§ 11.19 a.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading read.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, before casting a vote on so important and moving a matter as this, one is naturally disposed to give one's reason for the vote which one is going to cast. I can be quite brief. This measure arouses very deep convictions, and I am sure that there is equal sincerity among those who support it and those who oppose it. These deep convictions are hardly capable of logical proof or disproof. They arise out of our own mental and emotional processes. There is one argument in favour of this Bill which I feel is not sound. The fact that the Act of 1957 may have gone too far does not seem to me a reason why this Bill should go farther still. If it can be shown, as I think it can, that the 1957 Act has been ineffective for its purpose and has wrought a number of injustices, then that calls for a careful reconsideration of the Act, and not for unconditional abolition of the death penalty.
The first argument, I think, against this Bill is the importance of protecting the safety of the public. At the present time, there is not only an appalling wave of crime of all kinds but a disproportionate increase in crimes of violence. Those who have in the past been, very rightly, advocates of making our penal system more humane were for a long time able to justify their campaign by pointing out that, as humane punishments had 591 replaced inhumane punishments, so the amount of crime had diminished and declined. But that is no longer the case. It may well be that, whereas at one time punishment was too savage, it may now have become inadequate for its purpose. I well remember an occasion, when I represented a constituency, when a constituent of mine was tried a second time for murder. If the death penalty had not been commuted on the first occasion, an innocent person would not have been murdered.
I do not base my opposition to this Bill entirely upon grounds of convenience or public policy. I believe it is desirable that justice should be done, and I believe there is such a thing as moral indignation which is not a bad thing. I do not think that it is hypocrisy or self-righteousness, or anything of that kind, when one feels a stirring of great indignation after something very wrong has been done. I remember, many years after the Fascist régime came into power in Italy, being in Rome and happening to hear that a number of the murderers of Matteoti had been convicted, and convicted so that there was really no shadow of doubt that they had been guilty; but, because there was no death penalty in Italy, they were merely imprisoned. Now I did not know Matteoti, I am not an Italian and I am not a Socialist, but I cannot believe that there was anything wrong in a real feeling of moral indignation that those who had been guilty of a singularly cowardly and deliberate murder should not have met the supreme penalty.
We are told by the Christian religion to forgive our enemies, but I am not aware that we are told necessarily to forgive our neighbours' enemies. It is extremely easy to forgive the wrongs done to others; and, if there is no sign of repentance, I do not believe that forgiveness is either desirable or, indeed, morally right. I disagree with emotional condemnations of the death penalty. When a deliberate, cold-blooded murder has been committed, I think that the death penalty alone can right the scales. To put the matter on an ethical basis, is it not often the case that, after a murder has been done, it is only when one knows that the murderer has been executed that, for the first time, one feels some sympathy for him? Is it not perhaps the case 592 that only by paying the supreme penalty can a person who has done a wrong of that kind regain the sympathy of his fellow men?
If a mistake is mad—and I am quite sure that everything human is done to ensure that no-one is executed if there is the slightest shadow of doubt—the same difficulty applies in the case of all punishments. If we are to have imprisonment for life and someone is imprisoned for life, and if he dies in prison and then later, for some reason that could never have been foreseen, it is discovered that in fact he was not guilty, there is still no way of making up for the injustice that has been done.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him? Would he address this side of the House? When he turns to that side, we lose his voice.
§ LORD MOLSON
I beg your Lordships' pardon; I am very sorry. I will try to address the House as a whole. To continue, certainly so far as concerns those who believe in survival after death and some kind of divine justice, it cannot be said that, if human justice has failed in this way, there can in a later life be no compensation for the wrong that has been done. It is the humanitarians, and those particular humanitarians who do not believe in any survival after death, who alone are quite logical in feeling that the abolition of the death penalty would do away with the danger of an irreparable wrong being done.
But, my Lords, we have to consider whether the death penalty is or is not a deterrent. It is no good arguing—and I am sure there are no statistics that are going to tell us—whether it is or is not. All that one can do is to search one's innermost soul; and I know, speaking for myself—and one can only speak for oneself—that, if I were subjected to a great temptation to commit murder, the knowledge that the penalty was death would be a great help in resisting that temptation.
My Lords, we have to consider, also, what are the alternatives. I cannot regard long-term imprisonment as a satisfactory alternative. As long as it is imprisonment, there is the hope of escape or of release. Let us take, for example, the case of the train robbers, two of whom 593 have just recently escaped. A number of them were given 30 years' imprisonment, and that, I take it, was to protect the public. A number of them were hardened criminals who had made crime their occupation in life. I suppose the sentences were also to ensure that they were not released from jail in time to spend a long life of leisure enjoying the results of their crime. But if, as I believe, penalties of that length are necessary in order to protect society and to act as a deterrent against robbery, what effect can further imprisonment have as a deterrent against killing—either against killing to resist arrest or killing in order to escape from prison?
I feel that punishment by the courts should not be merely reformatory, as is sometimes now argued. There are a number of confirmed criminals who are obviously incorrigible. There are, I think, some crimes too grave to justify any attempt at reformation. The courts, in awarding punishment, should attempt to give to enlightened public opinion some feeling that fair and proper punishment has been awarded. I believe that there is a great danger at the present time that we may show too much concern for criminals and too little concern for their victims, and too little care for the protection of society.
§ 11.30 a.m.
THE EARL OF HAREWOOD
My Lords, it is eighteen years since I became eligible to sit in your Lordships' House, but this is the first occasion on which I have ventured to address your Lordships, and I must ask, as is traditional, for your Lordships' forbearance; although I can hardly hope that it will be forthcoming in such prodigal quantity as the forbearance which I have exercised over this period.
During the discussion yesterday in your Lordships' House, many views were put forward from both sides on this complicated, not to say vexed, question. Statistics were used on either side, and noble Lords put forward their own personal experiences. It would be wrong, I think, in fact presumptuous, for me to claim that for as long as I can remember I have been a convinced abolitionist, but it certainly would not be untrue to say that I have been in that position, or moving towards it, for as long as I have 594 been able to think. I believe that it was reading Macaulay's description of the execution of Monmouth that first started me worrying about a question that I have always believed since then to be about as worrying as any question could be. I know that for the remainder of my schooldays I continued to find the problem, to put it mildly, an important one.
During the last war, for a few months of which I was a prisoner-of-war in Germany, I found these worries coming to a head and demonstrated in a practical manner. In the prison camp in which I found myself at one point, I think it was in January or February, 1945, we had—I was going to say a new inmate—a new member of the camp, in the person of an American colonel. When he arrived we were told that he had been condemned to death by his German captors because, in his capacity as senior officer of another camp, he had declined to post an order on a notice board—which was his notice board—in that camp because he felt that the order was contrary to the Geneva Convention and therefore illegal. For that he had been condemned to death and had been moved to our camp, according to the Germans, to await the carrying out of the sentence.
At that period of the war, nobody—that is, nobody in the camp—believed that the sentence would ever be carried out. But after the colonel had been in the camp for about a fortnight, he was suddenly taken to solitary confinement, as it were to the condemned cell. We still did not believe that, at that juncture of the war, the sentence would be carried out; that any German would be either so inhumane or so blind to his personal safety in the future as to attempt to carry it out. It happened that I paid a number of visits to the camp dentist at that period; and, by a coincidence, so did the American colonel. At the age of 22, which was my age at the time, I was forcibly struck and impressed to an alarming degree by the change that had taken place in the fortnight or three weeks during which the colonel had been in solitary confinement.
He was a man of about 38: normally robust, not to say "cocky" in his conduct and in his attitude in the relative freedom of the prison. But he had been reduced to a shadow of his physical self 595 and, so far as I could make out in talking to him when going to and from the dentist, to a shadow of the morale that he had shown before being put into solitary confinement. I should be the last person to pretend that a quite simple, and certainly a solitary, experience of this kind should convince one to be either an abolitionist or a retentionist. But it did start me off (perhaps I should finish the story: I believe the colonel to be still alive to this day) thinking seriously and furiously on a subject which since the war has occupied the thoughts and consciences of a great many thinking people.
Sir Ernest Gowers, when he had finished being Chairman of the Royal Commission which considered capital punishment a dozen or more years ago, said that there were two dogmas which were accepted emotionally as an act of faith by people who took an attitude on the question of capital punishment. Neither dogma was reached intellectually by reason. Each was arrived at emotionally, as I say, and by an act of faith. The adherents of either camp insisted—and the debate in your Lordships' House yesterday went to underline this view—that the onus of proof was on the occupants of the other camp. The abolitionist position rests basically on two points. The first is that it is wrong in any circumstances in cold blood to take the life of a fellow human being; and the second is that the death penalty is no sort of a deterrent to any prospective murderer. Your Lordships heard the first subject discussed during yesterday's debate and will hear it referred to again today by people with considerably more authority than I have. The second point, the matter of the deterrent, has also been discussed and talked round and through in the course of yesterday's debate, and again will be further discussed today.
To my mind, the most notable contribution on this subject made yesterday was by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, when he produced a series of statistics, and particularly those statistics which related to the curve, as one might describe it, the drawn curve of the incidence of murders over a period of twenty years or more in the United States. He cited the experience of certain States that had gone abolitionist, of other States that had 596 remained retentionist, and of further States that went abolitionist, and subsequently re-adopted the death penalty. The curve was found to be almost identical, whether a State had stayed one way, gone the other way, or changed in the middle. In other words, the statistics, which are perhaps as valuable statistics as we can find on this particular problem of the deterrent, showed the different application of quite contrary laws in rather comparable circumstances.
It seems to me, my Lords, that there is one crucial difference in the thinking of the retentionist and the thinking of the abolitionist. The abolitionist recognises the absolutely fundamental nature of taking human life, whether by a murderer or by the State. The retentionist is prepared to put the taking of human life by the State as it were in the balance, between right, on the one hand, and wrong, on the other; to treat this matter of the State's removing the life of a human being as like the action of a dealer in precious stones who corrects an uneven balance. That position the abolitionist is in no circumstances prepared to accept, either for himself or, of course, for society. It seems to me that that is the fundamental difference of thinking, of conscience, if you like—and I use the word with a certain diffidence because I do not mean to imply an excess of conscience on the one side and a lack of it on the other; but it is a difference in conscience—between the thinking of the abolitionist and that of the retentionist.
Your Lordships' House has twice in the last twenty years had a chance of accepting or rejecting the abolition of capital punishment and has twice chosen the course of rejecting it. I hope that your Lordships will take a different view later today when the question of a Second Reading for this important Bill comes up and is decided. I hope that your Lordships will accept that thinking has moved ahead, as it has in your Lordships' House, as was shown in 1948 and again nine years ago, because on those two occasions there was a very considerable difference in the number of Members of your Lordships' House who voted against the death penalty. I hope that your Lordships, by your voting, will agree that thinking has moved ahead; that in this instance this House must be clearly on the side of history and not 597 against it; and that this House can adopt the phrase of a great Englishman of the past, John Donne:Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind".I hope that this House will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 11.42 a.m.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, it is my good fortune on this occasion to be able, on behalf of your Lordships' House, to congratulate the noble Earl upon his maiden speech. I can assure him that all those who listened to him appreciated immensely the elegance and thoughtfulness of his speech. There is a formula which is frequently used on these occasions to the effect that we hope that we will hear him often in the future. It has clearly been our loss that eighteen years should have passed before he decided to address your Lordships' House and I can only say—and I am sure I am speaking for every Member of this House—that I hope he will in the future make up for that lost time.
After so much controversy and discussion, as my noble friend Lord Molson said, we who speak in this debate are perhaps less concerned to persuade others to the rightness of our own points of view, than to give an explanation as to how and why we intend to cast our votes. I hope I may be allowed to do so fairly shortly this morning. Let me say that I do not regard the problem of capital punishment as a great moral problem or its abolition as a very significant reform. I know of nothing in the New Testament which supports the idea of the absolute sanctity of human life; and, living as we do in a half-century in which the State has demanded without compunction more innocent lives in its service than at any other period in our history, I frankly find it difficult to see how we can claim to be elevated morally above our fathers, because we abolish capital punishment whereas they had no difficulty in deciding that it was right to hang a man or woman guilty of the awful crime of murder.
I am not opposed to capital punishment, yet I propose today to vote for this Bill to abolish it. In 1957, as a Member of the House of Commons I was one of those who voted for the Homicide Bill, partly because I did not realise its full 598 implications and partly, I confess, from a certain inborn prejudice on this subject. Subsequently, I have realised the nature of the Act which my vote helped to place on the Statute Book. I have also learned something of the handling of the problem of punishment for murder under other codes and I have sworn for many years past that if I could do anything to remove from the Statute Book the Homicide Act—which is a piece of legislation which I regard as the worst that any Parliament has passed—then I would take that opportunity with both hands.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice has stated the position precisely. The 1957 Homicide Act must go. It is in my view unworthy both of the British legal system and of the sense of justice and equity of the British Parliament. If the alternatives are the Bill which we have before us, on the one hand, and the Homicide Act, on the other, then I will vote today for the Bill to replace that Act. Yet I am aware, or at any rate I think, rightly or wrongly, at present, that the abolition of capital punishment will create a number of new and difficult problems. I think, for instance, like my noble friend Lord Derwent, that it will lead more speedily than would otherwise be the case to the arming of the police. There will be occasions in the future in which the police and armed criminals will shoot it out; and if, as I hope, the police shoot quicker and straighter, this means that men will be executed without trial whereas today, at any rate, those who stand trial for, and are found guilty of, murder of a capital nature have gone through the due process of the law before falling subject to the ultimate penalty.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will have in mind that in Norway, in Sweden and in Denmark there is no capital punishment, yet the police are not armed.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, I can only give my opinion. I do not think we can judge from the experience of other countries as to what may happen here. I think there is a great danger on both sides, both for the retentionists and for the abolitionists, in trying to call to their aid the somewhat misleading circumstances 599 and different situations of other countries. I may be wrong about this; I fully accept that. Indeed, some of the fears that have been expressed by noble Lords who are in favour of the retention of capital punishment may not be realised. Public opinion, which is of great importance in this matter and which must not be ignored by Parliament, may accept the change after a short time with complete equanimity. The fears of the warders and the police may prove groundless. My view is that the case for retaining capital punishment will never be proved to the satisfaction of informed opinion in this country unless we are prepared to go through a period when it has been abolished. I think, therefore, that the period of five years which is written into this Bill as the period of its life will enable those of us who have sincere convictions on both sides in this controversy to see for once and all who is right and who is wrong.
Quite apart from the fact that I believe in this particular circumstance that it would be wrong for this House to go against the majority opinion of the House of Commons and to reject the Bill on Second Reading, I believe it is in the interests of both sides, and not least of those who are in favour of capital punishment, that these five years of experiment of its abolition should be gone through to see what conclusions we can draw from them. All that I would say is this: if at the end of those five years the views of those who are in favour of capital punishment prove right and their fears are substantiated, then I will do my level best to ensure that what is restored to the Statute Book is not the existing 1957 Homicide Act but something that provides far greater equity and justice in this matter.
Therefore, I hope that my noble friends who are not abolitionists will not accept the advice that was given to us yesterday by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne or that which may be given to us towards the end of this debate, but will vote for the Second Reading, reserving their position with regard to the Committee stage and, more particularly, reserving the position of Parliament when at the end of five years the time comes for Parliament to consider the whole problem of dealing with murder in the 600 interests of public policy, in the light of the experience of the period of the experiment, which by that time will have ended.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ LORD CHUTER-EDE
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships, which I know is always granted to a Member addressing the House for the first time. If I get the opportunity, I propose to vote for this Bill. I have had a considerable experience in one form or another of dealing with the problems that arise in considering the appropriate punishment for murder. I observed, from the speeches I heard yesterday, that apparently we are now asked to accept hanging as the only and efficient deterrent to the wholesale commission of the crime. I do not believe that that is in accordance with the traditions of the British people.
It is most unusual for any crime of murder to have been long premeditated. The whole idea that murder had to be accompanied by malice aforethought is not borne out, I think, by the actual experience of the British people. It is most unusual for the crime of murder to be the result of prolonged meditation and of a determination to effect that particular crime. In most of the cases I had to consider when it came to granting a reprieve, I came to the conclusion that there was no possibility of long premeditation.
I imagine that if most of the people who have committed murder had been told, on the morning of the day on which they committed the crime, that before the day passed they would stand in danger of capital punishment, they would have expressed complete astonishment and would have assured anyone talking with them that they had no such thought in mind. What I think happens is that an opportunity occurs to a person not generally violent, when he is temporarily deranged mentally by some quite different motive—something is said or done suddenly by someone and in the particular frame of mind he happens to be in, a blow is struck, generally far harder than intended by the person delivering it—and a murder is committed. I do not think that a person who is in that position has the time in which to think of what the results of his action might 601 be for himself. The deterrent appears to me never to be likely to be present in the mind of a person who is tempted by some sudden coincidence of circumstances that place him in jeopardy.
I felt myself in considerable agreement yesterday with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice in the attitude he adopted on the main principles of this issue. Though a former Lord Chief Justice complained that I was looking very fixedly at him, and assured me that he had never had a quarrel when our paths might have crossed in the past, I still think that the advice that the Lord Chief Justice gave to us yesterday should be followed.
What the penalty to be imposed should be is a matter which will cause the greatest concern, and I very much doubt whether, without an experimental period, we should be wise to make any decision on that matter. Therefore, I hope that the Bill will be passed, that it will be thoroughly examined in Committee, and that, as a result, we may be able to do something practical that will remove from the Statute Book the present law and give us an opportunity of framing something that is more in accordance with the needs of modern times.
§ 11.59 a.m.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, although the speech of the noble Lord to which we have just listened is not marked down on the list of speakers as a maiden, I have just been informed that it is a maiden speech. However, whatever it is, I am sure that your Lordships would like me to congratulate the noble Lord on a very good speech and to hope that we shall hear him often again. May I also add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Harewood? I think that all noble Lords, on whatever side they may be, will admit that he put up a very fine performance.
I hope that my speech will be one of the briefest speeches in a long debate. I was unable to be present yesterday to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, introduce this Bill, but I have already assured her of my support in the Lobby tonight. I stand today in the position in which I have always stood. Whenever such Bills have come before your Lordships' House, I have spoken and voted as a total abolitionist. I believe that if capital punishment ever 602 had any value—and I do not think it had—it certainly has absolutely none today. I do not believe you can cure violence by further violence. The greatest man who has ever lived on our planet told the world that 2,000 years ago. The world has not listened; and the world might have been spared a lot of suffering if it had. I believe that you have to start at the other end, and root out and try to cure the cause of all this trouble. I feel that if we go on as we are going on the world is very soon going to destroy itself.
Your Lordships will be getting tired of the word "deterrent", and I will not say more about it than this: that the most significant point, to my mind, is the finding of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment in 1953. With all the mass of material and expert evidence at their disposal, they were unable to draw an inference or come to a conclusion one way or the other. That is what they said, and that, to me, is most significant. We abolitionists voted for the Homicide Act for one reason, and one reason only—namely, because there was no alternative for those who wanted to see fewer hangings. Of course, that Act has been a terrible thing, with all its anomalies, whereby murder with rape is not a capital offence, but murder with shooting is. That is only one of the anomalies, but several others were mentioned to your Lordships yesterday.
The final and all-important point to me is that a miscarriage of justice may be vary rare—because I have the utmost respect for British justice—but it is never impossible: justice cannot be infallible. The death penalty, once carried out, is absolute and final, and a mistake that is discovered later can never be put right. That is all I have to say. I intend to vote for this Bill, and I only hope that sufficient of your Lordships will do so to pass the Second Reading of the Bill, so that this country may follow the example of 30 other enlightened countries in the world which have brought in abolition and never seem to have suffered thereby.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I suppose I must be one of the very few Members of this House who took part in the debate on this same subject nine years ago. I well remember the atmosphere in the 603 Chamber at that time. I was the unfortunate person who was winding up the debate on behalf of the abolitionists. The House was packed: I have never seen so many noble Lords in the House as there were on that occasion. I think many noble Lords came partly to listen to the debate, but there was also a big function on that evening and they were there in readiness for it. There were present noble Lords whom I had never seen before, and have never seen since. The atmosphere to abolition was quite definitely hostile, and one could feel it. The result was that I made one of the worst speeches of my career and we lost the Division heavily: possibly we did not lose it on account of my speech, but lose it we did.
What a difference there is in the atmosphere today. The House is not packed, as it was then; and I think I may say that, if one can judge the atmosphere of the House this morning, it is definitely in favour of abolition. The number of the speeches, as well as the weight of them, is definitely in favour of abolition. There have been few speeches for retention. I would say that even those who have spoken in favour of retention have spoken regretfully. I think that they would prefer to abolish capital punishment, but they are concerned about the danger of not being able to provide an effective deterrent. If I wanted to hear the best possible case in favour of retention, it would be the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne. I say this because I have a high respect for the noble Viscount, and because he certainly put the case as well as it could possibly be put. But what did it amount to? It amounted to this: that he would like to abolish capital punishment—he thinks that if it were practicable to do so he would do it—but there is the awful fear at the back of his mind (I do not think he said he could prove it, because these are things one cannot prove) that if you abolish capital punishment somebody who is today deterred by the fact that he is liable to be hanged will, in carrying out a lesser crime, go out with a weapon which he would not otherwise carry with him. That, I think, is a fair summary of the noble Viscount's view.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I intervene only to say that, so far as the 604 professional criminal is concerned, I entirely agree that the noble Lord has given a fair summary. But that is only one of the categories.
§ LORD SILKIN
Before I deal with that, I should like to say a word about some of the speeches that have been made. I think it is notable that the younger Members of the House are almost without exception in favour of abolition. I should like to mention three speeches, in particular, which have impressed me immensely—and I doubt whether, taking them together, I have ever heard three better speeches in my life. I refer to the maiden speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, the noble Earl, Lord Harewood, and the noble Lord, Lord Reay. I wonder whether they do not feel that they have wasted a great deal of time in not having addressed this House much earlier than they have, because I think their speeches were so worth-while; and, if the quality of their speeches had been the same, I would have said this if they had been in favour of retention. But the fact remains that we now have in favour of abolition not only the younger Members of this House but many of those who, nine years ago, were in favour of retention. We have had the lawyers on the side of abolition to-day. I can guess that the Lord Chancellor will be in favour of abolition. We have heard the Lord Chief Justice, and we have heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, and I rather sensed that the Lord Chief Justice was speaking largely, if not entirely, on behalf of Her Majesty's Judges. I think that the general sense of the Judges is in favour of abolition.
Then, of course, there is the Report of the Royal Commission, which has not been mentioned very much. The Royal Commission consisted of people, including the Chairman, who started off, if anything, with a bias in favour of retention of capital punishment. Sir Ernest Gowers, one of the greatest men of the day, a man whom I have had the privilege of knowing for many years and who is a great man in every sphere of life, admitted that he started off with a bias in favour of retention of capital punishment and finished up as an ardent abolitionist. And so did the Commission. We have had all this weight of opinion and every one of 605 those people has considered this point of the deterrent.
I should like to say a word about the deterrent. It is assumed by those who are in favour of retention that there is no effective deterrent except capital punishment. That is not the view of a great many people who have had considerable experience of this matter. May I mention the case of Mr. Brooke? Mr. Brooke, both on Second Reading and on Third Reading, emphatically stated that in his opinion a rather long term of imprisonment was an effective deterrent against the commitment of murder, and that if any person contemplating murder realised that he would be committed to prison for a long term, that would be quite effective. Of course, the difficulty is that nobody can say with certainty that a murderer will be either apprehended or convicted or what will be the term of his punishment. If he is sentenced to death, even that is no guarantee that he will eventually be hanged. Therefore, the person who sets out in cold blood—if there are such persons—and weighs up his chances, will come to the conclusion that it is a fair risk to take, in spite of capital punishment, because his chances of getting off are possibly 99 in 100. So he will estimate. Therefore, I do not regard that as a deterrent at all.
Let me mention one thing which is, I think, referred to in a book by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. About 115 years ago, executions were public. Pickpocketing was a capital offence, and people were hanged for picking pockets. Those public executions used to attract a very large number of people. If ever a deterrent was necessary, there it was. There was the person being executed visibly before their eyes. And yet pickpocketing on those occasions was carried on to a far greater extent than normal. The pickpockets really reaped their harvest, in spite of the deterrent in front of their very eyes.
