CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL
STANDING COMMITTEE B
OFFICIAL REPORTTuesday, 14th February, 1961
[Mr. F. Blackburn in the Chair]New Clause.—(Corporal Punishment for Young Offenders.)The courts shall have the power to sentence offenders under the age of twenty-one to corporal punishment in addition to, or instead of, imprisonment or detention in remand homes, detention centres or Borstal institutions for all crimes of violence for whatever purpose committed.—[Sir T. Moore .] Question again proposed [9th February], That the Clause be read a Second time. 10.30 a.m. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher
I found great difficulty in deciding what to do about the Clause, and I should therefore like to explain to the Committee my reasons for deciding to support it. In our desire for the humanitarian reform of offenders we seem to have lost sight of the purpose of criminal courts and the true aims of punishment. The matter was probably best dealt with in the report of the proceedings of the Twelfth International Penal and Penitentiary Congress held at The Hague in 1950. That report said:
“The criminal courts exist to make life and property secure. To attain this object they are armed with the power to inflict punishment for wrong-doing. In practice, judges do not find it necessary to impose severe punishments in every case. One offender may need severity of punishment, but another may not need any more than a warning.”
If that statement of principle be accepted, it is clear what the true purpose of punishment should be, namely, the protection of the community.
There are, broadly, three methods of achieving that aim. There may be a case before the courts in which it is thought eminently suitable to apply reformative treatment. If that treatment succeeds the aim of protecting the community will also have succeeded, because it is better that the community should have good citizens as a result rather than bad ones. If the aim succeeds it is immaterial that the offender benefits. Reformation is one [column 552]method, and in the majority of cases it is the best and most suitable one.
But there are many cases in which it is not suitable, and in those cases we have to arrive at a method of achieving the aim of protecting the community by way of deterrents. I realise that some people think that reform will achieve everything, but I do not agree. Some cases which come before the courts concern persons who are so hardened, vicious and amoral that a much more curative element is needed in the sentence.
I do not wish to dwell upon the third method, which is prevention. It is usually used in the case of persons who are so hardened that they have to be put into prison for long periods to prevent the further commission of crime. In dealing with young offenders we are not particularly concerned with that method of achieving our purpose. This morning we are concerned more with the question of deterrents.
I do not agree that all offenders who are guilty of the most violent crimes are necessarily mental cases. Some of them are, and for them deterrents would be of no effect; but I do not agree that they all are. I do not agree that crime is a symptom of mental disease. Psychological treatment certainly has a place, but in the case of the hardened type of vicious young criminal it might be to the community's disadvantage to encourage the thought in him that the crime was not his fault but was due to something in his background and that he was therefore justified in what he did. If, instead of giving him a short, sharp lesson, we encourage in him a feeling of self-justification, we may completely blot out all feeling of guilt or shame.
It has been said that the strongest deterrent would be detection; but we have to go further than this. If, when we have detected a crime, there is no sentence available which is severe enough to make the criminal fear it, detection will not be a sufficient deterrent. The courts have abundant opportunities for awarding the remedial type of sentence. In fact, over the years the tendency has been to concentrate on this type of sentence. Borstal methods are educational and remedial, and I understand that the regime adopted in the wings of those [column 553]prisons set aside for adolescents also follows the same lines. But the courts do not have available a sufficiently severe type of punishment to deter the young offender of whom I am speaking.
It is not a case of the magistrates always being soft. There are cases where they feel that they would like to be much more severe, but no appropriately severe method is available to them. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that when the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, was passed there was a kind of bargaining equation, which stated that if we tried to reduce the number of sentences of imprisonment for young offenders and did away with flogging in regard to those crimes for which it was still permissible the answer would thereafter be provided by detention centres, which would offer this sharp deterrent treatment. I do not think that I have misunderstood the situation.
I do not believe that that Act was intended to give soft treatment to criminals. I should like to quote with great approval the two tests enunciated by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede ) on 27th November, 1947, in the Second Reading debate on that Measure. He said:
“I believe that the effectiveness of the law depends upon two things. First, it must represent a reasonably high average of the population's views with regard to what would be appropriate penalties …” .Later, he referred to the second test, when he said:
“the law-abiding citizen must feel that the law is effective in protecting him and his relatives from violence, assault, and any other infraction of his liberty as a subject, which might be imperilled if he thought the law was becoming, as we generally say, ‘too soft’.” —[Official Report, 27th November, 1947; Vol. 444, c. 2133.]
I take it, therefore, that while there was no intention to make the law soft there was an intention to provide a severe alternative to imprisonment as it was then carried out, and to flogging where it was necessary. I agree with those tests, but I do not think that either measures up to performance, in view of the present amount of criminal violence and the undisputed fact that many people undoubtedly feel unsafe both in regard to their persons and their property. [column 554]
I would add one word about detention centres. The method of a short, sharp shock—that alternative phrase so frequently used in the early days—no longer seems to be the aim of detention centres. It seems, almost imperceptibly, to have been modified. If detention centres offered a severe alternative—a deterrent of the type which a number of my hon. Friends and I believe to be warranted—there would be no demand for corporal punishment, even of a modified kind, at this juncture. It is both the lack of this kind of sentence at detention centres and the very small number of those centres which has given rise to this request.
That is certainly the position I take up. If a severe alternative deterrent sentence were readily available to the courts in those cases where it was needed, I should not be supporting the Clause, but from everything I read about detention centres—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes ) is an expert on them—the practice there has swung from the deterrent to the remedial type of treatment. That inevitably poses the question whether the modified form of corporal punishment which my hon. Friends are suggesting is a deterrent. Here again there is room for two views; it is not a simple issue. In paragraph 31 of the Barry Report the advisory council pointed out that different people can reach different conclusions from precisely the same set of facts. There is therefore an element of opinion in all these matters. The question cannot be solved and tested purely by scientific methods of analysis. We cannot prove our conclusions in any way.
The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle ) over-simplified the matter. I am sorry that he is not now in his place. In his speech at our last sitting he suggested that emotion was on the side of those putting forward the Clause. That is not true, as will be seen if one studies the Barry Report. We would not call judges of the High Court highly emotional people who are particularly activated by vengeance; nor would we regard them as persons who had not looked at the arguments on both sides. There may be a certain amount of emotion on both sides, but emotion is not what brings forth the demand for this provision. [column 555]
I noticed that the hon. Member for Salford, Charles Rayle West made some strictures about magistrates which even the strongest antagonists of this form of the administration of justice would never have dared to utter. The hon. Member said:
“I suggest that the vast majority of magistrates, which have been quoted, have expressed a view which is only in line with the majority of the people of this country, who are saying the same thing. They are expressing the same view for exactly the same reason: they never study the arguments and they never see the pros and cons of it. They are moved, as the two hon. Gentlemen are moved, completely by emotion and a desire for vengeance on account of some terrible, horrible crimes.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 9th February, 1961, c. 541.]
My only comment is that if magistrates are moved by such feelings they are not fit persons to administer justice. If, on the other hand, they are not motivated purely by such feelings their opinion is well worth considering as being the opinion of great experts and people who have vast experience in these matters. In some of the phrases it used even the Barry Report provided evidence that corporal punishment is a deterrent in some cases. As my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke ) has said, it quoted cases of two people who suffered flogging and who wrote saying that they were deterred from any further form of crime.
The question of delay has already been discussed, but I want to refer to it for a moment in relation to the subject of corporal punishment which is still permissible in prisons. Paragraph 13 of the Barry Report refers to the fact that corporal punishment is still permitted as a severe deterrent in prisons for the protection of prison warders, although they are probably far better able to protect themselves than are ordinary members of the public. That paragraph implies a considerable element of delay, but that is not sufficient to make the R. A. Butler Home Secretary remove this method of punishment. Hon. Members will see in paragraph 13 that:
“Corporal punishment can be awarded only by the Visiting Committee, and all awards have to be confirmed by the Home Secretary, who, in deciding whether to do so, takes into account such considerations as the circumstances and seriousness of the offence, the prevailing state of order and discipline in the prison, the medical and mental history of the prisoner and his record in prison, and the adequacy of available alternative penalties.”
[column 556]10.45 a.m.
My hon. Friends and I are asking no more than that in the protection of the public, no more than the Home Secretary gives as protection to the prison warders and no more delay than the Home Secretary permits in the carrying out of that sentence. This question of delay would not have been given so much prominence and a method of reducing delay could have been found were the Home Secretary to agree to the reintroduction of this type of punishment for this particular type of offender.
A further comment that I want to make about the Barry Report is that statistical evidence is practically impossible to obtain in relation to this type of offender. The kind of statistical evidence available before the war and in the immediate post-war period is not the same as that about the new young type of criminal, who uses violence not for the purpose of robbery but for the sake of violence, and who takes a pleasure in inflicting violence. The argument about this new form of crime was that it could be explained by the fact that young people were trained to use weapons in the war, but I think it is a much newer form of crime and it is certainly practised to a far greater extent than ever before.
I understand that there is another argument, that a violent method of punishment would only breed violence. I do not accept that argument. I think that if we were to reintroduce a modified form of corporal punishment, caning and, in very serious cases, birching, we should have a way of showing that that is not so. In the meantime, I can use only the argument about extreme violence of punishment as in the penalty exacted recently in a Hounslow case. I do not think that bred violence. In fact, I think that it was the other way round and that crimes of violence in the Hounslow area have decreased very considerably since that penalty was exacted. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will correct me if I am wrong. I am suggesting not that we should have violent punishment for all forms of violence but that violent punishment does not breed more violence, particularly in an area where the criminal is so widely known.
