figures to indicate the extent of the problem of distinguishing between those who should and those who should not receive compensation where the offences of violence are known to the police and where there is no doubt that an offence has been committed.

The Working Party thought that this was one of the main difficulties to be overcome in any scheme. But the scheme must not only do that. It must surely also provide adequate safeguards against fraud. There could be fraudulent claims alleging injuries to have been sustained as a result of a crime when in fact there had been no crime; and there could, of course, be fraudulent exaggeration of the injuries received in a crime. Your Lordships, I am sure, would be the first to criticise a scheme which, while it covered the innocent victims, enabled the victims who were not so innocent and the fraudulent to dip their fingers in the public purse. I must confess that I was disappointed to see that the Committee of Justice, over which the noble Earl presided, did not really deal at all thoroughly with this question of fraudulent claims. The Working Party stressed that any scheme for State compensation, if I may quote their words, must provide means of distinguishing the deserving claimant from the undeserving or fraudulent, means which would be effective in operation and manifestly just. Where a crime of violence is followed by a prosecution, from the proceedings at the trial it may not be difficult to decide whether or not a victim should receive compensation. My Lords, I find it not possible to agree with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that the criminal court which has to deal with the criminal charge should, if I understood the noble Lord aright, then proceed to assess compensation. But in the case where there is a prosecution, where there is a conviction, it may not be so difficult to determine whether the victim is of a character to receive compensation. But it would not, in my belief, be acceptable to your Lordships or to the public that only where there was a prosecution resulting in a conviction should a victim of a crime of violence receive compensation, for so to limit the scheme would debar some genuine, innocent victims from compensation through no fault of their own.

But to extend the scheme to cases where there is no prosecution at all does open the door to fraud. Suppose, for instance, someone falls downstairs and breaks a leg—many accidents occur in the home. It would be very easy for a dishonest person to claim that he had found an intruder in the house, who pushed him down the stairs and then made his escape. It would not be very easy to establish that the claim was fraudulent. It is easy to say that the police would soon find out if it was; but would they? There might be plenty of suspicion and yet not a shred of evidence that it was. And surely in these days we must be careful, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said, about placing extra burdens upon the police. One would not want to find them spending time on investigating claims of alleged victims of violence at the expense of the prevention of crime.

Both the Committee of Justice and the Conservative Party Committee include rape among their list of crimes of violence. Indeed it would be difficult to exclude it. The Committee of Justice recognised that where the female had in fact consented she would be under a strong temptation to allege that she had been raped, and it is not unknown, as the Working Party point out, for a woman to do this to protect her reputation. But in view of this temptation the Committee of Justice think that a female should not be debarred from compensation just because she cannot prove rape. They think that she should still be able to secure it if the offence is unlawful sexual intercourse or indecent assault. That Committee in their Report say there should be compensation for pregnancy caused by a criminal offence and that the mother of the child should be entitled to some payment by way of contribution towards the child's maintenance.

To prevent fraud they suggest that the victims of crimes of violence should, as a condition precedent to obtaining compensation, be required to report the criminal offence to the police within one week of its occurrence. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, drew attention to the shortness of the period. It was an important point. The one week period would mean this: that where there was an alleged rape or unlawful sexual intercourse or other sexual offence the woman would report the alleged offence to the police before she knew she was pregnant, and it was put forward, if I understand it rightly, by Justice as something that would militate against fraud.

I must say that I can see that great difficulty might in some cases arise on the question whether the pregnancy was in fact due to the criminal offence. Suppose, for instance, that shortly after reporting an alleged rape the woman voluntarily associates with a man and a child is conceived. No criminal offence is committed and it is impossible to say whether that pregnancy was the result of the alleged offence or of the subsequent association. The position then might perhaps arise that the State would be liable to pay, if the Committee of Justice's recommendation was accepted, not only compensation for the expense of pregnancy and childbirth but also a contribution towards the maintenance of the other man's child, although none of this resulted from a crime of any kind.

