Orders of the Day — Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1960.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick 12:00 am, 17th November 1960

The Advisory Council started by being divided on the issue. After very careful study, it came out unanimously against the introduction of flogging. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that it is a very powerful and representative body and anything but a lot of "softies". The right hon. Gentleman's picture of the composition of the Advisory Council proved entirely that it is a responsible and representative body.

The Magistrates' Association is another example. Its members, replying to a postal vote without hearing any argument, were in favour of restoring flogging. On the other hand, the Council, which considers, discusses and argues every matter, was by a substantial majority against its reintroduction. The prison governors are divided—there is no majority in favour of it. The borstal governors are against it, and 90 per cent. of the probation officers are against it. Wherever there has been careful, argued study and discussion the result has always been the same.

The case of the advocates seems to me to collapse because of their total inability to answer three very important questions. First, they have to establish that this type of punishment is a deterrent. If they want to make a major change that would put the clock back a hundred years, the onus is on them to establish that there is a deterrent, and I say that there is absolutely no evidence that it is a deterrent. Nowhere have I seen any evidence, apart from feeling and emotion, that this is a deterrent, and the Advisory Council's Report confirms that.

It is no good the advocates saying, "Let us try it for five years and see whether it is a deterrent." They have on them the onus of proof. Otherwise, that argument could be used for any alleged deterrent—the thumbscrew, the stocks, or anything else. We cannot just say, "We feel that something is a deterrent, so let us try it out on the country." One has to establish some sort of proof that it is a deterrent——