§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [29th November], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Clynes
I rise to offer a few observations in support of the Second Reading of this Bill, subject to some reservations indicated in the statements made on these benches when the Bill was previously before us. The Bill is a bulky one, covering a very great variety of prison conditions, and is in large part a Bill suited more for minute examination in its Committee stage. The House has offered to its general purpose and principle a welcome that has surprised none of us, for everyone agrees that, much as has been done over the last 40 or 50 years, much still remains to be completed. We may take some little pride in the progress that has been made in the last 50 years in the direction of prison reform, and it can be said, of anything that has been done along that humanitarian path, that no suggestion has ever come from any quarter to reverse whatever change was made by previous legislation or by administrative acts. This Bill, like other Measures of its kind, is the result of extensive inquiries by commissons, by committees, and by every effort to do the better thing as the result of trial and error. I may claim some little personal association with certain parts of the Bill, for, during the short time that I was at the Home Office, I applied my mind to some of these problems, and created more than one committee for the purpose of investigation.
It is often said that the House of Commons is seen at its best when dealing with non-party questions. There are no party interests in this Bill; there are no votes in it; it is mainly designed to aid a voteless and a helpless group of outcasts. We are advised, by those who criticise our methods, not to let our sentiment outrun our discretion. This Measure is a social and a national necessity, and we are moved more by experience than by sentiment in asking the House to give it a unanimous Second Reading. There 632 have been occasional newspaper reports, affording somewhat sensational reading, of revolts in prisons, of disturbances, of efforts to escape or of actual escape. One of these instances of revolt, not on a large scale, but still serious, occurred in Glasgow some time ago. There was an inquiry, and I would like to read a line or two from the report of Sir George Rankin, who was responsible in the main for that investigation. In his report he says that he interviewed nine prisoners about the unrest in that prison, and he was particularly impressed by the candour of their statements. That kind of interviewing might, in my view, be carried much further, because there has not yet been any comprehensive investigation into prison management similar to that which has proceeded in relation to many features of prison life. Much might be revealed if we had a comprehensive inquiry into prison management on these lines, for peace within the prison, or, at least, the avoidance of instances of revolt, must largely depend upon the spirit of the prison control and direction, and, although that has been greatly improved, I believe there is still some reform and change that might well take place.
I am not for a moment implying that those who generally are responsible for prison direction and management are at fault, but the public need the enlightenment which might well result from a frank inquiry such as I have suggested. I have recently read a book by a man who at different periods, in several large patches of his life, has spent a total of 20 years in prison. He does not allege that those in charge of prisons are generally unjust or harsh in their treatment of prisoners. I would like to read to the House a paragraph of his testimony, because prison warders, governors and others in charge have been frequently charged with indiscretion, harshness and tyranny beyond all expression. This is what the prisoner of 20 years' experience writes:Were it at all feasible, I should be proud to publish the names of all those officers who, in the past 20 years, have done much to ease the lot of one who was in their charge. Failing this, and for obvious reasons it is impossible to do it, may I beg of you who read this book, whenever you come across lurid accounts in the sensational Press about the brutality of the prison 'screw,' to read those accounts with a grain of salt, and to remember that even 'screws' are human.633 In like manner, when we have thrown men into prison, let us not forget that they are human, and must be treated like their fellow creatures more or less outside. There are regulations and rules which on occasion, I think, are too fully worshipped. They might be more elastic, or they might be made a little more human in their action. In many of our institutions the word "discipline" is perhaps the most overworked word in the language and I suppose that that is more so in our prisons than anywhere else. Repression is too often mistaken for discipline. Stern and unbending enforcement of authority, especially if applied with a military mind, may exact obedience, but it creates the mentality out of which grievances grow and from which later on disturbance is sure to arise.
Let us ask ourselves what is the aim what is the general object of a sentence of imprisonment. It is not merely, if at all, punishment. The main feature of imprisonment is, of course, loss of liberty. The chief object of imprisonment ought to be, not revenge, but reformation. Correction should aim at improvement, and the whole of our prison treatment should be designed to make the offender forget his past, and think better of mankind when again he has to mingle with his fellows after leaving the prison. In some cases one month within the walls of a gaol may be a handicap for life, so that punishment in some form is not concluded at the end of the sentence. I am very glad to find in the Bill a minor provision which I think is of great importance to individual wrongdoers who have served their time. That is the abolition of what is known as the ticket-of-leave. There is to be another and better form whereby the liberated prisoner will have to keep some kind of contact with authority, but the abolition of that label will, I think, be a great relief to many who have suffered because of having to observe its conditions in the past. In all these matters we must not only put our hearts into the question; we must have our heads there as well. Accordingly, I want to draw attention to a matter which is very rarely referred to in the Press or discussed in this House. We want, not merely consideration and pity for those who are convicted. I think we have too frequently lavished nearly the whole of our commiseration upon the offenders during the term of their imprisonment. We must have consideration 634 for the conditions under which the victims of crime are left after crimes are committed.
To illustrate my point, I take any newspaper in the earlier part of this week giving a report of two events. One was that of a prisoner who escaped from the roof of a gaol and was able to shout to the public some protest about the state of his food, that he was starving. There followed, in the course of the day, the comment which one heard, "Poor fellow. What a terrible thing that he should not have enough to eat." I raise no objection to that, but we must not limit our consideration to the poor fellow, who may have a good appetite and, perhaps, not enough to satisfy it. On that same date, and in any newspaper, there was a report that two men entered the shop of a jeweller, who was a man 62 years old. It was in Camden Town. They asked him to value a gold watch chain, and then they hit him on the head with a sock filled with lead. That sock was left in the course of the escape, and the man in the shop, struggling to get up, got a kick on the jaw from one man, which knocked him unconscious.
That is not an isolated instance. There are hundreds of lasting disabilities from these cowardly assaults, and there are many men, women and children who never recover from the shock of attack and from brutal ill-treatment by burglars or violent criminals. Permanent and pathetic disabilities frequently result from shattered nerves, and numbers of adults to-day bear the deep scars of horrible injuries done to them in childhood or in youth. To the offenders responsible for these cases, what is to be done? These men may have a grievance against the social system which has made them outcasts and made them desperate, but they have no excuse for nightmare onslaughts against innocent people, and they must turn to some alternative in their distress instead of wreaking their vengeance on innocent individuals. Such offenders are at length captured and imprisoned and thereby punished. Punishment ought not to involve any sort of cruelty, no matter under what conditions of refinement it may be concealed, and accordingly it is in the small things of life, which are great things to a prisoner, that you can easily inflict unnecessary hardships. Things trifling to us may be most precious to the man in gaol. Take the instance of a 635 match. Regulations have been relaxed and more humane administration has softened the blow in many of these cases, as in the matter of occasional opportunities for smoking. Here, again, in this book to which I have referred, is an illuminating instance of the shifts to which a prisoner will resort to satisfy his appetite for a smoke. He writes:I had managed to smuggle in one or two Swan vestas in the band of my hat, but as these were rare articles in prison and exceedingly hard to get hold of, I split each one of them into five with a pin, thus making 15 matches from three—a delicate operation until one has got thoroughly used to it. I then climbed on to the table and had a smoke, being careful to blow each mouthful out of the small window.Reading that, it recalled the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who offered his welcome to this Bill on Tuesday last, was once in prison with quite a number of his colleagues. They were in gaol for reasons of conscience, and some of us went occasionally to see them. I asked my right hon. Friend what it was that his colleagues—not he himself, because he is a non-smoker—seemed to feel most as a degradation, as perhaps the key feature of their punishment, and he replied, "The loss of tobacco, the inability to smoke." I do not mind admitting that I know of some prison visitors who did not observe the regulations and used their visit to conceal the precious weed and somehow hand it over.
The prisoners' sense of injustice to themselves is very keen indeed. However wrong their conduct has been out of gaol, in it they very deeply prize what are deemed to be their rights. So far as their rights are expressed in regulations, prisoners are very apt to have a highly developed conception of those rights. They are paying bitterly for wrongs which they have inflicted on others, and in exchange for their ordeal they look with penetrating minds upon opportunities for relaxation and any chance of a little freedom that the regulations and customs of a prison may afford. Warders and Governors in recent years have been recruited, not because of their physical attributes, but because of their qualities of skilful and common-sense management of men. In prison, authority without sympathy can lead to serious trouble, and it is often the case that brutality with 636 prisoners is never forgiven. It may not consist of a physical act; it may be expressed in commands that reveal contempt for inferiors, commands that are intended to break the spirit of the men who must obey them.
I see in this Bill certain Clauses referring to what I might term the Borstal system of prison treatment. I took occasion when in office to visit such institutions, in the case of both girls and boys, and I regard our Borstal system as a helpful development of British prison arrangements. Here and there we may find a paragraph in the Press telling how a Borstal boy has gone wrong again. If there is a single lapse of that kind, you may depend upon it it is used and will be the occasion for comment. On the other hand, the greater number of boys who are educated, trained, physically developed, and mentally improved by Borstal treatment is scarcely news at all, and very little is ever said of it in the Press or in any other way. On the whole, I think it may be claimed that the results of our Borstal methods justify that branch of our prison system.
There are certain Clauses under this head which I regard with misgiving, on account of the wide powers of detention which they confer upon our courts. Clause 31, for instance, empowers magistrates in courts of summary jurisdiction to commit youths and girls to Borstal. That is too great a power for a summary court, especially for lay justices. It abolishes the old limitations which the existing law places on eligibility for Borstal, namely, previous convictions, criminal habits, and other like tendencies. It automatically carries with it the abolition of the right of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal and leaves only the right of appeal to quarter sessions. In my view, there is danger in the very wide powers given to sentence to preventive detention up to 10 years for almost any serious offence, where there are two or three previous convictions. If hon. Members turn to Schedule 1, it will be found that that Schedule includes almost every serious offence. Under Clause 18 it will become necessary to convict an offender before placing him on probation. Since the passing of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, the probation system has worked well, without the recording of a conviction, and it seems to be a retrograde step to alter this, even with the 637 legal safeguards in Clause 20. It should, however, be quite easy to provide sufficient safeguards against these dangers or so to change the terms of this Clause during the course of its Committee stage.
I want at this stage to approach an aspect of the problem which I think has not been treated previously in this Debate. In the "Times" in recent weeks there has been quite a number of very revealing letters on the subject of a man's trouble to get a job after he has left gaol. There are poverty and enforced idleness even when a man is free and has finished his term. Here is a paragraph from one of these letters which appeared quite recently in the "Times" from a man who signed himself "An ex-convict," and who wrote more than once to that paper:Through foolish speculation I lost everything and was sentenced to a term of penal servitude. I make no excuse for my folly, nor do I seek to escape the blame for it. I am sorry for what I have done, but I came out of prison still a comparatively young man, willing and able to work, anxious to rehabilitate myself, and resolved, so far as possible, to repair the wrong that I had done. I have been discharged nearly a year now and have sought high and low for a job, willing to take anything in reason, but all to no purpose. In the competitive labour market of to-day, with employment so scarce, I have found it impossible so far to get a footing in this honest world where so much emphasis is laid upon testimonials and good character.I suggest to the House that this is a problem which must be faced with detachment and with some resolve to find a remedy. There may be many who read what I may say who will not share my views, but a sentence is not the end of a prisoner's case. It is the beginning of another chapter in his life. Imprisonment itself is a manifold penalty. If we read that a man has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, we think of that sentence as a period, as a term, but it is more than that; it involves physical punishment, loss of wages over a long period, loss of work, and on emergence from gaol it means that you carry a permanent taint. Of course, to protect itself, society must correct and must deprive wrongdoers of their liberty, but the nation must not merely send a man to prison; the nation must save itself against and from the effects of imprisonment.
These effects may express themselves, as I have said, in the form of enforced 638 idleness and in many other forms of evil social consequences. These are conditions which often drive a man back to prison again. Unless a released prisoner can fit himself into our social system, the cost of having sent him to gaol is wasted. The prisoners' aid societies have done much, and the State gives them a little help. It is too much, however, to leave these societies mainly dependent on charity. Employers, with few exceptions, are disinclined to find employment for ex-prisoners. The State ought to go further than it does now, and accept some responsibility for finding work. I do not mean that the gateway from gaol should be an opening to employment, or that there should be a responsibility upon the country to find work for ex-prisoners.
But very much can be done in selected cases where men become, unhappily, the victims of our social system after they have served their terms. The nation and its scores of municipal bodies are very large employers of labour. A great variety of vacancies automatically occur every day. The State and public bodies could easily find some of these men work, and employers, more than is now the case, should be induced to employ some proportion of these ex-prisoners. There must first be a change in the public outlook and opinion. That will depend on this House, and upon the statements made by responsible Ministers and those humanitarians who specialise in work of this kind. In the case of certain of our local authorities and State workshops, arrangements can easily be made for fitting men into suitable employment. The identity of a man need not necessarily be known, as it might easily do him considerable harm if it were. On the whole, I believe the system would work. In short, efforts to find work for ex-prisoners should be raised to the level of a system. They should be undertaken jointly by the prisoners' aid societies and some advisory committee, actively in touch with the problem, which includes some responsible official of the Home Office. I repeat that this matter should not be left entirely to charity, and that the State should break down the prejudice which to-day perpetuates punishment long after men come out of gaol. Above all, publicity concerning ex-prisoners should be avoided. Lurid or sensational reports about men fresh from prison are a serious disservice 639 to the country and a serious injury to men who have paid a heavy price for any wrong. I am not asking for any privilege for ex-prisoners. I am asking that the serious handicap that any length of imprisonment always involves should be lessened so far as State action can secure.
I was glad to see on Tuesday, if I may say so, the splendid contribution which was made on this subject in the speech of the Home Secretary. He was among the first to admit the influence of unemployment as a contributory cause to crime. I believe it is a very important cause. Unemployment and poverty, as long as they remain at their present scale and dimensions, will express themselves in breaches of the law, as many a chief constable has recently pointed out. Let me take an aspect of this matter of poverty and unemployment, concerning the physical effects of poverty on the children. According to the Medical Officer's report, nearly half the children entering the elementary schools are found to have something the matter with them. In 1935, 14 per cent. were found to be verminous, five out of six were inadequately nourished, 44 per cent. suffered from dental decay, and one-third failed to pass the test for normal vision. Professor Burt, psychologist to the London County Council, reports that in nearly all cases of educational backwardness, that condition is aggravated by defects in the child's physical and social environment. Anyone who has visited a prison has at once seen the picture of these children reflected in the grown-ups, as has anyone who has acted as a magistrate or attended for any length of time any of our courts. In face of these facts, some people tell us to beware of tendencies which they say will make the prison better than a home. That is not saying much against the prison, but it certainly is not saying much for many of the homes of this country. The application of this problem to crime is so real that all of us should apply ourselves to lessening the degree of poverty as far as we can.
Finally, let me quote testimony from a doctor who is in charge of one of the London institutions which has to handle children and adolescents who have been charged in the courts. He says:Twenty-two per cent. of these children are under-nourished, 18 per cent. are of poor physique, 90 per cent. are educationally backward and nearly 50 per cent. are four years behind.640 This Bill will receive the approval of the whole country and the whole of the Press, and, as I believe, the unanimous approval of this House. It will prove that, individually, we have become more human and enlightened in these last 50 years—or even less. Yet, in the mass, mankind is capable of very great cruelties and of wrongs much worse than ever we had in former years. Many ex-prisoners sitting on these benches have offered their welcome to this Bill, and I, who have been in prison only to see the prisoners, with freedom to walk out again, add my welcome to theirs, and hope that the House will give it unanimous approval.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. T. M. Cooper)
In the course of his arresting and interesting speech, the right hon. Gentleman has struck the same note of helpful and constructive criticism which characterised the Debate on Tuesday, and I thank him for that. Might I at once touch on two of the topics to which he referred? He spoke of the need for mitigating the severity of prison treatment in many respects. I should like to assure him that, even in the last few years, even since he was at the Home Office, progress along these lines has been steady and substantial. As regards the use of tobacco, to which he referred, it is some years now since all prisoners on remand and awaiting trial were given liberty to smoke, and at all convict prisons and local prisons, where the earnings scheme is in force, men may smoke, provided they can earn the money to buy the tobacco, after they have been in prison for a certain time. So that matter is on the way to being solved.
The other topic to which he referred, and in which I was specially interested, was the question of employment of discharged prisoners. That is a subject for which a great deal has been done by the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society and other organisations of that kind. But I am bound to say, looking at the question in the light of my own personal experience, which is probably the same as that of many hon. Members, it is a terribly difficult thing to be faced, as I am, practically every week-end in my constituency, with appeals from many men who have no convictions against them, but have honourable records, for 641 assistance in getting a job, and to have to put against their claims the claims of the man who has come out of prison. This is a practical difficulty, and I am sure all hon. Members have come up against it. It has to be dealt with as best we can, by administrative methods or otherwise; but it is not quite within the four corners of this Bill.
I shall try to deal as I go on with various other topics to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, but I would like to use the time at my disposal primarily in dealing with one special aspect of the problem, on which I am particularly qualified to speak, and that is the application of the Bill to Scotland; and also the points of divergence in the proposals of the Bill for England and for Scotland. What I have to say on these topics may not only be of some assistance to hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, but it may also cast a reflected light on the purely English problem, because of the special experience we have had in Scotland.
In the first place, I would deal, in a word, with a criticism addressed to me by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill), which I have seen repeated elsewhere. That is the question of the form of the Measure, so far as Scotland is concerned. The criticism is that it is unfortunate that it should be necessary, on a subject like this, to present to those who have to administer and interpret this measure a patchwork Bill which adopts for Scotland some portion of the proposals, adapts others, and leaves out others. I am very conscious indeed of the defects of that method of legislation. Wherever it is practicable, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have striven, by means of separate Bills and other devices, to avoid that method. I look forward to the day—and I hope it will be soon—when it will be possible to extend into the field of criminal justice in Scotland the process which has been applied with considerable success in other branches of legislation; the gathering together into a single comprehensive Measure of all the sections which to-day require to be picked out from half a dozen Acts, scattered over the Statute Book from 1908 to 1938.
But in this case I feel that the course that has been adopted by the Govern- 642 ment is the correct course, and I think I can satisfy the House that it is so. A large proportion of the constructive reforms proposed in this Bill are just as necessary and desirable North of the Tweed as they are South of the Tweed, and there are obvious practical considerations which render it most undesirable that the law on one side of the Border should be different from that on the other. All these proposals depend upon wide considerations of social policy which recognise no local boundaries, and in most instances, if not in all, these proposals flow from the recommendations of committees which have examined both the Scottish and the English aspects of the problem. Accordingly it seems to me—and I think the House will agree—quite unjustifiable, for purely drafting reasons and merely for the sake of convenience, either to ask this House twice in a single Session to cover the same ground, or, what is probably still more undesirable, to postpone in their application to Scotland reforms which on their merits are held to be desirable in England. Here is a common problem ripe for legislation, and I submit that the course we have adopted in joining forces with England in this matter is the correct one.
Before I turn to the half-a-dozen detailed topics on which I wish to say a word or two in explanation of the course which we have taken, the House might desire to have one or two figures to complete the picture which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave in introducing the Bill on Tuesday night. The figures are interesting from more than one point of view, as indicating both the magnitude of the Scottish problem and the slightly different character of that problem in Scotland as distinguished from England. Taking the year 1937, the total number of convictions in Scotland was 115,000, which compares with the English figure of 800,000, and in both countries more than 99 per cent. of these convictions were obtained in courts of summary jurisdiction. It is interesting to note that the percentage of fines in Scotland was more than in England—75 per cent. against 81 per cent., but that the percentage of cases dismissed with an admonition was much higher. The Scottish figure is 18 per cent., compared with the English figure of 10 per 643 cent. The percentage of the persons convicted who were sent to imprisonment, penal servitude or Borstal is practically the same in both countries, roughly 4.7 per cent. or 5 per cent.
On the other hand I regret to say that the figures of juvenile delinquency in Scotland are proportionately very much higher than those in England, and they reveal the same tendency to increase which is shown by the English figures. For 1935 the English figure was 25,543 and the Scottish figure 11,422; for 1936 the English figure was over 27,000 and the Scottish figure approximately 12,500; and for 1937 the figures were 29,000 and 12,000 respectively. This is not the time to attempt to investigate the reason for the disproportions in the figures which apply to Scotland, but the House will recognise from the particulars I have furnished that the question is one of considerable magnitude, particularly in relation to the juvenile delinquent.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
Can the Lord Advocate, in regard to the figures relating to juvenile delinquents, tell the House the ages they cover?
