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Birching Sentences

Volume 393: debated on Thursday 4 November 1943

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31 and 32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether, in view of the strictures passed by the High Court recently in the case of a boy birched by order of a juvenile court, which illustrated the impossibility of reconciling the right of appeal with the rule requiring prompt inflictment of the punishment, he will introduce legislation to abolish whipping by order of the juvenile court;

(2) how many sentences of birching were passed by juvenile courts during the last 12 months for which statistics are available; and in how many cases was an appeal made against the sentence?

The number of birchings ordered by summary courts in England and Wales in 1942 was about 300, and there were no appeals. In 1938 the Departmental Committee of which my hon. and gallant Friend was Chairman reported that:

"appeals are rare and it has not been found necessary to adopt a practice of postponing the birching till after the expiration of the period within which appeal proceedings could be commenced."
Whether any advice can usefully be given to justices on this aspect of the matter is a question which, as I mentioned in my statement on 21st October, I am considering. The question whether the courts should by an amendment of the law be deprived of power to order birching is—as my hon. and gallant Friend knows—controversial; but in the Memorandum on Juvenile Offences sent to justices in June, 1941, they were reminded:
"that the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment came unanimously to the conclusion that, as a court penalty, corporal punishment is not a suitable or effective remedy for dealing with young offenders."

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that you cannot drive boys but only lead them and that that equally applies to all other sections of the community?

Has not the time come when birching and flogging should be abolished? Will the Minister receive a deputation?

I do not think it will be any good receiving a deputation on the subject. It is a controversial matter which the House had earlier under consideration and on which no conclusion was reached. I hardly think that the Government can raise the matter at this juncture.