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The Young Lag

by the same author



A Study in Crime by
SIR LEO PAGE of the Inner Temple and South Eastern Circuit Barrister-at-Law

If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark iniquities, Lord, who shall withstand it?

—Psalm CXXIX

FABER AND FABER LIMITED 24 Russell Square London

First published in mcml by Faber and Faber Limited 24 Russell Square London W.C.Second impression August mcml Printed in Great Britain by Purnell and Sons Limited Paulton (Somerset) and London All rights reserved


MY WIFE who made it possible

My thanks are due to the Editor of the Quarterly Review for permission to use part of an article therein published.

All names used in Part Two are fictitious.




page 15

As things are





The Raw Material


(i) George Adams


(ii) Alfred Benson


(iii) Henry Carter


(iv) William Dawson


(v) Sidney Evans


(vi) Eli Foster


(vii) Ernest Garrett


(viii) John Hawkins


(ix) Edwin Innis


(x) Wilfrid Jones


(xi) Leonard King


(xii) William Lucas


(xiii) Harry Morrison


(xiv) John Nicholls


(xv) Bernard Orton


(xvi) Vivian Porter


(xvii) Andrew Russell



(xviii) Peter Saunders

page 207

(xix) Jack Turner


(xx) Tom Unwin


(xxi) Derrick Vyne


(xxii) Lawrence Williams


(xxiii) Maurice Young



Portrait of a Young Man


The Causes of Crime


As Things Might Be






Part i


For a good many years I have been of the opinion that wise and practical suggestions for the treatment of crime could best be built upon an understanding of individual offenders. After all, although one talks of the treatment of crime no one can treat crime: what one really means is the treatment of criminals. If, then, one could come to a real understanding of a sufficient number of criminals such knowledge should enable one to draw general conclusions of practical value. My original intention was to make a close study of fifty young offenders. I thought that upon the data so obtained one might proceed to some extent statistically; thus, if it became apparent that of these fifty young men a large proportion had some relevant characteristic in common, one might reasonably assume that this characteristic produced, at any rate, a tendency towards wrongdoing; while if some other peculiarity was present in none of them, one might suppose that that quality was not a contributory factor in delinquency. But two conclusions soon became clear. The variations of human nature are so infinite that before one could draw authoritative deductions in this way one would need to examine not fifty but rather five hundred criminals. Furthermore, it would have entailed greater labour and more time than I had available to compile even fifty of these histories.

As will be shown, the study of each of the cases in this book has meant a good many hours of work, and a certain amount of fatigue and travel. I have in fact recorded the stories of twenty-three men. To have written at equal length in each case of even double this number would have made the book intolerably lengthy and probably unreadable. An alternative would have been to shorten the history of each man into half the space. But that was precisely what I was most anxious not to do. I have sat for several hours with each of these men. Each has been to me just someone in trouble. Each has talked and to each I have listened, not in order to condemn or to admonish, but in order to learn and to understand. That is why they have become to me not mere cases but human beings. That is how I have come to see how the small

details of their daily lives have formed into an evil pattern, and how natures not always very different or much worse than the normal have come to be distorted into tragedy and wrongdoing. It is the little things which they have told me which have made these men real to me. But I see very clearly that even by repeating their stories in their revealing detail I may well fail to make them real to others. I certainly could not succeed in shortened and condensed form. Moreover, it is all-important for my purpose that I should succeed. For it is only those to whom these cases become real men, and these histories real lives, who will be moved to understand their lesson.

My first point is, then, that I make in this book not the slightest statistical approach to the problem of the twenty-three young men whose histories are here recorded. They are far too few in number. I recognise that conclusions based, however accurately, on nothing but these few case histories would be invalid, and might well be wholly misleading. Let me give an illustration. Of these twenty-three men the religion, or nominal religion, of each is stated. There is not a single one amongst them who on entering prison described himself as a Nonconformist: yet it would be absurd to draw the deduction that no Nonconformists enter prisons.

But although I do not generalise merely from these few men, I do rely very much upon their histories to illustrate the lessons which previous long experience of young men in prison had already taught me. For a considerable period of years I have been concerned with young offenders. I have spoken to them in Borstals and in prisons; studied their histories; and tried on occasion to help them on release. It is almost impossible to do these things, and so to learn what has led each of a long succession of lads into crime, without forming some general theories. Inevitably, therefore, when I had the opportunity of the intensive study of these twenty-three young offenders I used the facts thus learnt to test the theories I had already formed. I make this plain for two reasons. In the first place, because it is the truth, and, in the second, because it gives me an opportunity of refuting an obvious and immediate suggestion which may be made that, consciously or unconsciously, I have chosen my twenty-three cases to suit my preconceived theories. Clearly, the critic may say, a writer can support any theory, however mistaken, if he select enough cases for study and quote only such amongst them as harmonise with the propositions


he is out to prove. If this could be said with justification of my twenty-three cases I could appeal to them with very little confidence: they would be discredited in advance. I am, therefore, glad to be able to show that in this criticism at least there is no force. That exception can never be taken, and for the simplest of reasons —I myself did not select even a single case. I saw all these men in half a dozen different prisons, and in every case the prisoner was selected by the governor of the prison in which he was serving his sentence. I wrote to each governor asking him to select for interview by me any prisoners he might have of the appropriate ages with such records as indicated in the opinion of the governor that they were likely to become lifelong offenders. In no case did I know anything of a man’s record before my first interview with him. Moreover, just as I selected no material, so I rejected none. Some of the men chosen for me were not quite what I wanted, in that, in my opinion, they were not so set in criminal ways as to make it overwhelmingly probable that they would become recidivists. Nevertheless, I interviewed every man chosen for me by a governor, and the history of each man interviewed is recorded in this book.

It will be seen that I have confined myself to prisoners between the ages of twenty and twenty-six. The reason is obvious enough. However interesting historically, a study which discovered the causes which led a number of elderly prisoners into crime forty years ago would be of small practical value today. At the beginning of this century circumstances of all kinds—social, industrial, and economic—differed completely from conditions during the years when the young men whom I have interviewed began their criminal careers. Such conclusions as we may reach about these lads will relate to influences in force today, with which therefore we may reasonably hope to be able to deal.

I saw each man in a small room in which we were quite alone. Before we had any talk at all I repeated what had already been explained to him by the prison governor, that he was under no compulsion of any sort, and was at perfect liberty to decline to talk with me. On the other hand, I made it clear that my object was to make a serious study of crime amongst young men: if he did choose to talk I begged him therefore to be both frank and truthful, so that we might try together to discover means of helping other young men. Finally, I assured him that I would publish no

names either of people or places which would lead to his identification, and that he could never be punished in the future for any offences of which he told me not already known to the police. All the men said that they would be glad to talk.

With two men I had a single interview of about three hours; with the rest I had more than one. The talks were completely informal; the men smoked cigarettes while I made copious notes. My invariable practice was to transcribe these notes next day while the conversations were still fresh in my memory. The result is that although I have not the advantage of writing shorthand the words which I have printed in inverted commas as quotations are as nearly as is humanly possible the ipsissima verba of the prisoners.

The official file which each man has in prison gives all such details as the dates and particulars of his offences and sentences, his age, occupation, prison record, religion and so on. In many cases there are, in addition, particulars about him furnished by the police or by the Borstal authorities. I made it clear to each of my men that I had access to these documents and that it would be difficult for him to depart very widely from the truth in a statement of facts without my being aware that he had done so. That was, of course, true. But such official documents were no more than a guide to that of which I was in search. They gave me a mere skeleton. What I wanted was the confidence of each prisoner who, by his story of his childhood and youth, his picture of his parents and his home, his confession of his temptations and his falls, would build these bare bones into the semblance of a real and living youth. As they came to understand that my sole object was in reality what I had said, to learn from the failure of their early lives how to avert such tragedy from the lives of other men, almost all of them came to hold very little back, and to be ready to help me in what I was trying to do.

Personal experience over many years has made me realise, however, that truthfulness is not a marked characteristic of men in prison. Each of these men has committed crimes not once but many times. Some at least amongst them may have believed it would be to their advantage to deceive me into an unwarranted belief of earlier misfortune or present repentance. Clearly this book would be valueless if I were in fact deceived, and if the estimates of character which I framed were inaccurate and wrong. For it to *    18

be of value, I must indeed see more than the facts of the offences which these men had committed. I must see more than what they had done. I must see enough for me to understand why they had done it.

I am not so foolish as to believe that my judgments in such matters are unerring. For this reason I have been glad to check and cross check them by means of advice from prison officials with personal knowledge and experience of each of these young offenders. In almost all cases I have had the advantage of a report from the medical officer. The governors, chief officers, or officers in charge of the party in which the men worked have given me their impressions. In some cases the governor of his former Borstal, or the headmaster of his approved school, have remembered enough of a boy to describe him at an earlier stage of his development. I hope it is unnecessary to make clear that always I have asked for an independent opinion and not for a mere concurrence with any supposed view of my own; there have been no leading questions; I have been careful not to disclose what I myself thought of any individual prisoner until I knew the opinion of the officer whose help I sought. I may perhaps have failed in every case to find the truth, but if that is so it has not been for want of honest effort. It is because I recognise how few the cases are which I describe in this book that I have tried to compensate for their small number by the care, the intensity, and the accuracy with which I have treated them. One other danger has been constantly in my mind, and I have in consequence endeavoured to steer a mean course between the Scylla of sentimentalism and the Charybdis of cynicism. We are apt to forget that Charity and Truth can go sometimes hand-in-hand.

I am a very great admirer of the work which is done in approved schools and Borstals. The success which they attain with, to say the least, unpromising material is quite remarkable. Almost all the young men whose stories are told in this book are failures of the approved school and Borstal systems. It is amongst such failures very often that the worst of our criminals are found. Such cases are advertised while the far greater proportion of successes rightly desire, and receive, no publicity. That fact should be remembered. Some of the young men described here have criticised their schools or their Borstal institutions; others have had hard things to say of their probation officers. Where criticism has been made I have

recorded it, not because I have believed it always to be well-founded, but because to suppress evidence is to distort truth. If the criticism is just, it is right that it should be made known. If it is unjust, it is wise to record it as indicating the character of the man who made it.

The name of every person in this book is fictitious. Those of places are hardly ever the true names of the places where the incidents described took place. Essential matters—such as offences and sentences—are exactly accurate. But in retelling the stories told me by these men I have so altered dates and places as to make it quite impossible for anyone to identify any of these prisoners by what is written here.

I shall use the expression ‘other offences taken into consideration’, (abbreviated as T. I. C.), in discussing the records of prisoners. It refers to offences admitted by the prisoner to have been committed by him since his last conviction, which he asks to be considered in his present sentence in order that he may not be liable to re-arrest on his discharge from prison.

The kindness and the assistance given me by the prison commissioners have alone made it possible for me to write this book. I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my very sincere gratitude for their most generous help.

This book will succeed or fail less by the force of my arguments than by the way in which the pictures of these twenty-three young men take shape in the minds of those who read it, become alive, and turn from portraits into human beings. They are the heart of the book; it is for them that it was written. If they are seen by others as they were seen by me—simply as boys on the verge of disaster, standing at the edge of a precipice from which some of them at least, if we are quick and skilful, may yet be saved—then they who read this book will have their own ideas and form their own theories as to how that salvation may be best accomplished. They will consider my suggestions with their own. If there be no value in my proposals let them be discarded. So long as some strong hand seizes each endangered boy and draws him into safety, so long as some wise voice guides him to a better future, it matters nothing whose hand it is or to whom the voice belongs.


As Things Are

I propose in this chapter to consider in outline the state of crime as it is in this country today. It is essential that we should know and understand the position at the present time, since without such knowledge it is impossible to come to any sane and informed decision as to the wisdom or necessity of any suggested reforms. But it is extremely difficult, to say the least, to understand the situation today without some minimum of information as to how that situation has been reached. Let us therefore for one moment only glance at the immediate past to enable us to understand the present which it has produced. Having done so much, I shall say enough of theory to make clear the principles in the light of which the problems of delinquency should in my judgment be approached. Then, in the second part of the book, we shall have done with theory and go together through the prison gates in order that we may study crime in the only way in which it can effectively be understood, by doing our best to understand the criminal.

In the last hundred years the attitude of the State to the offender has wholly changed. One hundred years ago it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that one principle alone was regarded as wise and effective, that of deterrence. Adult offenders committed to prison sentences were confined in institutions for such periods and under such conditions as were dictated by that single harsh canon that if criminals were made to suffer sufficient pain and degradation in their punishment they would not sin a second time. So merciless was the administration of the criminal law that the same hard practice was enforced against mere children. In 1851 fifty-five children under the age of fourteen were sentenced to imprisonment for stealing articles less than sixpence in value and one hundred and thirty-six for stealing goods under the value of half a crown.1

1 London Prisons of Today and Yesterday, Albert Crew, p. no.


Fifty-odd years ago the process of modern prison reform was set in motion by the appointment of the Gladstone Committee in 1895 and its recommendations were based upon a recognition of the fact that the lawbreaker might and, if possible, should be reformed.

The first forty years of the present century saw such advances as would have been regarded as impossible in 1900. The principle was established that the State had done its duty neither to the offender nor to the rest of the community when after the commission of a crime it arrested the culprit, established his guilt, and committed him to prison as punishment. Rather had its duty just begun. It was recognised that the State had been successful in fulfilling its duty entirely only where the offender emerged at the end of his prison sentence a better man than he was at its commencement. Such is the ideal which the State now sets before itself. It is not suggested that it is always attained, or indeed that at any time conditions have been good enough to enable a serious attempt at its attainment to be made in the case of every prisoner. It is, however, an immense step forward that so humane and advanced a principle should have received official acceptance.

Let us glance for a moment at some of the many instances and proofs of this new approach of society to the delinquent which have been introduced in the first forty years of the twentieth century. Far fewer offenders were sent to prison. Efforts were made to find alternative treatments. Time for the payment of fines was given, in reversal of the usual custom of the instant committal to prison of defendants unable to pay their fines immediately. The probation system, at once efficient and merciful, was introduced, and in the course of these years greatly extended and improved. Under this system the offender in suitable cases is given not punishment but the help of a wise guide, who, while an officer of the court armed with definite disciplinary authority, is primarily the sympathetic friend of the offender placed under his supervision. If this single innovation had stood alone it would have sufficed to make the era of its introduction most memorable. But it did not stand alone. The humane spirit which inspired the fostering of the probation system was to be found equally in the inauguration of the Borstal system for adolescent offenders and in the new approved schools which replaced the grim industrial schools and reformatories of earlier years.

So, too, in prisons themselves there have been introduced during these forty years constant changes designed for the single aim of humanising imprisonment. The degradations of prison life—the close-cropped head, the broad arrows, the prison dress and the humiliating, useless tasks—were all abolished. Talking and association amongst prisoners were permitted. Classes and lectures given to prisoners in the evenings by teachers from the outside world brought interest into their lives. Workshops were set up and men capable of learning were taught industries and trades whereby they might earn honest livings on their discharge. An earnings system was inaugurated whereby in prison itself men might earn small weekly wages and spend them as they wished upon such luxuries as tobacco.

Finally in this short catalogue, new types of open prisons were started so that prisoners could fit themselves for the day of discharge and freedom under conditions approaching those of freedom itself. If the first half of this century saw great advance in many social services it is not too much to say that in none was progress relatively greater than in the English prison system.

Such, then, was in outline the position in 1939. Then came the war, bringing in its train, amongst greater tragedies, the temporary collapse of penal reform in this country. That such collapse should occur was inevitable. When the very existence of a people hangs in the balance there is no time to spare for such matters as the reformation of criminals. It would have been well, indeed, if there had been nothing worse than a suspension of experiment and innovation, so that at the return of peace the position was the same as it had been at the outbreak of war. But during the six years of struggle new and grave problems of delinquency arose. This is a common phenomenon of modern war and it would have been a matter for astonishment if the extraordinary conditions which obtained in the great cities of this country during the war years had not led to demoralisation of character and conduct. Fathers of families were taken by the military services; mothers left their homes to occupy themselves in war-time industry; families were dispersed by evacuation; abnormal demand for labour enabled unskilled youths to earn fantastic wages; schools and boys’ clubs were closed or destroyed. If such causes brought about uncertainties and lack of guidance

and discipline sufficient to explain a great rise in juvenile offences, there were others more than enough to affect the morale of adults and juveniles alike, with the resultant increase of adult crime. The general strain under which men and women lived and worked; the blackout with its bombing and the ever-spreading ruin and destruction; the horrible nights spent in air-raid shelters and the war of nerves; the temptations offered by opportunities for looting after each successive raid; the callous indifference to the future when life might be so short. The war is past and speculations as to precise cause and effect are largely profitless today. It is sufficient for our present purpose to indicate the general character of the evil influences which in their aggregate have led to a state of affairs at the present time so vastly more difficult and menacing than was the case ten years ago.

Conditions of life to-day differ in almost all respects from those of the war years. The causes of today’s crime are not wholly those which brought about the wave of war-time delinquency. But one tragic fact is only too evident. As the war ended the wave did not recede; on the contrary, with each year of peace it has grown in volume and in force; today, indeed, the situation is so sombre that Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice, has publicly declared: ‘I have never known a parallel to the amount of serious crime at the present time. It appals me!’

It would be mischievous to exaggerate a situation which admittedly is very bad. But it would be no less mistaken to refuse to face facts and to close one’s eyes to what is become a menace to the welfare of the State. This is not mere sensationalism. It is sober and disquieting fact. The figures show that there is a great deal more crime than there was ten years ago. But analysis of the figures shows also that there is a great increase in certain most dangerous forms of crime comparatively rare in this country before the war. Lest it may be thought that I have painted too black a picture, let us examine some simple statistics.

The mind becomes easily confused by columns of figures showing in thousands and tens of thousands the numbers of indictable and non-indictablc offences, of all sorts and kinds. I have therefore confined myself to a statement of the numbers of persons actually in prison before the war and at the present time. Nothing could show at once more clearly or more simply the state of crime at that period and today, since, generally speaking, it is


for the more serious offences only that delinquents are committed to imprisonment.

In 1938 the amount of crime was such that there were thirty-one prisons in use and between them they held in all a daily average population of 8,750 prisoners. In addition, there were ten Borstal institutions with an average population of 2,250 inmates.In 1949 there were forty prisons and seventeen Borstal institutions in use with a total average population of almost 21,000, which was being added to by an increase of almost a hundred every week.

As regards younger offenders a similar story must be told. An example of the rise in juvenile delinquency may be quoted from the Report of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police for 1948.It shows that since 1938 the number of children arrested for indictable offences had increased by nearly fifty per cent, and that the number of ‘young persons’ (i.e. between fourteen and sixteen years of age) so arrested had increased by forty per cent. It showed, too, the significant and disturbing fact that of all the young people of both sexes under twenty-one years of age arrested in 1948 almost two-thirds were operating in gangs.

These figures are alarming enough. But there is no sign at all that even yet we have reached the peak. Crime still increases steadily.3 The latest official figures* show that while in 1947 115,672 persons were found guilty of indictable offences the number rose to 129,384 in 1948. This increase of 13,712 included a rise of 7,336 in convictions for theft and an increase of 3,173 in the very serious crimes of housebreaking and shopbreaking. Perhaps the most lamentable figure of all is that in this single year there was an increase of from 22,152 to 27,650 (that is to say, of no less than twenty-five per cent) in the number of persons of less than seventeen years of age found guilty of some form of theft. It is a deplorable commentary upon the morals of today to read that in this same twelve months convictions for shoplifting rose from 8,428 to 10,938. Here, too, many of the culprits were mere children: 2,718 were boys, and 585 girls were under fourteen years of age.

1    It should perhaps be explained that the limits of age for committal to Borstal during these years were sixteen to twenty-three.

2    Published in July 1949. Cmd 7737.

3    The first eight months of 1949 show some decrease.

4    Criminal statistics for 1948, Cd. 7733.

A valuable report showing the increase in thefts over this ten-year period was issued in May 1949—The Increase in Crimes of Theft 1938-IQ47.1 The increase is shown under various categories as follows:

Larceny, 65.5 per cent.

Theft from houses, 81 per cent.

Breaking and entering, 127 per cent.

Thefts from shops and warehouses, 172 per cent.

Thefts from railways, 315 per cent.

The total value of property stolen was £2,500,000 in 1938; in 1947 it was £13,000,000.

The report pertinently points out that if it is true that there is a ‘black market’ which gets its supplies from thieves, then it follows that there must be a considerable number of people who are ready to buy stolen goods without any too close enquiry as to their origin. On this wider aspect of the matter nothing less than the morale of the population is involved, a matter even more grave than the thefts themselves, very serious as they are.

Nothing illustrates more clearly this decline in morale to which the Liverpool report refers than thefts upon the railways. I read recently a statement in the Press2 that in 1938 claims against the railways for pilfering cost them £180,000. In 1948 the figure was £2,778,000. Pilfering has become wholesale looting.

These crimes are committed in part by railway employees and in part by outsiders and by gangs. Of 8,535 prosecutions by the railways for larceny during 1948, 2,287 were against railway servants. It is right to emphasise how small a proportion of the total number of persons employed in the railways this number is. It is wise, however, to remember, first, that this figure of 2,287 is an enormous increase on the relative pre-war figure, and, secondly, that there are many thefts committed for every thief prosecuted to conviction.

The details of an actual case tried at the Old Bailey are instructive. They show the careful planning of these thefts; the callous breach of trust and persistent robbing of their employers by men of apparent respectability in steady employment and without any excuse of economic need; and, finally, the extent to which this form of crime has spread.

The case was heard by the Recorder of London in 1949.

1 University Press of Liverpool, is. 6d.    8 Sunday Express.


Prosecuting counsel described it as ‘thieving on a very vast scale by servants of the Railway Executive’. The system was that parcels arriving at Waterloo Station were relabelled fraudulently and so directed to other London stations where other members of the gang, who used false names, called to collect them. Defending counsel said that this relabelling system ‘came into the office at Waterloo like a snowball. It engulfed the place and all those who were in it’. F. A. Flick, aged thirty-five, W. F. Pollard, aged forty-three, P. R. Whiting, aged twenty-nine, and J. E. Wallis, aged twenty-nine, were sentenced for stealing, and A. L. Costin, aged fifty, for receiving. The wife of Whiting was bound over for receiving. On being arrested, Flick said he had collected sixty-eight parcels from Wandsworth Road Station in this way, using the name of Ashton. He had disposed of the contents to people in public houses. When his home was searched £409 was found. He had three banking accounts with total balance of £1,959. Under a pile of earth on Pollard’s allotment police found a radio set, tea, tobacco, and cigarettes.

An even more impudent fraud was carried out by two other defendants, C. A. Densley, aged forty-seven, chief parcels clerk at Clapham Junction, and R. A. Jarvis, aged forty-seven, the proprietor of an outfitter’s business in Clapham High Street. The system in this case was for parcels sent by Jarvis to his customers to be relabelled by Densley and sent back to Jarvis. Jarvis then claimed for their loss in transit against the railway and the two men shared the money between them. The two scoundrels were sentenced for conspiracy to cheat and defraud the railway and for obtaining money by false pretences. A melancholy feature of the story is the admission by Flick that he disposed of the property stolen on this large scale to ‘people in public houses’. Nothing shows more clearly the general demoralisation of character than such a story. Obviously enough the buyers knew perfectly well that they were purchasing stolen goods from a thief.

It is not surprising that Sir Gerald Dodson, Recorder of London, in passing sentence referred to ‘this distemper of dishonesty which has swept over the country in the last few years until people have lost sight of the difference between right and wrong. Morals have been weakened to the point of becoming extinguished’.1

1 Daily Telegraph.


Another illustration of this widespread dishonesty amongst men in good employment who before the war were as a class decent enough to have contempt for such practices, is to be found in a recent case in which four railway porters at Woking stole so many nylon stockings from the railway that they were able to dispose of them only by setting up an organisation to sell them through station taxi-drivers.

A typical example of the other form of railway theft by organised gangs may be quoted from the Press.1 Four men, subsequently convicted at the Old Bailey, were charged at Hendon with being concerned with five other men not in custody in stealing cases of whisky, rolls of carpet, and bales of soft goods valued at £15,000 at Cricklewood railway siding. Evidence was given that two lorries containing nine men drove up to the yard during the night and seven of the men began at once to slide cases and bales down the railway embankment. This went on for half an hour under the direction of one of the men who appeared to be giving orders and instructions. The presence of the police was then discovered and five men escaped. An unhappy feature of this case was the ages of the four men charged. Three of them were twenty-four and the fourth twenty-eight.

Enough has been said to show the really dreadful extent to which crime in general has increased in recent years. One grave feature remains to be made clear, the growth of carefully planned and organised relentless professional crime. Crime of this nature was very rare before the war; today it is so much a commonplace as scarcely to excite comment. Let me quote two perfectly typical examples from the newspaper of the day on which this paragraph is written:

‘Four men driving up in a stolen newspaper van attacked two employees of Ebonestos Industries Ltd., outside the firm’s premises in Deptford, S.E. They snatched from them a case containing £1,703 for wages. Mr. Wilkie, the cashier, had just left a car with his driver, Mr. Straker, after getting the money from a bank when the newspaper van drew in to the kerb. The men who leapt from it carried small iron bars. After striking Mr. Wilkie and taking the case, they jumped back into the van and drove off. The van was later found abandoned. Mr. Wilkie and Mr. Straker were treated at hospital for cuts.’2

1    Daily Telegraph, 21st September 1948.

2    Daily Telegraph, 29th October 1949.

As Things Are


‘Mr. Wilson, a shopkeeper of Alma Road, Wandsworth, was last night knocked unconscious by two men. They stole from the shop an attaché-case containing jewellery.’1

I draw particular attention to the increase in such crime as attacks on warehouses or post offices by armed men, robberies organised on a considerable scale, when stolen goods are taken away in stolen lorries, when householders or nightwatchmen are attacked, bound, and gagged while robberies are carried out. It is important that the public should realise the very real menace which the perpetrators of such outrages have become, because it is only in the light of such realisation that it will support the introduction of measures by which in a few years a complete change in the present deplorable situation might readily be effected. That new measures are needed will surely be denied by very few who know and appreciate the gravity of the facts. At present the courts are treating with pre-war methods post-war criminals, vicious and dangerous, who need other and stronger treatment. It is shown, for example, in the report of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police,1 2 that in a single year convictions for violence against the person rose in 1948 by twenty-seven per cent. Consider, too, the details of a Press report3 which differs in no essential from a score of others:

‘With the gang of eight bandits who attempted a bullion robbery at the London Airport now in prison for many years, Scotland Yard’s flying squad are concentrating on smashing three more dangerous but smaller gangs and the man who is directing them ... Known in the underworld as the G.O.C., he has selected as members of his gangs the most ruthless and dangerous criminals he could find. All have a long list of convictions, mostly for robbery with violence. . . . The G.O.C. is believed to be the brains behind many big country-house robberies and large-scale thefts in the provinces.’

Here is a very recent case indeed.4 It is instructive as showing all the worst features of contemporary crime, careful organisation and planning, complete disregard of the rights of property, violence endangering life of the owner of property, and a market for stolen goods.

‘Lady Irene Crawford of Loch Broom, Ross-shire, had the windscreen of her car shattered while she and her husband and other local landowners were searching for poachers. She was driving to follow a man who had been seen some distance away. There was a shot and the windscreen was shattered, a bullet passing within six inches of her head. Estate owners complain that poachers armed with rifles have been operating as a band and that deer and sheep have disappeared. Captain Crawford said yesterday that the poachers’ bag is removed in cars and lorries.’

A very typical example of this planned stealing to fit in with day to day market requirements is seen in the Press cuttings which follow. Commercial lead is scarce and has become in consequence extremely costly. As a result, systematic robberies of lead are at present organised all over the country, utterly regardless of the damage caused.

‘A gang of lead thieves is operating in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, specialising in stripping roofs of lonely country churches. Working by night with lorries, they have removed several tons of lead, worth hundreds of pounds. Three churches have already been despoiled. The latest robbery was at the thirteenth century church of S. Nicholas, in the parish of Carlton. Only bare boards remain on the roof today; eight tons of old cast lead, valued at £800, are missing. The lead cannot be replaced and the future of this ancient building is at stake. Inside the church are pools of water. Police say that two lorries were used to take the lead away, and tyre marks lead across the field to the churchyard wall.’1

‘The parish church of Little Missenden was recently a victim of one of the thefts which the high price of lead has made common. Thieves removed a ton of lead from the roof. The theft occurred during a period of heavy rain and has already endangered the early murals recently uncovered after careful and arduous work. Damage to structure of the church of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries is threatened owing to lack of roof protection.’2

‘Three tons of lead have been stripped from the roof of St. Andrew’s church, Hornchurch, Essex.’3

It is hardly a matter for surprise that a legal paper has stated that we are reaching a situation when the ordinary citizen feels he is no longer safe in his own home. Ten years ago such a statement would have been regarded as an absurdity. But in July

1    Daily Telegraph, 7th January 1950.

2    The Times, 31st January 1950.

3    The Times, 7th February 1950.

1948 at the Stafford Assizes the Lord Chief Justice said he had found cases of old people trembling as they went to the door to open it at night. He gave an example of a case he had tried the day before. An old man lay sick in bed, tended by his wife, aged seventy-three. There was a knock at the door and both the old people were beaten up and their house ravaged. Nor was there any excuse for the men who did this abominable act. They were in well-paid employment and did it to get easy money, the reason, as the Lord Chief Justice added, for much of the crime of today.

Shocking as such a case is, there is no difficulty at all in finding a parallel. Here is a very recent case.


‘Two men knocked on the door of a house in Staines Road, Hounslow, and pushed Mrs. Atkins, age 31, inside, and tied her up with pieces of cloth they found in the house. Mr. Atkins arrived home shortly after the men had left and released her. The thieves stole £161.n

And here is an example more brutal still.

‘At the Central Criminal Court yesterday sentence of two years’ imprisonment was passed on Thomas Collopy, aged twenty-five, labourer, living in a Church Army hostel, after he had pleaded guilty to robbing with violence an old-age pensioner, Emily Reed, aged eighty-six, of a watch, ring, ration book, and other articles valued at £2 1 os., and to possessing housebreaking implements by night. Collopy asked for three other offences to be taken into consideration and a detective stated in evidence that only last month the prisoner was bound over for two years for theft and for possessing housebreaking implements by night.’2

A sentence of two years means in reality that if the prisoner does not misbehave himself in prison he is given the customary remission of one third of his sentence, and so is released in sixteen months. I shall have much to say on the subject of sentences in the final chapter of this book. I have no wish to use exaggerated language, but I would put the plain question, what good is it thought this sentence will do, or can do, in this case? If the judge intended to protect the public, then this blackguard will be released

1 The Star, 27th January 1950.    * The Times, 17th November 1948.

upon the community in the spring of 1950: is that sufficient protection? Or did the judge imagine that this ruffian could by his prison training be transformed into a good citizen in sixteen months? He had a touching ignorance of human nature and our prison system if that were the case.

Unhappily there is no indication that this wave of violence is receding. Indeed, the evidence is rather the other way. Consider this recent cutting from the Press.1 It concerns a very brutal murder.

‘The investigators believe they are faced with members of a gang who would not hesitate to kill anyone if they had reason to believe that he was in a position to inform the police about them.’

I have thought it right in the second part of this book to draw attention very frequently to sentences passed upon young offenders which, it is my sincere belief, have been so mischievously mistaken as to have contributed materially to the failure of their lives. I emphasise these foolish sentences for two reasons. In the first place I believe that the selection of sentences is a most difficult, as it is a most important, art, and because in my view a general improvement in the exercise of that art is one of the most urgent needs of the administration of the English criminal law. In the second place, if the public can be given enough examples of silly sentences, and educated to realise not only their futility but their mischief, they will insist that this improvement is attained. It must, for example, be clearly understood that a short sentence in such a case as that of Collopy has a further demerit than the fact that it will certainly be useless in his case. That further evil is this—that it does not act as a deterrent to other young men who may be tempted to commit such crimes. A young offender with any experience of prison will take a sentence of nine months with indifference and fifteen months with a shrug of his shoulders: it is the sentence of five years which he dreads and will avoid.

I have no doubt such sentences were richly deserved in the following cases. It would be of interest to know how much feeble handling and mismanagement went to produce these two wretched youths at earlier appearances before criminal courts.

1 Daily Telegraph, 27th October 1949.

‘J. J. Oates, aged twenty-two, was jailed at Liverpool yesterday for seven years for wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and for breaking in. Mr. Justice Stable said: “You have preyed on society for eleven years.” To D. C. Garland, aged twenty-four, also convicted of breaking in, the judge said as he sentenced him to five years: “You began your criminal career before you were twelve.”

The main purpose of this book is to describe, and to make suggestions for, the adolescent recidivist. But for two reasons I include here a brief description of the adult persistent offender. He is a national nuisance; a burden to the community more troublesome and expensive than is often realised. The country cannot afford the wastage of which this type is the cause. It is desirable that those who are interested in the younger criminal should understand also the older man, because it is into such constant persistent offenders that the younger men eventually develop if they cannot be saved. Moreover, just as I have long been of the opinion that no juvenile court magistrate, or worker amongst boy delinquents, can really understand the minds and natures of juvenile offenders if he has had no close contact with, and made no study of, rather older delinquents of Borstal ages, so, too, I am convinced that to understand the criminal of twenty-five it is of great help and value to know something of the man into whose likeness he matures at forty or fifty.

There are many types of adult persistent offender. He may work alone, or as one of a gang; he may be a poor creature, scarcely able to make an honest living if he wished to do so, who confines his wrongdoing to petty thefts or minor frauds; or he may be a man of considerable intelligence who deliberately consecrates his life to evil and makes a large income by so doing. Finally, there is a type who keeps himself modestly in the background and lives by directing the crimes of other men.

There are, unhappily, so many persistent offenders under our present methods of dealing with crime that it is an easy matter to find examples of each type.

Here is an example of a man who could have made a good living at any one of a number of trades. It is taken from a newspaper of today.2

‘This is the story of 27-year-old “Spider” McGee, a cat burglar who climbed 70-foot drainpipes to enter buildings through the roofs. 1 Daily Express, 8th April 1949.    2 Daily Express, 2nd December 1949.

Mr. Justice Stable said of him: “He must have nerves of steel.” Detective Sergeant Ellis said: “McGee told me the higher the climb the more he enjoyed it.” He collected loot in suitcases or sacks. He gripped the handles, or the cords of the cases, between his teeth and shinned down the pipe.

He worked alone. He carried a knife, a rope, a torch, brace and bit, and a screwdriver. He climbed a drainpipe, detached slates, tied the rope to a beam, and lowered himself through the hole.

He pleaded guilty to breaking into two warehouses and two shops and asked for 98 other cases to be taken into consideration. He had collected £7,486 worth of goods. He did five such jobs a month. Less than £200 worth was recovered.

Here is a small man, no more than a petty nuisance.

‘Albert Hemming, aged forty, of East Kirkby, Notts, stole so many bicycles that he gave up his work as a miner and lived on the proceeds of his thefts, it was stated at Derbyshire Quarter Sessions yesterday.’1

Here, however, is a man who is more than a petty nuisance. It is not easy to determine the losses caused by such a man as this.

‘Described by Mr. Justice Stable at Bedfordshire Assizes yesterday as a consistent burglar, James Loughman, aged sixty-two, was sentenced to seven years’ preventive detention after pleading guilty to two charges of housebreaking and theft. He asked for thirty other cases to be taken into consideration. It was stated that when Loughman was sentenced in 1945 to eighteen months’ imprisonment for housebreaking he had asked for seventy other cases to be taken into consideration.’2

In passing, it is worth while to draw attention to the utter imbecility of a sentence of eighteen months (i.e. release in twelve months if well behaved in prison) passed upon this ruffian as punishment in 1945 for seventy-one offences. How can we expect to get rid of crime if we allow judges to pass sentences who so inadequately protect the public? The man was then fifty-eight years of age. It was obvious that twelve months in prison would not change his character or give opportunity for him to learn a trade, even if he had had the smallest desire to learn one. If it is suggested the sentence was intended to be deterrent, I need do no more than point to his thirty-two subsequent crimes committed after his release.

1 Daily Express, 7th October 1948.    2 Daily Telegraph, 17th May 1949.

Here is another case, of later date: the type is not dying out. Indeed, there is no reason why it should: at present we are not tackling the evil in the least degree effectively.

‘A forty-five-year-old cook who admitted that he had broken into seventy-three houses at Wembley—four or five a night, as he himself said—was jailed for five years yesterday at the Middlesex Sessions.’1

And here is another, later still.2 We shall have no difficulty in finding examples until we learn to make it clear by judicial sentences that crime does not pay.

‘Albert Burston, thirty-four years old, father of five children, of Bristol, admitted at Bristol yesterday twelve cases of housebreaking and shopbreaking in two months. He was jailed for three years after counsel had said that he took his thirteen-year-old son with him on several of his expeditions.’

A final case of a man I came across in prison shows how utterly hopeless a recidivist can become. He was born in 1890. It will be seen that he has been convicted of more than 160 crimes of dishonesty. No punishment has had any effect on him.

Date Offence


1914 Obtaining bicycle by false pretences

(9 similar cases considered)

6 months

1916 Desertion from H.M. Forces

Returned to army

1917 Larceny of 3 motor cycles

6 months

1917 Larceny of motor cycle (3 similar cases

18 months


1919 Larceny of 2 motor cycles

5 years

(Larceny of 10 motor cycles, 28 cycles,

and cash considered)

1929 Forgery

7 years

False pretences (68 other cases con

sidered) .

1936 (1) Larceny of 3 cycles

3 years

(2) Habitual criminal (29 other cases

5 years’ preventive



1943 Larceny of 3 cycles

12 months

1 Daily Express, 8th November 1949.    2 Daily Express, 4th January 1950.


This, then, is the problem to be solved. It is certainly one of gravity and importance because the burden of suffering both in money and sorrow which crime causes at the present time is enormous. Nor is that its worst feature. The most disquieting aspect is that the problem is not being solved. This grievous burden grows not lighter but heavier day by day.

Even had we all the weapons that we could wish for to conduct the fight against crime, we could look for no easy victory. But as it is, in fact the community is but half armed. I have indicated above the great progress made during the first forty years of this century in dealing with men and women in English prisons. It is scarcely necessary to emphasise the fact that the efficiency of the prison service and of the police forces of a country are very vital factors in dealing with crime. For my present purpose I am concerned more with our prisons than our police, and I need say no more than that the grave shortage of police officers, notably in the London Metropolitan Force, is inevitably the cause of lessened efficiency and of great anxiety and disquiet. As to the prison service, the prison commissioners in successive annual reports since the war have themselves disclosed and drawn attention to the overwhelming difficulties with which they are faced. We have seen that the prison population has doubled since 1938. But the accommodation has not been doubled. In the past three years seven cellular and twelve open establishments have been taken into use. Between them they provide cellular accommodation for about 2,000 prisoners and open accommodation for about 1,850. But even so, some 2,500 male prisoners are still sleeping three in a cell designed to take one man only. Prisons and similar buildings available to the prison commissioners are today ludicrously inadequate for their purpose. Under present conditions, it is not only difficult, it is literally impossible, to maintain the standards of before the war.

Even with this grave handicap of inadequate and insufficient buildings the worst difficulties of the commissioners are not at an end. They have a further problem as serious. Not only arc the prisons hopelessly overcrowded but they are grievously understaffed. It is easy enough to understand how this has come about. For the five or six years of the war period there was of necessity no recruiting of new prison officers. Since the end of the war, while many older officers have retired, recruitment has not been easy. The life and duties of a prison officer call for qualities of patience,

tact, courage, and occasionally of powers of resistance to severe temptation. It is useless to enlist men without these qualities. But the prison service, exacting as it is, is not highly paid. There is, too, the further handicap that married quarters are woefully short, so that newly joined officers are sometimes posted after training to a prison in a town where a house is unobtainable, and are therefore completely cut off from their wives and families. When labour is at a premium it is not a matter for surprise that recruiting is slow and unsatisfactory. The degree of understaffing at the present time can be shown most simply by quoting the figures of a particular small local prison, not in any way differing from the normal standard. The figures relate to Stafford prison.













Mar. 1948



It may be well to make clear the evil effects of all this overcrowding and understaffing.

First and most obviously, the result is that valuable amenities are not available. For example, in one prison which I know very well there was in 1938 a gymnasium in which such excellent activities as boxing played a most useful part in the rehabilitation of the minds as well as of the bodies of younger prisoners. Now all these healthy activities are at an end; the room is a mere dormitory in which prisoners sleep.

Another consequence of this enforced crowding of three men into a single cell is the resulting contamination which may be disastrous however much care is exercised by the prison authorities in the selection of cell mates. I quote actual statements made to me by young prisoners.

‘The older men are always going at you. They make out that the game pays. They want to fix up where to meet you outside. I know really it doesn’t pay, but it does begin to have an effect on you when chaps talk to you day after day like this, in the evenings, even though I know really that as like as not they only do it to show off what big shots they are.’

Here is another:

‘One of the chaps in my cell is all right, but the other one tells us all the time just what he is going to do when he gets out and persuades us to go in with him.’

Another extract from my notebook:

‘One is shut up with two chaps from five o’clock until next day and you get sick of reading, and then all there is to do is to talk about jobs you’ve done, and everybody gets boasting that they’ve done better jobs than the other chaps.’

I have consulted more than one experienced prison officer as to whether the danger of this contamination is real, and they were in no doubt.

‘Shut up three of these men together for fifteen hours and you get every devilment under the sun hatched and planned.’

‘You might just as well start a regular school of crime at once as shut these fellows up together in a cell with nothing to do. It’s inevitable that some fellows not as bad as the others get put in with some of the worst sort, however much you try not to make such a mistake, and the result must be contamination. These chaps simply haven’t got the strength to stand out against the others.’

Another lamentable result of the shortage of prison officers is that the evening classes, lectures, and similar influences for good which were so valuable a feature of pre-war prison life have become virtually impossible in most prisons. There are simply not enough officers available for evening duty to provide the necessary escorts and supervision. Indeed, instead of a full working day of eight hours, the average working day is only five hours, which means that in some prisons the working day is no more than four and a half hours, with, consequently, very long hours indeed in which men are shut up in their cells. Prisoners are happier and more contented with a longer working day. Moreover, to accustom a man in prison to a working day so short as five hours is the worst possible preparation and training for a normal day of eight hours in a factory or elsewhere on his discharge. But we must face the fact that as things are there can be no hope in the foreseeable future of providing a full working day in the workshops, or adequate educational and recreational facilities in the evenings.

Here I must make one point clear. What I have said is an accurate description of the majority of English prisons in which the


greater proportion of prisoners are confined. But even today there are a few prisons, known as training centres, free from overcrowding, in which a full day is worked, equipped with modern workshop machinery, provided with educational classes of astonishingly wide range and excellence. Prisons such as Maidstone and Leyhill are inspiring places to visit despite the depressing conditions in almost all other prisons. Happily, too, in Borstal institutions there is a sixteen-hour day to cover work and classes. But it has been stated that of every four prisoners who would benefit from the régime of a training centre and whom the prison commissioners would gladly send to one there is space available only for one.

