HC Deb 15 July 1910 vol 19 cc836-7W

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the fact that a considerable number of boys, who have never been previously convicted, are committed to Preston prison owing to their inability to pay the fines and costs ordered by magistrates to be paid for trivial offences against by-laws; whether he will, by means of a circular addressed to each individual magistrate, urge the desirability of not making any order for payment of costs where a small fine only is imposed for such trivial offences, and of resorting to every other alternative before ordering fines and costs to be paid by boys, so as to avoid the stigma of imprisonment; whether the justices who constitute the visiting committee of Preston prison have requested that an inquiry should be held into the above matter; whether he will cause such an inquiry to be held, or whether he will take any, and what, steps in the matter; and (2) whether his attention has been called to the fact that a boy under the age of sixteen years was, on 6th June, 1910, ordered by the magistrates sitting at the Wigan Borough petty sessions to pay costs amounting to 13s. 10d., in addition to a fine of 1s., for sparring in the streets with another boy; and whether, in view of the fact that the magistrates imposed costs exceeding the amount of the fine, and the boy was committed to Preston prison in default of payment of the fine and costs without any certificate as required by the Children Act, 1908, that the boy had never been previously convicted of any offence whatever, that the visiting committee for Preston prison paid the fine and costs in order to obtain the boy's release, and that the visiting committee have requested that an inquiry should be held, he has taken or will take any steps in the matter?


My attention has been called to this matter by the visiting committee of Preston prison, who secured the immediate discharge of four boys by paying their fines, and I am making inquiry. The commitment of youths to prison for non-payment of fines is a serious matter, and, as I have already told the House, I am endeavouring to find an effective remedy.