As I said at the outset, times have changed, and the outlook has changed. I think public opinion is changing. If you took a Gallup Poll to-day, what the majority would say I do not know, but I think that in a case of this kind, before you took a Gallup Poll it would be right to put the case more clearly, more effectively, than is done at the present time. Obviously, if you casually 606 ask a person who has never given it a thought, "Are you in favour of capital punishment, or are you not?", I suppose the immediate reaction is the reaction of one or two noble Lords in this House: "This person has committed murder. Why should he not suffer the full penalty? Think of his victims", and so on. But if you ask these people whose opinion you are seeking to go into the matter a little more carefully, I am sure that the majority would be against capital punishment.
The Bill provides, however, that automatically there is to be a sentence of imprisonment for life on conviction. That I, must confess, is wrong, and is contrary to my own conception of a deterrent. After all, is it not much the same thing as a judge solemnly sentencing a prisoner to death, putting on a black cap, when everybody knows that the prisoner is not going to be hanged? That is the position to-day, in the case of all capital offences. In the majority of cases, people are not hanged. To that extent it is much less of a deterrent. If you automatically have a life sentence, which people know is not going to be carried out, then it is making a farce of sentences.
I would say that in this intervening period of five years, in this trial period, it would be much wiser and right, and act as a more effective deterrent, if the judges were enabled to pass a sentence on the basis of the gravity of the offence. There is the point that once a sentence is passed, the Home Office, if not the Home Secretary, is not in a position to intervene. But that is a matter which Parliament could put right if it thought it was desirable to do so. I feel that that is probably the only blemish in the Bill—this indeterminate life sentence. I hope that on the Committee stage we shall be able to rectify it.
May I, in conclusion, express the view that it would add greatly to the stature of this House if we passed this Bill on Second Reading unanimously, without a Division. I would make a plea to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne—he is not very far from us; I believe he would like to abolish capital punishment, and I think every noble Lord who has spoken would like to—let us give this Bill a Second Reading unanimously. It would raise the stature of 607 this House. Let us look at this Bill in Committee very carefully, and particularly on the point to which I have just referred, and let us give it a trial for five years. I am quite certain in my own mind that at the end of five years we shall not seek to reinstate capital punishment.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, we are making quite good progress in this debate. I have had consultations through the usual channels in an endeavour to take the feeling of the House, and I think it is this; that we should not have a Division before 6 o'clock, in view of the fact that so many noble Lords have been given that as an indication of the probable time. If that be the case, and in view of the progress that we are making, it would seem to me right that we should adjourn this debate after the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has spoken, and resume it at 2.30 p.m. this afternoon.
I would also announce that, again after consultation through the usual channels, the meeting of the House of Lords Offices Committee, which was scheduled for 4.30 p.m. this afternoon, has been postponed.
§ 12.21 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, I venture to intervene in this long and important debate because I am a comparatively recent convert to the cause of abolishing the death penalty. I have reached such a decision, not for any sentimental reason of softness towards wrongdoing, not even on the grounds so movingly and excellently expressed in his maiden speech by the noble Earl, Lord Harewood, that in no circumstances has the State the right to take life, but because, having brought as dispassionate and unprejudiced a mind as I can to this matter, I am persuaded that capital punishment is a bad punishment.
As the Royal Commission have reminded us, it is commonly held that punishment should have three principal purposes: reformation, retribution and deterrence; and the Commission accepted that classification. Apply it to capital punishment as it is administered today: and take, first, reformation. I suppose that it is possible that wrongdoers do sometimes come to a sense of 608 their evil actions by the shadow of the gallows, but this is only the beginning of part of what we mean by reformation. Its reality is to be seen in its fruits: the educative process must be seen in the readiness to right the wrong, so far as it is possible so to do; to make amends to those who have been wounded; to repay by service to the community the hurt that has been done to its common life. It is these essential elements in reformation which are confounded by the very nature of the death penalty.
Then the second purpose—retribution, by which, as the Royal Commission said, the State marks its disapproval of the breaking of its laws by a punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offence. This is certainly an essential element in punishment, and there was a time, whether or not we approve of the form of punishment, when it could be said that by punishing the crime of murder by putting the guilty person to death the State was, in the most solemn manner, expressing its detestation of the taking of life. There was a time when this point of view could be justified; but not now. Not since the Homicide Act of 1957, for, by the differentiation between the various forms of murder, and the punishment applicable to each, that Act has reduced the element of retribution to a grisly farce. How can the State claim to express its condemnation of the crime of murder by the imposition of the death penalty when it fact some of its most loathsome manifestations do not suffer the death penalty, while many of those which evoke some sympathy receive the capital sentence? How can it be held that the majesty of the moral law is upheld in such circumstances as these? The present state of affairs is, I believe, an affront to the conscience of the nation, and it cannot be allowed to continue. Either the death penalty must be applied indiscriminately to all cases of murder, or it must go, and it is the latter course which I believe to be the only feasible one.
We are left, then, with the element of deterrence. Admittedly this is the most difficult to analyse, for no-one can know how many people have been deterred by the fear of capital punishment. But I would hold that, in weighing the propriety or otherwise of the capital sentence, so terrible in its application, so awful 609 in its finality, we cannot be content with the strong suspicion that it is a deterrent, with the likelihood that it will deter people from murder. There must be convincing proof, beyond the bounds of probability, that capital punishment does deter the commission of murder; and such convincing arguments I have not been able to find anywhere. On the contrary, I feel bound to take note of the evidence of Professor Sellin, of whom the Royal Commission said that he had made a profound study of his subject. The Commission asked him:I think you have already agreed that capital punishment cannot, on the basis of your figures, be exercising an overwhelming deterrent effect?And his reply was:That is correct.The Royal Commission went on to conclude, in paragraph 68:It is accordingly important to view this question in a just perspective and not to base a penal policy in relation to murder on exaggerated estimates of the uniquely deterrent force of the death penalty.If a particular form of punishment is clearly fulfilling the purposes for which it is intended, then society must bear the inevitable injustices which fall on the innocent and the sometimes deleterious effects on society which accompany the imposition of that penalty. The old addage:The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edgerepresents an inevitable law of things. But when a particular form of punishment fails to fulfil the canons which must be applied, or only doubtfully fulfils them, then we are forced to take into our general consideration of the problem the consequences of that punishment, not only upon the malefactor but upon society and upon individuals as well.
In the case of capital punishment these are especially severe. There is the terrible finality of the death penalty, admitting no mistakes, providing no opportunity for redress if a mistake has been made; and no one, since the case of Timothy Evans, can say that it is impossible for such things to happen in our society. There is the intense suffering imposed on the relatives, the strain on those who have to watch over the condemned man and to carry out the sentence; the harm done generally to society by the morbid interest 610 taken in the contemplation of a human being fighting for his life and in the ghastly details of how he is to be deprived of it if he is found guilty. If it could be shown without shadow of doubt that capital punishment uniquely fulfils what society requires in the punishment of murderers, then we should have to bear with these ugly consequences which accompany it. But if, as I believe there to be, there is grave question about the propriety of capital punishment as such, then the secondary factors bring their weight to bear and make it even more inconceivable that this punishment should continue to be tolerated.
I ask your Lordships to bear with me while I stress one more point which I believe to be of fundamental importance in our debate. We speak of capital punishment. What is in fact the punishment that we seek to impose upon the individual who is subjected to it? Is the punishment the deprivation of life in this world? If so, I think it is a doubtful proposition that society has the right to use the taking away of a man's life as a punishment. In any case, physical death is an experience that we must all sooner or later undergo, and it is a strange state of affairs that we should regard as a punishment something which will one day be the fate of all of us, merely because we impose it prematurely rather than allowing it to befall us in the course of time. Moreover, such action has an element of irresponsibility about it, for we cannot possibly know the consequences upon the individual of the penalty which we have imposed upon him.
No, my Lords, the only recognisable punishment which we can be certain that we impose by the death penalty is the fear of the unknown, the agony of apprehension. Quite properly we take pains to ensure that the act of execution shall be carried out expeditiously, painlessly and humanely, and yet we tolerate the imposition as a punishment of that… dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourneNo traveller returns".My Lords, this use of mental and spiritual suffering as a means of punishment smacks too much of the torture chamber, too obviously of the tools employed by systems of government which we should all condemn and which we 611 have sought to destroy. It is not a form of punishment to which any civilisation should be a party, however terrible the crime.
§ 12.33 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, just at the end of the last war it was rather a depressing time; controls and licences were required for everything. I had a contract to write books, and I thought I would cheer people up by writing a book about crime—a thriller. My publishers liked the plot. So I went to a murder trial to get a good background. I had never been to a murder trial before, and I have never been to one since; and I do not know that I want to go to another one. But I went to get the background, and I got to know everybody connected with the trial, which I saw from beginning to end. It was in Scotland. The murderer had lain in bracken, in a lonely glen, watching an isolated cottage. When the shepherd went down with his grandchildren to take them to school, he went to the cottage and asked the wife for food. She prepared him a meal, and, so far as I could see from the evidence, after he had eaten it he raped her and killed her. He then went through the house and took the few pounds that were in it, and took all the jewellery he could find in the house, including her wedding ring.
The prisoner seemed quite cheerful about it all. He said that he had had bad luck because he had been given the wrong place; there was a lot of money in another house that he had not gone to. He was Polish. He thought he had been rather "done down" by being caught so quickly, because he could have gone to the other house, where, presumably, he would have killed the occupant. He said, "I have pleaded guilty. It is a fair catch. Why don't they get on with it?" But the trial went smoothly on from time to time, until it came to the inevitable verdict. I think that possibly the Scottish procedure is a good deal different from the English, but I am not an expert. The judge told him, reading from a piece of paper:You will be executed in the precincts of the Perth prison on February 8 provided the licence has come through in time to buy the timber for your scaffold. Is that understood?I had a drink with the hangman: he seemed quite a cheerful chap, and dedi 612 cated to his work. He said he was doing a lot of good, or he thought he was, for the country. I did not know what to think about it all. I certainly did not write the story. I was interested and curious, and wondered whether there was any relationship between crime, punishment and prevention.
I made a great many notes. Being a writer I typed out about three folders-full of typescripts from any source I could find. All this occurred nearly twenty years ago, and I cannot remember what was in them, but just before entering your Lordships' House I was trying to remember a few of those notes to give your Lordships an idea of the type of research I did. I will give them as I wrote them in my notes, which are easier for me to remember. Stone Age murder: Cain cursed that his agricultural endeavours will not be profitable; marked with a mark which will identify him wherever he goes to save him from mob violence. During Terrence's plays two thieves were crucified each side of the stage to act as a form of government poster against thieving. Could not find out whether it did any good or not. The novelist Fielding (1707–55: Tom Jones) was also a magistrate. Street murders were very troublesome in London at that time, and the Government gave him £500 to have them stopped. He used the money to pay informers; the informers gave away the gangs. The gangs were rounded up and hanged. He reduced murders in London from an average of five a week until in the month of December there were none. Whether it was a cold month of December I do not know.
I remember another note from China which struck me as curious; and although a little bit funny, it was, I think, interesting. It was taken from some Chinese documents I found. Apparently in the old days in China the Chinese took human nature as it was; they were not going to do anything about it; they left it as it was. They saw what money could be made out of human nature. Before the break up of the old Empire, that is between 1906 and 1908, there were quite a number of recessions in the country and the Mandarin of Micao raised a tax on the beggars and the Mandarin of Shanghai raised a tax on thieves. The beggars' union came out on strike, and so did the thieves' union. For some time there were no beggars in the town of 613 Micao, famous for beggars, and thieving and street murder were conducted only by "blackleg" amateurs It was very quiet. In the end the unions climbed up a bit and the Mandarins climbed down a bit; the strikes were ended, and business went on as usual. I made these notes twenty years ago, and I say, absolutely frankly that I could make nothing of the situation. I had at the back of my mind, my own private view, which I will come to later. But I want to be completely neutral.
I said the other day, in a speech that I made in your Lordships' House, that I meet an enormous number of holiday people from all over the British Isles—people of all classes and kinds. Therefore it is very easy for me to conduct a really good poll of public opinion. About seven months ago, when this Bill was introduced, I thought, "I do not know anything about it, I have no views and I will find out what other people think". I made a target of 200 people, which may sound a lot, but sometimes I talk to between five and fifteen people a day—people I have never met before—and I find out what they think. I must say that I found a lot of what the curate called the "Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" about their views. A lot of women-no, not a lot of them; about five of them—said the same thing: "I would hang the lot." Some most intelligent women made some quite shrewd and good remarks about it; and they ended, I would say, with the quite erudite opinion that in present times it was necessary to keep this deterrent, because the Act of 1957 had made such a muddle of deterrence.
They did not resent that this Bill is a Private Member's Bill. They thought that it was a "closed-circuit" Bill, in which the public would not be able to have a say. They thought that that was wrong. They thought that the Act of 1957 should have been thoroughly gone into in public, that it should have been altered and brought more up to date, and that more deterrents should possibly have been added, not subtracted.
So the views went from people—different people all over the place. I could quote them at length. I could keep you here for ages. Some of them are quite interesting. I remember a surgeon from 614 Southampton who had his own view. He said he knew a man who had threatened to kill his wife, and he was put in a mental home. He palled up with his psychiatrist and, after a little while, he was let out; and this man then killed the surgeon's wife, so he was put back in the mental home. This surgeon said, "I have seen many lives and I have seen so many people who have died. They were nice people and they have died. They were people who liked their families, who liked their friends, who did not want to die but nevertheless have died through no fault of their own. I am not worried about hanging four murderers a year. This does not worry me. I think that it was a great mistake to take off the deterrent. But this Bill is all wrong, and the deterrent should not be taken away."
So the result of my 200 inquiries was that every single person was against this Bill. They were a fair cross-section of the general public—people in the motor trade from Coventry, steel workers from South Wales, and doctors, lawyers, business executives, every type of people. They all said the same thing. They did not want the deterrent taken away; they wanted it to continue. Most of them said the same thing: they thought it was a shame to do it in a closed circuit and that the existing Act must be revised. A good many of them thought that it would lead to an armed police force, and that there would be shooting in the streets and innocent people would be shot. There was an expression used by some, "What is it all in aid of? Is it just that four people a year should not be hanged?".
Coming over here yesterday on an aeroplane I sat next to a charming old lady who had been on a holiday and enjoyed it, and she was going back to the old ladies' home where she lived. I thought, "Here at last I have found somebody who is an abolitionist". We talked about her holiday for a while, and then I asked her whether she was an abolitionist, and she quite flared up about it. She had all sorts of reasons. She spoke of women being worried and of burglars—about armed burglars going into her home. What she said would have covered pages, and I would bet Lombard Street to a china orange, if Lombard Street were mine, that general 615 public opinion today is that they are pretty well dead against abolition. That is the public's view—not particularly my view.
However, after the debate yesterday it was a lovely evening, and I walked back to my club trying to think it out. I could not think it out. When I got to the club I talked to a chap at the bar and, just out of curiosity, I said, "What do you think about this?" and he said, "Hanging is wicked; it is wrong; it is mediæval. I am all against it." I said, "What are you going to put in its place?" He said, "They are building a new fortress, a big prison, on the Isle of Wight. I would have them shut up for life. I would see that they never got out." I said, "Surely, that is torture?' Well, when I got into my bath (Monday is my bath night) I thought, if people can sing in their bath, why cannot they shout and talk to themselves in their bath? And I said to myself that. "I must get down to this", and I started to shout and talk to myself in the bath. I said to myself, "Do you believe in hanging?"—"No, I do not believe in hanging and I do not believe in the atom bomb". "Are you going to stand outside the Palace of Westminster with a banner displayed with 'Ban the Bomb', or stand on a beer crate in the park with a rope round your neck?" And I said to myself, "No, I don't think I shall do that." "Why not?" I asked. "I think it is the principle of democratic government that a Government should always protect the people it serves". And I said to myself, "I think that is true. Lots of my feelings are fairly funny, but I think it is true".
I said to myself, "Why are you so much against hanging and the atom bomb?". And I replied, "That is easily explained. When I was young I was taught instincts; I went to church and I was taught philosophy, and they gradually became reflexes in my mind. My mind works like a computer, and my answer to any problem comes out pat like this: 'This is right; that is wrong'. In regard to all sorts of human behaviour I can say that this is right or this is wrong." Even whether you tip your soup plate away from you or towards you, one is right and one is wrong. I know straight away. I said to myself, "Have 616 you ever inquired into these things?" I answered, "I am a bit cautious about it, because when I look at metaphysical teaching through a glass darkly I am a bit cautious. When I go into philosophy and wander about I am in a labyrinth of words, signifying nothing. There are those occasions when I feel like the Roman Lieutenant-Governor all those years ago. What is true—truth? And that is true, and that is how I feel." I said to myself, "My ideals are sacred. I like the one tiny light in the dark world which are my ideals. I do not want to mess them about or tear them about in case I destroy them forever."
So we came to the end of my discussion in my bath, and I had to say to myself, "What do you really think?" I answered, "Well, I do not think I have the nerve. I have the nerve for most things, but not to go into your Lordships' House with everybody looking at me all the way around, with so many distinguished people, and with Ladies in the House, and say what I really think." I said to myself, "If you cannot do that, for goodness' sake do not bore them with a long speech; just shut up." Finally, I said, "I am going to do it."
I think I can lead into it by saying what happened at the beginning of the war, when, like everybody else, I went into the Army. One night in the mess the parson was telling dirty stories. I went over to him and said they were jolly good stories. I knew them all, but they were jolly good. But I said, "Why do you not tell me about God?". And he was rather offended and went away—he did not like it. The colonel said to me afterwards, "You must not speak to the padre like that." I just thought back about that little cottage in that beautiful Highland glen. I thought of the grandchildren coming back from school and what they found there. I remembered this light—it is the only thing we really have; this mysterious light that we call the Bible; this collection of fact and literature, of poetry and mystery. It has guided us through the centuries, and led to our building the wonderful cathedrals that we have in this country. It has brought out the finest in men. Without the Bible I think that we should long ago have got into a state of anarchy. It has kept us going. It is our guiding light.
617 I know this sounds old-fashioned, but I do not care; I was wondering what the Bible had to say about it all. And I remembered the trial. The police were most careful, and they were good with this prisoner, and I admired them a lot for it. I remembered that an enormous crowd collected; they were very sullen and angry with this man. They thought he had done a wicked thing. I stood there watching the whole thing, and I could see that some of them were very angry. If they had got hold of the man they would have broken his neck. The police joined hands and guided the man into the police van to take him to the trial. There is a wonderful text that comes to my mind when I think of this matter; it is a very fine old text that thunders round:Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, I will repay.I thought of that text when I stood there some twenty years ago.
There was this man, who said he was guilty, and who was no doubt thinking, "Why don't they get on with it?" He was given the most wonderfully fair trial any man could receive. The counsel on his behalf, who was a King's Counsel, a very able man, brought out each point most carefully. The Judge was extremely good to the man and did everything in his power to help towards his defence. It was a very remarkable feat. I, who knew he was guilty all the time, watched it. The trial could have gone various ways. There was one moment when I thought he would get off; there was another when I thought the case would be non-proven. I knew that the biggest and most damning piece of evidence had not been produced in court, because the prisoner told me about it. It was the wedding ring. He had broken it in half and sewn it into his shoe with a piece of snare-wire. He said the police had not got it. He said, "That would have hanged me straight away." That bit of evidence never came into the trial.
I watched the jury. I thought they were nice, intelligent people, who were taking a keen interest in the case the whole way through. I thought to myself that it was a difficult job for them. I had to feel that the whole thing was embodying justice, that there was no vengeance or hatred or malice. The whole thing was, so to speak, floating on 618 air. A push one way or other could have brought a different result. I thought after the jury had retired that they were probably praying for guidance in their task. It is on such occasions when one puts up a prayer to God. I told your Lordships the verdict. A lot of people would say that it was good luck or bad luck. I wondered if God is not luck.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TENBY
My Lords, this is the third time on which I have spoken on a Bill which deals with this very important question of the abolition of capital punishment. Because of this, and because of the fact that there are very many more noble Lords who want to take part in the debate, I will not trouble them by covering the same ground this morning. A good deal was said yesterday about the 1957 Act, and while I do not propose to answer any of the questions in detail, I would remind your Lordships that that Act incorporated within it many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission some years before. I remember saying at the time that the Government had given very serious consideration to the whole question and that, while they were all in favour of amendment of the law, they still felt that the punishment should be retained.
I personally still believe that it is a deterrent. One of the reasons for that is that the figures for murders in the country are among the lowest in the world. At the same time, I must agree with what the Royal Commission said with regard to figures. We heard yesterday many figures, most of which were confined to the United States of America, showing that murder had gone down. Some States had capital punishment; some had not. This morning the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester referred to the work which had been done by Professor Sellin. He quoted an extract from the Royal Commission's Report. Having given the Report very careful consideration over many years, I come to the same conclusion as the Royal Commission, and that is that figures do not prove the case one way or the other. Indeed, Professor Sellin himself was asked when he appeared before the Royal Commission:Can we not conclude that if it has a deterrent effect it must be rather small?619 His answer was:I can make no such conclusion because I can find no answer one way or the other in these data. It is impossible to draw any inferences from the material that is in my possession that there is any relationship between a large number of executions, a small number of executions, continuous executions, no executions and what happens to the murder rate.That was his opinion, and confirms what I have just said, that the figures which have been given to us do not prove anything, one way or the other.
I propose to vote against the Bill. I agreed with my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne when he said yesterday that the time may come when we can afford to do this. I agree with him; but I do not think the time has come. The noble Lord, Lord Chuter-Ede, when speaking in another place some twenty years ago and recommending the House not to support abolition, drew attention to the danger of removing the death penalty in view of the phenomenal increase in crimes of violence. That was nearly twenty years ago. I have not got the figures for crimes of violence in the year 1947 because they were not included in the statistics, but the pre-war figure was 1,500. In 1963 the figure had risen to 12,000. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in the debate last week that the figures for crime in 1963 would prove to be the highest on record.
What does this Bill propose? This Bill proposes to do away with capital punishment, and I should just like to say this to one or two noble Lords who referred to what can be done in Committee. I have no doubt at all that much could be done in Committee, but surely the Second Reading of a Bill is the time when one votes for or against the principle, and the principle of this Bill is the abolition of capital punishment. No Amendment, surely, could be introduced on Committee stage which in any way upset that conclusion if your Lordships so decided.
The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, speaking last evening, gave the impression which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said he had shared through listening to the speeches, that a good many people in your Lordships' House would be very glad to see the end of capital punishment. I think I am right in saying 620 that he gave that impression at the beginning of his speech. But he said that so far as he was concerned everything depended on what the alternative was. I had hoped that we should be shown an adequate alternative.
Let us be quite frank, my Lords. We have not been shown an alternative which is at all adequate. What is proposed in the Bill? It is proposed that in future, after this Bill is carried, the alternative will be imprisonment for life. If I may say one thing to your Lordships, after some experience in debates of this sort, it is that there is a very great misunderstanding as to the meaning of "imprisonment for life". Simply because the average for those murderers who have been released from prison has been something like nine years, far too many people have assumed that the alternative to capital punishment is going to be imprisonment for something like nine years. They have forgotten something. The nine years' average is made up of murderers who have been reprieved. Why were they reprieved? They were reprieved because of the extenuating circumstances that existed, and those people who have been reprieved were among the best prisoners in the prisons. Many of them were perfectly decent fellows but they had been driven beyond endurance. I want to repeat to your Lordships, that the nine years bears no relation whatsoever to the real meaning of "imprisonment for life". It is purely that there were extenuating circumstances, and they have contributed to this rather small figure.
Under this Bill, some people could be imprisoned for up to 20 years, some up to 25 years or even longer. I made a calculation in, I think, 1956, which I gave to the Lower House at the time, that, taking the murders between 1949 and 1953, there would have been in Her Majesty's prisons about 250 in the 20 years' category and about 100 in the 25 years' category. In other words, there would be a very large increase in the population of people not one of whom was eligible for reprieve because of exenuating circumstances. Do not forget another thing, my Lords: that most of these people would be there ender conditions of maximum security.
One of the great things which keeps prisoners going, as has been mentioned 621 already to-day, is the hope that sooner or later they will be released. Indeed, I do not think I am disclosing any secret when I say that when I was at the Home Office—and I am perfectly certain that the noble Lord, Lord Chuter-Ede, has had the same experience—if one of these reprieved murderers had behaved himself and it had been decided that he should be released, he was nearly always informed many months before that if he continued in the same way he would be released in June or July of next year. The purpose of that was to give the man hope that within measurable time he would be out. But what about those without hope?—and there must be a large number in the 20 or 25 years' category who would not have it.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Viscount for a moment. It appears to me that there may be some misunderstanding arising out of his remarks. I think he made a calculation which would indicate that in certain circumstances some 150 prisoners would be serving 20 years or more, and 100 would be serving 25 years or more. Is it not the case that if we do not have this Bill we shall be left with the 1957 Act, and under the 1957 Act only some three or four each year of the kind of criminal which he has mentioned would be going into prison?