It may be asked what effect the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, has had upon the position. The answer is, save in theory, practically none. It is true that the Act makes some quite admirable provisions. It establishes, for example, detention centres to which young adolescents guilty of serious offences can in suitable cases be committed as an alternative to sending them to the contamination of an adult prison. Similarly it sets up valuable observation centres in which offenders can be confined for study in order that most effective treatment may be determined in difficult cases. But these and other establishments provided by the Act of 1948 still exist only on paper. Moreover, in the unhappy shortage of houses and chaotic condition of the building industry they are not likely to reach the stage of actual buildings for years to come. While honest men and women wait in vain for years for homes it is scarcely practicable to propose that the meagre stream of labour and materials be diverted for the better housing of criminals. Lest it may be thought that I exaggerate the position, I record a personal experience. On behalf of the visiting justices of one prison in a city, I interviewed members of the housing authority in the hope that prison officers who were then sleeping in cells in the prison itself might be put on the list of applicants for municipal houses. I was told that at the then rate of progress it would be six years before their names would be reached, and that if they were put on the priority list they would not get a house for fifteen months. In another prison I found that four officers slept habitually in the condemned cell. The nature of a prison officer’s duties calls for the expenditure of much nervous energy and it is of importance beyond a mere matter of personal comfort that they should be able to get into an atmosphere wholly different from that of a prison

when they are oft' duty. I make no pretence in saying this either that I enunciate any novel truth or that I state anything of which the prison commissioners are not well aware or to which they arc indifferent. It is a matter of great concern to them but they are largely helpless.

All of us dislike facing unpleasant facts, but it is foolish to recognise the existence of the truth because it is ugly and unwelcome. It is an unpalatable fact that at the present time many—if not most—of our prisons are not only failing to reform prisoners but are effectively contributing to make a number of them worse than they already are. It would be quite wrong to attribute blame cither to our prison system or to those who administer it. The wisest and most humane prison commissioners, the best prison officers, must be defeated if they are faced with a doubled prison population and at the same time starved of buildings and, worse still, of staff. But even if no one is to be blamed for the cause, it is well that the community, which is the ultimate sufferer, should realise the effect. It cannot be too plainly stated, for example, that where a prison has no well-equipped workshop a prisoner can learn no useful trade but must spend his time doing work which is useless. It is demoralising for a young offender to sew mailbags by hand week after week, or to do any similar task which makes no call upon his intelligence and destroys his self-respect. Where there is bad in his nature, it is brought out. Where there is good it dies.

It may be imagined that this is the language of hysteria or exaggeration, of which I have in fact a great dislike. Let me therefore illustrate it by an anecdote. Not very long ago I visited a prison of which the total accommodation is given in the prison commissioners’ annual report as 922. At the date of my visit it had over 1,500 inmates. I spoke to one of the senior prison officers of my anxiety regarding the possible contamination of a young prisoner, then in the early twenties. The reply I got was at least frank. ‘I know the boy slightly,’ he said, ‘and I should think that at present he is not in the least vicious or depraved. But if he stays here for two years he will go out a hardened recidivist as certainly as night follows day.’

It is inevitable that in a world which in a dozen years has seen vast changes in social and economic values, evolution as sweeping should have taken place not only in morals but in many other subjects of thought. Certainly there has been change in the


approach of society to the delinquent. In my view certain of the methods of treating offenders practised, or at least increasingly advocated, today are unwise and indeed absurd. So, too, I believe some modern educational practices arc not only foolish but directly conducive to producing delinquency. I am quite unrepentant in expressing such opinions, although they will naturally be greeted with derision by progressive moderns. Indeed, I hold so strongly that my views are sound that I believe the country will see no substantial decrease in crime until there is a return to my old-fashioned standards. Let me therefore briefly explain them.

It is a fallacy to believe, as so many today apparently do, that what is old is necessarily wrong. Indeed, there is a probability that it is right, since if a tiling has had the confidence of generations there is obviously some reason for it. It is still less likely that a principle is right for no other reason than that it is new, since it is necessarily untried. It is arguable that the Victorian treatment of the child was unduly repressive, but such an argument provides no ground for the belief, so common today, that discipline should disappear entirely, in the home as in the school. Modern practice too often adds to the teacher in the school every form of expert adviser, from the education statistician to the consultant psychologist. Largely as a result, we find children less and less conscious of their duties and more and more clamant for their rights. We hear increasingly the theory that children have not faults which need to be corrected and, if necessary, punished, but complexes which need to be gravely studied and discussed. The reaction of the child is certain, and not at all surprising. It recognises the absurd ascendancy which it is accorded, and it seeks to obtain whatever it wants by very simple means wdiich it finds easy and successful. ‘I want it. I must have it. I will make a nuisance of myself if I don’t get it.’ Such a succession is not only immediately bad: it is ruinous for the later development of character.

So far as my own experience goes I have found the parents of delinquent children not so much criminal as weak, stupid, and, above all, lazy. The good parent takes trouble with his child and one part of the love he gives it is training and discipline. Obviously enough, the most effective training is the example of a good life. But that makes demands which, most unhappily, so many parents today are not prepared to meet. A child needs to be taught obedience, unselfishness, and self-control. Crime very often begins in the

home and by such teaching it can be ended there for ever. But a parent who cannot discipline himself, who boasts of how much he can get for how little he can give, whose children know full well that their father regards theft of his employer’s property or slackness at work as the normal incidents of factory life, can make no effort to discipline his child. It is a tragedy of our time that the parent leaves the child’s character to form badly, and when trouble results the child is handled not by a wise father but by a magistrate or a psychologist. Laziness of a parent can thus deprive a child of the protection which discipline and self-control can give. Sin is sin, and it does not cease to be sin because the modern practice is to call it a complex. Theft is theft, and nothing is worse for the child than to hear it euphemistically described as ‘finding’, ‘making’, or ‘scrounging’ as if it were not the ugly reality it is.

I have mentioned the psychologist, who has become so important a feature of our modern life that I have devoted a chapter to psychology and its place in relation to the treatment of crime. One point I wish to make crystal clear. That there are psychiatrists who are wise and helpful, experienced and level headed, who lose riot the smallest fraction of their common sense because of the additional knowledge which their special science gives them, I readily and respectfully acknowledge. I am not so foolish as to criticise such men as these.

Most unhappily, all psychologists and psychiatrists are not of this type. Perhaps the most numerous, certainly the most vociferous, are far otherwise. They seem to forget that we arc human beings living in human surroundings; they think not normally and practically but in phantasy. They, and the theorists of their school, show not appreciation but a sort of adolescent intolerance and dogmatic contempt of the experience of practical men. Thus I have heard a theorist of this kind listen with disdain to a man of long experience describe the work of boys’ clubs in a poor district. He then declared that he was entirely unimpressed by the facts and figures quoted by the club leader, since there were no figures to show that the delinquents of the neighbourhood would not have been equally delinquent if they had belonged to a club. Similarly, the chairman of a juvenile court in London once told me that he read a paper in which, arguing from the large number of boys of poor intelligence who appeared before him, he drew the inference that low-grade mentality was a cause of delinquency. One of his audience,


a theorist of this school, replied immediately that no causal connection had been proved since there are a large number of boys of low intelligence who are not delinquents.

Such an attitude displays not the spirit of scientific impartiality but a mere refusal to admit as true anything which does not fit into their own queer philosophy. I have an example of this intolerance before me. What I may call the squint story1 appeared in an article which I contributed to the Quarterly Review. As a result, I received a letter from a professional practising psychologist from which I extract this passage:

‘No doubt the sympathetic handling of the case achieved in some incidental way the result reported, but the “whole trouble” was certainly not the squint. There was certainly some deleterious family situation as a basic factor. Why does not everyone with a squint react by delinquency?’

In actual fact the boy with a squint was one of three children of a very united and affectionate family. So far as I was able to understand, this particular psychologist had persuaded himself that almost all juvenile delinquency was attributable to deleterious family situations of one kind or another. The point is, however, that one can prove conclusively enough the truth of any theory at all, however extravagant, if one assumes—as the writer of this letter did—the existence of the necessary facts to fit it.

Magna est veritas. If we plain folk are wrong in our old-fashioned views facts will confound us in due course. Meanwhile we can, of course, all welcome research, but the realisation that we do not know everything need not discourage us from doing a great deal here and now. There arc more practical things to do than to discuss the physics and chemistry of a bomb which is bursting beside us.

1 cf. infra, p. 47.



In any work which deals with the causes and the treatment of crime something must be said on the subject of psychology. It is a thorny subject which any prudent layman would prefer to avoid. To ignore it, however, would be worse than mere cowardice. The voices of the psychologists are so clamant, their claims so considerable, that no treatise would be complete which gave them no attention. When highly qualified professional men make definite and far-reaching statements as to the causes and cure of criminal behaviour they must be heard with care and respect. Those of us who remain unconvinced, or but partially convinced, of the value of psychotherapy for offenders cannot reasonably expect acceptance of our own theories unless we are prepared to deal seriously with those from which we differ.

The plan of this book is to tell the life stories of a number of young men who have committed crimes, and to tell them in such a way that the reader can see for himself as he follows each history not only what each man has done but how he has come to do it. I have tried to be accurate and to avoid distortion and exaggeration. I have not consciously hidden anything or invented anything. So far as it has been in my power to make them so, their stories are accounts of real people doing real things. Told in this way they should, in my belief, enable us to understand the motives behind these young men’s actions.

As these men are real men, even if their acts arc criminal and wrong, so, almost always, arc they and their like normal men, reacting as ordinary men do to normal impulses. Their acts are contrary to a legal code, but, in the circumstances in which they were done and in relation to the minds of these young men, they are entirely normal acts. An act docs not cease to be normal because it is unlawful or immoral. I read recently a statement in a letter to the Press from a psychologist who clearly did not under-

stand the truth of this. He declared that, with our British family traditions, youthful housebreaking is a grossly abnormal act. Indeed, he claimed that this abnormality was so striking as to be in itself proof that the cause of delinquency today is not a lowering of moral standards. The truth, of course, is that a boy breaks into a house either as an adventure or because he thinks that he will obtain there something that he wants. There is nothing the least abnormal in his action, by whichever of these motives he is actuated.

Such constructive suggestions for the treatment of offenders as are made in the final chapter of this book are based upon the assumption that the overwhelming majority of lawbreakers are susceptible to normal sanctions and rewards.

That the very great preponderance of lawbreakers are not psychologically abnormal is the conclusion to which I have been led, not only by a study of the few young men described in this book, but by experience of the far greater number whom I have met in many years of earlier work in prisons, and by the views of practical and experienced officials to whom I shall refer.

To say this is not to deny that there are a small residue of cases which, by the normal standards of human conduct, are inexplicable; nor is it inconsistent with a profound belief that, not only in their own interests but in those of the community as a whole, such exceptional offenders are best treated not by the judge or the gaoler but by the psychologist.3

For example, there are offences so extraordinary in themselves that they are beyond the understanding of ordinary men and women; similarly there are acts apparently insanely incongruous with the circumstances or the personality of the offender. Thus ordinary men find it difficult, or even impossible, to understand certain peculiar sex offences, or, in the other category, larcenies committed by persons of ample means who steal articles for which they have neither use nor need.

There is today almost universal agreement that in a proportion of cases, the offender is motivated by causes which are best, if not

solely, understood by the psychologist, and that psychotherapy may, and sometimes does, succeed when the traditional methods of the criminal courts would be almost certainly ineffective. It is to the undoubted benefit of the administration of justice that the psychologist and the psychiatrist have devoted considerable attention to the study of anti-social behaviour, and in particular to crime. It is a happy and a merciful thing that most criminal courts have a wiser understanding of these matters today than was the case only a generation ago. In quite recent days it was not at all unknown for medical evidence offered in mitigation on behalf of a convicted prisoner to be received by a bench with open suspicion if not with actual derision. Serious injustices took place not infrequently through judicial reluctance to recognise that progress in the scientific study of mental disorders has shown mere punitive and deterrent treatment of certain types of offenders to be at once cruel and useless. Simple examples have been soldiers with head wounds whose whole characters were changed for the worse through their injuries, and sufferers from encephalitis lethargica (sleepy sickness), men of blameless character, have been known as a result of this illness to commit criminal acts of which formerly they would have been quite incapable. Yet these men have been punished as rigorously as if they had been fully responsible.

One may therefore with considerable advantage recognise the place of the psychologist, whether he has the additional qualification of a medical man or not. The psychologist has given prolonged study to the processes of the human mind. He has devoted himself especially to an examination of those impulses and desires which to the generality of mankind are morbid and abnormal. As a result, he may reasonably claim to possess both a wider experience and a more skilled technique than the non-specialist in discovering and laying bare processes of thought and motives of conduct unknown sometimes even to the patient himself. In suitable cases it is not difficult to realise, therefore, that conduct incomprehensible to a magistrate or judge may be explained by a psychologist; and in such cases by sympathetic discussion and exposition to the patient of his peculiar difficulties and temptations he may succeed in inducing a change of conduct and reshaping of outlook which could never be brought about by mere punishment. In other words, both as to the cause of wrongdoing


and as to the most effective treatment of the wrongdoer, the advice of the psychologist may be invaluable.

Let me give a very simple example within my own experience. A boy of fifteen was charged before a juvenile court, not for the first time, with shopbreaking. He came from a good home in every sense of the word; the boy had affectionate parents and his father was in good employment. In court he was sullen, defiant, and unco-operative. The justices sent him to the remand home for a psychological report. The psychiatrist reported that the trouble was due to a very ugly squint which gave the boy a most unattractive appearance. The boy was teased by other boys because of his ugliness, and the handicap of bad eyesight which made him unable to join in many of their activities upset him still further. He had gone in for the risks of shopbreaking in order to prove to his companions that, despite his handicap, he was just as much a lad of high spirit as any one of them. The chairman of the juvenile court, a man to whom no trouble was too great in such a case, arranged for a surgical operation. It cured not only the squint but all tendency to delinquency, and the boy has been in no trouble since.

Here is another case, told me about one of his lads by the governor of a Borstal institution. The boy, who was twenty years of age, gave great trouble by chronic enuresis. Every treatment prescribed by the doctor, including repeated punishment, was tried in turn, and in vain. The lad declared that he had always had the habit; that at his approved school the masters and the doctor had done everything to cure him without the least success; that he himself was most anxious to be cured, but that, try as he would, he was incurable. In despair the governor asked a psychiatrist to see him. After exhaustive questioning the psychiatrist discovered that the youth had had a stepfather who was cruel to him as a child. One form of this cruelty had been for the man to beat the boy at night as he lay in bed, and the enuresis had originated as the child lay in bed listening in dread for his stepfather’s footsteps on the stair. These incidents of many years ago had faded entirely from the young man’s mind until the recollection of them was revived by the questions of the psychiatrist. But the lad declared that at times he still had nightmares in which the figure of his stepfather, with whom he had for years lost touch, menacingly reappeared. The psychiatrist traced the

stepfather, and found proof of his death. The lad was told; the enuresis stopped immediately, and there has been no recurrence.

Let it be at once admitted that these are simple cases. That is true enough. But, in the first place, as a layman I am diffident of recounting any but simple cases; in the second place, the fact remains that in each case a most unpleasant habit, which in one instance was criminal, was quickly found and permanently cured by a psychiatrist when the ordinary processes of deterrent punishment had failed repeatedly.

If all this is true, where then is the problem? Has not the psychiatrist earned his right both to diagnose and to treat? Docs anything remain, save for the psychiatrist to develop his specialist knowledge, and for the courts to avail themselves increasingly of his advice?

Unhappily a great deal remains, and the existing position satisfies neither the psychologist, the judge, or the public. I cannot, of course, venture to speak for the psychologist, but, as I understand his attitude, he is dissatisfied with the conditions under which he is called upon to give his evidence, and with the degree of authority accorded to it when given.

In the second place, some judges and courts still regard all psychological evidence with suspicion, while others arc seriously dissatisfied with the quality of much of it.

In the third place, the public notes that the psychologist gives evidence as an expert witness only for the defence, and for defendants who can afford to pay; it reads the extravagantly foolish evidence given from time to time by psychologists of a certain kind; and it concludes that all psychologists arc cranks who tend to deprive the community of that protection from criminals which it needs.

For this last view there is considerable justification. The recent war years were the heyday of psychology. In the selection of soldiers and sailors for commissioned rank the same attention was paid to the judgment of a psychologist, who, in conditions of perfect safety, saw candidates for a few days, as to the recommendations of their officers who, under active service conditions, had served alongside them for months. The Times w'as flooded with letters of protest from schoolmasters who declared that upon psychological reports their best boys, whom they had known as prefects and heads of houses, were being refused commissions in


M.M. Forces, while boys whose whole school lives had shown them to be morally and intellectually inferior were being commissioned on the ipse dixit of the ubiquitous psychologist. It is quite beyond question that some ludicrous errors were made in this way with very unfortunate results.

In these technical matters I speak with reserve and diffidence. I am well aware that the psychologist made valuable contributions to the war effort. I know, too, and respectfully acknowledge, that the most skilled psychiatrists have already done much to relieve human suffering and to bring light to dark places in the mind and heart. I realise that I am quite unqualified even to estimate their work adequately.

But it would be insincere not to add that of the large numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists practising at the present time a considerable proportion, at least in matters of criminology and penology, arc in my view utterly false guides. Such men, I think, are most mischievous, not only because they give advice which in individual cases is wholly mistaken and misleading, but because they teach principles which, if followed, will lead reformers away from methods which I earnestly believe to be not only far simpler but more effective. It is for this latter reason only that I feel constrained to enter the lists in defence of what I believe to be common sense and the public interest.

My first aim will be to show that such psychologists make on occasion statements which are so extravagant as to be absurd. This they do in their search for those hidden impulses whereby they purport to explain criminal behaviour. I shall content myself with quoting actual examples of such statements. I shall leave it to the reader to form his own opinion of them.

My second aim will be to show that in moral matters there is a danger that the influence of such men will prove to be harmful. As to this, again I shall quote their views and mine upon one or two relevant subjects and once more leave it to the reader to make the judgment he thinks right.

To use a colloquialism, there arc some things in this world as plain as a pikestaff. When we meet a pikestaff it is common sense to recognise and acknowledge it for what it is. To fail to realise that the object before us is no more than a pikestaff is proof not of scientific knowledge or especial sagacity but of defective eyesight. To go further still, and to declare that not only is

the object not a pikestaff but that it is, on the contrary, some object of great rarity which can be recognised and dealt with satisfactorily only by a psychologist is foolish, misleading, and mischievous.

But such conduct amongst psychologists is so common as to endanger the good name of their science. I have promised to illustrate and to justify my criticism by quotations, and I therefore do so.

My first example is taken from a textbook of which the author is the superintendent physician of a mental hospital and a qualified psychiatrist. He raises for discussion what he himself describes as an interesting and rather perplexing problem—the question why a prostitute should steal money from her clients.

Now here is our pikestaff. I will make a present of the solution to the learned author of the book without any fee. Indeed, I hope I shall not appear arrogant when I say that, however baffling this enigma may have been to the doctor, it did not perplex me at all. A prostitute takes money from the pocket of her client because she likes money, and wants all she can get of it, and because she hopes that her client will either leave her before he discovers his loss or else, if he does discover it, that he will be unprepared in these sordid circumstances to make any trouble that may involve him in publicity.

There, quite plain, is the pikestaff, and if the medical superintendent doubts mine to be the correct solution of his problem he will find my view confirmed by any policeman at any police court in any city at any time.

But so commonplace an opinion does not for a moment satisfy the psychologist. Here, for example, is the solution given in the textbook from which I have quoted the problem. According to the author, a prostitute is by the nature of her occupation a robber of men’s strength; she steals their virility. Unconsciously, therefore, she seeks continuously to carry out this robbery of men, though in another form. Money is a source of power, and so of strength; it is therefore a form of virility. The prostitute who is accustomed to stealing virility in one form, steals it on this occasion in the form of cash, paradoxical as such theft is, since it will endanger future patronage from the robbed client. As a final touch of absurdity, the author gravely gives the name of ‘castration complex’ to this type of larceny.

I have said it is easy to add one illustration of this form of mental gymnastics to another. Here is one little less absurd given by a professor in his lectures at a famous University to students of child psychology.

A ten-year-old schoolboy had a habit of pulling children smaller than himself under a tap in his school playground and sousing their heads with water. The boy was accordingly referred to the psychiatrist for diagnosis and advice.

Here, once again, is our pikestaff. I claim no especial prescience in being able to solve this problem too, without any difficulty whatsoever. Little boys frequently are rough to children smaller than themselves: this is called bullying. If the psychiatrist will make an experiment by watching the next lot of little boys he passes at their play he will see examples of bullying for himself. It is really quite common, and it is done not only by little boys but by other little animals. Puppies bully smaller and weaker puppies unmercifully. Chickens behave similarly.

Now, having explained why the ten-year-old boy behaved in this way, I will go further, and present the puzzled school staff with a cure to stop him doing it again. If the headmaster will authorise another schoolfellow, of say fourteen years of age, to hold under the tap the head of the ten-year-old each time the latter pours water over a still smaller child, he will find that the mischief will cease, entirely and at once.

Let us, in contrast, examine the explanation furnished to the schoolmaster by the psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist discovered that the father of the ten-year-old boy was a sailor, a member of the crew of a ship sailing to South America. During her husband’s absences from home the boy’s mother lavished all her attention upon this boy, her only child, but when her husband’s ship returned the child found himself relatively neglected. For this reason he conceived a dislike of his father. He had doubtless heard his mother refer to the dangers of life at sea, and in holding a smaller child’s head under a tap he was, so ran the psychological report, symbolically drowning his father.

Here is another case within my own experience. A boy of sixteen committed an offence which is by no means unknown in London. He telephoned from a public call-box and spoke indecently to the girl at the Exchange. The indecency consisted in asking her coarse

questions about her body. The boy was remanded for a psychological report.

The pikestaff is once more plain to anyone with the least knowledge of a certain type of boy: this one did what he did for precisely the same reason as such boys look at dirty pictures, or tell dirty stories.

However, that was not the explanation furnished by the psychiatrist to the justices. His report, which I myself saw, stated that it was an unfortunate case in which the real blame was attributable to the boy’s parents. According to the report, they had foolishly omitted to give this youth proper sex instruction, with the result that he was ignorant of the anatomical differences between the sexes and was thus driven to discover the secret for himself by the unfortunate expedient of asking a woman on the telephone. This nonsensical report was furnished to a London juvenile court by ihe official psychiatrist attached to a remand home. Happily it was not taken very seriously by the experienced justices.

At the risk of being tedious, I add another example told me by a High Court judge of great experience, sympathetic in his attitude towards medical witnesses.

He tried at assizes a young man who pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent assault upon a young woman. It was a perfectly typical case so far as his actions went: he had flung the girl on the ground, pulled up her dress, and attempted to interfere with her. Indeed the girl was so terrified as to be helpless, and the prisoner would have succeeded in his purpose had he not been prevented by a man who chanced to pass by.

Here the pikestaff was plain to everyone in court, including the judge, with the single exception of a psychiatrist called for the defence, who gave evidence to the effect that the prisoner suffered from defective eyesight, and that this handicap was the cause of certain emotional disturbances which were the real cause of the man’s behaviour, with the result that the witness was prepared to advise the court that what the prisoner really needed was not punishment but a new pair of spectacles.

It might be thought that no reputable medical witness would think it right to offer such ridiculous evidence in a court of justice. Here, then, is another assize story equally well authenticated. Prisoner, a young man of twenty-four, was convicted of writing disgusting anonymous letters for more than a year to women in

the country town in which he lived. A psychiatrist called by the defence attributed the prisoner’s actions to the fact that he was suffering from diseased tonsils; in place of punishment he recommended the removal of the tonsils.

The thing ceases to be merely silly when one pauses to consider what the crime wave would be if such advisers as these were in fact ever to gain the authority which many of them already seek in the determination of sentences.

But it is difficult in these matters of psychology to be surprised at anything. I have heard a psychologist explain that the Game Laws were passed, not in an attempt to preserve pheasants for the squires who went to the expense of rearing them, but to sublimate the guilt complexes of the legislators.

I cannot hope to make more plain the contrast between those who live with and know delinquents at first hand and those with queer theories about them, than by two short quotations respecting boy thieves. The first is from a speech by the headmaster of an approved school. ‘Boys steal cigarettes because they want to smoke.’1 The second is from a psychiatrist. ‘By stealing the child hopes for libidinal satisfaction, though in reality it proves ineffective, because the symbol of love has been mistaken for the real thing.’4 5

I come now to the question of morality. I agree at once that I have no more knowledge of theology than I have of psychology. But I have read what certain psychiatrists write about the moral approach to offenders, just as I have read their explanations, of which I have just given some typical examples, as to the reasons why men commit offences. As a practical man, with no special knowledge but with greater experience of criminals than most psychiatrists can have, I believe the views of many psychologists on the moral approach to be as wrong as their explanations of the reasons for the commission of criminal actions are absurd.

I will preface my own views on this all-important question by quoting those of the governors of some Borstal institutions in a recent report of the prison commissioners.6 Very readily do I acknowledge that these men write with an authority far greater than my own about adolescent criminals. That is why I am glad

to have the views which I have expressed for some years fortified by theirs.

The governor of Lowdham Grange Borstal writes:

‘I believe that the generation with which we are dealing, and will have to deal in the next years, has but the faintest conception of what is meant by honesty, truth, and uprightness. Honesty is regarded as outmoded; truth is a virtue only when it cannot be denied; and uprightness is a form of stupidity.’

The governor of Wormwood Scrubs (Boys) Prison says:

‘Few are seriously perturbed by the fact that they have been committed to prison. Their numerous visitors in the main show no embarrassment . . . sympathy rather than blame is the common experience.’

The chaplain of Feltham Borstal:

‘They are devoid in the main of any moral sense. Their upbringings and domestic surroundings, their companions and mode of life, seem to have produced an entirely selfish philosophy.’

These conclusions are confirmed by the mounting numbers and the increasing gravity of the offences of young criminals. We can scarcely expect improvement until they—and their families— have ceased to despise discipline and self-control and have learnt to respect and to obey the laws of morality and decency. When, if ever, this comes to pass a young criminal will feel regret, remorse, and shame for the wrong he has done and the suffering he has caused. I think such a change amongst young men of this class and type is essential if their wholesale criminal activities are to be stopped. But in this important, indeed vital, matter I can scarcely hope for the help of that school of psychologists to which the criticism of this book alone relates.

A healthy society cannot be built upon rotten moral foundations. The greatest need of this country today is a general recognition of the difference between right and wrong, and an acceptance of the self-discipline and effort required if that recognition is to be enforced. But how many such psychologists themselves regard the observance of normal moral standards as essential, or even as valuable, or desirable? I am inclined to ask the question because of what I have heard and read of their teaching. I read recently a paper written by a psychiatrist on the staff of an institution to

which to my own knowledge both courts and probation officers send young offenders for treatment. He pointed out that many girls in Borstal institutions had committed crimes because of their association with criminal young men; that they had associated with these young men in order to satisfy their strong sexual desires rather than in order to commit crimes; and he proposed that, in order to avoid the necessity for their meeting criminal young men, they should be furnished with an ample supply of contraceptives at the public expense, given instruction in their use, and encouraged to satisfy their sexual impulses with young men who were not criminals. At a later stage of his same paper he dealt with the subject of venereal disease, and urged that a first essential in dealing with young women who had contracted it was to remove all idea of shame or guilt from their minds in order to prevent any feeling of embarrassment on their part. In exactly the same spirit a psychiatrist whom I heard give a talk on the subject of certain sex practices amongst adolescent boys said that his first approach to the boys was to remove from their minds any sense of guilt, and to assure them that they were to rid their minds of any feelings of sin or shame.

Now I am aware that certain psychologists use the expressions ‘sense of guilt’ or ‘guilt sense’ as terms of art meaning something other than a consciousness of wrong done. I shall recur to that matter in a moment. But, in the cases which I have just quoted, it was clear beyond all possibility of doubt that what the psychiatrist meant was to use the words in their ordinary sense. The context made any other meaning entirely inapplicable. Nor can it be argued that these are mere sex offences, and that no psychiatrist would advise a young man that he need feel no shame for a breach of the criminal law. I do not know whether or not an offender is told that he need feel no sense of sin or remorse for such a crime as theft. Such a distinction between sex and other offences, even if it were made, would be far too subtle to be any protection. A young man who is encouraged by the psychiatrist to believe that he need not be ashamed because he has broken the moral law in matters of sex is not likely to be persuaded that he need feel remorse when he has equally broken the moral law in other directions. The following case is recorded in a medical journal. A man who had been for many years a practising homo-sexual pleaded guilty to a charge of importuning for an immoral purpose. While on bail he

attempted to commit suicide, but was saved by his mother, for whom he was stated to have a sincere affection. He had originally intended to murder his mother, but finally found himself unable to do this, though as a preliminary he killed the cat. It was strongly recommended to the court that psychotherapy might help to alleviate the prisoner’s ‘anxiety and sense of guilt’. The prisoner was an educated man of the professional class and, so far as I was able to discover in reading the story, had made no effort to rid himself of his disgusting criminal habits until the shock of his arrest, when he at once professed himself as anxious to be cured. It seems to me to be entirely proper and beneficial that such a man should have the deepest possible sense of shame and guilt, even if he had done nothing worse than cruelly kill a cat. But he had been for years a willing homo-sexual and he had planned to kill his own mother. Why it should be right or wise to take trouble to assure him that he had done nothing for which he need feel ashamed is to me a great mystery.

In an article on the place of psychiatry in the criminal courts which I wrote in the Quarterly Review11 recounted this case, which seemed to me to be very remarkable. As a result three psychiatrists wrote to me to point out that there is an essential difference between the two meanings of the expression ‘sense of guilt’. There is, as they agreed, the ordinary dictionary meaning indicated above, and there is its use in psychiatry, when it means a psychological state that may be the cause of crime. But this second meaning, or so I was informed by one of my correspondents, can be understood only by those who have studied psychology.

As I have not made this study, I fear I can carry the matter no further. But I am irresistibly reminded of Through the Looking Glass:

‘ “There’s glory for you,” said Humpty Dumpty to Alice.

‘ “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.

‘Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously.

‘ “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knockdown argument for you’!”

‘ “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knockdown argument’,” Alice objected.

‘ “When / use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

‘ “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” ’

‘July 1948.


I can only repeat that, since it is incontestable that psychiatrists do on occasion use these words in their normal sense, they ought to give specific notice when they propose to use them in an abnormal sense—the more especially if only those who have studied psychiatry can understand them when so used.

I have before me a public address given by a psychiatrist.7 He begins by pointing out that we have outgrown the foolish idea that wickedness and vice are the causes of crime. He goes on to analyse its actual causes. Psychopathic states, paranoid states, neuroses for which the offender is not responsible, emotional mal-adjustmcnts, all play their part. In the entire lecture there is not a word to indicate that crimes arc, in the opinion of the lecturer, ever due to the vices of bad men who should be punished because they commit crimes deliberately when they are quite capable of refraining from their commission.

A letter from a psychologist of very high academic qualifications in the Daily Telegraph stated not long ago that in every one of a large number of cases of young offenders which he had studied the delinquency represented an escape from an emotionally intolerable situation and was the last safety valve which saved him from some graver form of mental disturbance.

In my opinion, views such as these are worse than mistaken: they are actively mischievous, since they are readily accepted by the offender and tend to destroy his sense of responsibility. They amount almost to the view, which is indeed held by some psychologists, that crime is a disease, or at least that crimes arc no more than the symptoms of emotional illness.

But the thesis that crime is usually, if not always, a manifestation of disease will not bear examination. The peak age of delinquency amongst males is thirteen; by the age of nineteen it has fallen by half; and there arc eight times as many delinquent males as females. Sir Norwood East has pointed out, however, that there is no evidence that the number of boys who are mentally abnormal at thirteen is double that at the age of nineteen, or that the incidence of mental abnormality among men and boys is eight times greater than it is amongst women and girls. But if crime were a manifestation of disease this would need to be so.

Similarly the statistics show that in the first six months of the recent war juvenile delinquency increased by forty-two per cent. This incontestable fact is wholly inconsistent with the disease theory.

Indeed, one need not look far for an actual example of the mischief to which I have referred as being possible. The Archbishop of York, alarmed by the gravity of the position, sought recently to inaugurate a campaign by ordinary men and women against the wave of crime. A well-known psychiatrist, Dr. Bowlby, wrote at once to The Times1 saying that the proposal to combat crime by propaganda and moral exhortation struck ‘a chill in his heart’. In a long letter he advocated scientific, preventive, and therapeutic methods, while he declared that exhortation and punishment were fruitless and, indeed, unnecessary, since in every man’s heart there is a strong drive to co-operate with others.

It is precisely this attitude of the psychiatrist which I regard as so deplorable. It ignores, or despises, the problem of good or evil altogether. Incidentally, I should be surprised if, after a visit to Parkhurst or Dartmoor, Dr. Bowlby did not make some hurried exceptions to his naive theory of every man’s desire to co-operate with others.

The truth, as Professor Anderson has wisely said, is that the psychiatrist should not form a weak link in the chain of justice out of consideration for the welfare of the individual as against the community. He should ask himself, even if psychiatric disorder exists, whether punishment may not be effective to deter an offender from repeating his offence. . . . It is the function of the medical man to give evidence, not to be an advocate or a judge.

To sum up my views, therefore, I am led by practical experience to the belief that in exceptional cases psychotherapy can be of great value. It is my purpose in this chapter to criticise not psychology but a certain school of rather extravagant psychologists. In the great majority of cases I do not think psychotherapy has yet been proved to be either necessary or useful.

Psychology is a good servant but a dangerous master. Exaggerated claims are harmful. Offenders come wrongfully to believe that they have nothing to regret, and cease to try to reform. This has been my own experience. I have had it confirmed recently by 1 20th December 1948.

a worker at the boys’ prison at Wormwood Scrubs. In a letter he told me:

‘One can always tell the boys who have seen the psychiatrist from their attitude. They become cocky, self-important, and self-justified. They cease to feel guilty or ashamed.’

A recent speech1 by the headmaster of an approved school, Mr. Joyce, is relevant on this subject. Speaking of psychologists, he said:

‘A boy of fifteen and a half came to me and said, “All my delinquency is due to an inborn hatred of my mother.” I replied: “Well, thanks very much, but where do we go from here? Are you going to behave yourself now?” To which he said: “Oh no; it is not as easy as all that. I shall have to go to a psychologist for two years.” ’

Here, too, is a letter to myself from the same headmaster, a man of very great experience who has had the additional advantage of long service as a housemaster and governor in prisons and Borstal institutions.

‘The few people who ought not to be punished are those who quite genuinely “cannot help it”. For them the mental specialist is necessary. But they are very few. My own experience leads me to an estimate of one or two per cent.’

This is the conclusion of a man whose life has been spent amongst offenders for twenty-five years. It is substantially confirmed by the Home Office in Making Citizens, a brochure on young offenders published in 1945. There it is stated that only three per cent of the children in approved schools are ‘clinical cases for the psychiatrist’. Adult recidivist criminals who are mentally abnormal gravitate to Dartmoor and Parkhurst prisons, so that in those two establishments the proportion of such cases is quite unusually high. I have discussed with medical officers of experience in those particular prisons what they consider in those places the proportion is of prisoners who should be the responsibility of the doctor rather than of the penal authority; they have estimated it to be from five to ten per cent.

Yet we find a playwright, Mr. Douglas Home, writing this: ‘I studied some two or three thousand prisoners during my stay in 1 Daily Telegraph, 21st September 1949.


two gaols and I arrived at the conclusion that ... for ninety per cent a medical and not a punitive approach is far more likely to effect a cure.’1 Mr. Home served eight months of a twelve months’ court-martial sentence at Wakefield. When one realises that he must, therefore, found his ‘conclusion’ upon a ‘study’ of ten or twelve men a day one sees how foolish and irresponsible such statements are.

The simple truth is that there is no curbing the enthusiast, lay or professional. He generalises from the particular. He is ruled by infatuation rather than by logic. The Romans had a saying which emphasised the value of giving help quickly. The psychologist has rewritten it. ‘Bis dat qui psycho dat’ is his modern version. But it is not true.

1 Picture Post, 15th March 1947.

Part 2

The Raw Material

Facilis descensus Averno:

Sed revocare graduai superasque evadere ad auras, Hoc opus, hie labor est.

Virgil, Aeneid vi, 126.



The Raw Material
(i) George Adams

b. 28. 7. 22 C. of E. age 26.

This man was the first I saw of the twenty-three prisoners described in this book. He was selected for me by a prison governor, but in fact his criminal record was not as bad as those of which I was really in search. For two reasons, however, I went into his history in detail. In the first place, I was anxious to give no grounds for the suggestion that I suppressed a case because it did not square with my own preconceived theories. Secondly, if admittedly this man had not yet proved himself possessed of the worst vices, I could not discern evidence that he possessed any virtues at all; it seemed probable, therefore, that he would in time become a persistent offender, if only on a minor scale.

He was born in a London suburb, the youngest of a family of eight. His father died when he was still a small child and he docs not remember him. All his five brothers lived with his mother and helped to support the home until one by one they married. She does, indeed, still live in the house in which he was born. His two sisters, one of whom is a widow, still live with her.

He went to local junior schools until he was ten years of age, and then was transferred to a special school for the partially deaf, where he stayed until he was fourteen. The degree of deafness from which he suffers has never been any real handicap to him, and in all other respects his health is first class.

As a boy he joined the Cubs and went on to the Scouts, and he said he attended troop meetings very regularly, although he never went to camp. His explanation of never attending the annual camp of his troop was that he was too poor to be able to afford the cost. I came to the conclusion after two lengthy interviews with Adams that he was a ready and persistent liar, even on matters upon which there seemed to be no advantage to himself in telling an untruth, and this opinion of him was held also by the two prison officers with whom I subsequently discussed him. It was symptomatic of his character that he did not, I think, give me the real reason why he did not go to his scout camp. The real reason was, I believe, because he did not like the discipline and order maintained in the camp. To explain his absence on the ground of poverty sounded better and was an appeal to pity. Another example of the same trait showed itself later in our talk. I had asked Adams if he had ever joined any club after he left the Boy Scouts. He said that he did join a local boxing class, but he gave it up. To my question why lie did that, he replied again that he could not afford the cost of the subscription. He said this with much pathos, but it was obviously quite untrue. He himself admitted that he was in work and earning wages and the subscription was only one shilling and sixpence a term, or two pence a week. He gave up the club just as he gave up the Scouts, because he liked boxing no more than he liked camping.

His Boy Scout troop was a closed troop attached to his local church, with a rule that the boys must attend church on Sundays. During the two years he belonged to the Scouts he therefore went regularly to church. He told me he did so for no reason but to retain his Scout membership, and he said he understood nothing of the small proportion of the service he was able to hear. None of his family has ever been to church so far as he knows, nor did his mother encourage him to go after he gave up the Scouts. He has never since that date been to church voluntarily. It is true that he is described as C. of E. on his prison papers, but he explained that it was simpler to say ‘C. of E.’ on entering a prison than to say that he had no religion at all. He said quite frankly that he had not the least idea what the doctrines of the Church of England were, nor did he wish to learn. I asked him if he could tell me what Christianity meant, and he said: ‘No, frankly, I can’t.’ His whole attitude was one of complete contempt and lack of interest.

He left school at fourteen. He had been taught the elements of book-binding and the headmaster took him to a bookshop in the West End of London where he was offered an apprenticeship. This would have meant, he told me, a very good job with high pay at the end of some five years of hard work at low wages. His own story was that he refused this apprenticeship, despite the urging of the headmaster, as he wished to be able to give substantial support to his mother immediately. At this time two of his brothers were at home, besides his two sisters, and all were helping to run the home, so that this is a most improbable story. I think he refused the apprenticeship because it looked too like hard work.

However that may be, he took a job as a bicycle delivery boy at 25J. a week, of which he gave his mother £1. This was in August 1936, and he told me that he stayed in this employment until June 1939, when he threw it up on being refused any rise in wages. He had no other job to go to, and lie told me he lived at home without work until December 1940, being unable to get any suitable job. Quite clearly, all this story must be untrue. It is difficult to believe that any employer would expect a boy to be satisfied without a rise in wages after three years’ employment if he were worth employing at all. It is quite impossible to believe that from June 1939 to December 1940 he could not have found any one of a hundred jobs had he looked for work at a time when labour was so difficult to find that unskilled boys were earning enormous wages. This long period of idleness at home is sadly inconsistent, too, with his own earlier story of refusing an apprenticeship in order to be able to give immediate help to his mother.

In January 1941, at the age of eighteen and a half, he was convicted for the first time. With another boy of his own age, also out of work, he broke into a shop, and was convicted of shopbreaking, larceny, and being in possession of housebreaking implements by night. These were serious charges, but he was vciy leniently treated, being put on probation for twelve months. The probation officer, as a beginning, told Adams that he ought to get work, and he at once found himself employment as a butcher’s assistant at 355. a week. It seems more than ever difficult to believe his story that for the preceding eighteen months he had been unable to find a job. It is a good deal more probable that during e    65 this time he had been doing what unhappily so many other lads did in running wild in wartime London. To carry housebreaking implements by night is not a sign of a first offender.

After nine months he threw up his employment with the butcher on the ground that he was unjustly refused an increase in his pay. His story to me was that his work was partly cutting up joints, but mainly helping another assistant whose work it was to mix the various ingredients used in the filling of pies and sausages. This was skilled work, and the man whom he helped got £5 a week. After nine months this man was discharged, and Adams was required to do his work at his existing wage of 355. He refused to do this, and left the butcher, who was obliged, according to his account, to engage another man at £5 a week. Adams declared to me that he was fully capable of doing the work and would have been prepared to do it if he had been given another 20J. a week.

The story shows so complete a lack of ordinary business sense on the part of the butcher that I found considerable difficulty in accepting it. There was, I think, some substratum of truth in it, but it was far from the whole truth. This incident occurred in December 1941, and once again, by his own account, he was out of work and unable to find any employment. To anyone with even the least knowledge of the demand for labour at almost any wages in London at this time the story is absurd on its face.

In August 1942 he was again in trouble. He was then just twenty and he was arrested with two other lads of his own age for breaking and entering a flat and stealing a number of articles. The two other boys had been friends and neighbours of his for several years. All three of them were sentenced at one of the Metropolitan magistrates’ courts to three months’ hard labour.

I have said so often, and for so long, that these very short sentences are not only useless but actively mischievous for young men and women, that it may be of interest to record the opinion of one actual offender sentenced to such a term. To my question as to the effect of this sentence upon him, Adams replied:

‘Well, I didn’t think a great deal about it. Of course I got a month’s remission off for good conduct, so I only did two months. That didn’t worry me. It didn’t put fear into me. There weren’t any cells at Feltham like in an ordinary part of the prison. There were about fifty


of us in a dormitory, and we all talked and joked. It seemed all right at the time. I did worry about my mother, as I knew she was worrying about me, but of course it wasn’t for long. Still, I was the only one of the family who has ever been in prison and it worried my mother. I had one visit when my young sister came to see me. There was nothing taught us. I worked as a plasterer’s labourer for a civilian who had some building job at the prison.’

On leaving prison at the end of October 1942 he got work at an aircraft factory. He did not like this, as it was indoor work looking after a press, and he wanted to be out of doors. As a result, he said he took no interest in his work, and during 1943 was twice in court under the Essential Works Order, once for leaving his employment without leave and once for refusing a direction to go to work. On each occasion he was fined.

Early in 1944 he was again charged, this time with being drunk and assaulting the police. He admitted that he was drunk and that he assaulted the police, but he declared that three police officers had committed very gross perjury in exaggerating the gravity of his offence. The magistrate at Great Marlborough Street accepted the police version of the incident, I do not doubt very wisely, and he was heavily fined, £11 in all, with £10 ioj. costs.