§ The Lord Advocate
The figures I have given cover all persons under 17 who come before the courts.
With these explanations I shall deal with certain aspects of the Bill which have arisen for discussion during Tuesday's Debate and in the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. A considerable portion of the Bill is devoted to the subject of probation, and all these provisions of the Bill are excluded from application to Scotland, and for this reason. Probation, both in Scotland and in England, is founded upon a Statute of 1907, but for a variety of reasons the Scottish system and the English system have widely diverged since 1907, both on the administrative side and on the legislative side. It was found, when attention was given to the matter, that to have attempted in this Bill simultaneously to consolidate the English probation Statutes and the Scottish probation Statutes would have created more confusion than it removed. Accordingly the decision had to be taken—and the House may take it that it is not a question of wisdom but of necessity—to deal with the consolidation of the Scottish Probation 644 Acts in a second Measure, and accordingly Scotland has had to depart altogether from the provisions of this Bill on that subject.
There are two other provisions which are excluded from operation in Scotland for a totally different reason. Clause 11 of the Bill deals with State remand homes for juvenile delinquents between 14 and 17, and Clause 12, Sub-section (2), deals with juvenile attendance centres for young persons between 12 and 17. Both these provisions are not to be applied to Scotland, and the reason is that these are the only provisions of the Bill, I think I am right in saying, which directly impose new duties and new expenditure on local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has made it plain on more than one occasion that it is his intention and desire not to impose such new duties or new expenditure on Scottish local authorities without the fullest consultation and conference with them in order that due weight may be given to their special knowledge and experience of the Scottish problem. These consultations are taking place, and I believe they are practically completed. What the ultimate decision will be I cannot forecast, but in pursuance of my right hon. Friend's desire these provisions have not been applied to Scotland, although, as I have endeavoured to indicate, the question of applying them at a later date, whether as they stand or in some modified form, is not altogether excluded.
I pass now to another group of Clauses which we have not applied to Scotland. Clauses 38 and 39 deal, as the House will probably remember, with an inquiry into the mental condition of persons who are, or who are suspected to be, suffering from some form of mental disorder, and supplement the powers of the Court to make orders under the Lunacy Act. The reason why we have excluded these Clauses from application to Scotland is that in Scotland we have an entirely separate legal statutory code dealing with lunacy in relation to crime and to other aspects of civil life. That code has not proved satisfactory. In various respects it has proved both deficient and ineffective, and in February of this year the then Secretary for Scotland now the Minister of Health, appointed a Departmental Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Russell with a very wide reference to inquire into the state of the 645 law on this and cognate topics and to report what amendments are necessary. They have been engaged for some time in hearing evidence and in investigating the problem, and while I cannot say when the report will be available, I hope that it will soon be in the possession of hon. Members or at least the Scottish Office. When the question has been comprehensively studied and investigated by this expert committee, which includes representatives of all the affected interests, including eminent alienists, it is our contemplation that it will then be possible to deal not only with the limited problems which are covered by Clauses 38 and 39 of this Bill but with many other cognate questions which require attention.
I think that the House will agree that with that more comprehensive investigation actually in progress it would be a mistake to tinker with one corner of the problem in relation to the particular topic dealt with in Clauses 38 and 39. I would also add that as regards the particular questions for which Clauses 38 and 39 are designed to effect a remedy it is often possible by administrative action in the Crown Office to overcome the greater part of the difficulties which might otherwise arise. Therefore I am in a position to assure the House that no serious difficulty is likely to arise and no serious hardship is likely to be created from such delay as may be involved in leaving this matter to be dealt with comprehensively when the report of Lord Russell's Committee is available.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Borstal, and there are two points at least with regard to Borstal on which I wish to say a word. The Bill as applied to Scotland will leave the upper age limit for Borstal in Scotland at 21 as contrasted with 23 in England. Hon. Members will probably remember that it was only two years ago, in 1936, that the then Home Secretary, in exercising the powers conferred upon him by an earlier Statute, raised the age for Borstal in England from 21 to 23. That has not yet been done in Scotland. The power to do it is preserved, but when it will be done is a question dependent upon a variety of considerations of which not the least is the question—with which hon. Members are almost painfully familiar—of accommodation and the difficulties of the building industry in our country. A site has 646 been acquired for a new Borstal institution in Scotland at Stonehouse, to supersede the present principal Borstal Institution at Polmont; but some time will have to elapse before the very considerable work necessary for the provision of that institution can be overtaken, because of the very urgent needs of the housing schemes for the people of Scotland, the whole conditions are very different from those affecting the people in England.
§ Mr. Benson
Is any attempt being made to utilise the labour of the Borstal youths for the provision of even temporary camps?
§ The Lord Advocate
I can say from a recent personal visit that I have made, that the labour of the Borstal boys is being utilised in half a hundred different ways. They are engaged in practical work of one kind or another, but the construction of a huge institution to accommodate, I cannot say from memory how many inmates, is, I am afraid quite beyond the capacity of the comparatively untrained Borstal inmates. The new site at Stonehouse will involve the erection of a very large building and will need the employment of expert contractors and tradesmen.
§ The Lord Advocate
I cannot say whether it is the intention to transfer them all, but my understanding is that Polmont will, to a very large extent, cease to be used for the purpose for which it is used to-day. I am not, however, in a position to give further details. Before the hon. Member came into the House I had explained that some considerable time will inevitably elapse before the new Stone-house institution is constructed and available for use. It is not an immediate problem. The more immediate problem is the problem which the hon. Member was discussing upstairs in Committee this morning, in connection with the housing of the people of Scotland.
The other point about Borstal to which I wish to draw attention is that, different from the practice in England, we propose, conformably with our system of courts and our legal traditions, to limit the power to impose Borstal sentences to the sheriff court and the high court. In that respect, we differ from the proposals 647 for England. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon dwelt upon that topic, and I should be very sorry if hon. Members imagined that the divergence between Scotland and England in this respect is based upon any idea on our part in Scotland that the English proposal is wrong. I am making no reflection whatever upon the proposal as it affects England, but I am justifying our procedure in Scotland.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is it not already the sole practice in the sheriff court and the high court to do it now?
§ The Lord Advocate
The hon. Member is right, subject to one qualification, which I will give later. The explanation of the divergence is the simple one that the minor courts of summary jurisdiction in Scotland, by which I mean the police magistrate court and the justices of the peace court, exercise a very much narrower criminal jurisdiction than do the petty sessions in England. They merely deal with minor crime. The court which has traditionally been entrusted with the duty of imposing graver sentences is the sheriff, either sitting alone or with a jury, and the high court. I understand that the petty sessional court in England can impose sentences of considerable duration, but in practice the limit of imprisonment that can normally be imposed by a police magistrate in Scotland is 60 days. All the graver cases are taken to the sheriff, and our proposal in the Bill is to limit the power to impose Borstal to the sheriff or the court of higher jurisdiction. The one exception, in answer to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), is that since 1932 there has been a power in Scotland in the police magistrate court and the justice of the peace court to impose a Borstal sentence of two years in one case only, namely, the case of the boy who commits certain types of misconduct in, or who escapes from, an approved school. The boy who runs away from the approved school is the typical case. That power, however, has never been exercised by these courts; so the hon. Member is perfectly right in fact, and it is only in theory that I have had to make the slight correction of the generality of the statement that he made. So far as Scotland is concerned, we propose to conform to our traditional practice of confining the power to impose the Borstal sentence to the sheriff court or the high court, and not to 648 take a step which would be far more revolutionary for us than anything that is suggested in England, namely, to give this power to the minor courts of summary jurisdiction which operate in Scotland.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained to us several important provisions in the English application of the Bill, which will not apply to Scotland. He has told us, as far as I understand it, that it is the intention of the Government at some later stage to bring in corresponding legislation for Scotland. I appreciate that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not in a position to give us the course of business, but am I to understand that corresponding legislation is to be ruled out of account for the present Session of Parliament?
§ The Lord Advocate
Let me give an example. As regards the amendment of the lunacy laws and those affecting mental deficiency, I have explained that that forms the subject of investigation by Lord Russell's Committee. I cannot, of course, say when we may expect the report, but I think it is unlikely that the report will be available in time for the necessary legislation to be introduced this Session. I cannot, however, make any positive assurance in the form of a forecast.
§ The Lord Advocate
Again I have to safeguard myself. If all that is required is pure consolidation, that should be capable of being undertaken comparatively quickly, but if amendment were required and the Bill could not be dealt with under the more expeditious consolidation procedure, difficulties of another kind might arise.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Will the Lord Advocate in the intervening period endeavour by ordinary administrative means to see that the law of Scotland is brought up to something like the position of the law in England on this subject? With regard to going from the ordinary lay magistrate to the sheriff, which procedure I am not criticising, will the right hon. Gentleman see that the proposal is not used as a means of sending all the boys to the sheriff? Surely, it does not mean that the boys will not be brought before the magistrate for lesser crimes?
§ The Lord Advocate
As regards the second point, I do not think that I need 649 have any hesitation in giving the hon. Member the assurance he desires. So far as the administration of the Crown Office is concerned, there will be no attempt to divert the flow of cases into any different channel. As regards the question of probation, I dealt with that a little earlier, and I will simply say that the machinery of probation is being daily perfected in Scotland, and the intention of the Government is to deal with that subject at some later date, which I cannot give.
May I come now to the question of corporal punishment. That is a subject on which, as the Debate on Tuesday showed, there is a wide diversity of opinion, not only here but outside the House. I shall only add to the discussion one or two short facts, which may aid the House in coming to a decision. So far as Scotland is concerned, corporal punishment on an adult has not been imposed in any case in the high courts for the last 50 years. So far as the other courts are concerned, that is the sheriff courts, of all cases within living memory affecting adults, there have been only 12 cases, spread over a period of 26 years. Those were cases in which the sentence of corporal punishment was imposed on what I might call, for short, the white slave legislation of 1912. Scotland never had, at least since mediaeval times, any power to impose corporal punishment for robbery with violence. Accordingly, the question of corporal punishment so far as we are concerned in Scotland, is not a question of the adult and the cat, but a question of the juvenile and the birch. The only further point is that in Scotland the birch has been used for the purpose of correcting juvenile delinquents, proportionately, to a much larger extent than in England. The cases have been as high as 230 in 1936 and about 150 in 1937. Therefore, so far as we are concerned the question of corporal punishment for the adult, broadly speaking, does not arise. It is merely a question of birching.
There are a number of important provisions in the Bill, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his opening remarks, dealing with administrative changes in prisons and in the central departments concerned with prisons. These do not apply to Scotland for the simple reason that in the Reorganisation of Offices (Scotland) Bill, which has been 650 introduced into this House and is awaiting Second Reading, corresponding provisions will arise. Accordingly, it is not necessary for me to deal further with that part of the Bill, nor would it be in order for me to develop the question of the administrative changes which are proposed for Scotland.
The only other thing that I should like to say depends upon the wider problems to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and in regard to which it so happens that I have had special experience. During the last 3½ years my duty practically day by day has been to apply myself to problems affecting criminal administration and criminal prosecution. That is an experience which leaves few illusions and is well calculated to shake, although it cannot destroy, one's faith in the ideals which underlie this Bill. The lesson which I have learned from that experience is that in trying to do my part in holding a just balance between the needs of the delinquent on the one hand and the rights of society on the other, very little help can be derived from abstract generalisations about the theory of punishment.
I have found that the task can only be performed by a patient and discriminating application of a humane discretion to the infinitely varying circumstances of each individual case. To me, one of the most attractive features of the Bill is the emphasis it lays upon discrimination and the opportunities it affords for the exercise of that discrimination by those who will be concerned in the future with the administration of criminal justice either as prosecutors or as judges in criminal cases. It is well to remember that the Bill only provides machinery. Its success or its failure will depend entirely upon the skill and insight with which the machinery is worked, and the spirit in which it is worked. I know that if the Measure is passed there will he many administrative problems to be solved and many awkward questions for the courts to determine, and it may be necessary in some directions to proceed very gradually and by trial and error. But it is because I am convinced that the Bill can be, and will be, applied in practice with insight and discrimination to the advantage of the delinquent and the benefit of the community, that I have no hesitation in commending it to the favourable consideration of the House.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Captain Bullock
I am by no means a frequent speaker in the Debates of this House but I rise with great pleasure to welcome this milestone in social reform. It is the work of several Home Secretaries and the result of large administrative experience and a considerable knowledge of human nature. To me it hastens the day when we shall look forward to seeing the complete abolition of imprisonment for boys and girls under the age of 21, except of course in cases of very severe and obvious crime. There are only two criticisms I want to make upon the Bill. The first is in regard to the question of Borstal sentences. A Borstal sentence is a matter of three years' detention and to that can be added one year on licence, during which time the deliquent may be recalled to the institution. That means that a Borstal sentence may mean, I do not say it always does, a four years sentence. Last year I had the experience of dealing with the case of two parents whose sons had been the subject of a Borstal sentence. I found that the idea of a Borstal sentence inspired much more dread in the boys and in the parents than an ordinary term of imprisonment. Unfortunately, the term "a Borstal boy" has come to mean something which it should not imply, but the fact remains that it does impress parents with considerable dread.
I agree with the Attorney-General who wound up the Debate the other night, that it is very advisable that the same court which has heard the evidence and dealt with the matter should be capable of giving sentence, but I have grave doubts whether the provisions in the Bill which allow a Borstal sentence to be given by a court of summary jurisdiction are right until we can have a complete revision of our summary jurisdiction and our lay magistracy. I am not criticising the lay magistrates, but it is obvious that reforms are necessary in the magistracy. Take the question of age—there I think some reform is very necessary. You may get cases, especially in the country, where local prejudices are always bound to play a certain part in the sentences of a magistrates' court. Under our present system you may get magistrates of immense age, people 80 years of age, who may have very strong prejudices against youth, and you may get the intolerance of old age pitting itself against the intolerance of 652 extreme youth. Therefore, I hope that this question will be thoroughly thrashed out in Committee, and, if it is not possible to alter the provisions of the Bill, that some arrangement will be made so that sentences may be subjected to the further scrutiny of a higher authority before a Borstal sentence is passed.
The Attorney-General told us that there is always the right of appeal to quarter sessions. I agree that the right of appeal does exist in the Bill, but I would submit that a wrong sentence is not put right by an appeal, especially in the case of a Borstal sentence, and I hope, therefore, that great consideration will be given to this particular point in Committee. I should like to touch for a moment on remand sentences and Howard Houses. We must all welcome the fact that the question of remand sentences has been thoroughly dealt with. Those who have had even a slight experience of visiting prisons are convinced that it is completely wrong that the youthful prisoner should be placed in prison whilst on remand. It must have a very strong psychological effect on the mind of any young prisoner. The first time I visited Wormwood Scrubs the thing which most depressed me was to see a whole batch of young people waiting there. I thought they were prisoners doing sentence, but I was told that they were on remand, and I felt that the experience must have a very undesirable effect on the minds of those young people. I hope that the Home Secretary will provide sufficient remand centres. In my opinion there should be many of them; and they should be small.
Then I should like to ask what arrangements are being made for a medical examination, and for the examination of the social and educational background of the delinquent. It seems to me that it is very important indeed that this side of the problem should be thoroughly investigated. I want to ask whether the Board of Education and the education authorities throughout the country are going to co-operate in working this scheme. It is of the greatest importance that these houses and these centres should have the educational value which is desired, and that can be done only by the co-operation of educational authorities. I hope that two things will happen in the case of these remand centres and Howard Houses. One is that the stigma attaching to imprisonment will not continue. I 653 know it will be difficult to do this and at the same time keep the impression of the authority of the law, which is very necessary in these cases. I hope the young people attending these centres and these homes will find it considerably more unpalatable to be in these homes than if they were given a short term of imprisonment. The psychological side is of the greatest importance, and I welcome the Bill because it gives considerable scope for the advancement of that side and for scientific research. I know that the Continental systems have been studied and full use made of them in the drafting of the Bill.
There are two other points upon which I should like to make a remark. One is the question of the ticket-of-leave, which I am glad to see is to be abolished, because it puts the ticket-of-leave man in a position in which it is extremely difficult for him to obtain work and as a result he may drift back into his old way of living and return to prison. I should like a little more information as to the type of society which is to keep in touch with these prisoners, and also what arrangements are being made to compensate them for their work. It should he a matter for the State, not for private charity; and so far we have had no information on this point. There is one more point about which I should like some information. It is probably due to my incapacity to understand the language of Parliamentary Bills, but it refers to the question of putting an offender on probation and treating him as though he had been convicted. It seems to me that it would be very unfair if anyone who has been successful in the period of probation was treated in later life as having been convicted. The majority of employers ask if a man has been convicted and if he has to say that he has only been on probation, and has been successful on probation, it seems to me that it would unnecessarily prejudice that man's career.
With these few observations I hope I may be allowed to congratulate the Home Secretary on the admirable Bill he has produced; a Bill which I hope will lead to further necessary social reform in this country. I hope my right hon. Friend will be spared to bring in other Bills and other Measures of social reform which will find agreement on all sides of the House. After the many Debates which we have 654 had recently in connection with the uncertainties of the future, and the doubts which we have in our minds, it is a great relief to feel that in this Bill we shall vote for something which means progress and the certain betterment of a section of society in this country. I feel that many of the Home Secretary's colleagues must be filled with envy that he can bring before the House at the present time a Bill which finds almost complete agreement on every side of the House.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
Like every other hon. Member who has spoken, I support the Bill; but we have been enjoined to beware of that which all men praise, and everybody has praised this Bill, perhaps no one more loudly than the Home Secretary, who described it asthe most comprehensive penal Bill that has ever been introduced into this House."—[OFFICIAI REPORT, 29th November, 1938; col. 284; Vol. 342.]I venture to think that that indicates some pardonable, although perhaps excessive, pride in his offspring. I should like to offer some words of general criticism. I feel that in this Bill we are perhaps more disposed to treat symptoms than to deal with root causes. Many hon. Members who have spoken on the subject have dealt with the causes of crime, particularly the causes of juvenile delinquency, and they have expressed a diversity of opinions. I think that the Home Secretary is right when he says that there is not one reason, but a large number of reasons, for juvenile delinquency. I happen to be the manager of a Home Office approved boys' school, and I have been very interested to ascertain the causes which have brought boys to that school. Those causes have been many, but I think the most prevalent may be classified under the heading of home conditions, an all-embracing term which includes poverty, lack of parental control, bad step-parents, bad influences, and above all, bad housing conditions. Unfortunately, it is a fact that the Home Secretary, in this Bill, can do nothing about these important causes of juvenile delinquency, but is compelled, in my view, to deal with the effects of it. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman is setting up a new form of hostel, the Howard House, where young offenders may be sent, and he says: 655We have a great body of evidence that a large amount of crime in this country is due to the conditions in which the offender is living. He has not got a home or, if he has a home, it is an unsuitable home, and there is no control to check him. Accordingly, we are proposing a new form of hostel."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1938; col. 278, Vol. 342.]So far, so good. The delinquent will remain in this hostel for a period up to six months, but at the end of that time he will be sent, if he has not a home, I do not know where, but if he has a home, to the same unsuitable home, where he will be subjected to the same lack of control to check him. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from that is that the same conditions which caused him to commit an offence may, after a time, cause him to commit a similar offence, living as he does in the same conditions as before. I do not close my eyes to the possible influence of his living for some time in a Howard House, but the fact remains that if boys and girls are to be sent back to the same bad conditions which were responsible for the offences, there is a very grave danger that they will commit similar offences again. I feel that in this the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is acting like a chiropodist—cutting off the corns, knowing that they will grow again, and that he will have to perform the same operation over and over again.