§ VISCOUNT TENBY
My Lords, I would not disagree with that at all. That is perfectly true, because under the 1957 Act that would be about right. But it does not follow that everything that I should have liked done was done in the 1957 Act, which is a very different thing. But there it is, and we have to take the situation as it is at the moment. But I do not disagree with the noble Lord's interpretation there.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, before the noble Viscount leaves that point, could he explain how he gets this figure of 20 years or 25 years? Are these sentences which he thinks would be imposed by the judges? There is nothing in the Bill which talks of 20 or 25 years' imprisonment.
§ VISCOUNT TENBY
No, my Lords, I agree. That is one of the reasons why 622 I say that there is no real clear alternative being put to the House. The point is that nine years is the average for the reprieved murderer, and I took a purely arbitrary figure of 20 or 25 years or more. I did not have in mind that any court would impose it. One of the complaints I have is that it has never been indicated to anybody what is going to take the place of this punishment, if and when this Bill becomes law. There is no doubt at all that many would serve very long terms of imprisonment.
We heard yesterday from a noble Lord that conditions in the prisons must be made so much better. They have improved over the years, and I assume they will improve still further. But do not forget, my Lords, that certain murderers will have to be kept under the strictest security. I do not want to mention any names, but many come into my mind whom one would not dare let out. I personally have had experience of one with over 26 years under restraint, and he was not insane. I thought at one time that he might be let out, but I was told, "No, in no circumstances whatever." The Home Secretary's prime responsibility is for law and order and for the protection of the public in this country, and that is something which we must not lose sight of. We are always hearing about the poor murderer in his cell, but I am just as much concerned, possibly a little more, about the consequences for which that same murderer is responsible.
Sir Alexander Maxwell, who I think is admittedly one of the great authorities at the Home Office on our prisons, was asked by a committee what he thought about these long terms. He said—I am paraphrasing what he said: "Whatever means of education and recreation may be employed, it requires a superman to survive 20 years' imprisonment, and I gravely doubt whether an average man can serve more than 10 years without deterioration". Then, if you look at the letter from Biggs which I saw published in a newspaper last Sunday—and he had not served even two years—you will see that he said:I am rapidly losing patience, and I find it difficult not to escape".I do not know whether he found it difficult or not, but escape he did.
623 I come now to the problem which is tied up with what I am saying. In the last big debate on crime the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, referred to escapes in answer to my noble friend, Lord Derwent, who opened the debate last Wednesday. He said that in 1963 the number of escapes from our prisons was 40 per cent. up on 1962, and that 1964 would show a similar increase. That is escapes—40 per cent. up in one year and the same amount up in the following year. My Lords, is this not a terribly serious thing? We are apparently going to substitute imprisonment for the punishment that has existed for so long in this country, and yet—
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt, may I say that in just quoting the crude figures, quite clearly and accurately, he is giving a totally false picture if we are thinking in terms of security, because the increase in the number of so-called escapes includes the increase in walk-outs from open prisons. The open prison policy is one for which he himself was in some measure responsible when he was Home Secretary. The number of escapes is increasing, and it is a risk that we take; but the noble Viscount must not give the impression, in that context, that this increase has any relation at all to the kind of man who must be kept in secure conditions.
§ VISCOUNT TENBY
I accept fully what the noble Lord has said about open prisons and so on, because I did have a great deal to do with some of those experiments, which I think have, on the whole, worked very well; but I am now talking about the vast increase you are going to get in relation to very different prisoners. You have already had two escapes of maximum security prisoners from our prisons.
My Lords, there are many industries in this country, but there is a new one which has cropped up. It is a very important and big industry, and it is that of crime. Some of the astutest brains in this country are guiding this particular industry at the moment; it is well organised and. I regret to say, very well financed. After all, the train robbers, I assume, have got behind them a capital of £2½ million, which is quite a sum to play about with. That is the sort of 624 thing we have got to face, and I have had no indication from anybody in alp-port of this Bill as to what the alternative really is.
Moreover, I think the rigidity of the sponsors of this Bill on the question of the protection of the police and prison officers is most deplorable. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, again in the debate last week, that the police are at the receiving end of everything and are striving gallantly to cope. Of course they are at the receiving end of everything; but if they are at the receiving end of everything, surely they are entitled to as much protection as the community can give. After all, the police of this country are not a different breed of people. They are a disciplined force; but the police of this country are doing for the community—in fact, this is the basis of the police force—what the community would otherwise have to do for itself. They are the people to whom we look to protect us from the appalling increase in crime which is manifest today.
I said that I would be as brief as I could, and I hope I have not been too long for your Lordships. I would finish with this comment. My noble friend Lord Alport said that in his opinion it would be wrong to go against the judgment of the Commons—I shall have a word to say about that in a moment—and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that he did not know whether he could accept Gallup Poll figures or not, but that in any event, before anything was done, the case should be explained to the people of the country. The last Gallup Poll that I saw showed that 70 per cent. were in favour of the retention of capital punishment, either in its entirety or with modification. I think they were of the opinion that murder was the most heinous of crimes, but certainly the voting was 70 to 30 in favour of retention.
It is said that, before another poll is taken, we should explain the case to the people of this country, and that we must not go against the wishes of the House of Commons. Who has explained to the people of this country the case which has made the passage of this Bill possible? Nobody. I do not recollect that it was in the Manifesto of the Labour Party at the Election; and, as my noble friend Lord Salisbury said in a previous debate, I should be very surprised if a 625 single M.P. had it in his Election address. What is the good of talking about the House of Commons representing the people, when we are pretty satisfied ourselves that they do not represent the people, so far as this matter is concerned? You have these polls, if you believe in a Gallup Poll—and I suppose that most people believe what they think suits them best. But the fact of the matter is that it is no good pretending that this is a Bill brought forward at the wishes of the people of this country, because there is no proof whatsoever that that is the case.
Therefore, my Lords—and this is my last word—I cannot possibly support this Bill, and I give the three short reasons why. First, it ignores the present very serious situation, the admittedly serious situation, in which this country finds itself as regards crime; secondly, because the sponsors have given no clear picture of what is the alternative to this punishment; and, lastly, though by no means least, because it gives no protection whatsoever to the police or to the prison officers.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ LORD STAMP
My Lords, in view of the very large number of speakers in this debate and of the recent pleas for shorter speeches, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. However, in such a vitally important matter, as well as casting my vote I should like to refer, as briefly as possible, to the reasons why I shall vote as I intend to vote, even though, after so much discussion on the subject, there must be very little one can contribute that is new, and even though I agree with so much of what the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, has just said.
I abhor the thought of taking human life as much as the most fervent abolitionist, but I simply cannot bring myself to support this Bill at the present time. Last week we had a debate on the great increase in serious crime, and it seems to me that the question of the abolition of the death penalty at this moment, as the noble Viscount who has just sat down said, must be considered essentially in this context. Abolition cannot possibly have a beneficial effect and it may make the situation much worse if it is introduced before adequate steps have been taken to deal with this grave problem. Of all the five-year periods that could 626 have been chosen to give it a trial, the next five years must surely be the worst. From all accounts, the police are unanimously against it. Are we by our vote to-day to add to the undermining of their morale which, according to last week's debate, is at low ebb? If so, we are bearing a heavy load of responsibility if more and more they feel they are not supported and are less able to cope with the situation. The only result is likely to be, therefore, that there will be fewer recruits to the force; and those who remain in it will be working with a sense of grievance and a feeling that they have been let down.
I wonder whether the abolitionists would feel as they do if in their own daily lives they were, as police officers and prison warders are, threatened by homicidal criminals? If I were to support this Bill and it were passed, when I read of the next instance in which a policeman was murdered during the course of his duties, as must happen sooner or later, I should have grave misgivings. Could I be sure in that particular case that the fear of capital punishment would not have acted as a deterrent? Could I be confident that I had not therefore, indirectly, however, slightly, been responsible for it? The whole question, as has been emphasised so many times, is whether the death penalty really is a deterrent. Both my instinct and my reason tell me that this must be so, at least in some cases. If there is the slightest chance that that may be so, we cannot afford to dispense with it at the present time.
It is said that human life is sacred and that under no circumstances is it justifiable to take it. Yet we did not think that in two world wars, otherwise we should not be here to-day. But we are at war again, even though it is an entirely different kind of war: we are at war against crime. Had the sponsors of this Bill in another place been prepared to accept the Amendment that the death penalty be retained for the murder of police officers, prison warders and members of the public assisting the police, I should have felt able to support it to-day. This would have met the objections of many people to the Bill. Nevertheless, I should have done so with deep misgivings and with none of the satisfaction that many of the abolitionists appear to show at the thought that the Bill may 627 soon become law. As it stands it is obviously unsatisfactory, failing as it does to provide an adequate alternative punishment for the other categories of murder as well as those involving the police. I should however, have reluctantly accepted that; but I cannot accept a Bill that in my view is lessening the protection afforded to the police. All these indications that the most serious of all crimes is being treated more leniently, with a life sentence—which means nine or ten years, on the average—putting it more and more on a par with the less serious crimes, can only give comfort and encouragement to potential homicidal criminals. In the present circumstances one simply cannot afford to allow the heart to rule the head.
One thing that puzzles me is that I have always understood that in a democracy Parliament should be the mouthpiece of the people. From all accounts most people are against abolition, by a majority of at least two to one. Yet, in spite of this, Parliament intends to try to force this Bill through. On this occasion, apparently, it knows better than the masses. On other occasions, when the mass of public opinion happens to coincide with the policy of the Parliamentary majority, they are only too ready to support their arguments by claiming that they represent the will of the people. They cannot have it both ways. It may be said that there are occasions when Parliament should be ahead of public opinion and must lead, in effect, must dictate to, the people. I think this is a very dangerous doctrine. Where do you draw the line? I hope that if your Lordships reject this Bill today there will be no talk of thwarting the will of the elected representatives of the people. With due respect, it seems to me that the passing of this Bill in its present form would run contrary to the whole concept of democracy that the will of the people should prevail.
§ [The Sitting was suspended at twenty-five minutes past one o'clock and resumed at half past two o'clock.]
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I am not one of those who agrees that Parliament should necessarily lead public opinion; indeed, I see dangers down that path. To 628 me the idea savours in some measure perhaps of intellectual arrogance which I think out of place, especially in a case like the present, when I am certain, as a number of other noble Lords have said, that the great majority of the people of this country—certainly those in Scotland and, curiously enough, particularly womenfolk—believe that the proposals in this Bill are, to say the least of it, premature. The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, has in a measure covered my point, but in any case, and for this reason, many have an uneasy feeling that it was not quite fair on the electorate that this proposal was not a plank in the electoral platform last year.
In the course of the debate I have been struck by three incidental points of which, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to make mention. First, much play has been made with the words "hang" and "hanging" and the gruesome details that accompany it. In my view, the Press is largely to blame because of the brevity of the word compared with the Title of this Bill. The relevant words in the body of the Bill are, of course, "suffer death for murder" which is too long for any headline. Surely, my Lords, any execution by any means is a revolting business, but some sort of legal ritual must be complied with and hanging may be no more revolting than other methods, and perhaps less revolting than some.
Secondly, with regard to experience in other countries, I feel that we must remember that here we are legislating for Britain and for the British people. England is England and Scotland is Scotland, and as such are cases on their own. Thirdly, I have been surprised that more emphasis has not been placed in the debate on the comparative cruelty, not only to the criminal but to his family and friends, of a long incarceration and an irrevocable end. My heart goes out to the innocent who suffer from the delinquency of another, almost as much as to those who suffer from the deed itself. The victim and the dependants of the victim are the ones who need our sympathy.
My Lords, I am one who believes that most of the Members of your Lordships' House have a peculiar advantage in reflecting public opinion. We have wider opportunities than most to come in contact with and consult people in all 629 walks of of life. By virtue of living where I do I have also had opportunities of meeting, both in and out of the Establishment many of those concerned with the new State hospital at Carstairs. In Scotland, our law and the administration of it—take for instance the "not proven" verdict and so on—contribute, I believe, to the much lower incidence of executions in that country—and, talking of the Carstairs institution, I believe that, through and through, the system in Scotland deserves further study. This experiment is still in the process of development, though it cannot be a complete success so long as some convicted murderers are still incarcerated in prisons with other ordinary classes of criminals, largely because of the lack of accommodation and special establishments like Carstairs. The ultimate end at which we aim in Scotland is that all convicted murderers should be treated as mental cases and given distinctive treatment throughout their sentences, thus, and thus only, providing adequate safeguards such as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, referred to last night.
We are, of course, all agreed that the object of all of us is the protection of the public, and perhaps one day the elimination of murder itself; but, alas!, that day is far off. The certainty of incarceration is a deterrent—there can be no question of that—and I maintain that especially is this so if that incarceration is to be long and, even then, indefinite. But surely the capital sentence also is a deterrent, particularly to a certain class of desperado. Here I prefer to rely on what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, said yesterday on this subject and add that to my own feelings and the outcome of personal inquiries. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, expressed my feelings on the subject better than I can.
Even if capital punishment were not a deterrent—which I do not concede—the great majority of the public think that it is, and I contend that this is one of the considerations that we must bear in mind to-day. It is admitted that the police need the help of the public—we have been asked to "have a go", yet the Bill proposes to remove this protection against attack by a cornered criminal with a finger on the trigger. I noted that in his excellent maiden speech yesterday the 630 noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, omitted from his list of potentially deterrent emotions that of self-preservation. The temptation to a man or a woman to shoot his or her way out may well be affected by the shadow of the death penalty. I believe that, were I in that position, it would in my case. This is one angle of our responsibility to the police.
Your Lordships will have gathered from what I have said that I am one who is prepared to believe that some day capital punishment will be abolished, and abolished to the public weal. But I believe that that time is not yet; and certainly not in the terms of this Bill. I agree wholeheartedly with what was said yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. I believe, for instance, that until a proper alternative deterrent has been devised, until ample prison and hospital accommodation is available, and until adequate and trained staffs are available, capital punishment should be maintained in the background for those who murder a warder or a policeman, or a member of the public going to their aid. I say "in the background", because it is very much in the background, as has been shown by the figures which have been quoted in your Lordships' House. Certainly this is so in Scotland as was mentioned yesterday by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. I believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said yesterday, that a Government Bill on a different basis to this one, embodying greater protection for the public, would be more acceptable. The only clause that I would retain is the clause giving the measure an experimental period.
Before I sit down, I feel it proper to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said yesterday about the staffs at all levels in our prisons and penal hospitals, often short-handed, sometimes misunderstood, who render devoted service to the community and, indeed, to humanity. I would add to my list the chaplains and those engaged in after-care. They are engaged in onerous duties and dedicated to research, which on this subject is of inestimable value. Let us pray that these researches will lead, as they must, to the improved security of the public. In other words, I feel that more groundwork needs to be undertaken and, above all, that additional expenditure 631 has to be faced before the next step is taken. For these reasons, I oppose this Bill and will vote against it. It would be contrary to my conception of my duty to your Lordships' House if I were to depart from what my conscience dictates because of a vote in another place.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ LORD BOLTON
My Lords, I feel that I must ask your Lordships to forgive me on two counts for speaking this afternoon. The first is that I am entering a controversial debate as a maiden speaker, and the second—something for which I am sure your Lordships will forgive me—the brevity with which I propose to speak. I am going to speak briefly because, in the past 24 hours your Lordships have listened—and will be listening for some hours still to come—to noble Lords much more able than I, and many of the arguments which I should have put in front of your Lordships would therefore be repetitious and boring.
But I should not like your Lordships to think that the brevity of my speech is due either to discourtesy to your Lordships' House or to the fact that I have not studied the subject. I am a magistrate, and I have studied this subject with great interest for many years. I see a lot of the work by the police and by prison reformers, and their work interests me, as it interests your Lordships. I speak this afternoon only because I feel so strongly about this subject.
I am not of the "Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth" school, although I am in favour of the retention of the death penalty. Likewise, I believe that we cannot stand by, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away" leaving to the Lord decisions which many of us feel can be taken only by Him, but which we cannot leave to Him when innocent lives are at stake. Many figures have been quoted, both in this House and in another place, to show that the death penalty is no deterrent. I can only say, without, I hope, being frivolous, that if my own homicidal tendencies were coming to the fore, I should definitely find the prospect of being punished in kind a deterrent. I cannot believe that at least a proportion of potential murderers do not feel in this way.
I also feel that if only one innocent man, woman or child is saved in a year 632 by the retention of the death penalty for certain types of murder, the retention is justified. Whether we like it or not, we are in the middle of an upsurge of crime, particularly of crimes of violence, the like of which we have never before witnessed. At this time we cannot afford to experiment in leniency and, at the same time, exhort citizens to "have a go" in helping the police. We are lucky enough to have a Police Force which is the envy of the entire Free World. They are doing an unenviable job and taking appalling risks. And in equally unenviable conditions, the men in the Prison Service do likewise. How can we take a step which might add to the dangers already faced by gallant men, mostly with wives and families who love them, or put in possible hazard the life of the bystander at the scene of a crime who boldly attempts to intervene and aid the law? I hope I am not being un-Christian when I say that in my view the first priority is the protection of the innocent and that the lives of evil men, or the dubious prospect of their reform, must come second.
Like many other noble Lords speaking in this debate, I could speak for hours. But that would inevitably mean repetition of the many facts that have been ably presented to your Lordships many times in the last few hours. You will hear many facts and figures in the speeches still to come. They will prove many diverse things. But, like many of my fellow citizens throughout the land who wish for the preservation of law and order, and of a life in which men, women and children can go peacefully and without fear about their lives and occupations. I ask the House to reject this Bill.
§ 2.47 p.m.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, first of all, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bolton, who has just spoken. I thought that he spoke splendidly, though I did not agree with what he said. To make a maiden speech is a frightening thing—it was for me, anyway—but the noble Lord spoke with great confidence and great authority and also, I thought, with grace and style. That is the kind of speech which I believe your Lordships like to hear. I hope that he will speak again, and often. He must please forgive me if I now speak on the opposite side.
633 I want to say a few words only. I support this Bill. It is a risky business, but I think that we must take the risk. I do not believe that we live in an age of savagery and brutality, though there always will be bad people. On the contrary, it is my profound belief that, in this country at least, we are moving forward and that there is more kindness, more gentleness and more compassion than ever before. If it is not so, then there is not the least hope for humankind. If we have not learned in the course of 2,000 years, when shall we ever learn? In every measure of social reform there is a risk, in the abolition of capital punishment as in the removal of penalties for homosexual offences. Let us accept this risk. Let us legislate broadly and constructively and not repressively. Let us give human nature a chance, and if we are wrong, if in the end we have to admit defeat, then we can come back wiser, and infinitely sadder, men—but let us at least try.
§ 2.49 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I support this Bill. My first speech in your Lordships' House was made in July, 1956, in support of the abolition of the death penalty. On that occasion, I followed the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, who is to follow me to-day; and I remember that, although he and I differed on the main issue, I took common ground with him in the belief that retribution is a necessary and valid aspect of punishment. I should still wish to emphasise that retribution need not imply vindictiveness or hatred or vengeance. It does not mean that the wrongdoer suffers punishment because he deserves to; and the recognition on his part that he is getting something he deserves is a necessary step towards his reformation. And if the crime has been a terrible one, the penalty will be a terrible one. A terrible penalty: yes, my Lords. It must be so.
But in trying to set out what I believe to be Christian principles in this matter, I go at once to two other considerations. First, there ought to be beyond the penalty the possibility of reclamation. I mean the possibility of the person being alive, repentant and different. If this can happen in this world, and not only for the world to come, we should strive for that to be so. Secondly, there ought to 634 be recognition of the fact that the taking of life as a penalty does devalue human life. It means society saying, in effect: "This man has killed someone. Very well; we will kill him too." This does not enhance the sacredness of human life. I believe that it derates it further.
I am very conscious that these considerations have to be weighed against whatever weight there may be in the other consideration which has been so prominent in the discussion yesterday and to-day—namely, the need for deterrence. Terrible crime needs to be deterred. Victims must be protected, and all of us feel to the uttermost for victims and their families. If there were convincing evidence that any penalty is a unique deterrent, then I should feel obliged to let that consideration weigh very heavily in the scale against those basic considerations which I have tried to set out. I will come back to that issue later.
Now it is asked: if not the death penalty, then what? I take up my own phrase, "A terrible punishment for a terrible crime". Here the arguments seem to me to be very strong for the life sentence rather than a judicial sentence for a certain term of years. There is the argument that the Judge cannot know at the outset what the man is going to be like after 9, 10, 11 or 12 years, or how he should be best treated, both for public safety and for his own good, after that time. That consideration is a strong one, and it concerns both security and the protection of the people, as well as what is good in the reclamation of the criminal himself.
But I would add this consideration, too, in connection with the life sentence. The sentence for the crime of murder ought, I believe, to have what I call a retributive moral seriousness about it: therefore, I believe that the life sentence is right, even though it again and again, and perhaps almost always, be mitigated in practice. The life sentence says, in effect, to a convicted murderer: "You have outraged society by killing one of your fellows. You must expect no claim to your old place in society for a very long time, not, indeed, until society can be told that you are on the way to being an utterly different sort of person from what you are now." I believe that, thus understood, a life sentence carries with it a terrible moral 635 meaning. It can be a terrible deterrent; and, indeed, it is so.
Yesterday the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, pleaded for far fuller consideration of the life sentence and the procedures in connection with it. Indeed, it should in some cases be a really long sentence for desperate types of criminal. That was the plea of the Lord Chief Justice. But he urged, also, that the penal methods ought to be such—and I am glad he said that he was sure they could be such—that personality should not rot in the process. But I wonder whether, in trying by Amendments to this Bill to give further definition to the content of a life sentence, we are any more likely to be successful than they were in another place. The life sentence is a deterrent because it can demand the custody of the person for a very long time, and it carries with it the right of the State to recall the person to custody. It should be reformative. There is ample evidence that already it can prove reformative; indeed, we can most certainly hope for means in the future to make it so. For all these reasons, I believe that the alternative to capital punishment should be defined as the life sentence rather than the various alternatives which have been tried and pleaded for.
Those, my Lords, are the main considerations which determine my attitude. But let me come now to the special problem of the Homicide Act, and then to the matter of capital punishment as a deterrent. Previous to the Homicide Act there had been attempts to get at a classification of murders, with some moral distinction between those which were more loathsome or more morally vicious than others. In a debate here in 1947 my predecessor, searching as others at the time were searching, for some line of distinction between capital and non-capital murders, spoke of the distinction between "murder" and "murder most foul". But when the Homicide Act drew a distinction, it did not claim to be a moral distinction in that way. It drew a distinction, on lines of expedience and of public safety, between murder in circumstances where the death penalty might be a unique deterrent to violence or the use of arms, and murder in circumstances where that was 636 not so. It was the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, who said in his speech on the Second Reading of the Homicide Bill that a moral issue was involved, and that the proposed distinction between capital and non-capital murders would be found to affront morality—though the noble Lord then made it clear that he was not an abolitionist. I said at that time, in a brief intervention, that I agreed with the noble Lord.
Now, in another place, two successive Home Secretaries, different in their politics and different in their initial approach to the abolition question, have told how they have found intolerable moral issues in the distinction of sentence between capital and non-capital murder. On the one hand, a murderer kills while stealing, perhaps on a sudden, delirious impulse—the death penalty. On the other hand, a murderer poisons after loathsome, vicious premeditation—not the death sentence. If, penalties other than the death penalty were involved, the moral abitrariness of the distinction might be swallowed. But where the penalty is sometimes to kill the murderer, sometimes to sentence the murderer to death, and sometimes not, it seems that law and morality have gone apart on the very point where it is imperative for them to go together.
It was not surprising to hear from the Lord Chief Justice yesterday:I have seen the complete absurdities that are produced, and have been completely disgusted at the result."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 268 (No. 105), col. 481.]To be fair, these considerations may be construed as an argument for going back, as well as an argument for going forward to total abolition. But I was impressed to hear yesterday from the Lord Chief Justice the plea that to go back to the older system of general capital sentences, mitigated by frequent reprieves, was to put a quite intolerable burden upon the mind and heart of the one man on whom it falls to make those decisions.
