H. D. C. (Hilary Douglas Clerk) Pepler.

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i. The Problem. 2. The Normal. 3. Cure or Preven-
tion. 4. Punishment. 5. Recent Legislation.

1. The Problem.

MANY small beggars and young thieves come
before the magistrate, many children whose parents
have shown themselves incapable of care, young
lads whose only fault is an excess of energy, a few
girls who have been terribly led astray, and a
number of the unduly venturesome of both sexes
who have run away from their homes. Efforts are
made in various centres to save the youngster from
further entanglement by helping him to work, and
to a knowledge of the powers within himself the
neglect of which has led him into his difficulties.
Parliament has concerned itself on his behalf, pro-
bation systems and Borstal institutions have been
created, and are to be extended and increased. It

J.c. B


has instituted Juvenile Courts and decreed that no
child under sixteen shall be sent to prison unless
he is over fourteen and too insubordinate for other

But these enactments are of little value unless sup-
ported by public opinion and executed according to
the spirit rather than the letter of the law. There
are a few towns where it is determined that no
effort shall be spared to give a lad a new chance,
where it is realised that the first offence will not be
the last unless there is skilled intervention by the
right sort of person. Where the effort is made it
can always be traced to the interest of one person in
the fate of one child. The work cannot develop
except on that foundation, it cannot exist except
there be this personal desire among men to seek and
save that which appears to be lost.

I say "appears to be lost," remembering that
appearances are often deceptive. Justice is con-
cerned less with the appearance of the offence than
with the cause, and she recognises that the smashed
window or the broken till may be due either to an
act of premeditated crime or to a mistaken idea of
the heroic. This distinction of motive is obviously
as difficult to draw as it is important to maintain.
If we are to help a lad we must know whether his
fault is due to a manifestation of natural high
spirits, or whether it is the last act of an unrestrained
young profligate.

The object of this book is to spread the desire to
help among the many who would come forward if
they understood the need, and to be of some use,


possibly, as a guide to those already at work. I
shall avoid, as -a far as possible, descriptions of
poverty and crime, because it should be a sufficient
incentive to Englishmen to know that over 30,000
children are yearly brought before the magistrates
as having committed an offence and over half as
many again as being offended against. I shall not
embark upon speculations as to what might be in a
better ordered State, for this is the work which
needs to be done to free that State from an embar-
rassing population. Further, I shall not pretend
that this . problem is anything but one which is not
only difficult in itself but surrounded by difficulties,
and I offer no " short cuts to perfection/'

The probation system is a comparatively modern
attempt to bring the spirit of social service into play
for the assistance of those who have committed
some offence under the law. Is it to follow other
official attempts which enlist voluntary support as
a vehicle for the conveyance of official instructions,
or is it to be alive with individuality and power ?
It is based upon the interference by one person in
the life of another : is it necessary ? Are the
authorities labouring under any delusions about
crime, punishment and reform ? Do we want to
see a dependent or independent people ? In the
chapter following I attempt to show the extent of
the interference which will have been practised on
many of the families with which we are brought in
contact an interference which has not always
answered, for otherwise the probation officer would
not be needed. Can the " after-care " worker

B 2


supply the something which those who have pre-
ceded him have lacked ?

The probation officer is not handicapped by many
regulations, there is no ambiguity as to the reason
for his interest in his charge, whose family appreciate
the definite object of his supervision. Whether his
interference is justified will be shown by the number
of cases to which he can give a clean bill of health,
not by the number he can continue to keep on his

2. The Normal.

The aim of probation and " after-care " work is to
prevent the recurrence of the offence and to over-
come criminal or non-moral tendencies by the
power of a normal or healthy personality. I say the
recurrence of crime, because I do not believe in the
wholesale interference with people under a general
" after-care " scheme ; where its laws have been
broken the community has a responsibility which it
does not possess otherwise.

The normal lives of the majority of men and the
general effort, not only to maintain the normal but
to raise the standard of life, provide a sufficient safe-
guard to the peace of the community. Probation
and " after-care " work can only be effectively
carried out by those who have a lively appreciation
of what is normal. Indeed, it has come into promi-
nence because we have seen that the prison does not
restore a man to a normal life, but helps him to
become accustomed to the abnormal.