In my view, a great deal of juvenile delinquency which, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said in the Debate on Tuesday, is often the beginning of a life of crime, is caused by the dullness, drabness and dreariness of the lives that our young people are leading at the present time. There exists in every young person—and I hope there will always exist—a spirit of adventure, and that spirit needs an outlet. University undergraduates have that outlet, at any rate several times a year; they have the outlet of Boat Race night, of the Oxford and Cambridge rugger match, Guy Fawkes night, and so on. They have those outlets for their high spirits, and no great harm is done; but most young people, who have not the good fortune to go to a university, have little opportunity of giving vent to their high spirits. In addition, there is a strong spirit of emulation in young people. The books 656 they read and the pictures they see have a very great influence on them.
I cannot help feeling that nowadays, to a certain extent, crime is glorified far too much. I do not suggest—nobody would be so foolish as to suggest—that that is a universal cause of crime. I have already described what I regard as being one of the major causes of crime, but I believe that the glorification of crime is a factor. In my young days, one read a "penny dreadful," or a "twopenny dreadful" as one hon. Member described it, in which there was a hero and a villain, and one always had the comfortable assurance that at the end of the day, the hero would come out all right, and his virtue would be rewarded, and that the villain would get the merits which he richly deserved. But to-day, we have not that hopeful assurance in the kind of literature that is available to boys and girls. Too often the villain is made attractive and the hero unattractive. Even in "Barry Lyndon" by Thackeray, a book which I read as a boy, which tends to glorify the villain, the villain is made to finish his days in poverty and misery. To-day, there is no such certainty. The "crook" is often portrayed as a most attractive figure, while the policeman or the Scotland Yard detective is portrayed as a clumsy and even a comic figure. Moreover, there are no guarantees that the crook will not come out on top. This sort of thing must have its influence on the young persons of to-day.
I submit that what is needed is a greater understanding of the juvenile mind. I do not agree that, generally speaking, the young person is a case for mental treatment or requires the attention of an expert on mental diseases. I think a common-sense person is needed on the job. I think the spirit of adventure should be encouraged, but it should be diverted into proper channels. Many more opportunities for sport and healthy recreation ought to be given to young persons. That is what they need. Far more use should be made of the Physical Training and Recreation Act. The Government should be prepared to provide much more money for playing spaces and more opportunities for young people to play games. One of the punishments which the Home Secretary has devised for young persons is to deprive them of the opportunity of seeing a football 657 match. I think far too many people, particularly young people, spend their time in watching football matches, and I do not know that it is such a bad thing to deprive them of the opportunity of watching football matches; but I submit that the Home Secretary would be doing a far more useful thing if he gave these boys an opportunity of playing a game of football, instead of sending them to humiliation in one of his juvenile centres.
Nevertheless, I agree generally with the trend of the Bill, and with the ideals which are behind it, the reduction of the number of young persons who will be sent to prison, and the provision of some alter native method of treating juvenile delinquency. As long as it is understood that much more thought must be given to the causes of crime and their eradication, I feel that one can wholeheartedly support the Bill as far as it goes. But the Bill, as it is, will have little effect on the treatment of offenders unless the measures proposed, which are purely permissive, are brought into rapid existence. The House will appreciate that there are three parties who have to act and co-operate to make this Bill a success. First of all, there is the Home Office. They have to provide the various institutions all over the country. They have to provide remand centres, which I agree with the hon. Member who preceded me are very badly needed in order to avoid sending young persons on remand to prison. There are State remand homes for persons under 17 requiring special medical attention; there are compulsory attendance centres which it is proposed to try out in large centres of population; and there are the Howard Houses. But without these institutions, and until they are provided, things will be left very much as they are. Magistrates will have no alternative, if these institutions do not exist, to sending young persons to prison on remand, and doing the things they are doing to-day. The improvement in the treatment of young offenders must, therefore, depend upon the rapidity with which the Home Secretary will move, and if air-raid precautions are the standard of speed accepted by the Home Secretary, then progress in the direction of this Bill may not be very swift. Indeed, the Home Secretary himself said that such institutions may take some time to set up.
Then, the local authorities are permitted, but not compelled, to provide 658 juvenile compulsory attendance centres for persons between the ages of 12 and 17. How many local authorities will provide these centres, no one can say, but everybody believes that the Government are going to impose some restriction on capital expenditure by the local authorities on the social services. If that is done it is not likely that the local authorities will incur additional expenditure in providing new institutions such as juvenile compulsory attendance centres. All their efforts will be directed towards maintaining existing services-and institutions, and therefore, it is hardly likely that these centres will be provided by the local authorities in large numbers.
The third party to the success of the scheme are the magistrates. As the Attorney-General said, the success or failure of the Bill is largely in their hands. Can these magistrates be imbued with the spirit which has prompted the Home Secretary to introduce this Measure? The Bill involves the acceptance of new ideas, but if there is a stage beyond which human beings are no longer receptive of new ideas, I feel that many of the magistrates who are on the bench to-day are beyond that age. Unless there is a drastic change in the personnel of the magistracy, the success of this Measure may be jeopardised by the quality of the magistrates in a large number of districts. I hope the Home Secretary will use every endeavour to ensure that the spirit which actuates this Bill, will be carried out by the magistrates.
The problem of the person who has served a term of imprisonment and has been discharged was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) and by the Lord Advocate. I realise that, on the one hand, there is a difficulty when the person who has served a term of imprisonment, applies for employment in competition with others who have led honest lives and are at least equally capable of that employment. Local authorities are, from time to time, urged to take into their employment persons who have served terms of imprisonment, but those authorities find themselves in this difficulty, that there are large numbers of other people who, from their point of view, are far more eligible and far more deserving, and to whom they would prefer to give the employment. On the other hand, unless we can solve this problem we 659 Shall force those persons to commit crime again. This is a question which has not yet been sufficiently considered, or satisfactorily solved, and until it has been solved, we cannot claim that we are dealing with crime on a satisfactory basis.
I am glad that under Clause 64 pensions or superannuation allowances which have been forfeited may be restored wholly or in part, but, in my view, it does not go far enough. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) dealt with this point on Tuesday, and the Bill certainly does not go as far as he seemed to wish it to go. There is still the case of a person who may have almost qualified for a pension, who may have served say, 39 years out of 40, and who then foolishly commits an offence. Even under the Bill, as I read it, such a person will still lose the whole benefit of his 39 years' service although, as has already been pointed out, the pension is really deferred pay. I have no doubt the Home Secretary will be prepared to look at this Clause again, even more sympathetically than he has done up to now, with a view to giving some measure of relief in those cases. With all its imperfections and omissions, I welcome the Bill as a step forward along the road to a rational, an understanding and sympathetic method of dealing with crime and I support its Second Reading.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
I welcome the opportunity of joining in this Debate, although it seems to me that this is, to a very large extent, an agreed Measure. The Debate has been most interesting, especially to those who are concerned with the problems involved in dealing with those who fall by the way, and particularly the young people. I desire to address myself particularly to the question of juvenile delinquency. I was attracted recently by an article in a paper headed "Crime is not inevitable," and it struck me that that was the spirit which had animated the Home Secretary and the promoters of this Bill. The article dealt with a lecture by a governor of a Borstal institution and I would like to read this extract from it:That the governor of a Borstal institution should declare that there are no 'criminal types' and that crime is never inevitable except on the stage, fills one with hope. Mr. Cyril Joyce, Governor of the Borstal Institution on the Isle of Wight made these 660 remarks in the course of an address before the Child Study Society, which was marked by sympathetic insight and understanding into the problems of boys. The Borstal boy arrives at the institution bewildered by his misadventures, in a civilisation which has 'no room for the child' and who in many instances has been crowded out in home, school, street and labour market. Desire plus opportunity made crime potential and without a background of morality crime became actual. The work of those engaged in Borstal institutions was not to punish the boys—it was punishment enough to be shut away from the world for three years at that stage of life—hut to give them the moral education which had been neglected in their lives hitherto.I think that is a very timely expression of what we all desire to do in framing new measures of penal reform. What we all aim at, and especially those who are interested in young people, is to prevent them from becoming criminals. We all realise that prevention is better than cure, and those of us who have had large experience in our schools realise further, that if we can deal with these unfortunate juvenile delinquents through the school and through social welfare centres and through the probation officers and through providing better homes, instead of through the policeman and the court, it will be all to the good of the nation and the children themselves. That, I think, is an object which can be aided by this Bill and if the Bill is used in the spirit to which the last speaker referred, I think it will help to keep the young people from being labelled as criminals.
Recently, I attended a conference of teacher magistrates in London and I was much struck, not only by the enlightened view which those teacher magistrates took of their duties, but also by the very interesting and inspiring address which was given on that occasion by a Home Office official, Mr. Henderson. If my hon. Friend who spoke last has some doubt about the efficiency of our magistrates, I can only say that the 8o or 90 magistrates who were assembled on that occasion struck me as being very good examples of what magistrates ought to be. Their debates, as I say, showed great enlightenment, and they certainly had very good ideas of their work and of the proper method of dealing with the cases which come before them. One thing which I learned at that Conference was that it seemed to be fairly well agreed that juvenile delinquency is increasing. Nobody wants to put the matter in anything 661 but its proper proportions but there is a general feeling that juvenile crime has increased and the figures published yesterday in the Blue Book, I am afraid, confirm that view. We should not, however, consider that aspect of the figures alone, but take other factors into account. The report in question adds:Though the number of youthful offenders is high, the number who continue to commit offences as they grow older is comparatively small. For many years the policy of the courts has been so to deal with the young offender as not to turn the irresponsible lawless youth, into an habitually lawless adult. The figures suggest that this policy has met with the substantial measure of success.I think it is necessary to bear that in mind. Another thing on which we were agreed in that conference of teacher magistrates—although it may be an unpopular view to take—was that there is, as the Home Secretary said in his opening speech, an undue laxity of parental control. I would go further and say that there is a desire to escape parental responsibility. I submit that the practice which now operates of not publishing the names and addresses of youthful offenders is not working too well in all cases. I think that if there is not publication in a case of a first offence, there ought to be publication in the case of a second offence. It ought to be brought home to the parents that they have a great responsibility for what their children do, and if the names and addresses were published I think it would, in some cases, be a deterrent, and would make parents realise their position.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Does not the hon. Member think that in some cases the publication of the name would have the reverse effect to what he desires, by making the boy a hero?
§ Mr. Morgan
I cannot imagine such a thing as the hon. Member suggests, and I certainly do not mean that to be the effect of my suggestion, but if the parents "get away with it" in all these cases, if nobody knows that their children have been prosecuted, then it deprives them of a sense of responsibility which they ought to feel. There are one or two questions which I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not sure how these new compulsory attendance centres are to work. Are they to be, as I think I heard somebody describe them, observation centres? If so, let me 662 put an alternative question. Where are these observation centres, and are they likely to be increased? I understand that there are two or three in the country, and I should like some enlightenment on that matter. Some time ago I addressed a question to the Home Secretary about whether boys on probation had the opportunity of joining the Services, and I was told that if they got satisfactory probationary reports, there was no objection, at least in the Army, to taking those boys. I do not know whether that applies to the Navy or the Air Force, but I have had a series of complaints from probation officers that when they get some of these youths who have kicked over the traces and who are high-spirited Lads, and have suggested that they should go into the Services, they are often debarred from getting the opportunity. I imagine that if we were to look at the early lives of some of our greatest soldiers and sailors we should find that they, too, in their time had their high spirits and were what we call naughty in the best sense of the word.
There has been a lot of talk in this Debate about sentimentality, and I am bound to say that there are some forms of punishment in our prisons that I do not like. I think we might possibly go too far in the question of corporal punishment. I know what I am talking about in this connection with regard to juveniles, because for 20 years or more I had some 400 boys under my charge. They were of a good type, but sometimes it was necessary, after one had appealed to their better instincts, to appeal to the boys in a more physical way. I found the very fact that there existed a fear that that might happen was a deterrent, and one was very infrequently called upon to administer corporal punishment. I am not suggesting that that should be brought into force, but I think there should be a wider discretion given to teachers in the schools and more understanding shown to them when they try to correct insubordination of a very bad type. One of the speakers asked why we should not get the best type of teachers for the approved school. I have always thought that it was the desire of the Home Office to secure the best possible trained teachers for these schools. I do not know whether I am right in making the criticism that the standard of teachers in the approved schools is not as high as 663 that in the ordinary elementary and senior schools. I am not sure whether that is a correct statement, but the Under-Secretary will correct me if I am wrong. If I am right, I suggest that the Home Office might take the suggestion of another speaker and co-operate with the Board of Education in the staffing and inspection of these schools.
I can never understand why there was such a clear-cut line of demarcation between the Home Office schools and the ordinary schools with regard to education. It is an important fact that in these schools we are trying to reform the would-be criminal, and we ought to have teachers who are well trained in psychology and able to give proper vocational training. Nothing is more important than that. The report that was issued yesterday stated that among the young people sentenced to imprisonment were a number with records of previous offences and in need of Borstal training, but the courts of summary jurisdiction, which had no power themselves to pass Borstal sentences, tended to impose sentences of imprisonment in cases where the character of the prisoner was such that Borstal training would be more appropriate. If I read the Bill aright I understand that there are certain Clauses which will take away that defect. In a circular which most Members have had to-day the Howard Society are already objecting to those provisions. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will deal with that point. Taking the Bill in its entirety, I and those whom I represent welcome it, and will give it all the support possible.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
The chorus of praise that has gone up for this Bill makes one wonder whether this Debate is worth while. It appears that we are all agreed that the Home Secretary has brought in a Bill which goes as far as can be expected. There seems to be hardly any dissident voice and the main body of criticism is devoted to Committee points rather than to principle. My criticism is that the Bill is long overdue. It is a recognition of the fact that the methods adopted up to the present have not met the need, for it appears that the fear of punishment has not been a deterrent, that something more humanitarian is needed in dealing with the offender, and that to punish the offender for having done what 664 society believes to be wrong is tackling the thing at the wrong end. That can be generally admitted, for, in truth, punishment is merely the revenge of society on the individual without taking cognisance of the cause of the offence which the individual has committed. Consequently, it is perhaps only natural that there should have been a body of opinion expressed in reference to juvenile offences.
Criminals are made and not born, and there are definite reasons why they are criminals. The Home Secretary said it was not possible to define clearly what was the cause of delinquency, but from my experience I would divide juvenile delinquents broadly into four main classes. There is first the child who has a mental kink or may be mentally deficient. That class covers a wide field and includes the youngster who has a recession or sex precocity and commits a type of offence which obviously calls for treatment. It is the type of offence that no punishment will meet. I therefore welcome provisions in the Bill which provide an opportunity for treatment. I do not know that I agree with the type of mental treatment that is generally understood, for I think that many of these cases should be dealt with by a psychiatrist, one who has studied the life and habits of the individual and applies those methods that are calculated to deal with the particular aberration. That child is not a criminal. It is likely to develop into a criminal unless there is provision for efficient treatment, and that will not be treatment which can be carried out in a few weeks. If there is any attempt to make that treatment appear as though it were punitive, it will lose its value.
The second class of case is the child who has been subjected to an environment that has determined its outlook. It is the product of the slums, the child who has been brought up in overcrowded conditions, to whom home has no sort of inducement, whose recreation is found in the street, and whose influences, playing upon its mind, teach it that its job is to get, no matter by what means it gets, and to whom the greatest shame is to be caught in getting what it gets. It is not right that society should apply the same moral standards to the mind that has been trained in that way and which has not been given an opportunity of developing a sound balanced judgment on moral issues. When we find a youth of that 665 type coming before the court, it is clear and easily realised that whatever step we take short of moving him from that environment and of breaking his influences, we will never be able, no matter what type of punishment we apply, to change the outlook of the child nor prevent its development into a criminal.
The third class is the naturally high-spirited adventurous type, which finds itself in the streets, and, because of the ebullience of its spirits, and probably in company with others in a spirit of daring that young people have, finds itself on enclosed premises when a policeman happens to be near. There is no criminal intent, but a desire to give expression to the natural animal spirits that it has. Here again no sort of punishment will correct that kind of conduct. What is wanted is the type of education that will enable the child's natural desire to exercise itself to be diverted into channels that will not bring it within the law. The fourth type is the child who finds itself in trouble because of its economic conditions. I do not mean that it is in poverty or that it comes from a home where nothing is coming in, but it is the type of child who finds itself unable to do what its comrades and friends are doing and feels a sense of shame in the fact that its pocket money is so much less than that of those with whom it consorts. He takes advantage of an opportunity that presents itself and finds himself in difficulties as a result of what becomes moral turpitude. That, of course, is truer of those of weak will, who give way to temptation.
It may be found on examination that the Bill does to an extent deal with those four types of cases. The Bill proposes to deal with the mental case, and to that extent it is possible that we can look for some development. If we are able to carry treatment to its logical conclusion there is no reason why we should not hope for a reduction in the type of delinquency which finds its origin in some mental trouble. There is one aspect of the mental treatment which I do not care a lot about, and that it that the legally liable relative of the probationer or the probationer himself must agree to mental treatment, and that it will be possible for the local authority to apply the means test and to make them pay for treatment.
666 My view is that we ought to offer every inducement to have treatment; if we compel payment that will act as a deterrent. When they realise that they could have been placed on probation of another kind without being called upon to pay they will not be willing to agree to mental treatment. We treat tuberculosis in our public hospitals and sanatoria and do not assess either the patient or the legally liable relative. We treat infectious and contagious diseases without assessing the legally liable relative or the patient. We do this not so much out of love for the patient as out of fear of the consequences; because society might be endangered, we say that whatever happens we will give them treatment. A mental case may develop into a danger to the community, and if we do not give treatment out of love for the mental delinquent let us do it as a matter of expediency.
I am pleased to see in the Bill the change made in probation committees. Up to now, in some petty sessional divisions at least, probation committees have been quite ineffective. The probation officers have done all the work without any regard to the bench. The magistrates place people on probation and that is the last they hear of the case. They never know whether the probation has been successful or a failure. One of the difficulties has been due to the fact that the probation committees have been limited in number, have been restricted to a division no matter what the size of the division. A division with only one bench got a probation committee, and a division like Edmonton where there are three benches—Enfield, Wood Green and Tottenham—got only a committee of the same size. It is obvious that what is wanted in such a case is an increase in the size of the probation committee, so that it could be divided up, with one section for each bench. I am glad to see that the size of the probation committee is to be prescribed by rules made by the Home Secretary, and I hope he will take note of the fact that if probation committees are to be effective they must be drawn from the magistrates sitting on each of the benches in divisions where there is more than one bench in the division. Then, in the instance I quoted, Tottenham cases could be dealt with by the Tottenham section of the committee and the Wood Green and the Enfield 667 cases dealt with by their respective sections. Greater supervision of the cases placed on probation will be all to the good.
I also welcome the statement in the Bill, which might well be put in many other Measures, that probationers shall be told in language which they can understand the meaning of the probation order. One feature of our courts of summary jurisdiction is the great disadvantage under which an offender finds himself when before the court. In a juvenile court he usually has the assistance of the school attendance officer, but even there it is not always possible for him to present the best side of his case. As for an adult appearing for the first time in court, every magistrate must at times have been struck by the inability of the alleged offender to present his case in the best possible way. Such people are often quite ignorant of court procedure and know little of what is expected of them. They are faced by a police constable well versed in the regulations, or may even have to contend against a lawyer or counsel, or sometimes the representative of the Public Prosecutor. It would be a good thing if people in that position were given some aid in presenting their case, were told just what they could do. For example, when they are told that they may ask questions they do not know what sort of questions to ask and start talking, and are then told by the chairman, "It is question time now and you can say your piece afterwards." My view is that if the State can supply a Public Prosecutor it should also provide a public defender, or at least give the probation officer the opportunity of acquainting an accused person—man, woman or youth—with the regulations and rules under which he can defend himself.
In reference to the Howard Houses, I hope that name will not he used. If they are called Howard Houses everybody will know just what type of person it is who is in such a house. According to the Bill, arrangements are to be made for probationers sent to Howard Houses to go out to ordinary work. They will be working in ordinary factories and workshops, where they will be living a normal life, and only going back to the Howard Houses at night, but all those with whom they are working will know the address from which they come. These Howard 668 Houses will not be a success unless careful attention is paid to the psychology of the individual. My own view is that in the case of some youthful offenders their offences may be due to thwarted aims, to an aptitude and a desire that cannot be expressed. The lad may have wanted to follow a particular occupation and have been unable to do so. A body with which I am associated had before it the case of a lad who had had 15 jobs in less than 12 months. The fact that he had had 15 jobs showed that he was not lazy, but it also showed that he had not found the type of work he wanted. The job he had had in the beginning he had held for 18 months, and he said that was the job he liked. He wanted to be a wood worker and had not been able since to find a job in that particular line. If the best use is to be made of these Howard Houses they ought, as far as possible, to find the job for which the boy or the girl may be best suited. That is a very important thing.