Later in the same year lie was convicted again. He was entirely frank about the episode, telling it as a rather humorous story against himself. He had made friends with four other young men, all of whom had police records. Three of these men had what Adams described as ‘various contacts in the West End’, by which he meant acquaintance with professional receivers of stolen property. One of these ‘contacts’ was prepared to buy cloth, and the five young men, after stealing a motor car in which to get away, broke into a warehouse and stole some bales of cloth which they knew to be there. They got away successfully and took the cloth in the car to an empty shed, where they hid both car and contents under a number of planks. One of the gang got in touch with the receiver, who promised to pay ■£200 for the bales, and all the gang met that evening in the shed to hand over the cloth and divide the money. The receiver duly appeared, but he brought the police with him, and all five young men were arrested. Adams explained this treachery by saying that the man was in fact a receiver of stolen goods who purchased his own immunity


from prosecution by betraying clients to the police from time to time. As to the truth of such a story, I can only say that, while it may possibly be true, I should hesitate to convict anyone of anything upon evidence not more reliable than the testimony of Adams. For this offence, in September 1944, he was given a sentence of twelve months’ hard labour.

He served this sentence in Wandsworth, which he disliked intensely. In his own words, ‘it was a very different job to Feltham’. He worked in the brush-shop where he said there were about a hundred men all under twenty-seven years of age, and he was discharged in June 1945 just before his twenty-third birthday.

On his release he got employment with a big firm of builders, where he told me he earned 3*. 1 Id. an hour as a painter. He stayed with this firm for nearly a year, and then left, as he said he could make more money by joining a friend of his, one Thompson, a man one year older than himself, in his private business.

Early in 1946 he got married. His wife knew his record before she was married.

The private business of his friend whom he joined in May 1946 consisted of making cheap toys for sale to showmen at fairs; they were the toys used as prizes for sideshows. He said that genuine well-made toys were too expensive for the purposes of the showmen, and they therefore eagerly bought the toys which Adams and Thompson made. Their system was to purchase a genuine toy and to make a cheap imitation of it. Thus they took a well-made teddy-bear to pieces and made a copy of it, using inferior dyed rabbit skins gummed instead of being sewn on a base. He said he worked with Thompson for nearly two years in this way, his share never amounting to less than £7 a week, while they had a pleasant existence driving about the country disposing of their toys at fairs. He said he was able to save nothing, however, as his rent was 22s. 4d. and he paid 30J. for furniture on hire purchase agreement. His child was born in 1946.

Early in 1948 so many men came into competition in making these toys that prices fell so low that there was no longer a good living to be made, and they went out of the business.

Adams then went to the Labour Exchange and asked for work as a skilled painter. He was told that they had no such work for


him, but they offered him a labourer’s job at £4 ioj. to £4 15Í. a week. This he refused saying that with his commitments he could not live upon this pay, and declaring that he was a skilled tradesman and so entitled to a higher rate. He told me that he was out of work for three months and received nothing at all as unemployment benefit, although he was constantly seeking work as a skilled painter. All he had to live on was ‘an occasional £2’ from Thompson, who, he explained, was able to help him by gifts in this way despite the failure of his business because he had savings of his own and well-to-do relatives.

The whole of this story bristles with improbabilities. The only part I imagine to be true is that the Labour Exchange refused to find him anything but a labourer’s job, rightly taking the view that he was not a skilled painter. In fact he could not have been. There was no period of his life when he could have been trained. Indeed, he admitted to me that such skill as he had had been ‘picked up at his various jobs’, and in the prison where I saw him the works foreman told me that his degree of skill was no higher than that of any man who had done a certain amount of painting work during his sentences. It is obvious that if he could not live on the £4 155. offered him at the Labour Exchange he could not do so upon an ‘occasional £2’ from Thompson, even if this man with his business at an end were generous enough to make such free gifts. I think there can be very little doubt that during these three months he lived by such successive acts of dishonesty as he could bring off successfully.

However this may be, at the end of the three months he was once again convicted of theft. For what it was worth, his own story was this. One of his brothers is a barrow boy selling fruit, flowers, and vegetables in the London streets. This brother told Adams of the big profit that he could make by cutting out the middle-man and selling the produce of market gardeners direct to barrow boys who would prefer to buy from him than from Covent Garden. Accordingly Adams and Thompson, together with a friend, set out in the car to tour those country districts with which their previous association with showmen at fairs had made them already familiar. They intended to make contact with some likely market gardeners and propose themselves as customers. About half-past twelve on the first day they found themselves in a small country town, and as they drove through the streets they saw a

large basket on the steps of a cleaner’s shop, closed for the dinner hour. Acting under a sudden temptation, which Adams assured me he much regretted, they stopped the car, picked up the basket, and drove out of the town. They stopped on its outskirts and opened the basket, which contained, he said, ‘some old suits and some curtains’. A few moments later they were caught by a police patrol car. For this theft they received sentences of five months in July 1948. Adams was just completing this sentence when I saw him.

I hardly imagine Adams expected me to believe this story when he told it to me. The plan of cutting out Covent Garden when they neither knew, or knew of, a single market gardener seemed a little too thin to take seriously. He admitted that by midday they had not in fact called upon anybody although they had left London at an early hour, nor had they any market gardener in mind upon whom to call later in the day.

His wife was going to visit him in prison in three weeks after the date of our last interview. He told me he will not return to prison again for the sake of his family as he is very happy in his married life. During his time in prison his wife has been helped financially by his brothers, so that he will not be behind with either rent or hire purchase of furniture when he is discharged. He told me that he is a non-smoker and drinks very little; a weekly visit to the cinema with his wife is a pleasure to both of them. The pleasant way he spoke of his wife was the only attractive feature I found in this man.

Adams was exempted from army service because of his deafness. So far, he has not committed any major crimes, but I attribute this more to chance and to lack of opportunity than to any other cause. I do not think conscience would have kept him out of warehouse-breaking or burglary on a big scale if he had been offered the occasion. His one planned warehouse robbery ended in disaster after his successful gang theft of the bales of cloth. That, however, was a well-planned crime, and I think it would have been followed by others if he had not been arrested.

He is a well-built and good-looking young man, with a pleasant voice. Also he is a most ready and plausible liar; each time I detected him in an untruth he laughed amusedly and said no more than his memory must have failed him. The chief officer of the prison told me he did not believe a word this man said. He


seemed to be without any moral standard at all. Being completely selfish, and having no thought whatever of the rights of other people, I do not think he has ever made any effort to resist temptation, and, being bone lazy, he is not attracted to work for its own sake, or as a means of honest livelihood if it entails either effort or regular hours. He is what is colloquially called a typical ‘spiv’ type, wdth intense dislike of discipline and supervision. The workshop officer described him as being incapable of holding down any job in civilian life if it needed hard work, and the chief officer said that although he talked a great deal of wanting a job when he left the prison he did not think he would ever keep it unless it was of the easiest kind. This is all borne out by the way he has in the past thrown up employment as soon as it has become uncongenial in any way, and without taking the trouble to find an alternative job first.

I could not discern in him the slightest genuine remorse; the only regret he had was that his offences had brought him the inconvenience of punishment. Nor did I hear him mention any friend who lived an honest life, although it was obvious that he had numerous friends who had committed offences in the past and were prepared to do so again. I told him that in my view his last sentence of five months had been absurdly lenient, and that if he were again convicted of any such professional crime as planned and organised warehouse robbery the proper sentence would be three to five years’ imprisonment.

He was anxious that I should approach the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society to help him when he went out, and complained that on discharge from Wandsworth he had been given only 20s. All he asked me to get him was money; he said he could get a job for himself. He is not, however, the type deserving of much help from charitable funds.

The picture which I have painted of this young man is not an attractive one. It may be thought to be unfair or uncharitable. But my wish is not to be kind at the expense of truth, but to show the typical lesser persistent offender as he is at the beginning of his career. Such a man as Adams, helped as he will be by his brothers, may keep out of trouble for a considerable period, if he is lucky and things go easily with him. But he has no moral strength, no standards but the purely material, and no real education or intelligence. At the first difficulty he will succumb, and return to prison. This was the opinion which I formed, and I found it shared by each of the prison officers who had had anything to do with him.


Adams was released from prison in November 1948. He had not been again convicted by the end of January 1950.

b. 21.5.26 C. ofE. age 22.

The parents of this young man are both alive. But I had difficulty in determining very much about them as he told one story of his early life to me and quite a different one to the medical officer. His prison papers were not quite complete at the time I saw him so that a full and detailed check was not possible. His father is now a postman, but Benson told me a most improbable story that he was formerly a qualified dentist who had had a nervous breakdown as a result of the loss of all his money. (This story of his father’s loss of status he did not, however, offer to the prison doctor.) Benson told me that his mother was now in business, and had formerly been a nurse. Here again I think he had drawn a long bow, as I found on his file a letter from his mother to the governor of the Borstal institution where this lad was serving a sentence, which was not such a letter as one would expect either a nurse or a business woman to write. It was ill-written and ill-spelt, and hysterical in its condemnation of the judge who had sent her son, who was ‘a good lad’, to the horrors of a Borstal where he would be ‘beaten and flogged’; it went on to demand that he should be given leave to come home every week-end, and declared that, as the son of a professional woman, her son should not be made to associate with rough young criminals at Portland. It was obvious, not only from this letter but from what the lad told me, that his mother had contributed to his downfall by letting him run wild without any guidance or supervision while his father was serving in the war. This impression of mine was later confirmed to me by the governor of his former Borstal whose records of Benson included a note that he was ‘a clever young boy hopelessly spoilt by his mother’.

Benson was the eldest of four children, and he is on excellent terms with his brother and two sisters, as he is with his mother and father. The latter is worried about his repeated convictions, but he

says that his mother always sympathises with him. He went to school until he reached the age of fifteen and he told the prison doctor that he did well there and was perfectly happy. To me, on the other hand, he said he was not much good at his books and was especially bad at figures. Soon after leaving school he got his first job as a butcher’s boy delivering meat. His 95. wages he gave to his mother, and his tips, which averaged about 7s. a week, he kept as pocket money. This first job he kept for some three months, and he then went to a tool-manufacturing company at wages just double what he had been getting. For no obvious reason so far as I could understand, he told the prison doctor that he stayed a year in this employment, whereas he told me he left it after four weeks as he found the work too much for him, since ‘you had to calculate and do sums, and I was no good at figures’.

However that may have been, it was a few days after his leaving this job that he first got into trouble with the police. With another boy of his own age who had already been found guilty of stealing and was on probation he broke into an unoccupied week-end bungalow. He knew, of course, as he told me, that it was criminal to break into a house and wrong to steal when he had broken in. But in his own words:

‘It wasn’t really to steal that I did it. Of course, when I got in I looked about for something to take. The other boy had done it before, and he told me it was very exciting, and when he was caught they didn’t do anything to him. I hoped, of course, we wouldn’t be caught if we were careful. I really didn’t go in just to pinch something. It was for devilment, more. We broke in one afternoon. I stole a torch and a clock. We couldn’t find any money. When the people came to the bungalow next week-end they told the police, and they went and questioned the other boy who was with me, because he was on probation for doing another job, just like this one. As soon as the police questioned him he owned up, and he told them I had been there, too. So they came to our house, and I admitted it and gave them the torch and the clock. I came up for this before the juvenile court and I was put on probation like the other boy had said.’

Probation was a complete farce in his case, if he is to be believed. He told me he saw the probation officer only once in the two months before he was again in trouble, and no impression whatever was made upon his mind by the probation system.

In June 1942, when he was just sixteen, he was found guilty by another juvenile court of smashing open the money-boxes in two telephone kiosks. He admitted having done this with a crowbar, and laughed heartily in amused recollection of his immaturity as shown by the fact that he left his fingerprints in the kiosks and was traced by them. At this time he was in work of a kind, getting something like i6i. to i8j. a week, he thought, for helping a scrap-iron merchant. It was a job without regular hours and unsatisfactory in every way, so that his mother urged him to get proper employment with a reputable firm. But he said he liked being able to turn up just when he wanted to and not to be tied to regular hours. Also, he was ‘always mad on motors’ and the scrap-iron man allowed him to drive the lorry in country roads where he would not be seen. Now, for these kiosk offences, he was sent to an approved school.

After a wait of four months in a remand home, he arrived in November 1942 at his school, but absconded in January with another boy. Ten days later he was picked up by the police at his mother’s house and returned to the school, only to run away with another boy two days later. His explanation is that common to almost all these boys brought up by their parents without any discipline or moral standards in their homes.

‘I didn’t like the place. No one was unkind to me, and the other chaps didn’t bully me at all. There were boys there older than me, but there were plenty younger. I got fed up with the whole outfit. It was a cissy place. I got told to sit in class and learn things like they tried to teach me. You couldn’t do what you wanted at any time. They were after you at mealtimes even, and in the dormitories. The second time I ran away I didn’t go home to my mother like I had the first time because I knew the police would come for me there. So the chap I ran away with and I broke into a house in Acton, where we had gone to. We got quite a lot in that place, and we didn’t need to break in anywhere else to pinch anything else. We slept in sheds, and with the money we got in that first house we bought food and went to cinemas. Then we were arrested in Acton as absconders, and charged with burglary at the Middlesex Sessions, as the school didn’t want us back, and I got sent to Borstal.’

The approved school records describe him as making no effort at all to take advantage of the school training, entirely untrustworthy, and a bad influence.

His time at Portland Borstal Institution did him no more good than that which he had spent at his approved school. His own story was that he spent his time for the most part in nawying work,

and that during the three months he spent in the engineers’ shop he did only unskilled repetitive work of no educational value.

The then governor of Portland Borstal Institution was good enough to be at pains to help me as to Benson’s criticisms.

‘During the war,’ he wrote, ‘I adopted the attitude that the lads had failed when their country needed them, and they would be given the chance to work all hours on war work, so as to regain their selfrespect. At this time, therefore, there was no real vocational training, and the engineers’ and carpenters’ and the blacksmiths’ were real production shops. ... As to Benson, about whom you write, I did not expect him to fail. He was not criminal; merely a restless, selfish, and spoilt adolescent.’

It is interesting that the prison doctor’s estimate of this young man made five years later confirms this opinion. It describes him as showing no evidence of nervous or mental derangement, of good intelligence, and apparently of good personality.

On his discharge from Borstal, in February 1945, Benson went to live with his parents at Barchester, where his father, now demobilised from the army, was employed. His first job was as a ‘butcher’s cutter’ at £2 a week, but after a few months he threw up this work on the ground that the pay was insufficient. After being rejected by the army owing to some ear trouble he joined a man, whose acquaintance he had made in a public house, in starting a business as window-cleaners. This man was about thirty years of age, and Benson assured me that he joined him with a genuine intention of making a living at cleaning windows and with no ulterior motive whatever. After a few weeks he discovered that his new partner had been in prison for housebreaking, but he declared that he was entirely ignorant of this when they first joined forces. His own story to me was that as there were no skilled window-cleaners in the town at that time they had the opportunity of asking very high rates, so that for some three months they each of them made something over £7 a week. Competition then became very keen locally; there was consequently a big drop in the prices they could charge, and he and his partner decided to give up the window-cleaning business.

I am sceptical of the truth of this story, the more so as he told me that as soon as the window-cleaning stopped the two of them joined three other men, also met casually in public houses, to form a gang. The gang started almost at once regular and systematic


burglaries in the residential part of the town in which he had cleaned windows, and he admitted that the knowledge of the houses he and his partner had so gained was of great practical value to the gang.

The gang was made up of four men who committed the actual housebreakings and one rather older man of about forty who acted as a receiver and took all the proceeds of the robberies at once to London to dispose of them. The four men who committed the robberies did not all go to a ‘job’ together. There were never more than three engaged and almost always only two. Benson explained to me that their two principal safeguards against detection were, first, that none of the four ever kept any stolen property in his possession, but passed it at once to the receiver, who had his own specialised means of hiding it, and, secondly, that no pair of men worked always in association so that they should not be seen in company and so become known to the police.

Now began a time of prosperity for the gang and a reign of terror in the residential suburb of this provincial town. Their system was that the receiver took all stolen property to London the day following the burglary, sold it, and, after deducting his percentage as payment, handed the remainder for equal division amongst the four other men, whether they had or had not taken part in that particular housebreaking. An average night’s work would bring from £80 to £\oo for division into four parts. Their most successful haul brought £180 for such division. Benson told me that, in all, the gang ‘did twenty jobs’ spread over a period of eight months before they were caught. In order to minimise the risk they used to ‘do a job, say, three times in one week and lay off for a time, say a fortnight or three weeks, till the police had got a bit tired of watching out for us, and then we started again’.

Benson told me that they were careful to steal only small stuff which could be carried about easily in an attache-case, and that they preferred jewellery to anything except actual cash. They got to know the real value of what they stole from the reports of the thefts in the local newspapers, and they expected to get from one third to one half of that from their receiver. Benson’s own share amounted to just over £500 during the eight months during which the gang operated.

During this period Benson lived at home, and he was emphatic that neither of his parents knew of the life he was leading. As a blind, he had a nominal share in a garage, or workshop, run by a friend, and he accounted to his parents for his absences at night by saying that he was engaged on urgent night repairs. When this halcyon time was abruptly terminated by his arrest, he had something over £70 saved out of the £500. The rest had gone on the proverbial wine, women, and song. In order not to awaken suspicion locally, and to avoid unwelcome enquiries as to the source of their wealth, the gang bought a motor car out of their common fund, and it was their habit to spend their money at places thirty and forty miles away where they were unknown. ‘Mostly on drink and a bit on girls,’ was Benson’s brief epitome.

He took a good deal of pleasure in telling me all the details of this story. I think it brought him some satisfaction to recall all the good times he had had. Certainly he displayed no slightest sign of any remorse, regret or sympathy for the many innocent people he had helped to rob, and indeed lived by robbing. I was particular to probe him on this point, but he dismissed it by saying no one could live if you worried about things like that. So frank was he, indeed, that I went to some pains to check his accuracy in a newspaper account of his trial, and, somewhat to my surprise, I discovered no exaggeration in his account of the many robberies of the gang. In October 1946 at the Barchester Sessions he was given a sentence of twelve months.

In view of the fact that he had already served a longer sentence at Borstal, and that he was now being sentenced for a long sequence of burglaries, a sentence of twelve months—or eight months allowing for the normal remission—seemed to me to be both inadequate and useless. But, while looking at his record, I found that at this time he had also been bound over for larceny. He told me that he was charged before the local justices with the theft of a set of mechanic’s tools, of the value of £10, from a garage. He was then twenty years of age, and had been discharged from Borstal rather more than a year. He was in no proper work, and pleaded guilty to a serious theft of these tools. In such circumstances, to bind him over without making any attempt to help him by a probation order seems to me to be an action as mischievously silly as anything one could imagine.

In June 1947 he was discharged from prison and returned to his parents. He got work through the Labour Exchange at £4 155., of which he gave his mother £2. This job was for a contractor close to Barchester and enabled Benson to return every night to his parents. After two or three months the contract was completed, and as he had no wish to leave Barchester he threw up his job and got another which enabled him to stay at home. Only three weeks later he was again in serious trouble. With a man of forty, whose acquaintance he had again made casually in a public house, who had already served three prison sentences, he committed in one night two burglaries in the area which he had got to know so well in his gang days, less than a year earlier. The two men were arrested with jewellery worth over £200 in their possession and he received a sentence of two years, of which he had served the greater part when I saw him. He was much gratified because at his trial the recorder had said he regarded him as the ringleader although his accomplice was so much the elder man.

As he spoke freely of his crimes, so he did of his opinion of prison. He said he had been well treated in the prisons to which he had been committed in the sense that he was well enough fed, had not too much work to do, and had all the books he wanted. His literary tastes were entirely of the Edgar Wallace order, and he had really never even tried to read anything else save some rather sentimental novels by a woman authoress whose name he could not remember. But he said:

‘Though you’re treated well enough it’s all useless. Fifteen hours in your cell: what’s the good of that? It doesn’t do any good; you learn nothing. All the time you’re lying about doing nothing, you forget what you do know. All I did in my last time inside was unskilled work in the bakery and sweeping up in the carpenters’ shop. Here, I was doing some painting, but I got taken off that because I was caught smoking before I got on stage, and now I am making mailbags. I don’t think my two-year sentence was unjust—definitely not. The judge had to do something and I had had a twelvemonths, already. But the life here is just useless. In fact it’s worse than useless."’

He was to be released in the near future. His plans were vague, and, in so far as they were based upon an intention to go back to his father in Barchester, most unwise. In Barchester he had apparently an endless stream of undesirable friends, a thoroughly bad character generally, and was well known to the police. He wanted, or said he wanted, a job as lorry- or car-driver.

All that he said about the uselessness of a prison term spent in such work as making mailbags was wise enough. But the unhappy

truth is, I fear, that he is incapable of learning, not through lack of intelligence but through conceit and inability either to concentrate upon learning or to stay on a job. As a child he lacked all home training and was foolishly indulged. As a boy he resented all discipline and would not join either the Scouts or a club; he said he liked to go about the streets by himself. Moral and religious training did not enter his life. He never went either to church or Sunday-school, and when I saw him merely ridiculed the whole subject of religion as a matter not to be taken seriously by a grown man. He was utterly weak in the sense that he could not resist temptation of any kind. He said, for example, that he knew he picked up the worst acquaintances in the sort of public house he went to, yet he was quite unable to stay away from them. It gratified his conceit to have been recognised by the recorder as the bad young man who had led a much older man into a crime, and he told me this incident twice.

I did not judge Benson to be a vicious type. He had the saving grace of a sense of humour, and was by no means unintelligent. But I cannot believe that he will have the strength to keep out of further trouble. The only thing which could save him would be a totally new environment and rigid supervision while he is establishing himself in some job which retains his interest. Conceivably a four-year corrective-training sentence for his next offence may suffice. But I shall be surprised if there is no next offence.


He was released in April 1949 and has rather surprised me by keeping out so long. He is still without any further conviction in January 1950.

b. 28. 7. 26 C. of E. age 22

Dismissed P.O.A. Fined £2 15J. Approved school Returned to school Probation


6 months

18 months

6 months 3 years






10.2.44 7.2.46




Stealing milk Stealing cycle Attempted larceny House-breaking and larceny House-breaking and larceny of goods to value of £209

(1)    House-breaking and larceny

(2)    Breach of recognisances House-breaking and larceny of goods

to value of £200 (4 cases T.I.C.)

(1)    House-breaking with intent

(2)    Larceny of cycle Larceny

(1) Stealing motor car

(2) House-breaking implements by night

Henry Carter was the son of most respectable parents. His father, who died in 1943, was a type-setter and was in well-paid work up to the end of his life. His mother was, at the time I saw him, seriously ill in hospital with heart trouble. He had three brothers, an elder brother killed in the war and two younger; of these latter one is a seaman in the Royal Navy and one is a boy in a naval training school. He has three sisters, one in her teens and two elder ones married, one to a master plumber with a small business and one to an engineer employed by a big firm.

Carter told me he had had the ‘best of homes. My father was a great home lover, and he and Mum were devoted to one another’. As a child he never wanted for anything, and though he never was given regular pocket money, his mother was always ready to give him money for sweets or to go to the pictures if he asked for it. The

home was evidently one of great respectability as well as comfort as he described it, and he told me that he had never heard so much as a suggestion that any relative or connection had ever been in trouble with the police. He himself was the black sheep of the family and his convictions were a great sorrow to all his family, as he realised with apparently sincere regret. None of his family have ever broken off connection with him. He himself writes from prison to one of his sisters and she circulates his letter to all the rest. This sister writes regularly to him in reply. His mother does not write at present, but this is not because she has abandoned him in any way but because she had been for a long time in hospital, and if she wrote to him the nurses would see the prison address.

The details which he gave me of his home in a London suburb certainly confirmed his claim to have been that of a happy, respectable and well-to-do family, affectionate and secure. He went to a school which was not far from his home, was happy there, did not play truant, and got into the top class but one. From eight to thirteen years of age he belonged to the Church Lads’ Brigade and went to camp with them every year, which he liked very much.

He went to Sunday-school and to church on Sundays with his mother, his brother and two sisters, and occasionally his father accompanied them. When his father did not go to church he stayed at home and smoked his pipe and read the papers.

Towards the end of his time at school he got a spare-time engagement at which he used to earn 7s. 6d. a week by helping a milkman. This money he handed to his mother, and she gave him back whatever he wanted for sweets and pictures. Occasionally when his mother needed extra milk she used to send him to get it from this milkman; usually she gave him a florin to spend in this way. Once when he got to the shop there was nobody about, so he took the milk home but kept the two shillings for himself. Finding this trick successful, he repeated it two or three times before he was caught. When this theft of milk was discovered he was prosecuted by the milkman, but the juvenile court dismissed the case under the Probation of Offenders Act. He told me that the impression he got at the time from this treatment was that the justices looked on the whole matter as quite trivial, and he said he would hardly have realised he had done anything really wrong if his father had not given him a whipping.

I have always taken the view that the foolish behaviour of


justices can be very mischievous in its effects, just as I am sure that many a boy on the threshold of a criminal career has been drawn back by the wise guidance of a probation officer. In Carter’s case, it is not easy to see how a boy from a good home has drifted into continued and serious crime. But I am in no doubt that the local justices contributed substantially to bringing about this result. In this first appearance before the court the boy was shown to have stolen four or five times from his employer, and the magistrates would have been far wiser to put him on probation than to dismiss his case, with the almost inevitable mental impression left upon his childish mind that such thefts of a few shillings each were of no importance.

His first job was that of an errand boy, and he kept it for six months. He then got work as a machine operator in the firm which employed his father. He stayed there for eighteen months, at the end of which time he was getting 3 ij. a week in wages. While in this job he again got into trouble. According to his own account, he came out of a cinema some two and a half miles from his home and found it to be pouring with rain. Very wrongly, he took a bicycle from a rack outside the cinema and rode it home, leaving it against the garden railings when he went into his house. In the morning his father saw it, and Garter confessed to him that he had ridden it home and had left it where he had in the hope that a policeman would discover it and take it away. As he pointed out to me, he had nowhere to hide the bicycle and, for that reason alone if for no other, had no intention, or even wish, to keep it. His father, however, telephoned to the police, and the boy was prosecuted for the theft of the bicycle, found guilty, and fined £2 15 s.

Once more in this boy’s case the justices on being given the opportunity to do a wise thing did a silly one. In the first place, if the boy’s story were true, and I think it was, it was extremely doubtful if he ought to have been found guilty of theft at all, as he had no intention of keeping the bicycle but meant to return it. In the second place, to impose a fine of £2 15s. was foolish and unconstructive. If they believed that this boy of just fifteen had stolen a bicycle, then, since he had previously been found guilty of other thefts, he should have been put under the guidance of the probation officer. As it was, the jusdces imposed a fine of this curious sum, which his parents paid, and they did no good to anybody.

After this case he left his employment and got himself another job as a general machine handyman at 35J. weekly, and stayed in it for eight months. Without having anything else to go to he then threw it up. In his own words:

‘I was all unsettled. It was in the middle of the war and I was mad to go to sea. I wasn’t quite sixteen, but several chaps not much older than me had gone to sea, some of them had made out they were a bit older than they were really. They got into the Merchant Navy and I wanted to go, too, and not stay in my glue factory working at a lathe. I spoke to my father more than once about it and all he said was, “Wait until you are old enough to join the Royal Navy.” But I wanted to get to sea at once. I used to go to Dock Street nearly every day and hang about trying to get on a ship. They said, “Come back tomorrow and there may be a ship for you.” I was so keen to go, and so hoping there would be a ship for me, that I couldn’t take any interest in looking for another job. It drifted on like that for four months. Sometimes I did odd jobs, but I never got a regular job. My mother kept me going by giving me a little money every week, but I didn’t really care about the money except to enable me to hang around Dock Street.’

One evening he was with two other boys and, on a sudden impulse, one of them suggested that they should break open the box in a telephone kiosk. The three boys entered the kiosk and tampered with the box. But it was strongly made; they had not premeditated the offence and had no tools; and they were unsuccessful even in opening it. They were, however, seen by a policeman and charged with attempted larceny. Carter was committed for this offence to an approved school.

I find it impossible to approve the action of the justices. It is a serious thing to send a boy for two or three years of his life to an institution which many people look upon even today as a reformatory. It is serious not only for the boy but for his family, and it should be a last resource. This boy at the age of thirteen had cheated a milkman of 10s., and two years later he had taken another boy’s bicycle from outside a theatre and ridden home on it. Now, in addition, acting on sudden impulse, as was shown by the fact that he had not even the simplest tool, he had tampered so ineffectively with a box which probably contained nothing more valuable than a number of pennies that he failed even to open it. He was not yet sixteen, and the justices for these trivialities imposed upon him what would have been the maximum sentence in their power if he had been guilty of a dozen larcenies.


The approach of a juvenile court to a defendant should never be, ‘How must we punish the wrong thing he has done?’ but always ‘How, consistently with the public interest, can we best help this boy?’ This is not sentiment but common sense. Of course, on occasions, the character of a boy may be so warped that in his own interest he can best be brought to his senses by punishment, or his background may be so bad that he can best be helped by being taken away from his home. But even in these cases punishment should be a means, not an end.

If we apply such principles to the case of this boy Carter we can see easily enough that the last thing it was necessary to do was to take him from a good home and send him for two years to an institution. His ruling passion was a wish to go to sea, an ambition wholesome at all times and of especial value to the country at that particular time. He had committed no crime of such gravity that for the public good and protection he needed to be shut up. The justices would have been at once wiser and more merciful—and a good deal more efficient in the interest of the community—if they had placed the boy under the probation officer with instructions to find him a ship and to send him to sea.

When he heard he was to go to an approved school, the boy asked that he should be sent to one which gave a nautical training, but, with a determination not only to do the wrong thing but to do it in the stupidest manner possible, the justices sent him to one which gave a military training. The boy told me:

‘I wanted to learn to be a seaman. I knew a nautical school could get me to sea. So I would have done my best at a place like that, as that would have been the quickest way to get a ship. But at this school I did military drill, and I wasn’t interested in bombs and gases and that which we had to learn about. There was another boy there who was mad to get to sea, too, so after three days we ran away together. I went home, but father wouldn’t listen to what I said and he took me straight back to the school. He told me that he and mother were both disappointed in me. I knew I would never settle in that first school and I ran away two or three times again within a month. So then at last they sent me to the Akbar Nautical School in July 1942. There they taught me all the things I was interested in, seamanship, and navigation, and boat drill and things like that. I was there for a year and I was never so happy. I really liked that place. I finished my time there in 1943, but they wouldn’t find me a ship because I was not yet seventeen and my father had just died. They said that I ought to go home to my mother. I had tried hard to get on while I

was at the Akbar, and if I couldn’t get to sea even after that I didn’t care what I did. So I went home and took the first job that turned up and I became a stage hand at a theatre.’

It was at this time that Carter began to deteriorate. As I understood him, he had seen when he was committed to the nautical school a real chance of that sea life upon which he had set all his hopes. He had been told that if he behaved well and showed interest in his work a ship would be found for him when he left the school. All this he had done. He had given no trouble and had worked hard. But he was told at the end that he was not to go to sea. He was to go home and take whatever job he could get. Nothing mattered anyway, because as soon as he was eighteen he would be called up and would have to join the army, in which he was completely uninterested and had done everything in his power to avoid. Whatever the cause may have been, it was now that Carter became drawn into that planned and systematic stealing which marks the professional criminal. He tells the story in his own words better than I could do it for him.

‘Almost as soon as I started the job, I got in with a lot of other chaps. I met them at dances and at cafés and in the street. We formed a clique1—all pals. There were four of us specially who went together. I didn’t do it for money but for excitement. One of the chaps knew a house at Harrow he said would be safe to break into. So we started by doing that house. It was in the daytime and we knew it was empty. We got a lot of stuff out of that house and we sold it and divided the money, so we decided to do some more houses. We did it several times before we were caught—I think four times in all. One of us always knew somebody who wanted some special thing, like a camera for instance. So it was generally easy to get rid of quite a lot of the stuff we got to people we knew wanted things. We never had any difficulty in disposing of the stuff as we mostly took things we knew people would buy easily. We went first of all for cash, but we could always get rid of stuff like cigarette-cases, or cigarette-boxes, or cameras, or rings to the pawnshops if you knew where to go. We had about ¿50 to split between four of us after each house. We always broke into houses in the daytime. We would watch a house till we thought it was empty and then ring the front-door bell several times. If anybody came we asked a question and went away, but if nobody answered the bell we went round to the back and broke in. I had my work at the theatre at night. In the end I got caught while I was trying to sell a pair of binoculars which we had got in a house.’

1 Pronounced ‘click’.


He was convicted of housebreaking and larceny of goods to the value of £209. Once again the court failed to show very much sense in its treatment of him. The sentence was that he should go into a probation home until his army call-up. It does not require any profound knowledge of young men to know this sentence was almost certain to fail, kind as it was in intention. The probation home was a farm colony where the only employment was agricultural work on a home farm, work of which he knew nothing at all. It was, therefore, asking a boy of high spirit, whose single ambition was to go to sea, to settle down quietly to do uncongenial work, with no pay but 55. pocket money, and with nothing to look forward to but a call-up to the army which he hated. It was no doubt very wrong of him to run away from the place with another boy almost as soon as he arrived. But I should have been greatly surprised if he had not done so. Having run away, the two boys had to break in somewhere to get clothes and cash, and two or three days later they were arrested for breaking into a school where they stole 20J. from a master’s desk.

He was now sent to Borstal and spent seventeen months at Portland. This did him no good, as he learnt nothing useful and spent the greater part of his time on rough general work. From the character training in force he gained nothing, as he was unable to remember the name of any official of the institution except the governor, and of him he could remember little save his name. He went to church services, as they were compulsory, but he never spoke (so he said) to the chaplain alone or received any sort of instruction.

A week after his discharge from Portland he was called up for the army. His preliminary training was a success, and he was proud of the fact that his paybook was marked first class. He then volunteered for, and was posted to, the Parachute Regiment, and he began this training in August 1945. For a time he did well; got into no trouble; was made a section leader; and boasted to me that a sergeant told him he had the makings of a good soldier.

But unhappily this happy start was not maintained. Not for the first time did I hear of domestic trouble leading a young man of unstable character into mischief.1 He was at home on a few days’ leave when his sister lost a ring, and accused him as the family’s black sheep of having stolen it. This greatly upset him and he had 1 See, for example, p. 182.

Henrv Carter


a violent quarrel with his sister, which upset the whole family, and he refused to return to his regiment when his leave was up. A day or two after his sister found her ring, and he was persuaded by his mother to return to barracks However, he was punished by fourteen days’ C.B. for being A.W.O.L. and he said that it seemed to take the heart out of him; he felt he was now a black sheep in the army as he was in civil life, and that it was all unfair as it arose from a totally unfounded accusation of having stolen his sister’s ring. Clearly enough something had gone badly amiss with his military training. What zest there had been in it had gone. He hardly knew the cause himself. Whether it was, as he thought, disappointment and lack of encouragement, or whether it was, as he told me, long hours of idleness and boredom, or whether it was, as is well possible, nothing more than his own weakness and instability, it is hard to say. The result of whatever cause it may have been was that he stayed with his unit until December, went home for Christmas leave, and then deserted.

He was now committed to crime, since as a deserter it was virtually impossible for him to live honestly. In consequence he returned to housebreaking. After carrying out two such offences by himself he joined forces with a friend whom he met by chance in Baker Street with whom he had been friendly in Portland. They went together to a café to have tea, and Carter told his friend that ‘he did not think he would ever be happy in the army and that he was fed up generally’. His Borstal training had been no more conspicuously successful in the case of the friend than in that of Carter, as his reply was that he would gladly join him in doing some jobs together. Two such jobs they did successfully in company within the next few weeks, one of them being so profitable as to bring each of them £100 when the goods were disposed of. As was inevitable, however, they were caught soon after, and Carter was convicted of housebreaking and larceny of goods valued at £200, with four additional cases taken into consideration. Each of the lads received a sentence of six months and had his Borstal licence revoked.

Carter was sent to serve his sentence at Chelmsford prison. Here his outlook was bleak. He had been to an approved school, to Borstal, and was now in prison, all at the age of nineteen. When he left Chelmsford at the end of his sentence he would be handed over to a military escort to be taken back to the army in disgrace.

Anything, he thought, was "better than that. With two other prisoners, each, like himself, a deserter, he escaped from Chelmsford, stole a bicycle, and broke into the first house he came to. He found nothing, however, and bicycled home to get some clothes. But his spartan mother instantly telephoned the police, telling Carter she did so for his own sake before he got into further trouble. When he came into court his record began to be reflected in his sentence: he had stolen nothing but a bicycle, and that had been recovered, but he was given a sentence of eighteen months.

From Wandsworth he went home on his discharge in July 1947. But he found himself, or at any rate imagined himself, an outcast, looked down upon with contempt by his family. In this unhappy position, living at home dependent upon the indulgence of his family, with neither money nor job, he did perhaps the most foolish thing it was in his power to do. In August he married a girl and took her to his mother’s house to live. The marriage was the complete failure one would have expected it to be, and the atmosphere of the house became more frigid than before. Carter therefore decided to leave home and, to give himself the chance of a start, he helped himself to some clothes from the wardrobe of his brother-in-law. Once again his mother insisted that he should be prosecuted, and he was given a sentence of six months. I found it difficult to believe that an affectionate mother, as Carter declared his mother to be, should so often have been the cause of his being prosecuted. He was himself in no apparent doubt that this was the case, and he was convinced that his mother acted on each of these occasions as she believed for his good. It may, of course, have been that there was more in this case than Carter told me, as a sentence of six months would appear to be very much too severe if the circumstances were as he described them. His official record gave no details of the charge. One happy outcome of this prosecution was that it apparently was sufficient to dispose of the wife. After this four weeks’ experience of matrimony she disappeared, and he told me he had only once since heard of her. He appeared to be quite uninterested in the subject of his marriage, and spoke of it as one does of something rather tiresome and wholly unimportant.

In April 1948 he was released and again went home. His mother had a serious talk with him in which she pointed out that he was ruining his life and seemed to be incapable of keeping out of trouble in London. She gave him the sensible advice to go right away and to try to make a clean start in some district where he was not known. Accordingly he went right into the country and got work on the land. After a couple of months, however, he gave it up and returned to London, where he went to stay with another Borstal failure with whom he had been at Portland. Although he himself said that farm work, with its fresh air and regular hours, suited him in every way and that he enjoyed the change, no one could really expect that in the life of a farm worker Carter would find satisfaction for more than a few weeks. The life of a housebreaker is vicious, but it is exciting; the contrast of life in a small village to a town lad with no country interests must have been the finality of boredom.

With his old Borstal friend he travelled to the north of England, where they had a great stroke of luck. They committed a burglary which brought them in almost £100 in cash. They were therefore able to travel slowly towards London, staying always at comfortable hotels, and they were not forced to run any risks by offering stolen goods for sale locally. On their way to London they met two afmy deserters, and the four of them stole a car in which they continued their journey. They hid the car at night as they were afraid of taking a stolen car to a garage, and twice they abandoned the car in which they were driving and stole another one in which to continue their journey. On the way south they robbed three private houses and one shop, but the four of them spent money so lavishly in hotels that they reached London almost penniless. In the suburbs of London, therefore, they were forced to break into a house without any of their customary careful preparation and they were caught. Carter was charged with stealing one motor car and with being in possession of housebreaking implements by night and received a sentence of three years, from which he is due normally to be released in October 1950.

The medical officer agreed with my view that this young man showed no signs of any psychiatric abnormality. The doctor judged him to be impressionable and very easily led. I thought him a pleasant, polite boy, very well behaved in prison, to whom the prison governor took a liking, as I did myself. He appeared to me to be a decent sort of lad who had drifted into bad companionship and crime. His record of offences was growing worse, yet just as it was obvious that he was weak and easily led so it seemed to me that, despite the pain and loss of which he has been the cause to many innocent people, he was not really of the vicious or criminal type. His own explanation of everything was that he was ‘just weak and silly and didn’t stop to think’. That he never did think was clear. Nor did he seem to have any wholesome interests or hobbies. He never read.a book and the only newspapers at which he looked were ‘the strips and the pictures’. He told me that in times of affluence he ‘spent money like water’. But he had very little idea what he spent it on. Hundreds of pounds have been through his hands, but he has not sixpence saved or even a spare suit of clothes. He liked, so he told me, to be very lavish with money in restaurants and to give it away to girls with whom he danced. He was, he said, not clever, and dancing was his only interest. For ‘women’ in the vulgarly accepted sense he told me he had little use. That what he did in his house-breakings and thefts was vicious and anti-social behaviour which caused suffering and distress to those he robbed had simply not occurred to him.

He told me that he wanted never to come inside a prison again, and that he did not want to cause his mum any more trouble. All that, at the time he said it, was no doubt true. There is something in his character to build on. He has affection for his mother; at times he has worked well; and he has still a love of the sea. I gravely doubt if he would ever have been in serious trouble had it not been for his inept treatment by the magistrates before whom he appeared as a boy. Such justices have much to answer for. The thing to do with a boy in trouble who has a passionate longing to go to sea is to find him a ship. Probably it is now too late to do that. If it is, I hardly know how, under our existing system by which a lad can drift to ruin when he is discharged from prison, he can be saved. The law has no power to control or supervise a young man on discharge.1 He cannot be forced not to go to this town where he has bad friends, or to take work in that town where he can be looked after.

He was clearly standing at the cross-roads. One more long sentence and he would be past help. Even more tragic, he would no longer wish to be helped.

1 But see p. 310.

b. 27. 1. 22 C. of E. age 26

10.7.39    Stealing motor bicycle    Bound over

6.12.39    (1) Stealing motor bicycle    3 monthsl consecu-

(2) Stealing purse and money from 3 months/ tive


1.10.40    Stealing overcoat from dwelling-house 3 months

13.1.41    Stealing from dwelling-house    Bound over.

Handed to escort

12.4.41    Falsely representing himself to be an 1 month

army officer

2.7.41 Stealing money and cigarettes (1 case Borstal T.I.C.)

3.5.43 Stealing from a dwelling-house (6 cases 6 months T.I.C.)

28.6.44 Stealing £23 from a dwelling-house Dealt with under

M.D. Act

2.1.46 House-breaking and larceny (7 cases 9 months T.I.C.)

17.7.47    Stealing motor bicycle (5 cases T.I.C.) 15 months

30.8.48    Taking motor bicycle without consent 9 months

No one could suggest that this man had not had every reasonable opportunity in life. His father and mother are most respectable people, prosperous and well-to-do, his father being the proprietor of a flourishing café. He has always had a very comfortable home, both his parents having shown him repeated kindness and forgiveness. One sister younger than himself lives with his father and mother, and he showed me a letter which he had just received from her, well written on good-quality paper, saying that she wrote at the wish of their father to say there was a place for him and his wife at his release in their home, and work waiting

for him in his father’s business. Two elder sisters are comfortably married to respectable husbands and he has one elder brother.

All this information I got from Dawson himself, and I was able to check the accuracy of almost all of it from his official papers and from earlier letters from his sister which he showed me. I found it, therefore, the more curious that he should have told me that his only brother was a lorry-driver while he informed the prison medical officer that this brother was a major in the Army Dental Corps. To the medical officer, indeed, he explained that the fact of his brother having done so well in life was one of the factors which had contributed to the difficulties and the failure of his own career. It is perfectly logical that a man should lie if there is anything to be gained by so doing, but quite pointless lies, especially when they are almost sure to be found out, are characteristic and revealing. Dawson was apparently so self-satisfied, while his own story showed him to be so worthless, that I was very interested in his state of mind. The prison medical officer described him as being in good general health and quite intelligent, but a most plausible liar with no set resolution to go straight on leaving prison, and contented to be the centre of everyone’s pity. His former Borstal governor had nothing good to say of him, and remembered him principally as bone lazy and a liar.