I hope I have made my reason for supporting this Clause abundantly clear [column 557]to the Committee. I would not do so if I believed that there was available to those who administer justice, magistrates or judges, a very severe form of penalty when they felt that a very severe form of penalty was warranted. I do not believe there would be a call for the reintroduction of corporal punishment if that were the case. I do not believe that if this form of punishment were reintroduced it would be very widely used. I think the reformative system would be very much more widely used, but it is not available at the moment. A deterrent remedy is not available when it is needed. Where there is a clash between those who support rehabilitative regimes and those who think the safety of the public is the prime purpose, I think the safety of the public should at all times take precedence over the other aspects of the case.
Finally, I think that this, in a way, is an unhappy alternative, but I think it is the only alternative readily available to meet the crime wave in the coming years. My reluctance to support it is increased by the fact that I do not in any way seek either publicity or promotion by way of rebellion, but I do not think that can stop one from holding sincere views in this matter when I consider that it is necessary. I shall therefore support my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore ) in this new Clause. Mr. James MacColl
I find myself in this debate torn between two motives. I have never before been called to speak in a debate on corporal punishment, and therefore I have approximately ten years of unused speeches accumulated which I should very much like to deliver for the benefit of the Committee. On the other hand, this is a subject which has been gone over very carefully and most of the arguments have been deployed again and again. In the interests of getting on with our business, I do not want merely to repeat some of the points which have already been made.
I want if I can to confine myself primarily to the field in which I can claim to speak with experience and, I think, with authority. I say that with a certain amount of embarrassment because I always think that juvenile court magistrates who say, “Look at the [column 558]sentences on my list. I have enormous experience of juvenile delinquency” are rather like the lady who claimed to be an authority on child welfare because she had buried ten of her family. It is a fair criticism to be made of us that it may be that our failure to discharge our duties has caused the present difficulties. I do not think magistrates today can feel anything but extremely humble and conscious of the fact that they have not managed to tackle and solve the difficult problems which are placed before them. Therefore, although naturally I am a rather arrogant person—I cannot say that I can altogether avoid that even when speaking on Shrove Tuesday—I shall try to speak dispassionately from my own experience.
A comment I make on the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) is that it is a false dichotomy to distinguish between the welfare of the public and the welfare of the defendant. With all sentences, unless we hang everybody, we must take a certain risk in respect of what we estimate to be the chances of success. We must take a calculated risk in all cases in which we deal with a prisoner because, unless we hang him, eventually we release him and there is always the risk of a recurrence of the offence. My bewilderment in trying to understand the case put up by the protagonists of corporal punishment arises from getting clear, because they seem to oscillate on this point, whether they regard corporal punishment as a useful, quick and, on the whole, popular form of punishment to deal with disciplinary offences, or as one of the most major punishments that can be inflicted upon somebody. I think they have got to make their minds clear about that point. I do not believe that prima facie, a form of punishment which stops Wykehamists from being late for breakfast is the kind of punishment which is going effectively to deal with entrenched criminal tendencies. It seems on the whole unlikely. Mr. R. Gresham Cooke
There is, of course, the question of the severity of the punishment. Perhaps in the first case one would be treated fairly lightly, but in the second case one would be treated rather severely. Mr. MacColl
All I can say to the hon. Member is that if I had been the [column 559]head of the school house he would not have been treated lightly.
After the last debate on this subject I mentioned to a very distinguished and prominent member of another place the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke). He said he thought corporal punishment must be a deterrent because he himself had never been flogged for being late for breakfast and he continued to be late for breakfast. Therefore, on the argument so often advanced on these matters, that corporal punishment is a deterrent, if the hon. Member is never late for breakfast and my noble Friend is, it must be because the hon. Gentleman was flogged and not because he has grown in wisdom and stature.
It is often said that the boys like this punishment and prefer to be dealt with in this way; but that is so often combined with the idea that the boys will be so horrified by such a punishment that they will not yield to the temptation to take refuge in violence. I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) runs away from the “cat” . That seems to be a sentimental humanitarianism. If we are to grapple with violence by an incentive, then we shall have to increase the severity and the brutality of the punishment until we strike terror into the hearts of depraved creatures. To try to modify it one would have the same difficulties as Her Majesty's judges will find with their hands so tied that they cannot wield the cat but can use the cane. Sir T. Moore
A statement was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary to our last sitting, that in his opinion the birch was always equally painful as the “cat” . We therefore thought it might simplify matters if we stuck to the birch. Mr. MacColl
I do not want to be flippant, but the point is a real one. If one is relying on the violence of the punishment as a deterrent and it fails as a deterrent, one must keep on increasing the severity of it. Therefore, all the arguments based on the idea that a modified, gentlemanly, humane kind of punishment is all that is needed fall to the ground.
My next comment is based on my own experience in respect of two points which have been made in the debate. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member [column 560]for Abertillery (Mr. Ll. Williams ) that in many cases—not in all, I agree, but in many—where I have had to deal with severe violence, although people are always talking about the “cat” , I have found that a boy guilty of some inexplicable piece of violence was an epileptic or suffered from some disfigurement and therefore had to assert himself in his gang by being a little more violent than the rest of the gang.
I can think of a recent case where a boy had committed a most unprovoked assault of a horrible kind on a youth leader—not in itself a terrible crime, but something which was intolerable—and he was found to be unfit for detention. He was unfit medically for the severe punishment which we have available. That is the kind of problem one so often faces. One of the difficulties is that it is an arbitrary question of whether the punishment can be inflicted or not and it depends not only on what the magistrates think but on the medical and physical condition of the person himself.
Another view held by magistrates and probation officers, certainly in London and the tougher areas where violence is common, is that it is quite a fallacy to say that boys are not thoroughly familiar with corporal punishment. The idea that the modern boy never gets beaten but goes through life terrifying his parents and no one ever catches him up, is an idea for which I have found no justifying evidence in my area. I am sure that if we go to any secondary school in London and look at the punishment book we shall find that, in fact, punishment is inflicted again and again on people who have committed violent offences.
There was a rather notorious case in which one of the greatest of our judges thundered forth that here was a boy who, if only he could be flogged, would be cured. Subsequent examination of the history of the boy showed that his father was a brutal type who had flogged him throughout his life. Only a few months go I had experience of a case of the leader of a small gang who was terrorising not only the gang, but other boys in the school who were witnesses against him. He was a thoroughly dangerous little gangster. The report on him showed that continual beatings had had no effect at all and that his parents were at their wits' end how to deal with him. [column 561]11.0 a.m.
We must not over-simplify the problem. The motives behind these violent criminal types are far more complex than those involved in getting the hon. Member for Twickenham down to breakfast in time. If human reason and scientific method have any validity at all, the evidence is overwhelmingly that corporal punishment is not a deterrent. We have had inquiries, and if it is possible to reach any kind of objective truth about these matters the great weight of evidence shows that this form of punishment is of no value at all.
It is against that background that we have to look at this proposal. One of the things mentioned in the Advisory Council's Report is the assumption that the delinquent is a rational animal. The whole difference between the bishop who says, “I was flogged at school, and now look at me—I am a bishop” and the man who goes to Dartmoor is that the bishop can learn from experience whereas the persistent criminal never learns from experience.
I am sure that if we imposed flogging for parking offences we could reduce the number of people parking in the wrong places, because they would weigh up the pros and cons. Some would risk it, saying, “It does not happen to me. I am in a bit of a hurry. I'll risk it.” Most of us would say, “I don't particularly want to be flogged; I would rather go further away.” The reason is that at the level of making a judgment one weighs up the pros and cons, balancing the disincentives of punishment against the advantages of committing the crime. One does not find that in most types of criminal.
As the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr ) so wisely said, we would simply create a scale of values in the criminal world based on the severity of the punishment received. If any boy in a gang says, “Well, I don't like the idea of beating up the old so-and-so,” the gang leader will tell him, “You are a lily-livered rat. You are funking being flogged” . That boy, a decent chap tagging on the gang, will say to himself, “I must do more than the others to show that I am not afraid.” I am sure that all hon. Members and others who have experience of children must have [column 562]found that a very potent motive. I agree absolutely with what the hon. Gentleman said.
There is only one valid and convincing argument in favour of the new Clause, and that is to say, “There is an element of doubt about this. We do not know. None of us has succeeded in solving these problems. Let us try corporal punishment to deal with some of the other offences, and if we fail, we will admit that we are beaten.” Anybody who knows the hon. Member for Ayr will know that he does not admit that for a moment. Nevertheless, I would not like to see him finishing his long and distinguished career in a white sheet saying “I have been following the wrong line all alone.”
Why should we not just accept this as an experiment against the background of our failures to deal with the problem? There are a number of reasons that make it positively dangerous to do that. First, of course, there is the question of delay. The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley was talking about flogging in prisons for adults, but this new Clause deals with young people, and I shall not get drawn into talking of what I think about flogging in prison. Speaking from my own range of experience, I cannot think that anybody who deals with the young really believes it possible, perhaps a month or six weeks after the offence has been committed, solemnly and in cold blood to administer the punishment. We all say differently, but I do not believe that one of us thinks that anyone would do that.
I quite admit that, at the end of a long list, when I get some little beast before me who has done something revolting I could flog him there and then. I would love to give vent to my emotions and take him outside. I am wild with fury and ready to threaten him with all sorts of things. After a fortnight, however, I am cool and he is chastened. The atmosphere has changed—very much as the atmosphere in this House changes—and when one goes into the case one finds all sorts of reasons against that form of punishment. I am quite certain that even if courts were permitted to order the corporal punishment suggested by this new Clause, no one would do it except immediately [column 563]after the offence had been committed. As Bernard Shaw so wisely said:
“Never hit a child except in anger.”
The second difficulty is that of selecting the people for whom corporal punishment is suitable. I have already mentioned the problem of knowing the emotional and physical make-up of the boy. It may be said, “He will have to risk that. If we make a mistake, we make a mistake—he should not cosh people.” On the other hand, we can do an immense amount of damage in this way.