I realise, and I feel deeply, that against all these considerations the argument of a unique deterrence in the death penalty might throw an overwhelming weight if it were an argument that had real validity. Like others, I have been very worried about this and ready to let the evidence have all the weight that it might have. I have not the training of a lawyer, 637 but I can read and listen, like any person who might be eligible to sit upon a jury in this country. After listening and reading a great mass of evidence, I feel that there is a dearth of convincing evidence that for murders by armed thieves the death penalty is a unique deterrent. There has been such opportunity for the production of that evidence, in weighty and convincing forms, in these last two days, and I do not feel it has been there. In its place, we have had generalisations and appeals to feelings—feelings, of course, which we all have, and which cannot help moving us.
There is the evidence, on the other side, of the former Home Secretary, Mr. Henry Brooke:By no means all those murderers who came before me because they had been sentenced to death were from the criminal classes ".There is the evidence as to the proportionate increase in murders now capital and murders not capital since the Homicide Act became law. The figures here show that the increase has been in both categories, thereby combating the view that the death penalty is a uniquely powerful deterrent. We do not think to look to the evidence of foreign countries in order to be impressed by this evidence which we have at home, although I believe that some of the evidence from foreign countries is, when sifted, very weighty indeed. I could not help being impressed by the speeches yesterday of no fewer than three of Her Majesty's Judges who were, in a way, giving their own evidence and also summarising their weighing of the general evidence of people and situations, which is their life's work. I could not help being impressed by their conclusions, and it just is not shown that the death penalty is a uniquely powerful deterrent.
Let me end by referring to all those considerations of feeling which bear upon us, whatever our conclusions and opinions may be. No one can help feeling terribly for the victims of crime and their families. No one can help feeling terribly the fears which exist in many hearts since crime, and not least violent crime, has increased. Still more must our feelings go out to the members of the Police Force and to those who are in the Prison Service. The country owes so much—and there is no limit to what it owes—to its servants who are exposed to great dangers in serving 638 it. But, my Lords, again and again in the formation of judgments upon human affairs we have, on the one hand, a set of anxieties, and, on the other, the action or conclusion needed to answer those anxieties. So often in human affairs we tend to build a bridge from the one set of facts to the other set of facts by our feelings and our emotions, rather than by our reason. Not many years ago, at a time when the increase of violent crime was giving so much anxiety, we were urged to build the bridge between the anxieties and the conclusions by the reintroduction of flogging. It was really a method of substituting feeling and emotion for reasoned conviction about causes and effects.
I believe that the issue in this case is somewhat the same, and that here, too, it is not those emotional considerations but the conclusions of reason which should prevail. I believe it to be a completely reasonable conclusion that capital punishment is not a unique deterrent; that a sentence of life imprisonment is a terrible sentence, deterrent in effect, and capable of issuing in a wise, stern and human penology, and that to abolish the death penalty in this country will set us in the way of progress in this matter, and rid us from the wrong of a system which punishes killing by a penalty which helps to devalue human life. I therefore hope that the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill, and that it will soon become the law of this country.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KILMUIR
My Lords, like the most reverend Primate, I have approached this matter by considering what are the changes in circumstance, that have occurred since we debated it nine years ago, on the occasion to which the most reverend Primate has made reference. Nobody can deny that the outstanding change of circumstance in those nine years is the vast increase in crime and violent crime. The number of crimes known to the police have increased in the terrifying proportion which the House heard last week. Eighteen months before I made the speech to which the most reverend Primate referred, I ceased to be Home Secretary. During the three years that I was Home Secretary—that is, from 1951 to 1954—the number of offences known to the police declined by 20 per cent., to a figure of, roughly, 450,000 639 indictable offences known to the police. If my recollection is right of Lord Stonham's speech, to which I listened with such care, the figure is getting nearly three times that—1,200,000 at the present time.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if the noble and learned Earl will allow me, I would inform him that the correct figure is 1,066,000, or some two and half times the figure to which he referred.
§ THE EARL OF KILMUIR
My Lords, I am grateful for the correction, but I think the noble Lord will agree that it does not affect the point I am making. An increase of two-and-a-half times in a matter of just over ten years is in itself a terrifying account.
The second point is that we are now dealing with crime on a much more organised and ruthless basis than was the case ten years ago. The third point is that, while accepting the differentiations and alleviations which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned, we are finding it difficult to prevent escapes from prison and therefore to enforce the custodial element in our punishment, which is of course the basis of the most reverend Primate's view. These are facts which no serious legislator can ignore.
Something has been said about the Homicide Act, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, will remember, because he and I spoke in the debate, that categorisation was introduced—as I remember it and I have re-read the debate—at the earnest request of the then Archbishop of Canterbury and the then Lord Samuel, two of the most respected Members of the House. We endeavoured—the most reverend Primate says we were wrong; I hope that when your Lordships have rejected this Bill the most reverend Primate will suggest how our labours could have been improved—to adopt the principle of retaining the minimum necessary for maintaining law and order, and particularly the safety of the elderly woman who lives alone, on the one hand, and the officers whose duty it is to catch and warn offenders, on the other hand. That is why the Act made capital murder or murder in the course of theft, murder of policemen and of warders, and murder by gun.
My Lords, it has been criticised largely for what was left out. The most reverend 640 Primate mentioned poisoning. I should like to tell him—this is now a matter of history—that my noble and learned friend, Lord Dilhorne, and I (he was then Attorney-General and I was Lord Chancellor) spent hours in trying to find a definition of poisoning which would include the sort of poisoning which the most reverend Primate has in mind and would exclude mercy killing. We tried, but we failed. However, we came before both Houses of Parliament with a Bill which deliberately set out to preserve what we thought was the minimum necessary for preserving law and order and public safety. Now the most reverend Primate says we went on the wrong road, because we should have dealt with it on the basis of morality.
I should like to come back to that point in relation to another part of his remarks with which we have always been in complete agreement, as far as I know, namely, on the necessity for the retributive element of punishment, although we separate it in its application. However, I want to point this out: that, say what you will as to whether we were right or wrong, these figures were given by the Home Office on June 17—the figures for the three years before the Act and for the last three years. And, my Lords, there has been a substantial increase in the number of non-capital murders, while the number of capital murders—that is murders liable to the death penalty—has remained almost exactly the same. The non-capital murders have risen from 361 to 488, and for capital murders the comparative figures are 67 and 69. Allowing for diminished responsibility and other elements that is an enormous increase—361 to 488—and on capital murders the figure remains, as I have said, the same. With that one comes back to the point which the most reverend Primate has dealt with thoroughly—and he will understand if, at this stage in the debate, my reply is in headline form. He has heard me deal with it at some length, and he knows that it is a matter I have considered; but in the interests of the debate as a whole I want to put it as briefly as possible.
My Lords, one point has gone. The large number of murders to which the noble Lord, Lord Chuter-Ede, referred (and he was, if he will allow an old colleague to say so, a most distinguished occupant of the Office of Home Secretary) 641 —the murders which one can call either "family" or "emotional"—have almost entirely gone. They remain only in the relatively few cases where such murders are carried out by shooting, because the noble Lord knows, as I do, that they are mostly carried out by strangulation or the knife. So that that element has largely gone. On the question of the figures of other countries, an aspect which was dealt with so ably yesterday by my noble friend Lord Reay, it has to be remembered that a great many of these figures—though not all—were brought before the Royal Commission some twelve years ago, and the judgment of the Royal Commission was that they did not help one way or the other. Therefore we cannot get much help from them. The other point that I ask your Lordships to bear in mind, because it is the keystone of the matter, is that of the murders that have not been committed—and no statistics can ever prove what that figure would be.
One comes to the point which the most reverend Primate nine years ago described in the kindliest way as a "hunch" on my part—he may remember; I would prefer to describe it as a value judgment, but we refer to the same thing. That is this. From the number of criminals that I have known, seen, tried and whose cases I have considered, which means a very large number, I believe that hanging, the threat of the rope, is a deterrent to the professional criminal against arming himself with a revolver or an automatic and being prepared to kill the policeman whose duty it is to arrest him, who he knows is unarmed. Of course, as has been said, to arm the police would be a deterrent, but it would completely alter the nature of the police force, of which I, and I am sure everyone who has been in the position of Home Secretary, am extremely proud, and which has done everything it can do to try to keep the police force a friend of the public.
The fact that we have moved into an age of organised robbery and killing disposes of the argument that the killer no longer weighs his chances. Of course he does to-day. It is part of what he has to take into account in judging the success of what has become a business on which he is engaged. And the killer who weighs the risk will weigh this fact, that if he engages in burglary or housebreaking and 642 he has a long record he will go into custody for at least ten years of preventive detention, and possibly more. If he kills someone in the course of that burglary it is very doubtful, on everything that has been said, whether he will sustain as long a sentence, certainly not a longer one, and anyway something which he can take into account much more easily.
I do remind your Lordships of this. One is so apt on a Second Reading to say, "Well, let us accept the principle and then we can make an Amendment; we can make an Amendment about policemen and about warders". But you cannot logically pass a Bill which abolishes capital punishment on the strength of being able' to move an Amendment by which you are then going to restore it in the case of policemen or warders.
This Bill comes to us as a measure that is untimely, for the reasons I have given, unwanted, as we have heard, by the people of this country, and without an alternative deterrent being set forth in the Bill. It is untimely because of the increase of crime and the professionalisation of criminals. It is contrary to public opinion, and in over forty years in politics I never thought that I should see the day when public opinion would be swept aside and sneered at from the Bench of Bishops and every other part of this House. I venture to base some of my political philosophy on Edmund Burke, who said this:The great inlet by which a colour for oppression has entered the world is by one man's pretending to determine concerning the happiness of another.I ask those who are prepared to sweep aside public opinion, to disregard with contempt the old lady who is frightened, most sincerely and most humbly to think again, when all suggestions of longer periods of imprisonment or new methods for fixing the length of sentence have been swept aside by the promoters of the Bill when it was in another place.
I come to the point on which I was so glad to go for a stage in agreement with the most reverend Primate—and indeed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester reminded us of this point, as did my noble friend Lord Molson also: that is the retributive element. I venture to quote again, because it received general acceptance, what was 643 said by the late Archbishop Temple. He defined it asthe State's marking of its disapproval of the breaking of its laws by a penalty proportionate to the gravity of the offence.He continued—and this is even more important:If when a crime has been committed the community does nothing, it is condoning the act and to that extent becomes a partner in the guilt of it.Those are not my words; they are not the words of a lawyer. They were said by an Archbishop who was himself an abolitionist. My noble and learned friend Lord Denning put it, if he will allow me to say so, in admirable words to the Royal Commission. He said:Punishment is the emphatic denunciation by the community of a crime.And my noble and learned friend went on to say:There are murders which in the present state of public opinion bring the most emphatic denunciation of all, the death penalty.There is the division of the ways, and I follow my noble and learned friend, and for this reason. A great deal of the evils of the world that I have seen is done by those who use men and women and society as a means to their own ends and not as an end in themselves. The most reverend Primate went as far as to restate, in slightly different language, what I always understood to be the Kantian theory of punishment—namely, that when society, and men and women, have been used as a means to the end, society replies by putting the offender outside society for an appropriate period. That, at any rate, is a most respectable and highly based theory of punishment. But then one considers murder, and until the most reverend Primate spoke, I cannot remember any abolitionist, in all the debates that I have listened to in two Houses of Parliament, ever expressing sympathy for the person murdered or his relatives. The most reverend Primate was the first abolitionist that I have ever heard do that.
§ LORD BYERS
The noble Earl must know that many of us are on record as having expressed our sentiments.
§ THE EARL OF KILMUIR
No, I will not, because I cannot remember it. That is what I said. Until the most reverend Primate spoke, certainly I do not remember anybody in this debate who is supporting abolition expressing any sympathy for the murdered person or his family.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, it may be in the recollection of the noble and learned Earl that I introduced into this House a Motion to provide compensation for the victims of violence.
§ THE EARL OF KILMUIR
That does not seem to alter the point which I am making, or to correct my recollection. But what I do object to is what I consider the somewhat gruesome levity with which it has been said that the last person concerned is the murdered man, because he has lost his life.
§ THE EARL OF KILMUIR
That is not a position which I believe a responsible person can take up, and certainly not the position which—
§ THE EARL OF KILMUIR
I think that if the noble Lord will pursue back debates he will be able to trace that remark to its source. But I must seriously suggest that the death penalty for these cases of deliberate murder is the self-defence of the community, and to abolish it in present conditions is the abandonment of Governmental responsibility, and a cruel infliction on decent people.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, like the last two speakers I am a member of that rather small band who took part in the debate of 1956. Since that time there have, of course, been many changes inside and outside the House. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, told us earlier, a whole new generation has come into the House since that time, and wherever they sit, with I think one notable exception, they have left no doubt in their speeches that they are utterly, and indeed passionately, opposed to the continuance of hanging.
Bearing in mind that one of the maiden speakers took a different view from myself, I would say, and I think that most people will agree, that there has not been an occasion since the war when we have listened in a single debate to four such notable maiden speeches as those of the noble Lords, Lord Reay, Lord Norwich, Lord Harewood and Lord Bolton; and, may I add, Lord Chuter-Ede, although he stands in a rather different category, as one of the most respected British statesmen of the last half century. At any rate, whether they be young maidens or old maidens, they have deserved well of the House. The main Government speeches in this debate are being made by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who spoke so well yesterday, and by the Lord Chancellor, who winds up tonight. The Lord Chancellor has, I suppose, done as much as any man living, even the heroic Mr. Silverman himself, to bring this issue to its present position. I promise to be at any rate fairly brief, and not to cut across the general reply to the debate of the Lord Chancellor.
I am afraid that the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir, who won such golden opinions from all of us in past years, because of the courtesy and care that he showed in replying to many debates, has seriously affronted a good many of us this afternoon. I need not pursue that subject because these are not personal issues. But since he comes forward without, if T may say so, any obvious apology, indeed, in a posture of pride as the architect of the Act of 1957, perhaps again (though I do not want to make this a personal debate) I may remind him of what was said about that Act by the Lord Chief Justice yesterday. Speaking, I gathered, on behalf of the Judges as a whole, and speaking with a great deal of 646 personal authority, the Lord Chief Justice said about that Act:I have seen the complete absurdities that are produced, and have been completely disgusted at the result".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 286 (No. 105) col. 481; Monday, July 19, 1965.]If the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir, the architect of that Act, is still proud of it, I think he is almost alone in the House in that attitude. Of course, we do know —and all credit to him!—that Mr. Henry Brooke, after his experience of the last few years and of the working of that Act, has been changed in outlook from a strong retentionist to someone who is ready, and indeed anxious, to see abolition given a chance. So much for the Act of 1957.
I was rather sorry—though I realised the shortage of time which afflicted the noble Earl, just as it is, I hope, going to cut me short—that the noble Earl brushed aside the findings of the Royal Commission in a way that I thought almost frivolous. He said, "Well, they did a lot of work, produced a lot of evidence, and so on, but it does not help." When one looks around this House, particularly if one looks at the younger Members, I think one may say that the whole climate of discussion in this country has been changed by the findings of the Royal Commission. Of course we all recall that they were not asked to pronounce, and therefore were not in a position to pronounce, on the question of whether we should have hanging or abolition.
But what I think is notable, apart from any particular words used in their own Report, is the personal conclusion reached by the Chairman, Sir Ernest Gowers. We may well remember that he wrote a book as a result of his four years' studies, which appeared shortly before our last debate; and I would venture to quote again one sentence from that book. This was the quotation of Sir Ernest Gowers, the Chairman who started as a retentionist—he started in favour of hanging and he finished up as a strong abolitionist. He was much freer as Chairman, writing a book, to offer his opinion on hanging or otherwise than, of course, were the Commission as a whole, who had been asked to do a different job. Sir Ernest Gowers said:There remains the argument that without the uniquely deterrent value of capital punishment more murders would he committed. As we have seen, such evidence as there is "—647 and he had been working for four years—goes to show that the abolition of capital punishment does not in fact have this result.These conclusions of Sir Ernest Gowers have never been challenged, and I should suppose myself that those who have moved their position, or come into this controversy for the first time since those years, and have taken up an abolitionist posture, have been much influenced by the findings of the Royal Commission and of Sir Ernest Gowers.
In our last debate, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, another veteran of 1956, like myself and the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir, and the most reverend Primate (who impressed us so deeply a little while ago) attached great weight in coming to his conclusion, after balancing the arguments, to what seemed to him a kind of irrefutable conviction that (putting it rather shortly) at least some potential murderers are deterred by capital punishment. I hope that I am not misinterpreting his view, which he will no doubt explain later. Of course, as the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, said, we cannot tell; and we have no information about murders that might have been committed. But I would put this point to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—I know that it weighs with him very much, and therefore I hope that he will give it careful thought. Is it not really the case that, when you go round the world and study other countries as well as ours, and are forced to the conclusion, after a dispassionate study, that, on balance, hanging does not in fact diminish the amount of murder, and then, after that, you say that surely there must be two or three people who have been deterred by it, you have equally to admit that there must be two or three people who have been encouraged by it? That is not by any means a far—fetched hypothesis, because in a society which uses execution freely it might well be that there would be less respect for the sanctity of life than in a community which treated hanging like the shooting of hostages, as an utterly barbarous and loathsome thing.
There is one point which has not been touched upon, and in some sense it follows on what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir. I do not know whether he would regard it as a refuta 648 tion—that would be too much to expect —but it links up with his argument. What surprises me in these discussions is that when there is so much evidence, evidence which has convinced most of those—in my experience almost all of those—who have made a study of this subject for the first time in recent years, there are still some leading men, men of humanity and great knowledge, who are still obdurate, who still stick out for retention. I am not talking of people who have not studied the matter, but people who have done so. Some of them may have acquired certain convictions which no amount of evidence will change. That is a possible explanation, and it would not be insulting to suggest that such noble Lords exist.
I myself should like to place one other possibility before the House. I am far from rejecting altogether—I cannot speak for others; I can only speak, as in all this, for myself—the attempt to make sure that in the penalty for any crime we try to impose a punishment which should be not only deterrent and reformative but appropriate. I will not become involved in an argument about the word "retribution". On the last occasion I did so I had the two Archbishops on their feet disputing with me in a matter of seconds. I think that we all, in some way or other, are convinced that graver crimes should receive a heavier penalty than what we regard as lighter crimes. To take the case of parking offences, even if they become a universal pest one would not consider giving people a life sentence for them. So we all consider that there must be some evidence of appropriateness.
There have been big developments in thought in the last thirty or forty years. We may laugh at psychiatrists, and I suppose we always shall—they may say that it reveals some great need for psychiatry on our part, and that is why we laugh at them—but the fact is that after the psychological developments during the last thirty or forty years I suppose there can be no serious person who is as ready to assess the guilt of another human being as he was thirty or forty years ago. We must be much less confident than we used to be about saying that somebody was an atrocious fellow and not fit to live. There has grown up, I believe, a general conviction that human justice, however hard we try, must always be a rough justice, 649 and that, whatever sentence we write here below, God is writing a different sentence both on the criminal and on ourselves.
That does not lead me, and I believe it will lead few Members of the House, to the conclusion that it is no good even trying to administer this rough justice; that it is no good even trying to pass appropriate or just sentences. It seems to me a condition of civilised existence and a kind of acceptable law and order that we should continue to make this effort. But it does place on us an ever heavier responsibility for insisting that every punishment we inflict should contain a reformative or redemptive element of some kind. When we destroy a man by hanging or by any other form of execution, we abandon the attempt to help him or reform him. We commit not only the sin of cruelty, but the still graver sin of despair. We despair of the man and we despair of our own possibility of helping him.
I am not going to continue; I will leave my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor to do what he is so capable of doing and reply to the debate later on. I can imagine dilemmas of various kinds being put but, in view of the evidence which has been built up that hanging is not only wicked but useless and unnecessary, I submit that there is no excuse for manufacturing any moral dilemma here. The time has at last come when all the old arguments for hanging are seen to be threadbare, based on absolutely unsupported assumptions, on pure fiction. The way is at last clear for a type of justice and of mercy of which we shall one day be abundantly in need ourselves.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords, I must first of all apologise to the House, and particularly to the noble Lady who introduced the Bill, for my inability to be in my place during the early stages of the debate yesterday. I was away abroad on business, but I have read all the speeches carefully. I should like to, state as briefly as I can the reasons why I hope your Lordships will reject this Bill this evening. Some of them have been stated before, but I think they bear repetition.
Let me say at the outset that I fully respect the sincerity of those who are seeking to abolish the age-old right of the 650 community to protect the lives of its citizens through the dreadful penalty of capital punishment. Equally I hope that they will respect the sincerity of those of us who advocate its retention in present conditions. I say this with all the more feeling, because I was for a number of years, during and after the war, a supporter of abolition. It was only when the wave of violent crime which followed the conclusion of peace continued to increase year by year in scope and ferocity, as it still does to-day, that I gradually became convinced that to abolish the death penalty would be wrong.
Before turning to the merits of the Bill one thing should be made quite clear. This is not in any sense a normal Private Member's Bill. Since the day when reference was made to the Bill in the gracious Speech, the Government have provided unprecedented facilities for it throughout all its stages in another place. These included the imposition of the Whips to secure its original discussion in Committee upstairs and the arrangement of meetings of the House on Wednesday mornings to fit into their timetable when the Bill was brought back to the Floor of the House. The fact is that the Government are wholeheartedly behind the abolition of the death penalty but lacked the courage to put it into their Election programme because they knew that it was totally unacceptable to the public and would be politically disastrous to them.
The Government are responsible for law and order. If they believe in the need for and the efficacy of this measure, why did they not come forward and put it into a Government Bill? The plain fact is that, as one Liberal Member of another place said on Third Reading, there is no mandate for the abolition of capital punishment, nor indeed have individual Members any mandate for abolition—unless they choose to include it in their electoral addresses. In this matter, surely, the duty of Members of both Houses of Parliament is to have regard not only to their own opinions and consciences but, above all, to the wishes of the people of this country.
What is the view of the people in Britain? In this matter, we fortunately have the benefit of access to the opinion polls. No one, of course, would suggest that they are entirely accurate, but where, 651 as this case, the figures are overwhelming in one direction, we have no choice but to accept them. The National Opinion Poll taken in November showed 65.5 per cent. of people were opposed to abolition. The Daily Express poll taken a little later showed 39.5 per cent. for the maintenance of the existing law, 32 per cent. for capital punishment for all murders, and only 19 per cent. for abolition. A Gallup Poll taken in January showed again that it was three to one against abolition.
We are told in answer to this that this is a matter on which it is the duty of Parliament to give a lead. I suggest, with all respect, that when it is evident that the great majority of our people are opposed to a measure of this importance, which must affect their lives, their personal feelings and fears in the case of many millions, the proper way to give a lead is for a Party and for an individual politician to advocate and explain the proposed reform boldly at Election time on the platform, in the Press and on television, and not to seek to impose it on the people of this country just after an Election and by the back stairs. At it is, this Bill comes to this House with the support of only 200 Members of another place on Third Reading, out of a total of 630.
The promoters of this Bill have sought to argue that the principle of abolition was conceded in the Homicide Act 1957, and that all that the present Bill is doing is to abolish the categories of capital punishment which were then retained. That is, of course, putting the cart before the horse. The 1957 Act did not abolish capital punishment, and the continued emphases which we have heard during this debate on the illogicalities and ineffectiveness of that Act can only lead to one conclusion: that it should be repealed and something more effective substituted. Certainly, as I will seek to show, it will not improve matters in any way to remove the deterrents which still remain.
I think that every one of us in this House is agreed that capital punishment by hanging with all its attendant procedure is a dreadful and horrible thing, and that we would like to see it abolished if it could be done without detriment 652 to the community. But, at the same time, every one of us must also agree that murder is a far more filthy and horrible thing, and that our first duty must be to protect the public and to prove that murder does not pay. With these ends in view we must ask ourselves two questions. Is capital punishment the unique deterrent which has been claimed, and if not what effective alternative can be devised? As regards the deterrent, one thing seems to me to be certain. The law is the law, and the burden of proving that the death penalty is no deterrent must be upon those who are seeking to abolish it. The public expect them to prove their case; to prove, in fact, that there is not the slightest risk of an increase in murders as a result of the proposed change.