He was born in Bath and lived there until he was ten years of age, when his parents moved to where they now live. He remained at school with two years’ secondary education until, at the age of fifteen, he left to work as a sort of errand boy for his father, who was then a builder. His father gave him his clothes, he lived at home, and he got 5s. a week pocket money. To me he declared that nothing could have been happier than the atmosphere of his home, where his father and mother were a devoted couple. They were irregular churchgoers, but they encouraged him to go to church and he was very regular at Sunday-school until he was fourteen. Almost every Saturday his parents, his sister, and himself went to the cinemas together, and he went, additionally, very often in the middle of the week at his own expense, or with his sister.

The home he described was one of comfort and security, with affectionate parents anxious to do their best for him in every way. In one respect, if Dawson were to be believed, his father failed utterly: he seems to have made very little effort to take his son’s moral training in hand when he started to become an habitual thief. Dawson told me that after his first conviction he can remember his father telling him that it was wrong to steal and that he must work for whatever he wanted, but he declared that this single conversation was all he could recollect receiving in the way of moral training from his father. I was very sceptical of Dawson’s stories of his regular attendance at church and Sunday-school, as he assured me that at neither one nor the other was the wickedness of theft ever explained to him, and he made a valiant effort to persuade me that he had drifted into stealing without really understanding that it was very wrong.

After a year with his father he went to sea for twelve months at the age of sixteen as an assistant steward in an oil tanker. Pay and conditions were all that he could want, but he then left the sea and returned to his father, as he said he was ‘bored with the Merchant Navy’. He worked for his father only for a few months, and then went what he called ‘roaming’.

By this term he meant that he left home and went off hitchhiking for an indefinite time, occasionally working and, when no work was available and he was out of funds, stealing. To obtain money to start himself off ‘roaming’ he sold a motor cycle which a friend had lent him. He admitted to me that he knew perfectly well at the time that he had no right to sell it. ‘I suppose, technically, it was wrong. Of course I knew it was only lent me by my friend and I had no right to sell it. I knew he wouldn’t have liked me to sell it.’ But beyond that degree of admission of wrongdoing he did not seem able to go. He seemed to have no idea at all that it was a mean action towards a friend who had done him a kindness. Nor did either his father or the justices do very much to help him to appreciate that he had committed a shabby trick. The bench merely bound him over not to do it again. At the time of this first conviction he was seventeen and a half and it would seem difficult to imagine a more obvious case for probation. His father did no more than utter his single platitudinous admonition that if his son wanted anything it would be better to work for it than to steal it.

After this conviction he enlisted in the army and did three months’ training in Kent. He then deserted, as he greatly disliked military life. His excuse for so doing was typically false and silly: it was that he would have been glad to go on active service overseas but that he found the training at home too irksome to endure. He assured me that he had asked to be sent overseas and ran away mainly because his application was refused. But when I pointed out that in October 1939 no troops with only three months’ training were even considered for active service he agreed that his memory was at fault. He admitted that his real reason for deserting was that he found military discipline ‘rather silly’, and he very much disliked being ‘ordered about’, especially by non-commissioned officers. One day, therefore, when he found a motor bicycle standing outside a house he got on it and rode away, and once again started ‘roaming’. He got civilian clothes by stealing them from a house and obtained cash by selling the motor bike. Some time later, while staying at an inn with another youth whose acquaintance he had made on the road, he stole a purse. He was perfectly frank and very revealing about all this.

‘Once you start on this sort of life it gets you. You meet all sorts on the road and of course you get into bad company. I suppose I’m easily led. I met a lot of chaps while I was roaming that time. There were deserters from the army all over the place. I generally travelled with another chap whom I picked up with on the road. Of course, we wanted money to live on, and whenever we were out of cash we stole something. Whatever you pick up, you can generally find out easily enough where you can “drop” it safely. You’ve only got to go into a pub and keep your ears open. We got quite a bit of money at times, but it all went in a flash. Of course, it was more expensive for us, because you must not think we lived like tramps or anything of that. We used always to stay at comfortable sorts of places, and we met a lot of girls at dances in towns we stayed in. That’s how the money went. So we had to break into places fairly often. Cafés were favourite places with us, as there was never anybody on the premises after they closed up, and generally there was a bit of money about somewhere. Even if there wasn’t anything in the till, there was always food to be had.’

Dawson was arrested for the theft of this purse in the inn and sentenced for that offence and for the larceny of the motor cycle. He was given two consecutive terms of three months. I found Dawson a repellent type of young man, and it is entirely possible that the wisest treatment in his youth might have failed to make an honest man of him. But certainly the various magistrates who sentenced him at different times in their ignorance and folly did their utmost to make him a rogue. They had before them on this occasion a lad just on eighteen, a deserter from the army, guilty of two serious thefts, with a previous conviction for a like theft of a motor cycle, without a trade, and drifting into the vicious life of a tramp. It seems impossible to imagine a more obvious case for Borstal training. Yet these justices were as unwise as those before whom he had first appeared for sentence. They sent him for a few months only to an adult prison, so as to ensure that he could get no useful training but would lose the deterrent fear of a prison sentence, and be contaminated at the same time by daily association with thoroughly bad men. So in fact it proved. I asked him what effect these five months in Winchester prison had had upon him, and he said:

‘I didn’t mind it at all after a few days. I worked in the kitchen and got a bit of extra food, and everyone was very kind to me. There wasn’t anything to be afraid of, and I got to know some chaps. As a matter of fact, after I came out I found a lot of chaps on the road thought more of me because I had been inside.’

He was discharged from prison in May 1940 and returned to live with his parents, getting employment as a lathe hand in a nearby factory at £3 ioí. a week. Of this he gave £2 2s. 6d. to his mother for his keep. However, after only a couple of months he threw up the job and returned to the road, ‘roaming’. His explanation for leaving his home was that he found factory life dull, while on the road

‘You had sort of adventures. You had a jolly good time without doing any regular work. If you found a job which suited you, in a place you liked, you could do it for a time, and then if you got sick of it or wanted a change you could move on.’

He was insistent that I should appreciate that he did not live the life of a common tramp, which he described contemptuously as ‘toping’, but that he belonged to an altogether superior type of road user who did not rough it but lived always comfortably and, at times, even luxuriously. He admitted frankly enough that this superior status was made possible only by the fact that he and his companions were habitual thieves when congenial employment was not available. This life continued for twelve months, with two interruptions when he was convicted of minor offences and sent by yet other magistrates as ignorant and foolish as their predecessors to two more short terms of three months and one month’s imprisonment.

In July 1941, after two more thefts, he was sent to the Borstal training which a more instructed court would have given him in December 1939. But by the time his training began he had served three short prison sentences, and had been so demoralised by a period of eighteen months on the road, with theft as a main means of livelihood, that reformation was made almost impossible. So indeed it proved. He was discharged from Portland in December 1942 and work was found for him as what he called a ‘chippy’s mate’, or carpenter’s labourer, at 2s. 4d. an hour. Here he told me he had comfortable lodgings and permanent work for a good firm, had he cared to stay. But in a few weeks he got into bad company and, as he admitted to me, began stealing while he was still at work and in no need of the money. As was inevitable, he left his work and resumed his life on the road.

From that time until when I saw him his life had been a succession of prison sentences followed by short periods of honest employment. It will be seen from the record of his offences that, with cases taken into consideration, he has been convicted of twenty-three offences in less than six years since leaving Borstal, yet he told me that at no time has he ever been unable to get work as a carpenter’s labourer if he wanted it.

He himself volunteered with considerable amusement one incident in the dreary sequence of his convictions:

‘Once I came up to the sessions for stealing £23 at an inn Fwas staying at. I was beginning to get wide awake about that time. What’s more, I had heard they were pretty hot at that court. I didn’t want to get a long stretch so I pretended to be a bit balmy to the prison doctor while I was on remand. A chap told me what to do, but as a matter of fact I didn’t have to do much. I just acted dumb, and kept saying all the time that I didn’t know why I did things. It worked like a charm and the doctor came to court and gave evidence that I was some sort of mental. All they did was to send me to a mental institution in Somerset, where I stayed seven months. That was a sight better than a three-year stretch which I had thought I might get.’

He was released from this mental institution in February 1945 and on 25th March of that year was married. At the time he had neither a job, money, or a home, and had known his wife only a few weeks. She is a Roman Catholic and her parents opposed the marriage in every possible way, but the girl ran away from home and married Dawson at a registry office. So far as I could

understand he made no effort to get honest work, but almost at once began breaking into houses in the neighbourhood of his wife’s home. Only eight months after his marriage he was arrested for housebreaking and larceny and asked for seven further cases to be taken into consideration in his sentence. Dawson told me that he had never seen his wife since that time and had contributed nothing to her support; he had nevertheless written to her to ask her to rejoin him on his discharge from his present sentence in April 1949-    t

He made fervent declarations of his determination never to get into trouble again.

‘Now I see it’s a mug’s game. There’s nothing to be got out of it. Look where it leaves you. I see what a life I’ve wasted in these places. I’m determined never to come back to one of them. I’ve got a wife, and this is where I’ve got to pull myself together to have a real home. My father has written to say I can work in his cafe business. Since I’ve been in this prison I’ve become a regular churchgoer and communicant, and I’m going to ask the chaplain here to write to the vicar at the village where my father lives. I’m sure he will be a great assistance to me. With God’s help I will never be convicted again.’ 8

satisfied to be the centre of everyone’s pity, and with no set resolution to go straight.


He left prison in April 1949 and was re-convicted exactly three months later. He was sentenced to 2 years’ Corrective Training on conviction on three charges of obtaining money by false pretences.

b. 30.4.27 C. of E. age 22


3 months: Borstal licence revoked 6 months

4 years

4.4.44 (1) Shop-breaking and larceny of goods and cash to value of £83

(2)    Office-breaking and larceny to

value of £2 i6i.

(3)    Shop-breaking and larceny of cigarettes to value of £\ 155. 6d. (6 cases T.I.C.)

10.10.45 Office-breaking (2 cases T.I.C.)

22.7.46    (1) House-breaking and larceny

(3 cases T.I.C.)

(2) House-breaking with intent (2 cases T.I.C.)

17.1.47    (1) Shop-breaking and larceny

(2)    Office-breaking and larceny

(3)    Garage-breaking and larceny 9 10

first he disliked her intensely and he declared that she made his life very unhappy. He stayed at home, nevertheless, until he was sixteen, when he left to live with the parents of a workmate. He remained at school until he was fourteen, when he got his first job as an errand boy. During the next three years his police record showed him as having been in five jobs, drifting from one to another at his own caprice on two occasions and three times being dismissed by his employers for petty dishonesty. According to his own account his father did nothing to help him in any way, and neither assisted him to find work nor advised him of the sort of work he would be wise to seek for himself.

When he was sixteen he was in work as assistant to a crane-driver at a wage of £3 a week; of this he gave 30s. to the mother of the friend with whom he lived and thus had the same amount for himself. This, however, did not satisfy him, and with singular candour he told me he had ‘a regular lust for money and wanted all he could get’. He added that probably the wish for money was not his sole motive in the organised stealing which he began at this time; the other motive, he said, with disarming artlessncss, was plain devilment, and he said he found breaking into shops and offices great fun and extremely exciting. He explained to me that the gang which he got together, and of which he was the accepted leader, consisted of eight young men of whom he himself was the youngest. For six months they got away successfully with crime after crime, but he was eventually convicted at the sessions on three offences of shop and office-breaking, with six other similar offences (of which the police had evidence) taken into consideration. He took a good deal of pleasure in assuring me that there had, in fact, been a good many further cases of which the police had no evidence with which to connect the gang. At the sessions he was very rightly committed to Borstal.

As it so happened, the chairman of the court which sent this boy to Borstal is a friend of my own, and I asked Evans if he was presiding at his trial. He replied that, unhappily, he was chairman on that day, since he was so hard and harsh a man. I could make nothing of this, and asked him to explain, whereupon to my astonishment he said that as a first offender he had had a right to be placed on probation, and that his Borstal sentence was therefore most grossly unjust. I tried to explain to Evans that a first offender was a defendant being sentenced for his first offence,


whereas he had been sentenced for no less than nine offences, and that in any case not even a real first offender had a right to be put on probation. I am not at all sure that he believed me, but he assured me that the belief that a court is under a moral if not an actual legal obligation to put a first offender on probation is widespread amongst adolescent lawbreakers.

He absconded from his Borstal institution a couple of months after his arrival there and was away for five days. I told him that there was nothing either brave or clever in running away from Borstal since it was an essential part of the training to trust boys, who had all therefore ample opportunity to escape given them. This prosaic way of looking at the matter rather dashed his spirits: he was a little anxious to pose as the bold escaper as he had done as the leader and organiser of the gang. When he ran away he broke into a house near Portland and stole an army uniform in which he got as far as Birmingham. Borstal did little or nothing to reform this lad. It is true that he was at Portland during a most difficult period for the authorities, wlien the demand on accommodation was so great that the training period was reduced to a minimum, and the staff was still far below normal standards owing to the number of officers serving in the Forces. It is doubtful if any training would have done much for him at this time, and almost certain that no short training could have helped him. He was seventeen years of age; had had not even the elements of any moral teaching or parental control or guidance; for a year had been living a wholly undisciplined life away from his family; and for the six months preceding his committal had been living a life of continuous and successful crime. So much evil cannot be replaced by good without long constructive work.

On release from Borstal in August 1945 he was called up for army service. He told me that he liked army life and was interested in the work he had to do; nevertheless, he deserted—or, as he preferred to call it, went absent without leave after only seventeen days with his unit. I imagine weakness and vanity were equally to blame. He told me that three lads from Borstal had joined the unit at the same time, which I should have thought a most foolish arrangement, if he were telling the truth. These three recruits went for a walk together, and finding a car by the side of the road they drove it to a nearby seaside town; in the outskirts it ran out of petrol and they abandoned it. Evans was vain of the fact that it


was he who suggested to the others that they should take the car, and still more vain because he was the leader who drove it; yet he was weak enough, as he told me, to agree to the proposal of some girls whom they picked up casually by the seaside that they should not rejoin their unit, although he wanted to go back. In the end, as was inevitable, they ran out of money next day, stole some clothes and a little money from a house, and made their way to London. After six weeks Evans was arrested on two charges of office-breaking and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, with the revocation of his Borstal licence. I think it pandered to his vanity to assure me that in fact these two cases were but two out of several which he committed during this period.

He was released from prison in April 1946 and went back to the army, but served for only six weeks. He then got a few days’ leave and took the opportunity once more to desert. For some weeks he told me he made a good living by selling clothing coupons in partnership with a clerk in a Ministry office. The available coupons being then exhausted, the partnership was dissolved and Evans went back to his normal business of house-breaking. This time he was most unsuccessful, as he was arrested almost at once, and only three months after his last discharge from prison was sentenced to six months on conviction on five charges. With the usual remission for good conduct, this means a sentence of four months actually spent in prison, and indeed he was released at the end of November. Such a sentence is another in the endless succession of illogical and useless sentences passed by uninstructed courts—in this case a court of county quarter sessions. The young man was before the court for sentence for five cases of housebreaking, and he had already served sentences for eleven precisely similar crimes. It is hard even to imagine upon what reasoning the court acted in determining six months as a period likely to be of value either in protecting the public or in training the prisoner. Anyone with the least knowledge of offenders would expect the sentence to be useless, and it was useless. Evans was released at the end of November and was arrested once again the following month, this time on charges of shop-breaking, office-breaking, garagebreaking and larceny. He was one of three young men who were in a car driven by Evans and laden with stolen property which overturned and burst into flames. For this exploit he was sentenced to four years’ penal servitude.

At the time I saw him he had still some six months of his sentence to serve. Undoubtedly at this time he was most anxious to have done with prison sentences and to lead a life which would enable him to remain outside prison for rather longer than the very short periods which had been habitual with him so far. But I was extremely doubtful if he would find this possible. He was shaken by his four years’ sentence. It had got so far on his nerves that he had behaved badly in prison and had lost some six months’ remission. So far as I could judge, there was nothing but this deterrent recollection of a long sentence to change his way of life, and it is a matter for conjecture whether this will last long after his release. On the other hand, it would be absurd even to imagine that his mental or moral outlook had altered in any way. He struck me as very weak and unlikely to resist temptation to rejoin his old associates. He had never learnt either a trade or habits of industry or honesty. Though his home is a respectable one and in comfortable circumstances, he cannot or will not go to it. For many years he has been the associate of thieves and criminals and he admitted to me that he had not a single friend of good character.

He himself suggested what I think is the only possible course which may save him, that he should make a wholly new start in life where he is not known, by going to sea. I was so certain that another sentence would finish all possibility of reform that I promised that I would do what little was in my power to get him a ship. But I have no high hopes for him. He has slipped so far down the slope.

b. 22.3.26 C. of E. age 22.

His mother and father are alive and he has two brothers and three sisters. They are a gipsy family who live in tents in fields, commons, or by the roadside, moving a couple of miles every day to avoid trouble with local authorities of all kinds and with farmers and landowners. Although they travel only this short distance each day, they cover altogether in the course of the year always the same considerable circuit which traverses several counties. They have no horse, or motor, and push their tents and other possessions on handcarts, perambulators, and cycles. None of the family has ever been to any school or had any form of education. The father is the only one who can read and write. He learnt to do so in the army in the 1914 war. The boys are Joe, age twenty-five, now in a mental home; Eli, age twenty-two, in prison; and Sam, age eighteen, in a Borstal institution. The girls arc aged ten, eight and three years and are with their parents. At the present time they are at, or near, a village in Hampshire. Eli has never known any other sort of life than this. He said the family were never in any financial need. Indeed they have always been very well off. They lived by making artificial flowers, sharpening scissors and knives, and making clothes-pegs. The clothes-pegs seemed to be the main source of income. The material needed was wood and metal tins. The wood they got by trimming hedges for farmers who were glad to get this necessary work done without payment, and the Fosters kept all the top wood. They merely cut down the hedges to within eighteen inches of the ground and kept the wood they wanted. The tins came from a wholesaler in Norwich and cost ior. a cwt, which lasted for several months. Virtually, therefore, the materials cost nothing. The father and mother could each make three gross of clothes-pegs a day and they had no difficulty in selling them. They hawked them to private houses where they got 6d. a dozen, or they sold them in quantities to shops


who bought them at 4d. a dozen. If the father and mother made three gross each, and they said they had no difficulty in doing this, and sold them all at 6d. a dozen, the father and mother would make i8i. a day each. Eli said his own part from childhood up to a couple of years ago was confined to hawking clothes-pegs and artificial flowers to houses, and to helping with the tents and the cooking. The flowers were also made of wood. He got no pocket money and just loafed about. Often on Sundays his father and mother made even more than three gross of pegs. Sunday was the best day for work. But on some days they did not work at all owing to drink. They were both heavy drinkers, mainly of spirits, and their money went on drink and food; sometimes they went to the pictures and at intervals they had the expense of buying a tent, a tarpaulin, a push-cart, or a bicycle. Eli did not think his father ever had more than £2 saved, though on occasion he might have ‘his pockets full of money’. Two years ago, when he himself started to learn to make clothes-pegs, he found it very simple, and he very soon was able to make his three gross a day. His mother disposed of what he made. She took his products with her to shops or houses and always gave him what she got. He paid his parents nothing for his food, but if he needed a bicycle for himself he paid for it. He hasn’t a penny now in prison, and never saved anything out of his earnings. He gave up smoking some years ago, and he drinks beer in moderation, but does not drink spirits as he does not like them. His money went on the ‘pictures’ and sometimes on buying extra food, delicacies, or clothes, or a bicycle part. He didn’t go more than twice a week to pictures, and he simply doesn’t know any girls to spend money on. Sometimes in the evenings he used himself to hawk pegs to homes and he often did this when he was younger before he had begun to make them. Occasionally, they would accumulate ‘a cartload’ of pegs and then they would dispose of them at 4d. a dozen in such a place as Aylesbury market.

His first trouble with the police was in 1942, when he was sixteen. His parents’ tents were about a mile outside Bedford, and one evening about 7 p.m. he wandered to the outskirts of Bedford, mainly through boredom and because he had nothing to do. He came to a works on the outskirts. He was by himself. He had once previously broken into a shed, but he had not then stolen anything. On this occasion he broke a pane of glass, put his arm through, and unlocked the door of the office. He said he found


£300 in three packets of £100. They were in a ‘safe’. He opened the ‘safe’ with a screwdriver which he found. (The ‘safe’ was presumably a metal box. He said the ‘safe’ was in a drawer.) They were the wages for the works next day and his story is he took none of it because he was afraid to think of the people left next day without wages. (I pressed him about this very dubious explanation, and I think the truth probably is that he was frightened at the sight of so much money and the possible consequences of taking it.) He did steal a fountain-pen, valued, he says, at 20i. The pen was useless to him as he could not write, and it was in his pocket when the police came for him to his father’s tents. He appeared at a juvenile court on 27th July 1942 and was bound over for two years. He was not put on probation. (This may well have been for the simple reason that he was always on the move.)

He was in trouble again three months later. He had started smoking and his father gave him a packet of ‘ten fags’ a week. He did no work, merely loafing about the tents and helping with the cooking. He had no pocket money and he wanted more cigarettes than ten, but his father would not give him more. His father gave him such clothes as he had, but gave him no beer or other intoxicant. He was passing a shop just outside Bedford, when he saw a man drive a car into the garage of the shop, which had a flat over it where the man lived. Looking in, he saw that there were a number of packets of cigarettes on the seat of the car. The man came out, locked the garage, and went into the house. In the hopes that the man might have left some cigarettes in the car, Eli broke into the garage about nine o’clock that evening. Two air-raid wardens saw him in the garage just as he had put two hundred cigarettes into his pocket. The wardens took him to the house of a policeman, but as they were ringing the bell he got away and ran home. The police arrested his brother Joe for this offence and Eli then gave himself up. On 2nd October 1942 he was sent to an approved school. He arrived at the school on a Friday and ran away two days later, getting back to the caravan on Monday. Eli said:

‘I didn’t like the place. They were all kind to me there. But I didn’t like it. You never got your own way there. I suppose I’ve got a roaming1 mind. If you’ve got a roaming mind you can’t stay in a place.’

1 ? roving.


He rejoined his father and mother. They said nothing, and did not express any surprise at his appearance. They knew lie ought to have been at the school, but they did not advise him to return. He simply resumed his roving life with the tents. Sometimes a policeman came to the tents. He did not speak to Eli’s father or ask for him, but Eli knew lie came to look for him. He was always ready for a police searcher.

‘He never see me. I see him first. I was hid near by and I came out when he went away. My father would not have told the policeman anything if he had asked.’

He was back with his parents for six months before being caught, and when he was then arrested it was for a new offence and not for the absconding from the school. He gave up smoking as a result of going to the school after stealing the two hundred cigarettes and has not smoked since. He was still without any occupation or work, and one evening he broke into an empty week-end cottage and stole a gramophone and eighty-three records. This was near Hertford. It was too heavy for him to carry it all away. So lie hid the gramophone in a ditch with the records, and two days later, one Sunday afternoon, about three o’clock, he went back to fetch the gramophone and some records. But the police were hidden in a field waiting for him, having found the gramophone in the ditch.

For this offence he was sent to a Borstal institution for three years. The gramophone was a small portable. I asked him if he were fond of music, and he said:

‘I am very keen on music and anything like that. I like cowboy tunes. I like 1914 waltzes. I don’t know why I call them 1914 waltzes —I suppose I just mean old ones. I like Queen Mary waltzes. I like a waltz by a piano or piano accordion. I don’t like the Blue Danube waltz much. I think I know that tune. I don’t know what jazz is. If you mean the sort of tune I think you do, I don’t like it.’

He stayed at the Borstal only two days before running away. He didn’t like the place. They slept in dormitories. He was used to sleeping in, or outside, a tent. ‘The country was too open for me. If there had been walls all round I might have stayed. Being all open, I naturally just skipped.’ He said the strange country upset him. If the Borstal institution had been near Tring or Northampton, in country he knew, he thinks he would have stayed. He stole a bicycle and some clothes from an empty house near the


Borstal and cycled back to his father and mother in Northampton. They asked no questions, and life was resumed as before. Six weeks later he was cycling through a neighbouring town when the chain of his bike broke just as he chanced to be passing a policeman, and the officer immediately arrested him as an absconder from Borstal. He was taken to a police station and sent for three months to Wormwood Scrubs as a punishment for absconding. At the end of three months he was returned to his institution, but he again absconded after four days. He said:

‘I didn’t like it there. It was too open for me. When you’ve got walls all round you like here,1 what can you do? You can’t get over them walls. You’ve got to do it. You can do it the easy way or the hard way. If you try the hard way you only get the worst of it.’

Once more he went back to his father and mother, who at this time were near Stratford, and resumed his ordinary life. It was, however, a week before he found his parents’ caravan, and during that time he broke into bungalows to get food every night, as he was penniless. He stole food, and if he had found anything of which he thought he could easily dispose he would have stolen that, too. But he said he could find in these bungalows neither money nor the few things, such as cigarette-cases or cigarette-lighters, which he knew how to sell. After he had been back at the caravan about three months he was arrested while bicycling with his father. He ran into two policemen who were looking for him. In fact, Eli told me that they had come to the caravan more than once to look for him but he had been on the lookout and had hidden as soon as he saw them coming.

During this three months prior to his arrest he told me that he used to go out almost every night when his father and mother thought he was asleep. Every time he went out he broke into a week-end bungalow or a hut; sometimes he broke into two or three in a single night. But he added that, although he broke in, he very seldom stole anything, as the owners of these bungalows rarely left money in them and he had no means of selling stolen articles. There were a large number of these bungalows in the neighbourhood occupied only at week-ends. After his arrest, the police informed him that he had broken into seventy-five of them. Once more he went to Wormwood Scrubs for four months as a

1 In prison.


punishment for absconding, and he was then sent to another Borstal to finish his sentence. Here he remained seven months. He said: ‘I liked it there because there was the sea on one side and walls on another. I quite enjoyed it there’. He did not know the name of the governor or of his housemaster, or indeed of anybody at the institution at all. The training, moral and industrial, was clearly a waste of time so far as he was concerned. But I doubt if he was capable of benefiting from any system of training in an institution.

On leaving this place, at the age of nineteen, he went into the army. He served three months, the first six weeks at Bradford. This period he quite liked. He did what he called a ‘G.S.C.’ course of training. He was then sent to an infantry regiment for six weeks and this six weeks he disliked very much. He deserted twice in this six weeks, but on each occasion he took longer to reach his home than the police, who were each time awaiting him on his arrival. He disliked the army because he could not learn, or even understand what the instructors tried to teach. He said they told him the names of parts of the rifle and how to use a machine gun and things like that, and then they asked him what he had been told, and he could not remember and he was punished. After six weeks he was discharged from the Army ‘on medical grounds’, according to his report. He did not know what the grounds were (? incapacity to learn), and his character was ‘Fair’.

On discharge he rejoined his parents at Tring. Again he had no work and nothing to do. One evening, at about seven o’clock, he broke into a country house and stole a clock valued at £15. He said,

‘I don’t know what made me do it. I didn’t want the clock. I gave it to my aunt. She gave me nothing for it, and when I was arrested she gave it to the police. It was no good to me. I suppose I was bored.’

For this offence he received a sentence of fifteen months’ hard labour, which he served at Bristol.

In February 1947, on discharge from Bristol, he rejoined his parents, who now taught him for the first time to make clothes-pegs himself. He thus became financially independent and there was no need for him ever to commit a dishonest action again in order to live in reasonable comfort. Unhappily, however, the life at the caravan had very seriously altered for the worse by the time of his release from Bristol prison. Years of heavy drinking had


begun to have their effect upon both his parents. Often they were noisy and quarrelsome. Occasionally, as a result of a heavy bout, they would both lie comatose all day, so that the tent became comfortless and dirty and no cooking was done. There were daily quarrels and complaints, so that Eli and his younger brother Sam resolved to leave their parents and to go and live by themselves. Unhappily the two boys left on their bicycles after a violent dispute with their father, only to realise when they were some miles away that they were without money, tent, or tools. They had not sense enough to go home, and they broke into a number of houses to satisfy their immediate necessities. After getting away with a little cash from two houses they were caught at the third. Eli was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment, and his brother was given a Borstal sentence of three years.

I talked to this boy about his future. It was obvious enough that he was not the type of young man who could develop into a dangerous or serious criminal. On the other hand, at the age of twenty-two he had already been to an approved school and Borstal and had received sentences of fifteen months’ and eighteen months’ imprisonment. He had the skill to make a living by selling elothes-pegs, if he had the tools and other facilities, but all these were lacking. He had the worst possible home, and he was illiterate. It seemed a poor prospect. I hardly saw how it would be possible for him to live at all without breaking into some house or other unless he returned to his parents’ caravan, and if he did that there seemed to be little hope for him of keeping out of further trouble.

He told me that his father had written to ask him to rejoin him on his discharge from prison which was due in rather more than four months. But he agreed with me that if he returned to his family he was almost certain to drift into fresh offences, and he declared that he was most anxious to try and make a break with his past. He told me of some farms in Essex where he had worked before, where he was sure the foreman would give him work. The foreman had, indeed, told him to come to him if he wanted employment at any time.

The boy was utterly pathetic. He had no education at all; no training in the ordinary decencies of life; no moral teaching. Nominally he is entered on the prison records as a member of the Church of England. But he had never been inside a church save in


Borstal and prison, and he had never known any one of his family go near a church or chapel in all his life. The services in the prison chapel had no meaning for him, and he informed me he had never had any religious instruction at all. He told me that he had bought himself a hymn book and a Bible, which he had brought into prison with him, and he said proudly that he could sing hymns and liked doing so. How true this was I do not know, but of course he may have learnt some words of hymns in prison. What was quite certain was that he had no idea at all of the Christian religion. I asked him if he had heard of Jesus Christ, and he said he knew this was a name of a man in the Bible, and that was all.

I asked him if he would like to learn to read, and the rapturous pleasure with which he received the suggestion led me, with the cordial goodwill of the prison governor, to look for a teacher for him. I asked a Fellow of my old college if he could find an undergraduate sufficiently charitable to give his time to help in this way. But with characteristic kindness the Fellow replied that he would take on the job himself.

The following are extracts from letters reporting progress:

(1)    ‘I’ve seen Eli. He was very shy, and I can but hope that as he gets to know me this shyness will wear off or else he won’t learn much. I will write and let you know how we get on.’

(2)    ‘I said I’d write about Foster. I’ve been going twice a week. Results fair. The trouble is that he has a vocabulary so small that it’s almost an unknown language. He doesn’t know any words of the smallest obscurity, e.g. today I had to tell him the meanings of slim, accept, hopeful and other words no more unusual. But I enjoy the mixture of encouragement and teaching and get on with him very well.’

(3)    ‘I saw Eli yesterday for the last time. He can now read any word he knows, or almost. But the difficulty which I have found insuperable is that he is mentally undeveloped to an extent which made him almost unteachable. He’s immensely religious and we’ve read an immense number of hymns together. But what, if anything, I’ve done for him is to help him strengthen his determination by teaching him to read when he was in a low ebb as far as morale went. I hope he won’t go back. At present he’s immensely determined not to. I’m hopeful that we’ve seen the last of him in prison, but it is impossible to be confident. He’s a very nice boy, very nice indeed. He thinks he has changed a lot during this time in prison, and I hope it's true.’

The prison governor told me that when he said goodbye to poor Eli on his discharge and wished him good luck his reply was that

his hopes for the future were high, since he went out from prison with such a staff for the road as he had never had before, and he proudly showed his Bible, which he now could read. His difficulties are so great that, like his kindly teacher, I can feel no confidence that he will not get into further trouble. One can only hope that somehow he may get through. He was helped on his release by a gift from the Prisoners’ Aid Society of the few pounds which was all he asked for.

Finally comes one sobering thought. In the full light of knowledge of this lad’s peculiar handicaps, can it be maintained that a single one of the various sentences passed upon him by the courts of justice before whom he appeared was cither wise, or effective, or just?


I have not been able to discover what efforts this poor boy made to earn an honest living. He was, however, again convicted of housebreaking, and he was sentenced in June 1949 to three years’ Corrective Training after about six months’ freedom. Ill equipped as he was, it is doubtless the best thing for him to be given, as he now will be, some systematic training in a trade.

b. 3.3.28 C. ofE. age 21

Once more, the parents of the prisoner were most respectable people. His father is in the employment of one of the largest and best-known horticultural firms in the country and has worked for them as a tractor-driver for the past two or three years. Garrett said he had never known his father out of work. He once worked for a single firm as a driver for seventeen years. Of recent years, however, he has made a good many changes of employment, always in the hope of being able to find a house which would suit his wife and be easy for her to run. The father is fifty-two and the mother forty-five, and they are a very devoted couple, their only anxiety being the health of the mother which for some years past had been bad. There are two other children, an elder brother of twenty-eight and a married sister of twenty-four. His brother’s great interest is in the Scout movement in which he is a keen scoutmaster, and his sister is married to the foreman of a small firm of builders. There has never been any sort of financial need in the family, and Garrett was proud of the fact that all of them are very much looked up to by their neighbours. The whole family have always been regular churchgoers, and as a boy Garrett himself was regular both at church and Sunday-school.

He went to school in Herts, where his father then worked, until lie was getting on for fifteen, when he got his first job with a firm of engineers. He stayed in this job for three months. The work was unskilled and he got i8i. a week. His father had promised to apprentice him to this firm, and would have done so had it not been for his wife’s health, which began to deteriorate about this time. Hearing of a good house in Oxfordshire, his father threw up his job in Hertfordshire and moved for his wife’s sake.

In this new place Garrett got work at once with a local firm of engineers as a machinist. He already knew the elements of the job; it was during the war and labour was scarce, and he was paid


30J. a week even when he started. As he became more skilled he worked at piece-rates; when he was fifteen making as much as £4 a week, and occasionally with overtime even more. He saved money every week, and in addition spent £10 on a bicycle. Unhappily, after eighteen months his father moved again; this time he went back to Hertfordshire, once more in pursuit of a house to suit his wife. The move was clearly the worst possible thing for Garrett, who had worked well the whole time of his stay with the one firm and was given a first-class written character when he left.

Very soon after this move he had a serious accident when his bicycle was in collision with an army lorry. He had severe leg injuries and also injuries to his head of which he showed me the still persisting scars. As a result of the accident he was in hospital for four months, and he told me that for a month after the accident he had severe headaches, but that they then ceased.

Near his new home he got employment, again with an engineering firm, but his wages were considerably less and there was no piecework, so that his earnings amounted to little more than 30J. a week. After some four or five months with this firm to which he went on leaving hospital, his mother again became ill and his father moved once more, this time to a place only a few miles away. Here he said they had a particularly nice house, and he said his home life was especially happy. He used to go to the pictures once a week, but spent most of his evenings quietly at home, and he had no cares or troubles. He was then sixteen years of age, and had got himself employment as a turner with a small factory which manufactured shafts at a wage which varied from £3 to £3- I5i- a week.

It was now that he got into trouble for the first time. I asked him if he could account for this, as he seemed to have everything a boy needed to keep him happy, contented and honest—a good home, congenial work and ample wages. He said he had often wondered, and had himself never understood how he had become involved in dishonesty, to which he had never before felt the smallest inclination. The occasion for his offence of stealing was that he ‘got amongst a rather bad crowd of chaps’ at the works and began to gamble at pontoon in the dinner hour, as a result of which he soon found himself in debt to the amount of £8 more than he could pay. His own suggested explanation for his sudden dishonesty was that it was an effect of his bicycle accident.

His previous character had been so good, and his subsequent behaviour after his first offence has been so bad, that this appeared to me to be a very possible answer, more especially as he told me that he fractured his skull and was for two days unconscious after the accident. The prison doctor, however, who was kind enough to examine him with this point in mind, was of the opinion that ‘his criminal tendencies cannot be attributed to the effect of the accident, severe though it was; nor does he complain of any physical or mental symptoms since his accident, i.e. he has no headaches or neurotic symptoms. He appears normal in the psychiatric sense’.

For what it was worth, his description of the circumstances of his first theft was as follows. His mother had lost a key in her house and, knowing he could make keys and had the means of doing so at his work, she asked him to make her a key to replace the one she had lost. This he did, and when it was finished he tried it on the nearest door at the works to where he was at the moment, and this happened to be the door of the manager’s office. He found the key fitted the lock and this gave him the idea of using it to seek for money to pay his gambling debts for which he was being pressed. I told him flatly that I did not believe a word of this story and said it was obvious that he had made the key in order to be able to get at the office cash. However, he would not admit that I was right, although he agreed that his was ‘a pretty tall story to believe’. Whatever the truth about the origin of the key may have been, the fact remains that he used it one night to enter the office. In a drawer he found £14 in notes and he told me that he paid his £8 gambling debts and the residue he spent.

Apparently in order to escape suspicion over this theft, he left his employment at this factory and got a job as a labourer at a saw mills near by. As might have been anticipated, this drew immediate attention to him and a fortnight later he was arrested and charged with office-breaking. He was duly convicted, bound over, and put on probation.

By his own account probation in his case was a mere formality and entirely useless. According to his story the probation officer lived six miles away, and his supervision consisted of nothing more than a requirement that Garrett should visit him for a few moments in his office once a fortnight, incidentally at a cost of two shillings in fares. Garrett declared to me that he found this to be a


tie and at the same time useless, so that he joined the army to put an end to it, the rule being that a probation order was terminated upon enlistment.

It would, of course, be absurd to accept his criticism of his probation officer as justified, and there is no means of checking it. I mention it not in any way as an acceptance of its truth but as part of a picture of the boy. Whatever the cause, he did in fact join the army in September 1945 at the age of seventeen. He volunteered for the Royal Armoured Corps, as he was ‘always keen on machinery’.

Life in the army did not, however, suit him at all, and after only a few weeks’ service he went home to his parents for forty-eight hours. He was, in fact, absent without leave, but they believed his story that he really had two days’ leave. After this short holiday he left his home and went to Northampton by train with the full intention of deserting. There, being in military uniform, he was able to sleep and have meals in an army hostel. Next morning he left the hostel carrying a suitcase which he found by a bed. By the door of the hostel he was stopped, but he managed to make an excuse by saying he had made a mistake, and he returned the suitcase, not, however, before he had stolen a watch from it. He sold the watch in Northampton and got a lift on a passing army lorry to Richmond by saying he was going home on leave. There he made his headquarters at another army hostel and stayed for several days. He lived by going to the skating rink, where, in the intervals of skating, he stole a number of handbags which women left about when they went on the rink. Not unnaturally, complaints of these thefts were made to the police, and a watch was kept, so that after four or five days Garrett was caught with a handbag in his possession. Nothing, however, was done to him beyond handing him over to a military escort which was sent to take him back to his unit.

On his return to the army he told me that he was punished only for the military offence of being absent without leave. His story was that his punishment consisted in a total stoppage of all pay, so that he had literally no cash at all and was unable to buy so much as a single cigarette or a cup of tea. He assured me that this was true, although I am informed that such a punishment is contrary to all military practice and that a soldier is never totally deprived of all his pay in this way.

Whatever his actual position was, he excused his next theft to me by persisting in his story that his military punishment left him completely penniless. He declared that it was only as a result of being in this condition that he broke into the N.A.A.F.I. canteen and stole a large number of cigarettes and a quantity of chocolate. Some of this he sold next day for £4 and he attempted to hide the remainder. It was, however, found when he was discovered as the thief a few days later, and the bulk of what he had stolen was recovered. At the local sessions he was sentenced to Borstal detention for three years. This was in February 1946 when he was on the verge of his eighteenth birthday.

He was sent to the institution at Hollesley Bay, where the only work done was apple growing and a little general farm work, in neither of which lac took any interest. He absconded in June and again in September, being recaptured in a couple of days on each occasion. In September he was sent for a couple of months to Wandsworth prison as a punishment and was then transferred to the Borstal institution at Portland. There he worked quite happily in the tailor’s shop until his discharge. He said he did not at all dislike the place and got into no trouble. During his time there his mother and father came twice to see him.

When he left Portland he returned to finish his army service, but, as he had something wrong with his foot, he was transferred from the R.A.C. to the Royal Army Pay Corps and he was sent to a depot in Wiltshire. After some few months’ service he was given a week-end’s leave and he went to spend it with his parents who were now living in Berkshire. One evening he went for a walk and entered what he told me he thought to be an empty house. His own story was that, thinking the house was unoccupied, he walked in merely to look round. Finding the house fully furnished, he did not go away but continued his inspection, during which he found by chance a wallet, which he stole. I told Garrett that it was better to tell no story at all than so obvious an untruth. But he had no more reasonable explanation to give of why, so soon after leaving a Borstal to which he had been sent for theft, he should have walked into a house to thieve once more, when he was staying with his parents and in no need of money or of anything else. In the wallet which he stole in this house was £15 in cash and a Post Office savings book. He left his parents’ house at the end of his week-end, telling them he was about to return to his unit. Instead of doing so,


however, he went to London and took the Post Office savings book to no less than twenty post offices, at each of which he drew £3. He was arrested after some weeks of this systematic swindling and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. He was serving this sentence when I saw him, and he had been discharged from the army on his conviction.

I found this young man very hard to understand. He assured me that he would commit no further offences, and of course there is no need for him to do so. He is quite intelligent, and sufficiently skilled to be able to get work in an engineering works if he wishes to do so; his family are well enough off to be able to provide for him until he gets employment. His father and mother write regularly to him in prison, and his brother was coming to visit him two days after my interview. He was quite cheerful and in no anxiety about the future whatever.

On the other hand, his apparently excellent home and its religious atmosphere seemed to me to have given him no real moral background at all. It did not appear to occur to him that he had done anything of which he should be repentant or ashamed. As to this, the utter stupidity of his parents may have been sufficient explanation. According to what he told me, his mother and father were ‘upset at first when he got into trouble but have now got over it. His father never spoke to him about it one way or the other, and his mother said he was not to worry and was to forget all about it when he came out of prison’. He himself was quite satisfied to attribute anything at all questionable in his character or behaviour to his cycle accident when he was fifteen years of age, and to leave it at that.

This airy disregard of the ordinary obligations of decent citizenship was rather repellent in a boy above the average in intelligence. He was quite unconcerned at the thought that the £15 he stole in the wallet might have been a severe loss to the man whose property it was; in fact, the house from which he stole it was quite a small one, and he recognised that £15 was probably a considerable sum to the occupier. As to the £60 he got from the Post Office savings book, he explained that the money would be repaid to the depositor by the Post Office, so that this theft scarcely mattered at all. His attitude was completely selfish, and I could only suppose that he had been so spoilt and indulged by his foolish parents that he had come to think that nothing beyond his own comfort

mattered very much. Discipline he had apparently never had. Indeed it was the discipline of military life which put him against the army when he first joined. He told me that it was because he found so many persons ordering him about and telling him what to do that he had first gone home for a rest from such tyranny after his first two weeks’ experience of life in barracks.