Even the Franklyn Committee, which went into the question of punishment at approved schools and remand homes—and this is headmasters dealing with boys whom they know—warned of the need for greater inquiry into the make-up of the boy before administering corporal punishment. If that is true in that case, how much more difficult it is for a court to make a quick assessment.
A boy does not get off if he goes to an approved school. He runs all the risk of being caned there—and he frequently is caned, again and again, as the figures show. He really does not get off if there is not judicial corporal punishment. There are all the opportunities for him to enjoy those pleasures later on, if he wants to. It would be an impossible job to select those suitable for this punishment.
The third difficulty is, as I have said, that this punishment is a positive incentive in certain cases for certain types of boys to commit violence that they otherwise would not commit. It might not solve all the problems, but, by and large, I would risk saying that to create an absolute revulsion of violence, an abhorrence of violence, in children and everyone else would be very much more effective than to try to deal with the matter then on its own level. At the moment, with all the propaganda about the need to administer severe corporal punishment, the radio and television programmes showing crooks and the like being bashed about by the cops constitute a very great insidious incitement to violence.
Penultimately, it is hard to deal with the matter because of the difficulties arising in any form of punishment that is the subject of violent controversy. We have to take it as a fact that whatever [column 564]we say will not alter the views held. Some people believe passionately in corporal punishment; others are as passionately against it. That is as true of benches of magistrates as it is among the general public and Members of this House. The London chairmen are solidly against the introduction of corporal punishment. I do not know that that is necessarily the view of every other magistrate in London, but it is certainly the view of those who have been chosen by the Home Secretary to carry out these responsibilities.
We would probably get a situation where it would be the balance of the court that would decide whether a boy was flogged. He would know that on the second Tuesday of the month he would be flogged but that if he appeared before the bench on the third Tuesday he would not be flogged. The balance of opinion on the bench would be such that a different view would be then taken. We need to mobilise denunciation of the offence itself, but we would not get it. People would swing round in sympathy for the boy who was to be punished and not for the victim of his offence. Severe punishment focuses sympathy on the boy to be punished instead of on his victim. It would be deplorable to have a situation in which one court, or even one bench in a court, differed from another. There would be so much uncertainty and so much betting as to which side of the fence a particular court would go that the working of the courts would be reduced to a farce.
Finally, this punishment is a dangerous short cut. It is quite true that when faced with a very difficult type of offence one always seeks a short cut. It is so much easier to talk in terms of severe punishment—the short, sharp shock—and then go away at the dinner hour thinking that one has done one's duty. That is far easier than to wrestle with difficult family problems, and health matters, and how to persuade a boy conscious of a physical defect that he need not worry about it—the long-range stuff.
The danger is that the courts, and particularly the inexperienced courts, would be encouraged to say, “We can do this. If we do it, everyone will think that we are a very strong bench.” They would administer the punishment and run away from the essential problem of rehabilitating the boy. Here we are dealing with [column 565]young people, not with the old lag, the habitual criminal or those who are in Dartmoor. We are dealing with those who, if they continue to make mistakes, will go to Dartmoor. If we have a short cut that avoids the need to wrestle with the difficult problems, the danger is that we shall take it and run away from the disillusioning, disappointing, infinitely worrying and trying job of attempting to deal with these people in a constructive and proper way.
11.15 a.m. Mr. John Hobson
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore ) said the other day that the only official spokesmen who were against this form of punishment were the officers of the Association of Probation Officers who gave evidence to the Advisory Council. That statement ought not to remain unchallenged. It was not, of course, only the officers of the Association who were against the restoration of this form of punishment. Of all the probation officers, 90 per cent. are against its reinstitution. Apart from them, large numbers of members of other associations intimately acquainted in their daily life with dealing with young criminals—and old criminals—of all types, also gave evidence before the Advisory Council against the reintroduction of corporal punishment.
If one looks at Appendix A of the Report of the Advisory Council one will find the organisations set out which give oral evidence. Those which were against the reinstitution of corporal punishment were the Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons of Approved Schools, the Howard League of Penal Reform, the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency, the National Association for Mental Health, the National Association of Probation Officers and the Royal Medico-Psychological Association. That includes every single association or organisation which came to give oral evidence before the Advisory Committee except the Magistrates' Association, and we know that the Council of that Association took the same view as the other witnesses. The general body of magistrates did not, so that it is not right or accurate or fair to say that only the Council and the Probation Officers Association were against this type of punishment. [column 566]
The views which I hold have been admirably expressed by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), and, of course, they are set out in full and at length in the Barry Report. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) are apt to judge this matter, first, on the basis of their experience in a closed community, such as a school and, secondly, on the basis of their own rational and reasonable approach to such problems. They may not be vicious but they no doubt learned by experience, which is not true of all members of the community.
We had very much evidence before the Barry Committee from persons in charge of institutions, such as borstal institutions, approved schools and naval establishments; and I think there can be no doubt that anywhere where one finds a collection of human beings living together in close proximity corporal punishment is a useful deterrent, because its infliction impinges immediately upon the mind of everybody in that community. That is very different from the circumstances normally, when the vast majority of the community are not in touch with the event of corporal punishment and do not have it forcibly brought to their mind, except occasionally.
Secondly, we had what I regard as very strong evidence indeed that the more reasonable a person is, the more effective corporal punishment will be for him, and the less, of course, it is needed. That is the great problem. Since 1947 corporal punishment has been abolished for robbery with violence but the deterrents which already exist in the form of imprisonment are quite sufficient for the vast majority of the people of this country, and, as the hon. Member for Widnes said, those people who do commit such crimes not only are usually mentally abnormal but very frequently, indeed, they come from utterly disturbed backgrounds and the whole problem is how to restore them to reasonableness. They are people for whom the imposition of corporal punishment would be an utter disaster.
I do not pretend for a moment that there are not a few odd cases in which it would be useful in the particular circumstances of the individuals for the court to impose corporal punishment. It might be a very [column 567]efficient and effective way of dealing with them, but the almost impossible difficulty of sorting out which are those persons and of being quite sure, not only that they are the people who get it but that the other people do not get it, is, I think, beyond the power of the court because it requires a very long and careful examination of the whole history and background of the individual and a very careful psychological approach to whether the person will not get more harm from having a flogging than good.
There are, of course, all the other difficulties. In the first place, there is the difficulty of delay. We certainly had evidence before the Barry Committee of a prison officer who had seen a man awaiting a sentence of corporal punishment for an offence against prison discipline, and he said that people really do “sweat blood” , as he put it. From my own small experience, I waited forty-eight hours in the expectation of a beating which I eventually got; it was a very unpleasant forty-eight hours and not a very unpleasant beating. The witness who had seen the man waiting for corporal punishment in prison said that he regarded the maximum delay as one week. I would agree that that is the maximum that anybody ought to lie under such a sentence, but we all know that the processes of the courts and the right of appeal which must be allowed to elapse mean a delay of at least five weeks and probably very much more. The hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) says that it might be possible to speed up the process. True enough, if one went through the most tremendous activities of establishing special courts and appeal courts and assize courts and courts of quarter session all over the country it could be done, but with very little purpose indeed because there would be very few cases in the end which would, in fact, receive corporal punishment. Mr. Gresham Cooke
Before the war when corporal punishment was inflicted by assize courts and quarter sessions, when I myself practised to a certain extent in those courts, I heard of lads being flogged but I do not remember very much being said about the delay in the carrying out of the sentence. Mr. Hobson
No, certainly not, but we get to the Hereford position where [column 568]a gentleman was birched without being given the opportunity to appeal, and we cannot allow that sort of thing to happen again.
There is the problem of the difficulty of selection for the courts, and also the variation between courts. One might get a court of quarter sessions sitting in two parts, one of the chairmen being a gentleman who, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, is “anxious to give a severe punishment” and the other chairman would never inflict a punishment of flogging under any circumstances at all. Hence for exactly the same offence and circumstances the sentence of corporal punishment will be ordered in one court and not in the adjacent court. We all know that magistrates' courts are as bound to vary in their views of the correct circumstances in which corporal punishment could be administered as the whole of the country is divided upon this question.
All these difficulties, however, I would certainly overlook and put in the background if I were convinced that there was any satisfactory basis for thinking that the net result of giving this power to the courts would be to protect the public further and to reduce the extent of this type of crime. That really is the nub of the problem. The difficulties and all the other arguments weigh heavily against the reintroduction of judicial corporal punishment, but if it could be shown that there was even a probability that the reintroduction of this type of punishment would protect the public I, for one, would certainly support by hon. Friend.
What is the evidence? I would have thought there was not a scrap of evidence to indicate that, and, indeed, that the evidence points in the opposite direction. The Cadogan Committee investigated the efforts of Mr. Justice Day to stamp out robbery with violence in the latter end of the nineteenth century in Liverpool. He constantly went to Liverpool Assizes and ordered floggings—with the cat in those days—on every occasion when anybody was convicted of robbery with violence. The rate for that type of crime in Liverpool went steadily up. Mr. Justice Day ceased to go to Liverpool Assizes, the number of floggings ordered by the assize courts was substantially reduced [column 569]and the incidence of robbery with violence went down at the same time.
Judicial corporal punishment for robbery with violence was abolished in 1948, and the figures throughout England and Wales where it had previously been in existence went down steadily for the next ten years, and the really significant fact about that is that they went down against a background when all other crimes were steadily rising. It is a very astonishing fact that if, as is said by my hon. Friend, the power to impose this form of penalty is a deterrent to others who are contemplating such a crime, for ten or eleven years after its abolition the figures went down while those for all other types of crime went up.
