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Crimes Of Violence

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 9 November 1950

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take to check the continuing rise in the number of crimes of violence.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the marked increase in crimes of violence in the first six months of this year, he will consider the re-imposition of corporal punishment for hardened criminals in this type of case.

I am satisfied that the penalties prescribed by law for crimes of violence are adequate. The Government has no intention of re-introducing corporal punishment which after full discussion was abolished as a judicial penalty by Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. That Act marked a notable advance in the treatment of offenders, and it would be premature to consider further changes in the law until more experience has been gained by its working.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of crimes of violence has increased alarmingly since 1946 and is shooting up this year? How many more victims are to suffer before he will either take steps to strengthen the police forces or to ensure that the punishment is a sufficient deterrent?

I am taking steps every day to endeavour to recruit additional members of the Police Force, and the figures during the past year have been encouraging. I would ask the House to bear in mind that flogging was available only for a limited range of offences. In fact, for the purpose of this answer, I think I should not be over-simplifying it if I said that it was for robbery with violence. Other violent offences were not punishable by flogging. The curious thing is that the offences not previously punishable by flogging have increased by 25.76 per cent., while those punishable by flogging have increased by only 1.93 per cent. since the repeal of the power to flog.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not consider that to the hardened criminal who has been convicted of this sort of offence on many occasions, corporal punishment—I mean the "cat" and birch—would be an effective deterrent where none other might exist, and would he not consider that explicit suggestion as a means of protection for the public?

No, I have carefully gone into that aspect of the problem, and it is not borne out that the hardened criminal is deterred by this punishment. What is borne out is that corrective training and preventive detention have proved to be considerable deterrents to criminals.

Can the Home Secretary say when he thinks the whole matter should be reviewed again, so that we can learn from the experience gained?

I keep this and all other matters relating to crime under constant review, and if I thought it was necessary to make a recommendation to the House for legislation, I should bring it forward.