Having been puzzled to understand this boy myself, I got estimates of his character from the governor and the chief officer of his prison. These arrived some weeks after the above was written and were uninfluenced by any suggestion from myself. The first describes him as being ‘of a general weak character. He is easily led and has no sense of responsibility. Pleasant in his manner and appearance and not by any means vicious, but sly and underhanded. He could go straight, but has not the moral fibre. I certainly think he will return to prison unless he comes under some strong good influence to keep him straight’. The chief officer says very much the same. ‘He is really an overgrown schoolboy—weak and easily influenced, and has no moral guts. He likes to show off and is very vain. He commits crimes to impress people with the idea he is a big shot. I foresee his early return to prison.’

The many changes of employment made by his father resulted in a succession of shifts from place to place for this boy. I have no doubt that this was bad for him. He was, too, that provoking form of liar who is quite unperturbed when caught out in a lie.

b. 24.5.28 C. of E. age 21

This young man will never be a dangerous criminal for the very simple reason that he has not sufficient intelligence. On the other hand, he has been convicted several times, and prison is no deterrent at all; lie has no trade or likelihood of learning one; and I anticipate that he will develop into a persistent offender simply through weakness and stupidity.

It was evident very soon after we began our conversation that he was dull and backward. Indeed, he told the medical officer that he had great difficulty in learning at school, and even today he can barely do more than read and write. At the age of sixteen he was in hospital for three weeks with kidney trouble, but he has had no symptoms since, and is strong, sturdy and erect. He was somewhat disfigured by a bad squint in one eye.

He had an unhappy childhood. His mother was deserted by his father when he was four years old. As a result he and one sister have always lived with the mother, and his other sister stayed with the father. But his mother has had difficulty in maintaining herself until recent years and there were times when Hawkins was put into a home of some kind and his sister went to an aunt. Certainly he had no advantages of a home, and he has never known a secure or happy family life. On the other hand, he has always been, and still is, on good terms with his mother, and for the last four years she has been economically secure, as she and one unmarried daughter live together and both are in good work.

Of moral or religious instruction, or of the simplest rules of good living or citizenship, he has never at any time known anything at all, save that there was compulsory attendance at church at his approved school and Borstal. But, like so many other boys, he told me that although he was made to go to church he had no religious instruction, so that a religious service meant to him no more than a meeting at which a clergyman read something he did not


understand and there were hymns, some of which he liked to sing. I tried him for some time and he was unable to remember the name or words of a single hymn or to explain a single tenet of the Christian faith. He had no hobbies or interests that I could discover, and had never been inside a boys’ club or even contemplated joining the Boy Scouts or any similar organisation. He told me he didn’t get on with girls, and this I could well believe. He said he liked a glass of beer but never touched spirits even on those rare occasions when he could afford to buy them. Dull and backward as he was, his medical report made it evident that he was not even a borderline mental defective. He had pleasant manners, and in the light of his record I was amused by his remark when I handed him my cigarette-case for the third time that he ‘really couldn’t keep robbing me’ of my cigarettes.

He went to the elementary school at a village in Essex and lived with his mother, where she worked as a housekeeper. But he truanted a good deal from school and spent days and nights here, there and everywhere, doing casual work at farms, sleeping in barns, anything to keep away from the man for whom his mother kept house and who was unkind to him. All this had the ring of truth, and indeed I think he would have been incapable of inventing it. Soon after his thirteenth birthday he ran away to London, and he stole a pair of boots, which he sold locally, to get a little money to start him on his way. He was caught by the police on the road next day and committed by the juvenile court to an approved school. In view of his wretched home and his continual truancy, I imagine it was a wise sentence in his own interest.

He was sent at first to a remand home in which to await a school vacancy. From this he ran away to his mother, who very wisely took him back next day. He then remained contentedly in the remand home for nine months, after which he went to the Boys’ Training School, Whipton, Exeter. For six months he did school work, and for the remainder of his time he learnt something of carpentry, painting and plumbing. He was discharged in November 1943. He told me he was very sorry indeed to leave and that both at the remand home and the school he had been completely happy. It was the first time that the poor boy had ever known good food, a decent bed and kind treatment.

He left the school at the age of fifteen and a half and got work at a garage in Cheltenham where his mother lived. He left after six


weeks on the grounds, as he told me, that the wages were only i8r. a week.

However, the local stores depot of the R.A.F. at once took him on at the higher wage of 27s. as store boy. Again he left after four months on the ground that the wages were too low to enable him to give his mother sufficient for his keep.

It is difficult to believe that this was the real or the sole reason, since his mother was earning £4. herself. This inability to settle down to steady work is the handicap which brings so many of these undisciplined lads into trouble.

Hawkins told me that when he left the R.A.F. stores he went to a town in Surrey, although he admitted to me that he knew of no job there and had neither friends, money nor lodgings; it seems fairly obvious that laziness and boredom with regular routine work were the real causes of his throwing up the job he had. In the evening of his arrival at this large town he stole a bicycle and sold it for £2 to a bicycle shop. Thus provided with money, he slept the night in lodgings and next day went to the house of some people whom he knew. As there was nobody at home, he broke in by the back door and stole a clock and another bicycle. This he rode to a small general store, which gave him 5^. for the clock, and another bicycle shop gave him £2 for the cycle. So are thieves made.

A few days later he was caught by a policeman in the act of stealing a third bicycle outside a cinema. For this he was put on probation. He was found lodgings near by, and a job at 34J. a week at a laundry, where he was entirely contented and stayed for six months, the longest period he has ever stayed in any one job. At the end of this time he got kidney trouble, which resulted in his having to go to hospital and the loss of his job. On leaving the hospital he was given a week’s holiday for convalescence, and the probation officer told him to go to a probation hostel at Bethnal Green where work had been found for him as a plumber’s mate. Flowever, he disobeyed this order, and he spent his week’s holiday at Cheltenham with his mother. Whether in going to Cheltenham he acted innocently I found it hard to determine. His story to me was that he misunderstood the instructions given him, and he could not believe it was wrong to go and see his mother. Whatever the truth may have been, on his return he was charged with a breach of his recognisances and the justices recommitted him to his approved school.

Hawkins is a boy of such slow intelligence that it may well be that he did not understand that he was acting against instructions in going to see his mother. Even if the disobedience were wilful, the penalty was drastic in the case of a boy of nearly seventeen who had behaved well in his job at the laundry for six months. In any case the result was disastrous. It destroyed his trust in the probation officer and the court. He thought he had been treated with great severity and injustice for doing nothing more than visit his mother, and he was utterly unable to understand that his offence lay not in seeing his mother but in disobeying the probation officer. Hurt and indignant as he was, it is not surprising that he escaped from the escort taking him back to the approved school and set out on a far more enjoyable existence on his own, without irksome rules and regulations. For a fortnight he worked for a market gardener, then found work at some threshing, and after that drifted pleasantly from one casual job to another until the manager of an hotel where he applied for work telephoned to the police and brought three months’ glorious liberty to an end. During these happy months he got into no trouble and committed no offences. But such a taste of the drifting life of the road is poison in the veins of young lads, who find it hard to settle down to the monotony of a steady job.

Once back at his school, however, he told me he settled down quite happily and got on very well for the five months they kept him. On his release the headmaster got him work, nominally as a porter at a small hotel in Torquay. Here again he stayed only a week. If his story is true, it is not surprising that he ran away. It was the end of September 1945 and the hotel at the end of the summer season had got rid of almost all the staff. His day began with cleaning boots at 7 a.m. and ended after he had finished washing dishes about 10 p.m. He was the hotel drudge upon whom were loaded all the unattractive jobs of carrying coals and cleaning dirty utensils which no one else was ready to do. How much truth there was in this story it is difficult to say. I asked him how he liked the lovely harbour of Torbay and his reply was that his only free time was one hour in the afternoon, when he was so tired that he lay on his bed and that he had never once got so far as the esplanade. After a week he collected his wages of 25s. and returned to his mother at Cheltenham. I can only say that if all this story were untrue he told it very cleverly and convincingly.


Now followed a succession of jobs. He tried to get into the army and was rejected. A week or two for a builder was followed by a couple of weeks in a Y.M.C.A. hostel. Here the pay was good, but he disliked the work, which consisted, as he said, mostly of making beds and washing floors. After the Y.M.C.A. he got work at an aircraft factory at 505. a week, his highest wage yet, but again he left after a week or two. The reason he gave me was that he could not get suitable lodgings near his work. On leaving the aircraft factory he went to another builder, where he stayed a month and left after some trivial disagreement with the foreman.

Possibly in one or other of these employments—as, for example, the hotel at Torquay—there were conditions which made it hard for the boy to settle down. Hawkins is not the only man who has told me that there exists a type of employer wha is prepared to exploit the handicaps of a lad released from a school or Borstal. But the weakness of character which at the least check or disappointment leads these lads to throw up a job is a grievous handicap to those anxious to help them. They have neither sufficient moral fibre to face difficulty or even boredom, nor enough simple common sense to ensure that they do not discard one job until they have secured another. Thrift is a virtue of which they have never heard, and which if they knew it they would look on as a vice. They will walk out of a job for the silliest reason or for none, and be therefore in almost instant need of money. They regard a labour exchange with aversion, and it is not difficult in these circumstances to understand how easily they drift into theft to satisfy immediate wants.

I have stressed this matter not only because all this was conspicuously true in the case of this particular boy but because it illustrates both the need for the provision of some machinery in such cases and the difficulty of providing it. Some method of preventing this plain drift into temptation and crime would be invaluable. But as yet no method of control has been found which is strong enough to be effective and yet loose enough to be acceptable.

In November 1945, having walked out of his employment with the builder, Hawkins arrived in London with no more than a few shillings in his pockets. His own story to me was that he came to London to make a new start in a genuine desire to find work. As he knew nobody who could help him to a job, and apparently had

no sort of plan to find one, it is a story hard to believe even of the most dull and ignorant youth. Nor did he, in fact, do so much as a single day’s work. On the other hand, during the evening of his second day in London he made the acquaintance of three young men, in a café in the Edgware Road. Each of them was a few years older than Hawkins, and one of them, an ex-Borstal boy named Spencer, had a flat nearby in which they lived together. They invited Hawkins to join them, and for the next four months he lived with them on the proceeds of regular and planned thefts. The four worked in pairs, on an average two, or at most three, nights a week. When they were not so professionally engaged they went to the pictures or to fun fairs or to occasional dances. Their methods were either to break into flats, or to steal from sleeping men in servicemen’s clubs. Hawkins told me that only two or three times did he himself go house-breaking. However, under tuition from one of his companions he earned his share of the gang’s takings by becoming an expert thief from these service clubs. He explained to me that the doors of the clubs were left open all night so that soldiers on brief leave or passing through London could come in at any hour. It was therefore easy for him to walk into a room with a companion and while one of the two intruders kept watch the other stole from the clothes of the sleeping men. In his own words:

‘Most of them used their trousers as a pillow with their money in their trousers pockets. But after you’d been shown how to do it you got so that you could draw the trousers from under their heads without waking them. Anyway, I never knew one wake up. We never once even had to leave in a hurry. We used just to get what we could and walk out quietly. It wasn’t a game at which you could make much. We were generally satisfied when we had got three or four pounds in one place, though I remember once we got a wallet with a lot of notes in it, and our best night we made nearly £30. Of course I knew I was bound to be caught sooner or later, but as I was pretty sure to get a Borstal sentence anyway and didn’t think I would get anything worse than Borstal whatever I did, as I was only seventeen, I thought I might as well stay with these chaps. I knew I couldn’t get a decent job or lodgings on my own.’

After four months of this life the inevitable end came and Hawkins was committed to Borstal and served his time at Feltham institution. On leaving Borstal, he was called up for military service, and from this point his history is the same depressing story


of so many of these lads. He disliked the army, and got into further trouble, as a result of which he was sent to prison for eighteen months for house-breaking. When he was discharged from Lewes prison he returned to his mother in Cheltenham. He found a job easily enough, but took no real interest in it, and when I saw him he was beginning a three years’ sentence for a fresh offence of house-breaking.

Such a young man as this gives little ground for hope that he may become anything but a persistent offender. He has not the skill nor the intelligence to be accepted for membership of any front-rank gang, nor has he the brains to carry out important crimes unassisted. He is not therefore likely to be a dangerous criminal. His record, however, does not inspire much confidence that he will ever stick to such honest work as he is able to do. It is possible that a grave mistake was made by the justices early in 1945 in recommitting him to his approved school for a breach of recognizance after he came out of hospital. He had done his longest term of continuous employment; it was a venial fault if it was a fault at all; and he really believed that he had been unjustly treated. He himself told me that the six months in the laundry had steadied him, and that he felt he was doing well, while he had both respect and affection for his probation officer, who took great pains to give him the guidance which he had never had from a parent. As to this mistake by the court, if mistake it was, its effects will not be wholly bad if they lead us to a realisation that much care and thought arc needed when we sentence these boys on the threshold of life.

b. 5.6.28 C. ofE. age 21

22.3.44 Larceny from a meter

Bound over on pro-


7.6.44. Larceny from a meter

Approved school

20.3.45 Larceny from shop

Returned to ap-

proved school

17.7.45 Larceny of money from shop

Returned to ap-

proved school

11.10.45 Absconding from approved school

2 years’ Borstal

29.8.46 Larceny, house-breaking

2 years’ Borstal

28.10.47 Shop-breaking, larceny of money

2 years’ Borstal

Larceny of clothing, receiving

(1 case T.I.C.)

22.11.48 Office-breaking, stealing money

3 years’ Borstal

(4 cases house-breakings, 6 cases

larcenies T.I.C.)

16.6.49 Robbery

4 years

Of the many scores of youths with whom I have talked in prison this one was almost the only one for whom my predominating feeling was not pity. At the time I saw him he was physically strong and healthy, save for the fact that he was suffering from venereal disease. Mentally, he was clearly backward, and he told me that he could read and write only imperfectly and with difficulty; morally, he appeared to me to be hopeless—not only was he without any decent feelings or habits to which one could appeal, but he was positively vicious. The final tragedy was that he was not only satisfied with himself but he was proud of his record. He was so anxious to impress upon me his personality as a ‘tough guy’, a ‘wide boy’ and a ‘flash boy’—to use his own expressions— that at times he went out of his way to exaggerate the number and


wickedness of his offences. In his own clothes, dressed at his best to attend at the V.D. clinic of the local hospital, he might have sat to a cartoonist as a model for the popular conception of a ‘spiv’, with long hair, absurdly padded shoulders on his coat, highly waisted coat, and a mere black line as a moustache.

11 was very soon obvious that he was posing and exaggerating. Lazy and without any interest at all in any form of work, he was from the beginning of our first conversation determined to impress upon me that, whatever young men I might have come upon in the past, I had not so far met so ruthless and determined a person as himself. It was necessary to check his statements whenever possible to discover the exaggerations in his obvious attempts to shock me. As it so happened, I had, unknown to Innis, the advantage of having access to the carefully kept records of his many appearances before a London juvenile court, and I had also his Borstal record. Detestable as his offences were, it was even more repulsive to listen to a boy of his age boasting of his cynicism and his wickedness.

He was born in London and went to school there until he was fourteen. He told me that he had a brother, two years older than himself, who was doing well as a corporal in H.M. Forces, and this statement was true. But he told me also that he had a sister, a year younger than himself, who had been adopted several years ago by a widow of great wealth, and after an expensive ‘college education’ was now being established in society, and this statement was quite untrue. His mother and father were both alive, but had been separated for a good many years. The father was able to earn high wages as a clever mechanic, but he spent them upon himself and contributed nothing to his wife. He had always been very unkind to Innis, who, as a result of continued ill-treatment by his father as a child, now never saw him. This, at least, was the boy’s story, but I was unable to check it.

The reports made to his juvenile court by the probation officer at the time of his first offences disagree with a good deal of Innis’s story to myself. But they confirm the essential fact that his home was a bad one. His mother lived with another man and there were other children. Innis got on very badly with the man who lived with his mother and there were constant quarrels between them, though there was no record of actual ill-treatment. The house was one of five rooms and the economic circumstances fair. Contrary


to what he told me, Innis stayed from time to time with his father at this period, and he told the juvenile court that he was happier with his father than he was at home. Owing to bombing, he was twice evacuated from London. It is beyond question, therefore, that whatever other causes may have contributed to lead this boy into crime he had a thoroughly bad home. Incidentally, he told me that he had never had any pocket money in his life.

On leaving school he got his first job at some saw mills as a machine hand. He told me his wages were 25s. a week, of which he gave his mother 20i. and kept 55. as pocket money. According to his story to myself, his mother at this time was going out to work as a cleaner and was also getting out relief. All this was entirely contradicted by the probation officer’s contemporary report which informed the court that Innis’s mother did not need to go out to work, and allowed the boy to retain no less than 14J. to spend on himself. What seems quite certain is that he had no sort of moral training or discipline of any sort. He told me he went to the pictures four or five times every week, never belonged to any club of any kind, never went to church, or knew any of his family do so, and got all his amusements in the streets, in fun parlours, and saloons. A small but revealing indication of his mind can be found in his statement to me that shortly before I saw him in prison, when he was twenty years of age, his passion for the cinema was such that he went to the pictures every day and sometimes twice a day. I asked him his favourite types of film, and he said he didn’t really care what the picture was. Occasionally he walked out of one cinema into another almost next door, without troubling to enquire what the programme was.

After two months he left his first job. He told me he had no complaint about his work, but he ‘just couldn’t settle to it’. He got another job as a ‘waggoner’ at a sugar factory, where his work was to load carts. There his wages were higher, working out at about £2 a week. But again he stayed only a few months and then drifted to other employment. In February 1944, when he was fifteen and eight months old, he got work as a petrol pump boy at a suburban garage, this being his fifth job in the eighteen months since he left school. His only explanation for leaving his various employments was that after a few months he got ‘browned off’. His mother, he told me, did no more than give him a box on the ear when he told her he had left his employment. At no time did she, or anyone


else, help him to look for employment or take any interest in the sort of work he did, if he is to be believed. As a pump boy, according to his own account, he could make all the money he needed to take home in two or three days’ work, with tips, and he did no more work in a week than this.

A week after he began work at the garage he got into trouble for the first time, although he told me that as soon as he left school he had begun ‘fiddling’,1 with other boys, more or less regularly as opportunity arose. The garage kept back his first week’s wages in accordance with common custom and he had no money to go out in the evenings. He therefore broke open the gasmeter at his mother’s house and stole the ioi. it contained. When she discovered what he had done he admitted it, and, as he told me with apparent amusement, dared her to do anything about it. To his surprise she took him to the police station and charged him. As a result he was put on probation with a condition of residence in a hostel. In addition, the court made the probation officer a grant of £5 to get the boy an outfit of clothes. He told me that he did not care for the discipline of the hostel, so after a few days he ran away. The manager of the hostel was anxious not to have him back, and the court, when he was charged with a breach of recognisance, obligingly varied the Order, making a condition of residence with some friends of Innis with whom he professed himself prepared to stay. This, however, proved no more to his liking than the hostel, with the result that in June 1944 he was once more before the same juvenile court, this time charged with stealing 1 os. from one gas-meter and 26s. from another.

He pleaded guilty to both these offences, and was sent to a remand home to await committal to an approved school. He himself asked the court to send him to a school where he could get a nautical training with a view to his joining the Merchant Navy. The very experienced chairman warned him that the training at a nautical school was a hard and testing one, but he professed himself as anxious to make a new start and declared himself ready to face the training, however difficult. He was accordingly sent to a remand home to await a vacancy at the Akbar Nautical School. After two days, however, he ran away. He told me a highly dramatised story of his subsequent adventures at this time. He assured me that he ‘stayed with pals all over the country’, and two

1 Thieving.

of them used to break into a house or a shop almost every day. How much exaggeration there was in his story I could not determine with any certainty. The truth was clearly bad enough. But it was equally evident that in his unwholesome desire to pose as a desperate criminafin embryo he was ready to add to the truth. For example, not knowing that I had means of checking his story, he told me that he was ‘on the run’ and committing those daily crimes for ‘at least eighteen months and probably longer’. In fact, he ran away from the remand home in June 1944 and was again before the same juvenile court in March 1945, which is not eighteen but nine months later. Moreover, the contemporary report of the probation officer shows that during a considerable portion of that time he was not on the run at all but living with his mother, who most foolishly gave him shelter. Nevertheless, it is impossible to doubt that during this period he lived entirely by planned theft. His account was clear and definite. With another boy he used to knock loudly at the door of what appeared to be an empty house. If the knock were answered they enquired for some fictitious person and went away. But if no one came to the door they made their way into the house, either by the back door or through a window. They stole only money or such articles, jewellery, cigarette-boxes or furs, as they could easily dispose of. Occasionally, so he told me, they would find a suitcase which they could fill with clothes, for which they could always find a ready sale. Their ordinary means of disposal of the goods they stole was to offer them to stallholders at a local market. Innis declared that these men were always ready to buy, though at a poor price, well knowing the goods were stolen. He affected an amused resignation at the memory of the way in which the stallholders got the better of him in their deals. ‘Of course, nowadays I know the value ofjewellery,’ he told me. ‘But at that time I was just a kid and I used to take a fiver in the market for stuff for which I ought to have got £20. Today I expect to get one-half and sometimes two-thirds of the value of jewellery from my regular contacts.’ His own story was that during this time, when he described himself as being ‘on the run’, he was responsible for breaking into two or three shops or three or four homes every week. He and his companion would share never less than £30 weekly and often considerably more. To lend additional colour to his picture, he described to me two dramatic incidents, in one of which he was nearly caught by a householder and in the other


escaped after being captured by a policeman. Although all these stories were exaggerated, with the object of Innis exhibiting himself as a finished criminal, they had a foundation of truth, and, at his arrest in March 1945, he was charged in the adult court with being concerned with men in a burglary. His own account of the case to me was that he had joined himself to a gang, and was ‘acting as a lookout in a job at Wimbledon when he was knocked off by the police’.

In March 1945, therefore, he found himself at the nautical school, but lie soon found that this school was too much for him, despite his confident boast to the chairman of the juvenile court that he would make good there. He said to me:

‘I never liked the place. It was too strict altogether. I didn’t mind the drill and that, but there was too much discipline altogether. You were always being ordered about. I was the matron’s boatswain, which meant I was her messenger or orderly, and I was kept running all over the place. So after a couple of months I absconded. I thumbed a lorry and got a lift to London. I was in naval uniform and I told them a tale about going on leave. I went to my mother’s house and stayed there until I was caught again after two months. Once the police came to her house when I was in the next room, but she swore she had never seen me and that I hadn’t been there, and they went away. I went fiddling most of the time and I got knocked off at Epsom. I was caught on the job, house-breaking.’

He was sent back to the nautical school, but after a month again absconded. This time he was free for three months before being arrested. He was convicted on this occasion of larceny in a London adult court, but the authorities of the approved school refused to have him back as he showed no signs of wanting to improve. He was therefore given a two years’ sentence of Borstal training. He was then seventeen and four months.

He began his sentence at Rochester in October 1945 and told me that he thought it ‘a very nice place’. He liked the governor, and his housemaster, though he could not remember the name of the latter official. He was in the farm party and was in charge of a horse and cart. He said lie was perfectly happy and enjoyed the work, but one day, in August 1946, felt he wanted to be free, so he absconded. He was free for only two days and was then caught at Guildford after breaking into a house to steal food, money and clothes. For this offence he was convicted and sentenced to a further two years’ Borstal.

For this second period of Borstal training he returned to Rochester, where he stayed twelve months. He then once more absconded. Just as before, he declared he was perfectly happy, but said he suddenly got ‘all browned off and wanted to go home’. His mother once again put him up, and again persuaded the police when they came to look for him that he was not hiding with her. As during his first escape, he spent the two months of his freedom in committing as many house-breakings as he could, mainly with a friend with whom he had been in Rochester Borstal. After the police visited his mother’s house searching for him he slept at the house of an uncle who was away at the hop-picking, and he made this house his headquarters until his arrest for store-breaking at a large clothing warehouse. He was arrested at Maidstone, having left finger-prints at the warehouse. ‘Of course, they’ve got my prints at the Yard,’ he told me proudly. It was at this time that he began to discover the delights of the West End of London, and he spent all his leisure hours, he told me, in the neighbourhood of Leicester Square. He informed me that he had ‘always kept a girl’ since he was sixteen years of age. In October 1947 for the third time he received a sentence of two years’ Borstal, and was sent to Feltham.

His programme on this occasion was very much the same as before. He stayed ten months and was then given five days’ home leave. At the end of that time he broke his promise to return and went off to a fair ground, where he got a job at £4 10s. a week and his keep. This, however, did not satisfy him, and almost at once he broke into an office in the town where the fair was showing by climbing a pipe outside the building. Here he managed to smash open a small safe in which was rather more than ¿40 in cash. Accordingly, he left the fair and started towards London. On the way he broke into a shop and stole some thousands of cigarettes. As he had plenty of money, he put up in a hotel in a nearby town, and this led to his discovery, as a chambermaid had heard of the cigarette robbery and, seeing several cartons of cigarettes in his bedroom, informed the police. He was now, in November 1948, given a sentence of three years’ Borstal detention. This is the only case in which I have ever heard of a young man receiving a Borstal sentence four times, and it seems difficult to understand how a court could be at once so unimaginative and so optimistic, to use very mild terms of criticism.

For this final Borstal experience he was sent to Nottingham. He said he never liked the place, as the discipline was too strict and he never got outside. He therefore behaved himself extremely well and earned a transfer to Gringley Camp in February 1949 for good conduct. Taking the first opportunity, he absconded from Gringley and stole a motor car which he found in the road outside a house five miles away. In Manchester the car ran out of petrol, so he abandoned it, and stayed two or three days in that town, where he ‘did three or four jobs’ which provided him with clothes and a working capital of some £50, with which he went by train to London.

He was now aged twenty years and eight months and regarded himself with satisfaction as an established professional criminal. He said to me: ‘I took a flat with a girl I had known for some time in Victoria. Westminster is my territory.’ He asked me if I knew the West End of London well, and told me his favourite Soho restaurants. He told me that he spent his money on girls, clothing, food and a good time generally. ‘Women have been my downfall,’ he added. As an illustration of his character he told me that soon after his arrival in London he did a very successful ‘job’ as a result of which he made £200. He told me he hired a taxi and drove his girl from shop to shop until she had spent the lot on herself. On the other hand, he said he never spent a great deal on drink and he drank more for good company than for love of liquor, though he was fond of rum. He was a chainsmoker and got through sixty or more cigarettes a day. Quite plainly, he was as weak and easily led as he was selfish and immoral, but in some curious way he failed to see this. Indeed, he told me that he had a very strong will and would find no difficulty in giving up smoking and drink if he wished to do so. I asked him if he would have sufficient strength of will to give up ‘fiddling’, but he merely laughed and said ‘a chap had got to live’. I said it seemed to me to be a very poor form of living in which one spent, as he did, more time in prison than in freedom. To which his answer was: ‘I have never thought of anything like that. You never do. You always think you are going to get away with it.’

For a couple of months he led a luxurious existence in Victoria doing, as he said, ‘one or two jobs a week without any trouble at all’. At one of these burglaries he found in a bedroom a pistol and a box of ammunition. He told me that the acquisition of this weapon put into his head the idea of altering his way of life completely.

He said that house-breaking, while it entailed plenty of risks, did not bring in really big money unless one was a specialist, or worked as one of a tip-top gang. On the other hand, he read constantly in the newspapers accounts of armed robberies where a single job brought in thousands of pounds. For this reason he began to study stories of hold-ups, and determined to try his hand at one if he could find a suitable companion. In his own words: ‘It was just one of those things. If you’ve got a gun you can do a quick stick-up job and grab a lot of money. I thought I would try my luck at it.’ A few days before lie acquired the revolver he had met by chance in Piccadilly Circus a young man whose acquaintance he had first made in Borstal. He asked him to stay with him at his flat, and they ‘did a job’ together at which the gun was found.1

Here was one weapon, and chance soon provided another. In a café near Leicester Square the two of them met what Innis described as ‘two Irish boys’. After a few rounds of drinks, one of these young Irishmen mentioned that he had brought a gun with him from Eire. Innis at once said that, with two guns, the four of them could do a stick-up job successfully. The Irishman replied that he knew of an excellent opportunity at Basingstoke at a firm where he had once been employed. It was the custom, so he explained, for the cashier every Thursday afternoon to fetch the wages from the bank and to carry them, amounting to over £2,000, at the same hour by the same route to the works. One of the party remarked that it was then Thursday morning, and they decided immediately to do the job that day. Innis, therefore, sent one of the Irish boys to hire a car from a garage. He explained to me that the expense was well justified, since, if they ‘knocked off’ a car, its description would be circulated. They would thus run the risk of being stopped with the stolen wages in their possession. Accordingly they drove at once in the hired car to Basingstoke to reconnoitre the ground.

Here a disappointment awaited them. The firm had changed hands and was temporarily closed. Innis was entirely frank in describing to me what took place then.

‘I said to the others it was no good coming all that way and then going back to London with nothing. I wasn’t going back empty-handed if I could help it, and I told them we had better drive about a bit until we could find something which looked likely. In a side

1 Cf. p. 145.



street we saw a post office. So we drove the car round the corner and I went to see what sort of a place it was. I could see there was some money about, and there were only two women and one man behind the counter. So I went back to the car and we made our plan. Then we drove the car back to the post office, and we left it in the street outside with one of the Irish boys in it with the engine running. The other two fellows went with me into the post office, and the Irish boy and I took out our guns. I said, “This is a hold-up. Put up your hands.” There were five women and one man in the place, and I lined them up against the wall and the Irish chap covered the people behind the counter with his gun, while my Borstal friend jumped over the counter and started to shovel all the money he could find into a sack. From where I stood I could see anybody who came in from the street, but, as a matter of fact, the whole thing only took a couple of minutes, and nobody came in. There was a safe behind the counter with the door open and a lot of money in it, so we didn’t worry much about the silver in the till, but grabbed the notes and ran out to the car and drove off at full speed back towards London. When we got close to London my friend and I got out and I took all the money back to my flat, while one of the Irish boys took the car back to the garage. Then we all met next day and divided the money. There was over £700 in all.’

I asked him what he would have done if anyone in the post office had made resistance. He said he didn’t want to have to shoot anyone, but his gun was loaded and he would certainly have fired to avoid arrest. I believe he would have done so, and he might quite easily therefore have been guilty of murder. Had he murdered, for example, a servant of the post office who was doing his duty in defending the contents of the safe, I should have thought it wholly proper that he should have been hanged.

When I saw Innis he was just beginning a sentence of four years’ imprisonment for this offence of armed robbery, his companions receiving at the same assizes sentences of four, three and two years respectively. He was just twenty-one years old.

It is a dreadful thing to say that any young man is utterly vicious and depraved at the age of twenty-one. But if there was a single redeeming feature in this youth I failed to find it. When one can find nothing whatever that is good to say it is as well to say nothing. I regard this man as utterly hopeless.


Only four days after my second visit to Innis and my writing the above, he again absconded, this time from the hospital to

which he had been taken from prison for treatment for venereal disease. He broke into a house near the hospital and stole a few shillings which he found in the kitchen. With this sum he made his way to Leeds. With two other youths, aged twenty and nineteen, he broke into a flat only a few days later and robbed the elderly occupant, holding him up with a dummy pistol. He escaped with his loot on this occasion, but a week later was arrested for loitering with intent to commit a felony. He was sentenced for the robbery to three years’ imprisonment to be served on the conclusion of the sentence of four years which he had just begun when I saw him.

b. 26.3.28 C. of E. age 21









Larceny    Bound over on probation,

and costs

Larceny    Bound over on probation,

12 months

Shop-breaking and larceny Approved school Shop-breaking and larceny Fined £2. Returned to (3 cases T.I.C.)    school

House-breaking and larceny 3 years* Borstal (2 cases T.I.C.)

Larceny from dwelling-house 6 months (1 case T.I.C.)    Returned to Borstal

OfficeTbreaking and larceny 14 days Office-breaking with intent Borstal licence revoked. Robbery with violence    4 years’ corrective training

Jones was born in 1928 and has one brother, now aged sixteen, who lives with his father. His mother and father separated in the early part of 1939 and it is now four years since he saw her. She lives with another man. After his mother left him, Jones lived with his father until 1944, when he was sent to an approved school. His father lives with another woman, whom Jones intensely dislikes, and he has never really got on with his father. His father was formerly a mine-worker, but for the past four years has lived on a pension as a result of ‘some illness due to coal dust*. In March last he went to his father’s house, but he said he and the woman he lived with said they did not want him, so he walked out again.

He went to school in Durham in a mining village where he was born and where his father worked at a colliery until he was fourteen.

He was never evacuated. He has no particular school memories and did not truant unduly, but he was not fond of school, partly because he was backward and was unable to understand things as quickly as other boys of his own age. At one time he joined the Boys’ Brigade which was attached to the local church. This he did for the sake of the club and the band. The club met only once a week on Friday nights and was not very much fun for the boys, but it was the only one available and ‘better than no club at all’. Although the Brigade was attached to the church, there was no rule that boys had to attend church services, and he went to church only very rarely and generally only in connection with some sort of parade. After about six months’ membership he gave up the Boys’ Brigade as a result of a rag in which a certain amount of damage was done for which he was blamed. He admitted he was responsible for a good deal of the damage, but said it was not done on purpose, and he was blamed as much as if it had been intentional. He never knew either his father or mother ever go to any place of worship, nor did he know either of them ever give him any sort of instruction, advice, or moral guidance of any sort. Neither of them took any notice of him save that they gave him his food and clothing, and just before he left school his father began to give him ii. a week pocket money.

After leaving the Church Brigade he joined the Army Cadets for some months. He did this in order to go to camp, and the one camp which he did attend he enjoyed very much. But he said the cadets seemed to him to do the same drilling and marching over and over again, and they never seemed to get any farther, so he ‘just got fed up with going and gave it up’.

His first appearance in the juvenile court was when he was almost thirteen years old. A band of about twenty boys of similar ages discovered a disused hut near the railway and this they used in their free time as a club, every boy bringing with him whatever contribution in the way of eatables he could manage to find. Many of the boys, of whom Jones was one, ‘found’ most of what they brought in the local Woolworth’s. He told me that for some three months they stole regularly from that shop sufficient eatables (such as sweets and tinned stuff) to make, when added together and shared out in the hut, pleasant little parties for a dozen or more boys. They were never caught in the act of stealing, but some parent got to know of all this and informed the police, with the


result that the hut was raided. Jones was bound over on probation for twelve months. Neither on this or a later occasion was probation effective or useful. He just reported at intervals to the probation officer; was asked if he was all right; and walked out. There was no guidance or real supervision, if he is to be believed.

His first job on leaving school was as a milk delivery boy for a large dairy at 26s. a week. It was unfortunate that this first employment should have shown him very clearly the possibility of making easy money dishonestly. The management, as he said, was slack and inefficient, and he found when he began work what he called ‘general fiddling’1 going on. The delivery boys were supposed to collect from customers not money but tokens, and these they were supposed to hand to the manager of the dairy. But there was no supervision of the number of crates of milk which the boys took out, so that they were enabled to collect not only a certain number of tokens, which they duly handed in at the office, but also a good proportion of cash which they kept. Moreover, the manager’s office was so badly looked after that the boys used to ‘fiddle the tokens out of it and hand them in a second time next day’. Jones told me that in six weeks he had stolen so much cash by this fraud that he got frightened and left his job. I was not surprised to learn that a few months later the fraud was discovered, and the manager was dismissed, when it was found that over £2,000 of the firm’s money was missing.

His second job was in a rag warehouse, packing bales. He stayed only fourteen days, his own explanation being that he left at his own choice as he found the work too much for his strength.

On leaving the warehouse he got work in a woollen mill at 295. a week, of which he gave his father 235. He was employed in this mill for over two years, and was still employed there when he was sent to an approved school in 1944. In 1943 lie was found guilty of stealing some bantams. These he kept as pets in the backyard of his father’s house and, as they were stolen locally, it was inevitable that the theft should be discovered. He was again put on probation for twelve months.

About this time his home life became thoroughly unhappy. It had never been a satisfactory home, as his relations with his father were not very friendly, and his father made no effort to look after the boy and made no pretence of caring for him. But now, as he

1 i.e. thieving.

HI    -

said, ‘my father had a lady in the house to live with him’, and the boy’s relations with this woman were as bad as they could be from the beginning. He tried to get into the Merchant Navy, and when that failed into the army as a band boy, in order to get away from home, and he did in fact go for a time to live with the parents of a friend who worked in the mill with him. But ‘the lady who lived with my father went to the probation officer to complain that I had left home, and he made me go back again’. On two other occasions he ran away and was taken home by the police. But things got worse and worse. In his own words:

‘I got fed up with home like it was. I didn’t seem able to get away from it altogether, so I spent all the time I could outside it. I spent a good many nights away in the houses of my friends. I went to the pictures, more to have somewhere to go than because I was all that keen on the pictures. I started to spend a lot more money than I had, but I didn’t want to stop, so I began thieving. The first time I stole anything I was sixteen, and I went to a public house and there was nobody in the bar, and the barman was in the kitchen, so I got round and opened the till and there was about £4 in it, so I took that and ran out. When I had spent that, some days later I met another boy one Saturday night. Neither of us had any money, so we agreed to break in somewhere and try to find some. We found a grocer’s shop in the market. It was quite a small place. I broke in and the other bloke stood outside to keep a look-out. While he was there a policeman asked to see his identity card. There was no money in the till, and all I could get was a few sweets. When it was found out on Monday that the shop had been broken into the police checked up on the chap who had been standing outside it on the Saturday night, and he shopped me. I got sent to an approved school and so did he.’

He was sent to the XYZ School. From the first he did not get on there. His own story was that the school was a decent place, but that the headmaster was a man who had favourites and did not like him. He worked in the cook shop and learnt no trade. After six weeks he absconded. He said he did so because the headmaster did not like him, and he was unhappy and could not settle down. With another boy he was on the run for three weeks. They broke into two houses to get clothes and money, and in one of them found and stole £17 in cash. Finally, they broke into a warehouse and in a garage found a lorry fully laden with crates of goods. They opened the doors of the yard and drove the lorry out on to the road, intending to drive it to Birmingham, where the other boy lived, and to dispose of the contents there. Unfortunately for them,


however, they were stopped by the police and in January 1945 returned to their school. Their only punishment for these escapades was a beating by the headmaster for absconding.

Five months later, in July 1945, he absconded again. On this occasion he got as far as London and was away a month. During this time he lived partly on a ship in which he tried to stow himself away after making friends with some of the crew, and partly by breaking into houses.

He was arrested as an absconder and returned to his school without any charges being made against him, as the police had no evidence in any of the cases. On the other hand, immediately he returned he was charged with three offences committed before he absconded which had been discovered while he was away from the school. Four boys, of whom Jones was one, had worked together in the school kitchen and they had two hours off duty every afternoon, which they spent together out on a neighbouring moor. These boys on three occasions had gone house-breaking and had stolen what they could lay hands on, mostly money and cigarettes, as they were not able to dispose of other things. While Jones was in London the remaining three boys broke into another house, where they were caught. They admitted their three previous offences and, as Jones himself expressed it, ‘shopped’ him as having been with them. It was by this time clear that the training of an approved school was useless to him, and indeed he made no pretence that he had either learnt anything of any value to him or made any attempt to do so. His own attitude was that he disliked the school and everything connected with it, and would abscond whenever there was any reasonable chance of his being able to remain clear. Upon his conviction for these last offences, therefore, the school authorities very reasonably declared that they were not prepared to have him back again and he was committed to a Borstal training for three years.

He began this sentence in January 1946 at Radford, which he declared he liked pretty well and certainly better than the approved school. After fifteen months there without getting into trouble he was due for discharge on licence in three months’ time. His previous experience of cooking had been used and lie had worked all his time in the officers’ mess. He therefore applied to the governor to be transferred to the farm party for his last three months in order, as he said, to look tanned and healthy on discharge.

This application was, however, refused, as the governor said he was needed in the mess and there was no one who could take his place as cook. His own words as to this were:

‘I felt it wasn’t fair. I felt I was getting not what was fair to me but just what suited the governor. I had behaved myself for fifteen months in the kitchen and I was getting nothing for it. I worked myself up and got all moody over it and went in off the deep end. So I absconded. Of course, I hadn’t any money or any clothes. So I was forced to break into houses to get them and I was caught in a week. Then I was sent back to Radford and had to stay another year instead of the three months.’

He was discharged from Borstal on licence in April 1948, just twenty years of age, this being the first time he had been really at liberty since October 1944, when he was sixteen years and a few months. A great part of his adolescence had been spent in an approved school, a Borstal institution, or on the run while he was absconding.

Unhappily, even at this stage he was to have no free or normal development, as he was immediately called up to the army. As might have been expected, his military career was not a success; he ran away from Shorncliffe six weeks after he joined. With two other young soldiers he made his way to Liverpool, where their home was, and they remained at liberty for a couple of weeks. But without identity cards or other papers he found it impossible to get any regular employment, or even to get permanent lodgings. He ‘did one job’ in Liverpool which brought him some ready cash which he badly needed, and he moved to Fleetwood, when he was caught doing a second burglary. For these offences he received an immediate sentence of fourteen days, while his Borstal licence was revoked. He served, in consequence, two months at Chelmsford prison and then was moved to Portland, where he served the remainder of his sentence, being finally released in December 1948.

So far from being free, even now, however, he was returned to the army, and at the earliest opportunity in February 1949 he ran away. He got to London and lived as best he could until one day by evil chance he met Innis1 in Piccadilly. They had been friends in Borstal, and Innis invited him to stay with him at his flat in Victoria. The night after his arrival in the flat the two of them

1 Supra, p. 136.


went out ‘on a job’. They burgled the flat of an army officer and Innis found a pistol in the drawer of a desk. Jones told me that he begged Innis to leave the pistol, saying it would bring nothing but trouble upon them. ‘And how right I was’, he said to me whimsically. I think this story was true. Not only did Jones carry conviction in telling it, but it agreed completely with what I had heard from Innis. A few days later they made the acquaintance of the two Irish boys in a cafe in the West End of London. One of them had a revolver and under Innis’s lead they fixed up in a few hours the armed robbery described above.1

When I saw Jones he was at the beginning of a sentence of four years’ corrective training, and very much upset at the length of time he had to serve. ‘I am going to turn it all in and get a job when I come out. It makes one think, a sentence like this. Four years is no joke.’ I asked him if he thought he would have the strength of will to settle to work and to keep at it. He was frank enough to admit that he was doubtful, and declared it would depend on two things: first, whether he could learn any sort of trade during his corrective training of sufficient interest for him to stick to it after his discharge from prison, and, secondly, whether he could get his discharge from the army. He said he disliked military life so much that he would certainly run away from it again, even though he knew that by so doing he would make it all but impossible to get a decent permanent job.

‘They wouldn’t give me what I wanted in the army. I asked for the infantry, and I might have got interested in that. But they made me go in for army cooking and I was sent to Shorncliffe on a six weeks’ course as an army cook. I hated every minute of it. Now if I have to start all over again in the army with a black mark against me at the beginning I couldn’t face it.’

This lad was only at the beginning of a four years’ sentence when I saw him, and it was therefore not possible for me to take any practical steps to help him. A long sentence is, in my opinion, essential in such crimes as armed robbery. Leniency would encourage other young men to carry firearms. In imposing sentence for such serious offences the interests of the individual offender are rightly and necessarily disregarded. Moreover, in this case the sentence was one of corrective training, so that his treatment would

1 Supra, p. 136.

not be merely punitive but could be such as to fit him to face life when he came out of prison.