Finally, one thing which has not been referred to and which I regard as significant is that one would have thought that if it really was a deterrent it would have deterred most of all those who had received it—those who have been guilty of the floggable offences. If we look at the figures we find 3,023 cases of persons who were convicted of robbery with violence between 1921 and 1948. All of those 3,023 persons were liable to be flogged and some of them were, and if we look at the tables we find that of all those who were reconvicted of some form of violence—not merely robbery with violence but any form of serious violence—the figures for those who were not flogged are slightly lower, or better, than those who were flogged. It is very remarkable indeed that this extraordinarily effective deterrent did not produce the result that those who were flogged had a better record of reconviction than those who were not flogged.
My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley said, “But look at the two gentlemen who wrote in and said that they had been flogged and that they would never commit robbery with violence again” . If we look at the reconviction rate for robbery with violence of all those 3,023 people who were convicted of robbery with violence between 1921 and 1948 what do we find? We find that the reconviction rate for those not flogged is somewhat lower and somewhat better than the reconviction rate of those who were flogged. It does not seem to indicate that flogging was a par[column 570]ticular deterrent for the people who actually suffered that punishment.
Of course, it can be said, as was pointed out by the Barry Committee, that this may only be an indication of the way in which judges inflicted the penalties, and that those who were the worst were the people who received the flogging and those who were not so bad did not. We cannot say that is so. There is no reason or foundation for making that assumption, and, therefore, we are left in the position that, taking just over 3,000 cases, one does not find that flogging has produced a particular deterrent, either from recommitting the offence of robbery with violence or from committing any other further offence of violence of any sort.
It is for that reason, and in the absolute absence of any evidence at all that this really is a deterrent, that I shall oppose this Clause. Mr. Charles A. Howell
It seems a long time since we had a look at this particular new Clause, and I think it might be advisable if I read out the Clause that we are discussing:
“The courts shall have the power to sentence offenders under the age of twenty-one to corporal punishment in addition to, or instead of, imprisonment or detention in remand homes, detention centres or borstal institutions for all crimes of violence for whatever purposes committed.”
I think this is a thoroughly bad Clause. It is ill-conceived and it is very badly worded. The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore ) laughs, but it is badly worded. I think that on this occasion he received extremely good support from the Under-Secretary, because in kindness to his hon. Friend he said that it contained three surprises. He would not say that they were legal errors, but they were surprises.
I have looked at the new Clause and I cannot see anything in favour of it. It is badly composed and extremely badly drafted: the only thing I can say in its favour is that the spelling is correct and, as far as I know, the grammar or the legal composition is quite up to standard; but other than that there is nothing in its favour. 11.30 a.m.
Let us have a look at the position. The second speaker after the Clause was moved was the Under-Secretary. I am [column 571]not trying to get round on his good side by saying that he made some very cogent points and gave some good advice. None of the speakers who followed in support of the Clause has attempted to justify his criticism, which is a great thing. He said that there were three points, but I think there were four. I am sure he will not mind my quoting his three. First of all, he said that corporal punishment was not defined, and not one of the subsequent speakers has attempted to define it. He said that it includes all forms of violence in this Clause, but no one has attempted to define the forms of violence. If we look at the Barry Report, some of the forms of violence are rather surprising. for example the abandonment of children under two years old, procuring abortion, concealing a birth and endangering life at sea. No doubt many other things come into that category.
The statistics which the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady have quoted—if I may say so, rather surprisingly—are rather remarkably composed, because paragraph 44 of the Barry Report says:
“On the other hand, robbery (including robbery with violence, for which corporal punishment could formerly be ordered) is not at present classified in the statistics as a crime of violence against the person.”
That is rather remarkable.
The third point that the Under-Secretary indicated was that the Clause will cover women and girls. Again, nobody has attemped to answer that. Mr. Gresham Cooke
May I correct the hon. Member? I started my speech on the last occasion by saying:
“I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) on this new Clause and to confirm that what we are seeking is to introduce the birch and caning of boys up to the age of 21, and not flogging, cat-o'-nine-tails, or anything like that.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 9th February, 1961; c. 529.]
I established what we had in mind. Sir T. Moore
Besides, no court would ever award it. Mr. Howell
I apologise for missing that part. I had not read the Official Report and relied on my notes. As you know, Mr. Blackburn, I tried to speak at the last occasion. I will accept that.
On my next point my experience—other than legal experience, of which I [column 572]have had none—assists. It is this Clause as it is worded that will go into the Bill, if it is passed, and not the way the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) would like to see it. I was intrigued to find only two members of this Committee were signatories to the Bill. Mrs. Thatcher
Ours is not the only Clause which has drafting weaknesses. The Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller Attorney-General will have extreme difficulty with another Amendment that has been accepted. Having had experience with another Bill, I would say that there is no point in those who try to obtain new things attempting to get perfect drafting. Mr. Howell
I concede that point to the hon. Lady, but I would remind her that the Clause has not arisen only during the last week. There has been ample time and opportunity for those concerned to see the implications of what they were tabling.
The fourth point that I raise is that at no time has any supporter of the Clause indicated who is to administer it. I do not consider that I am exceptional but I have a code of conduct or creed which I have adopted throughout my life, and I am certain that others have adopted it. I will not ask anyone to do anything I will not do myself. I said not “cannot” but “will not” . The hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson ), although he did not use my words, indicated that one can have differences between magistrates' benches as to what punishments they will inflict. It may well be that many magistrates share my creed and will not ask people to do things that they will not do themselves. It may be that they would have very great difficulty in asking someone to flog a person when they do not believe in flogging and would not do it themselves.
We are told that a drowning man clutches at a straw. I would remind hon. Members who have spoken in favour of this Clause so far of the feeble straws at which they have been clutching in their arguments. Most of the arguments used had already been raised before Advisory Council. The Barry Committee points out that these things have cropped up and also that they have no substance. [column 573]
Concerning the profound increase in the number of offences of violence, I quote from paragraph 42 of the Barry Report:
“… especially in those committed by hooligans with no motive (such as robbery) other than the infliction of pain and suffering on their victims.”
In paragraph 44 the Barry Report goes on to say:
“The expression ‘crimes of violence’ is apt to be misleading, particularly where statistics are quoted.”
Let us have a look at the statistics quoted by the hon. Members for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and Twickenham. They both indicated that two people have written in and have said that they have not again transgressed after flogging, and that one had written to the effect that he had. That is out of the thousands that the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamingon quoted. The hon. Member for Twickenham used a remarkable expression in support of that argument of two people for and one against. He said that although that is only a small sample it shows that there are two-thirds in favour of flogging. Hon. Members really are clutching at straws to use an argument of that kind in support of their argument.
The hon. Member for Finchley commenced by saying that she had difficulty in deciding, and I respect her for that. I hope she will not feel I am discourteous when I say that when she reads her speech she will probably find she has made the most contradictory speech of her life, because, having found difficulty in deciding, she concluded her remarks by saying that if there was any other severe sentence that could have been brought forward she would not have supported flogging. That is no excuse for supporting something which she feels is wrong. I agree with the Under-Secretary when he said that the courts already have sufficient power to give strong and severe sentences for such crimes as these Mrs. Thatcher
I disagree Mr. Howell
It is nice to hear the legal profession disagreeing for a while. Mrs. Thatcher
That is nothing unusual. [column 574]Mr. Howell
We are trying to find a punishment which is sufficiently severe without going back to the days when violence seemed to be the only punishment at the disposal of the courts. Somebody has said that we are putting the clock back 100 years. Quite frankly, if the Clause goes to its logical conclusion we shall be back to the time when not only did we hang people but they were drawn and quartered. [Hon. Members: “No.” ] Hon. Members say “No” . But that is exactly where we are getting. I hope the hon. Member for Ayr will try to appreciate my point. If there is to be a deterrent, until it is proved satisfactory the deterrent has to be increased and increased until crime is wiped out. That is the only logical conclusion. If a fine of £2 does not stop it the magistrates will say, “Increase it to £5” , and if £5 does not stop crime it should go to £10, and if flogging does not stop it, where are we to go?
There is no evidence that punishment has ever deterred anyone from doing something which he is determined to do. I admired the speech made by the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr ). In some quarters he could have been misunderstood, and certainly misinterpreted, when he said that these boys who commit violence have in their streak of violence, a streak of courage. That is very true. I have in mind the first Commandos who were recruited from the Gorbals in Glasgow, where they have razor gangs. One joke which amused people in this country was the story of a Gorbals boy who went on a Commando raid and slashed at a German with a razor. When the German laughed and said, “Missed me,” the Gorbals boy replied, “Wait until you nod your head.” That type of boy obviously did not fear retaliation. The hon. Member for Barons Court was quoting the case of boys who went out with knuckledusters and so on. I do not think that they are afraid of punishment or of being hurt, nor is the boy who goes in for boxing, for he cannot go in for boxing if he is afraid of getting hurt. Commander Anthony Courtney
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, but one of the things which pursue boxers all their lives is the fear of getting hurt. It makes them feel extremely sick every time they go into the ring. [column 575]Mr. Howell
I entirely disagree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because I went into the ring on more than one occasion knowing perfectly well that I was going to be defeated. The Chairman
Order. Let us not get into an argument about boxing. Mr. Howell
With respect to you, Mr. Blackburn, this is important to the point. I am following the argument of the hon. Member for Barons Court that these boys have a wrong idea of courage—it is admittedly a wrong idea—when they go into these things knowing quite well that there is a possibility that they will be cut and hurt. It is nothing new. Although it was not in my ambit, I understand that years ago in Heidelburg University the students came away with scars across their faces of which they were very proud. What difference is there between those students who came away with evidence of their deeds and the point raised by the hon. Member for Barons Court? [Interruption.]
