§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a very small Bill. I have to confess to a mistake in the Criminal Justice Bill of last year, and it is essential that this Bill should be passed before the 1st July, because otherwise very great inconvenience will be caused in the administration of justice. The House will remember that as long ago as 1907, when the probation system was first made a part of the law of our land, it became possible for persons who were convicted to be put on probation, but there was also a provision that, without even patting them on probation, if the offence of which they were convicted was but a very slight one indeed, the magistrate could let them off, merely ordering the payment of costs. When we came to amend the Criminal Justice Bill last year, to put the probation system on a sound basis, by some mistake—I do not know whose it was, whether it was a mistake of my Department, or the drafting department, or of myself personally—in amending the law we omitted, when reviewing one of the Clauses, to reinstate the power of magistrates to let a person off merely on payment of costs, which would generally amount to only a few shillings. That would have exceedingly inconvenient results. Every year some 47,000 people are convicted without being sent to prison or ordered to pay a fine, their offences being very minor ones. I dare say the House saw the other day that some boys in London were playing cricket in the streets. The magistrate made some kindly remarks, saying that it was not a ease in which the boys should be either sent to prison or fined, the summons was withdrawn on payment of 2s. costs, and the boys went off scot free. Unless this little Bill which I am now putting before the House to re-enact this provision be passed, the magistrates of the land, and the Judges also, will be in serious difficulties, because in many 264 thousands of cases all over the country—I have not the exact number—people are let off, and have been let off for some years past, merely on payment of costs, without being put on probation, because the cases were not sufficiently serious. That is the power which, by the main Clause of this Bill, I want the House to restore to the magistrates. I apologise most frankly and sincerely to the House for giving this trouble, because the mistake made in the Criminal Justice Bill of last year was undoubtedly made in my Department.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
L: I understand that the only difficulty is that these words relating to costs are now conjunctive in the Act, and the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have them disjunctive, because, so long as they are conjunctive, the power of the magistrates is limited. Therefore, so far as I can see, this proposal is entirely in the interests of offenders put on probation, and, so far as I am concerned, I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the.Bill."—[Sir. W. Joynson-Hicks.]
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment,
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I desire to thank my hon. Friends in all quarters of the House for helping me in this matter. I am very glad that the Bill is passed.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.