16 AUGUST 1930, Page 20


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Sia,—Protests have been made recently in Parliament and in the Press against certain sentences of imprisonment and birching passed on boy offenders. Such sentences are bad in themselves and they have the further ill effect of bringing the naughty boy into the limelight and snaking him into a popular hero.

Both these evils could be prevented by amending the law so as to abolish punishments which no longer have the support of public opinion and are rightly condemned as old fashioned and unwise.

The Children Bill, promoted by the Howard League for Penal Reform and introduced into the House of Commons by Mr. Rhys Davies, is based on the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders, though in some directions it goes beyond the recommendations of the Committee. It would abolish the death penalty for persons under eighteen, and imprisonment and birching for those under twenty-one. It would raise the age of criminal responsibility from seven to eight, and the age limit for the Juvenile Court from sixteen to seventeen. Most important of all, because here it touches the root problem of crime, it provides that difficult cases should be remanded (before the Court makes any order) for examination and advice as to treatment at Observation Centres staffed by specialists with knowledge and understanding of child psychology. The services of such men and women would enable the Court to abandon the barren task of " making the punishment fit the crime " and to embark on the infinitely more interesting and useful occupation of making the treatment fit the criminal.

The Bill is backed by members of all Parties in the House of Commons and legislation on these lines is bound to come. It is long overdue.—I am, Sir, (tc., CICELY M. CRAVEN, Hon. Secretary. H.L.P.R., Parliament Mansions, Victoria Street, 8.11'.1.