If the hon. Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn ) wants to speak I do not mind giving way but I cannot hear what he is saying. He is just mumbling. I want to give my speech in my own way. Sir Kenneth Pickthorn
I am afraid the hon. Member will. Mr. Howell
The hon. Member may speak if he has something intelligent that he wants to say. Do you want to intervene? The Chairman
Order. Mr. Howell
Flogging will not deter a boy who has gone out in gang warfare knowing that in the course of that gang warfare he may be injured. As the hon. Member for Barons Court said, it will be a medal if he can show what he will call an honourable scar obtained in gang warfare. I do not think flogging is a deterrent at all.
The hon. Member for Finchley used the expression, “We want a short, sharp shock” . I have had no experience of this short sharp shock, but I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson ) saying that it did not seem to make any difference at all whether we had a long sentence or a short, sharp shock. I feel convinced that these hooligans would feel that they [column 576]had been punished more severely if they were inside a prison and deprived of their freedom. If they were given the choice of a birching or a caning and then immediately released to go back to boast among their friends and to carry on their activities, they would choose that rather than be incarcerated. 11.45 a.m.
The proposed new Clause refers to borstal institutions, detention centres and remand homes. I disagree that people who indulge in violence are normal. I do not know what the legal expression is, but it may possibly be said that they are sadistic. I imagine that there must be a sadistic streak in the make-up of anyone who indulges in violence. Mrs. Thatcher
Are boxers normal? Mr. Howell
According to a former right hon. Friend of mine who is now in another place and who has been concerned with that point for some time, they are not. Do not let the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley make any mistake about it; any boxer who does not go into the ring, particularly the professional ring, with the desire to knock the other fellow out of the ring is soon disqualified by the referee for not trying. Sadistic animals—that is all they are—are not normal and they should not be treated as normal.
I am convinced that one way to prevent violence is for magistrates to have the power to remand people who are responsible for it to a mental home for an examination. The birch is regarded as something of which these sadistic people can be proud. One thing of which they are scared and ashamed is to be referred to as “nut cases” . If there were any question of their being “nut cases” it would be a greater deterrent if they were sent to a mental home for perhaps a week or a fortnight.
If this proposal is accepted, there will be revulsion on the part of people compelled to inflict the punishment. It has been said that probation officers agree with this proposal, but I do not think that anyone has the right to decide that someone else should take part in a sadistic ritual, because that is all it would be. It would be degrading for the people who have to witness it and even more degrading for those who have to carry it out. [column 577]
Take, for example, a police officer. He is under orders from his superior officers. It may be that the chief constable would select a certain individual to carry out this punishment. Would that person have the right to refuse to carry it out under the police code? I do not think he would. It is shocking to think that a man may be ordered to take part in a sadistic ritual of this kind if his whole being rebels against it.
If this responsibility is placed on probation officers, I can well imagine that before long we shall be even shorter of probation officers than we are at present. It may be that, after it is all over, the lad in question has to stay on probation and to work with the probation officer. The probation officer would start off on the wrong foot. On the other hand, why should this responsibility be given to prison warders?
I cannot for the life of me see why those advocating flogging should not be straightforward and tell us who they think should inflict it. Then we might get more letters on the subject. One hon. Member said that he has had one or two letters in favour of it; but both the Cadogan Committee and the Barry Committee were opposed to it. As far as I can see, every organisation except one is opposed to it. The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley said that she had difficulty in deciding on the matter. I can tell her that a decision now will cause some pleasure in at least one women's organisation, the only one in complete unanimity in its desire for flogging. I refer to the women's organisation of the Tory Party which has been demanding flogging for a long time.
I have had no requests from any organisation in Britain to support this proposal, but I have had appeals from different branches of the Police Federation saying that if Parliament, in its wisdom, brings back birching or flogging they do not wish to carry it out. The views of one letter were very succinct. It was said that much of this repeated crime was due to the weakness of the magistrates in carrying out their powers. This police officer, a sergeant—he was not a member of the Birmingham force, but he claimed to have some knowledge of me—said, “We have a motto in our [column 578]force—‘We catch 'em, they kiss 'em’” , meaning that the magistrates give the offenders another chance and say, “We do not think you are altogether bad. This is your first offence.” They are not strict with them at all.
I have a copy of a letter which was sent to the Home Secretary. I mentioned it to the Joint Under-Secretary of State only the other day. I had been approached by at least one newspaper for information which I refused to give. This was one of the occasions when my first instinct was right. I said, “I cannot give you any information, because there is still correspondence on the matter.” It was a good job that I did not give any information, because if I had raised the matter at our last meeting I would have committed an awful faux pas. I was not, and still am not, aware that an outside force works inside my constituency. It might well be that the letter could have conveyed the impression that the Birmingham—— The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman will realise that I am having great difficulty in understanding what he is saying and whether it can possibly be linked with the proposed new Clause. Mr. Howell
I assure you, Mr. Blackburn, that it is connected with it. The complaint made to the Home Secretary was that some hooligans set upon some persons, apparently in my constituency, and the police refused to prosecute the hooligans, although they admitted that they had attacked these people without provocation. The Chairman
I am afraid that even that does not bring the matter within the compass of the proposed new Clause. Mr. Howell
I do not disagree with your Ruling, Mr. Blackburn—I would not be so discourteous—but we are considering a proposal advocating corporal punishment for crimes of violence, and I am trying to show that there is some doubt in the mind of at least one of my constituents whether the police even prosecute when crimes of violence are committed. It is possible that the incident occurred in Birmingham, but I wanted to make it perfectly clear that it did not involve the Birmingham city police. The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller )
It came as a short, [column 579]sharp shock to me to find that there were a few things at the beginning of the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Howell) with which I agreed. I then realised that it was his version of the excellent speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State in opposing the proposed new Clause. I am afraid that my agreement with the hon. Member's speech extends only to the first part of it.
I wish to make an appeal to the Committee. I have read everything that was said at our last sitting. Unfortunately, I could not be present. We started the discussion at ten minutes to eleven at our last sitting. It is now nearly 12 o'clock. This morning we have had only four speeches. I think that I am right in saying that not one of them has been less than twenty minutes in length. We have had a full discussion concerning corporal punishment in all its aspects. Different views have been put forward by different hon. Members, and this division of view cuts across parties.
My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) expressed her personal view, but I think that she would be the first to agree that she was not speaking for other Conservative lady Members who hold equally strong opposing views. I do not wish to enter into any controversy. I appeal to hon. Members to reach a conclusion fairly soon. We have had a very long debate. We seem to be covering ground which has already been covered. It is unnecessary for me to add anything to the excellent speech of my hon. and learned Friend at our last sitting. I said something on this subject during the Second Reading, and I do not intend to add to it.
The issue which the Committee has to decide is not the general proposition with regard to corporal punishment, but whether the proposed new Clause should be inserted in the Bill. It is no answer to say, “We will suggest something and the draftsman can do what he likes about it” , unless it is made clear what it is intended to effect. The criticism of my hon. and learned Friend is that this proposal is so vague and general that on those grounds alone it should not be inserted in the Bill. It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore ) to make [column 580]observations about what it is intended to mean. As far as I can see, there is only one limit in the new Clause. It does not enable me to impose corporal punishment on my hon. Friend for the objectionable things he said during our last sitting, in my absence, about my change of opinion on this matter. I hope that he will agree that his proposal does not enable me to inflict corporal punishment upon him. Sir T. Moore
My right hon. and learned Friend, like other hon. Members, complains of the wording of my proposed new Clause. I can only say that, like him concerning many other jobs he has to do, I was assisted by the officers of the House in drafting it. The Attorney-General
That may be a reflection on the officers of the House, but I do not think it is. I think that it means that my hon. Friend has not formulated his ideas with very great precision. But I do not wish to pursue that matter.
If any more of my hon. Friends propose to speak on the matter—they might now not find it necessary to do so—I ask them to be short. I make the same appeal to hon. Members opposite. We have a great deal more business to do and there is a certain time limit on our deliberations. My hon. and learned Friend has made it quite clear why the Government do not feel that they can support this proposal, and I suggest that we might shortly decide upon it. Miss Alice Bacon
I take it that the purpose of that intervention by the Attorney-General was to appeal to hon. Members on both sides to come to a decision. I assume that it was not his speech in winding up the debate. The Attorney-General
Oh, no. Miss Bacon
I fully appreciate that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government want to get on quickly with the Bill. However, I think that he will agree that we have dealt with quite a number of Clauses very quickly. It was expected that many hon. Members on both sides would wish to express themselves on this subject. I think that if their speeches were reasonably short it might be possible to come to a conclusion on the matter this morning. There are other hon. Members [column 581]who wish to speak, including two of my hon. Friends who have not yet spoken throughout the whole of the Committee stage. I wish to say a few words myself before the end of the debate. I take it that we shall continue to debate and that perhaps some heed might be had to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, although, as I say, it was to be anticipated that hon. Members would wish to express their views on this very important subject which has led to a great deal of Press controversy.
12 noon. Commander Courtney
I endorse what the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) has said. I consider this to be one of the most important Amendments, and, in view of the great weight of opinion expressed both for and against it, it is essential that at least everyone supporting it, such as myself, should have an opportunity of expressing himself.
The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) produced a rather remarkable and dogmatic assertion. If I remember correctly, he said that the overwhelming evidence was to the effect that corporal punishment was not a deterrent. In the general sense of his remarks he was supported by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. John Hobson ). I was particularly surprised at that, bearing in mind the fact that the relevant sentence in the Barry Report reads:
“We would not ourselves regard the available statistics as a basis for any firm conclusions about the deterrent effect of judicial corporal punishment.”
This is supported by the Cadogan Report, which goes slightly further. In paragraph 59 it says:
“We do not, of course, deny that it” ——
that is, corporal punishment—
“has some deterrent effect.”
I consider that the arguments of the opponents of the Clause are slightly inconsistent, and that they rather overplay their hand.