Can noble Lords opposite who support this Bill put their hands on their hearts and say that they really believe that this is so? In fact, the abolitionists have not done so, and nothing that was said in fifty hours of discussion on this matter in another place, or in this House yesterday or to-day, has contributed one iota of new evidence in that direction. If we pass this Bill tonight how can we face the wives and children of innocent men who may lose their lives, have their lives snuffed out by unscrupulous murderers, as a result of our action? It seems to me that sometimes nowadays in this country we tend to get our point of view distorted; that we think more of the interests of the vicious and the criminal, than we do of those of their victims. I am bound to say that I agreed with my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir when he said that there have been indeed very few words of compassion or consideration said in the speeches in this House in favour of the wretched sufferers from these crimes.
Your Lordships will all recall that the Royal Commission were in fact unable to draw any firm conclusions as to whether there was a unique deterrent in the death penalty. On the other hand, they did lay great weight on the evidence of the police and of the prison officers in that sense, and they also pointed out that the murder rate in this country was remarkably low. Furthermore, they pointed out that very few criminals in this country at present carry lethal weapons.
653 Since the Commission reported, there have been two important developments. The first is the vast increase in serious crime, which we debated in this House last Wednesday on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Derwent. As he pointed out, between 1960 and 1963 crimes of violence against the person rose from 17,000 to 20,000, and the figures for breaking and entering rose from 140,000 to 220,000. The number of thefts involving violence has, I think, more than doubled in the last ten years. Yet the number of capital murders, which include the murder of prison officers and murder accompanied by theft, has remained comparatively steady. Since 1957 there has been a startling increase in crimes of robbery with violence, but not in those which have led to death; and this despite the fact that more and more criminals are organised professionals. Indeed, three quarters of capital murderers since 1957 have previous convictions. Surely, the only conclusion that we can draw from these facts and figures is that the abolition of capital punishment for murder with theft must lead to a great increase in such murders, together with an increased use of firearms. I agree with my noble friend Lord Kilmuir, that it is no exaggeration to say that it will almost certainly lead to the arming of the police which, as he said, would be so deplorable.
The second development to which I should like to refer is one which he touched on, and it was also contained in a Written Answer to my right honourable friend Sir John Hobson in another place on June 17. There the Home Secretary gave figures showing that since the introduction of the Homicide Act the number of murders has greatly increased—26 per cent. higher than in the years before 1957. But for the three years following the Homicide Act, capital murders had increased by only 3 per cent. on the previous three years, while non-capital murders had been steadily rising. In fact, since 1960 there has been an increase of 35 per cent. over the position in non-capital murders which existed before the 1957 Act was passed. I suggest, again, that here we have concrete proof that capital punishment has acted as a deterrent to excessive violence in crime, which might lead to capital murder.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but I cannot quite agree with what he said about an increase of 30 per cent. in non-capital murders since the 1957 Act. I have the official figures here. In 1957 there were 151 non-capital murders; in 1958, 134; in 1959, 138; in 1960, 135—a particularly low year. If you select your year, it is very easy to find an increase in any other particular year you select. But the general trend has not been as the noble Lord has said, and in capital murders there is almost no change at all.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords. I have the figures here. They are not the same figures as those of the noble Lord. They are in column 104 of the House of Commons Hansard of June 17, and I suggest that noble Lords look them up.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am reading from exactly the same column, column 104, of Hansard, Table 6.
§ LORD COLYTON
My Lords, if I may continue with my speech I should like to say this. I was suggesting to the House that here, again, we had concrete proof that capital punishment has acted as a deterrent to excessive violence in crime, which might lead to capital murder.
The second question we must ask ourselves is whether there is any possible satisfactory alternative to capital punishment; and certainly the Bill in its present form contains none. Despite the protestations of the Home Secretary, so called life imprisonment is, it seems, in the vast majority of cases unlikely to be more than nine to ten years. A Written Answer, on December 16 last, to the noble Lady who introduced this Bill showed that, out of 316 persons serving life sentences for murder, only 7 had served more than 10 years—I repeat, that out of 316 persons serving life sentences for murder only 7 had served more than 10 years—and only 1 for more than 20 years. Are we likely to get any variation in this pattern?
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, the noble Lord will have in mind that the Homicide Act dates back only to 1957, and that the table in question refers to persons released. We therefore have no evidence of how long murderers who have had their sentences 655 commuted under the Homicide Act may yet have to serve. There have been only eight years since.
§ LORD COLYTON
I agree, of course, that we can have no such evidence, but we have the evidence of what the Home Secretary has said in another place on a number of occasions, all of which goes to indicate that nine to ten years is likely to be the sort of average. Now, for criminals liable to get long-term sentences, as those now serving 30 years for the great train robbery, there will be no deterrent at all.
It is significant that, during that particular crime, no guns were carried; but when, as your Lordships will remember, some of the gang took part in effecting the recent escape from Wandsworth Jail, they were this time armed. To say, as the Home Secretary has said again and again, that the real alternative to capital punishment is the virtual certainty of conviction, though no doubt true, is certainly in present circumstances quite unrealistic. It is obviously quite impossible to guarantee detection of every murder at the very best of times, but with the present state of our police forces—the lack of manpower which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, described so forcibly last Wednesday; the fact, for example, that the Metropolitan Police are down 500 on their 1920 strength; the overloading of the C.T.D., and many other factors—it is quite unrealistic to talk like this.
My Lords, there are three matters to which I should like to refer very briefly before I sit down. One is the position of the police, the second that of the prison officers, and the third the so-called moral issue. The police, through their Federation, have made their position quite clear. They are utterly opposed to abolition, which they believe will lead to more murders. In their view, these murders would include increased use of firearms in robberies, murder when resisting or preventing arrest and the murder of witnesses to prevent their giving evidence. We all know how, in the 1940s, Murder Incorporated (" Murder Inc ", as it was called) in New York systematically blotted out witnesses who could lead to convictions. Already, in the last six months, since capital murderers have been automatically reprieved, there has been a great increase in the number of robberies 656 with firearms in this country. For the four months immediately following the introduction of this Bill, there were in the Metropolitan Area 97 offences involving firearms as against 29 for a similar period in the winter of 1963. No wonder the police are demanding the retention of capital punishment in the case of the murder of police officers or of anyone assisting them to make an arrest. The very real alarm felt by the public, and especially old people living alone and afraid of being robbed, fully endorses this plea.
The position of prison officers under this Bill would be at least as difficult as that of the police. I have here (some noble Lords may have seen it) the midday edition of to-day's paper, which gives a description of a jail riot in Auckland —and New Zealand is one of the countries where capital punishment has been abolished. There are apparently 20 hardcore convicts still locked up; arms are being used; troops are being brought in, and so forth. Under this Bill, prison officers in the execution of their duty would be deprived of their only protection against murder by ruthless and very often pathologically dangerous criminals with long sentences to serve and with nothing to lose.
The number of assaults on prison officers each year is now very large. According to a statement by the Minister of State in Committee in another place on April 14 of this year, there were 167 such assaults in 1964, of which 30 constituted gross personal violence or violence sufficient to be dealt with by the courts. One result must be that the prison officers themselves will tend to become more tough, and even brutal, in their treatment of the prisoners; and surely that is not a good thing. The increased fall in the recruitment of prison officers after this Bill was foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech—only 57 in the last six months of 1964 compared with 200 in the first six months of 1964—is not at all surprising when you consider the new risk of their murder in the execution of their duties. No wonder they and their wives view this Bill with fear and abhorrence!
We are told that there is going to be a new, strong, security prison. What happens until that becomes available? And, even then, what are the chances 657 of preventing determined prisoners, acting through a brilliant organisation such as that which functioned at Wandsworth Jail, from getting away? As my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke admitted during Third Reading in another place the other day, the case for retention has been considerably strengthened by these recent events.
I turn now very briefly to the moral argument—namely, that we have no right to take human life even in order to try to preserve the lives of others. I agree, my Lords, that the procedure of hanging is detestable; but, as I said before, murder is still more horrible. I should warmly welcome the setting up of an expert inquiry to consider altering the penalty for capital murder; to find something perhaps more humane than hanging; and to make what the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, yesterday described as the whole paraphernalia of the death penalty less macabre and ghoulish than it is to-day. The Home Secretary, in winding up the Third Reading in another place, described capital punishment as a barbarous obscenity, but in what way does killing in peacetime for the protection of society differ from killing in wartime for the protection of our country? Why is it right to kill bestial murderers like Hitler and his Nazi thugs but not to execute the bestial murderers who strangle old women for the sake of a few pounds out of the till? I fail to understand the logic of these opinions. Has not society the right to protection from these people, too?
To sum up, my Lords, my objections to this Bill are, first, that there is no mandate for it, and that it is anathema to the mass of our people; secondly, that at a time of mounting robbery with violence and offences against the person it is bound to lead to more murders and to the much wider use of firearms in robberies; thirdly, that it deprives the police and prison officers of their main protection against being murdered in the execution of their duties; and, fourthly, that the moral argument is untenable. I profoundly believe that in present circumstances we cannot safely abandon capital punishment, and I strongly urge your Lordships to reject this Bill.
§ 4.9 p.m.
My Lords, so much has been said in this debate, and so much has been said so well, that this middle distance runner is rather tempted to slide off the track now that we are getting to the last laps of our marathon. I have only two possible justifications for resisting that temptation, as I have resisted it. The first is this. We have heard the case for retention argued powerfully and sincerely from this Dispatch Box by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne and my noble friend and successor at the Home Office, Lord Derwent; we have just heard it argued powerfully and sincerely by my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir—a distinguished Home Secretary; and no doubt in a moment we shall hear it argued with equal power and sincerity by my noble friend Lord Salisbury. My first reason, therefore, for not taking myself off the batting list this evening is that I wish to give visible and audible, albeit inadequate, testimony that a contrary opinion is held, and held with equal sincerity, on this Front Bench.
My second reason is that, even at this late hour, I should like to say how this long and swaying debate has struck this particular observer who has approached it from the standpoint of a moderate abolitionist. This is a problem that has long exercised my own mind, and I think it may be a problem which tends to exercise, in particular, the minds of those who have in the course of duty taken human life. But it never exercised my mind more closely than during the months I was at the Home Office, when I could almost feel the awful weight of responsibility resting on the shoulders of the inhabitant of the next—door office, the Home Secretary. I felt before I went to the Home Office—I felt it very intensely then, and I feel it no less intensely now—that execution by the State of one of its citizens in peace time is a repulsive procedure. I cannot myself see how anyone, however insensitive he may be—and I am not suggesting that there is anyone of that ilk in your Lordships' House—who has read the evidence, for example, which Mr. Pierrepoint gave to the Royal Commission in 1950, could feel otherwise.
More important, I hold that the capital punishment which we are discussing this evening is objectionable. The reasons 659 why it is objectionable have been explored and expressed at great length in the course of these two days of discussion, and I will not myself attempt to elaborate them. But I should like to quote (because I think it puts the point both well and pithily) what was said in the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission fifteen years ago by a former Home Secretary and a distinguished former Member of your Lordships' House, the late Lord Templewood. As he then put it, capital punishment is objectionable on four counts. These were his words:First, because it abandons the possibility of reforming the prisoner. Second, because, by being irrevocable, it gives no opportunity of reversing a wrong decision. Thirdly, because it places a hateful duty upon all who have to take part in an execution. And, fourthly, because it lowers the moral standards of the whole community.My Lords, I, for one, endorse those four arguments, and I think that the majority of noble Lords who have spoken during these two days of discussion have also endorsed those four arguments.
However, I said just now that I was a moderate abolitionist. I do not myself subscribe to the extreme view that any State in any circumstances, in any conditions of peace time, is morally debarred from taking the life of one or more of its guilty citizens if by so doing it protects the life of one or more of its innocent citizens. May I say, and may I say to my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir, that I feel just as strongly as he does—and as does any retentionist —about the victims of crimes of violence, about the victims of murder and about those who are, as it were, in the front line: the police and the prison officers. I would ask my noble friend who spoke with such sincerity to believe, as I do, that the sentiments I have just expressed are shared by all abolitionists. But that said, I hold that we should not legitimise or perpetuate an institution as repulsive and, prima facie, as objectionable as capital punishment, unless we are absolutely certain that it does not lead to injustice or to gross anomalies; and unless, of course, we are certain that in fact it is the unique deterrent.
I have endeavoured to listen to these debates over the last two days with as open a mind as I could muster. Nothing 660 that I have heard, I must confess, has altered my conviction that the present set-up, this "three-quarter house" of the Homicide Act 1957, fails to Hass those two fundamental tests. I was impressed when my former chief, my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke, another distinguished Home Secretary, said on the Second Reading in another place that he had become convinced that the Homicide Act was unjust and anomalous in its incidence—I am paraphrasing his words —as would be any alternative arrangements that could be devised. But that denunciation of the Homicide Act and of our present arrangements was very mild compared with what we heard yesterday from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice.
Again, nothing that I heard yesterday (or, indeed, that I have heard to-day) has convinced me that capital punishment constitutes that unique deterrent which its supporters claim it does. In fact, the evidence—as the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, in two really outstanding speeches have pointed out—tends, if anything (I would not put it higher than that) to point the other way. But, as I said, I sought to preserve an open judgment. However, nothing that I have heard during these two days has altered my initial feeling that it would be right for your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice said, we cannot go back—for one thing, another place would not permit it. It is wrong to stand where we are. We cannot devise suitable alternative arrangements for the existing. Homicide Act. Accordingly we have no alternative but to take our courage in our hands and go forward.
Nevertheless, having said that, I would wish very frankly to add that one particular aspect of this matter has worried me, and increasingly, throughout this discussion. It has been approached from admittedly rather different angles by the Lord Chief Justice, by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, by my noble friend Lord Derwent and by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. If the Bill passes then, as your Lordships know, all further murderers convicted will receive a life sentence. Up to now —I know the arguments about what can happen later—a life sentence has meant 661 incarceration for nine years, plus or minus, on average. We know that men are now serving far longer sentences in prison than this for serious offences, extremely serious offences, yet not offences involving the ultimate crime of murder.
I myself see the danger of perpetuating or extending a system whereby a man who has disembowelled an old lady, or raped and murdered a young child, serves less time in prison than the man who robs a train, even though that robber be a hard, ruthless and professional criminal. That idea, that conception, offends my common sense and revolts my sense of justice; and I think that it may revolt and offend the common sense and the sense of justice of other common men. Apart from this, there is the deterrent aspect. If we are determined to abolish hanging for murder, I, for one, agree with the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, that the alternative must be made more of a deterrent.
This, as I see it, involves four things. First, the clearly expressed determination on the part of Her Majesty's Government that hardened or dangerous criminals will be liable to serve possibly a considerably longer period than nine years in prison. We have heard what the Home Secretary has said about this in another place. I hope that when he winds up the debate the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will be able to give us a more unequivocal assurance than we have had hitherto. Secondly, I hope that the Government will be prepared to re-examine the present system whereby the power of release is vested solely in the Home Office and the Home Secretary. In saying that, I am not casting any reflection on past or present incumbents of that Office, or on the Home Office itself, a Department for which, having served in it, I have the greatest respect.
In another place Sir John Hobson deployed very powerful arguments suggesting why, on practical and constitutional grounds, the present system was open to objection. I feel that to vest in the judges the unqualified right to pass determinate sentences on murderers may be open to equal objection. On the other hand, I am at one with my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne that we should consider the establishment of some review body to which all long-term cases, 662 whether for murder or other offences, could be referred. I would make only two stipulations. First, the system of licensing must be retained for murderers. Secondly, the ultimate decision should still be vested in one man; and that one man should continue to be the Home Secretary. If we were to introduce a system (I will not attempt to spell out how it could be done, it is a matter for the lawyers and not for a layman) I think that it would be incompatible with a system of determinate sentences.
It would greatly help me, and I think it might help some of my noble friends, if the Lord Chancellor could indicate at least a readiness on the part of the Government to examine these possibilities. I hope that we shall be able to write something along these lines into this Bill on Committee stage, but I realise that there may be insuperable practical objections to this course. Alternatively, could not some such scheme be written into the Criminal Justice Bill, which we hear is on the stocks, or could not the Royal Commission be asked to make an early recommendation on this specific point? I hope that the Government will show themselves flexible in this respect.
Thirdly, our so-called "secure prisons" must in future be rendered really secure. I agree with all that has been said in that respect by noble Lords. At the moment these prisons are leaky "sponges" rather than secure "clams". I know what was said yesterday about this point by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham—he said quite a lot about it. However, I am not yet convinced that this problem is being tackled with the absolute vigour and ruthless determination which it demands.
Fourthly, if we are to have long-term imprisonment, we must create conditions in which long-term prisoners do not merely rot away their lives and their personalities in prison. This point was made by the most reverend Prelate, and indeed by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice. It is, of course, a question of individual prisoners and of their individual personalities. It is, I believe, even more a question of the prison régime. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may be able to tell us rather more about what the Government have in mind in this respect.
663 My Lords, I trust that what the Lord Chancellor may be able to tell us about these matters will allay my anxiety in this respect and remove some of the hesitations felt by my noble friends. That said, I should again like to make my own position crystal clear. Quite simply, I propose to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill. I believe it right to do so. I believe that the risk we are running is small, and that it is in any event minimised by the clause relating to the five-year review. What is more, I hope—indeed, I am reasonably confident —that I shall be joined in the Lobby by a fairly substantial number of my colleagues from this side of the House. I am glad that in recent years there have been occasions when your Lordships have shown yourselves, if anything, a little in advance of public opinion. I trust that this will remain so. I trust especially that our vote to-night will help to remove from British life the black shadow which has lain over it for far too long—the shadow of the gallows. My noble friend Lord Colyton suggested just now that we had no mandate, that there was no mandate to abolish the death penalty for murder. If we believe in our hearts and in our minds that the death penalty is repulsive and objectionable; if we believe it in all sincerity, then that, my Lords, is our mandate.
§ 4.26 p.m.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, prior to this debate I was under the impression that both the protagonists and the opponents of this measure had at least one view in common, namely, that they shared the pious aspiration of Gilbert in "The Mikado"—My object all sublimeI shall achieve in timeTo let the punishment fit the crime—The punishment fit the crime.Having listened to the vast majority of the speeches during the last two days I am beginning to wonder whether indeed we have even that aim in common, because, to judge from most of the speeches made in support of this Bill, "punishment", in the view of those who support the Bill, has become a dirty word; to such an extent—I shall deal with this later in my speech—that, so far as I can see, this Bill, which is supposed to be entitled the Murder (Abolition of Death 664 Penalty) Bill would be better known as "Murderers' Charter (Incitement to Homicide) Bill ".
At this point, like my noble friend Earl Jellicoe, I must make my own position clear. I am by no means a "hang 'em all" man. While I should like to see the Act of 1957 swept away, I should also like to see it replaced by something which does retain the death penalty in certain instances with which I shall deal in a moment, including (I believe this is not beyond the wit of the lawyers, even though my two noble and learned friends did not manage it) the death penalty for poisoning—the foulest, most treacherous, most cruel, and always premeditated, form of murder. Equally, I would not press for the death penalty for crimes of passion. I wonder how many of your Lordships know about what I believe was the first occasion on which a crime passionel was allowed to have any influence in the courts of this land. It is now almost 50 years ago when, during the First World War, the wife of a serving soldier, Captain Malcolm, during his absence in France, was seduced by a Belgian refugee, a very unsavoury person with the dubious title of the Count de Borsch. Captain Malcolm, returning home on leave and finding out the situation, went to visit the bogus Count and literally emptied his service revolver into him. The jury acquitted the captain, although, as I have said, up to that time the crime passional formed no part of our judicial procedure, nor was its existence even admitted.
It is obvious that most crimes passionels are carried out by people who have not really the long-term intention of killing. Obviously, in the Malcolm case, there was premeditation, but he was acting on great emotion and one must have all sympathy with the person who did it, even though he ought to be severely punished. In the recent case of Harvey Holcroft, who received only three years for murdering his wife, I think that was far too slight a punishment, because the killing of even the most blatantly unfaithful wife is something which should be discouraged by a considerable sentence of imprisonment.
The noble Lord, Lord Strange, gave your Lordships an interesting account of a trial which he attended. As that particular murder took place in Perthshire, 665 and as, for many years from before that time, I have been chairman of the Police Committee of the county, I know something about it. This man, as the noble Lord said, was a Pole. The vast majority of Poles who came to this country during the war as fighting refugees were not only very brave soldiers but also in all respects admirable citizens. Many of them have settled in this country and nearly all are a credit to the community. This man was one of the rare exceptions. While he was under sentence of death in Perthshire, a letter arrived from his mother in Poland, a woman in poor circumstances, for the gravity of the case had attracted attention in the Press of all Europe. She said in her letter, "I hope you hang my son. He has been a monster since birth." That man's record showed that he was one of that small category that cannot be redeemed, and such people, I consider, are better out of this world. The second type for whom I think we definitely ought to retain the death penalty are people of the train robbery gang type, when their actions have resulted in death.
After something like 60 speeches during the course of this debate, it is difficult to find any aspect that has not been touched upon already, but there is one which I do not think has been mentioned—that is, that, contrary to the opinion of social workers, the steady and welcome rise in the conditions of living of the people of this country has not been accompanied by the expected diminution in crime.
In my young days, when there was still a vast amount of poverty, suffering and unemployment, malnutrition and, indeed, starvation, most of the crimes that were committed were committed for the sake of getting food to keep the family alive or for getting money to purchase food. Those days, fortunately, in most cases are gone for ever. But the people who have carried out the vastly increased number of crimes are not people who are at all in destitute circumstances. They are often quite well off. Take the train robbers. They were well enough off to have a large number of cars, to acquire a farm and to have careful arrangements made for their, fortunately, temporary escape. And while the poor in former times were satisfied if the results of their thefts, accompanied or not accompanied 666 by violence, produced enough for them to live on, to-day, as the standard of living rises, so does the criminal desire that his standard of living shall rise. He wants bigger and faster cars, more and more expensive drinks, more and more expensive women, and he is determined to have them. That is why we have this unfortunate tendency.
I can see no hope for serious crime diminishing. All we can do is to make sure that so far as possible we make the perpetrators feel in advance, in as many cases as possible, that the game will not be worth the candle. I join with my noble friend Lord Kilmuir in his surprise, and in my own case disgust amounting to almost nausea, at the sentiments expressed by a great many of those who have spoken in favour of this Bill. There have been many notable exceptions, like my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, but, by and large, it has been noticeable how much they have spoken about the poor unfortunate murderer and how very little about the poor unfortunate victim.
The noble Lady who introduced this Bill—I heard every word she spoke and I have read it since to make sure—made no mention of the victim. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, at the beginning of his speech, did pay what I hope was more than lip service to the iniquity of murder, but thereafter he expatiated at great length upon what we ought to do for the murderer, and well nigh shed salt tears over Michael Davies, who was kept for some weeks in ignorance of whether he was to hang or not. The noble Lord said nothing about Michael Davies's victim, a young man cut off by Michael Davies in the prime of life, leaving behind a girl to whom he was shortly to have been married.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that many people, including myself, have worked for years to establish what we believe to be the innocence of Michael Davies?
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, let Hansard be my witness that what I and my noble friend Lord Kilmuir have said is correct. I would add that, with the noticeable and most commendable exception of the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, even from the Bishops' Benches we 667 have had much theology but little Christian sympathy. That I find very regrettable. The noble Earl, Lord Long-ford, said that a new generation had arisen—to me it seems all too often a new degeneration.
I do not wish to take up more of your Lordships' time than is necessary, but at this point I want to put an absolute challenge to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that he at least will not do what all his colleagues and other protagonists of this Bill have done up to the present time: that is to say, they have burked and shirked, avoided and evaded, any statement as to what they are going to do with the murderer if this ill-starred measure goes through. We have not heard any description of whether they are prepared to have a British Alcatraz in an island off the Scottish or Welsh coast, or a farm in the Eastern Counties adequately surrounded with a moat and many coils of dannert wire. They have said nothing whatever likely to assure the people of this country that these murderers are going to be kept in a place whence they cannot escape.
As we heard last night from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, in that most admirable speech, there has already been an escape from a newly-opened prison supposed to be of the greatest security. What are we going to offer in the way of prisons of real security? How are the people of this country to be reassured that they are going to have genuine security from these desperate criminals?
Furthermore, as I have said, we hear nothing of the punishment. There has been again a careful disinclination on the part of the protagonists of this Bill to say what they regard as an adequate term in gaol. Naturally, such a term would have to be an elastic one. For once, I think there is something to be said for the American system, much as I deplore and despise most of their judicial system. Under that system they can sentence a person for, say, from five to fifty years' imprisonment; that is to say, there can be no question of releasing him before five years, but at any time thereafter he can be considered for parole.
