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Young Offenders (Corporal Punishment)

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 24 July 1947

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67.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the unanimous Report of the Select Committee on Corporal Punishment that the birching of children is completely ineffective and should be abolished, he proposes to bring in legislation to this effect.

I am not in a position to make a statement about future legislation, but I am glad to note that whereas in the years 1941 and 1942 the whippings ordered by magistrates' courts for boys under 14 years of age numbered 531 and 314, the figures fell in the years 1945 and 1946 to 25 and 12.

Have recommendations in regard to a recent case been brought to the notice of my right hon. Friend; and does he intend to have an official inquiry into the case?

I have read an account of a sentence that was pronounced in a court in Manchester, but I am neither more nor less entitled to comment on it than is the hon. Member.

Is it usual in cases of this kind to allow elder brothers to witness the birching of their younger brothers?

On this occasion the father was told that he had the right to attend the infliction of the punishment. He said that he had already beaten the boy himself the night before, that on this day he was too busy to attend, and he asked that the brother of the two culprits, who was in the Army and home on leave, might be allowed to attend the whipping instead.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this reduction in corporal punishment has had any effect on the volume of crime committed by juveniles?

No, Sir, I would not like to say there is any connection, but in view of the Question which the hon. and gallant Member asks it is, I think, advisable to point out that juvenile crime did show a reduction last year as compared with previous years.

68.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the practice in children's courts with regard to making the right of appeal against sentences of birching known.

Courts are under no obligation, nor is it their general practice, to call attention to rights of appeal against their decisions, but as I have previously informed the House, where whipping is ordered, it is in my view expedient that attention should be drawn to the right of appeal before steps are taken to carry out the punishment.

In view of the nature of that answer, will my right hon. Friend make his view known to courts in general? Because I have in my possession a telegram of protest from the parent of a child concerned, to the effect that although he protested he was not told he had a right of appeal.

I have made a very careful Inquiry into this case, and I am informed by the clerk of the court that while the parent was standing, at the desk in consultation with the magistrates the clerk said, in the hearing of the parent and the magistrates, "If there is an appeal, the birching will have to be postponed."