It was further asserted by my hon. and learned Friend that the example of Mr. Justice Day in Liverpool in the 1880's showed clearly that an increase in corporal punishment could not meet any sudden crime wave. I agree with the further statement in the Cadogan Report [column 582]that the garrotting in London in 1860 and—there is a personal touch about this—the assaults on drunken sailors in Cardiff in 1908 were also not sensibly reduced by severe extra sentences of corporal punishment. But I suggest that those were all local outbreaks of violence, and that the argument that corporal punishment is not an effective deterrent does not apply in respect of the national crime wave which now affects one age group throughout the community—that age group with which the Amendment deals.
My hon. and learned Friend referred to the civilised adult democracy, with the implication that that is what exists in our country. I do not believe that this Committee pays sufficient attention to the thinness with which that veneer of civilisation is spread, bearing in mind the details of some of the crimes of violence which occur daily in horrifying numbers, as we read from the newspapers. If violence is defined properly—and I admit that there are weaknesses in the drafting of the Clause, although I do not agree that that fact necessarily invalidates it—it can be said to be related to the class of offence for which the supporters of the Clause believe that the existing measures of deterrent have proved demonstrably inadequate.
How does the actual experience of corporal punishment in use in this country at present bear out the fact that it is a deterrent? It is generally agreed throughout the country—and almost throughout this Committee—that the ordinary, reasonable and sensible use of corporal punishment within the common law, by parents and teachers, is justifiable not only from its reformative aspect but as a deterrent both to the person committing the offence and to those who may be tempted to commit that same offence. Reference is frequently made to the speed of punishment after the commission of the offence and the continuing relationship between the individual who administers that punishment and the person upon whom it is inflicted. Both factors are relevant in this type of corporal punishment.
The second class of corporal punishment now sanctioned by the law is that which was mentioned by my hon. Friend, namely, birching in prison for offences of mutiny or attempted mutiny or violence to prison officers. The Cadogan [column 583]Report comes down flatly in favour of this type of punishment as a deterrent. Admittedly it is mitigated by the special circumstances, in that there is no possibility of escaping detection, but, having studied the various reports, I insist that this is the only case where the victims of the violence have themselves been consulted and where a body such as the Cadogan Committee has accepted unreservedly the opinion of those victims that corporal punishment should be retained for this type of offence.
I therefore believe that the factor of delay has been accepted by my hon. and learned Friend. It has been stated that seven days is the maximum period between the commission of an offence and the carrying out of a sentence of corporal punishment in those circumstances. Again, the Cadogan Report accepts that a period of no more than seven to ten days between the commission of the offence and the administration of this corporal punishment should be the maximum. I therefore suggest that the delay factor is implicitly accepted by my hon. and learned Friend.
For crimes of violence courts are at present imposing sentences of imprisonment or borstal detention to only half the extent that they were twenty years ago. We must remember that the Cadogan Report is now twenty-three years old. Admittedly, detention centres designed to administer the short, sharp shock which has been so frequently referred to this morning have not come into being to any great extent. The short, sharp shock has not become shorter, and certainly it has become less sharp during the period in which these detention centres have been established. I base that view on a visit I made to one not far from London. The weight of opinion of Her Majesty's judges, the members of the Magistrates' Association—except for the Council—and the great body of the British public, is that the reimposition of a measure of corporal punishment will act as an additional deterrent against the commission of certain crimes of violence. That is the object of the Clause.
I end by quoting from paragraph 59 of the Cadogan Report, which I believe to be the nub of the matter. I have paraphrased it slightly in order to bring it up to date from the twenty-three years ago when it was written. It says: [column 584]
“The final test is, not whether corporal punishment has any deterrent effect, but whether there are offences … for which long sentences of imprisonment, borstal, or short sentences of detention are so ineffective as deterrents that it is necessary, for the protection of society, to provide whatever additional element of deterrence may be afforded by the further penalty of corporal punishment.”Mr. Howell
The hon. and gallant Member has admitted that the Report is twenty-three years old, but it would be interesting to know whether he agrees with the Barry Committee, which said in paragraph 51 of its Report:
“We therefore agree with the Cadogan Committee that judicial corporal punishment has no special or unique influence as a deterrent, and we think that for that reason it is unlikely to affect the incidence of crime.”Commander Courtney
I entirely agree with the hon. Member, but he has just made the point for me. The Barry Committee bases its findings almost entirely on the Cadogan Report. I have gone back to the original source—— Mr. Howell
But the hon. and gallant Member has drawn a different conclusion. Commander Courtney
—in order to draw my own conclusion, which is a matter of opinion. If this nub of the matter, the question of deterrence is a valid one, the figures, the state of the country at present and the experience we all have of these things as members of the general public and not from the point of view of the expertise which is so wide-spread throughout the Committee, show that existing methods are inadequate and that extra means of deterrence are necessary as the duty of back benchers of this House is to protect society. I therefore welcome this Clause, despite its inadequacies of drafting as my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has shown, and I support it. Mr. William Whitlock
I rise with some trepidation to speak in this debate in the presence of so many experts on the subject we are discussing. My hesitation is all the stronger when I recall that in the course of our proceedings only two hon. Members have protested their lack of knowledge of the subjects we have been discussing. On was my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Howell), who out-lined his difficulties about the perplexities of legal terminology, and the other was the hon. and gallant Member for [column 585]Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) who, on 7th February, referred to what he called the
“failure of many of our existing penal institutions to check the most serious crime wave in the history of this country.”
He went on to say:
“My hon. and learned Friend has in his possession certain remarks which I have made based on thirty years' experience of administering summary discipline in a Service, which may or may not be related to the Bill.” — [Official Report, Standing Committee B, 7th February, 1961; c. 481–2.]
My Service experience is much shorter than that of the hon. and gallant Member. I served six-and-a-half years in the Army. I was called up under the Militia Act of July, 1939, and at the outbreak of war I was sent to a unit mobilising for France at Bulford Fields. There, finding myself short of money, I asked for some pay and was told I could receive none because my pay sheets had not been sent through from the militia unit. But my crime sheet had been sent along. I must hasten to point out that my crime sheet was, and still is, if it exists in some dusty Army file, completely unblemished by any entry. That may be entirely due to my:
“better art o' hiding”
in the words of Burns. I then learned for the first time that every soldier is regarded as a potential criminal in that immediately on enlistment a crime sheet is made out on his behalf. Perhaps this practice of making out a crime sheet in this way represents an admission that the stupidities perpetrated in the name of discipline are bound in the end to lead to some kicking over the traces and that therefore it might be just as well if the necessary recording “bumf” is ready for the inevitable crime. Commander Courtney
In the Navy we call it a conduct sheet and it is a record of the conduct of the rating concerned. 12.15 p.m. Mr. Whitlock
As I said, I can speak only from my experience in another Service. That brings me to what I felt was a very peculiar passage in the remarks of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) on 9th February. He said:
“The British people are very tough. They have been tough for 900 years, and I am afraid [column 586]that they need some discipline. A police superintendent in my constituency told me the other day of a case in which two lads walking down the street were heard to say of an old woman approaching them, ‘Oh, here comes an old cow—let's knock her down and steal her handbag’. They then proceeded to do just that.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, February, 1961; c. 533–4.]
I do not suppose for a moment that the hon. Member meant to imply that the British people, tough though they are and lacking in discipline though they may be as he suggested, are all liable to knock down old ladies, but perhaps he feels that a crime sheet should be prepared for all of us simultaneously with our birth certificates.
The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) asked this question at our last sitting:
“Is corporal punishment a deterrent?”
He concluded “No one knows” . He went on to advance evidence allegedly proving what he concedes he does not know and paraded before us what I found an astounding collection of witnesses which, as he said, were representative of all the people who have communicated with him on this matter. His first set of witnesses were borstal boys at one institution who were said to favour the reintroduction of corporal punishment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle ) pointed out, to argue that borstal boys favour the reintroduction of corporal punishment seems completely to rule out the credibility of corporal punishment as a deterrent. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Ayr was advancing as a general principle that we should be willing to accept the advice of delinquents on how they should be punished?
The hon. Member went on to quote
“one of the best known male prostitutes in London”
as saying that
“the vast majority of homosexuals in Britain were bred in borstals and approved schools.”
I should have thought that as a statement of fact that was not worth considering, but even if it were true, it would be a grave reflection on our borstal system, yet I suggest it does not in any way prove that corporal punishment is a deterrent.
The hon. Member then told us of the views of the headmaster of a school for [column 587]maladjusted children, who said from experience
“that it would be far more effective to have corporal punishment than to make use of borstals, approved schools, and remand homes.”
All this to me seems to suggest that this master is peculiarly unfitted to have the destinies of maladjusted children in his hands.
Next, the hon. Member quoted from a man who had the “cat” more than twenty years ago and has since had a clean record. The hon. Member said
“That is factual evidence.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 9th Feb., 1961; c. 513–4.]
Factual evidence of what? It is factual evidence only that one man who had received the “cat” has kept straight since that time. Surely that does not in any way dispose of the evidence that of those who committed crimes of violence more of those who were flogged returned to crime than did those who were not flogged. We heard next of a letter from a clergyman of the Church of England who would willingly have flogged the thugs who slashed and beat up his wife, as I feel sure we all would in those circumstances. When personally affected in such a way, few of us would accept the philosophy of turning the other cheek. For such a horrible deed we would all, naturally, crave revenge. But does that prove that corporal punishment is a deterrent? I think not.
We were told that a schoolboy of 17 wants to see birching reintroduced. Is that really worthy of the name of evidence that can be weighed against the expert investigations of the Barry Committee? I cannot accept that at all. It therefore seems to me that the hon. Member for Ayr and those who support him have not even begun to make out the case for the reintroduction of corporal punishment.