The object of the proposals that have been put forward is that the innocent victims of crimes of violence should be compensated. Yet under the recommendations of the Committee of Justice, if I understand them correctly, it will be open to any girl under 16 who has had intercourse quite willingly and who subsequently becomes pregnant to claim compensation for the expenses of pregnancy and childbirth and a contribution towards the maintenance of the child on the same terms as the victim of a violent rape, provided, and provided only, that she has reported the matter to the police within a week. Although the Committee of Justice contemplate that many claims would be excluded because of the fact of consent or encouragement, it might often be difficult to establish the fact of consent, and compensation might well be paid to a girl who was not an innocent victim of a crime of violence in any natural sense of those words. I cannot believe that that would be right.

The requirement of a report to the police, while it might prevent some fraudulent claims, would not, I fear, be a very effective check against fraud. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, asked me to consider carefully the position with regard to the children who were born as a result of sexual offences. I can assure him that the most careful consideration is bound to be given to that problem, and I do not think he is right in concluding that the Working Party in any way expressed a concluded view upon the matter on behalf of the Government. I do not think that the Justice Committee's Report really provides an adequate check against fraud. The fraudulent claimant who could establish that he or she had suffered injuries might well be ready to go to the police and tell a false story of how his injuries were sustained, thinking, as might well be the case, that it would be impossible for the police to secure evidence to show the falsity of his claims.

My Lords, I hope I have convinced some of your Lordships that, whatever scheme of compensation is put forward, whether it be a scheme on the lines of the Conservative Party Committee, a scheme on the lines of the Committee of Justice or any other scheme, it must contain some satisfactory machinery for distinguishing between the deserving and the undeserving claimants and for the elimination of the fraudulent. I believe that these are the two main difficulties, and really they cannot be dismissed by the assertion that there are no great, certainly no insurmountable, difficulties, particularly when the Report of the Committee of Justice puts forward no satisfactory solution of them. Nor can they be dismissed just by saying, as the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, said today, "All this can be worked out." If we are going to have a practicable scheme some machinery of that kind must be found, and it follows from what I have said that whatever scheme is proposed it will be necessary to provide some body, some tribunal or some count to distinguish between those who should receive compensation and those who should not.

Now, what is to be the position, or what should be the position, if entitlement—I use that word because it occurs In the Reports but I use it, if I may say so to the noble Earl, in its ordinary meaning and with no particular legal quibble attached to it—to compensation is established? What form should that compensation take? You may have a hybrid scheme, but there are two clear cut issues, however you may blend it, in the end: one, a scheme based primarily on weekly payments related to the extent of the disability, payments of the character to which we are accustomed under the Industrial Injuries Scheme and under the War Pensions Warrant, or, alternatively, a lump sum payment putting a monetary value on the injuries sustained, as we are accustomed to in claims for personal injuries in the courts.

Of one thing I am sure: that it would not be possible to justify a higher weekly payment for a disability suffered by a victim of a crime of violence than can be secured for a similar disability, either by a war pensioner or by an injured person who is entitled to receive industrial injury benefit for which he has paid the necessary insurance contribution. The Committee of Justice recommend that the victim of violence should receive. a greater weekly payment. I must confess that I can see no valid reason why, if two persons suffer similar injuries, a victim of violence as a result of crime should receive more from the State in respect of the disability than the injured person or a war pensioner.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord whether it is not the case that the Conservative Committee, presided over by the present Attorney General, would also have made a higher offer?


My Lords, I have not that detail of the Conservative Committee Report present to my mind. My recollection is that the Report came down in favour of the court scheme, quite different from that of Justice.

