[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—There is a rumour that the criminal law in its relation to suspected persons is to be amended. One hopes this may be true.
For the past ten years, first as a prison visitor, and later as a student of and a writer on criminal topics, I have met many crooks, with some of whom I have established lasting friendships. As a general rule, I find such adventurers ready enough as they put it "to take their medicine" for any crime they have been detected committing. Their attitude to the police is nearly always friendly. But every now and again I get complaints from men whom I have every reason to believe will not tell me lies that they have been sentenced to three months' imprisonment (vulgarly called "a carpet ") for nothing whatever criminal. They were on their way to some friend's house or they were waiting for someone (often a girl) to turn up. Suddenly they are arrested by two police officers and charged with " peering into cars" or ." halting at 'bus stops," or "'looking down) areas," or "staring into shops' windows " ; and after a week's
remand, during which their rooms are searched for stolen, property, they usually get three months for "loitering with intent to commit a felony." If they have two previous) convictions for indictable offences they may get twelve,
months. . .
It is alleged that the police arrest those they know to have been previously convicted. in order to have the right to search their rooms in the hope of finding there material, on which to found more serious charges) This sounds com- . mon sense, but if none be found why should the unfortunate ex-prisoners be punished for having so valuably assisted tire police ?
Much has been done to reform our prisons. Much has been done to amend our laws. But what seems to be needed is an inquirf into what . actually happens between , the moment of arrest and the appearance before the yriagis7„. trate, and what are the actual instructions given to police-.. officers as how to deal with. ” suspected persons."_ Meanwhile my. press-cutting book (or rather one of them).. slowly expands with cases where the magistrates, not satisfied with the police evidence, give costs against the policc.7–Yours very truly,
Reform Club, Pali Mall, S.W.1. ARTHUR R. L. GARDNER. ,