Reference has been made to Borstal. I sit as regularly as possible on the local bench and while I have every faith in my colleagues on that bench I should not like every bench to have the power of sending young people to Borstal. I can understand a bench deciding that something more than probation and training is required and my view is that when that happens the case should be sent on to quarter sessions. If that is done the offender will feel that he is not being hounded by a bench of magistrates before whom he has regularly appeared, that he will not suffer from any prejudice on their part, but will be treated in accordance with what the sessions believes to be the facts. It is axiomatic of the law of this country that not only should we do justice but that there should be the appearance that justice has been done, which means that the person concerned should feel that he has been dealt with justly.
Much of the success of this Bill will depend upon the type of people responsible for its administration. I have held the view for a long time that the method of appointing our magistrates is altogether wrong. What happens is that the advisory committee recommends certain names, and we see certain friends of members of the advisory committee appointed to the bench. People are 669 appointed to the bench who show no aptitude for the work at all, some, indeed, who have shown no desire to do any public work, and one wonders how the decision is arrived at that they are suitable for the important work which magistrates are called upon to do. The type of person who will be called upon to act as probation officer or to be in control of the homes will be in control of the success or the failure of the new system, which in itself is a great step forward in the direction of humanising our summary jurisdiction.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Sir Alfred Beit
The Bill has received a large measure of approval from all sides of the House, and it is a pleasure to me to add my voice to the general harmony. It must be rare in the annals of this House that a Bill sponsored by the Government has met with such approval from all parties, including the Communist. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for making it possible last year for me to visit a number of prisons in Southern England, and the Prison Commissioners as well for the arrangements they were kind enough to make for me. That tour aroused the interest which I now have in penal questions. Arising out of the tour is the basis of my only major criticism of the Bill.
We all had heard for some time past that there was to be a new measure of penal reform, so I thought that the best way of preparing myself for discussing it in Parliament would be to gain an acquaintance with our prison system; but the Bill is practically exclusively concerned with juveniles and the sentences of the courts, and not with persons who are now in prison. In short, it holds out in the most humane way possible much hope for the reform of the criminal of the future, but far less hope for those criminals actually serving sentences in our prisons to-day. There are, of course, certain transitional concessions. A man on ticket-of-leave or licence will be released, for his sentence is deemed to have expired; and those serving penal servitude will continue merely to be imprisoned, which the Home Secretary admitted to be only a change in wording. The criminal lunatic will become a State mental patient, a change which will probably be noticed least by those whom it 670 most concerns. Otherwise, prison, for those who are in it or who are likely to get into it—these, we must hope, will be a reduced number in the future—will remain much the same.
§ Sir A. Beit
I do not wish to minimise in any way the improvement which has taken place in the administration of prisons in recent years. Among those improvements, as I think all hon. Members would agree, are the earnings' scheme and free association. These improvements have had to be introduced necessarily very slowly, and there is still a great difference among different prisons in the extent of their introduction. For instance, at Wormwood Scrubs there is still no earnings scheme and yet it is a star prison containing many prisoners for whom there is the greatest hope of reform. On the other hand, at the convict prisons of Maidstone and Dartmoor there have been earnings schemes for a long time. I look upon it as one of the most hopeful of prison reforms since it enables prisoners to purchase such comforts as tobacco, the lack of which, I am told, has been responsible for many of the troubles that have occurred in prisons.
The reason I mention all this is that I see that Clause 45 continues the Home Secretary's power to make rules for the regulation and management of prisons. I would like to ask whether it is proposed to introduce any new rules in the near future. The last rule dates from 1933. As far as I am aware there is no obligation to introduce further rules until the Home Secretary sees fit. It would therefore be good to know whether any speeding up of the administration reforms is intended. In sympathy with the spirit of humanity which prevails in the Bill may I ask whether the lot of those now incarcerated will be improved? Most hon. Members know what the principal complaints are. First and foremost they relate to food. More professional cooks are needed. By the time the short-service prisoner who learns to cook is able to do so, he is discharged. The result is that the food in convict prisons is infinitely better—according to information I was given. Many of the convict prisons have their own market gardens and are, therefore, able to vary the diet. The prisoners who learn to cook remain for a 671 sufficiently long period to cook better meals for their fellow-prisoners than is the case in local prisons.
Another complaint which, I think, is justified, is the difficulty of access to medical opinion other than that of the prison doctor. In some cases these doctors are first-rate men. Nobody could deny, having seen the hospital at Wormwood Scrubs that they have built a first-rate establishment complete with operating theatre at that prison, but prison doctors vary in knowledge and in quality, and they sometimes gave me the impression of reluctance to consult outside doctors. Other complaints concern clothing and libraries, which are held to be inadequate. I would conclude this part of my speech with an earnest appeal to the Home Secretary that he should extend the system which has proved so successful at Wakefield Prison Camp of granting privileges early to a prisoner and of removing them in case of bad behaviour, rather than granting them only as time passes. The latter system makes it necessary to use the punishment cell in cases of bad behaviour. If the Wakefield system were more widely adopted the punishment cell would soon be a memory of the past, like the treadmill.
I suppose there is in all human beings a streak of reaction. In my own case it comes out in my objection to Clause 32, which proposes to abolish corporal punishment. I share the disquiet which was so admirably expressed in a maiden speech last Tuesday by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). I do not like the differentiation between the prison officer and the public. The prison officer is usually well able to look after himself, but by the retention of corporal punishment for gross breaches of prison discipline he receives a protection which is denied to the public. I have read the Cadogan Report, and on this subject I think it is guilty of self-contradition. Having stated that there is no evidence to show that flogging is a deterrent to the ordinary criminal, it points out that a prisoner is less likely to give trouble if he knows that he may be flogged for gross breaches of discipline or for insubordination, and that if he has once been flogged he is less likely to commit such an offence or crime again.
672 There are some crimes for which reform is not enough, those which are grossly revolting to the public conscience. A very good example of this type of crime was that committed earlier this year and known in the popular Press as the crime of the Mayfair men. I think a case can be made out for some measure of retribution in those circumstances. I hope that it will be possible in Committee for adequate safeguards to be given that the same protection at least will be given to the public as it is now proposed to give in very special cases to prison officers.
§ Mr. Benson
The hon. Member, apparently, bases his case for flogging on the ground that the action must be retributive; but would he explain how a retributive action is also a deterrent? He, apparently, abandons the idea of deterrence and bases his case on retribution, and then he suddenly switches back to protecting the public.
§ Sir A. Beit
I do not think there is such a great distinction in this instance between those two cases. Surely the great distinction in penal reform is between retribution or deterrence on the one hand, and educational reform on the other. I merely said that there seemed to be crimes in relation to which the spirit of reform which pervades the Bill was not perhaps sufficient. I do not see very much difference between retribution and deterrence and in this case I think they are largely analogous.
Now I turn to a Clause which I unconditionally support, and which has been most mentioned in the speeches, that providing for the establishment of remand centres. Had such centres been established last year, 2,694 juveniles who were sent to prison on remand would not have known what the inside of a prison was like. Magistrates often say when dealing with juveniles: "My boy, I am not going to send you to prison," and the next thing the boy finds is that he is inside Wormwood Scrubs, on remand. I hope that it may be possible as time goes on to extend this beneficial reform to adults who are on remand.
I cannot say that I understand the objection to the proposal to allow magistrates to commit to Borstal. They have power in certain instances to commit to prison; the sentence to Borstal would be far longer, but the taint that Borstal confers is much less than that of prison. One 673 of the great objections at the present moment arises from the mixing of prison and Borstal. Many boys are in and out of prison and Borstal. Some boys are sentenced to prison by magistrates and later to Borstal by quarter sessions. Boys who go to Borstal should not have been to prison beforehand. After this Clause relating to this point is passed we are much more likely to find that fewer prison sentences will be inflicted upon juveniles, because such cases would have been sent to Borstal rather than to prison in the first instance. The only thing I ask in this connection is why the power is restricted to prisoners under the age of 21 when the Borstal age has recently been raised to 23.
As to the new institutions proposed, I foresee the danger of their functions overlapping through multiplicity. Why is it necessary to create State remand homes in addition to the existing remand homes? What work will offenders do at the compulsory attendance centres, since that work is limited to 60 hours, spread over several months? How will it be possible to differentiate between offenders who go to Borstal and those who go to the Howard houses? If a boy is removed from the unhealthy environment of his home to a Howard House how will it be possible for him to continue with his work? How would he get employment otherwise, and what could he do if he failed to get employment?
With regard to corrective training and preventive detention, I should like to ask a further question—it is an innovation which I thoroughly applaud—Will these two categories be separated or will they be side by side in the same prison? In what way is it proposed to make the régime less strict? What sort of place does the Home Secretary consider suitable for these cases? I should imagine that something like the Wakefield Camp will be suitable for younger cases of corrective training, whereas Dartmoor, a healthy if lonely spot, now only a third full, might be very suitable for cases of preventive detention. These points, in any event, are only details when measured against the imposing stature of the Bill, but since we get major measures of penal reform only about once in a generation, I think we ought to make sure that everything is done that can possibly be done. We shall all watch with interest and hope 674 the result of the Home Secretary's experiment, and we wish the Bill every possible success.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
I have been rather amused at the criticisms, light as they are, of the Bill. I welcome it with all my heart. It does not go as far as we should like it to do, but I think the Home Secretary has stepped well ahead of public opinion. Some of us on the bench are criticised for being a lot of soft-hearted old fellows who have not the faintest idea of what the law means. I want to defend the ordinary amateur magistrate. If I am not fit to judge the little idiosyncrasies of life, who is? I do not go on to the bench with a bigoted mind. I go knowing that I have watched the growth of a family, and there are not two of them alike. Any father, if he takes an interest in his family, knows that a certain punishment will do for Tom, but the same punishment would never do for John. It has a different effect upon them. I am the father of a family of seven, but the Home Secretary for the moment has a family of 45,000,000, and he cannot, and never will, produce a Bill that will meet all the desires that we have in this House.
We hear a lot of talk about psychologists. They have come into the world lately. I can hardly spell the word. There is another funny name that they have now, I dare not for the life of me attempt to pronounce it. It is something like "Zachariahists." As a man of practical experience in this work it just means that kindliness that we have in this House in trying to understand the best we can of life as it is. I have taken scores of people—I did not arrest them, but I have taken them—in the train from Sunderland to Durham Gaol, and have heard them discuss the terms that they believed they were going to get. You might have two criminals who had been together, perhaps, for years. One would feel that the nine months that he expected to get was a very serious thing for him. The other fellow says, "I would do it on my head if I could only get it." It will take some wonderful Clauses in the Bill to do everything that is desired in this way.
There is a good deal in lack of parental control. I have never believed that a parent has a right to allow the State to carry on for him in everything. He has 675 a right to keep his home in order, and he will get a better dividend out of keeping discipline in his own home than by letting it go loose and leaving everything to chaos. I was sometimes thrashed at home, but it never did me any harm. I am only speaking for myself. My mother believed in the spiritual injunction, "Spare not the rod, spoil not the child." As sure as I stand here, if everyone kept their spiritual injunctions as she kept hers, they would be in Heaven without any doubt at all. She was not particular as to the sort of rod, flexible or stiff. She believed it was her duty to keep a child in order and make him behave himself. Families are not being kept in order to-day as they ought to be. I sometimes find that a parent not only does not correct a child, but encourages it to do things it ought not to, and when it is brought before the court tries to throw the burden on the child—a cowardly thing to do. Sometimes people use children for their own purposes. Some time ago we had a serious epidemic of cigarette stealing. We could not understand it. Shops were broken into day after day and night after night and boxes of cigarettes were taken. We ultimately discovered that some rather enterprising scoundrel was giving these children small sums to get cigarettes by any method they could, and was selling them in great volume and undercutting people in the trade. I wish we could find a way of dealing with those who use children in this way.
What I like best about the Bill is the sympathy with which the Home Secretary is trying to get down to the real root of the thing, and not inflicting punishment so much as trying to guide the child. I like the idea of remand homes. It is a mean, contemptible thing to send a young boy to Durham Prison to await trial. Something ought to be done for a type of child who cannot be certified as suffering from any form of mental disease, but who comes in a category between mental and weak-minded. He is generally known as being soft. This little fellow can be used by others and, if he takes it into his head to break the law, you have great difficulty with him. I believe these homes will be of great use for that type of child.
With regard to corporal punishment, I do not like to see children thrashed. I would rather thrash them at home than 676 see them thrashed by someone else. If it has to be done, I would rather that it was done by those who have responsibility for them. There are cases where a boy would rather be thrashed than detained. I remember having to hold a little fellow while a big man of about 17 stone was giving him 20 strokes. He was more hurt than the boy, and the boy knew it and made the most of it. He knew that the old superintendent was so sympathetic that the harder he yelled the more would be the gifts at the end of the punishment. I thank God that we are doing away with reformatory schools. That is a hall-mark on a boy for life. I remember a little fellow who cried out to the superintendent, "Please thrash me and let me go." That was an instance of a boy who would rather be dealt with by punishment of that kind than be detained. I do not know what is going to be done now with that type, but I am pleased that this punishment is to be altogether abolished. Some hon. Gentlemen here seem to want to retain it, but I do not agree with them.
After a very long experience, I find that you can make the most hardened case, with sympathy and training, bend to your will. As you can train an animal, so you can train a human being, if you will only have the patience to do so. The local magistrates know the environment of these boys, who in many cases never have the opportunity of getting out into the open. If a child is sent out into the open, although he may be mischievous, he develops a love for nature which will have the best possible effect on him in the future. I have seen scores of these little fellows out of the slums coming along with their jam jars, catching their little minnows, and going home as proud as they can be. Certainly they pick the flowers; you never see one coming back with fish without bringing also an armful of flowers for his mother. It may be a small thing, but it is a big thing in the end.
I have had 26 years' experience of mental work in hospitals, and I know that we are now beginning to lift the dark blinds of those places. It used to be said, "Let them die; there is no hope for them," but by training, treatment, sympathy and opportunity we are bringing about a new state of affairs in hospitals of that kind. Although we may criticise 677 the Bill, I hope we shall not condemn it. It does not go as far as I would like, but, in order to reach the top of the ladder, it is necessary to take the first step or two. The recovery rates in our institutions, whether prisons or mental hospitals, show the effect of training and sympathy and opportunity of the kind that is now to be afforded under this Bill. Let me give an instance of what can be done. Some time ago, a boy escaped from the institution of which I was chairman. He was an impish boy, not merely mentally defective, but certified insane. He always wanted something to do, and he escaped and got work down here. He was away six weeks, and during that time he got two jobs. He advertised for them. The period elapsed for which we could keep him, but somehow he heard that we had bought a horse for the institution. We had always promised him that, if he would keep himself in decent order, he should have the use of a horse when we got one. The horse was not a very quiet one, but he came all the way from the South of England and offered himself for work, and for the last three years he has worked like a nigger with the horse, simply because he felt that there was companionship, even in an animal, and that we were giving him sympathy. If it could be done in that case, it can be done for these other poor boys.
I hope that some doctor other than the prison doctor will be appointed to examine these cases that magistrates send. When I went down to Broadmoor, I found a very able man there, but I feel that it is not fair to him or any other prison doctor to place upon him the sole responsibility for these decisions. Members of the House are often appealed to to get someone out of an institution who has been there for 10, 12 or 15 years, and one can understand how it tears the heart-strings of the relatives when they are told that there is no hope. I tried to get a man out who had been in for 35 years, and I was told at first that they could not accept a second opinion, but in that case they did so, for the first time. There should be no difficulty about this. They have any number of experts at the Board of Control, who could give real reasons to the police, the Home Secretary and everyone concerned. You cannot have too many men who are thoroughly experienced in this direction; it should not be left to the prison doctor every time.
678 The Bill cannot satisfy everyone, but I feel that it represents a very great advance, because it provides the opportunity for applying the real common sense that we can apply to cases of this kind. I remember when, 40 years ago, the cells were always filled on a Saturday night with all kinds of delinquents. When I go back and look at the place now, I find it like a deserted village. I find that the police officers to-day, instead of being bitter and looking for excuses to strike, are going around giving away tickets for the pictures and the theatres. There is a comradeship between the police and the general public that never existed before, and it is a great cause for thankfulness that we are advancing in that way.
I saw, in a speech made, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), something about prison warders. There are times when the warders need protection. After all, I represent the prison officers in Durham. You sometimes get a prisoner that no law will ever make into an archangel. You can do your best, and we are prepared to do that under the Bill, but sometimes, as in one case I remember, the prison officer is attacked very suddenly. In this case he was caught unawares and savagely attacked, and, being in the most terrible pain, he struck the man in order to free himself. He lost his job, and I think he was within only two years of receiving his pension. I could not get him reinstated, because he had struck a prisoner. I am the last man in the world to say that a warder or policeman has a right to strike a prisoner, but it may be that such intense pain is inflicted upon him that he is bound to do something to free himself. The same prisoner, a hardened criminal, was convicted down here in the South, and in a London gaol he attacked one of the warders with even greater violence than in the other case. I had the evidence of the prison doctor and the chaplain, but, in spite of that evidence of a repetition of the attack, the warder in the first case had to lose his pension and all that he had worked for for so many years.
There are men in official positions in prisons, in the police force and on the bench whose sympathies and desires are as keen and human as those of anyone outside. We are becoming better all 679 along, and this Bill will give greater opportunities than ever if it is applied with the common sense that one would apply in one's own family. I feel that it is a matter for pride that, in a country with a population of 45,000,000, in spite of all the causes of juvenile crime, such opportunities are being afforded, and I feel sure that we shall all work together with the Home Secretary and his Department under the Bill. During the Committee stage there will be little things that we shall wish to put in order, but I feel proud that the Home Secretary has brought it in as another step forward. I believe that, as a result of it, the life of the people will be better, and that opportunities will be given to the younger children of being guided and not repressed. I hope that we shall pass the Bill unanimously.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I am afraid the hon. Member for Durham City (Mr. Ritson) had a painful upbringing, but I am sure the whole House will agree with me that it was a very good one, judging by results. As a matter of fact, I used to represent in Parliament the very place in which he was born, and I know the fine type of people to be found in that part of Great Britain. I imagine that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is getting tired of congratulations, but I must just congratulate him on this Bill. Like my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit), I do not pose as an expert, but I have had the privilege and interest of visiting a certain number of prisons in the last few months, and it is on the strength of those visits, not on the knowledge that I have acquired myself, but on what I have learned from the experts, that I hope the House will bear with me while I make a few brief remarks.
I shall not attempt to deal much with the details of the Bill, which are mainly Committee points, but, first of all, I would refer to this question of flogging, which excites an extraordinary interest. I do not think that any Member of the House has any right to hold any point of view about it unless he has read the exceedingly interesting Departmental report on it. It is the most interesting blue book I have ever read, and, like everybody else here, I have read a good many. I particularly commend to the House 680 pages 91 and 92, in which an account is given of the recommendations which were made by a certain number of judges. It made it very clear to me that one was not justified in inflicting corporal punishment because a certain offence made one's blood boil. We often hear it said, "What a frightful offence; he ought to be made to suffer for it." I think we must realise the illogicality of that purely recriminative frame of mind. With all respect to the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras, I think there is a very great difference between retribution and deterrence. Incidentally, it occurred to me to wonder how many of those judges have ever seen a sentence of corporal punishment administered, and, indeed, how many of them have made a practice of visiting prisons at all.