As the Under-Secretary of State pointed out at our last sitting, some members of the Advisory Council set out on their inquiries with the thought that in certain circumstances the reintroduction of this form of punishment might be justified, but unanimously decided that there was no evidence that people were deterred from committing crimes for which flogging was the penalty. As [column 588]someone completely inexpert in the subject, and with no experience at all, I feel that the Barry Committee has demonstrated completely that judicial corporal punishment militates against reform, and that we must undertake more research into the whole subject of crime and the treatment of offenders.
We all want to end crimes of violence, but we want to punish the criminal in such a way as to make it likely that he will not commit the offence again. It seems to me to be a disservice to justice to suggest, as some have, that to be against corporal punishment is to care only for the criminal and not for the victim. To degrade and to brutalise is not to reform. From all I have heard and read, I completely accept the findings of the Barry Committee, and I oppose this new Clause. Mr. A. E. Hunter
I, too, oppose the new Clause. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock) I do not pose as an expert on the matter, but I support the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle ) and the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Compton Carr ). We all deplore crimes of violence. Indeed, we all deplore crime of any kind, and we are all anxious to prevent it and to punish it. But we have had no evidence at all that corporal punishment will prevent crime, with or without violence.
I would tell the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) that loss of freedom and liberty is the greatest punishment. I remind him, too, of a very old saying—a prison is a prison even if the bars are made of gold. I do not think that caning, birching, or the cat-o'-nine-tails inflicts more severe punishment than does loss of freedom. For that reason I believe that the method proposed in the new Clause is not a deterrent against crime.
I believe that it was the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) who at our last sitting said that the cane should be used on boys up to 17 years of age and that after that they should be birched. No hon. Member—not even the hon. Member for Ayr—has described what sort of instrument the birch is. It appears to be a kind of minor cat-o'-nine-tails. The great danger in starting [column 589]to use birches, canes, whips or cat-o'-nine-tails on these offenders is that we may harden them, embitter them, and make them criminals for life. The slow but sure way of reform is to win their confidence during their imprisonment in the correct and good paths of life.
Who is to do the birching? I am sure that the officers in a borstal institution would not like to carry out that very unpleasant task. In my constituency, there is a borstal, with a very excellent governor. These institutions have some successes, and the best way to help these young people is to get them to look up to the governor, the masters, the officers and the padre. That is a better way than that suggested in the new Clause. I have seen some of these youths at P.T. and so on, and they have given some excellent physical training displays on Feltham Green. They have given gym displays and attended concerts, mixing with the general public. I have also seen exhibits of the agricultural produce grown on their farms. That is a better and much surer way of winning these youths back to good citizenship than using the rod and the whip.
Three years ago I went to the Feltham borstal institution where the youths, under the direction of the padre, gave a performance of a French play, “The Miser” , translated by Miles Matheson [sic]. Their versatility and ability was shown by the fact that about half a dozen of them took girls' parts, and a number of film stars from the Shepperton studios complimented the lads on their very good performance. Surely, that is the better way. To adopt the method proposed by the hon. Member for Ayr and his hon. Friends would be to put the clock back.
Another way of preventing crime is to have a full establishment of police and of prison officers. Parental control is another method. Parents should exercise more control over their young people. More religious teaching should be given in the schools. I am in favour of that, for it could assist in preventing crime and violent acts by young people and teaching them the better ways of life. Also I would be in favour—as I think all hon. Members of this Committee would be in favour—of the restriction of—— [column 590]The Chairman
Order. It is not for the hon. Member to suggest alternative methods. He has to deal with the Clause before the Committee. Mr. Hunter
I am just finishing, Mr. Blackburn. What I have suggested would be the methods I would use rather than the methods proposed by the hon. Member for Ayr. I feel that reform is the right path, not the whip or the lash.
12.30 p.m. Sir T. Moore
I should like to make a few comments on some of the speeches which have been made. One thing which seems to have worried a number of hon. Members is the doubtful quality of corporal punishment as a deterrent. Oddly enough, I had a letter yesterday from a member of the Royal Air Force Association:
I have done four stretches (six years in all) and mixed with yobs for the past thirty years whose policy is ‘bash and bash hard’
All of them have only one Fear” —
That word is in capital letters—
“which is the Cat. They are all terrified of getting flogged.
I met many old lags in stir who said ‘give me time but not the Cat’.
The law should consider the potential victim's welfare before the crook's welfare. … Yobs who bash are themselves 100 per cent. cowards, the cat would stop 97 per cent. violence.”
I think that is one piece of factual evidence that there is a deterrent effect connected with the “cat” .
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Howell) was very worried about who should administer the corporal punishment. It might be an idea which possibly he could turn over in his mind that the relatives of the victims would be prepared to do it. I quoted a case at the last sitting of the Committee of a Church of England clergyman who said that he would willingly wield the instrument if someone slashed his wife. Mr. Howell
What a Christian! Sir T. Moore
My hon. and learned Friend admitted at the last sitting that the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, was, in effect, based on the recommendations of the original Cadogan Committee of 1938. That is our one complaint. As I pointed out at the last meeting, the economic and social conditions were [column 591]entirely different twenty-three years ago. Today there is full employment, there is a very high standard of living, there is too much money in the pockets of some of our young people which they have not been taught how to spend wisely, and too much leisure which they have not been taught how to use wisely. That is part of the trouble.
I shall go through these points very quickly because I appreciate that there are still some hon. Members who wish to speak. These young people with loads of leisure and plenty of money have drifted into this life of violent crime, not necessarily for money but just for excitement and adventure, possibly frustrated lust at times, and very often for the fun of things. How can they appreciate something if they do not feel some of the pain which they have inflicted upon the innocent and defenceless victims? I suppose these attacks will continue to go on and I suppose young girls will continue to be raped and murdered.
Then my hon. and learned Friend referred to the fact that in the opinion of the Home Secretary corporal punishment would not lead to a reduction in crime but that some more positive measures would do so. I should imagine that nothing is a more positive measure than a good sound whipping. Anyhow we have one conclusive fact emerging from the present position, which is that while the figures for crime with violence have gone up from 2,721 in 1938 to 13,876 in 1959 none of the proposed measures adopted by the Home Secretary has had the slightest effect in reducing crime.
My hon. and learned Friend then went on to say that the sentence for rape and wounding can be very severe—up to fourteen years. I should like to know just how often that sentence has been imposed and what it means in terms of years in prison. Does it mean ten, eight, seven or even four years. Recently I heard of a case where on six occasions the prisoner battered girls and women in the dark and he was fined £10. That does not look very much like the fourteen years' imprisonment to which my hon. and learned Friend has referred.
I am not going into the fact of a deterrent again because I think we have all proved from our own experience and the letters which we have received and [column 592]the state of public opinion generally that it is a deterrent.
I should like to make my position clear. We do not want to see corporal punishment employed either recklessly or lightly; we want it for the courts to hold in reserve, and only for a minimum period of five years. If, after that period the figures were still rising we would admit that we were wrong and would endeavour to find some other answer, but certainly that answer has not been found by the Home Office up to now.
We were invited to consider a speech by the Attorney-General on the Second Reading of the Bill, when he said that when the provisions of the Bill come into effect it will mean that young offenders will not normally be sent to prison. Yet we have the anomaly of an earlier Clause in this Bill which sought to send children of 15 to prison if there was not a borstal place or a detention centre—one of the detention centres which have not yet been built—available. It does not seem to make sense. However, with my aid the Government were, happily and deservedly, defeated on that occasion.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch ) said that caning by parents or school teachers cannot be compared with judicial caning, and, of course, he is right. We say, in effect, that the whole atmosphere towards misbehaviour by the young is wrong and weak, and that it is due to the failure of the courts to give a lead to parents. They shun their responsibility. The teachers and local authorities are unwilling to impose on headmasters the duty of chastising children for bad behaviour. Miss Joan Vickers
In his opening remarks my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) said that he had 80 per cent. of the population behind him. Now he is proving that he has not got that 80 per cent. behind him. I think he is over-exaggerating the effect of public opinion. Sir T. Moore
I am taking the views of the Barry Committee, which said that 77 per cent.—which is nearly 80 per cent.—are in favour, and in my correspondence, which I told the Committee about last time, I have over a thousand letters of which only 13 have been against [column 593]me. So I think I am correct in saying that it is 80 per cent.
The hon. Member for Wigan referred to the fact that an assistant prison commissioner has told him that it is not a pleasant sight to see corporal punishment administered. Of course we agree: we do not intend it to be a pleasant sight. But I wonder whether the assistant prison commissioner would think it a pleasant sight to see the face of a young girl who had been slashed five times. Somehow the whole tendency of this Committee and of many Members of the House is always towards the criminal instead of worrying as to how that criminal can be deterred from committing crime.
I hope that we shall now adopt a more balanced thinking in regard to this tragic position. I can assure the Committee that if we are defeated, as I feel sure now we shall be on this occasion, we shall go on and on until we succeed. Mr. Victor Yates
I will certainly respond to the Attorney-General's request to be very brief. There were many arguments to which we should reply but it is reasonable that we should come to a decision.
The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) as we all know, has a very kindly disposition. I had the pleasure of spending fourteen days side by side with him in Russia, and I had the opportunity of discussing with him and with our Russian counterparts, the merits and demerits of corporal punishment. I say at once that I concede that he is genuine and sincere in what he feels and what he is proposing. Mr. Llywelyn Williams
Could my hon. Friend inform the Committee whether corporal punishment is available in Russia? Mr. Yates
I mentioned—— The Chairman
I very much doubt whether an answer to that question is in order on this Clause. Mr. Yates
I hope to make a remark which will be in order. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Parry Barr (Mr. Howell), this is not a matter on which views are all on one political side. People have strong opinions on this whatever their political views. Some believe [column 594]in flogging and some do not in all political parties. I am opposed to it, and sometimes people say that I should have a dose of the thug's medicine.