668 The Home Secretary has been quoted often for the remark he is supposed to have made, that men were usually released after nine years because that was when deterioration began to set in and when they began to rot in gaol. I am less concerned about murderers rotting in gaol than I am about their victims rotting in their graves. I feel that those who support this Bill will have a very heavy responsibility indeed upon their shoulders if they are not able to produce —and produce before the Bill goes through—an adequate description of what they arc going to substitute for the death penalty.
We have heard that the death penalty is not a deterrent. If not, is it not rather peculiar that during the past three months there have been two cases, one in Scotland and one in England, where young miscreants were on the point of being apprehended by the police, and on each occasion their leader shouted, in almost the same language: "Kill the so-and-so's; they can't hang us anyhow"?—the "so-and-so's" being a euphemism for a word seldom heard in your Lordships' House before Lord Arran's Bill. In each case, the desperadoes were unable to carry out their purpose; but surely those two examples show that the death penalty is still a deterrent. Furthermore, as has been pointed out by many and more eloquent speakers than myself, when you get a man who has a long criminal record and he finds himself on the point of capture, very likely by only one policeman, and when he knows that his fate if he shoots and is afterwards captured is going to be little, if any, worse than if he does not shoot, what inducement is there to that desperado to refrain from killing? I put it to your Lordships that there is absolutely none.
I should like to speak now about the position of the police. Tributes have been paid, and quite rightly, from both sides to the conduct of the police. But I should have thought that those who support this Bill would have paid some little attention to the fact that the whole of the police forces of this country, with very few individual exceptions, from chief constables down to the humblest "Bobby" on the beat, are absolutely opposed to the Bill, as are the prison officers. Were it not for our unarmed 669 police force, none of your Lordships could come and go with safety to this House. Should the wave of crime accompanied by the use of firearms become much greater, there will undoubtedly be a cry for the arming of the police; and that, I entirely agree, would be a most lamentable procedure, and one which the police themselves wish, at all costs, to avoid. But it may still have to come if this violence increases.
In reply to those noble Lords who have asked why shooting should make murder a capital offence, I would merely reply that it must be assumed that a man who goes out to commit a felony carrying a weapon loaded with ball cartridge is perfectly prepared to use it; that is to say, it is premeditated murder should the occasion arise.
I confess to two things. I am not so much interested in the fate of the Bill. What I am interested in is the fate of the little shopkeeper in the back street; of the old spinster or widow living alone; of the policeman trying to arrest desperate criminals; of the prison officer trying to keep them under restraint. If this measure goes through, all these will be put in peril of their lives to a greater extent than they are at the moment. We have had quotations and statistics thrown at us ad nauseam to prove that the removal of the death penalty is not likely to increase murders. But if the removal of the death penalty is going to cause the death of one person per year in this country, then this Bill stands condemned; and as we have no assurance that it will not, and have every reason to believe that it will, I trust that your Lordships will most emphatically reject the Bill.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ BARONESS ASQUITH OF YARN-BURY
My Lords, I cannot hope to add much that is new to the many eloquent and weighty arguments that your Lordships have listened to over the best part of the last two days (many of them you will no doubt have heard several times), but may I briefly summarise those that weigh with me, and perhaps add one new one of my own? I speak as an abolitionist without reservations. As I see it, the only possible excuse for the taking of life is that thereby life is saved. If I believed that by the taking of one life we could save many other innocent lives, that we 670 could protect the lives of children, then I would reluctantly assent to what seemed dire necessity. But I do not believe this, because all the evidence seems to me to point the other way.
Since your Lordships last discussed this question, one significant event has taken place: the Homicide Act has become the law of the land. I should like to express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, for his description of that Act, which came new to my legally untutored ear. That Act has always seemed to me to have no roots in justice, reason or morality. It is a tissue of anachronisms. In fact, if I were the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein (fond, impious thought—presumptuous fantasy!) I should feel sorely tempted to describe the Homicide Act as a "dog's breakfast". Yet that "dog's breakfast" has been swallowed, not only in another place, but here in this House, bristling, as it is, with learned Law Lords. I can explain that aberration only by supposing that some noble Lords, learned and less learned, were suffering from a spasm—of course, only a temporary spasm—of diminished responsibility. However, that, fortunately, is not a capital offence.
But, whatever its flaws, the Homicide Act has rendered an invaluable service to the abolitionist cause, not only because it has reduced the number of hangings, but because it has blown sky-high the argument that the death penalty is, in fact, a unique deterrent. Supporters of the Homicide Act must either abandon this contention here and now, or they must admit that they do not intend to deter the poisoner, whom many of your Lordships described truly as the most coldblooded and calculating of criminals; that they do not intend to deter the murderers of children; that they do not intend to deter those murderers who rape and strangle a woman, but who negligently omit to take away her handbag; nor do they wish to deter those who kill with any weapon but a firearm. I must confess that if I were to be the victim of murder, and if I had time to make the hedonistic calculus, I should, on the whole, prefer to be shot dead than to be hacked to pieces with a hatchet or sliced to bits with a knife, and I think I should not worry over much about my handbag.
671 But, as I have said, thanks to the Homicide Act, the argument that hanging is the unique deterrent has been blown to smithereens. I believe that the way to inspire respect for human life is to refrain from taking it—above all to refrain from sanctifying killing by killing in the name of the law. But, as we must recognise, there are many people who see in hanging, in the death penalty, not only a deterrent but also a means of retribution. I am sure we all agree that moral indignation is a thoroughly reputable emotion: we all indulge in it, and some of us thoroughly enjoy it. But it sometimes engenders a less reputable impulse, and that is a desire for vengeance—the desire to pay the murderer back in his own coin.
The other day I came across, by chance, a quotation from a speech delivered by my father in the House of Commons as long ago as 1900–65 years ago—in which he challengedthe theory—at once barbarous and fallacious —that a man who commits a peculiarly brutal offence should receive a proportionately brutal punishment.Flogging was then the issue. But the self-same emotions which demand flogging as a remedy for violence demand hanging as a cure for murder. It is the "Give them a dose of their own medicine" school. The trouble is that "their own medicine" is not medicine, it is poison. Violence breeds violence, and brutality brutalises. Above all, the State should not soil its hands by meting out either brutality or death.
Finally—and this is, I think, what moves me most of all: it is not an argument but a profession of faith—I believe in the resurrection of the living here on earth; in the infinite power of self-redemption of the human spirit. I believe that it is possible for any one of us, however low we have sunk, to climb up again out of the depths and darkness of the pit into the light above. Which one of us has the right to deny that chance to any human being—to extinguish human life when it has reached its lowest ebb, toPut out the light, and then put out the light"?I believe that the battle we have been fighting here this afternoon, and many 672 of us yesterday as well, is waged between two forces: those who are swayed and driven by fear, and those who are inspired by hope, unconquerable hope, in human nature. Fear is always a bad counsellor, a counsellor of despair. Let us turn our backs on fear. Let us have courage. Let us dare to hope.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, this is the third occasion since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House that I have intervened in a debate dealing with the death penalty. The first was on July 9, 1956, and the second was on February 21, 1957. I have been here for a good deal but, I am very sorry to say, not the whole of the debate of the last two days. I particularly regretted missing two of the four very distinguished maiden speeches that were made. I read the maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, with admiration and, perhaps, all the greater delight, because I was a colleague of his father in another place, and was one of the many who admired his great gifts.
There are still some very important speakers who are going to contribute to this debate, and I want to limit myself to two purposes: first, to say why I myself propose to support the Second Reading of the Bill and, secondly, to make clear why I shall almost certainly vote against the Third Reading unless we can improve the Bill in Committee. One or two of my noble friends have spoken about our passing this Bill this evening. That, of course, cannot be done in any event. What we can do, and what, for the reasons I shall give, I hope we shall do, is to give it a Second Reading.
In the debate of July 9, 1956, I spoke and voted against the Bill then before us for abolishing the death penalty. I thought that the death penalty for all murder, tempered by the use of the Prerogative of mercy, provided a saner, a better and, indeed, a more humane law than would its abolition. More than half a century has elapsed since I first studied philosophy at Oxford, and during that half century and more I have always thought that the moral problem of punishment was one of the most difficult with which philosophers, theologians, lawyers, and statesmen have to deal. For the reasons that I gave to the 673 House, I believed in the death penalty, and I still think that I was right. Every one of us numbers among his personal friends many men and women who believe in the death penalty, and many who reject it. I really do not believe that the two groups differ in humanity, or in their appreciation of moral principle.
One of the most astonishing things that I find in this whole controversy is the large number of persons who can see that to take a human life involves a great moral question—as undoubtedly it does—but seem to suppose that to take away a man's liberty for a number of years involves no such moral question. My Lords, both involve immense moral questions. Both raise great moral issues. I firmly believe that the State has a right to take life in a proper case. In our previous debates that was the view of both Archbishops, and I can scarcely believe, therefore, that it is a view which it is improper for a Christian to hold.
Why then, it may be asked, do I propose to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill this evening? The answer is perfectly simple. It is because we enacted in 1957 what was then the Homicide Bill and is now the Homicide Act. I spoke against what was being done in that Bill, in separating the two classes of murder, and indeed the most reverend Primate, the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the then Archbishop of York, was good enough to rise in that debate in a short intervention to say that he agreed with me.
My Lords, I recognise the sincerity that prompted my noble and right honourable friends to bring forward that measure. I know that their motives were honest, but that measure had, and it obviously had, what I thought was a perfectly fundamental defect. It separated murders into two classes and subjected one of those two classes to a more severe penalty than the other, but the difference between the two classes was not decided by any moral consideration whatsoever. Some of the resulting absurdities I ventured to point out in 1957. I gave a list of the ways you could murder your wife if you did not wish to suffer capital punishment, and the ways that you had better avoid. I expressed the view that as the public came to recognise these absurdities they would wonder how on 674 earth Parliament came to pass such a Statute.
In that debate the most reverend Primate, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, supported the Bill, as was quite properly said by my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir. I said I reluctantly differed from him on an issue of morals. He thought that no moral question was involved, I thought that a moral question was involved, and I was glad of the support not only of the most reverend Primate, the then Archbishop of York, but also of my old friend the late Lord Bishop of Chichester. It is possible for a civilised country to carry on with a criminal code that includes the death penalty for murder. It is also possible for a civilised country to carry on with a criminal code which abolishes the death penalty for murder. What I believe it cannot do in the long run is to maintain a criminal code which many reasonable people, including most of the Judges, believe to be indefensible. For that reason I shall support the Second Reading of the Bill to-night. That does not mean that I can continue to support the Bill as it now stands. I am absolutely convinced that it is the duty of the State to preserve order and to protect its citizens from criminals. I also believe it has to consider the interests and safety of its agents, the police and the prison warders. In all these respects I believe that the Bill, as it now stands, fails.
Perhaps I may say a few words on the theory of punishment. I am relieved from the necessity of saying much by what the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said this afternoon, and by some wise observations of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who spoke yesterday. There are few subjects on which those who have not thought deeply about punishment talk more nonsense than on retribution. They seem to think that retribution is almost an improper purpose of punishment. My Lords, as I have shown to the House on previous occasions; as has been demonstrated, I think, by every moral philosopher who has dealt with the question; as was certainly demonstrated in an admirable little book by the present Leader of this House, retribution is the most fundamental aspect of punishment.
Of course, the three main theories of punishment are retribution, reform and 675 deterrence. Nearly always punishment, if we are wise, may make some contribution under all three of those headings, and it is demonstrable that you cannot pursue any one of them to the complete exclusion of the others without getting results which appear to be shocking. What is, I think, certain is that if retribution is wrong then all punishment is wrong, for the reasons given in that essay which I ventured to quote on the previous occasion, and a portion of which was quoted by my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir this afternoon—an essay by the late Archbishop Temple.
My Lords, I have summed up the principle of retribution in the two Latin words "strum critique"—"to each his deserts". If it is in any way true that a man ever deserves punishment, then that means that the principle of retribution is right. Of course that does not mean that one has to kill; it does not mean that one has to exact the same penalty as was exacted by the murderer. But it does mean that there should be some correspondence. Many in this debate, and previous debates of the same kind, have spoken of the terrible state of our law when it was a capital crime for a child, let us say, to shoplift. Of course that was shocking, but it did not result from people believing in retribution. Retribution would utterly have condemned it. What it resulted from was deterrence, run wild.
That brings me to the first of my main criticisms of this Bill. Because the House of Commons has passed this Bill with a great majority, both on Second Reading and on Third Reading, I have carefully studied how, consistently with our beliefs, we can agree, so far as possible, with the House of Commons. Let me say at once that, of course, we have honestly to make up our own minds, but I do not believe it is in the general interest of the criminal law that we should prolong this old controversy unnecessarily, if any agreement is possible. As I understand the vote of another place, it means that they are prepared to back the idea that a term of imprisonment can be a sufficient deterrent. I agree that that is an arguable proposition in some cases, but there is an outstanding case in which it seems to me that it is not an arguable proposition. The threat of a long sentence of im 676 prisonment cannot deter from murder the man who is already suffering a long sentence of imprisonment. Nor can it deter from murder the man who, if he is captured for a crime, will, even without murder, suffer a long term of imprisonment. In such a case an instant murder may rid him of the only witness.
There have been two ways, I think, in the course of this debate in which it has been suggested that we might improve this Bill in Committee. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker of Waddington, said that he would at the Committee stage introduce reforms regarding the sentence that will meet some of the problems to which he drew attention. We all look forward to seeing the Amendments that are drafted by that skilled hand, and we will consider them most carefully in Committee, should this Bill get a Second Reading to-night. But I am less confident than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice that it will be possible by any reform of conditions in prison to avoid the risk of a man, as it has been described, rotting. The noble Baroness who so persuasively introduced this measure yesterday afternoon gave a touching example of somebody in another country who had endured a very long sentence of imprisonment and was now a very useful citizen. I think these things are possible. I do not think it wholly depends on the conditions in the prison. I am not sure that we can provide that that will be so in every case.
There are perhaps a diminishing number of people here who knew—because this House is becoming so young, but there are still many in this House who knew—as I did, the late Alexander Paterson. They will remember his objection to long terms of imprisonment. He thought, as I confess I have thought, that the sentence of death can be far more merciful. I think the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice will discover that if he tries to make the imprisonment to which a man can be sentenced so severe that it will, in fact, deter in most of these cases, it will have the disadvantages to which the late Alexander Paterson drew attention; and he then may find that the numbers of people who find capital punishment an abominable cruelty will take the same 677 view about long imprisonment. That however, is one way in which we shall be invited to amend the Bill.
Another possible way occurs to me. I shall not say anything final about it this afternoon; but I can understand, I think (because I myself drew attention to many of these things when the 1957 Bill was being considered), the House of Commons' objection to many of the categories of offences that are now capital murders. In fact, I can see certain disadvantages of those categories which I think have not yet been mentioned in this debate. People often speak of the inclusion of shooting as a capital murder, as though that had been entirely happy in its effect. I am not sure that it has. I am not at all sure that the effect of putting shooting alone of these methods into the capital class has not been to encourage what I think is a most deplorable and horrible increase in the crime of stabbing. I find stabbing quite loathsome, and there is something that I find almost more repulsive than either, the habit of the young thug which I believe is now known as "putting in the boot", by which practice he kicks in the face his victim already on the ground. I think it is a hopeless task to try to do what the 1957 Act did, making this separation between capital and non-capital murders based on no moral considerations.
I think there is one class of capital murder, or possibly two, on which this House might wish to insist, notwithstanding the rejection by another place. It seems to me that, whatever may be the distinction which one should or should not draw between what I might call primary murders, there are two cases which are in a different class—I do not say better or worse, but in a different class for consideration of what we ought to do about them. One of them is murder in order to resist arrest. The second is murder to effect an escape from lawful custody. There may be a very strong case for excepting those two classes from this Bill, even if we allow the others to be repealed. It may be said that the House of Commons would not look at it. Well, my Lords, we do not know, and in any event I do not think the subsequent fate of this measure in the House of Commons will prevent us from doing our duty as we see it.
678 For the reasons I have given, I propose to vote for the Second Reading to-night. But I will also look with the greatest interest at the Amendments that will be brought forward by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice dealing with imprisonment, and I hope that some of my noble friends, or possibly I myself, will think of some Amendments to save from the repeal in the Bill as it stands murder committed in order to avoid arrest and murder committed to enable a man to escape from lawful custody. It will be observed that in neither of those two categories do I specially mention the police, though the police will be, I believe, the principal beneficiaries of the reforms that I advocate. I apologise if I have spoken too long, but I hope these matters will be considered.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD DENNING
My Lords, your Lordships have heard so much argument that it remains for me to be only a witness. I speak as one who has prosecuted men charged with murder, who has defended men charged with murder, who has tried them, and who has sentenced them to death. I have through my mind faced the question: is it right for me to condemn a man to a punishment which I for myself would not be willing to execute or even to witness? Equally, I have been faced with the other question: Here is an enemy of society society must be protected against such an onslaught. And in that conflict I have been comforted that the law has taken the decision for me.
Here we have a Bill which I would read in the composite manner, not only to abolish the death penalty but also to replace it by a sentence for life. A sentence for life sounds as great a deterrent, perhaps, as capital punishment. But a sentence for life, as now understood, is an indeterminate sentence at the discretion of the Executive, and not of the Judge who tried the case. I should like to say, if I testify as a witness, that in my opinion the death sentence is a deterrent. This is not a matter which is capable of statistical proof; it is not a matter which you can ever prove, because how can anyone tell who may not have been deterred? But when I think of the robberies, and the murders in the course of robberies to-day, I would refer to the evidence which was given by the 679 Commissioner of Police before the Royal Commission in support of their strongly held view that the death sentence is a deterrent.
Your Lordships may remember the cases: the case of the Bermondsey gang, a large gang of thieves and robbers, who, in 1944, in Burcham Street in the City of London, smashed a jeweller's shop, seized nearly £3,000 worth of jewellery and drove off in their stolen car. A naval captain Captain Binney, saw them and stood in their path, signalling them down, to arrest them. They drove him down: they murdered him. It was so found by the jury, and one man was sentenced to death. He was reprieved. For the next three years that gang continued their activities in crime undeterred. Three years later that gang, in Charlotte Street, again with a stolen car, attacked a jeweller's shop, stole the jewellery, and when citizen Alex Antiquis came to arrest them, they shot him down. They were found guilty and sentenced to death; and the Commissioner of Police recorded thatafter the death sentence was executed, almost immediately the gang disbanded. They have not been seen in their usual haunts since, and, as far as is known, are not engaged in criminal pursuits.No wonder that those to whom we entrust the enforcement of our law feel that they need the protection of the law.
Then, when I read, as I do, of attempts from outside to invade our prisons, as in a state of war, I recall that just over a hundred years ago, in 1862, the Fenian conspirators, believing that one Barrett inside was being exercised, put their kegs of gunpowder outside the prison wall and blew it down, and killed many. Fortunately, the Governor had been appraised of their plan and the prisoners were not being exercised that day. Those outside did not get their man, but they killed many in an attempt to release the prisoner. They were convicted of murder.
I ask myself now, not only when we have robberies and armed robberies, but when after a hundred years we have this revival of attempts, successful attempts, to invade our prisons from the outside: if anyone should be shot or murdered in the course of that attempt, what would our people think of us, what would the 680 police and prison warders think of us, if there were not retribution? But further than that, I would say: Just think. These are calculating, clever, premeditating criminals. Will they not know? They may in the course of their theft or robbery be liable to 20 or 25 or 30 years' imprisonment. If in the course of it they should shoot and kill an ordinary citizen who stands against them, and if the principle of this Bill as it stands is accepted, the punishment will be an indeterminate sentence at the discretion of the Executive. In the future, in any of these robberies, a man will realise, if he calculates—and some do—"I shall suffer no more if I kill that man who seeks to stop me; indeed, I may destroy the only evidence which may convict me".
It is the ordinary man who feels that the present penalty is a deterrent. The question before us, deterrent or no deterrent, is a matter of what I believe the ordinary man in this country feels. So, accepting that it is a deterrent, I go on one stage further. In my judgment—I have expressed this opinion before—the objects of punishment are not properly described as being solely deterrent or reformatory. I am glad that the most reverend Primate has mentioned retribution. I know that his predecessor did so, too. There is retribution, by which I mean that in order to maintain the respect for law and order in this country, society itself, and the courts of law in their punishments, must express the revulsion which the ordinary citizen feels towards grave crime. Indeed, as we all know, in the present state of opinion, some crimes demand the most emphatic penalty of all.
I realise that there is a strong argument in favour of this Bill by reason of the anomalies which have been thrown up by the 1957 Act—a well-intentioned Act which I would not criticise overmuch. But the anomalies which have been thrown up are not, it seems to me, a ground for altering the whole of our conception in this matter. It is a matter for curing the anomalies. In my evidence before the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment I accepted and put before them the degrees of capital murder, murder and manslaughter. I still think that our law can be properly adjusted so that these anomalies can be 681 ironed out, and I do not think that the existence of these anomalies is a ground for removing the death penalty.
I come back to this point: what should be done in regard to this Bill? If an acceptable alternative were offered, then for myself I would be the first to say that we should try abolishing the death penalty—I repeat: if there were an acceptable alternative. The matter has been threshed out in debate in the Commons, and suggestions have been made by the Lord Chief Justice. But is 30 or 40 years' detention—breaking the heart, the mind and the soul of the individual—an acceptable alternative? Is that not more cruel? If society does that, it seems to me that the acceptable alternative is not proffered. At all events, it seems to me that the principle of this Bill does not offer it. It offers simply the abolition of the death penalty and the substitution of an indeterminate sentence at the discretion of the Executive.
This, of course, is a matter on which all of us have our feelings, but I look, as I trust I always shall, to the proper and due enforcement of the law and order of this country. We in this country have a reputation for law and order higher than that of any other country in the world. Our murder rate is among the lowest. That is because our people have throughout had respect for the law and its administration. Our police officers and our prison warders, who are responsible for its enforcement, expect the Judges, the country, to protect them; and unless an adequate alternative is offered—and I have seen no prospect of that immediately —unless this Bill is wholly reconsidered and brought forward in a different shape altogether, I think that we should reject it. I therefore propose to vote against the Bill.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, we are coming to the end of a very important debate, and I will be brief. I will not immediately follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, although I should like to comment on some of the things he said. But despite the most moving and persuasive speech which he has just made, the range of speakers in this House yesterday and to-day testifying in favour of abolition is a measure of the dramatic swing in informed opinion which has 682 taken place in a relatively short period. It was a pleasure to all of us to listen to the four maiden speakers, three of whom were in favour of this Bill, and all of whom were the right side of 45.
The weight of opinion and argument in favour of this Bill in this, the Upper House—the Upper House which used to have the reputation for being "stuffy" and "fuddy-duddy"—is indeed very heartening to one of my generation who has only recently joined your Lordships' House. The weight of opinion in this House is now very heavy, and I hope that we shall see the result of that in the Division Lobby, if we are forced to a vote. I would say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, that, moving and persuasive as his argument was, there is a formidable weight of opinion on the other side which cannot be ignored.
Those of us who have campaigned for years for abolition have welcomed tremendously in recent years the support of many new people—many people who have come over to our point of view, and, in particular, the support we have received from the former Home Secretary, Mr. Henry Brooke. He was opposed to abolition; he was then made Home Secretary, and he did what a sensible Minister would do. He sent for a study of the working of the Homicide Act, and I gather that he was quite appalled by what he found in the way of anomalies. He came to the conclusion that the Act could not be amended—and this is something which we in this House have to remember—and that it would be far better to go straight forward for abolition. This is what happened to a retentionist who had the job of Home Secretary and who took the trouble to study and study and study. This has been the experience of so many people who have really studied the matter.
It is quite impossible to ignore the pattern of persuasion which is followed by those who shed their prejudices and study the thing with an open mind. In fact, whether one is an idealist or a purely practical man, the argument in simple terms, as we have heard it to-day, is surely this. Mr. Henry Brooke said that the 1957 Homicide Act is completely anomalous and that it cannot be amended without creating further anomalies. The Lord Chief Justice has told us what the 683 Judges, certainly the majority of them, think of the Act. He has been supported by Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest. Both concluded that we should go to abolition. We have had the courageous speech of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, from his Home Office experience. We have the evidence of Sir Ernest Gowers; we have had evidence from the Church, which has always been in the van in this fight for sanity in this matter.