There is one reason in favour of the abolition of corporal punishment that has not been stressed, and that is the effect on the general public of cases like a certain case last spring, when the subject of corporal punishment was a matter of universal conversation. I was horrified when I picked up, at a hairdresser's, an illustrated penny paper published in London on 8th March last—I will not give its name, as I do not wish to be thought to have a vendetta against any particular paper—and found in it a picture of a convict in an American prison being flogged, with a close-up of the man's back after the flogging. If that is what happens when notorious prisoners are sentenced to flogging, the sooner that sort of romance is taken out of criminology the better. It was the most disgusting picture I have ever seen in my life in any newspaper. I never thought I would live to see a picture like that, and if on no other ground there is a very good case to be made against flogging on the ground of its unhealthy effect on the public. You get journalists taking rooms in houses opposite prison gates in order to get stories from prisoners when they come out of prison, after a man has been flogged. Any man worth his salt would pull such a journalist's leg and for 5s. give him the most hair-raising story. In the case last spring one heard details of the number of strokes inflicted, how many were remitted, and all sorts of things, which had no foundation in fact whatever. I beg the Home Secretary firmly to disregard these pleas against abolishing 681 corporal punishment, if only to protect the public against such exceedingly unhealthy sources of entertainment as are provided by a certain type of newspaper. They have a very unhealthy effect on the public mind.
There is one other Committee point to which I would like to refer, and that is with regard to the power of magistrates to sentence to Borstal. I should make that conditional upon the magistrates having some knowledge of what Borstal is like. I was at a Borstal institution the other day, and I was told by the Governor that when he was at another Borstal institution they sent invitations to all the magistrates in the county or in that neighbourhood—I forget which, but I think there were between 80 and 90 of them—to visit the institution, and precisely two of the magistrates availed themselves of that invitation. I think it would be a great mistake to give plenary powers to magistrates such as those, without seeing that some, at any rate, on every bench know what a Borstal institution is like, the principles on which boys are trained there, know in fact what a sentence of so many years at a Borstal institution must mean. I stress that point as strongly as I can. I hope in any case it will not mean dispensing with the very careful examination of a boy's record, and his family record, which goes on, at any rate in the London area, when a boy is sent to Borstal. I was very much impressed by the careful investigation that is made in such cases.
I think this danger of benches knowing nothing about the sort of sentences to which they may sentence prisoners is deplorable, and if it applies to the case of sentences to Borstal, I think it applies just as much to ordinary prison sentences. I have been impressed again and again by prison governors and other officers in prisons with the fact that there seems to be next to no contact between judges and recorders, and prisoners. I was told a story of a very well-known recorder who had at last been persuaded to say that he would visit a prison, but a day or two before the visit was due he rang up and said, "I am very sorry I cannot come." "Why?" "Because I feel that if once I saw what the inside of a prison was like, I should never be able to pass a prison sentence again." If that is the mentality of even one recorder, 682 I think the Home Secretary really ought to consider carefully whether a knowledge of prisons and of prison methods should not be part of the training of every lawyer and a sine quâ non for any judge or recorder. I was impressed again and again by the grave disappointment and discouragement felt by prison authorities at this complete ignoring on the part of judges, recorders, and magistrates of what they were trying to do, and I beg my right hon. Friend to pay attention to that point of view.
I hope I may take advantage of the fact that this is a Second Reading Debate to outline a few ways in which I should like the prison system of the future to develop. First of all, I feel bound to pay a humble tribute to the governors, deputy-governors, and other officers of our prison system. I was prepared to find the old-fashioned type of governor, the former naval or military officer imbued with a stern sense of discipline, and all that sort of thing, and I was prepared to find the sentimentalist. I found neither. I found that the prison authorities are full of common sense, full of humanity, lacking sentimentality or any sentimental washy ideas such as correspondence in the papers seems to imagine. I found them full of humour and full of balance, and I hope it will not be thought impertinent on my part to pay this tribute to them and to the Prison Commissioners. I also grieve to say that I found that they were most inadequately paid. They did not ask me to put forward this point, but I hope my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider the possibility of increasing the pay of prison authorities.
I am quite aware that this Bill does not in itself provide more than the key to prison reform, because prison reform is first and foremost a question of administration, and that is the same as saying that it is a question of money. Continued improvement in prison conditions, in prison principles and methods, is dependent upon public opinion, on an intelligent and instructed public opinion, and I hope, from that point of view, that as many hon. Members of this House as possible will visit prisons, for from my own experience I can promise that they will be most warmly and kindly received and that they will be given complete freedom to find out whatever they wish to find out.
683 The main reforms that I want are these: I want the town prisons abolished, as far as possible. I cannot see any advantage in having a prison in a town. I am convinced, and I am sure that nobody in this House needs convincing, that misery is not the cure for criminal offences. I think that honest, open-air fatigue, hard work, preferably in the open air, adequate food, decent surroundings, are the best cure for criminal tendencies. Of all the prisons that I have seen, the one that struck me as 'the happiest was the one that contained most of what one might call this country's professional criminals, namely, Dartmoor.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Not yet, but I am going there in 10 days' time. I have heard a great deal about Wakefield prison camp, and from what I have heard, I am certain that that is the sort of line on which our prison system ought to develop. It seems to me frightful to imprison men for long sentences in a town, and I do urge that most strongly on my right hon. Friend.
The next thing that I want is what, for lack of a better word, I call "after-care." You have it under the Borstal system. You have probation officers usually to fill this office of Borstal visitors. Very hard-worked individuals they are, and I very much doubt if it is fair to give them that work to do. The ordinary adult prisoner is just as much in need of after-care as a Borstal boy. After all, the main causes of crime are weakness of character, upbringing, home conditions, possibly illegitimacy, estrangement from parents during youth, poverty, and bad housing. Those are the very things which can be helped by kindly advice and by the knowledge that somebody is taking an interest in a former prisoner. I was horrified by some of the letters that I was shown from parents when their sons were taken up for some crime or other. I remember one saying:He used to be a good boy until his dad left him, and then I could not control him,and all that sort of thing. If Borstal visitors are deemed essential for Borstal boys, I cannot see the logic of not setting up some similar sort of service for the ordinary prisoner. Then again, I want to see some steps taken to decide whether 684 a short sentence is of use or is completely useless. If you look at some criminal records, you will see records extending over years—three months here, two months there, six months in one place, 12 months in another place, and so on. They seem to me to be farcical sentences in most cases. Another thing, it is extremely pathetic to see old or elderly prisoners, perhaps too short-sighted, certainly too infirm, to do anything strenuous, too short-sighted, except for the most stupid little jobs. I feel that the old criminal, the product perhaps of an attitude towards penology that is now an anachronism, must be segregated and dealt with freshly. Then again I feel that we must urge all Home Secretaries to institute more Borstals. That again is purely a question of money. Any hon. Member who has visited a Borstal cannot fail to have been enormously impressed. It makes a deep and favourable impression upon anybody. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) criticise Approved Schools. I can only say that his experience has not been the same as mine.
All these reforms cost money, and this Bill, as I have said, is little more than a key to a proper penal system. What we have to remember is that the object of a penal system is to prevent crime, and whether we be kind or brutal to a prisoner, that is not half so important as it is to cure this disease. Crime is a disease in the body politic, whch the prison system should aim at curing. There is a lot to be said for the system in "Erehwon." I will not enlarge on that. I do not claim any expert knowledge, but something that was said to me by one prison governor I shall never forget. He said, "Remember that a man may lack one or two virtues, but that does not necessarily mean that he lacks all the rest. Only a small number of criminals, if taken young, are incurable. "Another thing that has been impressed upon me is that when reading the records of any criminals—their ancestry, upbringing, health record, and so on—I have not yet come across one which did not make me feel that if I had undergone the same troubles, I should have been in the same position as the prisoner. I finish by again congratulating my right hon. Friend on the Bill. I think he is a worthy relation of Elizabeth Fry. Although he, perhaps, will not be so eminent in prison reform 685 as she, I think that in introducing this Bill he has assured himself of a certain niche in the temple of fame.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I will not detain the House long over the few comments I have to make, which relate chiefly to Scotland. I recognise that other hon. Members have covered the general issues in the Bill. I somewhat regret that the Scottish Office have not introduced a separate Bill for Scotland. Our system, as the Lord Advocate explained, is different in many ways from that of England; and a good way of approaching the matter, from the point of view of Scotland, might have been to introduce a separate Bill. The Lord Advocate dealt with the reasons why this Bill was not covering certain points in connection with Scotland. May I ask him to consider, particularly on the question of probation, how far he can undertake the task, administratively at least, of making the Scottish practice better.
In this Bill, as I understand, we now propose to alter the powers of our sheriffs in Scotland. Hitherto the power of sheriffs has been limited to the imposition of a maximum sentence of two years. Under the Bill, the sheriffs will have power to impose preventive detention up to four years. I am not certain that I am prepared to give a sheriff in Scotland the power to impose such a heavy sentence. I also want to refer to the schedule of crimes for which sentences of preventive detention can be imposed. Sentence of 10 years' preventive detention can now be imposed after three convictions for theft, robbery, assault to the danger of life or intent to do bodily harm. To put theft alongside assault to the danger of life is stretching things considerably. Nobody in this House would claim that theft, robbery or housebreaking with intent to steal, was nearly as serious as assault with danger to life or intent to do serious bodily harm. I trust that the power to impose a sentence of 10 years' detention, even by a High Court judge, will not be persisted in for cases of theft, housebreaking with intent to steal, or robbery, and that these offences will not be put in the same category as assault to the danger of life or with intent to do bodily harm.
Now I want to raise a point in connection with the actual administration in the prisons themselves. This Bill to some 686 extent deals with matters affecting prison life. At present we are having certain changes made, and I would ask the Lord Advocate to look into some of the changes again. At Peterhead Prison, which is our penal settlement, the authorities are starting a new system of categories of prisoners. In the old days everybody sentenced to three years went to Peterhead. Now the system is altered to this extent, that prisoners sentenced to three or five or seven years, for the first time, do not go to Peterhead, but to Saughton Prison, and persons doing sentences of 18 months go to Peterhead. But you have persons there doing 10 years, or sometimes life sentenes. Persons who were doing life sentences spoke to me with bitterness when I last visited the prison, about some of the other prisoners being taken away. They thought that the old system might be maintained, as they considered it was better from their point of view.
On the question of flogging, I want to say a word or two; and not merely from the Scottish point of view. In Scotland there has never been since the War, for practical purposes, any flogging for the adult prisoner. No matter how serious the crime, flogging of adults has ceased to exist in Scotland since the War. The only crimes for which flogging is still practised in Scotland are those that juveniles commit. I can say, with my knowledge of Scottish affairs—and I am certain the Lord Advocate will agree—that the practical abolition of flogging has not meant any increase in the most heinous crimes. In some parts of Scotland the housing conditions are terrible. I think they are worse than in England. Yet, with all those shocking housing conditions, flogging has been abolished in Scotland and still crimes against the person, crimes against women and crimes against children, are considerably lessened. I venture to say that crimes like incest crimes against children would be practically non-existant in Scotland to-day were the problem of housing solved to any large extent. Over a period of years in the Glasgow High Court, practically every person convicted of an offence against a child came from terrible social surroundings. It seems to me that the solution does not lie in continued flogging, but rather in superior housing and social conditions.
687 I understand that this Bill abolishes the birch for the child, and that the old days of what we call in Scotland the birch rod, are going. This Bill must take some time to pass—it will be many months, possibly, before it comes to the Statute Book. Is it too much to ask that in the meantime the attention of those who are entrusted with carrying out the law might be called to the Bill, and that they might be asked to exercise leniency, in conformity with what Parliament clearly desires. One of the appalling things in Scotland is the number of children punished by the birch rod. The judge is not always to blame, because parents, sooner than have a penalty of detention imposed, will frequently ask for the birch rod to be applied. I am not unmindful of the fact that sometimes a solicitor, for that reason, asks in court for the birch rod as a punishment.
I think the Bill improves the position by taking away that distasteful task from any solicitor. I find that on certain occasions when the House of Commons modifies the law, magistrates are inclined to say something like this: "We cannot now apply the birch, and therefore, in every case, we must apply the penalties that this Bill allows." I trust that that will not be their approach to this problem, and that the abolition of the birch will not be taken as making it necessary for a magistrate automatically to detain on every occasion. One of the things I am afraid of is that, with all its humanity, and with the abolition of certain punishments, the Bill will have that effect on magistrates. If that is so, we might as well retain some of the old barbarities we have had in the past.
I want to say a word or two in relation to bail, particularly for young persons. I find that, in Glasgow particularly, if a young person is arrested it is almost impossible to get bail, at least until he has appeared before a magistrate. I would like the Lord Advocate to consider what is done in Glasgow, and, in Scotland generally, in relation to certain crimes. Take the case of a person arrested for drunkenness in Glasgow. The police put him in a cell, he lies there for an hour or two and then his wife or some other relative turns up, and £1 bail is handed over and the man walks out. Generally, he does not appear the next morning; so 688 the £1 is forfeited, and there is no conviction. But what happens in the case of the juvenile? Frequently the officer will not liberate on bail that night; and in the case of the child arrested on a Saturday, he has to remain until Monday before he can appear before the court and be granted bail. I would ask the Lord Advocate to consider giving more power to local officers, and I hope that they themselves will exercise their power more in regard to the release on bail of young offenders. The offender ought to be detained only if facing a serious trial, and after conviction.
The Bill has been hailed with a chorus of unanimous approval by everybody in this House. We are told that we are setting out on a Bill that makes possible certain steps forward. I have no doubt that the promoters intend the Bill to make prison conditions better than they have been in the past, but, in my opinion, the Bill means very little in itself. All that we are doing here is to make a certain machine, and the whole thing will depend upon how the machine is worked. What is the approach of the police to the prisoner? I often think the police could mitigate the prisoner problem by exercising wisdom and common sense in their everyday practice. We are told that in law the police show equality in their attitude both to rich and poor, but, frankly, in my native city I often doubt if that condition of affairs exists. I live in not too bad a residential quarter, and I represent a poorer quarter, and I often see a completely different approach by the police to the children in the locality where I live, from that shown by the police to the children in the division I represent. A case was brought to my notice only the other week where four children were playing on roller skates in a street in my division. They were about 12 years of age, and nobody would suggest that to be out on roller skates in the street is a hideous or a terrible social crime, yet the police came along and marched the four children to the police office. They confiscated their skates and detained the children for an hour or two before liberating them. Yet where I live I see the same thing happening day in and day out and a policeman rarely if ever interferes. I am certain that a good deal depends upon the method of approach. I say to the Lord Advocate that in districts where people are living, perhaps 689 under terrible conditions and where there are few places in which the children can play, the police ought really to exercise the same toleration that they sometimes appear to do towards the wealthier classes of the community.
On the general purpose of the Bill I have no opposition to express. Points I have made with regard to the powers of the sheriff I shall raise in Committee and seek to improve the position. I hope that those who will be responsible for the operation of the Measure, probation officers, magistrates, sheriffs, judges and police, will enter into the spirit of the Measure and will realise that a prisoner is not necessarily a man to be cribbed, and that even the old lag has still some place in human society. This Bill may do some good for the common people. When I entered the House of Commons I looked upon the present Home Secretary as the most reactionary Tory in this House, representing Chelsea, the home of reaction. He has at least proved that he has decent instincts, and I trust that the House of Commons will approach the provisions of the Bill with the object of seeing how they can be improved. I wish the Bill well and trust that the Committee upstairs will hammer out the difficulties and make the position even better for the whole of the community, including prisoners.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Thomson
I should like to add my congratulations to those of almost every speaker to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on introducing this Bill. Progress is always attacked on the ground that it either goes too far or not far enough. One exception we can take to this Bill is that it contains one definitely retrograde step—and this matter was brought up on Tuesday, on Clause 18—in that it is necessary for conviction to be recorded before an offender is allowed to be put on probation. I understand that a committee recommended this change, but it seems to me, not being a lawyer, entirely unnecessary. The Attorney-General, in his winding-up speech on Tuesday night quoted a passage from Lord Darling, who said:The words of section 1 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, are unscientific, thoroughly illogical, and are merely a concession to the modern passion for calling things what they are not, for finding people guilty and at the same time trying to declare them not guilty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1938; col. 373, Vol. 342.]690 The Attorney-General used that quotation as an argument that because a thing is so, we must therefore record a conviction and let the conviction stand. In this Bill we are saying the whole time a thing is and is not. The whole Bill is built up on a more modern and better conception of justice than that contained in Lord Darling's quotation. I do not know whether this is a Committee matter, but it is of great importance that these people we are letting out should have another chance in the world, and the conviction should not be down in black and white to be recorded in after life on passport, forms and the like that they have to fill up. It seems to be an unnecessary condition and a retrograde step.
I do not know whether this is the occasion to bring up this matter, but there are two bad verdicts in this country to-day. One is the verdict of "Guilty, but insane." I do not know whether the Bill is the place to alter that. That verdict has always seemed to me absurd. The very words are a contradiction in terms. A person who is insane cannot be guilty. The other question is one which I would refer to the Lord Advocate. I do not know how many English Members know, that although a person charged in England is either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty," in Scotland, there are three verdicts of "Guilty," "Not Guilty," and "Not Proven." That has always appeared to me to be the most ridiculous verdict that could be given. It is neither one thing nor the other. I would like to know whether this Bill can be made the occasion to bring in an Amendment making the law of Scotland in line with the law in England. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), apparently, does not agree with me. If one cannot obtain a conviction there ought to be a verdict of "Not Guilty." I think that "Not Proven," in the mind of the layman, has very little justification.
Personally—though as a Scottish Member I speak with some diffidence—I welcome the new power given to summary courts in England to sentence people to Borstal. I have been impressed by what I have heard in the Debate that the alternative would be for courts to send persons to prison or to remand homes until sentence is confirmed by the quarter sessions. If a sentence to Borstal is to 691 be carried out, it is better that a boy or girl should be sent at once so as to get whatever benefit there is from the sentence. Both Borstals and approved schools are not administered as a punishment, but as a reformation, and all magistrates and everybody else should impress that side of it. I think that classes and work parties of all sorts should be encouraged, not only in Borstal but in other prisons, but more especially in Borstal. I believe that in some Borstals the cell doors are locked. Those who are detained in some Borstals are put in cells and the doors are locked, and in other Borstals I believe that is not the case. Why there is a difference in treatment I do not know. I gather that the girls at Aylesbury are all locked in cells. I do not think that cells are the best places for the young offender. The Home Secretary may be able to make some statement as to why all the girls at Aylesbury, which also contains women convicts, are locked in cells. As to prisons generally, I have never been quite able to understand why, when a prisoner goes to prison, he spends the first two or three months in his cell and is given no work to do, and only gets out for exercise. I agree with the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit), who said that they should go into prison able to take advantage of privileges, and that if they come under punishment the privileges should be taken away from them. I think that we lose a valuable chance if, when a prisoner is first sentenced to prison, he is not given these opportunities when he is most impressionable and able to get the best advantage out of something that occupies his mind.
The whole principle of this Bill is to reform the prisoner and not to impose punishment for revenge, and, as far as flogging is concerned, I doubt whether figures can be produced to show that benefit has come from flogging. The hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) made out a case for keeping flogging in case of the crime of robbery with violence.
§ Sir D. Thomson
I agree, but possibly one could make out a case in England for it, though it should certainly be 692 limited to a second conviction, and not apply on the first occasion. The judge might say that he had the power to flog, and that if a prisoner came before him again he would be flogged. In Scotland, as the hon. Member for Gorbals has pointed out, there has been no flogging for the crime of robbery with violence since mediaeval days. If that is so, I submit it is a good reason for the action of the Home Secretary in abolishing flogging in the present Bill. The Lord Advocate spoke about the difference between Scotland and England and how we were not at the present time able to go forward with certain reforms in Scotland until the local authorities had been consulted. It is essential in England that there should be many of these new remand homes. I gather that it will be some time, at any rate, before we can get ahead in Scotland. All Scottish Members present, I am sure, will support me when I urge the Lord Advocate to expedite matters as much as possible in order that in Scotland we may get the benefit in another Bill of all those parts of this Bill which are of great benefit.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I want to deal with two points as briefly as I can. As to flogging, it seems to me to be a good tradition of English legislation that it seeks by intelligent understanding to make greater measures of social decency for society. The Home Secretary, in what I think was a very moving passage on Tuesday afternoon, said that the Bill was in striking contrast to the mediaeval practices now existing in some European countries. By the passing of the Bill we leave them further and further behind. I am more delighted that we are leaving behind the more calculated and practised brutality of the nineteenth century. In every age there have been opponents of reforms whose sons have lived to bless the reforms which their fathers opposed. I speak of the calculated and practised brutality of the nineteenth century because of an unusual family experience. My wife's uncle—his sister is still alive—in 1856 was sentenced, at the age of 18, to seven years' penal servitude, with transportation to Western Australia, and has never been heard of since. I do not doubt that when, some years later, it was proposed in this House to abolish that barbaric punishment, the voice of reaction was heard as it rose sturdily in its place declaring that 693 if it were abolished the very fabric of civilisation would crack and the edifice would be destroyed. Yet there cannot be found in the House to-day one Member who would dare to rise in his place and propose the imposition of a penalty of that kind.