The hon. Member never attempted to define what he meant by corporal punishment. This really is important. It is no use proposing a Clause which says we believe in this for boys and girls for all the crimes of violence, even the very small or very severe, without telling us exactly what is meant by it. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) at the last meeting of the Committee tried to make us believe that when he went skating and trespassed on somebody's garden, the fact that a man gave him three or four smacks with a stick, deterred him and punished him. There is no comparison between that kind of punishment, about which we would not argue very much, and the sort of punishment which is dealt with on pages 22 and 23 of the Barry Report.
It saddened me to think that the hon. Lady for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) should be associated with the adoption of old and more barbarous methods of punishment which she called “severe” but which really are brutal. I would not deny that such punishment would deter in some cases. We are not arguing about whether some would be deterred and some not. As the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) said, it is the balance, the net result, that matters. We are told that the adult prisoner who is to undergo corporal punishment is to be strapped to an apparatus which is described. For juveniles it is to be rather different; the child is to be held by a policeman on to the back of another policeman and the punishment administered that way. If this is the basis on which the hon. Member wishes corporal punishment to be introduced then I agree with the Report of the Cadogan Committee in which it is pointed out that while in some cases it might deter, in others it will be definitely harmful. The Committee said that not only would it be definitely harmful but that it would even lead to an increase in violence on the part of those involved. I am not prepared, and I ask hon. Members on both sides not to be prepared, to leave to the courts the power which the hon. Lady wishes to give them. [column 595]12.45 p.m.
Coming to my last point—and here the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Ll. Williams ) on corporal punishment in Russia applies—in paragraph 40, on page 13 of the Barry Report it says:
“We have received replies from nearly all the countries. These indicate that there has been no significant change in any of them, except that, in many of the countries which still retain corporal punishment, the offences for which it is available have been further limited and it is in any event seldom used; that it has not been reintroduced in any country that has not abolished it, and that there has been no serious public demand for this to be done; and that, where the penalty was abolished sufficiently recently to enable any view to be expressed, the abolition seems to have had no effect on them.”
The Report also says that to do this would lower the prestige of Great Britain in the eyes of the world. I am sure that goes for our experience.
When I was in Russia I asked the Deputy-Chairman of the Supreme Soviet about this matter, and his answer was, “No, we have not this now in our penal code. We do not believe that to inflict physical pain as a form of punishment is right, because it lowers the dignity of the individual.” Russia may do many things with which hon. Members on both sides disagree but I would not like to think they could throw it back at us that we were less civilised. It is un-Christian and uncivilised to impose this sort of punishment, and I hope the Clause will be overwhelmingly thrown out by the Committee. Miss Bacon
We have had a very long and interesting debate. It would have been very wrong if this Committee had disposed of the Clause in a short period of time, because this is a matter which has been engaging the minds not only of the Members of the House of Commons but of millions of people throughout the country. It has, therefore, been essential that we who are charged with the job of examining the Criminal Justice Bill should have spent some considerable time on this subject.
On two occasions in Committee the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has had the courage to vote with me and against his own Government. It therefore pains me that on this occasion I shall be voting with the Government and against his Clause. [column 596]
I shall be very brief because of the time and because nearly everything has been said. However, I wish to make two or three points. The hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Hobson) said at the beginning of the discussion at the last Committee meeting that there were a few surprises in the hon. Member's new Clause. I will not criticise the way in which the Clause has been drafted because we have our difficulties in that respect as well. I do, however, want to say that the surprise to me was the sentence containing the words
“in addition to, or instead of, imprisonment or detention” .
If I understood the hon. Member for Ayr aright when he voted with us about the age at which people should be sent to borstal, he did so because he felt it was better to give people a birching or flogging than to send them to prison. With the Clause which he is now presenting to the Committee he sees corporal punishment, however, not only as an alternative to prison but in addition to prison. In many instances that would have to be done because one could not birch somebody and send him straight away. His own argument about prison, therefore, falls.
Mention has been made on one or two occasions about who is to inflict this punishment. I do not think the hon. Member for Ayr would personally inflict corporal punishment because he is much too tender-hearted. I am certain that in this Clause he is asking somebody to do something he would not do himself.
I will not go over all the arguments that have been made. People say they think that corporal punishment will be a deterrent. We have heard enough evidence, particularly from the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington, who was a member of the Advisory Committee, to show that judicial corporal punishment is not a deterrent. All the figures are to the contrary. The figures for robbery with violence have always fluctuated but they have never fluctuated because of the punishment. Up to 1948, when corporal punishment was abolished, it was not effective. The courts did not use it since they found that it was not as great a deterrent as other methods which they could use. [column 597]
Of all the speeches which we have heard, the really contradictory one was that of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). She based all her arguments on a wrong assumption. She said that we try to reform and to deter, and assumed that corporal punishment was a greater deterrent than borstal or detention centres. I agreed with her when she said that, if there were other methods, like detention centres, she would not be in favour of the new Clause. We have said repeatedly that we feel that the Government have been sadly neglecting their duty in not providing more detention centres. Surely the remedy is not to bring in corporal punishment but to get on as quickly as possible with the building of detention centres, which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede ) envisaged in the 1948 Act.
I wish to say a few words about public opinion. It has been said that public opinion is in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Ayr. If by “public opinion” is meant going up to someone in the street and putting a snap question, saying, “What do you think about this?” I admit that. But is that really public opinion? I think that we have to take informed public opinion—[Hon. Members: “No.” ]—as well as the opinion of people who merely give snap answers. That was said by the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington.
Almost every organisation which has studied this matter is against corporal punishment. The News Chronicle published the result of a Gallup poll on the matter, but in the same issue it also published a leader in which it was stated:
“Today's Gallup poll on corporal and capital punishment is deplorable news.”
The Times and the Guardian also published leaders regretting and deploring the result of the Gallup poll. We must take into account these informed organs of public opinion and the organi[column 598]sations and committees which have studied the matter very carefully.
I am sure that hon. Members who have spoken in favour of the new Clause will get a fan mail in the coming weeks because, as has been said, a great many people outside the House of Commons are in favour of this proposal. But it is not the function of us in Parliament merely to follow public opinion. On occasions we have to lead in the face of public opinion, and I believe that this is one of the occasions on which we have to lead. I am certain that the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley was expressing the view of many women members of her own party—not in the House, because I am sure that if the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) had been called we should have heard an opposite view. The hon. Member for Finchley speaks for a considerable body of women members of her party outside the House. Sir T. Moore
And the hon. Lady's party. Miss Bacon
I make this promise to the hon. Gentleman—— The Chairman
I think that we can leave out of our discussion women's organisations outside the House. Hon. Members ought to make up their own minds in the matter. Miss Bacon
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Blackburn, but the debate has ranged over a wide field. If the hon. Member for Ayr likes, I shall be able to tell him something about this matter after our own women's conference in the middle of March.
I agree with the Government on this subject and I am against the hon. Member for Ayr. I do not think that a logical case has been made out for his new Clause, and I hope that we shall have an overwhelming vote against it.
Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 26. Division No. 10.]
Courtney , Cdr. Anthony
Gresham Cooke , R.
Litchfield , Capt. John
Moore , Sir Thomas (Ayr)
Steward , Harold (Stockport, S.)
Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret [column 599-600]
Bacon , Miss Alice
Beamish , Col. Sir Tufton
Bowen , Roderic (Cardigan)
Brown , Alan (Tottenham)
Carr , Compton (Barons Court)
Channon , H. P. G.
Critchley , Julian
de Ferranti , Basil
Ede , Rt. Hon. Chuter
Elliott , R. W. (N'we'stle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Hamilton , Michael (Wellingborough)
Harrison , Col. J. H. (Eye)
Hobson , John
Howell , Charles A.
Hunter , A. E.
Iremonger , T. L.
MacColl , James
Manningham-Buller , Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Pickthorn , Sir Kenneth
Renton , David
Royle , Charles (Salford, West)
Vickers , Miss Joan
Weitzman , David
Whitlock , William
Williams , Ll. (Abertillery)
Yates , Victor (Ladywood)
New Clause.— (Payment of Damages and costs by parents of offenders aged 17 to 20.)
Section fifty-five of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, shall apply not only where a child or young person is charged but also where any person under the age of twenty-one is charged so far as concerns orders for the payment by a parent or guardian of damages or costs awarded.—[Mr. Hobson.]
Brought up, and read the First time. Mr. Hobson
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time. The Chairman
Perhaps the hon. and learned Member might like to discuss with this new Clause the one at the bottom of page 672 entitled
“Extension of power to order compensation.”Mr. Hobson
I should prefer to speak to them separately, Mr. Blackburn. Each deals with a different aspect. The Chairman
Very well. Mr. Hobson
The proposed new Clause deals with Section 55 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. In certain circumstances a court may order a person who has not reached his seventeenth birthday to pay a fine, damages or costs, or to pay compensation of up to £100 to his victim. By Section 55 (1) of the Act a court may further order that such
“fine, damages, or costs awarded be paid by the parent or guardian …”
It must do so if the accused is between the age of 7 and 14 years and it may do so if he is between 14 and 17 years. But it may not do so in any case if it is satisfied that the parent or guardian has not conduced to the commission of the offence——
It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Committee adjourned till Thursday, 16th February, 1961, at half-past Ten o'clock.
The Following Members Attended the Committee:
Blackburn, Mr. (Chairman)
Beamish, Sir T.
Brown, Mr. A.
Carr, Mr. Compton
de Ferranti, Mr.
Elliott, Mr. R. W.
Gresham Cooke, Mr.
Hamilton, Mr. M.
Harrison, Colonel J. H.
Moore, Sir T.
Pickthorn, Sir K.
Reid, Mr. W.
Royle, Mr. C.
Steward, Mr. H.
Williams, Mr. Ll.
Yates, Mr. V.