Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Services Supplementary Estimates, 1924–25. – in the House of Commons on 10th March 1925.

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Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

Do not let the hon. and gallant Member assume that I am making that proposal to the House to-night. I am doing nothing of the kind: but I always feel when I am speaking to the House in a responsible position that I ought to tell the House everything that is in my mind, or in the mind of my advisers. Quite definitely, this crime is of such importance, of such prevalence, of such malignance, of such cruelty, and is of such a despicable character, that I am advised by the Public Prosecutor, and in that advice the Lord Chief Justice of England concurs, that if the crime goes on undiminished, we may have to ask the House for the very exceptional penalty that I have named.

I do not want to do it. I would hope, if possible, that the mere mention of the statement which I have made, in all the criminal quarters of this country and particularly in the criminal purlieus of London where these crimes are hatched, where there are known to be men who are living on these crimes, and where there is, of course, this great difficulty of getting people to prosecute, that there is this idea in the minds of the Home Secretary and his advisers, and in the minds of some of the most experienced of His Majesty's Government, will do something to diminish this crime and stop it in many cases. Because, after all, as has been well said, this crime is the crime of a coward, and a coward may take fright at the suggestion of the punishment which I have indicated and the crimes may then cease. I hope that that may be true. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will not think it necessary to carry this Resolution to a Division. It is a very difficult question and one which has caused me a great deal of thought. I would like to do anything in my power to make it easier for these disreputable criminals to be found, but I do not think, on the advice of my responsible, legal advisers, in which the Director of Public Prosecutions concurs, that the Resolution, if carried out in an Act of Parliament, would have the effect which my hon. and gallant Friend desires. I can only thank him for having brought the matter to the attention of the House of Commons. This Debate has been a most useful one, and, having called attention to this form of crime, it may render it less likely and less frequent in the future.