The Lord Chief Justice, quite rightly, in his view, makes his support for the Bill throughout conditional on there being reconsideration of the sentencing arrangements. This, I think, is reasonable. It is a matter with which the House will have to deal in Committee, but reservations on the length and form of sentence is no justification, in my view, for voting against the Second Reading of this measure, which contains an important principle. We have had the remarks from the noble Earl the Leader of the House to indicate that this is a subject to which the Government will pay particular attention, but the arguments for and against have all been adduced time and again.
I want merely to add this. In my view, it is not for the abolitionist to prove his case. Where the life of a man is in the balance, it is for those who are in favour of judicial murder to prove that it is such a unique deterrent that society can find its protection from criminal murders in no other way at all. That is where the burden of proof rests. The retentionist cannot do it. He can bring forward no tittle of evidence to prove that execution must be retained to protect humanity and society. The retentionist will try to make our blood curdle, as the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, did. There was a great deal of talk about this Bill probably being a change for the worse, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said. We are told that it might mean that more people will be murdered. When we started this campaign for abolition we were told, "It will mean that more people will be murdered". But now the trimmers are working, and all we are told now is that it could possibly, could conceivably, in certain circumstances, lead to more murders. All this is assertion. It is opinion; but it is not evidence.
684 I was amazed at the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, put forward, that the great majority of the public believe that capital punishment is a deterrent and therefore, for psychological reasons, to give them a feeling of cosiness, we should retain it. Can it really be right for the State to execute men to provide people with a sense of security which is acknowledged by its own definition to be a false one? That cannot be right. For myself, I cannot reconcile the killing of a human being, even by the State, with my own belief in the sanctity of human life. When the State executes a man it diminishes the respect for human life. When the State refrains from execution, I believe it will enhance the respect for human life by the public, and this is one of the main tenets of our belief. We believe that you will get a greater protection for society, for policemen, for prison officers, for those who have a hard task to do, when we can say that the taking of human life by anybody is the grossest thing that can happen. We want to see the respect for human life raised by example—example of the State, example of the individual.
Death is so very final, indeed. It is not only in this country that there have been miscarriages of justice. Those who were in the House of Commons from 1945 to 1950 will remember the number of people we tried to rescue from other countries, whose only crimes had been political ones; and before we could get there they had been murdered; they had been executed by the State. A couple of years later there was a change of regime, under which those people would never have suffered the death sentence. There was a terrible feeling of trying to catch up with those people. Sometimes we were lucky, but usually we were too late, and, once the hangman has done his grisly job, there is nothing one can do to right the enormous wrong that has been done.
I believe that we can no longer delay in bringing about this long-overdue reform. It is a reform. It has demonstrated once again the difference in this House between the forces of reform and the forces of non-reform. The hallmarks of the few "last ditchers" are clear to see all along the line. We are told, "Now is not the right time. Would it 685 not be better to wait a little longer?" My Lords, this has always been said by those who do not want to progress, by those who want to hold up radical reform of any sort. A great deal has been said in this debate, and in others before it, about public opinion. But the fact is that reforms such as these come about not because there is an upsurge of public opinion, but because some people in society are continually seeking the fine balance between true justice for an individual and the welfare of the community as a whole, and that is very difficult to achieve at all times. But if we can achieve one without weakening the other, then we have taken a stride forward, as we could do by passing this Bill.
These reforms, in my view, will work only if they are based on deep study and deep research which command the confidence of the majority of leaders of public opinion. This has now been done not only in Britain but in many other countries of the world, and the conclusions are plain to see. The retentionists cannot bring forward evidence to justify the death penalty as a unique deterrent, and it must surely be clear that society will be a better place to live, in if the barbarism of the gallows, the inhuman torture of the death cell, and the risk of taking an innocent life are banished forever from this country.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ LORD DIGBY
My Lords, I came here to listen and not to speak, but as I listened the case of those who support this Bill seemed to me to be based on the fact that statistics supported their side, whereas the heart and the belief only supported those who oppose this Bill. Late this afternoon, we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, of figures given in a Written Answer on June 17 in another place, which were disputed by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that in the five years before the passing of the Homicide Act 20 capital murders were committed, and in the years since the Homicide Act there had been 23. That is an increase of 15 per cent. In the years before the Homicide Act there were 121 non-capital murders, and after the Homicide Act there were 149. That is an increase of 23 per cent.
I had decided to support this Bill, because there was no evidence that the 686 death penalty in any way affected the number of murders. It seems to me that the capital murders are the ones which would be expected to increase more with the rise in crimes of violence, and in view of the disagreement between the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, I should be most grateful if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor could deal in his reply with the figures in the Written Answer which was quoted.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I rise with great trepidation to address your Lordships. The task of a Parliamentary winder-up, who has to reply to a debate which has included upwards of 60 speakers, as I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will agree, is not one to which anyone would greatly look forward. Clearly, one cannot hope or attempt to deal with all the points that have been raised. All one can do is to make up one's mind which are the most important, to try to deal with those and to knock some of the nails home; and that, my Lords, is what I propose to do.
As in the case of some other noble Lords, this is the third occasion when I have taken part in a debate on Bills designed to abolish capital punishment—in 1948. I think it was, in 1956 and now again in 1965. I should like at the outset of my remarks to try to remove a misapprehension which seems to be in the minds of some Members, both in another place and in your Lordships' House. It is that capital punishment has in effect been abolished already, and that all that Parliament has to do is to tidy up the position by removing the few stray ends where the penalty, almost by chance, still survives. Now, my Lords—and I think this will be confirmed by other Peers who were in this House at that time—that was certainly not the intention of your Lordships' House in 1956. We did accept a compromise, and I think it is now generally agreed a very bad compromise, which made considerable additions to the categories of murders which did not attract the death penalty, but we very definitely intended to keep capital punishment on the Statute Book. That being the case, it is still, as I see it, open to Parliament if it wishes, either 687 to reduce or abolish those categories of murders which still attract capital punishment, or, on the contrary, to widen them. If we do not recognise this, we shall conduct our debate on an entirely wrong basis.
There are, of course, large numbers of people in this country who do wish to abolish capital punishment. There are those who think it wrong for the community to take life in any circumstances —people like the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, who made so charming and sincere a speech yesterday; people like the noble Earl, Lord Harewood, who made an equally impressive speech today; and, finally, people like the noble Baroness, Lady Asquith of Yarnbury, whose courage in coming here, I understand from a bed of sickness, we must all greatly honour. It is for these people a matter of conscience, and they will not be swayed by any arguments. Nor do I propose to take up the time of the House in trying to convince them. One can only respect their principles, which I do most sincerely, and agree to differ.
Then there are those who hold that capital punishment is not a deterrent to murder, or not a greater deterrent than life imprisonment. We have heard a great deal about that in these last two days. It is a matter on which, I suppose, the supporters and opponents of capital punishment can argue for all time. I have pondered it many times—like, I suppose, most of your Lordships. I do not think that any mere figures are a very sure guide, one way or the other. One must just trust one's own judgment; and I am still personally convinced, as I was in 1956, that capital punishment is a deterrent in the sense that it does deter some people from murdering their fellow citizens.
And this, my Lords, is not only my own view, which would not be, I know, of very much importance: it is the view of the police and prison officers, whose opinions, I believe, if I may speak quite frankly, should influence us just as much in a matter of this kind as even the opinions of such great lawyers as the noble and learned Lords, Lord Parker of Waddington and Lord Shawcross. For, after all, they have even more know 688 ledge and experience of criminals and lawless persons than Judges can possibly have, for Judges merely try these people, but the police and the prison officers have to live with them. And what do they say, my Lords?—and I recommend this, in particular, to, I think it was, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who questioned the matter of a deterrent this morning. If noble Lords will refer to paragraph 61 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, they will find these words—and they have not yet been quoted, I think, in this debate, although they were in another place:Of more importance was the evidence of the representatives of the police and prison service. From them we received virtually unanimous evidence, in both England and Scotland, to the effect that they were convinced of the uniquely deterrent value of capital punishment in its effect on professional criminals".This too was emphasised more recently at a meeting of the Chief Constables in Scotland, at which the following resolution was passed:The Chief Constables of Scotland decided unanimously to make representations to the Secretary of State for Scotland against the abolition of the death penalty. In doing so, they were actuated by a deep concern for the safety of the public no less than that of their own men".Their anxieties have been confirmed, I think, by a new and more reckless attitude among younger people since those two recommendations were made. I will give one example. Only yesterday, the Daily Telegraph contained an account of a horrible incident in which a householder went down merely to protest against some noise being made outside his house by teenagers—just to do that, no more—with the result that they stabbed him and left him dying on the pavement. My Lords, can anyone doubt that that indicates a new and most formidable change in the whole temper of some young people, even in the space of the last few months? In the paper this morning two more cases of the same kind were reported. They did not hit the headlines very much, because we are becoming so used to these things that they are hardly included in the newspapers at all, but this is what the report said:A man slumped to the ground, in Loughborough Road, Brixton, last night hit by a blast from a shotgun fired from a passing car.689 He was taken to King's College Hospital, Camberwell.In another incident police were called to a house less than a mile away in Somerleyton Road, Brixton, after a report that a man had been stabbed.If I am told by any noble Lord, on either side of the House, that that may be so, but that it has nothing to do with the abolition of capital punishment, I would reply by referring to just one other case, rather like that already mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, of a youth of 17 who was arraigned and charged on eight charges, four of them alleging shooting with intent to murder, and who was reported in the Daily Telegraph on February 13, as saying triumphantly to a detective in Old Street:You can do what you like. You couldn't even hang me now if I killed somebody.Is this the moment, when violent crimes like that have never been so rampant, for us in Parliament to take away from the police, who are already under strength and are not normally armed—though they may have to be in future—this deterrent, to which they themselves attach such value?
My Lords, I make no apology for stressing this aspect of the police, for, as the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, said this morning, it is on the police that we rely entirely for the maintenance of law and order. They do for us, I think he said, what we should otherwise have to do for ourselves. Like, I expect, other noble Lords here to-day, I sit on the Standing Joint Committee of my county, which deals with the police, and I know how difficult it already is to keep up the strength of the force. Their work has always been, in many ways, onerous and inconvenient, and it is becoming steadily more dangerous. If we, by our action over this Bill, increase those dangers still further, we shall most certainly increase, too, the pressure brought by the wives of police officers on their husbands to resign from the force. For us to run that risk at the peak of an almost unparalleled wave of crimes of violence would surely, I submit, be gratuitous folly. The noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, yesterday spoke, very rightly, of the increasing difficulties of the police, and he instanced in particular their inadequate numbers; but I could not help thinking that it seems a very odd way of curing this situation, to take action 690 calculated almost to break their spirit, if not their hearts.
So much for the Bill itself. I will not pursue it further, because it has already been dealt with by my noble friends Lord Dilhorne, Lord Tenby, Lord Derwent, Lord Kilmuir and, last of all, Lord Denning, in the sombre and impressive speech to which your Lordships have just listened. But, my Lords, there is yet another aspect of this particular measure which, though it may have nothing to do directly with the question of whether it is right or wrong to hang a murderer, should, I feel, weigh heavily with each of us in coming to a decision on whether or not to pass this Bill at the present time. It relates to the views of the British public with regard to this question, about which Lord Tenby has already spoken such wise words.
We say that we are a democracy, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, said this morning, a democracy, if it means anything, means that the people rule. This is essentially true, I think, of a question like capital punishment, for this is not one of those hideously complicated economic questions which we are nowadays all too often asked to decide: it is a perfectly straightforward issue on which we have been repeately told the answer by the public opinion polls—and I really do not know why the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, speaks with contempt of public opinion polls, as she did in her speech.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, if the noble Marquess will allow me to say so, I did not speak with contempt of the polls: I spoke of my dismay at the idea that decisions in this House should be guided by them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
What the noble Baroness means is that decisions in this House should not be guided by the public opinion of the people. The polls say that 70 per cent. of the population are against abolition. Nor did this come as any surprise to me. When this question came last before your Lordships' House I was leading the Opposition and, as your Lordships will understand, I had a considerable mail—not, indeed, of the character of "fan mail", but what I think might more properly be described as "anxiety mail".
691 This mail was very predominantly against abolition; and the particularly interesting thing about it was that the great majority of the anti-abolitionists were to be found among the poorer sections of the community, the ordinary working-class, which forms the great majority of our people. And with the noble Lord, Lord St. Helens, who spoke yesterday afternoon, I believe that this is still true, absolutely true.
We have been told in this debate, I think by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who spoke before me, that it is the duty of Parliament in cases like this to give a lead to the country when the country is, understandably but wrongly, hanging back. But I cannot help feeling that that is a very euphemistic way of describing the forcing through of a measure on which the country has never been consulted at all at any time, and to which there is every reason to suppose that the British people are strongly opposed. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in his speech to-day tried to minimise the importance of Gallup Polls by saying that the British people were not properly informed on the subject of capital punishment. But what have the Government done to instruct them? They have done absolutely nothing.
The supporters of the Bill, I thought, judging by yesterday's debate, obviously feel that here they are on very delicate ground because they reverted continually to it in their speeches. I do not want to quote what they said; it would take too long. But I can give the gist of their argument, especially as it is of a general character and one very generally used. The argument is to the effect that in a Parliamentary democracy, once Parliament has been elected, it is for Parliament alone to decide what Parliament thinks is right and good for the country. At the next Election, of course, the electorate can do what it likes and throw out the Government if it wishes to do so. But until then the people, in effect, do not count at all; they do not come into the matter. I was shocked that even the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shaw-cross, yesterday began to pay lip-service to this, I believe, most dangerous doctrine. And the noble Earl, Lord Longford, 692 went further. When faced with the statement by the noble Lord, Lord St. Helens, that if your Lordships pass the Bill we shall be opposing the will of the British people, he did not apparently attempt to deny this; he leapt up and replied, with the air of one who is trumping his opponent's ace, "But we should be agreeing with the House of Commons". That is the argument.
There is an almost universal tendency by those who use this argument to quote in its support a celebrated dictum of Burke—not the one quoted by my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir, but another—to the effect that once a man is elected a Member of the House of Commons he must not regard himself as a representative of any one constituency but as a Member of Parliament. That is interpreted as meaning that he, and he alone, must be the judge of what he does until the next Election. I have heard that remark of Burke referred to again and again in this connection, as I am sure have other noble Lords. It sounds extremely impressive; but I have been at some pains to look up what he actually said and I am afraid, with all deference to those who use it, that it is clear that Burke did not mean the same as they do, but the exact contrary. For these were Burke's actual words:Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation with one interest; that of the whole"—that is, the whole nation—where not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good resulting from the general reason of the whole.I would again emphasise that this means "the whole nation", and by "reason" he obviously means the "opinion" of the whole nation.You choose a Member, indeed; but when you have chosen him he is not the Member for Bristol, he is a Member of Parliament.Those words do not mean, and cannot be twisted to mean, that a Member of Parliament, once elected, need thereafter pay no attention to any views but his own. They mean that he must be guided not merely by sectional, local views and interests (in this case the interests of the people of Bristol) but by those of the country as a whole of which Parliament is, at it were, a microcosm.
Burke was in fact a Democrat, a real democrat, in the full sense of that word.
693 But now, it seems, a new doctrine has come into being which is not, in the true sense, democratic at all. Under the new doctrine the electorate is just a ladder by which a Party climbs to power; and once it has got there it can do what it damn well pleases, whatever the people may want, until the end of the Parliament—possibly in four or five years—when no doubt the electors can kick it out; but not perhaps before irreparable harm has been done—as, perhaps, in this case. That is not democracy at all; it is something dangerously like dictatorship.
This Bill, if I may return to it, I believe, from the way it was introduced, is a very good example of that new temper of mind. Instead of the people being the true rulers, considerable pains have been taken to by-pass the people altogether. We are told by the supporters of the Bill, with considerable pride, that it was in the Queen's Speech; which means, I take it, that it has the official blessing of the Labour Party. But I would repeat, with all the emphasis in my power, what has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Colyton. Why was it not in the Labour Party Manifesto at the Election? Why was there no mention of it at all? It is not I who ask that; it is the British people, too. There had been an Election in this country less than three weeks before. If the leaders of the Labour Party were willing to put it in the Queen's Speech on November 3, why did they not put it in the Election Manifesto, only a fortnight earlier, to find what the public reaction was? Why did they not try to consult the British people and not merely the British Parliament? Why wait until the gracious Speech, when it was too late for the British people to say or do anything, whatever they might think? If I am told that they could not do this because it was not at that time part of their official policy, then I would reply: Could they not at least have mentioned it in the same words in which they had no difficulty in mentioning it in the gracious Speech?
There can be, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, said, only one reason: the Labour Party did not dare to put it in their Election Manifesto. They knew it would cost them a good many votes. So they left it until the Election was safely over and then imme 694 diately produced it and gave Parliamentary time for it. And almost every one of them in another place, from the Prime Minister downwards, trooped into the Division Lobbies in its support. It has, in effect, been regarded as Government policy even since and is now, I understand, officially so. No, my Lords, that may be clever Party tactics; but it is is not democracy. Where do the people come into it? They do not come into it at all. No, my Lords, I am afraid that the electorate have been by-passed—I was almost going to say "double-crossed"—in this Bill.
That, I suggest, presents a very pretty problem for us in this House, whose main function, as is constantly said, is not to oppose the views of the people but to make sure, so far as we possibly can, that the people have the opportunity to express their own views on matters in which they are vitally interested but about which they have not hitherto been consulted. Who shall say that the people are not vitally interested in this?
We shall be reminded that Elections are not fought on one issue alone but on the broad policies of the opposing Parties. But that, my Lords, surely should not prevent the candidates of the Parties from being questioned during an Election campaign on this particular issue and forced to give their views and reasons on the subject. In that way it would be fully ventilated, and if the views of the people were very strongly expressed one way or the other, that must influence the leaders of all Parties alike. That was not done in this case. As I have said, the people were not consulted at all.
I make no apology for having gone, at the end of this debate, into this particular aspect in such detail, for, to my mind, this question of by-passing the electorate is perhaps the most important of all those raised by this Bill. In the hands of an extreme Government it could create a precedent which could be used for very far-reaching purposes indeed. Nothing would be said during an Election and then, directly after the Election, a Private Member's Bill would be introduced. There would be no pretence of consulting the people. It would be assumed that Parliament had been given a free hand and, whatever the people might think, they would be faced with a fait 695 accompli, just as they are being faced to-day.
What, in those circumstances, ought this House to do? I personally hope that your Lordships will reject the Bill, for I believe, with the police and with the prison officers, that it is going to remove deterrence and increase the incidence of murder. If I am told that the present law, the Homicide Act, is unsatisfactory, I should cordially agree. I thought that nothing that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker of Waddington, said about the Homicide Act was too strong. Clearly the law must be altered to cover such crimes as murder by poisoning and the murder of small children for sex reasons, of which there are so many and such shocking examples at the present time. I cannot believe that to take such measures as are necessary to protect the poor and the weak from injury and outrage can rightly be regarded as reactionary. But of this I am sure: that this is not the moment to abolish one of the main deterrents to violent crime, for, make no mistake my Lords, law and order and the very lives of ordinary, decent people in this country are in jeopardy to-day as not before for centuries.
Violent crime has, I believe, actually increased since the introduction of this Bill—perhaps because of the introduction of this Bill, because lawless people are arguing already, like the young man to whom I referred earlier, that they will not be hanged, whatever they do. We are told that all that is at present in contemplation is an experimental period of five years. My Lords, the experiment is already being tried, and has been tried ever since the introduction of this Bill; and there is no sign at all that violent crime is decreasing—quite the opposite. If there were any reason to suppose that the country was in favour of abolition, that no doubt must weigh very heavily on us all, but there is no reason, so far as I know, to suppose this.
I wish I could see any hope from the solution which has been proposed by my noble friend Lord Conesford, but I am afraid that it would only lead to our giving up the principle of capital punishment, in which we believe, and getting nothing in return when the Bill comes back from another place. Surely, in 696 those circumstances, the proper course for your Lordships' House, from the constitutional and from every other point of view, is to postpone further experiment until the British people have had at any rate a chance to express their views on the proposals contained in the Bill. For that reason, my Lords, I personally will go into the Lobby against the Bill when the time comes for us to vote, and I hope that every noble Lord who feels as I do will do the same.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, may I begin by apologising to those of your Lordships whose speeches I missed when, owing to another duty which I could not avoid, I was unable to be here when the House met this morning. I have had a full note of every speech which I did not hear. It was at one time my intention at this stage to submit to your Lordships an analysis of the arguments by both sides in this debate, but I have come to the conclusion that that would not be the most helpful thing which I could do at this stage.
Of course, the retentionists in your Lordships' House have always had one great advantage. We all know the confidence in, and the high regard which, the whole House has for the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—so rightly, if I may say so—and the retentionists had the advantage that he wound up for them in the debate in 1948 and again in 1956, and they have had the advantage that he has done so to-day. I thought it would perhaps not be courteous to the noble Marquess if I did not begin by taking first the point which he said was the most important. I had no idea what point he was going to say was the most important, but he has told us that the most important point is the constitutional point: the fact that there is no mandate; that it should have been in the Election programme; and generally, the discreditable way in which Her Majesty's Government have behaved in relation to the matter. This means, of course—and the noble Marquess naturally did not seek to disguise it—that in his view this ought to be a question of Party politics, because, of course, you cannot have a mandate for a Private Member's Bill. Nothing can be an Election issue unless it is in the programme of the particular Party.
697 That is what the noble Marquess said ought to have happened.
In view of the very high regard which we all have for him, I should like to do what the lawyers call "confess and avoid" rather than merely say that I am of exactly the opposite opinion. But we are all here to say what we think. Rash as I may be to challenge in any way any view which he has expressed on a constitutional question, I am bound to say (without thinking for a moment that there is any reason to suppose that my opinion is better than his, I am only saying what I think) that I profoundly disagree. All my life I have fought against the Labour Party or any other Party appropriating to itself the issue of the abolition of capital punishment. I have always refused to join any society to promote the abolition of capital punishment unless it was an all-Party society. This is a personal opinion. I have always held this view.
In my opinion, in this matter the Government acted perfectly rightly. The present Prime Minister, not long before the General Election, at a public meeting which was widely reported and a report of which was also separately printed, said:That brings me to the Homicide Act. I think that it is generally agreed now that the Homicide Act has neither a rational nor a moral basis and few can be found to defend the present law. We feel that as this is an issue on which people have strong views, and which is to some a matter of conscience, it should be left to a free vote of the House, and we are prepared to find Government time for it. I think that on this sort of issue the House of Commons is at its best when each Member is expressing his own individual view.Everyone knew that that was the position. I said that on every Election platform on which I spoke, and so did everyone else who was asked.
My reason is simply this. In the case of New Zealand, from 1935 capital punishment was in abeyance until 1941, when it was abolished by a Labour Government. In 1950, when the Conservative or National Party got in, they reimposed it. They expressly disclaimed any suggestion that they had reimposed it because of any adverse results which had taken place since abolition. I stress this because, in the 1956 debate, the noble Marquess told us that New Zealand had 698 reimposed capital punishment because of the increase in murder. The Minister of Justice, in opening the debate proposing the reinstitution of capital punishment, said:I have satisfied myself that the figures neither prove nor disprove the case for capital punishment and therefore they neither prove nor disprove the case against it.The sole reason why it was reintroduced was that its abolition by a Labour Government had been bitterly opposed by the Conservatives in 1941, who had then said that, if Labour did this, when they regained power they would put it back. So, when they got in, in 1950, they put it back. When the Labour Government, by a majority of one, got back in 1957, they abolished it again.
I can understand anybody who says that he does not like capital punishment. I realise that to say to a young man, "Three weeks from now we are going to kill you," imposes a greater degree of mental cruelty than any other killer imposes on his victim, because no other killer is in a position to say that. But I appreciate that, though a man may take that view, he may still say that if it is necessary to do it for the safety of society, we must do it. But what I cannot think is right is that whether three men and a woman are going to be hanged or not should depend on the result of a Party political Election. That last Election depended on one seat. I cannot think it right, whether one believes in capital punishment or not, that this should depend on Party politics.