He had shared with Innis1 in the commission of a crime of great gravity, but he was an entirely different type of young man. Innis was selfish, callous and vicious, continuously posing to himself as well as to others as a formidable gangster, and prepared to do whatever was necessary to sustain the role. He planned the holdup, and envisaged even the possibility of shooting. His thought was how to ensure his getaway and his own safety, irrespective of the cost to innocent bystanders. Jones, on the other hand, was foolish and weak rather than vicious. He was shocked when made to realise the terrible consequences which might have resulted from taking loaded firearms upon a robbery. He was deplorably weak in going upon that expedition once he knew perfectly well that two of the party carried a pistol. He told me that he knew that if in the hold-up anyone had been killed he himself would have been guilty of murder even although he had not himself pulled the trigger. He said he had been sick with fear as the party drove to the scene of the proposed hold-up, and relieved beyond all measure when he found that the works were closed and the robbery first planned had now become impossible. When Innis had insisted that they would, as an alternative, rob a post office, Jones said his heart sank like lead, but he had not the courage to refuse to go on with it. At the actual hold-up itself he told me it was he who jumped the post-office counter and cleared out the safe. ‘My hands were a deal steadier than Innis’s,’ he told me. ‘I could see the gun shaking like anything in his hand, and I was afraid he would let it off without meaning to. Whereas, once we got inside the place I was perfectly cool and collected.’

I found it difficult to come to any confident decision about this lad. His future might so easily go either way. On each of the three occasions on which I talked to him he was smiling, cheerful, and pleasant. I have no doubt at all that he would greatly prefer to be honest if honesty did not entail too arduous and sustained an effort on his part. His medical report described him as cheerful and polite, though dull and backward, with no evidence of psychoneurosis. He showed no appreciation of the fact that in two years he would be released without money, home, respectable friends, a trade, or work to go to. These are formidable handicaps even to a

1 Cf. p. 137.


clever young man, and he is far from clever. He has a little over two years’ corrective training in which to learn something of a trade. But he showed hardly any interest in what choice of trades lay before him. I do not doubt that he will cheerfully consent to learn, or to occupy himself with, whatever trade is suggested to him by the prison authorities. But I am almost equally sure that when he leaves prison he will drift away from it if anything distracts his attention. If all goes well and his path is easy and comfortable I have no doubt he will keep straight. But with his limited ability I imagine he will never find it easy to make a living honestly; and impossible to make a good living honestly. In addition, he is weak and easily led.

Admittedly, this is not a picture of a young man of high character. But quite certainly it is not the picture of a young man not worth saving or beyond the reach of redemption. With patience and understanding I think he could very probably, indeed almost certainly, be saved. It is true that he got no benefit from his approved school. But the bleakly unsympathetic letter which the headmaster of his school wrote to me in answer to my enquiry about this lad convinced me that the failure of his approved school training could not be fairly attributed entirely to Jones. His Borstal report showed that he had made a genuine effort there, and failed after release through weakness rather than from vice to face up to the difficulties of an army life into which he was thrust wholly against his will. The most cheering feature of his case was that the very experienced officer who saw most of him in prison gave me a report in full accord with the view which I had formed quite independently.

The testing time will come immediately after his release from prison. He is one of those men for whom some additional powers of direction and control for a limited period of time after release would be an immense assistance, and might make the crucial difference between failure and success.

b. 22. 8.23 C. ofE. age 26

3.5.32 Larceny


15.10.32 Larceny

Probation continued

20.10.32 Larceny of ioi.

Probation continued

2.10.34 Larceny of bicycle

Approved school

20.12.38 Street trading


28.3.39 House-breaking

Probation continued

19.11.40 Larceny of coal

Fined 20J.

5.12.40 Larceny of cycle

Probation continued

9.4.41 Shop-breaking and larceny

9 months

(7 cases T.I.C.)

7.1.42 Shop-breaking

15 months

14.4.43 House-breaking

3 years’ Borstal

19.5.44 Larceny of cycle

1 month

Borstal licence revoked

12.12.44 Larceny of gas-meter

3 months

7.5.45 Larceny in dwelling-house

12 months

(1 case T.I.C.)

27.6.46 Burglary

4 years’ penal servitude

King came originally from a colliery town in the Midlands. His father was formerly a miner but has been living on some form of sick benefit for some years past. He has two brothers and a sister and is on good terms with them all. He is the only member of the family ever to have been in trouble, and on his discharge he intends to return to his native town and to live at home. His mother is alive and he hears from her regularly.

He dismissed as too trivial for discussion his first four offences on the ground that he was at that time still only a child and too young to appreciate that he was doing wrong. It was clear that probation had had no effect upon his mind at all. All he could


recollect was that the probation officer was ‘a very nice man’. I pointed out that to steal money was a serious thing even in the case of a small boy and that a subsequent theft of a bicycle made it difficult for any bench not to send him to a school. He dismissed this lightly enough.

‘I daresay they had to send me to school. Anyway, I didn’t learn anything there. I never did learn anything at any school. I preferred playing about with other boys. I suppose I was a bit of a young devil. I was always playing about. There was nothing to stop me. My father never said anything. I never belonged to a club; I didn’t even know if there was a club. I certainly never went to church or Sunday-school. I don’t really remember much about the approved school.’

I think it would be difficult to find anyone who could defend, or indeed explain, the system—if they had any system—of the courts which sentenced this boy. Reasonable as it perhaps was to put a small boy on probation for his first three thefts, as two of them were quite trifling, and natural to put him on probation again for his fifth offence of street trading it would seem to be entirely idiotic to put him once more on probation for the serious crime of house-breaking of which he was found guilty in March J939 when this treatment had already proved ineffective no less than four times. On this occasion he was caught in a house with five or six other boys, and the whole party were put on probation. As he told me, the boys regarded the proceedings as a sort of formality which confirmed them in the impression that being caught stealing was nothing to be afraid of in that part of the world. Next year he was convicted of stealing coal and fined a small sum, which meant nothing whatever to him, as the fine was paid by his father. It is scarcely a matter for surprise that only a fortnight later he was once more convicted of theft, again of a bicycle. Probation having by this time failed five times with this boy in the juvenile court, the justices tried it a sixth time in the adult court. Such utter silliness would be amusing if it were not mischievous to the community.

As was to be expected with this encouragement to commit offences, he was caught house-breaking with another boy of his own age only a few weeks later, and this time came for sentence before the court of quarter sessions. He had, it is true, been treated by the court of summary jurisdiction with quite exceptional weakness and stupidity. But the sessions court managed to treat him with even

greater foolishness. He was seventeen years of age. He was convicted of a crime of dishonesty and asked for seven other offences of stealing to be taken into consideration in his sentence. He had seven previous convictions for larceny. I should hardly have thought it possible to find any court in the countiy so ignorant as not to recognise that this was a case for Borstal training. Certainly for years the Home Office, the prison commissioners, and indeed everyone with any knowlegde of the subject at all, had been advising against the course which this court now took in sending a boy of seventeen for a few months to an adult prison. That the sentence was useless was shown by the fact that only a few weeks after his release from prison he was in trouble again for precisely the same crime. The tragedy lies in the fact that if the court had taken the least trouble to learn to do its work efficiently it would not have passed this useless sentence which is not long enough to enable any reformative work to be done but is quite long enough to remove for ever the deterrent fear of prison. As this boy told me:

‘ I came out at eighteen after six months and gave myself pretty good airs amongst the other chaps for having done a stretch which they hadn’t.’

When he was eighteen he was again before the same court for sentence for the same offence of shop-breaking. On this occasion he stole goods to the value of £240 and this time he was given fifteen months, which meant that with remission for good conduct he was released in ten months. Having been broken in to a ten months’ sentence by the six months’ sentence he had just served, the young man was no more affected by the one than by the other, and he had been released only a few months when he was again convicted, and again of the same crime of house-breaking. He was still under twenty years of age and was now given a sentence of three years’ Borstal training. Unhappily, this is exactly how Borstal sentences should not be given. It has been repeatedly advised by Borstal and other authorities that a young man should be committed for a term of Borstal training before and not after he has been sent to ordinary imprisonment. This is because it has been found in practice that reformative success is far more probable if a youth has not been hardened by a prison sentence before training is first attempted in a Borstal institution. The court which had twice sent him at seventeen and eighteen years of age to an


adult prison had presumably not heard of this very elementary advice, and in fact, as the boy himself told me, he regarded Borstal as ‘rather cissy stuff’ after two terms of ordinary imprisonment. Not unnaturally, therefore, his training was a complete failure. He served almost exactly one year of his Borstal time and was then released on licence. On his release he was called up for his army service, but he deserted after only one week. King is a man of excellent physique, who told me he had done a good deal of boxing at Borstal and was in a position of authority there as a house captain. I tried to get him to explain his reason for desertion from his unit after a stay so short that he could not have given the life any sort of trial. The country was at war, and it was obvious that by running away when other boys of his age were in the ranks he was doing what was cowardly and wrong. He was quite intelligent enough to realise the truth of this, and indeed he admitted it freely. But, like so many others of his generation, he was incapable of self-discipline, and neither his home nor his school had ever given him the least idea of the meaning of the word duty; if a thing looked as if it would be burdensome, or if it conflicted with something he wished himself to do, then in his eyes the normal and sensible thing to do was to run away. In his own words:

‘I didn’t want to learn to drill and that. I just wanted to go home. I didn’t think one way or the other about the army and fighting and that.’

He therefore ran away to London, where he was almost immediately arrested for stealing a bicycle, sentenced to a month’s imprisonment, and returned to Borstal for six months with his licence revoked.

He was once more discharged from Borstal and returned to his unit. At this time he was just twenty-one. He had had only two short periods of work in his life. On one occasion he had worked in the pits for three months and on the other he had done a few weeks’ work for a builder. The thing which appeared to me the most distressing feature of his case was that when I tried to get him to realise the need for settling down to steady employment if he were not inevitably to drift to a lifetime of crime, it seemed to him entirely possible that he should change his whole mode of life and begin to live honestly whenever he felt inclined to do so, and that he could do this without any special effort on his part and despite the fact that he had no skill or training at any trade. Moreover, the change, when eventually it was made, would be made because it would be conducive to his own comfort; he was without the least sense of responsibility and he had neither the smallest idea of moral obligation for the future nor regret for the past.

On returning to his unit he completed his preliminary training and was then given a week-end leave to go home. But the delights of freedom from military discipline were too much for him, and he decided at the end of the week-end not to return. He was, however, without work and, as a deserter, unable to obtain employment. For pocket money, therefore, he broke open a gas-meter but was at once arrested and given a sentence of three months. In February 1945 he arrived once again at his unit and was appointed an officer’s batman—a most surprising selection, I should have thought, for a position of trust. As one would have expected, he was convicted of the theft of an officer’s watch a few weeks later, and at his trial asked for another larceny to be taken into account. For the two thefts he was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. He was discharged from this sentence in February 1946.

To my astonishment, he told me that upon his return to his regiment he immediately applied for leave: he seemed to think that as he had been for some time without a holiday it was a hardship that leave was refused. However that may have been, he at once deserted, and on this occasion went to the north of England, as he knew he would be arrested if he went home. As he was in uniform he was able to use service canteens, and in one of them he met a man recently discharged from the army who, having himself every intention of living by crime, sold King a complete set of papers for the sum of £5. With these he got work as a carpenter and, if he was to be believed on this point, earned high wages for four months, the longest period of honest work he had ever done. So far as I could understand it there was no reason at all why he should not have continued indefinitely at this well-paid job under his new identity. If he told me the truth he had certainly no need of money to drive him into the commission of fresh offences, since his average wage was between seven and eight pounds a week. Nevertheless after these few months he was found guilty of burglary and sentenced to four years’ penal servitude.

He was nearing the end of this sentence when I saw him. His conduct in prison had been bad and he lost almost a year’s remission for prison offences. He had been discharged from the army with an army character ‘Bad’, which was not surprising. I could come to no easy decision about this man. It was simple enough to understand his past; the difficulty was to foresee his future. He had had no sort of training whatever as a boy; of religion he spoke with aloof detachment; of morals he seemed to know nothing; and of citizenship he did not know the meaning. The justices before whom he had come for treatment had treated him with ignorant foolishness, and the superior court of quarter sessions with even greater stupidity. It is quite possible that if he had been committed to a Borstal training three years earlier than he was his history might have been entirely different. He was a pleasant-looking and nicely mannered boy with a keen sense of humour, not at all vicious, but simply amoral. At the time I saw him he was undoubtedly anxious not to return to prison. This resolution was based, however, not in the least upon sorrow for the harm he had done or remorse for past wickedness but on the fact that he had not enjoyed a long sentence. As he said himself, nine months, which was really no more than six months, he could do on his head, and even fifteen months, which meant in reality only ten, went fairly fast, but a four years’ sentence got one down, especially when one result of it was that one got nervy and so committed offences in prison and lost remission in consequence. All this sounded very genuine to me. But it seemed not a very substantial foundation upon which to erect a permanent building. His intention was to return to his parents and either to work again as a miner or to get work as a carpenter. Of wholesome interests he appeared to have none. Save when in prison, he never read a book and only occasionally a newspaper and that of the lower sort. He had no hobbies and knew not even the vaguest outlines of politics or public affairs. The public house, the street corner, the cinema, and the dog track seemed between them to satisfy every want alike of body and mind; he told me he cared little for women and there was nothing in his history to lead me to think he was not telling the truth. He was a lamentable example of the failures of our social and educational systems: it was just because he was not without intelligence and attraction that one was so sadly impressed by the fact that there was good in him which, properly developed, might have made him a decent citizen.

b. 30.6.23 R.C. age 26

His father and mother still live together in the Glasgow tenement house in which he was born. The father is a labourer in a steel works. Lucas is the eldest of five children: there is a brother of eighteen now in the army, and three sisters, of whom the eldest is married. She was twice found guilty of small thefts in the juvenile court, and his youngest sister of fifteen is in an approved school as being out of control. He thinks the remaining sister lives still with his parents, but it is some few years now since he has seen them and they do not write to one another.

His home was a single room in a tenement house in the worst slums of Glasgow. All seven of the family slept in the one room, in which they lived and had their meals. There were two beds: in one of them his father and mother slept; and in the other the five children. Before the war in 1939 his father had been out of work for years. He had a disability pension of 20s. a week from the first war, and Lucas can remember hearing his mother taunt him with the fact that he had been on the dole for ten years. Not that his father minded in the least. All he wanted was drink.

‘He was a terrible drunkard, and he used to keep almost all his money for drink. Mother couldn’t get anything out of him hardly at one time. When he got work she used to wait for him outside the works and get it off him, because he was always in debt to the pub, and if she didn’t it was all gone. She was a very good mother really, and fond of us. But never having any money, she got disheartened. But she was never unkind to us, and we always got something to eat if we asked her. Generally it was bread and butter, but nearly always she got a pot of jam at week-ends if she could get the price of it out of father. She never could buy us clothes and we all got free clothing from the school Board. She and father used to quarrel a lot. When I was first old enough to notice she never drank anything. When father was on the booze in the house, as he sometimes was, he used to try and make mother drink, and he got angry when she wouldn’t. He used to hand her a glass of drink and she used to pretend to drink it,

and hand it to me, and it was my job to pour it down the sink without father noticing, and generally he used to be so drunk that he didn’t see me doing it. But after a bit she began to drink it, and she got to like it, and she became a heavy drinker, too, and she still is.

‘I was not at all unhappy as a child. Of course, I was hardly at home at all; I spent all my time on the streets, and I used to roam all over Glasgow, and I was out till all hours. By the time I left school, when I was fourteen, I was completely beyond mother’s control, and of course father never even tried to have any control over us. The one room we had was simply filthy and frightfully untidy, but I didn’t know any better and I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I came home after being in an approved school that I saw how dirty and untidy and unwashed everything was. I had a far higher standard in the approved school in every way. We had things clean there as I had never seen them before, and of course the food was not only quite different and better food, but we ate it properly, and I had never seen that either.’

Nominally Lucas is a Roman Catholic, as is his mother, and he went to a Catholic school. His religion is, however, entirely nominal, as he has not been inside a church for many years; he could not remember when it was that he last went to one, nor could he ever recollect either his mother or any of his brothers or sisters going to church; his father never pretended to have any religion. Although he had not been to church in prison, he told me he saw the R.C. chaplain when he came round—

‘because he is a decent old chap and I don’t like to hurt his feelings.’ ‘I believe in God,’ he added, ‘but if I want to say prayers I can do so just as well in my cell as in a church. In fact, I don’t believe in churches.’

He was not, however, hypocrite enough to pretend that he did say any prayers, either in his cell or anywhere else. Lucas was a pleasantly spoken young man, with a nice smile, but with so extreme a Glasgow accent that for some time I could scarcely understand a word he said. Although he assured me he had been at school in Glasgow, his only education seemed to me to be that of the streets.

He got his first job at fourteen as a milk rounds boy. Very soon after he started work he was in trouble, and he kept changing his employment every few weeks. All his jobs he disliked, and all were dead-end employments requiring no skill or training and leading nowhere. But he said all he asked was something bringing in ten or

twelve shillings a week; all he wanted was the money; he took no interest at all in the work.

His first appearance in court was soon after he became fourteen. He stole some food, and his mother was fined half a crown. It seems, in the circumstances of his home, a curious judgment.

Six months later he was playing in the streets with a number of other boys, at about eleven o’clock one night, when they saw what he called ‘a gang of corner boys’—or young hooligans—some few years older than themselves, smash open the door of some licensed premises and go inside. He and his friends waited and watched for half an hour, when the youths emerged, having more or less systematically rifled the place of any valuables. However, the younger boys then entered in search of anything which might have been overlooked. For his share Lucas secured a large box of 250 cigarettes and three bottles of wine. The former he traded amongst his friends, and the latter he sold to his father. All the boys believed that they had escaped unseen at the time of the theft, but it so happened that a little girl who lived in his street had seen him come out of the public house, and she, on being questioned, told the police. As a result the police came to his home, and the three empty wine bottles were found amongst the general debris. He was duly charged with shop-breaking and sent to an approved school. There he stayed for fifteen months, when lie returned home.

So far as I could gather, such instruction and training as he received in the approved school were almost wholly wasted upon him. He admitted being taught a degree of personal cleanliness for the first time in his life, and he was shown the right use of a knife and fork. Beyond that, by his own account, he learnt nothing, and I should imagine him to have been a difficult pupil. The school was a Roman Catholic one and, as he said himself, he had a good deal to learn as he had not been inside a church since he was baptised. On the whole, he declared that, at all events physically, the place did him a great deal of good: he had regular meals of wholesome food, and proper hours in clean beds, all things met for the first time. Morally and intellectually he did not seem to gain very much.

Upon his return home he was sixteen years old, and his first shock was to find his father at regular work, the first time he had known this state of affairs. His father began work when war started in 1939 and has worked ever since. Unhappily this novel


industry gave him opportunity for even greater consumption of alcohol, and the single room was no longer attractive as a home in any case to a boy who for fifteen months had known order and cleanliness.

Accordingly Lucas went with another boy of his own age to a model lodging house run by the Salvation Army. There one paid ninepence or tenpence a night each for a cubicle in which to sleep, and food could be bought cheap and cooked in the communal kitchen. Not that it was necessary for the two boys to study economy. Although neither of them had any work they had a means of livelihood which, at the cost of very few hours of energy every week, brought them in an income ample for their wants. This was a system of petty thieving so perfected by themselves that they lived by it in comfort without being once detected, or indeed even suspected, for eight months. It was their habit to stand together outside the L.M.S. station and to follow horse lorries drawn by a single horse as they emerged from the goods’ yard. They found no difficulty in following these lorries on their feet, and, at that time at any rate, their drivers used to be alone without either a boy or girl assistant. When the van stopped and the driver, in his duty of delivering a parcel, went inside a house or shop, one of the two boys would keep watch for his return while the other walked quite openly to the van, and selected, and stole from it, a parcel not too heavy to be carried away without inconvenience. The very essence of the business, as Lucas explained, was the public way in which it was done. The only thing they had to fear was the premature return of the van-driver. Passers-by were no deterrent at all, since no one, seeing a parcel taken so openly, thought for a moment that the action was not that of a van boy. The boy with the parcel walked with it into the nearest back street while the watcher faded away. The boys knew a man who had a small shop. Ostensibly he lived by making toys, but he took anything they brought him and gave them a very fair price. Lucas and his companion knew most of the consignees by name so that they were able to choose parcels likely to contain goods readily saleable. Mostly they got clothes—parcels of shirts, socks, or shoes —and these were especially welcomed by the buyer. Once he remembered a parcel of some dozens of pairs of silk pyjamas, a very rich haul. Very rarely indeed was their spoil useless; on an average the receiver gave them thirty shillings or so for each

parcel, and they contented themselves with three or four a week. As he told me, they could do with this everything they wanted; there was no need for them, therefore, either to take more frequent risks or to quarrel with their ‘fence’.

Both the boys were eventually caught together, as they had the misfortune to rob a lorry under the very eye of a detective in plain clothes. After a month in prison Lucas was returned to his approved school. He was, however, by now altogether too mature for such a life, and ran away. For a couple of months, until he was caught and sent back to the school, he lived by casual stealing in Glasgow.

In order to get his discharge from the school Lucas volunteered for long service in the army. Unhappily, his military experience, even in time of war, when a young man had the chance to start a new clean life and to redeem his past, was, step by step, and, in his description, almost word for word, like that of so many other untractable young men.

‘I hated the army. I didn’t get on. I didn’t like discipline. I had always done whatever I wanted to all my life and I couldn’t change. I was too wild. I didn’t like the company forced upon me in barracks. I wanted to be alone and to do as I liked. I was no asset to the army. I know that.’

After little more than a month with his unit he deserted. In Glasgow he met another friend and began a new systematic career of crime. In his own words:

‘With my pal we had a good game. It went on so long without any trouble at all that I didn’t see why we need ever be caught. I thought we could live well on it without ever having to work. I got to making so much money that I got some rooms, and set up in them with a girl.

‘We used to go out at nights about eleven o’clock. We made it a rule never to carry anything with us which could be called housebreaking implements if we were stopped by the police as suspected persons and searched. All we had between us was a torch and an ordinary small poker. We would pick out a street which had trolleycar lines running down it. We used to choose the place to break into beforehand. There were a lot of shops which had big glass entrance doors, and in front of them were steel grid gates. The glass doors had locks which weren’t very strong, but the steel gates often had chains round them. One of us used to look out for the police, and the other one used to jump over the gate and crouch up against the glass door. It was very difficult to see anybody like that. Then, when a tram car came down the street the one inside the gate smashed the lock of the


glass door with the poker and went inside the shop. The tram made so much noise that no one heard the lock smashed. Mostly we went for laundries and drapers’ shops.

‘While one of us was inside filling a sack with what he could get, the other one lounged about outside looking out for a police patrol. Sometimes the policeman would shake the steel grid, but if that was fastened he never worried about the glass doors inside. Now and again they would ask us what we were doing there at that time of night. But we were ready for that, and we always said we were waiting for our girl, who was a servant in a flat over some shop close by. We took care to learn the name of a family on the name plate on the door. When the chap inside was ready he gave a signal, and, if it was safe to come out, the one in the street signalled back.

‘We did this for six months without once having any trouble at all. Then, like a fool, in a street one afternoon by myself I pinched something out of a car, and I got caught. I got three months in Barlinnie, and then back to my unit.’

Immediately he returned to the army a court martial gave him fifty-six days’ detention for desertion. His military service until he was sent abroad was a succession of desertions and punishments. He never attempted to get far away, but he was sheltered by the wives of soldiers serving overseas with whom he lived, staying indoors all day. Eventually he was sent to Italy, but he saw no fighting as he deserted within a week. The whole district was full of deserters, and with two others he stole an army lorry, which they got repainted and entirely altered in appearance. In this lorry they traded, partly in black-market olive oil with the aid of Italian deserters, and partly in cigarettes stolen from U.S.A. army stores. Lucas was arrested by the military police after some months of this life, and a court martial gave him two years’ imprisonment.

Of this sentence he served fifteen months. He told me he was under punishment almost without cessation.

‘I played up all I could. I refused to go to exercise, or to do any work, or even to dress myself. I did it really so as to show off as a big shot to the other chaps in detention. Then somebody or other told me what to do so as to swing it that you were a bit balmy. Really I didn’t have to do much. The doctors did it all for me. I was in detention in Egypt at the time, and I was sent to a military hospital for observation as a psychopathic personality. Then I was sent to a military hospital for nervous diseases near Southampton, and in the end to another hospital near Birmingham. Nothing much was done to me, whatever I did; in fact I got a lot of extra attention. I didn’t see any point in working hard like the other chaps had to do. All that happened was that I was in cellular confinement practically all the

time. I preferred that to work. I suppose altogether I saw six or seven psychiatrists. They didn’t give me any treatment. They just asked questions. I had no idea what they were after, but I got my discharge in 1946, which was all I wanted.’

The life of this young man—he was at this time twenty-three— up to this point had been worthless and shameful enough, but he was now to reach even lower depths. He drifted to London, still with the single object of living in comfort without doing any work. With no friends in London, he found it difficult to make a start in joining a worthwhile gang, and for some months he lived on the earnings of a number of prostitutes with whom he associated in turn. He told me that he gave up this life only because he got sick of the girls and he had nothing to do all day.

He then met a friend from his army days and joined him and another man in a room behind the Victoria Embankment. The three of them lived by petty theft for a month, but their first bigger job ended in disaster. They had planned to break into a flat in a huge block of flats near Victoria, their information being that the occupier was away. In fact, however, he was at home, and tackled one of the two intruders, who in return took a razor from his pocket and slashed the tenant’s face with it.

Lucas was the third man of the party, and was keeping watch outside the flat. Seeing what had happened he hurriedly escaped.

‘I had a proper fright,’ he said, ‘I didn’t want to have anything to do with violence. This broke up our gang, and I went back to the girls.’

After a further period of living on the proceeds of prostitution he started to drift about the country, and now for a short time he did the only honest work he has ever done, three months as a waiter in a holiday camp.

‘I quite liked the work. It was pretty hard, too, and the hours were terrible. But the pay was good, and I was interested in the job. I got well liked by the management, and they asked me to come next year when they closed in the autumn. I went back to London then and got a job as a porter. But I packed it up in a week or two. Things were bad for me at this time. Of course, I could have saved quite a lot of money at the holiday camp as I hadn’t any real expenses, living in and that; with tips and overtime I made £ioa week in that place. But I hadn’t saved anything.

‘Anyway, I was at a loose end in London after that porter’s job, so


I tried to go back to the girls. But they wouldn’t have anything to do with me. To tell you the truth, they all thought I was no good.

‘However, I met a chap in Victoria, and he told me he knew of a job to do where he lived. It was a sort of warehouse filled with all sorts of stufT. I think it had been seized for debt. I went to stay a week with this chap, about twenty miles from London. We broke into this store every night for a week, and we filled a trunk or a suitcase we found inside with stuff lying about. In the morning we took it up to London by an early train, and it was all sold by twelve o’clock. My share was £60. I went back to London after that, but it didn’t last many days. Easy come, easy go. So I got in touch with this chap again. He said he knew another job which could be done at once. He said he was in a pub with the woman he lived with, and she met a friend who was a charwoman, and this charwoman happened to pass the remark that she would be out of a job all next week, as the lady she worked for was going away for a holiday. So I went down to his place again, and in the night we went to the lady’s house and cleaned it out. We took all the stuff in a couple of suitcases we found to my friend’s house. But in the morning we were both so broke we hadn’t got enough money to buy tickets to London. So he took a small ring to an antique dealer in the town and got £7 for it. Then we took the stuff up to London and sold the lot to a fence for £go. We got £65 for a fur coat, and only £25 for all the rest, which was silver. It was a very bad price, because when the case came to be heard in court the list of things was read out and their value for the insurance was nearly £300. But you often can’t get even one sixth of the value with silver. You can do best with jewellery. You can generally get one third of the value for that.’

Once again he returned to London with his half share of the £90, and he lived, when this had melted away, as best he could. At the end of 1947 he was caught stealing a suitcase and got a sentence of two months. While he was serving this sentence in Wandsworth he was charged with the burglary of the silver and the fur coat. As he explained to me, his companion in that job had been recognised in the street by the antique dealer, and, in the hope of reducing his own sentence, had told the police that he did not do the job singlehanded, and ‘squealed’ on Lucas. For this burglary he was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment, being due for release in the spring of 1949. I saw him towards the end of this sentence.

The report of the medical officer described Lucas as a straightforward and normal personality with no history of mental disease or fits.

If one looked only at this man’s record there was no single redeeming feature to be found. He had done evil all his life, with-

out one good action to put in the other scales. I found it hard to believe that he could alter now. Yet at twenty-six it was his last chance. Any new sentence must, with his record, be a long one, and it would finish him. I took him by the arm and led him to the window of the room in the prison in which we were. Crossing the prison courtyard was a miserable old man, serving perhaps his twenty-fifth sentence. ‘Come and look at this old man,’ I said. ‘Look at him well, for that is what you will look like at his age, crossing perhaps this very yard.’

‘I know my life has been terrible,’ he replied. ‘I mean to go straight now. I have had a shock in this place. To listen to the chaps here drives me half out of my mind. They talk of thieving, thieving, thieving and nothing else. There’s one man here of forty-six and he was boasting last night that he has spent twenty years in prison. What a thing to be proud of! You tell me that with my record of never facing up to a job of work and running away from anything that needs guts to do it, I won’t have the guts to stick to a job if I get one. But I know I can. If I didn’t think I could make anything of my life even now, I’d put my head in a gas oven. I was brought up in a slum with thieves, and drunkards, and prostitutes. That was all the home I had. I’ve had to learn the hard way. But I have learnt. It’s no good making money the way I have all my life, because it doesn’t stay. I know the only way is to get a job and stick to it. I’ve started to train myself to work here like I’ve never worked before. I’ve worked hard in the kitchen here for a few pence a week, and if I can work inside I can work out. I haven’t got a trade, or any training at one. I haven’t got a friend. I haven’t got a shilling. Perhaps it’s a friend I want most. I make friends easily enough, but up to now it’s always been the wrong sort. If you would be a friend to me, and let me write to you to tell you how I get on, it would be an encouragement. Don’t think I’d ever ask you for a penny of money. It’s not money I’ll want.’

I had a talk about this man with the prison governor. He said it was true that he had worked well for some months in the kitchen. As to his reformation, who could be sanguine for a man with his record?

The only job Lucas had ever had was as a waiter in a holiday camp. He was being released from prison just as the season for such places began. Instinct—it cannot have been reason—urged me that it was worth a last effort to save him, and so an effort was made. The local Prisoners’ Aid Society gave him £6 in cash. He had nothing at all but the dirty suit in which he came into prison: and Mr. Pinker1 saw to the waiter’s outfit.

1 Cf. p. 244.


Here is a letter from prison, written before his release:

‘I received your letter of 16th. I am happy to say the clothes are a perfect fit, and a suitcase makes all the difference. I have all I want for my future employment. A respectable front is a great asset. From then it is hard work. That’s one of my many bad points, laziness. Still, that’s in the past. I mean now to keep on going to the end. I realize it’s easier to put on paper than to do. But I am convinced I can do it. One day I hope you will be able to say to me, you are what God put you on earth to be.

‘I am afraid, sir, I am getting verbose about myself. But I couldn’t resist telling you I am sincere about the future. Only time can tell whether your faith in me is justified.

‘I would like to give you my heartfelt thanks, also all the other people who are giving me my new start in life. God bless you for your efforts.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘William Lucas.’

Three weeks later he was released from prison, and his first act as a free man was to telephone me his greetings at 7.30 a.m.

I heard nothing more for three months, when I received the following from the holiday camp:

‘I am sorry that I have not written before. My only excuse is tiredness through hard work. Do you remember in the letter which you wrote me which I carry in my pocket you said my path in life would be filled with obstacles, and that no one could overcome them but me. Well, I have had two. The first job I got I had to throw in, but I got another. Then the second was this. Three of us waiters share a hut. My two companions are a couple of decent chaps. One day I came in to find a fourth chap sharing it. On the morning of the twenty-third I woke him for work and was sleepily told it was his day off. When I went back to our hut at 2 p.m. he had gone. I will say he had made a good job of it. He took everything the three of us possessed except what we stood up in. Now I understand what people feel on their return and find the house has been broken into. It was a peculiar feeling when we had to interview the police and report our losses. As you know, sir, I am usually on the other end of the stick. I am well on the road to recovery. I got some new clothes after a struggle and I can now face the world with a smile. The police haven’t caught the chap and I hope they never will. I should hate to think of him in a dismal lonely prison cell. Well, I hope this finds you all right. Write soon. God bless you and yours.

‘Yours with an end in view,

‘William Lucas.’

With this letter he enclosed his photograph, smiling and debonair, and my hopes were high. I replied at once, advising that above all he should make plans for getting work as soon as the holiday camp closed down, as would happen in six weeks’ time. As I got no answer, I wrote again a fortnight later. When this letter, too, remained unanswered I feared the worst. I had told him that if he found himself in difficulty he was to write or wire to me, so that I was able to hope that his silence meant nothing worse than laziness. But it was not so. Alas! he had lost his job. All his story of having had his possessions stolen by a fellow waiter was true. He had been robbed; had got himself a new outfit together; he had worked well and given his employer complete satisfaction for three months—all was as he had told me. Then he threw it all away. He went under the influence of drink to the dance hall of the camp, which he was allowed as a member of the staff to enter only with a permit. He had no permit and was denied admission. He made a nuisance of himself, assaulted the doorkeeper, and was discharged.


It was at the end of August 1949 that he lost his employment at the holiday camp. I had told him to send me a wire if he were in urgent need and for a time I hoped to hear from him. But I have never done so. My only knowledge of him is that he has not been again received in prison by the end of January 1950.

b. 24.8.25 R.C. age 23

The father and mother of this boy are both alive, and live together at a very respectable London address. He has three brothers, one a reporter on a newspaper in South Africa, one doing very well on a farm in Canada, and the only one younger than himself an N.C.O. in the R.A.F. His father was incapacitated as a result of wounds in the first war, but he makes a little money with his pen, and his two elder boys make generous allowances to their parents. There has never been any financial need, and they live in a comfortable flat for which they pay a rent of 305. a week.

Morrison told me that his parents are very religious people and regular attendants at their local Roman Catholic church in London. They brought up their children on similar lines, and he himself is a regular churchgoer both in prison and outside. All his brothers are professed atheists, each of them in turn giving up all practice of religion when they became about sixteen years of age. It was a great shock to his parents and his father was especially distressed by it. For a year or more he used to argue with each of the brothers, but after that, so Morrison informed me, he seemed to give up worrying. Morrison himself, about the same age of sixteen, gave up all religion for a couple of years, but he then returned to it, and now has been very much helped by the R.C. chaplain in this prison. He went to school near where his parents still live today; it was not a Roman Catholic school.

His home life was very happy. He and his younger brother lived at home all his boyhood, and the brother now in Canada lived there until he emigrated. While he never had regular pocket money, there was always money for the pictures once a week. He was a very keen member of a boys’ club and went there a great deal and had many friends in it.

He got an excellent job on leaving school with a firm of manufacturers of dental accessories at what he described as ‘the very


good money of 22s. 6d. a week’. All of this he gave his mother, but she gave him back again really as much as he asked for, never less than y., for fares and pocket money. His work consisted of assembling dental chairs of which his firm made almost all the constituent parts. After some months he was sufficiently proficient to do this work with no more than occasional supervision, and he would have got a rise in pay, when he spoilt the whole of his prospects by getting into trouble.

Part of his duties was to take messages from his department to other departments. In this way he used to get the opportunity of looking into various rooms, amongst others the laboratory. He told me he ‘made a bit of a hobby of chemistry’ at home, and so got into the habit of looking all round the laboratory. In a cupboard he found stored a large quantity of mercury and he took a small jar of it home; it was obvious from the way he spoke that he had no use for it for chemical purposes, and indeed he said he merely put it in a cupboard. A little later he took another jar, until he had accumulated fifteen pounds of mercury in one-pound jars. One day the foreman saw him carrying a jar of mercury off the premises and took him to the manager. He told me that so unimportant did he regard the matter that he volunteered to the manager that he had several more jars at home. The manager went with him to his home and recovered intact all the mercury which he had stolen. Nevertheless he prosecuted the boy because, he told his parents, the sixteen pounds of mercury were worth £13 at that time, and the firm had already lost some hundreds of pounds’ worth by theft during the preceding twelve months. He appeared at a London juvenile court and was put on probation.

I asked Morrison his opinion of the probation service and whether it had helped him. I did this because he seemed, not only to me but to the prison governor and to the Roman Catholic priest, a likeable, fairly intelligent, and truthful boy. It would be ridiculous, having asked for it, not to print it, but it is obvious that he may have been biased or untruthful, and that there may have been no justification for his criticisms not only of his probation officer but later of his approved school.

‘Miss Whatnot came to me, or I went to her, once a week. I got the sack from my job after I took the mercury. She didn’t get me another job. I got one for myself. I was in trouble again eight months later. She did me no good. She certainly didn’t help me. She hindered


me rather than helped me. I never knew where I stood with her. She was always springing up at my home. Her talks to me were absolutely ridiculous. She was always casting my offence in my face every time she came to see me, and saying how I had disgraced myself and how much better I would be if I kept good company. I was a member of a youth club. I liked it and I went there a lot and it did me good and I enjoyed it and had friends there. My case was in the local paper, without my name, of course, and it became known at the club that I was the culprit. Besides, I told my friends. Miss Whatnot kept saying I had better leave that club and join another one. She went on and on about it, and I became bitter about it. I did leave the club, she went on so, but I swore I would never join another club. I would not join another club then, though I did some years later.’

Morrison had a trick of speaking very slowly, so that I was able to get down his story in great part in his own words.

‘My second job was a page boy at the Highblower Music Hall. It was a full-time job. There were a lot of pages and we cleaned brasses and jobs like that in the mornings, and put on uniform only after dinner. I got i ys. 6d. there. I only stayed two months. A handbag was stolen from a woman who worked there, and the police examined all the page boys, one by one, in the manager’s office. I knew absolutely nothing about it, and when I went in to the office the detective started by asking me roughly: “Why did you steal Miss Dancer’s handbag?” I replied: “I know I’m on probation, but that doesn’t mean I stole the bag. I know nothing about it.” At the end of the week the manager gave me a week’s wages and told me not to come back. It was absolutely the truth that I knew nothing whatever about the bag. The detective did not know I was on probation, and I blurted it out because I was so taken aback at his asking me in the way he did that I hardly knew what I was saying. Some time after I heard from one of the pages that they never did find out who stole the bag. I lost my job over it, but I certainly didn’t steal it. I then got a job as a shop boy at a stationer’s in Cheapside. I was still only fourteen. My wages here were 15s. I stayed six months. But I did not like it very much. I left of my own accord and I got a good character.

‘Soon after this I went through a bad patch. I was uneasy and unsettled. I had not made up my mind what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t listen to my father and mother and ignored all their advice. I didn’t want to be pushed into anything. My mother and father were very worried and unhappy about me, but I took no notice of them. I had dropped my club and now I dropped church. I didn’t know what I did want, but I wanted to get it by myself. I was unemployed like this for over two months. I had always been in the habit of going to church when I was at home. Now I ignored church and everything. I used to stay out till eleven or twelve every night despite father and mother asking me not to. I hadn’t any money, but I went about with two other boys, Day and Martin, and we didn’t need money for what we did. We used to go into billiard saloons and watch them playing, and stay till the place shut about eleven-thirty.

‘Day was a bit older than me and Martin was the same age.

‘After about two months of this we arranged to break into a shop. It was Day who suggested it, and we agreed. His father was dead and his mother went out on night work, so his house was empty at night. His house had a yard behind it, and there was the yard of another house joining his yard, and then came this other house. This other house was a general confectioner’s. I said I would be at Day’s house at eleven, but there was a big air raid while I was on my way and I went into an air-raid shelter until the all clear. I only got to his house after twelve. When I got there Day and Martin had done the job. Day had got in through a skylight and opened the back door of the shop, and he and Martin carried all the stuff across the two back yards, and when I got there it was all laid out on the kitchen table. There were 17,000 cigarettes, a great heap of pipes, and about fifty pounds of sugar in bags. Of course, with the air raid and all it was pitch dark, and they didn’t see that some of the bags had holes in them, so they leaked out sugar and laid a trail from the backdoor of the shop right across the two yards and into the back door of Day’s house. Another thing they didn’t know was they had left a gas light burning in the shop. They lit it to collect the stuff, and they forgot to turn it out. The blackout wasn’t good enough, I expect. Anyway, the light attracted the police, and they broke into the shop, and then they followed the trail of sugar straight to where we were sitting round the table with the stolen stuff. The police walked into the room, about half an hour after my arrival.

‘We were all tried for this in the juvenile court. Martin turned out to be an absconder from an approved school; we had only met him in the billiard saloon and we did not know this. He was returned to his school, and I was sent to a remand home till there was a place for me at an approved school. Day had not been in trouble before, and he was put on probation. I was fifteen at this time.

‘I asked the juvenile court to send me to a school where I could get a sea training. I had always wanted to go to sea. I didn’t really mind if it was the Merchant Navy or the Royal Navy. The magistrate said I would be trained for the sea at the school I went to. I did not at all mind the remand home in Goldhawk Road. It was very overcrowded at this time, but I quite liked it. One day a big bus took nineteen of us to a school in Sussex. I was very upset when I got there, as I had been told I was going to a place with sea training. I told the headmaster, and he said I had to go where I was sent. I don’t know if this put him against me, but I never got on with him and I hated the school. After a month I ran away with another boy. We were caught after a few days and taken back to the school. I don’t expect

you will believe me when I tell you this, but it is the actual fact that when we got back we were punished absolutely viciously by a whole lot of masters. The headmaster gave me a hiding first of all for running away, but that didn’t end it. Then my schoolmaster punished me by giving me a lot of extra work; then the works-master hit me with a stick; and last of all the sports-master told me in the gym that he would box with me. He knocked me down, and when I got up he laughed and knocked me down again, and then I ran away. I wouldn’t have stayed at that place after that for anything on earth. So the boy I had run away with before and I ran away again. We ran away about six o’clock in the morning one day in May 1941. We got to London and by nine o’clock I had got myself a job with a baker. I gave a false name and I got a room at a sort of hostel in Harringay.

‘After a day or two they asked for my papers, and of course I hadn’t got any. I knew a chap who had a second-hand furniture shop and he pretended to employ me, so the employment exchange sent me a new unemployment card, and by means of that I got a new identity card by paying a shilling and saying I had lost my old one. But I never managed to get a ration book because you had to fill in the names of retailers and I did not know how to do this. As soon as I got my new cards, after three or four weeks, I left the baker and I got a job with a demolition company as an oxy-acetylene burner at £3 a week. I stayed with them just a year.

‘After this I learnt to drive a car at a school of motoring, by misstating my age one year. I then worked as a van-driver for a firm for ten months. I got a very good character from the demolition firm after my year with them. Then I got into trouble again, like a fool. I simply can’t think why I did it, as I was in decent lodgings and had a job at £3 5s. a week which I liked, as I was interested in driving, and I was not in need of anything. On top of everything, it was almost exactly two years since I had got away from the approved school and I was too old to be taken back to it. All the same, I was fool enough to listen to another van-driver whom I met at a café I used to go to for morning tea. He told me that when he delivered goods to an address in the Marylebone Road he had seen at the top of the stairs a whole lot of fur coats hanging on pegs with no one to look after them. Of course, I hadn’t got any use for a fur coat and I didn’t even know who to sell it to, but next time I was in the Marylebone Road in my van I went to the place to try and get one, and I was caught and convicted of being on enclosed premises for the purpose of committing a felony.

