|www.corpun.com : Archive : Up to 1975 : UK Judicial Jul 1884|
Corpun file 26004 at www.corpun.com
The Manchester Guardian, 17 July 1884, p.5
There is more than one point deserving notice in a brief correspondence between the Justices of the Highgate Petty Sessions and the HOME SECRETARY. The Justices had felt bound to represent that it was desirable that the powers which they and similar authorities possess for the punishment of juvenile offenders should be somewhat enlarged.
Under the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879 they are enabled in certain cases to order a whipping with birch rods for male offenders under the age of fourteen. There are, however, many classes of offences, such as causing wilful damage, stealing fruit from the tree, etc., for which the punishment which is so far said to have been found "extremely efficacious" cannot be legally inflicted.
Further than that, it is urged that there is a class of juvenile offenders, say between fourteen and sixteen years of age, for whom it might well be the most appropriate form of treatment, but over whom the Magistrates in Petty Sessions cannot hold the terrors of the rod. The only other courses to be pursued are to fine the parents, who besides being often unable to pay are sometimes not to blame for the misconduct of their children, or to send the boys to gaol, with results permanently injurious to their character and position.
The provisions of the Reformatory and Industrial School Acts serve in some degree to palliate the evil, but the power of committal to these establishments is necessarily limited, and requires to be exercised with great caution. The Highgate Bench therefore suggested that the power to order flogging for males under the age of sixteen which is possessed by Courts of Assize and Quarter Sessions might advantageously be vested also in courts of summary jurisdiction.
One thing to be observed on the face of the correspondence is that the HOME SECRETARY replies to the effect that he "entirely concurs in the views expressed by the Justices for Highgate as to the punishment of juvenile offenders." The question is, of course, not thereby settled.
The expediency of the good old-fashioned system of flogging for boys above fourteen -- or, indeed, for boys of any age -- is a subject on which there are wide differences of opinion, and will be found to afford ample room for debate whenever the proper time arrives. But in the meanwhile it appears clear that, so far as Sir W. VERNON HARCOURT is concerned, the maintenance of this form of discipline will find a place in the comprehensive measure for the reform of the treatment of juvenile offenders which he has promised to introduce.
The other point is that while the immediate object which the Highgate Magistrates desire might, as they suggest, be accomplished by a short Bill, the SECRETARY OF STATE is obliged to plead that "unfortunately in the present condition of affairs in Parliament it is almost as difficult to pass a short Bill on any subject as a long one." Thus the proposed alteration in the law, whatever may be said for it, only keeps company with more important ones which the strife of faction condemns to indefinite postponement.
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