§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to cases in which sentences of birching have been passed by magistrates on youthful offenders at Durham on 5th December, 1902, at Slough on 1st January, 1903, at Worcester on 20th February, 1903, and at West Ham on 21st February, 1903; and to the fact that in cases where a sentence of birching would have been illegal, magistrates have induced the parents of boys to consent to the infliction of private chastisement at the hands of a police officer, and within the precincts of the court; and, if so, will he say whether the use of the officers and precincts of the court for this purpose has received his sanction.
(Answered by Mr. Secretary Akers-Douglas.) My attention having been drawn to the four cases of birching mentioned by the hon. Member, I made 298 inquiry into the circumstances, but found no ground for action on my part, though in two of them I addressed a communication to the magistrates. I may add that in all four cases the newspaper reports, in consequence of which representations had been made to me, were inaccurate in material points. As regards the last part of the Question it is most desirable to avoid by all legitimate means the sending of youthful offenders to prison; and, in order to do so, magistrates sometimes discharge a boy on condition that the parents undertake that some personal correction shall be administered. In such a case the Secretary of State cannot interfere, nor is his sanction necessary to allow of the correction being, administered by a police officer or in the precincts of the court.