The effort of all " social service/' and especially


that of the probation officer, should be to raise the
abnormal into the state of the normal. This is un-
happily not the view of certain of the " social
reformers," who imagine, for example, that the
whole of the elementary school population is ab-
normal, that all the children are in need of the
necessaries of life, under-fed, without medical treat-
ment for pressing diseases, and growing up into
unemployable hooligans. Their parents are, the
argument runs, incapable of exercising their respon-
sibilities because they are too poor a word which,
in the mouth of the reformer, signifies a state of
honest unemployment, total abstinence, an insani-
tary dwelling, and over-crowded rooms ! Officially-
minded persons work out an elaborate dossier
system in which these poor are to be sorted, classified,
and tabulated in a manner convenient to the ad-
ministrators of public relief ; progressively-inspired
politicians organise State doles and endeavour to
prove the utility of Parliament by the amount of
disguised poor relief it can legalise. It would seem
that the abnormal family predominated and that
the condition of the working classes was unavoidably
one of dependence. However that may be, the
standard of the probation officer is set by those who
commit offences which lead them to his care and
those who do not. It follows that he may often
have to submit to a lower standard of what is
normal than he would wish ; but it is to be hoped
that he will not rest content with this, and that he
will aim always at the highest degree of independence
for his charges that they are capable of maintaining.


3. Cure or Prevention.

It is seldom, if ever, possible to know when a man
is on the road to disaster. The man who is occasion-
ally drunk, frequently gambles, and always lives in a
pigsty, may be able to pull himself together before
the last ditch of destitution and the loss of his
independence either in prison or in the work-

It is true that " the last ditch " may be the first,
but the first can only be known to the sufferer him-
self and cannot be distinguished by his neighbours,
even when they look back after he has fallen into a
number of others. It follows that official inter-
ference can only begin when the man or woman asks
for assistance or has compelled action by some con-
travention of the law. This destroys the belief in
that blasphemous l adage that " prevention is better
than cure." It is commonly held that if men were
prevented by the State from getting out of work or
from taking too much to drink, and if children were
prevented by official doctors from falling ill and
having bad teeth, the desired millennium would
arrive. It is urged likewise that if the object of the
criminal law were the prevention rather than the
punishment of crime there would cease to be crimi-
nals. We hope, indeed, that an organised system of
probation would effectually starve our prisons, but
as probation is only applied after an offence it is a
type of punishment : the prevention of crime rests
ultimately, not with the probation officer, but with

1 Blasphemous because it is contrary to the divine law which
allows each man the power to do evil or to do good.


the community and the standard of morality
demanded by national life. To prevent a person
from getting into prison is not the same thing as to
prevent him from committing a crime.

Nevertheless, the probation officer aims at the
prevention of the recurrence of crime. I attach
importance to this distinction, as it seems to me
essential to justice and human liberty to believe in
the integrity and honour of men. God does not mean
us to be liars and thieves until some political visionary
can devise a means of saving us, though both here
and abroad there exists some such pessimistic con-
ception of His will.

To some minds after-care is a scheme whereby
the whole wage-earning class shall be watched over
by officials from birth to death. 1 This is the motive
of the scheme actually in operation in certain
districts in which each child, of whatever home
or parentage, attending the elementary schools is
secretly reported on to the labour exchange. For-
tunately the pessimists are satisfied with a paper
conformity, but this assumption of dependence
cannot have a healthy influence and must not alto-
gether be disregarded.

There is one form of prevention which I do advo-
cate, and that is the prevention of the State from
interfering unnecessarily. If a child is punished for
an offence regardless of the cause, it is a mismanage-
ment of the practice of cure ; if a lad is apprehended
for harmlessly kicking a ball about in the street, it

1 See " Boy Labour and Apprenticeship," Reginald Bray,
pp. 237 et seq.


shows a misunderstanding of the principle. In both
cases we must prevent our representatives from
wrong action. But to prevent people who act for
us from making mistakes is different from restraining
hitherto independent persons.

4. Punishment.

" In the use that the teacher makes of rewards
and punishments he expresses his latent conviction
that he is working against the grain of the child's
nature." 1 The object of probation is, by avoiding
punishment, to work with the grain, and the system
is a criticism of our method of punishment.

The work of the " after-care " worker and pro-
bation officer is influenced, as we have seen, by two
motives the first to prevent the recurrence of
crime, and the second, as a means to that end, to
prevent as many people as possible from being com-
mitted to prison. The probation officer knows that
some 70 per cent, of the men and women committed
to prison return there, 2 and he sees in the recidivist
the failure of the prison to deter men from crime and
its success in making men contented with the

1 " The Tragedy of Education," Edmond Holmes.

