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Judicial CP - November 1947

Corpun file 8278


The Times, London, 5 November 1947

Sentences less punitive

Wide reform of penal code

Whipping to stop

From Our Parliamentary Correspondent


In the Criminal Justice Bill, the text of which was issued yesterday, the Government propose to enact a series of penal reform measures which will make important changes in the treatment of juvenile and other offenders and in the administration of criminal justice and the prison system.

The Bill reproduces a great part of the similar Bill which reached its committee stage in the House of Commons in the session of 1938-39, and was abandoned when the war began after its progress had been delayed by Conservative opposition to the proposed abolition of corporal punishment.

It contains some new reform proposals, and varies or omits some of those contained in the earlier Bill. Among the main proposals are:-

The abolition of hard labour, penal servitude, and prison divisions.

The abolition of corporal punishment, except for grave offences of prison discipline.

[...] Restrictions on the imprisonment of young offenders.

The establishment of State remand centres where persons between 14 and 21 can be sent when on remand or committed for trial.

The establishment of new institutions, named detention centres, where offenders between 14 and 21 can be sent for short periods instead of going to prison.

An extended provision and use of approved probation homes and hostels.


Corporal punishment

The proposal to abolish the powers of courts to pass sentences of whipping is in accordance with the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment. The power to order corporal punishment for grave offences against prison discipline -- such as aggravated assaults on prison warders -- is retained. It will be limited to the maximum recommended by the Departmental Committee, which was 18 strokes of the "cat" or birch for a prisoner over 21 and 12 strokes of the birch for a prisoner under 21.


Corpun file 21711


The Times, London, 20 November 1947

Sentences for armed robbery

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At Lincoln Assizes on Saturday, before MR. JUSTICE OLIVER, RYSZARD SECH, 21, stoker, WLODZYMIERZ KOZBIAL, 25, waiter, and JANUSZ KUROWSKI, 20, lorry driver's mate, were found Guilty of robbing with violence William Olroyd, of Sotby, near Louth, and stealing money and jewelry valued at nearly 50. SECH was sentenced to three years' penal servitude and 15 strokes of the birch; KUROWSKI was sentenced to four years' penal servitude and 15 strokes of the birch, and KOZBIAL, who was stated to be unfit for corporal punishment, was sentenced to five years' penal servitude.

Corpun file 8279


The Times, London, 28 November 1947

[Criminal Justice Bill] Second reading


Westminster, Thursday.

Mr. EDE, in moving the second reading [of the Criminal Justice Bill], said that the Bill followed largely on the lines of the measure introduced in 1938, which was prevented by the outbreak of war from reaching the Statute-book. There were some omissions and some new proposals in this Bill which had been made in the light of experience gained during the nine years' interval since the earlier Bill was introduced.


Statistics showed that in almost every form of serious crime there was an increase both in the number of offences and the number of persons convicted -- an increase not limited to any age group or sex between 1939 and 1945.

It was not the purpose of the Bill to weaken the effectiveness of the law. The law-abiding citizen must feel that the law was effective in protecting him and his relatives and friends from violent assault or any other infraction of his liberty as a subject which might be imperilled if he thought the law was getting what was called "too soft."

The proposals in the Bill were not brought forward as the result of any sentimental regard for convicted persons, nor from any sentimental assumption, which had been disproved by the history of the last 150 years, that rigorous punishment was all that was necessary to safeguard society against criminal activity. We had to keep a balance in this matter, and sentiment on either side was of very little help.


Asked whether he could give any indication as to when the Report stage might be, Mr. EDE said the Bill took a very long time in 1938 and he hoped they might regard some of the ground then very thoroughly explored as agreed [...]


Opposition assurance

No party debates

Mr. PEAKE (Leeds, N., C.) assured the Minister that the measure would not be debated on party lines from the Opposition side. Opposition members would express their own views perfectly freely.


He was entirely against the retention of corporal punishment -- except for serious assaults upon prison officials. All the evidence showed that it did more harm than good and in Scotland it did not exist [...]

A woman's welcome

VISCOUNTESS DAVIDSON (Hemel Hempstead, C.) said as the only woman now in the House who was on the standing committee in 1938-39 she welcomed the Bill. ......

With regard to corporal punishment, she knew that there were many complexities, but she wondered if they were not losing their sense of balance and were more inclined to consider the criminal most of the time and not enough the law-abiding public. If the retention of corporal punishment acted as a deterrent to safeguard a single member of the public it must be retained.


Mr. MAUDE (Exeter, C.) said [...] The essential thing for any punishment to work as a deterrent was that the person planning a crime should think he would probably be caught. They had heard the argument about flogging as a deterrent in prison used as an argument for flogging not in prison, but the answer to that was that if a man battered a warder in gaol he knew the strong probability was that he was "for it." He could say, of some of his clients, that they planned a thing, plotted it, and worked out what they were likely to get. If a person worked out that it was a four to one chance against being caught he would take the risk of flogging. That was why flogging and sentences of imprisonment often failed to deter. He had noticed since 1925 that the fear of being sent to prison had steadily been diminishing.


Corpun file 8280


The Times, London, 28 November 1947

Judicial powers

To the Editor of The Times

Sir,-- A few days ago at the Old Bailey I listened to terrible robbery with violence charges against four young men. Among other things they had broken into the flat of a man and woman at Kennington. The woman was a permanent invalid. One man tried to bite her rings off her fingers and another battered her head with a vacuum cleaner. They all received long prison sentences and two were ordered to be birched. During this trial the Criminal Justice Bill was presented in the House of Commons seeking to abolish corporal punishment except for severe breaches of prison discipline.

In my opinion robbery with violence is inexcusable. Is it justice that men should brutally attack defenceless people merely to be locked up with no physical punishment being inflicted on them?

I should like to conclude with the views of the Recorder (Sir Gerald Dobson). When sentencing some men last year he said:--

For this offence I could order you to be flogged. Public opinion seems to be against this form of punishment now. One hopes that those who hold that opinion may never have the misfortune of being robbed with violence. They may be tempted to alter their opinion if they are.

Yours faithfully,


37, Weigall Road, Lee, S.E.12, Nov. 24.

Corpun file 8281


The Times, London, 29 November 1947


Criminal law reform

Progress in treatment of offenders


House of Commons, FRIDAY, Nov. 28

In the absence of the Speaker, MAJOR MILNER, Deputy Speaker (Leeds, S.E., Lab.) took the Chair at 11 o'clock.

The debate on the second reading of the Criminal Justice Bill was resumed.


Mr. NIELD (Chester, C.) said he had no doubt the abolition of corporal punishment would be achieved, but he was satisfied that it was a very real deterrent. Whether the power to order a birching on a young person should be abolished seemed to be in question. .........


Mr. HEATHCOAT AMERY (Tiverton, C.) said it seemed to him that the case had been entirely proved for the abolition of corporal punishment in the case of adults, but he was not sure that it had been proved altogether in the case of young people.


Mr. YOUNGER, Under Secretary, Home Office (Grimsby, Lab.) said his impression was that the resistance to the abolition of corporal punishment had diminished since the introduction of the previous Bill. Crimes of violence against the person did not rise so steeply after the 1918 war, though crimes involving violence against property rose very steeply. But it was not as great an overall rise as it was to-day.

In the view of the Government this Bill in no way reduced the protection afforded to the public by the criminal law. It was one more of many steps taken during the last 100 years to fight crime more and more by reformation and less and less by blind repression. It was a progressive measure in the truest sense. It was not the final word in this ever-changing human problem.

blob Follow-up: 11 December 1947 - Whipping as penalty: Amendments to new Bill

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