3 NOVEMBER 1979, Page 8

A hundred years ago

Barns and his wife, the defendants in the Tranmere baby-farming case, have been sentenced to penal servitude for life. We do not see why they were not sentenced to death, even if the penalty had been afterwards commuted. There can hardly be a doubt, on the evidence, that the prisoners made a trade of receiving illegitimate children for sums down – usually £30 – calculating on killing them by starvation and neglect. If that is not murder, words have no meaning. Baby-farming needs regulation. The trade has another effect nearly as bad as the cruelty it often includes. It tends, like Foundling Hospitals, to remove one of the great safeguards of morality, by making it apparently easy to hide children away for ever.

Spectalor, 1 November 1879