As punishment, age by age and generation by generation, has become more and more humane, so have crimes of severity steadily decreased. Some hon. Members may contest the relationship between the two things, but it remains a coincidence that has to be explained. Several hon. Members, none of whom is present at the moment, on Tuesday, and again this afternoon, expressed their disapproval of the abolition of flogging. They are in the great tradition of English conservatism—I do not mean political Conservatism, but philosophic conservatism—of disapproving every change for the better, even though, as in the case of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), they invite some changes that would be for the worse.
One hon. Member opposite referred to the report of the Committee on Corporal Punishment. I read that report with great care, and I thought that it was a very careful document, and was not less conclusive than it was clear. Two references have been made to what was called the Mayfair case, which almost coincided with the publication of the Departmental Committee's report. I was a little alarmed in connection with that case at the number of hon. Members who, on principle, disapprove of flogging in general, but approve of it in the particular. I think that is a very dangerous form of reasoning. It can mean in any particular case that what is condemned in general is often for the moment excused. Emerson once said that cruelty was the one sin for which there was no forgiveness. I hate to think that cruelty will continue to be deplored in general while excused in a particular case.
In connection with the Mayfair case I had an extraordinary experience, and I have the permission of the people concerned to relate it to the House. A young society woman, a friend of the injured man, went to the court, filled almost with vindictive indignation against the crime. She sat through the trial, and more and more found unbearable what she described as the evident and indecent 694 pleasure which the infliction of the punishment gave to some people in the court. She was nauseated by it, and, finally, used every effort she could to save the assailants of her friend from the brutality of the "cat." The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) used a famous quotation from the trial scene of "The Merchant of Venice." If it is not a crime to make a paraphrase of Shakespeare, I would say, with reference to the "cat," that it brutalises him that gives and him that takes.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr, seeking to find a worse situation than that which exists, suggested another crime that should be added to the flogging list. If flogging is to be retained as a form of punishment, I see no reason why the list of offences for which that punishment should be applied should not be rationalised in the light of modern conditions. I see no reason, in that case, why share-pushing, tax-evasion, fraud at the expense of poor and unsophisticated people, animal hunting and blackmail should not be added to the list. There is no case for adding any of them, for there is no case for the retention of that form of punishment. We know that it must go. Therefore, we had better let it go, and let it go with decency and without protest. Some hon. Members will perhaps be familiar with Drinkwater's "Abraham Lincoln," and the moving passage in which, late at night, Lincoln went to Grant to inquire about the state of things. Grant said to him: "Lee will surrender at four o'clock to-morrow." Lincoln replied: "For more than four years life has been the hope of this moment, and now, how small it seems." Lincoln then inquired: "Any shootings, Grant?" and Grant replied: "Yes, Albert Smith of Vermont, 18 years of age, for sleeping on guard." Then Lincoln remarked: "Will it do him any good to shoot him?"
The one regret that I have about this Bill is that the Home Secretary has not sought the same powers for the abolition of the death penalty as for the abolition of flogging, and I earnestly hope that before we reach the concluding stages of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman will have taken into account the expressed view of the House on this matter within the last few weeks, as well as the opinions of the Select Committee on the subject 695 in 1929. There are two reasons for punishment, one corrective and the other deterrent. The exercise of the death penalty cannot in any circumstances be a corrective punishment. It must, therefore, be regarded as deterrent punishment. Even if it were a deterrent—and there is no proof of that—that would not be conclusive evidence in favour of its retention. It is a brutal punishment, and it is presumably believed to be a deterrent because it is a brutal punishment. Therefore, I am entitled to assume that it would be even a greater deterrent if it were even more brutal than it is. Why not, therefore, return to the public execution? Why not refrain from blindfolding the persons to be executed, or why not do as they have done in Central Europe, put them on the block and turn their eyes to high Heaven, so that they may see the axe descend?
We perform our executions secretly instead of openly, because we are ashamed of this barbaric practice. We carry out our barbarities as secretly as we can, but in carrying them out we impose upon judges, juries and the Home Secretary a degradation so intolerable that we could not bear it ourselves if called upon to do so. I had recited to me an incident that happened at a hanging in a small prison in the West of England. The night before he was to be hanged the prisoner was asked whether he would like to have a clergyman in attendance. He said he would, and he told the Governor that he was a member of a small nonconformist denomination. So there came into the prison the next morning the clergyman from this small nonconformist denomination, who was compelled to see what he hoped he never would have to see, the painful sight of an execution, from which, in fact, he never recovered.
There is no Member of the House who doubts that capital punishment one day will go. An hon. Member once made himself more famous than he was before when he spoke of the "inevitability of gradualness." What appalls me in this matter is not the inevitability of gradualness but the gradualness of inevitability. We know that it will go; why be gradual about it? I beg the Home Secretary before the concluding stages of this Bill to see that capital punishment is 696 abolished. Let this Bill, with its prospect of such great reforms as will give English society a new decency and our institutions a new respect, be big enough to sweep away this remaining barbarity.
§ 8.27 p.m.
I should like to add my congratulation to the Home Secretary on the production of the Bill, and to say that I hope it will meet with the success which it merits. I have only one question to put to the Under-Secretary of State. In his reply I should like him to say quite specifically whether the proposals in the Bill will be used for men and for women alike. The Secretary of State has written to me to say that there will be, of course, no discrimination between men and women, but why I am so anxious to have this stated openly in the House is because I think it would encourage those people who have taken an interest in the women delinquents. I think there is common agreement that there has not been the same specialised treatment for women as for men in the past, that is to say, that although the provisions were available for women, they have not in fact been put into practice. It is obvious, for instance, that there has not been the adequate grading of girls who have been sent to Aylesbury, and there have been no experiments in regard to the psychological treatment of women and girls. I am so anxious that there should be no doubt that female delinquents will benefit from the new proposals equally with men and boys, that I would ask the Under-Secretary to say quite conclusively that the Bill will be to the benefit of all. If we can have a statement to that effect I am certain that it will give great encouragement to all those who are working to try and better the conditions of women and girls in relation to detention.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Errington
Most hon. Members will agree with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) as to the necessity for improving the conditions in regard to the matter we are considering, but before that time comes quite obviously schemes of reform of a far-reaching character must be examined. Although one may have had some doubts as to whether the Bill was not too lenient, I think that those doubts have been set at rest, and I should like to add my congratulations to the 697 Home Secretary on a Bill which combines the necessary severity with enlightened humanity. In particular I should like to praise the probation provisions and the provisions in regard to remand homes and compulsory attendance centres and Howard Houses seem to be admirable. The question of Borstal training raises possibly some points which are a little more difficult. I am not at all certain that it would not be a good thing, since certain names have been changed in the Bill, for example the case of a State mental institution, to consider whether the name Borstal should not be changed. My experience is that generally it is as bad to say that a person is a Borstal boy as to say that he has been in prison.
That brings me to another point which I consider of considerable importance, that is the question of magistrates sentencing a party to Borstal detention. My experience in the courts tells me that on numerous occasions a recommendation to Borstal from magistrates of petty sessions is not upheld or acted upon by recorders and High Court judges who, of course, have very much more experience and more opportunities of judging suitability or not. And you may well be up against prejudices which are sometimes shown by lay magistrates. I think you are running a grave risk, because I consider that detention in a Borstal institution is not what some people would have us believe, a home from home, and it certainly is not looked upon by the general public as such. In view of the seriousness of this matter I suggest that magistrates should not have a right to send to Borstal.
There is a series of provisions which deal with medical considerations. I think they are of great value and a step very much in the right direction. I agree that it would be a mistake to divest the prisons of all outside assistance in regard to these medical matters. Anyone who has had the opportunity of practising in the criminal courts has heard time after time High Court judges talk about the difficulties they have with cases which are obviously of a mental character. A typical example is a case of prostatic trouble, a purely physical condition which often results in crime. This, I hope, will be the starting point for great administrative progress and development in this direction. In that connection I should like to support what the Lord Advocate 698 said as to the discrimination which must be used in regard to prisoners and inmates of these various institutions. It seems to me that the whole thing depends on the type of man you get to run these various institutions. I believe the idea to be right, but it seems to me that the idea may fail completely if you get the wrong type of man, the man who does not understand the working of the minds of the people he has to control. I hope this will be realised, and that there will be opportunities of attracting the best type of men into the prison services, for I believe that is the fire and the meat of the Bill we are discussing.
I would like to say a few words about what I would describe as the more experienced criminal. In this connection, I am very interested in Clause 57 of the Bill, which gives to the Secretary of State the opportunity of changing the Borstal sentence to one of imprisonment and the prison sentence to one of Borstal. I should like to hear from the Government why it is limited in that way, and why it should not be applied to imprisonment and corrective training and imprisonment and preventive detention. I suppose that the whole idea of the Bill is to give an opportunity to people who know something about the individuals with whom they are dealing to see what is the most appropriate way of dealing with them. Very often—one says it quite frankly—the courts have not that opportunity. The record of the prisoner is read out by the police officer and the court acts upon it, but that cannot be as effective as the experience of a man who has made a study of the individual concerned. I recognise that there are difficulties because, of course, there is no appeal from a decision taken by the Home Secretary on the advice of the permanent officials who deal with the matter, and there is no publicity; but it seems to me that, on the lines of Clause 57, there might be a great deal of development in the way of a closer understanding of the inmates of these particular institutions. I should be very pleased if the Government would give some indication as to whether the provisions in this Clause are the starting point for something on the lines I have mentioned.
With regard to corporal punishment, many hon. Members have dealt with the matter from a slightly different standpoint from that which I shall take. I 699 have read carefully the report of the Departmental Committee, which contains some most surprising figures that seem to prove that corporal punishment is not a success. I do not think the whole matter is one for figures. Figures are very often made to prove a number of things that are really not quite justifiable. My feeling is that we cannot know what is the preventive effect of whipping and corporal punishment because we never hear of people upon whom it has a deterrent effect. I believe there are certain brutal crimes which demand brutal remedies. I consider that robbery with violence, offences of gross cruelty, and in particular, the offences of which we heard just now—slashing offences by which helpless women are harmed in the streets—are the sort of offences that should be dealt with by corporal punishment. I feel that the figures, convincing as they may be, really do not cover the whole position. Having made these remarks, I wish to support the Bill and to congratulate the Home Secretary upon it.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
This is a Bill in which I am deeply interested, because it has been my duty for a number of years past to sit as a magistrate in the division which I represent in this House. I feel that the machinery provided by this Bill is one that will enable us to get more at the causes of crime in the sense that we shall be approaching the person who has committed a crime, not in the old vindictive spirit of the past, but rather with a view to assisting in the eradication of the causes which have led him to commit a crime. One often feels, when a person is in the dock and one has heard the evidence, that in many ways he has been sinned against as much as he has been the sinner, but instead of endeavouring to cure the trouble from which he has suffered, we have been too inclined to be vindictive.
The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Errington) argued for the retention of corporal punishment, which has never been curative and never been deterrent. Perhaps I may be pardoned if I give a little personal experience in this respect. As a boy, I do not think I was any worse than other boys, but I well remember that the circumstances in our home were such that my parents were 700 not over-blessed with money, and apples came into our home but once a week. I was rather fond of apples, and on one occasion, with my brother and sister, I went and got some apples from a tree. On returning home, my mother wanted to know why my brother and sister did not need their dinner—and then the game began. My mother was much incensed that I should have stolen apples, and she gave me corporal punishment with a vengeance. But that did not cure me, nor did it deter me. It happened on the Saturday, and on the Monday morning, on my way to school, I took some more apples from the same tree. That is an illustration of the effect of corporal punishment.
When corporal punishment is administered to a boy, he invariably tells his pals, and becomes a sort of hero. It would have been far better, of course, if my mother had been wiser, and had promised me an extra apple when they next came into the home. I ask hon. Members to remove from their minds at once any idea that corporal punishment is either a deterrent or a cure. I am pleased to say that those with whom I sit on the magisterial bench in the juvenile court do not agree with corporal punishment. Our experience is that if you question the boy or girl who is charged with an offence, you invariably find a reason for their conduct and almost invariably the cause of the trouble is to be found in the home. This Bill will improve the machinery of the administration of justice in this respect and in extending the use of remand homes and improving our probationary system I am persuaded that we are taking a line by which we can win the confidence of the younger generation, ascertain the causes of their troubles and meet them in such a way as will encourage them to refrain from crime. I feel that the Bill represents a step in the right direction. It has been suggested that there is a danger in giving ordinary lay magistrates the power of sentencing persons to Borstal institutions. I am persuaded there is not the amount of danger in that course which some hon. Members have suggested. I think on the other hand there is great danger in compelling magistrates to remand persons to the quarter sessions, because the period of delay involved invariably brings those accused persons into association with undesirable characters.
§ Mr. Errington
But the hon. Member realises that under this Bill there are special remand homes for dealing with the cases he has in mind.
§ Mr. Viant
I am speaking of the present system. I know that the machinery is to be improved. I am asking that we should take a course which will result in justice being meted out with the least possible delay, which will permit better influences to be brought to bear upon these boys and girls as speedily as possible, and give them an opportunity of redeeming their characters at the earliest possible moment. Further, I am persuaded that there has been a great improvement in the type of person who has been appointed to the magisterial bench in recent years. We find a more enlightened type of mind among our magistrates and I do not think there is any danger in giving lay magistrates the power to deal with cases of this kind. The Bill, by introducing improved machinery, will undoubtedly take us a long way on the road of reform. More and more consideration will have to be given to the psychology of persons who are charged with offences, and the more we approach these problems from that point of view, the more likely we shall be to get down to the causes of the trouble.
Recently in the juvenile court I saw an intelligent, smart lad whose case I mention as an illustration. He was in employment, he would work for a couple of weeks at a time and then having drawn his wages at a week-end, he would remain away from work and from his home for some time. He did this repeatedly. I asked him to tell me why he ran away from home. I found that there were six others in the family, all older than this boy, that this lad was in the habit, unfortunately, of wetting the bed and that when he committed an offence of that kind the others laughed at him and he ran away from home. We realised that the boy needed treatment and that the best way of dealing with this case was to put him in a home. This was done and the boy is now making good. We got down to the cause of his trouble, and if this Bill gives magistrates and suchlike an opportunity of approaching from that angle, the problems which come before them, I am persuaded that it will receive a whole-hearted welcome, not only from 702 this House but from the community at large. I again commend the Home Secretary for his humanitarian outlook and thank him for the improved machinery which, by this Bill, he is placing at the disposal of the community.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson
The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) did I think throw considerable light upon the purposes and origins of this Bill in that he drew attention, in a number of illustrations, to the way in which this Bill has evolved not from above so much as from below. I think that is possibly its most important aspect. This Bill is not a mere ideological formula put into legislative shape. It is something much more than that. It is not the first word in some bright idea that the Secretary of State has suddenly evolved. It is the formulation of a 30 year process of experience on the part of prison governors, of prison visitors, of the Prison Commissioners—that excellent body of officials who do such wonderful work—of experience on the part of several committees and commissions, and also we must admit, on the part of those who have experienced in their own persons the dangers and disadvantages of incarceration. There are sundry Members of the House who have never been in prison, and there are others who probably never will be, but I think we all realise that the services of those who have for one reason or other been in prison and have been able to assist in our discussions in this House have been very great, and I am sure that in Committee we shall benefit enormously by their advice.
This Bill is not only one which has been evolved so to speak from underneath, and which is the formulation of years of experience, but it is also in the direct line of the historical development of penal reform. We were all glad that not only the Home Secretary but also the Attorney-General, in their speeches on Tuesday, drew attention to, and put great emphasis upon, the historical aspect of this development. It is most appropriate, of course, that the Home Secretary should be the great-great nephew of Elizabeth Fry. She, indeed, must have been a most formidable lady, and if one reads in the memoirs and letters of the time the effect that she made upon her contemporaries, one realises that there was 703 something in her personality which was more forcible and more incisive than that of any other penal or prison reformer that there has ever been. Even Lord Byron who was a Liberal of course—although I sometimes suspect he was only a Liberal because he enjoyed teasing the Tories, a most agreeable pastime—even he was immensely impressed by Elizabeth Fry. Although Byron in his letters always made fun of Jeremy Bentham and called his "Panopticon" visionary, yet he always spoke with the greatest respect and veneration of Elizabeth Fry.
This historical development has not really been wholly one from cruelty or insensitiveness to humanitarianism. Of course, there has been that development. Things that did not trouble our grandfathers do trouble us to-day. I was reading only the other day a Debate that took place in this House in 1813 on Sir Samuel Romilly's suggestion that the time had at last come when it might be possible that a person convicted of high treason should not be disembowelled alive. I read these words of the Solicitor-General in that Debate:Can the Government exist without such protection? Are the safeguards and the ancient bulwarks, the bulwarks of our constitution, thus hastily to be overthrown"?Of course, the Solicitor-General won, and for another three years a person convicted of treason was immediately disembowelled alive. We have now the Official Secrets Act and we do not have to proceed to those lengths, nor is the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) in any immediate danger of being obliged to commit harikari because of the exigencies of that Act. The real development is not one from cruelty or insensitiveness to humanitarianism. It is from muddled-headedness to intelligence. The development is really one from the broad aggregation of criminals to discrimination between criminals: and the whole process of penal reform in this country—although it led to Howard's idea of solitary confinement—is this idea of segregation.
If we watch penal reform from Elizabeth Fry through Howard, with his unfortunate idea of solitary confinement—which was not done for punishment, but in order to avoid contamination—we get to the almost perfect discrimination that we have in this present Bill, namely, that not only are prisoners divided into several 704 categories, not only are they subjected to very different modes of treatment, but provisions of various kinds—very intricate and, above all, very elastic provisions—are made in the Bill for personal treatment, for the consideration of individuality. Not only do we abolish the feeling that there is a criminal class and abolish the idea of "once a gaol bird always a gaol bird," but we have got slowly, and I think for the first time in actual legislation, to the conception that every delinquent must be treated as a human individual and, if possible, watched in his development. That is the great merit of this Bill. Without destroying those safeguards which society needs, and without in any way impairing those deterrents which I suppose are necessary, it does give a fluidity to our administration and adds a variety to the application of justice which it never possessed before. When we consider what an admirable provision we have under Clause 57 for powers of release on licence under supervision, when we realise how infinitely flexible this Bill really is in terms of human intelligence, I think we must all agree that it does mark a great advance in the intelligent approach to penal reform.
The only point on which I have noticed any difference of opinion in the House is corporal punishment. There are few people so unimaginative as the person who says, "I was beaten as a boy; look how wonderful I am; corporal punishment is a good thing." They forget entirely that as boys we were beaten by people who knew us, by people whom we had known for some time, whom we were going to see again, and with whom we were in continuous and generally amicable relations. We were not taken away by a policeman, there was not that terrible strangeness, that aloofness, that horrible precision of machinery which exists when a boy is birched or beaten under the sentence of the court. I must inform the House of the moment when I became such a fierce opponent of any form of corporal punishment under the law. I do not mean domestic punishment, because that is a good thing, but legal punishment. I had only been a member of this House for three weeks when a mother of one of my constituents asked me to see her. She was in an awful state. Her little boy of 14 was condemned to be birched because he had broken into a house and stolen a file or 705 something. I saw the little boy, a little white-faced troglodite, who did not make much impression on me. His mother did. She was a decent woman, and she said, "Do you know, they all tell me in the street that if little Bert here is birched they will have to white-wash the room afterwards because of the blood." I told her that it was not quite as bad as that; but that is what she thought.
