§ House in Committee according to order).
I should like to draw the noble and learned Lord's attention to a provision in the Industrial Schools Act, 1894, which seems to me to need amendment. The Act provides that every child sent to an industrial school shall, from the expiration of the period of his detention, remain up to the age of eighteen under the supervision of the manager of the school; and that in certain cases children may be recalled to the school for three months. This, however, can only be done in the case of children who have been granted licences. If the child is his own master he cannot be recalled, though it would be in such a case that the recall would be most necessary. I hope the noble and learned Lord will consider whether it will not be possible to amend this clause in his Bill.
§ Clause 1.
§ LORD JAMES OF HEREFORD
I am anxious to call your Lordships' attention to this clause, which you will recollect substitutes the punishment of whipping on a graduated scale for imprisonment in the case of young children. I have been somewhat surprised to find that there have been communications to the press suggesting that this Bill is one of great cruelty and inhumanity, and treating this clause as if it were a flogging clause. I am also told, though I cannot say whether it is the case, that on public platforms statements have been made to the effect that this is an attempt on the part of your Lordships to flog the children of the poor. 556 I hope I need not say that nothing is further from the intention of those in charge of the Bill. We do not desire to take any other course than that which would be most humane and free from any cruelty whatever. If we could we would relieve the young child from any punishment for crime, but that is a problem of great difficulty. If the Legislature were to relieve a child up to a certain age from punishment for breaking the law, it would place the legislation of the country in a very peculiar position. Indeed, I do not know whether it would be well for the child himself to feel that up to the age of fourteen or sixteen he could with impunity break the law. A practical difficulty would arise, for if you divested the child of any serious punishment, or of any punishment at all, you would find traders in crime employing children as their agents to pick pockets and other offences, and at the same time have the satisfaction of knowing that the child would not be punished. Therefore, I think it will be agreed that some punishment must be inflicted, but that punishment should be as slight as possible in the case of very young children. It has been said that even the punishment of whipping is one of great degradation, and that when the child returns to his home he will be a source of contamination to those with whom he associates, I hope it will be understood that this clause has nothing whatever to do with flogging in the sense in which it is generally understood. The punishment provided in this clause is not greater than many lads receive at public schools, and it is only the punishment which a child may receive in a village school, and which, so far as I know, has not been objected to on the ground of cruelty. I would ask those who say that whipping will degrade the child to reflect whether the degradation would not be far greater if the child has to pass fourteen or twenty-one days in a prison, and whether he would not be more likely to contaminate those with whom he associated if he had had experience of prison life. The object of those who framed this Bill is to make the punishment as far distant from cruelty as possible. The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition called attention the other evening to the fact that a prejudiced magistrate might inflict eighteen strokes, which he suggested was a somewhat extreme punishment; but I would point 557 out that the clause provides a graduated scale of punishment according to ago from six strokes to eighteen. If my noble friend and others think that the graduated scale goes too high in extending the punishment to eighteen strokes I hope full expression will be given to their views. I will confer with Lord Kimberley to see whether any alteration can be made. My object has been to state that nothing is further from the intention of the Government than to allow any cruel act to come into operation under the clauses of this Bill. From first to last the desire has been to keep boys out of prison and prevent them becoming habitual offenders, which is often the result of association with prison life.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I shall be very glad, when my noble and learned friend has given further consideration to the clause, to consult with him on the subject.
§ *THE EARL OF ELGIN
I have had an opportunity lately, having been appointed by my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland to act on the Committee whose duty it has been to inquire into certain points connected with the administration of Scottish prisons, of hearing something on the point to which the noble and learned Lord has referred, and I can assure him that there is, in some quarters, a good deal of the feeling which he had described—namely, that the punishment of whipping, even with a birch rod, brings with it a certain amount of degradation to the boy on whom it is inflicted. I do not understand that magistrates who hold that opinion object to the punishment of whipping per se. Indeed, they state that if it could be inflicted by the parental arm they would have no objection, but they object to its being inflicted by the strong arm of a policeman in the police office. The result is that in some places in Scotland we are now face to face with the very difficulty which the noble and learned Lord has referred to—that up to a certain age boys feel themselves practically free from the penalties of the law. The magistrates have the same objection as the noble and learned Lord to sending these children to prison, and my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland feels that objection still more strongly. The magistrates feel that if they inflict a fine with the alternative of im- 558 prisonment the child knows perfectly well that he will not be sent to prison, and after a little experience he is apt to laugh in the magistrate's face, and the magistrate being unwilling to order whipping there is no other course open. The alternative which is presented in the fourth clause of this Bill—namely, that there should be some place of confinement which is distinct from a prison to which the youthful offender could be committed—appears to me to be the best suited to meet this difficulty.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (Viscount CROSS)
I should like to remind the House that the punishment of whipping in place of imprisonment has commended itself in many parts of the country, and has been in force ever since the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879, which I had the honour of passing when I was at the Home Office. I have never heard a single complaint as to the working of that Act, and I think myself it is a great matter to keep children out of prison by inflicting some small punishment upon them.
THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of) Salisbury
I rise to make a slight protest against the idea that flogging these boys inflicts a contamination upon them, and that this House is doing it exceptionally to the poor and not to the rich. My impression is that if you will examine the past record of Members of this House you will find that it has been very frequently inflicted, and that there is no trace of contamination surviving. I cannot understand why the arm of a policeman should be more contaminating than the arm of a parent. I am sure that, in the public schools of this country, it would be thought an odd thing if you had to send for a parent from a distant county in order to perform the operation of flogging a pupil. There is a great deal of silly sentimentality on the subject, which is not shared by the vast mass of the people of this country. It is only shown by a narrow section. I quite admit it is possible to carry whipping to a cruel extent, and all cruelty ought to be scrupulously avoided. On the other hand, you must not judge the effect of a flogging by its effect on the boy himself. The great value of flogging is to the people who are not flogged; the great value is the deterrent, it offers to others, 559 who see what evil courses lead to. I can only say I should be as anxious as anyone to make no difference in the punishment of the rich and the poor. I only hope you will flog the evildoer as freely and with as little scruple among the classes of the poor as you have for centuries among the classes of the rich.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I have no doubt there is a great deal of force in what the noble Marquess has said, but he has left out of consideration the fact that in matters of this kind it is essential that the punishment to be inflicted should be one which would meet with the general approval of the class—I do not mean the boys, but the class to which the boys to be punished belong. We both of us know that in order effectively to carry out the law there must be behind it a state of public opinion which supports the administration of the law; otherwise what Lord Elgin has referred to is likely to occur. People feel—I do not say this is a conclusive argument against the Bill, but it is one that deserves careful consideration—and I know there exists a prejudice amongst the class to which we do not belong against this punishment. For some reason they look upon it in a very different light from what we do, and this must be taken into consideration. The problem is, I am aware, an exceedingly difficult one. It is obvious that we must all desire to keep little children out of prison, and that, on the other hand, there must be some punishment. The fourth clause, as I understand, deals only with offenders who are remanded, and I do not think Lord Elgin quite understands it. I desire that the punishment should not be too severe in its nature, particularly with regard to young children. If it is too severe you will not attain your object. With regard to older boys who have committed grave offences, if they are not sent for trial but dealt with summarily a light punishment cannot be inflicted upon them. I cannot help recalling a case which occurred to me personally many years ago in the days when there were no reformatories. In a village near where I resided a child set fire deliberately to a shed, with disastrous results, and the only thing the magistrates, of whom I was one, could do was to commit him for trial for arson. We thought it very undesirable to commit a child of ten, and we accordingly inflicted 560 no punishment at all except that of reprimanding him. This Bill would enable magistrates to deal satisfactorily with a case of that kind. I only wish to see that the Bill is not pushed too far, and I would ask those who are in favour of whipping to carefully consider the amount of feeling there is on the subject, and, whilst trying an experiment under this Bill, to do so in such a manner as will not raise prejudice against it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I agree in the general principle laid down by the noble Lord, but I doubt his minor premiss—that this feeling exists extensively or generally. It is largely a local matter. So far as my own knowledge goes I think I may say it does not exist to any great extent. Probably every noble Lord could give you a different account of it.
THE EARL OF MOUNT-EDGCUMBE
Referring to the incident mentioned by Lord Kimberley, there is one way of getting over the difficulty which I have seen adopted, and which I have adopted myself, in the case of a small boy of ten convicted of arson. The bench of magistrates with which I myself am connected have adopted the course—I do not know whether it is in accordance with the law or not—of adjourning the case until the next petty sessions, informing the parents that if in the meantime the boy was punished by them to the satisfaction of the superintendent, who was to be present, no further step would be taken in the case.
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:—
§ LORD REAY
I understand that on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill the noble and learned Lord viewed Clause 3 (liability of parent or guardian in case of offence committed by a child or young person) with some misgiving. I regard this clause with the greatest satisfaction, and I wish to give the noble Lord the assurance that he will receive the hearty support of many who know the great value of this principle which is at present wanting in our legislation. The 561 School Board for London would like to extend the principle to those parents who neglect to send their children to school; but as I have noticed that my noble and learned friend considers that the clause as it stands is sufficiently stringent, and as I do not wish in any way to imperil the passage of the Bill, I shall not move an Amendment. I would, however, express the hope that the noble and learned Lord will resist any attempt to weaken the clause.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Bill reported without amendment; and re-committed to the Standing Committee.