My Lords, I do not propose to state all the difficulties that any scheme for compensation must surmount. There are others that anyone who reads the Report of the Working Party will see. I think it is true to say (I can assure the noble Earl that these Reports have been most carefully considered) (that in regard to all these difficulties the Reports so far produced do not provide a satisfactory solution. To-day the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, put forward a proposal which I hail not heard put forward in public before. He commented on, and drew attention to, the use of the word "entitlement". If I understood him correctly he, like the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Cuirass, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, was in favour of an ex-gratia discretionary scheme, because (if I heard Lord Denning, correctly) of the difficulties which would have to be surmounted in trying to devise any scheme, either on the lines of industrial injury benefit or on the lines of creating a quasi-tort committed by the State, or indeed a theoretical tort on the part of the State. To me it was a most interesting suggestion, and I can assure the noble Lords concerned that it will be given the most careful consideration.

I understood from the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that he was suggesting that broad principles should be laid down upon which any tribunal or body which had to administer it would work, but that within those broad principles there should be wide areas of discretion. I listened carefully to the criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I do not know whether it may be possible by some such scheme to overcome some of the difficulties to which the Working Party drew attention. I cannot go further than that to-day. But, quite clearly, any scheme which is to prove satisfactory must deal with those difficulties in one way or another.

There are two other points on which I should like just to touch. One is the question of the criminal contributing to the sum paid to the victim. That, as the noble Earl said in moving his Motion, raises a big question with regard to what happens in our penal institutions. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, reminded us, if the criminal can be traced, the victim can sue. Usually, of course, it is not worth doing, and unless big changes are made the question arises as to whether the criminal, having served his sentence, should be compelled, if he goes straight, to contribute part of his earnings to his victim. At first sight this seems quite attractive. But one must recognise that any such obligation might make it difficult to secure the rehabilitation of the offender, and might tend to make him revert to crime. It is a difficult question, and I cannot suggest to your Lordships what is the correct answer to it.

There is also the further question which was touched upon in this debate and in the Reports: that it is inherent in the proposals put forward that the victim should be able to receive compensation even though there is no conviction. Arguments were advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that the compensation should be paid promptly. I think it would scarcely be possible to try the claim for compensation before any pending criminal proceedings were disposed of, for a finding that there had been a criminal assault in proceedings for compensation might tend to prejudice a subsequent criminal trial. If proceedings for compensation were brought after the criminal trial, and the accused had been acquitted at that trial, it must be realised that the result of those proceedings for compensation might amount to a reversal of the verdict of "not guilty" at the criminal trial. This would not be satisfactory. I hope that I have said enough to indicate that there are real difficulties which must be dealt with before any scheme for compensation can be introduced.

I should like now to turn to the question of expense. The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, has said that there would be no great involvement of public funds, and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to-day drew attention to that aspect. I do not know what, nowadays, is to be regarded as a "great involvement". The Committee of Justice thought that their scheme would involve over £1 million. Even in these days, it is surely wrong to describe that as no great involvement. The Committee based their estimate on the figures given in the Working Party's Report of the estimated cost in 1959. The Working Party described their figures as highly speculative. But, working on the same basis as they did, and taking into account the increases since 1959 in crimes of violence, in the rates of National Insurance benefit and in legal and administrative costs, I can tell your Lordships what would have been the estimated approximate cost to the taxpayer in 1961.

In the case of an industrial injuries type of scheme, compensation would amount to £1,166,000, with administrative and other costs of £158,000—a total of £1,324,000. In the case of what I may call the court scheme, compensation would amount to £1,380,000, with administrative and other costs of £516,000—a total cost of £1,896,000. So I do not think that one can say that there would be no great involvement of public funds. What I think is disturbing is the relationship between the administrative costs and the total of compensation. In both cases it seems high, and one would like to find some satisfactory way of reducing it.

I hope that I have not exhausted your Lordships' considerable patience, but this has been an important debate and a valuable one. I have listened with the greatest interest to the views expressed by your Lordships, and I can assure you that they will be most carefully considered. My Lords, inevitably a great deal of my speech has been related to the difficulties involved. I have not referred to all of them. I hope that I have satisfied your Lordships that there are many important questions which must be answered if a workable solution to this problem is to be found. I hope that a satisfactory answer can be found to these questions, and work is being done upon them. I have drawn attention to some of the difficulties, but it should not be inferred that the Government are not sympathetic and are not doing their best to find a satisfactory answer, if one can be devised. May I finally, my Lords, once again express my thanks to the noble Earl for raising this subject?