I believe that if any hon. Member who advocates birching in that way had seen the agony and the apprehension in that woman's eyes, he would have felt as I feel that, whatever crime the child may have committed, the State has not the right to be beastly in just that sort of way. I will end the story by confessing that I and my hon. and learned Friend who shares with me the honour of representing the City of Leicester were so struck by this that we saw the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, with the assistance of the Under-Secretary, I am glad to say that we had this boy reprieved. A week later, however, he went and did it again, and we were told that if only the child had been birched he would never have done it. Nevertheless, I still hold the conviction that in corporal punishment it does not matter so much what it does to the person punished; it is degrading to the dignity of the State. It is because this Bill abolishes those things; because it introduces into criminal law and into penal practices that flexibility which is essential to individual treatment; because it brings into the full current of justice all the experience, the wisdom and the extreme kind-heartedness of those who spend their lives considering these things—it is because it gives the Home Secretary such varied and flexible powers that I consider this Bill is not only one of the most humane but one of the most intelligent Bills that have ever been brought before this House.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Woods
I join with those who welcome this Bill, but there are a few points on which I am a little perplexed. I am rather intrigued with the title. When introducing the Bill the Home Secretary said that one of the things which was to go was the term "criminal lunatic," because if a man was a lunatic he could not be a criminal, and I find myself in much the same difficulty regarding the term 706 "criminal justice." I think the Bill is, at any rate, calculated to bring about a diminution in the criminal injustice with which we are all familiar. There was the instance quoted by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) of the disembowelling of traitors. That might have been punishment, but it was certainly not justice. It was sheer brutality, but it was done in the name of criminal justice, and it certainly was criminal justice. I think we are all justified in hoping that the Bill will carry forward the process of reducing the criminal injustices which have been practised in the past.
Those who oppose some of the provisions of this Bill seem to me to be definitely the spiritual descendants of those who opposed those past reforms in which we now rejoice. As I listened to the few—happily only a few—speakers who maintained the necessity, and even the desirability, of flogging, of corporal punishment, it seemed to me that they were convinced that those of us who want to see this blot removed from the Statute Book are moved by sentiment. There may be some degree of sentiment, because nobody is entirely free from it, but it is much better to be actuated by sympathy than by fear. Fear is of the same emotional quality as sympathy. In nearly all the Debates which have taken place upon laws for the removal of brutality in public life some have taken part who have been actuated by the fear of what would happen. The hon. Member for West Leicester has reminded us of their argument, that the State would be insecure. The real argument for this Bill is not either fear or sympathy.
The reasons why we should approve this Bill are to be found in psychology and the study of crime by modern science, and the overwhelming evidence of all the experts, based upon observation of the effects of the treatment meted out to offenders, is that corporal punishment, flogging, only brutalises the recipients. It not only brutalises those who administer it but it also tends to keep alive the idea that brutality is a perfectly justifiable thing because the State itself is responsible for a certain degree of brutality. Another argument put forward in speeches and in papers is that the provisions of the Bill border upon the pampering of offenders, and especially young offenders. I myself would like to 707 see the varied forms of treatment proposed in the Bill definitely conducing to the providing of a niche in society for difficult cases.
Then the argument is put forward that we are putting a premium upon crime. I think that is no criticism of this Bill, but it is a back-handed criticism of society as we know it to-day, because there are nearly 2,000,000 people who are suffering a tremendous penalty through no fault of their own, namely, unemployment. One of the biggest contributions we could make towards a diminution of crime would be to eliminate the fear of unemployment and the inevitable consequences of unemployment. An hon. Member for one of the Liverpool divisions said that he desired to retain flogging because he thought that for certain brutal crimes it is necessary to have a brutal remedy. It is necessary to have a remedy, but I do not think that more brutality is likely, in the end, to diminish the volume of brutality. We have to overcome the sort of emotional reaction which we feel when there is a brutal crime; not regard it as an opportunity to indulge our own passions at the expense of somebody else, but recognise, in the modern scientific spirit, that here is a problem that needs solving and ask ourselves how we can solve it.
From some experience—I will not go into detail about my contacts with prisoners both in gaol and out of gaol—I have definitely come to the conclusion that basically the hardened criminal is a man who feels himself or herself at war with society. I have discussed this with gaolbirds in their own homes. They would like to go straight, but have a consciousness that the world is against them, and so they are against the world. Until such people can be made to see that this world and society are not hostile I do not think there is much hope of a remedy, and I do not think that brutality would help at all. I join with the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) in regretting that the experiment is not to be carried out 100 per cent. and capital punishment ended. That is the keystone which is necessary to complete the arch.
There is one other matter upon which I should like to appeal to the Home Secretary and those responsible for 708 prison administration. It concerns a practice which certainly survived up to a few years ago although I do not know whether it is still retained. When a prisoner describes himself as a Christian—and it is surprising what a large number of Christians are guilty of crime—he is provided with a Bible and, if he is an Anglican, with a Prayer Book. It occasionally happens that the prisoner, having more respect for religion than to associate it with his crime, describes himself as an agnostic and he gets no Bible and no Prayer Book. It seems to me that is a survival of an ancient conception that a man who is an unbeliever is a double-dyed sinner and that his imprisonment must be made a trifle worse.
I suggest that such a discrimination should be abolished. Such a man should be provided at least with a Bible, or, if he describes himself as a Socialist, it might be some consolation and help him—I think it would—to give him a copy of Karl Marx or some classical writer on the purely rational view of life to help him to take a better view of society. I hope that in the Committee stage we shall still have something of the spirit of adaptability towards the Bill, in the light of our experience, and that there will be the elasticity of which the last speaker spoke. I hope that when the Bill passes into law it will provide for modification of the treatment of our prisoners so as to solve the problem of crime in this country.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
I shall not keep the House for more than a few minutes, but this is such a fine Bill and so much work has been put into it by the Home Secretary that it will go forth from this House with our high hopes, and we do not want to see in it any Clause which may not be as effective as we hope it will be. I therefore want to say a few words about Clause 19, under which a criminal may be ordered to receive mental treatment if the court thinks that to be desirable. I welcome the intention with all my heart, but I have the most serious doubts whether at the present time in this country we have a sufficiently large number of trained psychiatrists to make the Clause of real, practical value. If the Home Office were to give a grant now to the Tavistock Clinic that is training medical men in psychiatry, we should have greater confidence that there would 709 be a sufficiently large number of men trained in the understanding of these mental cases.
The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant), who is a far more ex-experienced Member than I of the bench on which I sit, will bear me out that sometimes cases come before us with which it is difficult to know how to deal. I do not feel that the Bill is going to provide any assistance in such cases. Some months ago we had before us a man who was charged with some 17 or 18 most appalling crimes against children, of a nature almost too disgusting to think about. That man was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. Three of the offences were against his own children. In my opinion, a year's imprisonment or a year's mental treatment is quite inadequate for someone who has committed offences of that kind. Either his mental trouble is so grave that he should have treatment for a very long time, or he should be put away for a very long time where he cannot damage members of the community as he can now. I believe, with my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson), that the Bill really does something to make us realise that there is no such thing as a criminal class. It is a step forward to the realisation that we are all fallible human beings, and that many of us might easily have been in exactly the position of some of these unfortunate people; and that we are trying to make them normal, happy and healthy members of society.
I am very glad that there is a Clause which enables a police constable to arrest immediately and without a warrant a man who is driving a motor car without a licence. That should help to curb criminals who at present use motor cars as a means of facilitating their crimes. I would also support the appeal made by the hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward). I am sure that the intention of the Bill is that women should be treated in the same way as men, but no one who has visited our prisons or studied the prison system can have any confidence whatever that reforms have been as frequently or fully carried out in women's prisons as they have been in men's. Holloway is admirable in many ways, but everyone who has visited it must deplore the feeding utensils which are used there, and most of us regret the 710 manner in which prison visits have to be carried out. It is not comparable with the way in which men are treated in similar circumstances. I therefore ask for an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that in women's prisons reforms will be kept on a par with those in men's prisons.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I feel that I am hardly qualified to speak from these benches on this subject-matter, because, unlike so many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, I am ashamed to say that I have never yet been an inmate of any of His Majesty's prisons. I therefore have no first-hand knowledge of the subject-matter on which we are speaking. Perhaps I may qualify through anticipation. If His Majesty's Government proceed with their present friendships and policies no doubt my hon. Friends and myself will find ourselves political prisoners, in which case we shall certainly take a firsthand interest in the question of classification, so far as the matter is dealt with in the Bill.
The Bill represents another hard-won step forward in the fight for prison reform which has interested people of all classes and kinds in this country so actively during recent years. I am certain that it will meet with the very widest acceptance by the more enlightened and progressive part of the community. No doubt the Colonel Blimps will continue to tell us that they became what they are owing to the good doses of corporal punishment which they received when they were at Eton or some other suitable seminary; and as they are what they are we shall be more than ever impressed with the evil results of corporal punishment. There are others who regard the prison system and punishment by the State as a sort of form of mass revenge upon those who are unfortunate enough to be wrongdoers, and they will say, as I have heard people outside this House say, that when the prisons become like week-end hotels everyone will start committing crimes in order to experience the pleasant conditions in prison. The truth is that no man or woman would ever willingly lose his freedom, however attractive the place or the incarceration may be. The idea of revenge brings with it, if we try to employ it, a reaction of hatred which makes bad citizens and leads to the commission of 711 new crimes and the creation of new criminals.
Even that most conservative profession, to which I belong, is now becoming more and more convinced that it is the redemptive power of decent treatment and decent conditions and surroundings which can do most to prevent the acquisition of criminal habits. The whole tendency today in the younger members of the profession is in that direction, and I believe that the bulk of the members of the profession are eager for a fresh step forward in the treatment of criminals, especially of the younger addicts of crime. We are apt to forget a factor which is especially pertinent in the case of young criminals, and it is that when we take them away from their homes and subject them to imprisonment we punish not only the young prisoner. Often the punishment on the parent and the family is as great, or even greater, in shame and sense of tragedy than the punishment of the young person himself. When considering this problem of remedial treatment I beg the House to remember that side of the problem and to remember, too, that in many cases the home influence may be a powerful one for good. We must not neglect that influence where we can bring it to our aid in assisting in bringing back the young person to the right channel. Not by any means have all the homes of these young persons a bad influence.
While we certainly welcome the Bill as a further instalment in the right direction, there is one fundamental matter with which neither it nor any Criminal Justice Bill can deal. Such Bills deal only with the administration of justice and not with what justice itself may be. Nearly every one who has spoken acknowledges what is only too tragically true, that the normal environment of many young people is such as to turn them into criminals, and even to bring them back to crime when they have received imprisonment or treatment, and that the condition of affairs which surrounds them in their everyday life is a condition which lies at the root of the problem with which we are dealing. And who is it, if I may put it as a question, that is responsible for that environment? Certainly not the young criminal, nor in the majority of cases the family of the young criminal. The State is responsible for those circumstances that 712 surround him, and we shall never deal effectively with these problems until we can deal drastically with the causes of crime. The drab, uninspiring, poverty-stricken surroundings of hundreds of thousands of young people is enough to drive any keen and adventurous spirit into crime merely to relieve the awful boredom and sameness of those surroundings.
I should like to draw attention to what is said in the Report of Criminal Statistics for 1937 on this subject. Dealing with the common offence now, amongst young people, of breaking and entering premises, it states:Breaking and entering is a category which includes a large number of offences by boys, including many quite young boys of 11 or 12, who break into unoccupied premises in the search for adventure.Dealing with other crimes and the incidence of age, it states:The number of people who seek for opportunities of crime as a way of making a living, or of supplementing their means of livelihood, is much smaller than the number of people who occasionally commit offences when opportunities and temptations happen to come in their way. This kind of casual lawlessness is far commoner in the irresponsible years of youth than in later life. The primary motive is often a desire for adventure and excitement, and on the part of girls for personal display.That outbreak of young people we are quite familiar with amongst the young of the more fortunate classes in society. We have all had experience of the sort of escapades that may take place on a Rugger night in London. These young people certainly have no complaint of poverty-stricken or drab surroundings, and yet we are quite prepared to excuse their occasional outbreaks of high spirits. But in the slums there is often no opportunity for any such outbreak except through crime. The desperation of poverty and the knowledge of the suffering of those who are loved as parents by these young people may often add a strong inducement, and indeed it may appear a justification of those casual incursions into crime which form the greater part of the crimes amongst young people.
The Attorney-General on Tuesday said he believed society was entitled to protect itself by deterrents, provided they were not retributive. We must ask ourselves what gives society that title to punish members of society, and the answer must be inevitably that society offers a just and equitable way of life to all which 713 they can take without committing crime. But, if society fails to give that justice, it is not entitled to demand the right to punish. That applies not only in the sphere of national but of international conditions as well. The cardinal necessity, in my view, for the prevention and cure of crime is the creation by society, indeed by this House as the legislative agent of society, of environmental conditions favourable to an honest and honourable life, in all quarters, of our people. If we permit a continuance of those conditions which admittedly induce crime, we are not truly entitled to inflict punishment for the commission of such crime. I regard it as of the greatest importance, in considering penal reform, that we should keep clearly in view the overwhelming effect which environment must have on the individual, and especially on the young individual. Indeed we are in this very Bill recognising, when the environment is that of a bad home, the necessity to take the young person out of that environment when he is committing some crime, a crime which we believe is the result to a great extent of the conditions which surrounded him in his home life.
But we apparently fail to recognise that the bad home is in itself the outcome of other environments and social conditions which surround all those who live in that home. To-day the circumstances of slumdom and dead-end employment, of the whole frustration and fear which surrounds young people, and of the total lack of security in their economic life, I am convinced are far more powerful factors in creating juvenile delinquency than the particular incidence of a particular home or of the films that are shown in a particular picture-house. I therefore regard the measures in this Bill as wholly desirable and necessary in the circumstances of to-day but as not touching the real and basic problem of crime prevention with which we ought to be dealing to-day by measures which will bring a degree of justice and equality to all the people, and especially to the younger people, of which to-day they are so patently being deprived.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said on Tuesday, how fantastic it is that we should make every effort and go to every expense to find a young person suitable employment when he has committed 714 a crime and we desire to redeem him from a criminal life, and yet, before he has committed a crime, we leave him on the streets with no occupation or with a dead-end occupation from which he will shortly be thrown out. Surely it is the height of illogicality to wait till the disease has been created in the body politic and then to try to devise humane methods for its cure, rather than extirpating the disease at its source, which is largely unemployment and poverty.
In spite of all the obvious difficulties in administration that will arise, I welcome wholeheartedly the new methods of dealing with young people, especially in the Howard Houses and compulsory attendance centres, because they will enable the young person to remain at his or her job, and continue to a great extent a normal and non-isolated life. That I believe to be the true direction of advance for penal reform. But I, like a number of other speakers, hope that these houses will remain anonymous, and that they will not serve as a hall-mark of conviction for those who inhabit them in the future. We have heard in the course of this Debate criticism of the phrase "Borstal boy." I hope that in future Debates we shall not hear criticism of the phrase "Howard boy." I think it is of cardinal importance if the true curative effect of this system is to be felt, that every step should be taken to maintain the anonymity of the premises where and the system under which these lads are girls will be living. The unnaturalness of isolation and artificially created work, especially for younger people, must be replaced, and will, I hope, be replaced under this system by a more natural and healthy association and a more normal and ordinary type of work. We cannot and must not overlook, too, the danger to sex life, especially among younger people, of long periods of segregation of individuals entirely of one sex.
It is, I am sure, not necessary to repeat to the Home Secretary the warnings that have already been given as to the supreme importance that selection and adequacy of staff will have in these reforms. We in this House can pass them into law; that is a necessary first step; but their success or failure will depend, not on us, but on those whose duty it will be to carry them into actual operation. Every member of that new staff will, I hope, feel that he has behind him the good wishes and hopes 715 of every intelligent citizen in the country. We shall watch with intense interest, and, I hope, with an encouraging but still critical eye, the development of these new reforms.
I would also like to add a word as regards the administration that will be carried through by the magistrates in the different areas. I hope that the Home Secretary will take every conceivable step open to him, if necessary including the sending of speakers down to explain them to benches of magistrates and magistrates' associations, in order to instil into those magistrates the spirit of these new reforms. I realise the danger, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), that, if you take away certain types of punishment, like flogging or birching, you may induce magistrates to impose, instead, imprisonment where before they would not have imposed it. It is essential that they should be fully instructed and inspired, as I hope they will be, with a sense of the reforms that are being brought about.
A good deal has been said as to the desirability or otherwise of lay magistrates in petty sessional courts having the power to impose a Borstal sentence. It is interesting to note that in Scotland this is not to be done, clearly because the Scottish authorities regard anyone below the rank of sheriff as unsuitable to deal with this type of punishment. Frankly, I am extremely dubious as to the wisdom of putting this power into the hands of benches of lay magistrates.
In order to illustrate that, I would draw the attention of the House to another passage in the current Report on Criminal Statistics. On page 15 it states how probation has been used in this country, especially with young offenders, and, while citing the figure of 45 per cent. as the average number put upon probation, it draws particular attention to the very wide differences between different districts, the percentage being as high as 57 in some districts and as low as 24 in others. These are all cases dealt with by magistrates. That, surely, illustrates the lack of responsibility in the case of some of these benches as regards the use of these remedial methods. It cannot be imagined that, for instance in London, where the percentage was 57, there were so many more suitable cases for probation 716 than in a country district where the percentage was 24. That must represent the difference in treatment by different benches of lay magistrates. Are those people, with such widely differing views as to the methods of punishment of young offenders, the people to be entrusted with this sentence, which may mean taking away a boy or girl from home for a period up to five years? It may be, and I am sure it is, the case that a great many of the lay magistrates are fully qualified and fit to handle this form of punishment, but, unfortunately, we have to give it to all or to none, and all of us are aware, from our experiences of magistrates, that there are some to whom we should be most unwilling to commit any such power. My acquantance with the magistracy is not now as good as it used to be, because, after 26 years, I have ceased to be a magistrate, as one who is too old to continue in the job.
My real doubt, and it is a very grave doubt, is entirely on this ground of the personal qualifications of the lay bench. I do not feel in the least convinced by the argument which the Attorney-General put forward on the other side. Three or four years is a terribly long time in a young person's life to take him away from all his home and normal surroundings, and it is something that should only be done as the result of the exercise of a very wise and very practical judgment on his case. I am not convinced that that wise and impartial judgment will always be present in petty sessional courts, and, if it will be absent in any of them, I do not think we are justified in submitting young persons to that danger in these courts.
So far as the problem of corporal punishment is concerned, I must say that I think the Home Secretary has spoiled an almost unassailable case by retaining corporal punishment for prison offences. If corporal punishment will not deter, and has not in experience deterred, in cases of robbery with violence, what conceivable evidence or argument can there be that it will have a deterrent effect in the case of prison offences? The vast majority of such crimes are committed in fits of almost insane temper, and at such a time no man counts the cost of his actions. He does it in spite of all deterrents, and once it is established that flogging does not alter people outside 717 prison, I can see no argument whatsoever for its maintenance inside prison. It is a brutal method, and brutal methods will never drive out insanity. I think that on all the statistics the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General, and indeed the Lord Advocate, made out a complete case for the abolition of corporal punishment, but that must surely mean its complete abolition, if the case made out is a good one. There are some who urge its retention in particular cases, and particularly in the case of robbery with violence. Indeed, many judges have expressed the opinion that that is the only case in which they would desire to see corporal punishment retained. So far as that is concerned, according to the statistics for Scotland, where that has never been a punishment for robbery with violence, the decrease in the incidence of that crime in Scotland shows, in my view, that there can be no argument for it as a deterrent.
There is a further question, which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), to which I should like to revert. That is the question of the very large number of people who have now to go to prison on remand and who ought never to go to prison at all. It is illustrated again in the report for 1937 in regard to young persons. It states there:Six hundred and seventy young offenders were sentenced to imprisonment for indictable offences. In addition, 518 were sentenced for non-indictable offences, and 2,694 committed to prison on remand or to await trial, and subsequently dealt with by some other method than a sentence of imprisonment.That is to say, that those 2,700 young persons were sent to prison when it was subsequently decided that they never ought to go to prison at all. That arises, not only from the lack of other means, which is being cured in this case very largely by remand homes, but it arises very often from the failure or refusal to give bail, and that is a problem which I would ask the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General to take up at once. Something ought to be done, both as regards adults and young people, in order to get over that difficulty, and I believe that the key to the difficulty will be largely found to lie in a more reasonable treatment of the subject of bail, because, as everybody knows, there has been a great deal of complaint in recent 718 years about either the refusal to grant bail because the police say they do not want it granted, or the fixing of bail in such large sums that it becomes, not bail at all, but simply an impossibility. I am sure that along those lines the right hon. Gentleman and the Attorney-General might make some very valuable contribution to keeping these people out of prison.
