THE HOME OFFICE AND CRIME
[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR]
SIR,—Though I think the context makes it perfectly plain that I had the youthful offender in mind, I regret that in my letter published in your last issue I inadvertently omitted the word " youthful " before " crime in the eighth line. I am fully aware there has been a big fall in the number of older offenders.
The letter was written, however, before details of the new proposals were known. Had I had any idea that corporal punishment was in future to be restricted to gaols (why should it he necessary there if nowhere else desirable ?), and that penal servitude and hard labour were to be abolished, I should have offered still more opposition and enquired whether it could possibly be the wish of the Home Office that every lonely old man and woman, every shopkeeper, every sub- postmaster, every pay-clerk and bank-clerk; should be put at
the mercy of the brutes who dread no punishment but that of force ; and every woman at the mercy of the criminally sexual. If a •" remand centre " or a " Howard Home " is considered sufficient for these, then one can only hope that the supporters of the measure will, by practical experience, have the facts of present-day life brought home to them more clearly.
Locally, search still goes on for the murderer and ravager of a girl of 8, and in a single issue of a Yorkshire paper last week were these headlines :
8 attempts to set Fire to Factory ; Student robs Landlady ; • • Mystery Man attacks Girls ;
13-year Schoolboy not guilty of Murder.
These things or their like are being duplicated all over the country, and so surely it cannot be the proper moment for the introduction of lighter penalties. I have discussed the matter with men from London and from Scotland and all in between, and in no case was there anything but condemnation for the new proposals. They emanate, it is pretty plain, from the faddists, and it is hard to see why a Cabinet, already sufficiently immersed in vital matters, should have burdened themselves further with such a measure, which cannot have had full consideration in all its ramifications.
I have studied these things for some time, and I agree with the widely-held point of view that the Bill seems to be an attempt to put the quiet, decent people of the country at the mercy of the ruffian and the gang, for more or less experimental
purposes.—I am, Sir, yours, &c., HOWARD PERRIN. Stanley Road, Wakefield.