Nevertheless, what some noble Lords are saying is that this issue ought to have been in the General Election programme; it ought to be a matter of Party politics; the Government ought to have taken it over. But what the Government have done is exactly what the noble Marquess and the Conservative Government did in the past. With the sole exception of the disastrous Homicide Act, every debate on this subject for a generation, whatever Party has been in power, has been on the basis of a free vote, every Member voting as he thinks right, but with the Government of the day saying what their opinion was.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt the noble and learned Lord in his most 699 interesting speech, but the fact remains that directly the Election was over, the Government then broached to the British people this idea. They could have spoken about it before. It was an idea which they knew was extremely unpopular with the British people, and perhaps naturally they decided to wait until the Election was over before raising the subject at all.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not desire to introduce more controversy into this matter than can be helped. I would only point out that the Prime Minister publicly announced that, owing to the working of the Homicide Act, he thought that it would be right that Parliament should have an opportunity to consider the question and to give it Government time if necessary, but he made it clear that he was going to leave it to a free vote of Parliament.
In this House, that is exactly what happened last time. On July 9, 1956, the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, said:Her Majesty's Government are clearly and unequivocally of the view that capital punishment must be retained. I endorse fully to-day what my right honourable and gallant friend the Home Secretary has said in another place about the dangers of this Bill. However, I have said that this will be a free vote and I do not withdraw from that statement in any way. The Government do not expect or wish that any noble Lord should speak or vote against this Bill out of a sense of loyalty to the Government and, least of all, from Party feeling. At the same time, no Government with any sense of responsibility could abstain from expressing their view on such an important matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 198; (cols. 573–574) July 9, 1956.]The noble Marquess said exactly the same thing on the following day:Of course, the Government have their own view, and I think it is right that they should have their own view. That view was stated to your Lordships yesterday by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. That was the position in another place and that is the position here "—(col. 819, July 10, 1956.)That is exactly what Her Majesty's present Government have done. They have left it to a free vote, while at the same time making clear what their own view is.
At this stage of the evening I desire to deal with this matter as shortly as possible, and perhaps your Lordships will allow me to confine myself to the points which seem to be most in the minds of 700 those who are doubtful about voting for this Bill. One point which was greatly stressed, particularly by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, was the increase in crimes generally, and particularly in crimes of violence. All those who propose voting for the Second Reading of the Bill have that very much in mind. The only debate I have ever initiated in your Lordships' House was one last year drawing attention to the serious increase in the rate of crime. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with figures at this hour, but your Lordships may remember that, broadly speaking, when one looks at the ten years before the war, 1930 to 1939, and the decade after the war, 1950 to 1959, the number of burglaries and housebreakings went up by about 250 per cent.; rape and other offences against women, by about 400 per cent., and wounding, by about 700 per cent.—and these figures are rather worse now.
One would think that if the rate of crime goes up, particularly crimes of violence, the rate of murder must go up, too. But your Lordships will remember that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice said yesterday that that does not seem to happen. One can look at crime figures only by relating the number of crimes to the population, and per million of population the murder rate is virtually fixed. The other figures have gone up by as much as 700 per cent. while, though murders go up one year and down the next, if we take any decade during this century, they are never less than 3½ or more than 4½ per million of the population. The worst ten years were the first ten years of the century: the next worse were the ten years just after the war, and the best were just before the war. Why murder does not increase when there are these enormous increases in other crimes, particularly crimes of violence, is very strange; but that is what happens. It is almost as if one cannot make the murder rate increase or decrease.
After the war, in Denmark, when the Germans found that the Danish police were an integral part of the Resistance Movement, they removed them to work camps in Germany, with the result that there were no police, and people could do what they liked, so long as they did 701 not upset the German Army. There was a big increase in offences against property, but there was no increase in murder. It is strange how the rate varies in different places. In the North of Europe, in England, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and Norway, the rate is about four per million of the population—and two of these countries are retentionist, three abolitionist. Taking the Commonwealth, Australia and New Zealand—New Zealand, as we know, was at one time retentionist, at other times abolitionist; New South Wales, retentionist; Queensland, abolitionist for 40 years—it is 12 to 14, whether you take a retentionist country or an abolitionist country.
If you go to the Latin races on the Continent, if you take Belgium and Italy, which have abolished capital punishment, or France and Spain, which are the only two of the 16 Continental countries that still keep it, it is about 40—an entirely different position; nothing remotely like the position here. But it does not seem to matter whether the country is abolitionist or retentionist. Therefore, to say that crimes of violence have increased is not of very great assistance unless murders have increased also, or unless it has been the experience of the past that murders increased when crimes of violence increased.
There is one other point with which I was asked to deal on this, and that is the point, raised also by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, about the factual position since the Homicide Act. Other passages have been read from the proceedings in another place. It seems to me that if I put it as it was put by Mr. Brooke it will not seem that I have chosen some particular set of figures. He said:I am greatly influenced, and I was before I left the Home Office, because I called for the figures while I was there, by the figures set out in Table 6 at columns 247–8 of HANSARD of 11th December. In that table, all murders from January, 1952 to March, 1957, are analysed. Those were the years before the Homicide Act. It is ascertained that 14.4 per cent. of all those pre-Homicide Act murders would have been capital murder had the Homicide Act definition then been in effect.It seems to me that, if the unique deterrent argument were valid, there should have been a substantial fall in that percentage after the Homicide Act. Until then, the deterrent for murders which were to be non-capital and murders which were capital was the same.702From March. 1957 onwards, the special deterrent of the risk of death remained only for capital murders and it was removed for non-capital murders. Yet, although one would on grounds of logic, if the unique deterrent argument were sound, expect the percentage to fall materially, one finds, on examining the figures since 1957, that it has fallen hardly perceptibly. Before the Homicide Act, the percentages were 14.4 per cent. capital and 85.6 per cent. non-capital. Since the Homicide Act, the percentages have been 13.5 capital and 86.5 non-capital. I do not see in those figures support, still less proof, of the argument that the death penalty is a uniquely powerful deterrent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 704 (No. 38), col. 909, December 21, 1964.]Then it is said that this is not the right time to do it, because of the increase in crime and so forth. I am perhaps in a fairly special position in your Lordships' House—at least, I imagine so—because I have read, more than once, every debate which has taken place in your Lordships' House on this subject since 1810. I can assure your Lordships that there has never been a debate in which it has not been said, "This is not the right time". I am afraid that this is something rather like the remuneration of the superior Judiciary. What I always feel is a little hard on the abolitionists is that this is always used both ways: that is to say, if crime is going up, it is said, "Look at the awful way that crime is going up. Is this the time in which to chance so hazardous a venture? "If, on the other hand, crime is going down, it is said, "Look how satisfactory the crime situation is. That shows how effective our deterrents are. What a mistake it would be to alter it at this time! ".
What happened in 1948 was an exception, because then the two arguments were used by two noble and learned Lords in the same debate. But this was a record. One of them said:Is this the time at which to introduce this change in the law? The statistics which were given in another place by the Home Secretary have shown a great increase in crime.The other noble and learned Lord said:The number of crimes of murder in this country is very small. I ask your Lordships to take the view that when things are going so well as regards the number of murderers this is not the time to make this change.If two noble and learned Lords can put these arguments forward in the same debate, then I think it shows that it will never be the right time.
703 I have no intention of starting to argue the case for the abolition of capital punishment, but may I just say a word on two Committee points? There seems to be some doubt as to whether all your Lordships regard them as Committee points, but importance has been attached to them, and, therefore, I should like to say a word about them. The first is the position of prison officers and the police. It is said, "Ought we not to protect the police and prison officers?" Well, of course, we should. Abolitionists are very used to being told that they do not think of the police, and they do not think of the victims. This is really quite untrue, as I know from my own experience, it was, after all, Marjorie Fry, an abolitionist, who for years fought to get compensation for the victims of crimes of violence. I know myself a provincial group formed to abolish capital punishment; whenever there is a local murder the first thing they do is to see whether there is anything they can do for the relatives of the murdered man. In the movement to abolish capital punishment there are many close relatives of the victims of murder. I remember one whose only daughter was first raped and then strangled by an American negro in an American town, who, in writing to support the movement for abolition, said:If it is ' an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth', it will soon be a blind and toothless world.When we abolished the punishment for treason that you should be hanged, and then cut down while still alive, and then disembowelled while still alive, and then quartered, we did not abolish that punishment because we sympathised with traitors, but because we took the view that it was a punishment no longer consistent with our own self-respect, of course we think of the police; and of course the police view ought to be taken into account, even if they are not right.
But there has been a great deal of experience in this field. I will not refer again to the research work done in America to show that, in fact, as between six abolitionist States and eleven retentionist States the police were safer in the abolitionist States than in the retentionist States. But we have had two long and 704 careful inquiries into this. The Select Committee of 1928 said:We have had no evidence put before us that after the abolition of capital punishment in other countries there had been any increase in the number of burglars arming themselves or in the carrying of lethal weapons.The Royal Commission, again, went fully into this, and they themselves went to a number of abolitionist countries in Europe and to the United States to talk to the police and to find out, not what happened in theory, but what happened in practice when capital punishment was abolished, and whether there were any increased difficulties for the police.
We have been reminded by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that they drew attention in their Report to the apprehensions which had been expressed in theory by the British police; but they went on to say, in referring to their consultations abroad:We have received no evidence that the abolition of capital punishment in other countries has in fact led to the consequences apprehended by our police in this country.If I may add a personal note to that, when there was all this controversy in the newspapers in 1956, it was picked up by some of the newspapers in Norway —Norway being an abolitionist country—and interest was shown there. The Attorney General of Norway told me that, in view of this interest, he had asked the Chief of Police to take a census of all the Norwegian police as to whether they would like capital punishment restored for the murder of policemen, and by a very large majority they said, No; on the whole they felt safer without it. The Norwegian police are unarmed, just like ours, and this is the general experience where there has been abolition.
Massachusetts recently asked their neighbours, Rhode Island, who had had no capital punishment for 113 years, what would happen if they abolished capital punishment in Massachusetts. Again after 113 years experience the Rhode Island police answered, "You are safer without it." I certainly think one ought to take the views of the police into account, and even if they are wrong, the fact that they think it is a thing to be taken into account. But as well as considering the theoretical view of men who 705 are trying to guess what would happen in a certain event, one should also consider the views of policemen who have known what it is like to live under capital punishment and have known what it is like to live without it.
So far as prison officers are concerned, we have had between 600 and 700 reprieved and released murderers living among us this century. There are 360 life sentence prisoners at the moment. In all our long history, no reprieved murderer has ever killed a prison officer, and with 360 life prisoners in prison at the moment, if you add two or three a year is it likely to make some profound difference?
The other question which I know exercises the minds of your Lordships—though to my mind it is really a Committee question—is the question of the alternative. The first difficulty about this is that if one discusses it at all with ordinary people one realises that they do not know of what murder consists. As your Lordships know, there is every conceivable kind and type of murder: murder by old people, by men, by women, by those who are hardly more than children. They may vary from the most excusable to the least excusable. About a third of the murderers commit suicide, at the time, a second third are found to be insane at some stage of the proceedings, and others of diminished responsibility. There is every sort of circumstance.
I always think the worst murder, although it is not capital now at all, is that by the deliberate poisoner—a person who over a long time quite deliberately poisons somebody for his money. I appreciate the difficulties of definition referred to by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Kilmuir, and it is right to say that whereas there is one of that kind of poisoning case only every ten years, there are poisoning cases every year, but they are mainly by the mother, who gives an overdose of phenobarbitone to an imbecile or dying child, which is very wrong. It is done out of mistaken love because she cannot bear to see him suffering any longer. I remember one woman who devoted her whole life to an imbecile boy until he was about 22. She fed him, clothed him, and one day she was told that if she did not have an operation she would not live six months. 706 She could not bear to think what would happen to him.
That being so, it is no good saying, "For how long are murderers to be kept in prison?" because which murderer do you mean? I would venture to suggest that retentionists have done a certain amount of public harm by letting the public think that a life sentence is the same as if a man were sentenced to nine years' imprisonment. This is very old. I was surprised to find—I will not trouble your Lordships by referring to it now—my noble predecessor, Lord Jowitt, in 1948, dealing with exactly the same point in that debate and saying:It is said that the average sentence for life is nine years. I called for the details. The first case I found had been let out after a year, the second case I found had been let out after 20 years.He added that the mathematical average may be nine, but what on earth does it mean?
I think, with the greatest respect, that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, was perhaps less than fair in what he said about the Home Secretary's remarks, because my right honourable friend said very clearly two things:I accept at once that the first necessity is to see that society is properly protected".He said he would always put that first. Then he said:One may have to deal with a murderer who obviously has inherent vicious propensities and of whom one has to say to oneself, albeit reluctantly, 'This man can always be a danger and menace to society. A man like that must be kept in confinement for a very long time, maybe even for the whole of his life.'I do not see what any Home Secretary can say except that while, of course, it must depend on particular cases, those are the principles which might well guide him, and that if it is necessary for the security of society to keep a man there for the rest of his life, he will have to keep him there for the rest of his life.
As to the length of term, it must depend on who the individual is. But while nine years is the mathematical average that has been served in the recent past by prisoners sentenced to death before the Act of 1957 who had their sentences commuted because of mitigating features, with the coming into operation of the 1957 Act we had a second category of murderers sentenced to life imprisonment 707 —that is to say, non-capital murderers, including some whose offences presented no mitigating circumstances, and to whom the nine-year average does not therefore necessarily apply. Less than eight years have passed since the passing of that Act, and it is therefore too early to say what the average period served by this second category will be. Only four prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment since 1957 have yet been released.
If this Bill is passed, there will be a third category, that is to say, persons who would under the present law have been sentenced to death for capital murder and in the absence of mitigating circumstances executed. To this third category, the figure of nine years is equally irrelevant. I can assure the House that in all types of case where there is any possibility of a danger to society, my right honourable and learned friend the Home Secretary does not, and will not, release a murderer from prison, even if this means detaining him for a very long period indeed, if necessary for life.
It may be asked, what effect will such a long period of detention have on the prisoner? This brings me to my second point, that nine years has in the past been regarded as about the time after which a prisoner begins to deteriorate. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, asked why we could not have prison conditions to enable a prisoner to serve a very long period without deteriorating. We are already making arrangements to ensure that where a prisoner needs to be confined in conditions of strict security, the conditions of his detention will yet enable him to lead as normal a life as possible.
This will apply in the proposed new maximum security prison at Albany, in the Isle of Wight, of which many of your Lordships have heard already, and in special units in existing prisons at Durham, Leicester and Parkhurst. The units at Durham and Leicester are ready for occupation. It is intended that within a perimeter of maximum security the prisoners detained in those units shall be able to live as full a life as possible, to sleep, eat, work and attend chapel within the walls; and where it is necessary for them to go outside special arrangements can be made. Your Lordships will probably be interested to hear what are the 708 latest scientific discoveries which will enable these maximum security prisons to be safe. I should like to discuss them, but I am reluctant to hand a blueprint to others who may be listening.
If this Bill is passed, the prisons will have to cater for only an extra three or four prisoners a year who would previously have been executed and, secondly, the life sentence will enable the Home Secretary to recall a prisoner at any time up to his death, even if he has not committed a further offence. Your Lordships will remember that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, after telling your Lordships, with illustrations, how revolted all the Judges were at having to administer what I venture to think is the worst Act that has ever been put on the Statute Book, pointed out that the only alternative is abolition, but that he would want to be satisfied with the working of the alternative. This, therefore, as I think the Daily Telegraph—that well-known "Labour" newspaper—pointed out this morning, can be no reason for not voting for the Second Reading of the Bill. No doubt if appropriate Amendments are put down we can also discuss by whom, if anyone, the Home Secretary ought to be advised, but it is impossible for me to say what the attitude of the Government may be on any Amendment until we know what the Amendments are. This is a very real problem, but the numbers of men who are involved are very small. There is no reason to think that they cannot properly be dealt with. The whole problem of the life-sentence prisoner, who normally gives no trouble, is aggravated only by this small minority, and all the difference this Bill makes is two or three a year.
Finally, I would remind your Lordships that we are now, on a third occasion, discussing this matter. In 1948, the House of Commons (I must not say the "elected Chamber" because I might get into trouble; but the House of Commons, after all, is elected by the people, and a Member of the House of Commons has to think of public opinion, for the very good reason that if he strays too far from it, while he is not a delegate and it is not his business to do what he thinks the majority of his constituents think, but what he thinks is right, if he goes too far they will—and they do—throw him 709 out, so it is at his own risk. Your Lordships' House, of course, is not in that position. In 1948 it was, after all, a Labour House of Commons which passed through all its stages a Bill to abolish capital punishment. I make no complaint at all that at that time your Lordships said, "Well, first of all there has not been a lot of public discussion about this; secondly, it is a very small majority—only 23; and thirdly, it is done against the advice of the present Government", which was the Labour Government. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said he thought that another place ought to have "another opportunity"—he did not say "three other opportunities"—because views had been expressed in your Lordships' House on points which the other place had never considered, and he said he believed it would be to their great advantage to be able to discuss it again.
Then, as you all know, my Lords, that went off, because the then Government tried to find a system of grading and failed; and they set up the Royal Commission to do the job. But then in 1956, for the second time, another House of Commons, this time a predominantly Conservative one, and again on a free vote, passed through all its stages a Bill to abolish capital punishment. If your Lordships will forgive me for saying so, I did think on that occasion that as this was for the second time, and there was a Conservative House of Commons, in the circumstances your Lordships might have thought it right to accept that decision. But again your Lordships said, "Well, it is again a very small majority: 24 on Second Reading, only 19 on Third Reading, and although it is a Conservative House here again it is done against the advice of the Government and, in particular, against the advice of the Home Secretary, who after all is the Minister responsible for the protection of the public."
Now, my Lords, this is the third time in 20 years when the House of Commons, this time as representative of the Parties as any House is ever likely to be—we have had a predominantly Labour House of Commons doing it, we have had a predominantly Conservative House of Commons doing it, now we have one that is almost equally divided—again on a free vote, and for the third time passing through all its stages a Bill to abolish 710 capital punishment. This time the Government have approved of the Bill being passed, and in particular the Home Secretary, who is the Minister responsible for public safety and public security.
I believe that there has been a great change in informed opinion. Generally, our great enemies have been the Bishops—if they do not mind my saying that: I mean historically, of course—but there was a change in 1956, when the then most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said he did not approve of complete abolition but was going to vote for the Second Reading. As I understand it—and I shall be corrected if I am wrong—since 1956 all the Bishops of the Convocation of Canterbury have voted for abolition, as have all the Bishops of the Convocation of York, except one; and yesterday for the first time in English history a Lord Chief Justice spoke in favour of the Second Reading of a Bill to abolish capital punishment, saying—and I submit he was right—that as the Judges ought not to be required to work an Act which causes so much injustice, and as the only two alternatives are either to go back to what the law was fifteen years ago or to abolish the death penalty, the latter was the only thing to do, provided that the alternative was satisfactory. It followed really from the Homicide Act which, as your Lordships will appreciate, abolished in this country capital punishment to the extent of 85 per cent. but left 15 per cent. Nobody said, "Where is your mandate?" Nobody said, "It was not in your Election programme." The abolition of 85 per cent. of capital punishment was done by that Government without its being in any way a Party political question.
I would submit that we should attend to what peoples in other countries tell us, such as Dutchmen, when they say, "After all, we have tried living with capital punishment, we have tried living without it; whereas you will not even try abolition." I suggest the time has come when, for the first time, we should try this and, for the first time, experience a situation in which if we make a mistake we shall be able to correct it. I have always doubted personally whether men who are fallible can ever be justified in imposing a punishment which cannot be altered. We shall be able to see, too, what is the 711 effect of the State setting the example which I have always felt it ought to set. After all, when Samuel Romilly started this he did not know what the result of abolishing capital punishment was going to be, here or elsewhere, because it had not been done, and he never used mote than two arguments—namely, first, "You think crime will increase if you abolish it, but it will not, because, you see, the great deterrent to crime is not severity of punishment but certainty of conviction, and you will find the conviction rate will go up". Secondly, he said, "We all underrate the effect of the example set by the State". I have always been convinced that he was right, and I have agreed with John Bright when he said, "A deep reverence for human life is worth more than a thousand executions in the prevention of murder. And it is in fact the
§ great security of human life. The law of capital punishment, while pretending to support this reverence, does in fact tend to destroy it".
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, if I were asked to define an anti-climax I should define it as any speech which followed that which we have just heard from the noble and learned Lord who sits upon the Woolsack. Therefore, I shall simply confine myself to thanking those noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and expressing the hope that they will now record their support of this Bill.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 204; Not-Contents, 104.713
|Addison, V.||Cohen, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Cohen of Brighton, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Alport, L.||Coleraine, L.||Hurcomb, L.|
|Amory, V.||Colgrain, L.||Hurd, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Conesford, L.||Ilford, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Cowley, E.||Ingleby, V.|
|Arran, E.||Cranbrook, E.||James of Rusholme, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Croft, L.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs.||Crook, L.||Jessel, L.|
|Astor, V.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Darwen, L.||Killearn, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Digby, L.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Barrington, V.||Dinevor, L.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Dowding, L.||Latham, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Dudley, L.||Layton, L.|
|Birmingham, L. Bp.||Dundee, E.||Leatherland, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Eccles, V.||Leicester, L. Bp.|
|Blyton, L.||Effingham, E.||Lichfield, L. Bp.|
|Boothby, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Lincoln, L. Bp.|
|Bourne, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Lindgren, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Faringdon, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Bowles, L.||Foley, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Brain, L.||Francis-Williams, L.||London, L. Bp.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Gainsborough, E.||Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Bristol, L. Bp.||Gaitskell, Bs.||Lothian, M.|
|Brockway, L.||Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Geddes, L.||Luke, L.|
|Brown, L.||Gifford, L.||Lyle of Westbourne, L.|
|Burden, L.||Gladwyn, L.||McNair, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Gowrie, E.||Mancroft, L.|
|Byers, L.||Grantchester, L.||Mar and Kellie, E.|
|Caldecote, V.||Granville-West, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Haddington, E.||Melchett, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Haig, E.||Merthyr, L.|
|Carrick, E.||Hailes, L.||Meston, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Haire of Whiteabbey, L.||Milford, L.|
|Cawley, L.||Harewood, E.||Milford Haven, M.|
|Chalfont, L.||Harmsworth, L.||Mitchison, L.|
|Champion, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Chester, L. Bp.||Hastings, L.||Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Hawke, L.||Morrison, L.|
|Chuter-Ede, L.||Henderson, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Citrine, L.||Henley, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hertford, M.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Newcastle, L. Bp.||Rothermere, V.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Norwich, L. Bp.||Royle, L. [Teller.]||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Norwich, V.||Runcorn, L.||Swansborough, Bs.|
|Oakshott, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Ogmore, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Tangley, L.|
|Parker of Waddington, L.||St. Davids, V.||Taylor, L.|
|Pender, L.||Sandford, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Perth, E.||Savile, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Phillips, Bs.||Segal, L.||Tucker, L.|
|Plummer, Bs.||Shackleton, L.||Twining, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Shepherd, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Poole, L.||Sherfield, L.||Wade, L.|
|Queensberry, M.||Silkin, L.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]|
|Raglan, L.||Simey, L.||Walston, L.|
|Rathcreedan, L.||Sinclair, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Rea, L.||Sinha, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Reading, M.||Snow, L.||Williams, L.|
|Reay, L.||Somerleyton, L.||Willis, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Soper, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Ripon, L. Bp.||Sorensen, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Wise, L.|
|Robertson of Oakridge, L.||Spencer-Churchill, Bs.||Woolton, E.|
|Rochester, L.||Stonham, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Rockley, L.||Strang, L.||Ypres, E.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Erroll of Hale, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Falkland, V.||Mersey, V.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Ferrers, E. [Teller.]||Middleton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Ferrier, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Forester, L.||Molson, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fortescue, E.||Northchurch, Bs.|
|Atholl, D.||Fraser of Allander, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Balerno, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Furness, V.||Salisbury, M.|
|Bolton, L.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Glendevon, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Braye, L.||Goddard, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Goschen, V.||Somers, L.|
|Brocket, L.||Greenway, L.||Soulbury, V.|
|Burnham, L.||Grenfell, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Burton, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Stonehaven, V.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Hayter, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Headfort, M.||Strange, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Hereford, V.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hobson, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Horsbrugh, Bs.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Colyton, L.||Inglewood, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Coutanche, L.||Kilmarnock, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Crathorne, L.||Kilmuir, E.||Teynham, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Kindersley, L.||Tollemache, I,.|
|Denham, L.||Lambert, V.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denning, L.||Latymer, L.||Verulam, E.|
|Derwent, L. [Teller.]||Lilford, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Limerick, E.||Watkinson, V.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Long, V.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||MacAndrew, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Macclesfield, E.||Yarborough, E.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Mansfield, E.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.