T was put on probation at Marylebone Police Court and this time probation was a very different thing. The probation officer was an officer of air cadets and he was tremendously good and helpful to me. I told him I wanted still very much to go to sea, and he encouraged me, and did all he could for me. No one could have done more. He wanted me to stay in London under his eye, but he allowed me to rejoin the demolition company I had worked for before and I was sent to Bristol. I made a fool of myself again there. I had an accident on the job, and when I came out of hospital I started going about with a lot of Irish labourers employed by the firm. I hadn’t anything in common with them really, and I got to drinking a lot, which I had never done before. One day I got very drunk and I went into a house and stole some rings and a ration book. It was a thing I could only have done when I was drunk because I left my own ration book in the room where I stole the rings, which were worth about £30, and I left all my clothes at my lodgings. I went to the station and got into a train for London, but when I got to London I was arrested on the platform. I still had my arm in a sling as a result of my accident. The magistrates said they thought I had made a fool of myself when I was under the influence of drink and they bound me over.

‘I returned to London and went in for the medical examination for the Royal Navy and I was passed Grade i. In November 1943, when I was just eighteen and was waiting call-up to the Navy, I got drunk in a public house and I got a sentence of two months for breaking a plate-glass window.

‘When I got out of prison I got caught by the ballot for the Bcvan scheme for work in the mines. At the beginning of 1944 I did a month’s training in a colliery at Newcastle. The conditions were bad; I got only £3 pay a week, and my expenses of lodgings, food and fares were so high that I had practically nothing left. After only one month of training I was directed to a mine at Blyth as a qualified miner. I refused to go, and went home. I was prosecuted for disobeying a National Service Order, but when I told the magistrate how little training I had had he refused to convict me, and adjourned the case sine die. The labour exchange refused to give me a green card in order to force me back to the pits, as without a green card I could not get employment. But I hated the pit, anyway, and I thought it was unfair to force me in that way after the magistrate had refused to convict me. So I started to drift about in billiard saloons, and I began to get into bad company generally and to drink a lot.

‘Drink has certainly got me into a lot of trouble. One day I went into a hotel in the Strand with a lot of American soldiers and I did a lot of drinking with them in a room on the first floor. About dinnertime I left them, and just inside a bedroom near their room I saw a very conspicuous white suitcase. I just picked it up and walked out of the hotel with it. I went home and had a rest, and in the evening I went back to the hotel to have more drinks with the Americans. The hall porter of the hotel recognised me at once, as he had seen me carry the suitcase out, and I was arrested straight away. The police found the suitcase at home in my bedroom. I had not even opened it. For this I got Borstal. I was just nineteen at the time.

‘I was sent to a Borstal where the governor, Mr. Q,., was one of the best men I ever met in my life. But the Borstal itself was a rotten place. There were a few decent chaps there who wanted to learn

trades and to pull themselves together. But there were very few of them, and the place was run by gangs and mobs. I got sick of having my meals with chaps whose only conversation was bashing, and picking locks, and dirt. If you get looked on by these chaps as pi or soft, they gave you hell. I wasn’t brave enough to stand up to those chaps. I was frightened of them, and all I wanted was to get away. I decided to work my ticket. There was a chap there in the hospital. I was told he was going to be sent away as he was balmy. So I decided to pretend to be insane, too. I studied all his antics and I added some more of my own. He got sent to Feltham, and some time later I was sent there, too. I found it was quite easy to fool the doctor, and I was afraid of being punished if I was found out to have pretended to be mad, so I went on doing it. Then I was certified as a lunatic and sent to an asylum. I stayed there five months, but the doctors there found no trace of insanity. In May 1945 I escaped and went to live with a friend of my own age in London. After a fortnight with him I went home, and my parents kept me because I had no job and could not possibly get one. I lived with them for four months.

‘Then, in October 1945, I was charged at Clerkenwell with stealing from the person. There was a terrific amount of talk as to what could be done with me, as nobody seemed to know if I was legally a lunatic or not. After a remand to prison I was returned to the asylum I had run away from, but the superintendent told me he wouldn’t have me as I was perfectly sane, and he would tell the Home Office so. In the end I was sent back to my Borstal, and I was discharged in August 1946.’

He was scarcely out of Borstal when he was back in prison, this time with a sentence of eighteen months for burglary. The details of this were set out in a newspaper cutting with his papers. He stole £200 worth of jewellery from a house while he was very drunk, and within twenty-four hours was arrested with everything lie had stolen while he was sleeping it off.

Released in September 1947, he got employment at £5 a week with a famous firm of opticians in London, settled down to work so well with them that they offered to keep his job open for him when he broke his arm in a taxi accident about Christmas. Unhappily, he once more got drunk in a country hotel where he went to convalesce, and stole a suitcase. With this he went to London, sold the suitcase and its contents for £30, and was arrested ten days later. He was half-way through a two years’ sentence for this offence when I saw him for the first time.

I found this boy of great interest. He was extremely despondent about his future and rather bitter in his outlook. Probably because of all this, he had given a good deal of trouble in the prison and

had violent outbursts of temper. He had twice smashed up his cell and threatened violence. The medical officer reported that there was no evidence of mental disease, but that he was a psychopathic personality given to hysterical attacks. He had broken entirely from his father and mother, though he had done this not from indifference or malice but from shame and remorse. As a result, however, he had had no correspondence with them since he had been in prison. He had written to one of his brothers, but he had had no reply. He had the feeling that he had no friends inside prison or out, and that when he came to be released lie would certainly be rc-convictcd within a few weeks, as had happened after each of his last three sentences.

On the other hand, there was much that could be said in his favour. There were none of the signs of callous professional crime. He seemed unusually truthful, and he had worked really well at times in the past. Offences committed while a man is drunk are not true indications of character, and, finally, no one could have deceived so completely the medical officers as he had done—as to which there was full confirmation—without a good deal of ingenuity, perseverance, and a sense of humour.

The Roman Catholic chaplain gave him some sound advice on the subject of taking the pledge,1 and I saw him again more than once. This letter to me indicates, I think without unlruthfulness or hypocrisy, his changed outlook.

‘I have received permission from the governor to write to you and I sincerely hope I am not being too forward in taking the liberty. My sentence is drawing to a close and I know to find a situation for me is difficult in view of my record. In fairness to you I must say I have no one but myself to blame for my string of convictions. I have been given a lot of help by different people and I have let them down one and all. I have made up my mind not to come back to this life. I say this not because I have become possessed of a halo or I am a “goody goody”, but because I have realised that the life I have been living is utterly futile. It is a ridiculous waste of youth and all that goes with it. I am really looking forward to the day of my release when I can walk through prison walls for the last time and really do my utmost to live down the past. I had not got very much hope of being able to start afresh before you took an interest in my welfare. I am very much surprised that so much is being done for me. I have regained my faith in human nature and lost feelings of bitterness. This chance

‘This boy attended church regularly in prison until within four months of his discharge, when he gave up religious observance.


means everything to me. I shall not treat it lightly. I can and will make good. If I cannot get into the Royal Navy, and I do not suppose I can with my record, I will like work as a waiter. However, I will not be shy of work in any form. The first job is the hardest to obtain and it is the most vital on leaving prison. I can only say “Thank you” for giving me hope of a brighter future.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘Harry Morrison.’

He was found employment in an hotel, where the manager alone was given full information as to his past. Nothing could have been kinder than his welcome by this most charitable man to his new job, and he was further helped by the National Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society, which gave him an outfit of clothes necessary for his work as a waiter and a week’s wages in his pocket.

A few days after he started work at the hotel the manager wrote to me. He was taking a personal interest in Morrison and, as a start, gave him a few days’ holiday in which to go and visit his father, who was in hospital. On his return, the manager put him under the tuition of an experienced waiter, telling the boy himself that, so long as he did his best to learn his work and behaved honestly, every excuse would be made for his inexperience, and that if he so wished himself there was honest and well-paid employment before him in that hotel for all his life. After the sane and balanced letter which Morrison had written me no more than three weeks before I was entirely happy about him. With such a chance to go straight I thought his future was assured. But I was wrong. After one week’s work he had some quarrel with a fellow employee at the hotel and ran away. He had my address and I had told him to write to me if he were in trouble. But that is several months ago and I have heard nothing.


He ran away from the hotel in the first week of September 1949. I have heard nothing from him and he had not been again convicted by the end of January 1950.

Labourer b. 29.1.29 C. of E. age 20

20.8.40 Stealing cycle    Bound over own recog. £2

12 months

26.10.43 Stealing cycle-lamp    Approved school

(3 cases T.I.C.)

26.10.43    Sent to remand home

27.10.43    Absconded

29.10.43    Arrested and return to remand home

30.10.43    Absconded

4.11.43 Store-breaking and larceny Adjourned for committal to

approved school

Persistent abscondings from approved school

26.1.45    Burglary and larceny; steal- Committed while abscond

ing bicycle; garage-break- ing ing and larceny

Returned to approved school

Persistent abscondings

31.12.45 House-breaking and larceny Committed while abscond-(17 cases T.I.C.)    ing

3 years’ Borstal

18.7.46    Absconded from Rochester Borstal Institution

20.7.46    Arrested

29.8.46    House-breaking and stealing Committed while abscond-

clothing; burglary and ing

stealing money (5 cases

T.I.C.)    Returned to Borstal

20.10.46 Escaped from Borstal

29.11.46 Burglary (3 eases) (19 cases Committed while on the T.I.C.)    run

Returned to Borstal

23.4.47    Escaped from Borstal

27.4.47    Arrested

5.47 House-breaking (2 cases) Committed on run; 18

months’ imprisonment

5.11.48    Discharged from prison

23.1.49    Arrested for housebreaking

According to a lengthy probation officer’s report this boy was the son of very respectable working-class people, and was the youngest of three children, the two elder being girls, both of whom are well married. His mother died in 1940 when he was eleven, and his father in 1943 when he was fourteen. On his father’s death he went to live with one of his sisters, who was already married, her husband being a serving soldier. He went to school in a small country town until he was fourteen, but his school record and intelligence were very poor. He was scarcely literate when I saw him in prison. On leaving school he got a job in an aircraft factory. After six weeks he was discharged as unsatisfactory. Shortly afterwards, and before he got any employment, he got into trouble for stealing bicycle-lamps. These he took off bicycles in the streets or in parking places or outside cinemas, and sold. Sent to Boxmoor Remand Home until a place could be found in an approved school, he absconded with another boy next night. His own story was that the other boy was older than himself, and taught him during their two days and nights of freedom how to break into houses and to steal. However much or little truth there may be in this explanation, this was in fact the first of an endless series of thefts and of abscondings from approved schools and from Borstals. His official police report recorded over twenty such escapes, and he himself admitted to me that it was his custom to break into houses and shops whenever he was ‘on the run’. Indeed, he was forced to commit a certain number of such offences in order to get money and clothes. As a result of these continuous escapes and subsequent thefts he established two pitiful records. In the first place, from the date of his first committal in October 1943, at the age of fourteen, to 5th November 1948, when he was almost twenty, he was never a wholly free person. During the whole formative period from boyhood to early manhood, therefore, without so much as a day’s intermission, he was either confined in some form of correctional or penal institution or on the run from the police as an absconder. This unenviable record must, I imagine, be unique. In the second place, by the time of his twentieth birthday, he had committed the appalling total of fifty-nine indictable offences.

To understand the boy and his character we must examine his whole story in detail. For his first offence of stealing a bicycle at the age of eleven lie was put on probation for a year. The probation officer’s report described his home as a thoroughly good one. To some extent he responded to what the probation officer tried to do for him, and he told me he knew that the officer wanted to help him in every way.

He was unable to remember very much about his first job at an aircraft factory. All he could tell me was that ‘he didn’t seem to get on and the foreman had no patience with him’. I think his dullness, and probably laziness as well, is sufficient explanation of his discharge from the factory after a few weeks. With his father recently dead, he had no one to see that he got other employment at once, and he drifted into a habit of stealing the lamps from bicycles. The scandalous thing is that he found no difficulty in finding people to buy what they must have known to be stolen property. As the inevitable result, he was caught and sent to an approved school on his admission that he had stolen lamps repeatedly. As a first step he was sent to a remand home while a place was found for him in a school. The day after his arrival he ran away with another boy and they broke into a house to get food and cash. They were caught two days later and returned to the home; but the next day they ran away again, once again committing thefts in houses they came to in search of clothes and food.

As before, they were caught and sent back to the remand home. His first school was the Gotswold School at Ashton Keynes, and to me in prison he spoke of it with an affection that seemed very genuine.

‘That was a real good school. You couldn’t get a better. You got a real schooling there and the headmaster did all he could for me. I was a proper fool to run away from that place. I ran away six times from there altogether. I wish now, of course, I hadn’t. I don’t really know why I did. I didn’t seem able to settle. I tried to settle down because I liked the headmaster, but somehow I couldn’t. I was in the lowest class all the time I was there. I suppose it was a sort of adventure to run away. Anyway, I did, and I suffered for it, as I got sent to another school which was a horrible place. It was all my fault, I suppose.’

I he headmaster of the Cotswold School remembers him well, and describes him as ‘a pathetic, lonely soul, weak, and of very low intelligence. He would try desperately hard to settle down after he was brought back from absconding, and then succumb to temptation and abscond again, apparently for no reason’.

After half a dozen escapes from the Cotswold School he was sent to a school for rather older boys and of a more rigid discipline at Nilwere. This school he frankly hated, and those in charge of it formed an equally low opinion of him. A report on him by the school authorities describes him as ‘wholly unco-operative and without stability; very deep and anti-social’. As might have been expected, he ran away repeatedly, sometimes alone, sometimes with other boys. Always, for the obvious reason that they were without money and were unable to get work by which to earn money, they were forced to steal, and this they did, breaking into houses and stealing whatever they could pick up, until they were themselves picked up by the police. In all he ran away eight times from this second school, committing larcenies of one sort or another until his recapture. Some two years after his first committal to the Cotswold School a court of quarter sessions sent him to a Borstal institution for house-breaking committed while he was on the run from his second school at Nilwere, no less than seventeen similar offences being taken into consideration.

If one looks no further than at his list of crimes, it is beyond question that at this period Nicholls must have appeared a persistent and irreclaimable young ruffian. Four years later, during my several talks with him, it was apparent that, even then, the many offences which he committed during his escapes appeared to be the merest trifles in his eyes. In the most casual manner he told me that on one occasion in four consecutive days he had broken into ‘at least twenty houses’. The idea that his conduct was



very wicked, or that what he did was a great wrong against honest people who had done him no harm, never entered his head. All he felt was a tremendous urge for freedom and the liberty to be able to roam at will without the irksome restrictions and discipline of a school. To make this possible he needed money and clothes and food, and these he could get only by stealing, and that single fact was, in his eyes, sufficient explanation and justification for all he did.

It is, of course, perfectly easy, and indeed obvious, to dismiss all this as fanciful and absurd, and to declare that, as boys cannot be allowed to wander and steal at will, the only possible course was for a long succession of juvenile courts, and finally for a court of quarter sessions, to treat him precisely as he was treated. It may, however, be permissible to point out that this conventional treatment was in fact conspicuously unsuccessful, and that as a result of it—or, at all events, after it—Nicholls remained entirely unreformed and undeterred, the persistent thief he was at the beginning. For myself, I find it hard to believe that there was any wisdom at all in sending him back over and over again to approved schools for thefts committed while he was running away. There is the common argument that to treat an absconder with peculiar consideration is merely to put a premium on running away. The sufficient answer is that a court has to make up its mind what it most wishes to do: does it wish quite simply to deal out so much punishment for so much wrongdoing, or docs it wish to save the soul of an unhappy and misguided boy? I do not suggest that any particular maladjustment is indicated merely by the fact that a boy absconds from a school once, or even more than once. To run away from unfamiliar or frightening surroundings is a perfectly natural action. Many boys abscond, and are returned to their schools to settle down and do well. But this boy was surely abnormal. He ran away twice in as many days from his remand home, and six times from an approved school where everyone was kind to him. He followed up this sequence by absconding eight times from his second school. Surely it is not absurd to suggest that at some time over this period of years it might possibly have occurred to some court that the boy was unfitted for institutional treatment, and was unable to benefit from it. It was certainly unimaginative and unoriginal merely to repeat the same treatment of sending him back to an approved school fourteen times in succession when, to the meanest magisterial intelligence, it might have been clear that


the resultant school training was doing him no good. Other methods might at least have been tried. It is perfectly true that they might have failed. But what would one think of a doctor who, when one medicine had failed fourteen times to cure a patient, refused to change it and to try another on the ground that perhaps that, too, might be unsuccessful? An obvious course would have been to remand this boy for an expert medical opinion. He might have been put under the supervision of a probation officer, perhaps with a condition of residence in a hostel. An effort might possibly have been made to get him to sea.

I have laboured deliberately the question of this boy’s treatment not only because I believe it to have been in his case a factor of the greatest importance, but because the peculiarly unintelligent repetitive treatment which he received illustrates, if further illustration be needed, the general need for more skill and study of the art of punishment by all criminal courts. It is impossible to say with certainty that alternative treatment would have been successful. Moreover, a bench in dealing with an absconder from an approved school would have needed the co-operation of the Home Office if the justices had wished, for example, to send the boy to a probation hostel. But I have no doubt that justices who approach the Home Office in such a case as this with any reasonable plan would be received with sympathy and consideration. The Home Office can have no desire to keep in one of its schools, if any alternative is available, a boy who gives a great deal of trouble and gets no benefit from his training. I have seen in prison many men for whom the chances of reformation now hardly exist, and study of their records has convinced me that unskilled and unsuitable sentences in their early careers, either of excessive severity or of absurd laxity, have largely contributed to make them what they are. I believe, therefore, that a higher degree of skill in the assessment of punishment is required in our criminal courts than is now always available. This is a matter to which I return,1 but the history of the lad Nicholls is so clear an illustration of my principle, so far as juvenile courts are concerned, that I have elaborated it here. As will be seen, Nicholls’s incapacity to settle in an institution continued after his transfer to Borstal and prison, but, normally, it is practicable to suggest such an exceptional course as the cancellation of a sentence already passed upon

1 Infra, p. 295.

an offender only while he is young enough to come within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts.1

Nicholls arrived at Rochester Borstal institution in January 1946. He detested the discipline and trainingof a Borstal and said so frankly.

‘I didn’t like that place. I never intended to stay there. They always seemed to have it in for me. They were always watching you. I couldn’t get on with the Borstal chaps or with the officers either.’

While he was there he was examined with a view to military service, but he was put in so low a category that he was unlikely to be called up. During his time at Rochester he absconded three times, in July 1946, October 1946, and April 1947. On two of these occasions he was recaptured in a couple of days, and on the other he was free for only a couple of weeks before being returned to Rochester. Yet in those short periods of freedom he committed an aggregate of some thirty burglaries and house-breakings. He had, he told me, no regular contacts with any receivers and no organised means of disposing of what he stole, and he therefore confined himself to taking money, food, and such small goods as those for which he could readily find a buyer at a fraction of their real value.

In May 1947 he appeared at sessions for trial for house-breaking as an absconder, and received a sentence of eighteen months’ imprisonment. He was sent temporarily to Wormwood Scrubs prison to wait allocation to a prison in which to serve his sentence. While there he organised and led a mass escape of six Borstal boys. For this, after his recapture, he was punished by the prison visiting justices by the loss of the six months’ remission of sentence which he might otherwise have earned for good conduct during his sentence. The result was that whereas other prisoners in the local prison to which he was sent who had received sentences of eighteen months were released after twelve months, he was faced with the prospect of having to serve the whole eighteen months. The possibility of earning a remission of one third of his sentence is the most obvious incentive to a prisoner to good behaviour. Similarly, the loss of all remission inflicted as a punishment before his sentence is properly begun destroys all incentive, and I am of opinion that it is a great mistake to inflict such a punishment on any prisoner in the very early days of a substantial sentence. If Nicholls had 1 But see the case at p. 296.

been punished by the loss of three out of six months’ possible remission he would still have been left with some incentive to behave well. As it was, he had none, and he gave the prison authorities a good deal of trouble through laziness and complete lack of response to all efforts to help him. It was here in his local prison that I first became acquainted with him when he was brought to me for punishment for some prison offence. He had at this time four months of his time still to serve. He was then nineteen and a half years of age, a stocky, sullen boy, who refused at first to say anything except that he admitted having committed the offence charged against him and that he had nothing to add. A little later he softened sufficiently to tell me that he saw no purpose in good behaviour in prison since, however well he might behave, he could get out of prison no sooner, as he had already lost the whole of his remission. It was clear enough that I had to deal with a young man in a mood of utter hopelessness, and from a man without hope not much can be hoped for. I asked him if he agreed that I was forced to give him some sort of punishment for his recent prison offence, since, if I let him off altogether, prison discipline might suffer. He replied that he quite understood that he must be punished because ‘other chaps might play up and do what he had done if they thought they could get away with it’. Upon this, I gave him a nominal punishment, and told him that if he would give me his promise to try and behave better I in return would ask the prison commissioners, if he kept his promise, to restore some part of the six months’ remission he had lost. He thanked me with very obvious sincerity, and left the room saying that he would try as he had never tried before. He was indeed a model prisoner for some weeks, as the prison governor told me. Then he was moved to a larger prison and his conduct was not maintained at this high level, although it was sufficiently an improvement on what it had been for the prison commissioners to feel able to restore to him three weeks of his lost remission as a recognition of his effort. He was discharged from prison in November 1948.

At the date of his discharge Nicholls was only two months short of twenty years of age. It was just over five years since he had entered the remand home, and in all that time he had never had a day’s ordinary home life. He now went to live with his married sister in Oxfordshire. Her husband, an ex-sergeant of police, accepted him into his home and, as Nicholls himself told me, was


very good to him. He obtained work as a builder’s labourer at £5 a week, and he added with pride that he never missed a day’s work and was doing well.

‘The builder thought a lot of me,’ he said to me with much feeling. ‘I was ever so happy. I liked the job, too. I gave my sister £2 a week for my keep. I spent money buying clothes for myself, as I had got hardly any, and I put a bit every week in the Savings Bank.’

Most unfortunately, this happy arrangement came to an end after two months through a quarrel with his sister which he admitted was wholly his own fault.

‘My sister had two girls. She thinks the world of them two. One day I lost my temper about something and I swore. My sister wouldn’t stand for me swearing in front of them and she told me that language like that might be all right in prison but it wouldn’t do in her house. Like a fool I walked out of the house and said I wouldn’t come back. I went to the builder’s and drew some money that was due to me, and I paid my sister all I owed her. I didn’t really want to go away, and I went to a factory and got myself a job to start next day at 2s. 6d. an hour. But that night I was still all upset about this row with my sister and I couldn’t face her. Instead of going to work next day I set off on the road again that night. I broke into the first house I came to and I stole 255. and a couple of bikes. I rode one and sold the other. The police picked me up two days later. They got back both the bikes so all I had was the 255.’

He was now remanded by the bench in custody to await trial, and here I had my next meeting with him. Two long talks gave me his history, but did not bring me enlightenment as to what I could do to help him. He was in the deepest depression as to his future and about the sentence he would receive at the forthcoming sessions. He realised clearly enough that with his record of crime he was in danger of a long sentence. On the other hand, he was full of self-pity and quite unable to see that there was any other side to the question. He told me repeatedly that he had never had a chance to lead an honest life as he had always been shut up in one place or another. He harped back continuously to the fact that his last house-breaking had gained him only a few shillings. Apparently he quite sincerely believed that the court ought to consider nothing but the trivial nature of his last offence. Over and over again he repeated that but for the quarrel with his sister he would never have committed it. He begged me to try and get him back to that building job which he had so foolishly abandoned.

‘If I can get that job back I will not lose it again. The foreman would take me back, I know. He thought a lot of me.’

After two interviews with Nicholls I said nothing to him which might raise his hopes of a light sentence. On the contrary, I warned him that in view of his many previous convictions, and the short time which elapsed between his release from prison and his last offence, he might receive a heavy sentence. But I was myself in no doubt that such a sentence would be the worst thing for him. I formed the view that he was incapable of being trained for any skilled trade, and that his mental condition was abnormal owing to the state of tension and difficulty in which he had lived for so long. He had had sufficient punishment and would not respond to any more. Under such circumstances I thought the only alternatives would be cither to give him a very long preventive sentence for the purpose of safeguarding the public, or to give him a wholly new start. The disadvantage of the former alternative would be that he would be a troublesome nuisance for his time in prison, and even more hopeless to deal with when he came to be released in three or four years’ time. On the other hand, he had made some effort at least to respond whenever he had experienced kindness, from the probation officer and the headmaster of his approved school in the past, and more recently from myself in prison. Moreover, he had just tasted the happiness of family life and was desperately anxious to get back to it. Environment and the influence of a respectable home might well succeed where everything else would fail.

I offered to appear as a witness at his trial in order to urge that lie should be placed on probation and allowed to return to his sister. Unfortunately I was prevented by illness from doing this, and counsel was briefed on his behalf. The court, however, took the view that his past record gave no ground for hoping that probation would reform him, that he had thrown away his chances in the past; and that if a prisoner with such a list of convictions were to be put on probation no prisoner ought to go to prison at all. He received therefore a sentence of three years’ imprisonment. I was afterwards informed by one of the justices present that they were rather confirmed in the view that this decision was right by his rather impudent demeanour and speech when he was sentenced.

I recognise at once that to have put Nicholls on probation would have been to adopt a difficult and unusual course. But the


essence of my plea for reform in our existing system of imposing sentences is that the sentencing authority should be so skilled, experienced, and informed that it would not be afraid to do what is difficult and unusual. The case illustrates so clearly the limitations of our present system that it is worth discussion in detail.

It goes without saying that the justices in their decision wished only to do what was right. But in my view they were not sufficiently experienced or informed to arrive at a wise decision. Severity of punishment is essential in appropriate cases. The community must be protected. So much is true. There is therefore a place for the long sentence even when an offender is, like Nicholls, of poor intelligence or has had other handicaps and disadvantages. The justification lies in the probability that the offender will resume his criminal actions if he is given an opportunity to do so, but I do not think the justices had sufficient grounds for making this assumption in Nicholls’s case. With the single exception of the theft for which he was before the court, his long list of previous convictions were for offences committed for the purpose of getting food, clothes, and lodgings while he was a fugitive from the police. It was illogical to decide that because he stole when the only alternative to stealing was to give himself up as an absconder he would steal from the secure environment of his sister’s home, and guided, as he would be, by the advice of a probation officer. The theft for which he was before the justices was committed not from wickedness, or as a means of obtaining easy money, but as the result of a quarrel with his sister in circumstances which would probably not occur again. It is entirely wrong to argue, as this court did, that if Nicholls were treated with leniency no other prisoner could be sent to prison. The very first principle of penology is that a court should sentence the offender rather than the offence, and that each case should be treated on its merits and not by rule of thumb. It would be hard to find any other offender with the same pitiful boyhood and youth as Nicholls. To be guided by such considerations as I advance here on this lad’s behalf would not have been weakness or sentimentality but common sense, since it is precisely those circumstances which determine the probability of further crime, which, as I have said, is the all important consideration. Finally, the silly show of bravado after sentence was proof not of any sagacity on the part of the justices but of emotional disturbance of a distressed and frightened boy.


So far as one can be sure of anything, I am sure that at the time of his trial Nicholls was determined to make a real effort to go straight if he had the chance to do so given to him. I was equally sure that a long sentence after his brief glimpse of freedom would embitter his mind. He was mentally incapable of taking any but the narrowest and most immediate view. He did indeed say continuously after his sentence that his offence was trivial, since he had taken ‘only a couple of bikes and they got them back again’, and that his sentence was therefore unjust. On his return to prison after sentence his conduct greatly deteriorated, and he became continuously troublesome. Two months after beginning his sentence he committed a minor assault upon a prison officer, and the next day smashed up the furniture of his cell and made a serious attack with the leg of a table upon another prison officer who nearly lost the sight of an eye; for this assault he was ordered twelve strokes of the birch.

Physically Nicholls is sturdy and strong, though below the average in height. He is not attractive in manner or appearance. Mentally he has below average intelligence, although the prison medical officer described him as being ‘of fair intelligence with no sign of psychosis, though a psychopathic personality’. A special report by a psychiatrist put his intelligence as below the average, though it is stated he was certainly not even a borderline mental defective. It added that psychiatric treatment would be valueless to him. Nicholls himself said to the prison doctor that he had been hit on the head with a brick at the age of eleven, and he attributed his criminal career to this, but he did not mention this to me, and the doctors apparently thought nothing of it.

At his trial, the justices were rather shocked by him, and it is my opinion that their aversion from his bad record unduly influenced their decision as to his treatment. But a wise judge docs not allow himself to be moved by anger or prejudice; he is moved only by reason; he weighs all the circumstances, and selects such a sentence as will secure the most useful end. It is a pity that among the justices there was not some classical scholar familiar with the wisdom of Claudian:

Dis proximus ille

Quern ratio non ira movet: qui facta rependens Consilio punire potest.

b. 1921 R.C. age 27

He was one of eleven children, six older and four younger than himself. Of this large family only four besides himself arc now alive. His father was invalided from the army during the first world war with tuberculosis, of which eventually he died when Orton was twenty-three, and all his brothers and sisters have died of the same disease. One sister died only a fortnight before my first interview with him. His mother died in childbirth when he was six years old. He himself is strong and healthy, and, according to his prison medical report, has no trace at all of lung trouble.

His family have always lived in the same London suburb, in which his surviving brother and sisters still live. Only one of the family besides himself has ever been in trouble with the police: in that case his surviving brother, a printer by trade, was convicted of receiving goods stolen by this man. For that, his brother served a three months’ sentence. He has never since offended.

Orton was educated at a Roman Catholic school near his home, leaving at the age of fourteen. His mother was, he thinks, a practising Catholic, though he himself was too young at the time of her death to remember. He believes his father went with her to church, but when she died he was too overwhelmed with anxieties and burdens to have time to go. His children were sick one after another; he himself was far from strong, and besides a war pension of 24s, a week had only such small income as he was able to earn as a jobbing gardener; and he had the care of his infant children with no one to give him very much help.

Orton’s own story pictures a wretched home.

‘Looking back, I can see now how hard father tried to look after us. Both my sisters, who were of the age to look after us, were sick, and did nothing much really to help him. He cooked and did everything for us, washed our clothes and all. It all got too much for him, and I don’t wonder. He only had his pension and what he earned, and that


got less and less. He got embittered and took to drink. I don’t think he did that till I was about eight, two years or so after mother’s death. Then he became a complete drunkard. I can’t say I blame him now I know what his life was like. Anyhow, he then got so that he couldn’t earn anything, and I think the nuns gave us clothes. Father was a good man, I think, though he did drink. It was really impossible for him without a woman to help, especially as he was often ill. Of course, he did not look after us children much. He hadn’t got the time. None of us ever went to church or Sunday-school or anything like that. As a matter of fact my clothes were so ragged and dirty I wouldn’t have gone, anyway. I generally had boots that were so old they were falling apart. So long as I was at school the teachers used to try and get me to go to church from time to time. But after I left school no one worried about it, and I haven’t been inside a church, or thought about it, from that day to this. I said I was R.C. when I came into prison, but I might just as well have said anything else. I have never seen the R.C. priest in prison. My father was sixty-three when he died. I haven’t any hard thoughts about him. Far from it. I was in Wandsworth when he was dying and they let me out of prison to go and see him in hospital. One of my brothers was in the same hospital at the same time, and he died about ten days after my father. They both died of tuberculosis.’

When he left school, Orton joined a boxing club for a few months, but he did not care very much for it, and that was the only club association which he ever knew. As he said himself, his father was really unable to give any of his children either a toy or pocket money—he simply had not got it available; but occasionally the boy earned a few pence by doing errands for neighbours. His educational standard is poor. While he was at school he found the work difficult and he did not reach the top class. He can today read and write and he knows his tables, but he cannot calculate, and has a very poor general knowledge. The medical officer described him as definitely backward and having a moderate degree of mental deficiency.

Never having had any money, he says that even after leaving school he was perfectly happy without it. His first job was filling carboys with acid for a firm which made fire extinguishers. He gave the whole of his 14s. wages to his father, who sometimes returned him a few pence for pocket money. His father owned some homing pigeons and his pleasures were to care for these birds and to bicycle over a neighbouring heath. With these hobbies, and swimming in the summer months, he told me he was perfectly contented. He realises now how rough and poor his home conditions were, but, never having known anything different, his home life was very happy.

When he was fifteen he left his job for another one with higher wages, and he still lived with his father.

At seventeen he began to earn what in those days were very high wages. He became tea boy in the canteen of a large firm of local builders. It was a blind-alley occupation, but he got all his own food in the canteen free and ¿Oi. wages. This enabled him to give his father 40^. and to have ioj. for himself, and he said the home was, as a consequence, very much better cared for. There was, however, no money to spare, as there were brothers and sisters younger than himself to be clothed, and his father was by now too ill even to try to earn anything as a jobbing gardener beyond his pension.

When he was eighteen he got a somewhat similar job with another firm as canteen boy. Here his work was hard and the hours very long. He was responsible for the service of canteen meals and for the preparation of a good part of them. On the other hand, if he did, as he said, work enough for two boys he received also the wages of two. From the firm he got his meals and 505. as he had done before, but each of the ninety men using the canteen gave him a shilling a week in addition. He continued to give his father £2 a week for the expenses of the home, and he was able, in addition, to fit out his brothers and sisters with clothes and boots. One year in this job, he said, enabled him to make the home a different place. At the end of that time the firm finished its contract and his job came to an end.

About this time his elder sisters and brothers had all left his father’s house; two sisters were in a sanatorium, and some nuns took his younger sisters, who were beginning to run wild, into a home. He and one brother continued to live with his father. He had got work at a ladder-maker’s after leaving the builder; it was unskilled, but the hours were long and he got £4 a w'eek. This lasted about a year.

He was now nineteen. He had not even the elements of any trade, but he was strong and healthy and he drifted into another unskilled job in a neighbouring gravel pit. It was hard work and not well paid, and he took it mainly in order to be near a friend of his who was employed there. But after a few months they gave it up, and Orton said that for the first time in his life he found it hard


to get a job. Although they had no work, they still needed money, and his friend told Orton that he was owed some money by a man living in lodgings nearby who made a great deal of difficulty about paying his debt. Accordingly, they ransacked his room one evening when he was out and took what cash they could find, rather less than the amount of the debt. They had, however, been seen coming out of the man’s house, and Orton, at the age of nineteen, was convicted for the first time of theft and put on probation for twelve months. The story of the debt was, I think, mainly mythical.

Probation was for him a complete failure, because he failed to understand even its meaning and purpose. He could remember nothing at all about it. Presumably he saw the probation officer, but he could remember not even that. In his eyes he had merely ‘got off’. Certainly the period of probation did him no good.

He got a series of casual jobs. In none of them did he take the least interest, or stay more than a month or two. Then he was called up for military service. The army seems to have made very little impression on him: he neither liked nor disliked it. After eightmonthshewas discharged-—his character being marked ‘Good ’ —on the grounds of being unlikely to fulfil service requirements.

He was now twenty years of age, and for two years he occupied himself happily, honestly, and profitably by selling fruit trees. It is true, as he was the first to agree, that he did not know anything at all about what he sold. But he told me that he had a friend who on some ground a few miles away grew fruit trees which he sold very cheap to Orton and which Orton then resold for as much as he could get from a barrow in the better residential quarter of the suburb in which he lived. Indeed, so profitable did he find the sale of fruit trees during some six months of the year that for the remainder he needed to do no more than a little light work by selling cut flowers from his barrow'. After two years, however, trouble came in the form of a conviction for obtaining money by fraud. This conviction he declared to be entirely unjust. If he told me the truth, it certainly was. He admitted so many offences to me that there would seem to me to be no point at all in claiming that he was innocent in this case if it were not true. For my own part I fully believe his story. Let him tell it in his own words:

‘I met the chap that grew these trees in a pub. He asked me if I was doing anything and I said no. Then he said he grew these fruit trees and that it did not cost him much to grow them and so he could


sell them to me cheap, and I could make a good thing out of it because I could charge what I liked, and people would buy them if I took the trees actually to their gardens and gave them a bit of a choice. So I got a barrow and I soon paid for it because I charged two or three times what I had to pay the chap who grew them. There was a nurseryman had a shop near there and he sold these sort of trees, so I used to see what he charged, and I used to ask a bit less than he did. But that was a lot more than I paid. The chap whom I got them from told me they were fruit trees—apples and pears and things like that —and I told people they were fruit trees. I sold them for two years without any complaint, and if they had not been fruit trees someone would have come along grousing long before that. One day in 1942 I was selling some trees and a policeman asked me what I had there, and I said fruit trees. He took me and my barrow to the police station. They got a man along to the station who said they were not fruit trees but briars. He was the nurseryman I told you about whose prices I used to look at. He gave evidence when I got into court. It was very unfair to have him as a witness against me, because I used to sell my trees in the district he lived in, and I cut his business, and he always hated me. I got three months for that, and it was gross injustice. After I came out of prison I went and saw some of the people who had bought trees from me, and they said they had no complaints. The trees had blossoms on them so they must have been fruit trees. No one who had bought any trees from me ever made any complaint, and none of them gave evidence against me. The only witnesses who gave evidence were the policeman and the nurseryman, and I had nobody at all.’

This was clearly not a trial to which one can point as an example of satisfactory magisterial justice. The only point at issue, or at any rate which ought to have been at issue, was whether there was any fraudulent intent on the part of Orton. The mere fact that he sold the trees as fruit trees did not constitute a criminal offence, even if they were in fact briars, unless he knew they were briars and intended to cheat his customers. Neither the policeman nor the nurseryman could have known anything on this point, and they were the only witnesses. It was obvious that Orton himself did not know one tree from another, a pear from an apple, or an apple from a briar. Whether he had had briars palmed off upon him as fruit trees, or whether the nurseryman, who was clearly biased, gave false evidence, I cannot judge. But I am in no doubt he should not have been convicted and that he did not knowingly cheat his customers, if, in fact, they were ever cheated.

He left prison after serving this sentence in September 1942 and found himself work as a labourer in a large motor factory at 2s. an hour. After five months he was discharged, at the same time being prosecuted for obtaining the sum of 27s. by false pretences.

The facts were not in dispute. On three occasions Orton clocked in for the afternoon shift, worked for only a short time before going home, but drew the full pay of gs. for the afternoon at the end of the week.

His explanation was that he had felt unwell and had gone home for that reason, while in his opinion the matter was too trifling to require explanation to the foreman when pay time came on Friday. However, when I pressed him, he admitted that he knew what he did was wrong and that he was cheating his employers. He explained, however, that a great deal of such cheating goes on at all big works, and that it is scarcely looked upon as morally wrong by a considerable proportion of the workmen, since, even if it is a form of theft, it is thieving only from the firm, and to steal a few shillings from a firm which doubtless has plenty of money is scarcely worth thinking about. For this offence he was fined £20, which his brother paid for him.

Eight months later, in October 1943, he was in far more serious trouble. At this time he was without any regular work, doing a little casual labour from time to time, but mainly occupied in drifting about with a gang of thoroughly vicious young men. Although he had no work, his needs were greater than ever before. His father and his brother were both ill, and there was no one but himself to care for them. Moreover, two years before, in the heyday of his prosperity as a dealer in fruit trees, he had set up an establishment with a girl by whom he had had two children, and he was anxious now to get out of rooms and to buy furniture with which to start a home. One evening in a public house one of the gang with which he went about told him of the licensee of a road house who kept a large store of money in the house, as he distrusted banks. Accordingly the two of them went to the road house that night about nine o’clock. After some drinks they pretended to leave the house, but in reality they hid themselves in the cellar. When the house closed for the night and the licensee had gone to bed, the two of them emerged from their hiding-place and began their search. In the wardrobe of a bedroom they found a canvas bag filled with Treasury notes. This they got safely home and they divided the contents, which amounted to the considerable sum of £1,157. He told me with much complacency that three weeks

later when the police came to his house and arrested him he had only £50 left. This was part of his actual haul, and the police took it. But he explained with considerable satisfaction that in the three weeks he had spent well over £500, none of which was ever recovered. It had gone in comforts for his father and brother, in presents for his sisters, in a gift of £100 to another brother to enable him to buy a business, in a complete outfit of furniture, and in some weeks of luxurious living.

The story of £1,157 in notes in a sack was too much for my credulity, and I told Orton that, although it was no doubt true that he stole that sum, I could not believe he stole it in quite that way. I was, however, quite wrong, and the story was true in every detail. I found it fully confirmed in a long newspaper account of his trial at the Old Bailey which was in his prison file. It appeared there also that the man with whom Orton had committed this crime had left behind him at the road house some articles of dress which led eventually to his arrest, and, to minimise his own responsibility, he divulged to the police that Orton had been with him. For this offence Orton got a sentence of two years from which he was discharged in February 1945.

On his release he found the woman with whom he had set up house living with another man. She secured against him an order for the support of her two children and this for some months he paid. She then married again, and he has now completely lost sight of her and her children.

To earn his living he bought a cheap motor van and sold such things as firewood, sacks, and plants. Soon, however, the motor of this van broke down, and he joined a friend who had an efficient lorry, and together they started to buy potatoes for sale to canteens and to fish-and-chip shops. They were doing well at this when he was stupidly involved with a number of others, on the spur of the moment, and partly under the influence of drink, in the theft of a box of goods standing at a railway station. For this he got a sentence of three months in February 1946.

When he rejoined his partner in April 1946 he found that there was a great dearth of potatoes which was the source of the main part of their income. Potatoes suitable for fish-and-chip shops were especially scarce, and, instead of a comfortable living, they found it hard to make any living at all, however hard they worked. None of their ordinary suppliers had any potatoes for them, and they


were wondering if they could get other work for the lorry when, at a railway station near London, they saw a number of railway trucks in a siding filled with potatoes. Accordingly, with a couple of friends to help them, the two men brought the lorry back to the station that evening after dark and loaded it up with potatoes from the trucks. On the return journey they were stopped by the police on the outskirts of London. Two of the men got away, but Orton and the owner of the lorry were caught, and received, at the local assizes in July 1946, sentences of three years’ penal servitude.

Released in August 1948, he got work for a builder and decorator as a painter. But, though this work was highly paid, he threw it up in a couple of weeks, as he said someone had recognised him who had seen him in the dock, and ‘people got talking’ about him as a man who had been in prison. He went back to the district where he had always lived, and got work at £5 a week for a firm of furniture removers.

Once more he can best tell his own story:

‘I suppose it was all my own fault. I was in a job and earning good money, and I certainly hadn’t any need to do any job like this. But one night in the pub when I had had a lot to drink and was excited a chap said he knew a place where there was a lot of money kept for wages by a firm. It was partly the drink, I suppose, but partly for the excitement and the adventure; anyway, I said I would go with him, and we went when we left the pub. He was a chap a bit younger than me and he’d been in trouble before. We got in through a window and found the room, in which there were three safes. We had got one open. There was £325 in it, and we were just starting on another when the police arrived. There was a nightwatchman, and he had heard the noise we made in opening the first safe, and he telephoned the police station.’

For this crime Orton got a sentence of five years and his companion one of four years. He had done some six months of his sentence when I saw him.

Clearly, this man will never make one of the ‘big shots’. Conceive the stupidity of a house-breaker who, on hearing in a public house that there are wages in the safe of a nearby factory, rushes straight to the place, without preparation, without proper tools, without even finding out ?f there were a nightwatchman on the premises, and, having smashed open one safe with a maximum of noise, does not take the cash and go, but starts upon another, so that the police can be called up. If it be said he was drunk, then no competent professional man goes to work except when he is sober.