There is another point which has been raised with regard to the new provision to allow convictions to be registered in cases where persons are put upon probation. As I understand, the argument for doing that is that it is the logical thing to do. The day when English law becomes logical, I think we shall get into chaos. Do not let us try to justify injustices because it is said that they are logical. Indeed, if I may turn to the explanatory Memorandum which precedes this Bill, the House will find that at the bottom of the first page, dealing with this subject, it says:Clause 18 substitutes the words 'in lieu of sentencing him.' and Clause 20 preserves the intention of the existing law that any disqualification attaching to a conviction shall not affect persons who, after being found guilty, are dismissed, bound over, or placed on probation.Clause 20 does not achieve anything of the sort. It is true that it does not make the person who is put upon probation suffer from the technical disqualification, but it makes him suffer from all the other disqualifications, of which there is a great range. Everybody who is asked whether he has had a conviction against him is disqualified at once, and people who are accustomed to deal with the cases of salaried staffs or labour, or who try to get into another country, know how meticulous are the inquiries that are made. If one of these people has to say, "I have been convicted on a certain date," all his chances either of getting a job or of travelling between different countries, at once disappear. Therefore, althongh Clause 20 removes the technical disqualification, it does not remove, what very often is far more important in the economic life of the individual, the practical disqualification. I do ask the Home Secretary to depart from logic and in this matter to let us have in its place justice and humanity, which are far more, important in the long run.
Those are the main comments that I desire to make at this stage of the Bill. There are many other points, of course, 719 which could be raised, but those are purely points for the Committee stage. I welcome the Bill most sincerely, and I am sure that the Home Secretary and the Government must feel a sense of intense relief that in the course of a career in which they are always doing the wrong thing, they have at last done the right thing. I desire to emphasise once again, in conclusion, that good though these reforms may be, desirable as they are, they do demonstrate that our enlightened democracy can move away from the brutalities of the Middle Ages, as the Home Secretary told us, instead of reverting to them as are doing so many European countries to-day. Yet there can be no permanent cure for this problem of crime, especially juvenile crime, until we are prepared to create by our legislation, not good prison conditions, but fair, just, and equitable living conditions for the people of our country, and so bring about an environment that will breed straightforward and honest conduct, and not poverty, frustration, and crime, as does the state of our country to-day.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I think there can rarely have been a Minister who has had a better right to be satisfied with the reception that his Bill has produced than my right hon. Friend, and I must say that I think the climax of that reception is that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) should himself have found it possible to make a friendly and welcoming speech.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I would like at once to assure the hon. Ladies the Members for Wallsend (Miss Ward) and Frome (Mrs. Tate), definitely, that it is the intention to apply the provisions of the Bill equally to women as to men, and I should like to say to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), in regard to the constructive points that he brought forward, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will give those points very careful consideration. Although I do not want to go into the question of bail at length, I would like to say to the hon. 720 and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol that the Home Secretary is in full sympathy with the view that bail should be allowed in all proper cases. In fact, my right hon. Friend is at the present time considering whether any advice can be given to the police as to the circumstances in which they would be justified in opposing applications for bail.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) was under a misapprehension with regard to the Bill that I am sure he would wish to have corrected. He felt that there was a defect in the Bill because there was not any further provision for those reforms in the prisons themselves that he observed in the course of his visits. But those reforms are the result of administrative action, and they do not depend either on statutory powers or Prison Rules. It is the intention to expand the earning scheme, although, of course, it cannot be done in any prison without proper preparation. It is the intention to carry out a comprehensive plan for re-modelling the kitchens, and we are investigating, also, better ways of serving the food. We hope to tackle more scientifically the question of diets a little later. On the question of an independent medical opinion, I can say that it is rarely asked for, but it is granted in proper cases. There is another misunderstanding I would like to clear up in relation to work in prisons. There is an impression that there is a great deal of idleness and boredom, but, in fact, there has been a very great increase in prison work in the last few years. The output has increased by 75 per cent. When I was in Maidstone Prison on Monday I saw no sign of any lack of activity, nor was there any sign of the blunting of the prisoners' instruments that my right hon. Friend referred to in his opening speech. On the contrary, I saw prisoners operating a very sharp circular saw. They were engaged, I found on inquiry, in making thousands of new voting screens for the next general election.
I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Prison Commissioners for their enlightened administration in the last few years. I would also like to add a word with regard to the prison staffs. I agree that the money spent on the building of these new experimental prisons would be tragically wasted if the men and women 721 were not carefully recruited and trained. It is really remarkable how the prison and Borstal staffs in the last generation have adapted their outlook to the changes in prison conditions, and I am confident that there can be found plenty of the right men and women for these new prison tasks. I would like to remind the House how very carefully these staffs are recruited. There are literally thousands of applications every year. These are considered, and in the end 1,000 are selected for interview with a member of the Prison Commission. About 180 out of that 1,000 are chosen to attend special courses in which not only are they taught about the minutiae of prison life, but also about the general principles of prison administration. At the end each has to undergo a viva voce examination, again by a Prison Commissioner. About 25 per cent. fail to pass, and the remainder are on probation for another 10 months before being finally accepted for the service. I think the House will appreciate the very great care with which the staff are selected.
It is true, I think, to say that the criminal statistics show that a great many people who commit crimes are not addicted to crime. It has been very well said by Sir Alexander Maxwell that those people ought not to be described as criminals, any more than a man who goes to church to be married ought to be described as a churchgoer. Our real problem is the class of habitual criminals who are professionally engaged in crime. I agree with the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who said on Tuesday that the young delinquent is the key to the problem. I would ask the House for the moment to look into the beginnings of the delinquencies of the very young. Of course, I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman and with the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) that poverty and bad social conditions have a great deal to do with that problem.
The best opinion seems to be that it is not so much a case of actual physical want in these days leadnig to theft as poverty, unemployment, bad housing and overcrowding producing a variety of circumstances and a general environment which leads to the young people committing offences. Let us think for a moment of the lads who come from very 722 poor homes. They are in and out of casual jobs, they lead very often drab and uninteresting lives, they are often out of work, and they have very little money. They may join little gangs, start gambling and staying out at night; or they may take up with girls, and want to take them to the cinema and give them chocolates. It is all very natural. The lads want to cut a bit of a dash, and, in order to do so, they go in for petty theft. But this is not the whole of the story; otherwise, there would be far more juvenile delinquents than there are. It is remarkable how often the juvenile delinquents come from homes where the parental position is not that of a man and wife living happily together. One of the wardens of an approved school, in his report, said:I have formed the opinion that the broken home is the biggest single factor in juvenile delinquency.and he gave a list of 150 cases admitted into the Redhill School. I will read the first 10:
Roughly, that set of conditions continues for the whole 150 cases. I think also that there are other general causes. Some boys, at any rate, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, are of rather a restless and adventurous type. Some boys can get thoroughly upset and thrown out of gear by some particular misfortune in their own lives. Also, we must not forget the physical disturbances of adolescence, particularly in the case of girls. But, although there may be these general causes in the background, each case is a 723 very individual one. As the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) said, not two of them are alike.
- "(1) Parents separated for the last four years.
- (2) Deserted by both parents, never known father. Has not seen mother for 12 years. Brought up by aunt who cohabits.
- (3) Illegitimate. Mother unmarried, drinks and goes with men.
- (4) Father dead, mother in service, boy lodged in one room to which mother returns at intervals.
- (5) Illegitimate. Mother has married, but went off and left boy in lodgings.
- (6) Stepmother. One brother of this boy is in prison.
- (7) Mother dead. Father at sea; two boys in lodgings.
- (8) Stepfather who is having children by his wife and by his stepdaughter.
- (9) Illegitimate. Mother deserted, no interest, no home.
- (10) Stepmother (hostile to the boy)."
I would like to give three typical cases of different sorts of delinquents. The first is a very simple case of a very young boy who sold his white mice in order to go to the cinema, and then stole in order to buy back his white mice. The next case is rather a more complicated one. The boy was the son of a father in a good position; he was the manager of a multiple stores. The boy was troublesome at home and his father insisted that he should join the Army. He refused and ran away from home, and then committed a theft and was brought before the court. He was let off and he promised his father that he would join the Army. He did so and he deserted the same day, and once again committed a small theft.
The third case is perhaps rather a curious one, which I am sure will interest the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) and the hon. Member for Stour-bridge (Mr. R. Morgan), because it verges on slight psychological difficulties. It is known in the Home Office as the case of the "beautiful blue eye." It is the case of a small girl in an approved school who was really a very bad girl indeed. She had lost an eye in earlier years and she was very much upset about it. Indeed it seemed to have taken the spirit out of her altogether, until at last some sensible person came along and gave her an artificial eye which she called a "beautiful blue eye." It is the fact that from that moment a radical improvement came over the whole behaviour of the girl. [Laughter.] These are conditions at which we must not laugh, because these things mean a great deal to the small personalities that are growing up, and these are cases that are suitable for sympathetic semi-psychological investigation. It is obvious that these are personal problems and must be dealt with personally. What is needed is that each individual case should be investigated carefully, and treatment should be based upon understanding.
I should like to assure the hon. Member for Stourbridge that the Bill provides for observation centres, and the observation centres will be in the State remand homes and the other remand centres and will be available for giving advice to the court before the court decide what to do with 724 the young offender. It also is the fact that the Bill makes important arrangements for general medical investigations. I should like to inform the hon. and gallant Member for Waterloo (Captain Bullock) that the probation officer is the right person to make inquiries into the home circumstances before the matter is considered by the court.
I should like to consider the methods of treatment that are now available to the court and those that will be made available under the Bill. Very often, as these young offenders come before the court for the first time, the right course is to put them on probation. This has the great advantage that there is no disturbance of the continuity of life at home. Very often the probation officer can be of real help in solving any difficulties in the home and in helping the youngster in various ways. He knows, or ought to know, the district; he knows its personalities, its dangers and its opportunites, but, of course, everything depends upon the personality of the probation officer.
The Home Office has done a great deal in recent years to develop the probation system. Two years ago a special probation branch was formed and since then there has been an increase of 50 per cent. in the number of full-time probation officers in the country. A probation training course has also been started, and last year there were a thousand applicants for 50 openings. The Bill will make it a statutory duty for courts to have sufficient probation officers, including a woman, and this should lead to a still further development in this very important service. A recent simple investigation of the results of probation produced a figure of 70 per cent. of young people who had been on probation not being reconvicted after four years, and at that stage of their life I think we can count that as a pretty satisfactory result. Therefore, probation obviously reclaims a very considerable proportion of young offenders.
If probation fails or is unsuitable with the young children, the Bill proposes a method which can then be given a trial, and that is the junior compulsory attendance centres to be provided by the local authorities. It will be, as the hon. Gentleman said, a great advantage that these centres will not interfere with the home life, and I shall have a good deal more to say about the attendance centres 725 when I come to the position of the older boys. If this method is not successful and it seems, as it may be in some cases, the home is really bad and that the child nevertheless does not need the continuous discipline of school, the method of boarding out with a fit person might come into play. This method has not been very widely used up to the present, but the homes are very carefully selected by local authorities, and the results so far have been definitely encouraging. The Bill provides that the cost of this method of treatment can be provided not only under a probation order, but also under a supervision order in care and protection cases.
If these methods are not successful, there are the Home Office schools. They will be used in cases where it is desirable to remove the boy from home if he also needs training in an institution. I want to emphasise that these schools are not penal in character. They are essentially educational, and I can assure the hon. Member for Stourbridge that they are in very close touch with educational progress and are inspected by the inspectors of the Board of Education. Here again, of the boys who have not responded to previous methods and who have been to an approved school, over 80 per cent. have not been reconvicted during a number of years after they have left the school.
So far, we have been considering the method of dealing with young people up to the age of 17. We have seen that a very considerable proportion of offenders are already being brought back on to the right path by the methods that have been adopted. Of course, a proportion go on committing offences as they grow up. The problem then is, how are we to deal with the adolescent? The Bill provides two new methods, that is, if we rule out the question of prison, as we all wish to do. First, we have the senior compulsory attendance centres. At this age, some of the youngsters need a fairly sharp jolt. That is an idea which has been suggested by many of those who are working in this field of social welfare. The deterrent is the deprivation of liberty. My experience of punishment at my own school, when I was undergoing punishment drill, showed me that the deprivation of liberty is a great deterrent to boys, because they do not like their leisure being taken away from them.
726 The idea is that there should be occupation in the centres, on the lines of training in workshops, possibly in wood or metal work. We should also hope to mobilise a suitable team of men who would work from the centre and take an interest in the boys and their homes. If this does not succeed, something sharper still is required, and something which will give discipline without making a big break in the boy's life. At this stage the Howard House would be the appropriate instrument. Those houses would be in charge of someone like Borstal housemasters, and I agree with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) that if possible liberty should be preserved in these institutions. The idea might be to take some of the big empty houses that one finds in the outskirts of the large towns, and not to give them the name Howard House, but let them continue with their own names, so as not to draw too much attention to their purpose. Considerable freedom would be given to the house-masters in their arrangements for the life of the institution. For example, for boys of good behaviour there is no reason why they should not be allowed, after work, to go to amusements, cinemas and so on. It is not at all to be a prison. That must be clearly understood. It is to be a place where the boys can live under good conditions and good influences, and where discipline can be learned. The idea is that the houses should be rather of a small size, and certainly not too large.
If all these methods fail, and the lad of from 16 to 23 goes on committing offences, we are beginning to get up against a pretty serious problem. Those boys are now at a critical stage of their development, but I do not think that a boy should go to Borstal unless he shows every indication of being in danger of adopting a criminal career. When that is clear, surely a determined effort should be made to save him. It still needs to be made quite clear that Borstal is not a prison but an institution which provides a strenuous period of training, during which every possible constructive influence is brought to bear on the boy. Again, everything depends upon the personality of the staff who are, of course, chosen for their ability to deal with particular boys and girls. It must be remembered that boys at Borstal are not good boys. On the other hand, I would point out what 727 one of the Borstal house-masters said to me on Saturday. He said: "During the seven years that I have been in this house, I have never known a fundamentally vicious boy." The truth is, that there is good stuff in most of these boys, if only their energy can be directed along the right lines.
Borstal is not a static institution. It is a great experiment, which is still developing, and one of the most vital aspects is the question of after care. There are many boys who are all right so long as they are supported and having a regular life under the discipline of the institution, but they sorely miss that kind of support when they go into the world again. An after-care organisation has been built up to deal with this problem. The Borstal Association has Borstal associates in all the big cities, and it is supported by voluntary committees on which are representatives of Toc H, the Rotarians and other societies, who in most cases are successful in getting a job for a boy when he leaves the institution, and are available to give him advice and help in any difficulty. Again, over 60 per cent. of the boys in Borstal institutions are not re-convicted during the four years after that time, and another 21 per cent. are convicted of only one offence. That means that they have made one slip and have pulled themselves together again, and in view of the type which is sent to Borstal these are remarkably satisfactory results. If they go badly wrong during the time of licence after they have been at Borstal one more effort is made to reclaim them. They can be brought back and sent to Wandsworth Borstal institution where there is a stiffer regime, heavy work, and less liberty. This often leads to the desired result, and although in these cases we are dealing with the most difficult type of boy there are a considerable number of successes there.
So far we have been surveying the problem of dealing with the young delinquent as he grows up. Roughly there are usually about 20,000 persons on probation. (All these figures must be interpreted not as being accurate to a decimal but as giving an indication of the position.) Broadly speaking, 70 per cent. of this number is dealt with successfully. Then we have about 8,000 boys in Home Office approved schools, and of these 80 per cent. are dealt with successfully. 728 In Borstal institutions there are now only 2,300, and in this case if we include, as I think we are entitled to include, boys who have made only one slip, the successful results are substantially over 60 per cent. Therefore, it is clear that at each stage a large proportion of these young offenders have been successfully helped back to normal life.
Now, of course, we have to face the problem of the residue, and it is not easy. We have now reached an age between 20 and 30. They have proved refractory on probation, in Home Office approved schools and at Borstal. Their characters are beginning to set in an anti-social direction, and they are probably living their lives surrounded by men of the same type. They may be smash-and-grab thieves, or members of a racecourse gang. They are certainly not an easy problem. What is the right way of dealing with this problem? At present the existing course is the ordinary prison sentence. It is true that the Prison Commissioners in the course of the classification of prisons have been specialising on this kind of young criminal at Chelmsford. The basis of the regime is heavy work, a full and busy day, a good deal of industrial training, and although the men there are difficult they are not incorrigible.
I should like to give the House an example if I may. The Governor of one of our prisons received in the prison a young man whose special form of crime was the stealing of motor bicycles. He very much liked the young man; in fact he had many rather endearing qualities. The Governor took an interest in him and was responsible for getting him a job when he left the prison. The Governor himself possessed a motor bicycle and a little time after his young protegé had left the prison the Governor's motor bicycle disappeared. A short time after the young man came back to the prison guilty of his usual offence of stealing a motor bicycle. One day the Governor said to him, "I suppose you did not have anything to do with stealing my motor bicycle, did you?" The young man's face fell, and he said, "Why, Sir, wasn't it insured?" The governor said, "No, as a matter of fact, it was not insured for theft; I thought that, being the governor of a prison, I could leave it by my house, and did not insure it for theft." So the young man thought for a bit, and then he said, "I'll 729 tell you what, Sir; you buy a new motor bicycle and insure it with two companies, I'll get it pinched, and then we'll be all square." I think the House will be glad to know, after hearing that story, that half of the prisoners who leave Chelmsford are not re-convicted even after a number of years.
Now, this is really the clue to the new policy of corrective training. The idea is that it is something between the Borstal and Chelmsford regime. Discipline will be very necessary, but the emphasis will be on the training, and not on mere detention. As much outdoor work as possible would be a good thing. Again, I would like to emphasise the importance of after-care with regard to the adult prisoners, particularly in view of the fact that criminals outside prison wait for the men to come out and try to lure them back into crime. Only the other clay, I heard of a man who is an engineer on board ship. He behaves perfectly well when he is on board ship, but his old companions look out for him, they spot the ports to which he is coming back, they get hold of him, fuddle him with a little drink, and offer him £50 down to do a particular job—safe breaking and the like—and time and again he falls in that way. After-care is of course very important, and the Home Office is devoting a great deal of consideration to it at the present time.
I think we can hardly resist the conclusion that those who return to the courts after Chelmsford, for example, at present, or after corrective training sentences in the future, are really habitual criminals. Many efforts have been made to change their outlook, but they remain what I am afraid we must call enemies of society. Now, I think, the interests of society must now become the prime consideration, and a longer sentence of preventive detention is the appropriate instrument. The idea is that it would be preventive rather than penal, and the régime would he of a custodian type. Even then, I do not think we ought to give up hope completely, because only the other day I was talking with the governor of a prison, who said, "There are many men who go on resolutely with crime until they reach the thirties or the early forties, and then suddenly a realisation comes to them, and they say What a fool I have been,' and in their own words, they sometimes decide to pack it up.' "Indeed, even 730 in the one prison where we have a preventive detention system at the present time, they do useful and instructive work, and there is a certain proportion of them who do not return to prison after they are released.
I conclude by saying that I think this Bill will be remembered for many great reforms which will cast their beneficent influence down long years in the future, and will affect for good many men who will never know that the good has been caused by this Act, by this House and by the initiative of my right hon. Friend. But I think there is one special point on which emphasis should be laid. It was exactly 100 years ago that Charles Dickens described the visit of young Oliver Twist to Fagin at Newgate, "Is the young gentleman to come in, Sir?" was asked, and the reply was "It is not a sight for children, Sir." It has been left to my right hon. Friend 100 years later to bring forward a great Measure which will, perhaps, be specially remembered because it will seem to the people that it has caused Parliament to say "Prison is no place for a boy, Sir." Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.