2 See " Criminal Statistics, 1912," p. 10 : " Of the 10,931
persons convicted at assizes and quarter sessions 7,465 had
previous convictions," while of the 156,913 persons received in
the prisons 103,407 had been previously guilty of other offences :
see Tables XXXVI. and XXXVII. The Commissioners of Prisons
in their last report (1914) state that of 103,010 males and 33,414
females convicted 19 per cent, of the males and 32 per cent, of the
females were convicted more than once during the year, and 63 per
cent, and 78 per cent, respectively had incurred previous con-
victions. " Of the male prisoners sentenced to penal servitude
during the year no less than 87 per cent, had been previously
sentenced to imprisonment."


abnormal life of crime. He does not as yet conclude
that punishment cannot be given officially, but that
what is given is, in the majority of cases, ineffective.
The Home Secretary in introducing the Criminal
Justice Administration Bill (April I5th, 1914), said
that the Bill had been named originally " The
Abatement of Imprisonment Bill," and described it
as an attempt to abate the evil of imprisonment as it
affected juveniles or first offenders. We may at first
glance conclude that the Home Office is rising to the
Tolstoyan height of doing away with punishment
altogether, as indeed it has for a number of juvenile
offences, but it is only doing so by keeping alive the
fear of the possibility of the punishment it distrusts ;
the probation system depends at present upon the
prison as an ultimate possibility. How far this fear
is responsible for restraining the criminal tendencies
of the probationer I cannot say ; a certain fear of
prison does exist among those who have not ex-
perienced it. But the probation officer will be wise
not to depend upon it ; rather he, of all men, has to
remember that the spirit of love casteth out fear.

" The judges shall make diligent inquisition ; and,
behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified
falsely against his brother ; then shall ye do unto him,
as he had thought to have done unto his brother : so
shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And
those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall hence-
forth commit no more any such evil among you. And
thine eye shall not pity ; but life shall go for life, eye for
eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. 1

1 Deuteronomy, xix. 18 21.


In this saying of " old time " we note three
ideas (i) the necessity of knowing all the facts
before passing judgment ; (2) the belief in deterrent
punishment ; and (3) the disbelief in mercy, or, in
other words, the admittance of the spirit of vindic-
tiveness : though, as Dr. Scott Holland rightly points
out to me, an eye for an eye is a more merciful code
than a head for an eye. Tolstoy and others have
interpreted the condemnation of part of this law by
Christ to apply to all punishment inflicted by man
upon man ; while others hold that He was not
condemning punishment so much as its vindictive-
ness. However this may be, there is no doubt that
deterrent punishment has often been ineffective to
check crime, though it has succeeded in making the
criminal more adept in his work, and when a given
punishment was popularly supposed to be too
severe, judges, juries, and magistrates found ways
to avoid giving it. The death penalty, which is, I
imagine, the most deterrent or would-be preventive
device which man can conceive, was at one time
promiscuously in force. All felonies in which the
sum involved was over one shilling were liable to be
punished by death. Indeed, as late as 1831 the
death penalty l for all crimes totalled 1,601 (52), of
which only 14 (12) were for murder, while in 1862
out of 29 (15) all save one were for murder. The
reduction in the number of crimes liable to so
grave a penalty was due not only to its failure as a
deterrent but to a clearer view of the functions of
the law. Justice was no longer to be an end in

1 The number executed is given in brackets,


itself lynch law in respectable garments but to
be the means of securing a just way of life. Those
who opened Parkhurst Prison in 1837 f r juveniles
sentenced to transportation were beginning to see
this ideal of justice, even though their prisoners had
to wear irons ; and it is the growth of the ideal which
has led to the particular care exercised over juvenile
offenders at the present time. It will not end there.
We are finding that imprisonment is ineffective for
men and women ; they grow accustomed to punish-
ment which has ceased to be a disgrace or an in-
convenience to them. A married man knows that
his family may be better cared for while he is " over
the wall " than when he is at home ; his neighbours
merely look upon his absence as a temporary mis-
fortune due to being found out, and he returns
on discharge to his former environment conscious
of possessing some at least of the elements of

In this way justice is deprived of the natural and
after all most effective punishment the distress of a
man's family and the distrust of his friends. This
is a serious calamity, for it shows either that the
system of justice is out of touch with the people,
or that the people have lost the reverence for liberty
in which atmosphere alone true justice can survive.
I am loth to leave this part of our subject at the
threshold of so vast a problem, but its mention will,
I believe, serve to show the importance of the right
treatment of juvenile crime, a treatment which, by
training the young offender to develop and employ
his faculties honestly, will give him the power to


appreciate liberty and the desire for what is honour-
able and just.

5. Recent Legislation.

I dare not suggest that what I have written
represents all that has been in the mind of Parlia-
ment when it has passed laws which relieve magis-
trates of the necessity to imprison certain offenders.
This book is not a history of punishment, and it is
only necessary to refer to recent Acts which show a
distrust of imprisonment as an effective means of
checking juvenile crime.

The Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, allows the
court to reduce the statutory amount of imprison-
ment, or fine, in the case of first offenders, while
those guilty of trifling offences can be discharged
upon giving surety of good behaviour. No sooner
was this Act in operation than the Home Office
(October 20th, 1880) was inquiring of chairmen of
quarter sessions, magistrates, and others " to con-
sider in what way the law ought to be amended,
especially with a view to the prevention of imprison-
ment of young children whether on remand or after

The Probation of First Offenders Act, 1887, allowed
the courts to discharge certain offenders finding
surety for good behaviour, even if the offence could
be punished by two years' imprisonment. This
Act was repealed by the passing of the Probation
of Offenders Act, 1907, which gave the court power to
liberate a person convicted of crime either upon his
own recognisances or under the supervision of a


probation officer. The court, by this means, is able
to reserve the sentence of fine or imprisonment in
case the offender should give further trouble, other-
wise he is at liberty to do as he pleases.

The Youthful Offenders Act, 1901, was incor-
porated in the Children Act, 1908.

The Children Act, 1908, provided, among many
other matters, that no child under fourteen should
be sent to prison, and that children between fourteen
and sixteen should never be sent to prison unless
they were too unruly for other treatment. It also
established the Juvenile Court.

The Prevention of Crimes Act, 1908, introduced
the curative form of imprisonment known as the
Borstal system.

The Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914,

(1) allows further time for the payment of fines and
the reduction of sentence upon part payment ; in
this way the " option " may actually be an option
for such as are not possessed of much available cash.

(2) It provides that societies organising (a) probation
work for juveniles under twenty-one, and (b) super-
vision of children on licence from industrial reforma-
tory schools, may be recognised by the Home
Secretary, and their representatives may be ap-
pointed as probation officers. The Home Office is
empowered to contribute toward the expenses of
such society. The object of this section of the Act
is to develop the work of probation so that the magis-
trate may be able to rely upon an effective system to
keep many young persons and first offenders out
of prison.


There are many other provisions in the above-
named Acts which will be referred to in the course of
this book. Some we would repeal and others we
would increase, but we can only decide that there is
hardly a power which Parliament can provide that
is not at the service of those who would remove the
heavy handicap with which so many begin their



i. Officials for the Poor. 2. Overlapping. 3. The

1. Officials for the Poor.

THE probation officer has to handle well-ad-
ministered persons, and in this chapter I indicate
something of the extent and confusion of that
administration. It is because of this over-adminis-
tration that magistrates are not properly supplied
with the previous history of the cases which come
before them, and we must learn how the probation
officer is to acquire this information without adding
to the confusion. He may well be alarmed at the
array of officials, for he will discover that no one
group of officers is endowed with full knowledge ; in
one district it will be the school attendance officer,
in another the relieving officer, who has the per-
sonality and experience which will supply him with
what he needs.

The probation officer has to face the fact that
an army of officials is in the field before him,
that they have worked their machines of inquiry,
and that it is his business to come in at the end and
repair the mischief. His task is not easy. He
follows on a method of inquiry which has relied
much upon the statement of the parent, and parents
become accustomed to make ready statements to


whatever official may be concerned with them at
the moment. In this connection I may quote my
own experience with a father who had asked for
school meals for his fifteenth child ; I was asking
him about a child who had left school and appeared
also to have left home. " I am sorry, sir, I cannot
well remember which is which ; I generally keeps a
list of them for ' these occasions/ and I've left it at

Now it must be remembered that " these
occasions " indicate an abnormal home, and it
is the child from the abnormal home who usually
reaches the Juvenile Court. The normal parent
decides to subordinate his personal desires to the
ordering of the State ; therefore his child attends
school regularly, is inspected free of charge by a
doctor who does not know his home or history, is
treated by a Council Clinic for defects which his
parents think unimportant. A consistent policy of
acquiescence keeps a parent out of reach of official
and voluntary interference in his home. But if he
does not acquiesce, then his case becomes abnormal
and he is likely to feel the official weight. Practi-
cally the whole of the official weight has been put on
the families which feed prisons, reformatories and
industrial schools, and often they have suffered
from voluntary interference as well.

To give some idea of what this may mean, I set
out below a list of persons imposing and offering

In London there were in June, 1914 :

Borough Councils : 298 male sanitary inspectors ;


29 female sanitary inspectors ; 16 women who are
part-time sanitary inspectors and part-time health
visitors ; 21 whole-time health visitors ; 29 clerks
to distress committees.

Guardians : 309 relieving officers.

London County Council : 297 school attendance
officers ; 13 industrial school officers ; 12 " special "

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Online LibraryH. D. C. (Hilary Douglas Clerk) PeplerJustice and the child → online text (page 1 of 10)