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Young Girls (Indecent Assaults)

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 15 April 1954

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice in the case of Regina v. King; and whether he will introduce legislation to cover this oversight in the present law.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to increase the maximum sentence for indecent assault on young girls.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend gave on 1st April to a Question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton).

Does my hon. Friend not realise the great abhorrence that is felt when a man can, apparently, receive only a two-years' sentence of imprisonment for an indecent assault on a girl aged two when he has had five previous convictions for a similar offence? Will my hon. Friend not see whether anything can be done to speed up legislation in this matter, as suggested by the Lord Chief Justice?

The Lord Chief Justice was dealing with an exceptional case. My right hon. and learned Friend has no reason to think that the maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment is not generally adequate. When the accused is convicted on more than one charge, consecutive sentences may be imposed.

Will the Undersecretary bear in mind that not everybody agrees with the Lord Chief Justice in this matter and that the whole question was fully investigated when the Criminal Justice Bill, which later became an Act, was being considered, and that the great preponderance of opinion is all the other way?

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, a far greater body of opinion would say, I think, that a man who has been guilty of five offences and then inflicts an irreparable offence on a child aged two deserves more than two years' imprisonment? The law ought to bear in mind these exceptional cases. Although we are all interested in the minority view that protects an isolated individual, far more hon. Members of the House are interested in the general view that protects the whole community and particularly young children.

My right hon. and learned Friend said that he would bear the observations of the Lord Chief Justice in mind. All he said was that he could not at present say when it would be possible to introduce legislation.