7.2 p.m.


My Lords. I should like to thank all those who have taken part in this debate perhaps those who are not present will forgive me if I do not mention them, but I would mention in particular the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Lords, Lord Airedale, Lord Silkin, and of course the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. I hesitate to go beyond that list, but I could hardly perhaps pass over the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, for example, or those of the noble Lords, Lord Chorley and Lord Denning, without saying how deeply interesting they were. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, was kind enough, on behalf of the Government, to thank all those who had taken part in these inquiries, and in so far as I am competent to do so, even regarding perhaps the Conservative Committee of Members of Parliament—though it is a long time since I would have been in any position to speak for them—I should like to tender my thanks to him for what he said about our work.

He was also twice good enough to thank me for raising this subject, and mentioned that I had now reached the advanced age of 57, which puts me on an age equality with him if I am equal in no other respects.

However, although exercising all the charity and imagination in the world, he did not feel able to say anything nice about my actual speech. He could not pay me, I noticed, even the mildest compliment in the course of his 40 minutes. Therefore, he will not expect me to go out of my way to say anything nice about his. But, trying hard for a compliment, and remembering what was said about lawyers being superior to jurists—though I had always thought it was the other way round—I should like to say that his speech struck me as that of an eminent lawyer rather than that of a great jurist. I hope I have put that in in a way which is entirely complimentary, or thought to be so in legal circles.

The Lord Chancellor felt it was his duty to labour the difficulties, and he certainly did his duty very thoroughly in that respect. I am reminded, of course, of the difficulties which confront all social reformers. I worked for a long time as a humble bottle-washer for the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, when we were drawing up his Report. There came a moment when Lord Beveridge, as Chairman of a Committee which included about a dozen civil servants, came to the conclusion that he would get on better without their services and he duly sacked them. We have had the Beveridge Report and I think most people agree that quite a lot of the Welfare State emerged as a result. I can only give the Lord Chancellor the humble suggestion that he should not pay too much attention, perhaps, to the views expressed in this Working Party's Report Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence. I felt his speech to-night was not offensive, but rather defensive, if I may say so. He seemed to have some kind of brief to defend the authors of this Report; at any rate, he defended them very adequately and bravely. I will not go into the detailed points.

To be frank, I am sorry that the Government have not gone further forward with their thinking. Of course there are bound to be a lot of difficulties. I will leave the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, to defend himself; he is fully capable of doing so, and I do not think—to adopt what Sir Winston Churchill once said—that he will feel himself "utterly extinguished" by the Lord Chancellor's censure. However, I am sorry the Government have not gone further forward. I would have hoped the Lord Chancellor should have been able to be more forthcoming. I gather he is not in any way going back upon what the Home Secretary said on November 8. He said then that he hoped to be in a position to make a statement before long, and hoped that it would fall to him to introduce legislation. I hope I can take it that those statements are not affected or damaged in any way by what has been said tonight.


I would not seek to qualify those statements in one degree.


For that, at least, I am very grateful. I hesitate to argue further, partly because of the night outside and partly because those of us who care for these things here are so much in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary and quite a number of officials—who may not like everything I have been saying.

I can only end by recalling a conversation which took place many years ago between the late Lord Birkenhead and an Oxford tutor who was teaching his son. Lord Birkenhead asked the tutor what it was he was teaching his son. The reply was "Political economy". Lord Birkenhead replied, "Political economy? That's a bastard science—neither politics nor economy. But I'll forgive you your bastard science if you will get my son through his preliminary examination." I think we shall all forgive the noble and learned Viscount his inevitably negative reply if he will give us the Bill which, in his heart, I feel sure he as anxious to give us.

My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.