But his offences arc frequent and serious enough to make him a public nuisance, and he shows every indication of becoming a persistent offender. How has he grown to be like this? Clearly it is not grinding poverty or need which has driven him to crime. He has stolen equally when in work and when out of work, when drunk and when sober.

His own explanation is that he has been ‘weak and silly’, and ‘chirped’ by the illness and death of so many of his family.

‘It hit me when they died. And I had a shock, too, at the way my wife behaved, going off with another chap. I always looked on her as my wife. Everything seemed to be against me. I got that way I didn’t care. It ail turned me to crime. Then I’ve not had much encouragement outside. When a man comes out of prison he needs a lot of help and a word of encouragement. I’ve only had people look sideways at me. Once you’ve been in trouble people turn against you. I’ve had people insult me by turning away from me and start whispering about me in bars and that.’

Absurd as all this may be, it is worth study, because if we do not get to know what a man feels and thinks we shall not know how best to approach him. We need, after all, to be able to reply to what really is in a man’s mind, not to what we think ought to be there.

I found it very hard to get Orton to begin to realise that it was impossible to expect society to tolerate a citizen who entirely disregarded the rights of other people, and could think of nothing beyond the needs of himself and his immediate family. ‘I just didn’t think that much about it,’ was as far as he could get in answer to a direct question from myself.

I found it impossible to get him to believe that there was anything much worse than a breach of technical rules in robbing cither corporate bodies or individuals whom he chose to call rich. His idea was that these thefts were from the ‘boss’, or from someone else who could well afford the loss, and he looked on his sentences for these offences as harshly unjust. His theft of potatoes, deliberate as it was, got him three years, and he said that ‘it was only from the railway’, as though that were a complete explanation. So, too, his theft of the £1,157 was carefully planned, and well deserved a sentence of two years. But he said this, too, was unjustly severe as the man from whom he stole the money ‘had plenty more’.

He told me that he was sick of prisons, and that he would like to go abroad where he could make a clean start. If he stayed in England he knew he would get into trouble again.

But I saw not the slightest sign of remorse, or of regret for the loss he had caused to others. He was apparently incapable of understanding that he had not given much sign that he wanted to live honestly, or that any such indication was needed.

The sole value of the type of sentence he is serving is that it is preventive; so long as this man is kept shut up he cannot commit robberies. To that extent it is necessary and useful. But it is teaching him nothing. In three years he will go out rather worse fitted to earn an honest living than he is now, and rather less inclined to make the effort to do so.

There is good in this man; his love for his family was unselfish and sincere. At intervals he has worked hard, and for considerable periods. But he has no roots save in bad soil. He has no moral principles to guide him. And he is desperately weak.

b. 1923 C. ofE. age 26

This man was selected by a prison governor as a man suitable for me to interview, and I had intended to see him. Unhappily, before I had done so he was brought before me as a visiting magistrate charged with the prison offence of ‘smashing up’. A month earlier he had been punished by another magistrate for committing this same offence, which consists of destroying the contents of a prisoner’s cell, furniture, mattress, bedding, clothing and crockery. On that occasion he had refused to say anything beyond ‘It’s no good saying anything’. When I saw him the evidence was clear that he had systematically destroyed everything in his cell and then set the contents on fire after jamming his cell door. After the officers had forced open the door he was very violent, and even after his removal to a separate cell his violence continued to be so extreme that it was necessary to restrain him for some hours in a form of body belt.

Porter admitted to me at once the truth of all that was charged against him, but it was only after considerable pressing that I got him to give me any explanation. He then said:

‘I don’t know why I do these things. Something comes over me and I have a complete blackout. I don’t know at all what I am doing after that. I would not have wanted to burn myself. I am quite all right in between these times.’ 11

found it impossible to believe that he gave this trouble in prison because he was genuinely unable to control his actions, and I awarded a normal punishment for ‘smashing up’. At the same time I advised him to behave himself better in future, and warned him that if he gave way to his temper and became violent towards officers in prison it would lead to serious trouble for himself.

In view of my having imposed this punishment upon Porter, I felt that it would be useless to expect trust and co-operation from him at an interview, and I therefore struck his name from my list of men to be seen for the purposes of this book.

I had intended to give this man no further thought, but, a month after this first appearance, he was charged again, this time before five justices of whom I was the chairman, with gross personal violence to a prison officer. The evidence was clear that in a workshop, before some fifty other men, he picked up a table and used it to smash all the panes of glass from a window. When an officer went to restrain him he swung the table in the air and knocked the officer down by a blow on the head which cut his scalp open. A second officer went to the assistance of the first and Porter kicked him so savagely in the groin that he was severely injured and had to be taken to hospital. Again on this occasion, as he had done before, Pot ter followed all the evidence carefully and intelligently. I explained to him that a great deal depended on our decision as to the degree of violence used, since the most severe punishment could be awarded only if it was proved to our satisfaction that the violence was ‘gross’. He was quite able to understand the distinction between ‘ordinary’ and ‘gross’ violence, and while he admitted striking the officer with the table he denied doing so, save possibly by accident, on the head. The kick in the groin he declared to have been wholly unintentional. In all this he showed no lack of intelligence. He explained his behaviour by saying, as he had done on the previous occasion, that he had had a brain storm and blackout.

The medical report described him as being a cheerful character, showing no evidence of anxiety or psychosis, but the doctor thought him to be a pyschopathic personality, and as such unlikely to be affected by treatment.

After considerable discussion, the five justices were unanimous in their opinion. They believed that the man was perfectly capable of controlling himself if he wished to do so, and that his story of his

blackouts was a mere attempt to evade punishment. The attack was wholly unprovoked, and two officers had been injured, one seriously, in front of other prisoners. Porter had given a great deal of trouble in prison, and had been undeterred by such forms of punishment as had already been imposed on him. For this present offence he was therefore ordered to be birched. This sentence was confirmed by the Secretary of State and carried out.

This award made it even more obviously impossible for me to expect any co-operation from Porter. But his case interested me a good deal, and I made such study of him as was possible without asking him to talk to me. I watched him at exercise; talking with other prisoners; I studied his prison record; and discussed him with a number of prison officers who came into personal contact with him.

He was bom in 1922 and at the age of ten he was sent to an approved school as being beyond the control of his parents. He was released in 1937, but six months later he was found guilty of theft and again committed to an approved school. On this occasion he was detained for twelve months. But very soon after his release he was again convicted of theft and was given a Borstal sentence. He came out on licence after two years, just before his nineteenth birthday. After six months his licence was revoked as the result of a conviction for house-breaking and he spent a six months’ sentence in Chelmsford. On release from Chelmsford he was called up for military service. His time in the army was nominally four years, but his military career was twice interrupted by prison sentences, the first being for armed robbery and the second for theft. In 1946 he was discharged from the army with character ‘Bad’ and since that date he has been almost continuously in prison for housebreaking. When I saw him in February 1949 he was beginning a fresh sentence of three years for this offence.

Physically, he was exceptionally healthy and strong. He was not well educated, but he spoke quite intelligently. At exercise he was cheerful and laughing in conversation with other prisoners, and posed obviously as a ‘big shot’ and ‘wide guy’ to the younger men. I think this desire to be regarded as a daredevil by other young men as foolish as himself, and with the same dreadful standards of life, is behind much of his bravado and the exhibitionism of his outbursts of temper. Nothing would give more pleasure to this type of man, at once weak-willed, arrogant, and conceited, than to gain the reputation in prison that the officers were afraid of him.


I discussed him independently with three officers who had seen a good deal of him in prison. They all believed that he was shamming to be mentally abnormal in order to get special treatment. Each of them, including the workshop officer, believed he could perfectly well earn his living honestly if he wished to do so. But I have no doubt at all that Porter would regard the suggestion that he should content himself with the wages of a manual labourer as too absurd for serious consideration, and he is unskilled at any trade. Moreover, in a fit of candour, he himself stated to the medical officer of the prison that he leads a life of crime because he is too lazy to retain a job if he gets one. Every officer to whom I spoke agreed that he would never face either discomfort or hard work. They all agreed in regarding his fits of temper as part of his technique to prove his mental abnormality, and I was told that he could always control his temper if he wished to do so in order to gain some small prison privilege.

About a month after it had been inflicted, I asked the effect of his birching, if any, and was told that it was almost dramatically effective. The workshop instructor said that prior to his birching he had been a constant annoyance in the workshop owing to his idleness; indeed in the three months preceding it he had been no less than five times on report for insolence and refusal to work. Since his birching the instructor declared his ‘conduct to be exemplary and his industry all that one could wish’.

The problem presented to society by such a man as this appears to be insoluble. His birching was an unpleasant new experience which shocked him into temporary good behaviour. But it is obviously impossible to birch him at regular intervals, and the normal sanction of imprisonment is no longer any deterrent to him. He is too old and too completely institutionalised for any training to be effective, nor does he wish to be trained. Every officer who knew him expected him to return to prison. Indeed I can see no way whatever of keeping him out. His laziness, ignorance, and conceit combine to make him dissatisfied with any reward he is capable of earning honestly. Under our existing system of punishments he must be in and out of prisons all his life.

b. 2.7.27 C. ofE.

age 22

13.3.40 House-breaking and store-

Approved school

breaking (2 cases T.I.G.)

5.3.42 House-breaking and larceny

Approved school

30.9.42 Larceny in a dwelling-house

Returned to school

25.2.43 Arson, office-breaking, store-

Returned to school

breaking, larceny (9 cases


1.11.45 Larceny (5 cases T.I.C.)


14.10.47 Larceny, having false identity

18 months]

card, and store-breaking

18 months 1 Concurrent

18 months)

3.1.49 House-breaking, shop-break-

4 years

ing, larceny (13 cases


The mother of this boy died when he was born. His father is still alive and remarried two years ago. Russell was born in London but his father moved into Middlesex when he was four years old, his sister, this boy’s aunt, who was then in her twenties, going with him to act as housekeeper. The boy went to the same school until he first got into trouble at the age of nearly thirteen. He told me his home was comfortable, and he was well fed and clothed, and his father gave him regular pocket money. On the other hand, he said he was not happy as a child. The fault for this he attributed to his aunt.

‘She was always nagging at me if I didn’t wipe my boots and that. I went to the pictures sometimes by myself. My aunt offered to take me sometimes, but I didn’t want to go about with her. I had enough of her in the house. Father was always kind to me, but he was out most of the day and sometimes didn’t get home till very late at night so I didn’t see a lot of him. He was a commissionaire. Auntie would


never let me bring any friends into the house, so I used to go out to look for friends and to amuse myself. I never stayed in the house by myself. Once I joined the Boy Scouts to have something to do. But I couldn’t settle down in it and I gave it up after a couple of months. I never went to camp. We used to go to the drill hall and have lectures, but it was no use to me. I went to church occasionally by myself, three or four times in all perhaps. My aunt took me once, but I never cared to go with her. My father never went to church, but auntie used to go sometimes by herself. But I had never been to Sunday-school, and nobody explained anything to me, so I never really knew what it was all about. I used to go to church at the approved school and Borstal because it was compulsory, but I never took any interest in it or understood it. Now, today, I just don’t take any account of religion. I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe there’s a God or any life after we’re dead. It just isn’t possible.’

He first got into trouble when he was within a few months of thirteen. With two boys of his own age they ‘made a bit of mischief because they hadn’t anything to do’, to use his own words. They broke into shops, or any place where they thought they could find some money. So far as his memory went they broke into three places and got away with their spoils successfully before they were caught. Then they were found breaking open the till of a grocer’s shop and he was sent to an approved school in the Midlands. I asked him what his father’s reaction had been to this first conviction, and he said:

‘Father said I had been a fool. If he had given me a good hiding it might have taught me something, but he has never laid a hand on me in my life.’

He spent eighteen months in the school, and, so far as either moral or industrial training went, his time there was a complete failure. At the time I saw him he could remember nothing at all about the place except that he had to do lessons.

On leaving the school he got work at a steel press. It was, of course, unskilled work, and he was not yet fifteen. But this was wartime, and labour was scarce, and he got a weekly wage of £3. The work, he said, was ‘all right, but it got monotonous’. So, as he wanted a job in the open, he gave notice after a couple of months.

His next job was at an even higher wage of £3 iOi., but again it was at an engineering works and not in the open. He kept 305. and sometimes £2, for himself and spent it all on sweets, cinemas,


and in bus and tram fares travelling by himself all over London at week-ends. About this job he said:

‘It was a better job than the last one, and, of course, the money was good. Still it was factory work and I couldn’t get on with factory work very well. To tell you the truth, though I didn’t like the job much I didn’t know what sort of job I did want.’

About this time he once more met the two boys with whom he had got into trouble before, and they started out on a series of systematic house-breakings. He said they broke into at least four houses, and stole a number of watches and trinkets of all sorts in addition to any money they could lay hands on. These things they kept ‘in a box in a sort of camp’ they had. They sold none of the watches or jewellery, but they shared the money equally and spent it together. Soon after his fifteenth birthday all three boys were caught inside a house, and they told the police about the store of stolen watches and jewellery which they had hidden, and all of it was recovered.

He was sent to a second approved school, but he was a failure there, as he had been at his first school, and constantly absconded. He told me:

‘I couldn’t settle down in a school. I resented being deprived of my liberty. I didn’t like being told what to do. That never happened to me at home. I was never told what to do there—free-and-easy sort of thing.’

On one occasion he ran away home and told his father he had been given a week’s holiday as he wasn’t well. He had some spots and his father believed his story, and after a week took him back to his school by train. At the station his father said goodbye to him and returned home by train, leaving him to walk out to the school. Instead of doing so he went to London by bus. He got out at Uxbridge and for over four months lived by himself, sleeping in air-raid shelters or empty houses. Food, clothing and money he got by house-breaking. He said he had no idea at all of how many premises he broke into, but they were very many. Since he had no means of selling anything, he stole, in addition to money and clothes, only such small articles as he fancied for himself. When he was caught in a house by the police he was returned to his school, but in a few months he ran away again.


On this occasion, during his liberty, he committed a dozen or so more thefts from houses and other buildings. When he was caught he was charged with office-breaking and store-breaking, and he asked for nine other offences to be taken into consideration. Amongst other things he was convicted of arson in some public offices, which he set on fire after spending a Saturday afternoon in them in a vain search for cash. He was still under sixteen years of age and was therefore too young to be given a Borstal training.

‘Each time I ran away they gave me the stick on my return,’ he told me. ‘But it didn’t do me any good. I haven’t got any complaint against them there. They were kind to me really, and they didn’t hold it against me that I ran away. I wouldn’t be taught a lesson. It was my own pigheadedness kept me absconding. Things kept getting worse and worse and each time I ran away I did a bit worse sort of house-breaking than the time before. In the end they got fed up with me and sent me to the Akbar Nautical School. I ran away from that with another chap and we were away over four months. Then we were caught and sent back, and I was given a decent sort of job, so I didn’t bother to run away any more but stayed and finished my time. I didn’t really learn anything at the Akbar. It was a place which trained you to go to sea and you got taught seamanship and that. But I didn’t want to go to sea. I had no sort of liking for a life like that. They sent me to Akbar only because it was supposed to be stricter and I had run away from my first school such a lot. So naturally I learnt nothing.’

It was characteristic of this boy’s outlook that what he called the ‘decent job’ which kept him from further absconding was the post of ‘village boy’, which meant that he had very little regular work to do and spent most of his time walking to and from the village on errands.

In November 1944 he left the Akbar School at the age of seventeen and a half. His first job was as driver of a baker’s van in a town in Buckinghamshire at £3 ioj. a week. But after only six or eight weeks he left this work, for some reason which he could not remember, and got work of the same kind as driver of a laundry van at £3 155. After two months he gave notice and became a lorry driver at £4 a week. In three months he had tired of this work and, as he was now eighteen, volunteered for the Royal Air Force. Once more his own story is revealing of his character.

‘I was rejected for the R.A.F. because I didn’t know algebra, or something like that. The R.A.F. officer said if I went to night school


for a couple of months I would be accepted. But I didn’t think it was

worth my while to put myself out, so I didn’t go to one.’

For a short time he was out of work. Then he got what he told me was the best-paid job he ever had, as a lorry-driver for a haulage firm, at £4 17s. a week for a forty-eight hour week and opportunity for making a good deal more by overtime. Wages, however, never seem to have been able to keep him at a job, and in two months he was dismissed for slackness.

It was at this time that he received his army call-up papers: he was just over eighteen years of age. He explained that as they had not accepted him for the R.A.F. he would not go into the army, so with a couple of other young men whose acquaintance he made in a café he stole a motor car which they drove together to Virginia Water and hid in a wood. His new friends were experienced thieves and between them they completely disguised the car, not only repainting it but changing the number-plates. They got new plates by taking them off an old car abandoned on a dump. Petrol was obtained by breaking into the store of a garage where one of his new companions had formerly worked. Using their stolen car as transport, they then began a course of housebreaking and burglary. For this purpose they made Uxbridge their headquarters, living sometimes in lodgings and sometimes, according to his earlier knowledge of the locality, in bombed and empty houses. Their handicap, he explained, was that none of the three boys was in touch with a receiver so that they were forced to confine themselves largely to breaking into shops in the hopes of finding cash in the tills. After a couple of months they were caught and he was sent to Borstal. He was then eighteen years and three months.

He served his sentence at Portland, but his training was completely useless to him. He told me he learnt nothing, and did not try to. As he almost boasted to me, he remembered the name neither of the governor nor of his housemaster, and very little indeed of what lie did there. He was released in June 1947.

Four months later he received three sentences of eighteen months concurrent for stealing a motor car, store-breaking and having false identity cards.

From this sentence he was freed in October 1948 and within two months received a fresh sentence of four years for shop-breaking, burglary, and stealing two motor cars. A large number of other


charges to which he pleaded guilty were taken into consideration. He was at the beginning of his sentence when I saw him. In all, he had been convicted of forty-five serious crimes at the age of twenty-one.

Russell complained that his sentence of four years was harsh and excessive. I tried, without hurting his feelings at the beginning of a long sentence, to make him realise that the court had given him a long sentence in an attempt to protect the public, and I explained that his way of life in the past had been a sort of war declared by himself against the community. As soon as he had come out of prison he had committed a fresh crime and been sentenced afresh. It was not, as he himself admitted, any want of money which had forced him into crime, as again and again he had thrown up jobs which gave him good wages and decent conditions. I did my best to make him understand that nobody wanted to keep him in prison, where he was both a nuisance and expense to the taxpayer, and that everyone would prefer him to be an honest man doing a useful job at liberty. To keep him in prison was not a mere act of gratuitous cruelty on the part of the court, but rather self-defence on the part of the public. I asked him if it had never been explained to him at approved school or Borstal that it was wrong to steal, and that theft very often was the cause of much pain and suffering. To this he said:

‘Yes, I’ve heard all that, but I just didn’t think about other people. A master at Portland told me the sort of thing you have said about the rights of other people. But I just didn’t listen or care. I just said to myself that if a man has a car he probably has plenty of money, or anyway he has the insurance money, and he can buy himself another one. Or, really, I didn’t think at all about it one way or another.’

Russell was not due for release for two years after the date of my visits to him, so that it hardly seemed to be worth while even to discuss his future. At his release he would be almost exactly twenty-four years of age and would have spent a good deal more time in prisons and such places since he was twelve than he had spent in freedom. There seems to be nothing in his record to show that he is capable of any prolonged effort to live honestly. His standard of intelligence is poor and his personal appearance most unattractive—a rat-faced lad about five feet seven inches in height, suspicious of me and my motives in talking to him, and unwilling apparently to make a friend of a prison visitor if I found him one.


The prison governor said that in prison he associated with the worst men, and was already at twenty-two a confirmed criminal without a single redeeming feature. So, too, the very experienced chief officer described him as thoroughly criminal, with no prospect before him but a life in and out of prison. The doctor described him as of fair intelligence, in no way abnormal mentally, but very anti-social. One of the most melancholy features of this boy’s case was his own apparent indifference. His attitude as expressed to me was that ‘if you are in, you are in, and that’s all about it. It’s the luck of the draw’. To me he was at once a saddening and a baffling problem.

b. 6.4.27 C. of E. age 22

He is cut ofT from his family, of which he is the only member to have been in trouble. His mother lives close to the London prison in which I saw him. He stated, however, on committal to prison that he had no relatives, and in fact he has not seen or heard from his mother for over three years. He has one brother, two years older than himself, who is a clerk in a Government office and two sisters whose ages are seventeen and seven. His mother is forty-seven and his brother lives with her. She herself goes out occasionally to work as a mother’s help, and was in domestic service before her marriage. His father and mother are separated. So far as he knows his father is still alive. He last saw him eight years ago. His mother and father separated two or three , times, but they have now been apart about seven years and no reconciliation is probable. His father is a skilled central-heating engineer. ‘My father is a very clever man,’ he told me.

Saunders was baptised C. of E. and confirmed at his approved school. He never knew either of his parents ever go to church or encourage any of their children to do so, or to attend Sunday-school; nor did he or his brother or any of his sisters ever have any religious instruction from cither parent; indeed he was sure that in his whole home life he had never heard any reference to religion or to a church. The religious instruction he got at his approved school had obviously made a considerable impression on his mind.

I had a long discussion about religion with him, and he told me he went to Communion every four or five weeks when he was outside prison. He had apparently no clear ideas about doctrine or dogma, and so far as I could make out one denomination would have satisfied him as well as another. He said to go to church and to Communion ‘relieved a certain part of him’. I asked him if he ever spoke to a clergyman to get things explained to him which at present he did not understand, and he said he had never done so.


Nor did he agree with me when I stated that the value of religion was to be found in its power to help him to lead a better life. He said he enjoyed hearing sermons and he liked the ‘feeling’ he got out of the religious service. Clearly, he understood practically nothing of the tenets of any particular faith and his religion was, in reality, a sort of emotionalism. He told me he knew (because ‘chaps had told him so’) that some parts of the Bible were not true. If some parts of the Bible weren’t true, as he had been told, it was hard, he said, to know what parts to believe. He had no ‘visitor’ to see him in prison, nor had he ever thought of asking to see the chaplain. Quite clearly, his mind was groping after something spiritual in life, and not less certainly because the search was an unconscious one. He was most grateful for my promise to see that he would be put on the list of a kindly visitor who would discuss his problems with him. I promised, too, that I would ask the prison chaplain to look him up.

He went as an infant to an L.C.C. elementary school in Battersea, close to his then home. He was there for three years, and then went to live in Wandsworth with his parents. For six months he went to another school, and then his parents separated. He was then about eight and used to hear his parents having rows, but he said it made on his mind no impression of fear, unhappiness, or insecurity. He regarded his parents’ quarrels, he told me, as ‘rather a lark’, and he said that even at the present day he can remember how much he laughed when he once saw his father throw a jam tart at his mother. His mother got a separation order against his father, and he told me that his father must have paid alimony regularly as he never at any time knew his mother to be short of money or in any sort of need. On the other hand, he never had any pocket money or toys from his mother. He said that she never seemed to care much for him, though he never remembered being particularly naughty or troublesome as a child. She was, on the other hand, absolutely devoted to his brother and used to make him unhappy by continuously contrasting them, always to his disadvantage.

He was just ten years old when he made his first appearance in a juvenile court. He had then been a year at school in Middlesex, where his mother had moved twelve months before. He was charged with theft, and the story he told, detestable as it was, could not have been more clear, nor was I able to shake it in any


way. In the Middlesex village they lived next door to a slaughterer with whom his mother was so friendly that he and his brother used to run continuously all day long in and out of the slaughterer’s house. One day he found in this neighbour’s house a humane killer for killing animals, and he took it to play with, thinking it was some form of toy gun. But he could not make it work and after a day or two threw it away. Some few days later the slaughterer missed it, and asked him if he had taken it and he at once admitted having done so. It was for the theft of this humane killer that he was charged before the juvenile court. I could scarcely believe that a boy of ten would for a first and so trivial an offence be committed by a court to an approved school. However, I verified the fact from his papers. Saunders told me that the slaughterer in court appeared to be anxious not to press the charge and the justices took some time to come to a decision, but in the end they made an order for his committal to a school. He had never understood the matter until some three or four months before my interview with him when his grandmother, knowing that he now had broken all connection with his mother, told him what she assured him were the facts. The slaughterer had had no wish or intention to prosecute the boy but was forced into doing so by Saunders’s mother. When the case was proved the justices proposed to do no more than give the boy a warning, but his mother told so lamentable a story of his continued naughtiness and obstinate refusal to obey any control from her that the justices changed their minds and made an approved school order. According to the grandmother’s story, the mother had afterwards boasted to her of having got rid of a child for whom she had no affection.

His first school was the Purbrook School, Portsmouth, but at the outbreak of war the school was evacuated and he was sent to the National Children’s Home at Farnborough, another junior school. After two years there he was sent to an intermediate school for bigger boys at Godstone, Surrey. Here he said there were excellent teachers in carpentry and in metalcraft, one of whom was always kind and encouraging to him. As a result he left the school in 1943 at the age of sixteen with a thorough grounding in benchwork and how to run a lathe. He told me that it was a condition of his discharge that he went home to live with his mother, and indeed it never occurred to him to go anywhere else. But he was not happy there. In the six years he had been at three approved



schools she had come to visit him only twice at Portsmouth, and she made no effort to conceal her preference for his brother whom she for ever held up to him as the good son who had never given her trouble or brought disgrace upon her.

Saunders got himself a very good job at a local engineering works as a machinist, machine setter, and fitter. He smiled as he said to me: ‘I am afraid the wage I got will shock you, as it was just over £5 a week.’ He said he was completely happy in his work and the works foreman was very satisfied with him. He gave his mother £2, and bought one and a half 155. savings certificates regularly every week in the works’ club. All would have been well had it not been for his brother, who was jealous of the high wages he was getting, and forced constant quarrels in which his mother invariably took his brother’s part. After some months he said the house became unbearable and he began to spend all his evenings away from it. He assured me that he got into no trouble and made no bad friends. His evenings were spent at the pictures or, occasionally, in the houses of friends from the works. But the neighbours began, he thought, to remark upon the fact that he was never at home, and to suspect that he was driven out of it. Whether it was to save herself from such gossip or for some other reason, his mother wrote to the welfare officer of his approved school and informed him that Saunders would not stay in the house but insisted on going out in the evenings to consort with bad characters and was in danger of getting into further serious trouble. As a result of this he was recalled to Godstone for three months.

On his second discharge from Godstone he wished to go back to the engineering works, and the company wanted to take him back. Unhappily the school authorities believed his mother’s story about the bad company into which he was drifting and, in what they believed to be his own interests, would not allow him to live in that neighbourhood. Accordingly they found him work in Surrey and made it a condition that he should live at lodgings selected by them. This was not a successful arrangement. In the boy’s own words:

‘I didn’t like being taken away from a job where I was getting on very well, and was happy in my job, and earning high wages, when I had done nothing wrong. It wasn’t fair. My new job was very much the same sort of work that I had done at the engineering works, but I got only £3 a week instead of £5. I didn’t like the lodgings I was


made to live in, and I didn’t get on with the foreman at this place like I had done at the works. I couldn’t settle in this job and I got sacked after a few weeks. I went home to my mother. I know it sounds funny for me to have gone home after my mother lost me my job which I liked. I hadn’t anywhere else to go for one thing, and I wanted a home. After all those years in approved schools I wanted any sort of home really.’

He said his mother seemed ‘fairly pleased’ to see him. ‘Anyway, she didn’t say she wouldn’t have me.’ The welfare officer found him work at a garage in London and directed him to live at a hostel run by a religious organisation. Again this particular direction proved a failure. Once more in the boy’s own words:

‘This hostel was an absolutely hateful place. The rule was that every pay day you had to hand over your pay packet to the secretary and all he gave you back for yourself was 2s. 6d. a week. This was called pocket money; but it wasn’t anything of the sort because I had to pay bus fares to work out of it. Then there was a rule at the hostel that we were not allowed to smoke, not that that rule was needed because I couldn’t have bought anything to smoke out of what was left of my 2J. 6d. after I had paid bus fares. If I did have anything over I spent it on food, as the food at the hostel was nothing like as good as what I had had at school. I believe my pay at the garage was somewhere about ¡£4, but whatever it was I never saw it and I took no interest in my job at the garage, since however hard I worked all I got was this half-crown. Most of the chaps in the hostel hated the place as much as I did. Perhaps there was some system by which the hostel put my wages into a credit and just deducted for the cost of my keep. All I can say is that, if there was, I never heard of it. So far as I know they simply made money out of us. I couldn’t stand that hostel and after three weeks I packed up and ran away.’

He was picked up by the police next day and was sent by the school aftercare to Croydon. Once more they found him lodgings and a job, and once more it was not a success. As the boy told me;

‘I was fed up at being moved about from one job to another and from lodgings I didn’t much like to lodgings I disliked even more. This time I was a machine operator at £3 a week and I had to pay 35^. for my lodgings, which included breakfast and tea. But six days a week I had to buy my own dinner, and fares cost me is. 6d. a day, which was gs. a week. It left me with nothing at all for clothes and washing, let alone a smoke or a glass of beer. I was never one for mixing much with people, but I like to be able to go to the pictures or do something with a chap occasionally and I simply couldn’t live on this money. I actually needed money to live. I stuck it for a month and then I got into trouble. I stole a watch from a house and I sold it to a jeweller for £4 15s. As a matter of fact it didn’t do me any good because the jeweller told the police immediately and I was arrested in about three quarters of an hour.’

For this theft he was sent by the London sessions to Borstal. He went to Hollesley Bay, but absconded after three weeks. In five days he was arrested and returned to the colony, where he served the fifteen months of his time in boredom but without getting into trouble. The work at Hollesley Bay consisted of fruit and vegetable growing and he was quite uninterested in either.

At his discharge from Borstal he was nineteen years old and he was called up for his military service. His own account may possibly be biased or inaccurate, but it had the ring of truth to me, and I scarcely think he had the imagination to invent it.

‘I didn’t like the army. It wasn’t that I couldn’t stick discipline. As a matter of fact I am fond of it. But I just didn’t want to go into the army. I had spent all my life in approved schools and a Borstal, and I hated the idea of having now to go into a barracks. What I wanted was to go to sea. I felt if only I could get to sea it would be an absolutely new start and I could start life afresh with nothing against me and nobody knowing anything about me. So I applied for the Merchant Service or the Navy. I preferred the Merchant Service as I wanted to stay in it for the rest of my life, but I would have been quite happy to go into the Navy. But I was told I could not go to sea and had to go into the army. So I told them I could manage a lathe and had bench experience, and I asked to go into the Royal Engineers as I thought my knowledge would help me make a good start. I would have tried hard enough if I had got into the R.E., and I wanted to go abroad. But I was told I could not have the R.E., and they put me into the Royal Army Pay Corps. I am not a clerk and I have never done that sort of work and I was completely fed up. I went to work at 90 Brompton Road in the R.A.P.C. amongst Army Post Office Savings Bank books. I had the chance of stealing any amount of money if I had wanted to, and I don’t believe it could ever have been found out. But I didn’t steal a penny or feel tempted to. I didn’t actually need money urgently, and, as I told you just now, I have never stolen except when I wanted money badly.’

Three or four months of life as a clerk was enough for him. He was no good at the job and disliked it and was unhappy. Very wrongly and stupidly he stole a suitcase which he saw in a corridor and deserted. Inside the suitcase was a P.O. Savings Book and he forged a signature and drew £3 at a post office. He was



caught in a mattei received a sentence revoked, and he spei at Chelmsford prison of Borstal licence rev and felt a great deal did in the clerical at leaving Chelmsford congenial work of t army on ist August By this time he h more to do with his i got himself a job as repairs on brokendohe particularly liked were necessarily ven lodgings as he gave a at all sorts of hours, new start at sea and London docks trying he would very likely: have a very much 1 his landlady gave hii his coming in from t breakdown job at th was too much for hii he stole a suitcase. W been worth £43, but for £7. With the n arrested at the dock

combined offences Borstal licence was itence eight months proper to the regime not at all mind this, cercise than he ever my Pay Corps. On to the rather more ischarged from the ;ter ‘Fair’, t to have anything vay to Bedford and in a garage, doing :k. It was not work trained. His hours eat difficulty in his :oming in for meals inkering to make a ;-ends haunting the ly he was told that 1 but that he would 1 port. That week ngs, exasperated at ick at night from a in of circumstances :d, and once again at his trial to have ler and sold the lot )w, where he was le detective officer

who brought him to Lunuun ioxu mm uuu ne would get a sentence of three or four months, but in fact he was given a three years’ sentence. This, as he told me, was an ‘awful shock’ to him, and he appealed against sentence to the Court of Criminal Appeal. His appeal was, however, dismissed, and he was beginning his sentence in Wandsworth prison when I saw him.

I spoke to the boy about his future, and he said:

‘It’s so far away with this sentence that I can hardly think about it at all. I know prison is just a waste of my life. I don’t want to be a criminal. I know I’ve stolen and I’ve been a fool. But I’ve only stolen


caught in a matter of days, and for these combined offences received a sentence of twelve months. His Borstal licence was revoked, and he spent in all to complete his sentence eight months at Chelmsford prison in the rigorous discipline proper to the regime of Borstal licence revokees. He told me he did not at all mind this, and felt a great deal more fit from the hard exercise than he ever did in the clerical atmosphere of the Royal Army Pay Corps. On leaving Chelmsford he returned to the army to the rather more congenial work of the R.E.M.E. and was discharged from the army on ist August 1948 with an army character ‘Fair’.

By this time he had made up his mind not to have anything more to do with his mother, and he made his way to Bedford and got himself a job as a maintenance worker in a garage, doing repairs on brokendown cars, at £4 ioj. a week. It was not work he particularly liked or for which he was well trained. His hours were necessarily very irregular and he had great difficulty in his lodgings as he gave a good deal of trouble by coming in for meals at all sorts of hours. He felt all the time the hankering to make a new start at sea and used to spend all his week-ends haunting the London docks trying to get on a ship. One day he was told that he would very likely never get a ship in London but that he would have a very much better chance at a Scotch port. That week his landlady gave him notice to leave his lodgings, exasperated at his coming in from the garage after nine o’clock at night from a breakdown job at the garage. The combination of circumstances was too much for him. He had no money saved, and once again he stole a suitcase. With its contents it was said at his trial to have been worth £43, but he took it to a general dealer and sold the lot for £7. With the money he went to Glasgow, where he was arrested at the docks trying to get a ship. The detective officer who brought him to London told him that he would get a sentence of three or four months, but in fact he was given a three years’ sentence. This, as he told me, was an ‘awful shock’ to him, and he appealed against sentence to the Court of Criminal Appeal. His appeal was, however, dismissed, and he was beginning his sentence in Wandsworth prison when I saw him.

I spoke to the boy about his future, and he said:

‘It’s so far away with this sentence that I can hardly think about it at all. I know prison is just a waste of my life. I don’t want to be a criminal. I know I’ve stolen and I’ve been a fool. But I’ve only stolen


when I’ve been in need of something, not for the fun of it. Like last time, I stole because I couldn’t see any way of getting to Scotland, and I only wanted to get to Scotland to get a ship, so that I really could make a clean start. If I could get right away from it all on a ship I would never see a prison again. I know I could do it. It would make me feel I was really away from it, and need never remember my dirty past if I could only get on the sea. I would learn to cook so that I could go cooking in the galley, or I would take a trimmer’s job which most chaps don’t want. I have read all the books I could get hold of about ships’ engines and I would prefer to go in the engine-room, but anything would do. If I cannot get to sea, I know a bit about central heating and I would go for that, or back to bench work. But it’s the sea I want.’

A study of the various sentences passed on this boy is of interest. They certainly illustrate two theories which I have very frequently advanced, that sentencing authorities should receive instruction in this difficult work, and that they should act only after they have been given much fuller information about a prisoner than they receive at the present time. It is difficult to believe that a skilled juvenile court would have sent a little boy of ten years of age to an approved school for a childish first theft. Even if the justices believed what his mother said of him, there are more merciful alternatives. It was surely absurd as well as cruel to destroy the excellent future which was opening out before the boy in the engineering works upon an accusation that he was getting into bad company which was not, and could not be, proved true. The final sentence of three years was, in my view, wholly wrong. It would have been wiser to put him under the probation officer, with instructions to make every effort to get him to sea. Surely if a boy of twenty-one steals in order to try and get to sea, it is a more sensible and constructive course to help him in his wholesome ambition to find a ship than to send him for a three years’ sentence to the society of the lowest criminals in the worst prison in England.

These mistaken sentences were imposed because the information available to the courts was insufficient. The various courts knew no more than the list of his previous offences, and observed no more than that conviction followed conviction with but a short interval between each. But sentencing authorities should be told, and should observe, a good deal more than this. Careful and, if necessary, prolonged examination into all the facts of the case


would have revealed, for example, with regard to this lad that the sentences passed upon him were not necessary as deterrents, and were in fact driving into a criminal career a boy who wanted to be honest. The sentences might have been justified had they been passed for these actual offences upon a young man who committed crimes deliberately and because he preferred to live a dishonest rather than an honest life. But this boy was quite otherwise. He had had no father; a mother who disliked him; and no home life. He had never been on probation; had no vice in him; was a petty and unskilled thief only on impulse; had no criminal association; was beginning to earn the character of a good workman; and was desperately anxious to make a fresh start in life at sea.

I saw Saunders in Wandsworth prison, despondent, frightened, and without hope. Wandsworth is a prison for recidivists, and conditions at the time of my visit were made worse by the very serious overcrowding. The prison had cell accommodation for 1,000 prisoners and there were over 1,500 men in the prison, the majority the worst criminal types. In such circumstances, and with the added difficulty of a grave shortage of staff, the danger of contamination to a young man not yet beyond reclamation was extreme. Saunders himself told me:

‘Older men here mix with the younger chaps and keep telling you things. There are chaps here who pretend that they are in for getting thousands of pounds and that they have got it salted away for when they come out. They try and persuade you that the job pays. I know it doesn’t really, but it frightens me having all these men here around you worse than what you are. Some of the younger chaps tell me that in the end you have to do whatever these older men want.’

I consulted several officers of the prison about Saunders and with their cordial support I brought his case to the attention of the prison commission with a view to his transfer to a prison where he would get such training and remedial treatment as would be a mere waste of time with the normal type of prisoner at Wandsworth. The commissioners were good enough to move him to Chelmsford prison. The change for the better in the boy is illustrated by the letters which follow:

From a prison official:

‘Saunders is taking a course in General Domestic Fitting. He is one of the best men in the prison as regards general behaviour and is making a big effort.’

Peter Saunders

From a prison visitor:

‘May 1949.

‘Saunders is well and quite cheerful. He is behaving very well and is prepared to fall in widi anything he is asked to do. At present he is in the brush shop, but will soon go to an outside party to which he is looking forward. He has a very friendly manner and quite a lot of intelligence. I shall be seeing him regularly and will write to you again when I get to know him better. If he is found the right type of employer and some steadying influence when he goes out I think there is a very good chance for him.’

From Saunders to myself:

‘Chelmsford Prison.

5- 5- 49-


Thank you very much for your most welcome letter, which I received to Date 5 May. My heart is still at Sea, Sir, and if I was to be given one chance I would not let you down. My B.I.E.T. course as just arrived on the subject of Domestic Engineering and Central Heating for you surgested this. At the time of writing I am still employed in the brushshop. But I hope to get a job in the Engineers. But what-so-ever work I am employed on I will try my upmost to do my best both in work and conduct while at Chelmsford. Thank you for sending your friend Mr. H. to visit me on a Sunday night. Mr. H. informed me of your recent illness which I hope from which you have now fully recovered. We had the Southend band here last Sunday which was very enjoyable. That is all the news I think for now, Sir, except thank you for getting your friend to try and get me a ship for when I am discharged. May I wish you the best in both health and luck,


‘I am,

‘Yours obediently,

‘Peter Saunders.’

From his prison visitor:

‘September 1949.

‘He is grateful for anything done to help him. His success in his correspondence course has encouraged him. He is a very likeable boy and I am most hopeful for him if he can be helped to get some job which interests him.’


As a result of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, various prisons have been transformed into establishments for corrective training. In the autumn of 1949 Chelmsford prison was taken for this

purpose. It was only through a chance letter from his Chelmsford prison visitor that I learnt that Saunders had been sent back to Wandsworth, from which prison I had once before rescued him. I again put his case before the prison commissioners, who very readily moved him to a prison in which there is opportunity for much to be done for young prisoners who show themselves likely to respond. After he had been there long enough to settle down, I wrote to him. With his reply we may, I think, leave him, with real hope that after his release he will never enter a prison again.

‘H. M. Prison,

Winchester, November 1949.

‘I recieved your letter as to date 25th October and am very sorry to hear being ill again.

‘Re Mr. H. my visitor at Chelmsford he was indeed a great help to me and I was sorry to leave there but there was nothing else for it seeing it was changed into a C.T. prison.

‘It was very good of you for bring up my case before the commissioners, and getting me moved from Wandsworth to Winchester. I will certainly do my best here for I have been placed on a six months painting course run by the Ministear of Works. And also I have my B.I.E.T. course on Physics, and I also attend everning classes in Maths and Art so you can see my time is pretty near full up.

‘Re to Mr. Pinker I will write to him when my date of discharge comes near and just hope he can help me, for my heart is still at sea Sir and that is where I think it will remain, I hope you return to good health in the near future, and before I close I would to say thank you Sir for all you have done for me I will not let you down.

‘I am,

‘Yours Obediently,

‘Peter Saunders.’

b. 13.9.25 C. of E. age 23

At his age, he could not easily have had a worse record. He has hardly finished his punishment for one crime when he has committed another.

9.12.37 Stealing

Bound over

29.3.39 Larceny (3 cases T.I.C.)

Approved school

21.10.41 Attempted shop-breaking;


possessing house-breaking


19.10.43 House-breaking and larceny

Bound over

29.2.44 Assault

Borstal licence revoked

12.12.44 Shop-breaking and larceny;

9 months

garage-breaking and larceny

10.7.46 Burglary

2 years

14.7.48 Store-breaking

3 years

His mother is still alive and he is on good terms with her. His father died in March 1946. Until his death he worked in a labour exchange, but he also ran a small bookmakers’ business by which he added substantially to his income. During his father’s lifetime Turner says the family was very comfortably off, and even after his father’s death there has never been any financial want, as his father left some money, and since she has been a widow his mother has worked as a cleaner in the labour exchange where formerly his father was employed. She still lives in the same house in Fulham where they have always lived, and she pays 32s. a week rent. His parents were a very happy, comfortable, and respectable couple, with four children in all. He has a married brother and sister older than himself, and a younger sister now living with his mother. His brother is a clerk and his sister married to a man in a shop who is doing well. Jack is the only one of the


family ever to get into trouble, and he told me with apparent cheerful unconcern that he was the one black sheep of the family. I asked him how he thought this had come about, and he replied that he ‘supposed he must have a kink’. Clearly this was no more than a phrase, and he explained it by saying that somebody had told him that he must have a kink, and he now used it apparently as an excuse by which he could escape blame for his actions. He went on to say:

‘I had a good home and plenty of pocket money. My father and mother each gave me is. a week. I was always well fed and well clothed and there was nothing I wanted really. It was a jolly happy home, too. I think I must have had a kink. There must have been something to make me leave a home like that. To tell the truth, I imagine it must have been devilment more than anything.’

One thing he clearly lacked was any form of moral or religious training whatsoever, although he was wholly unconscious of any lack or loss in this direction. He told me he ‘had everything possible to make a good home—a wireless and all’. From a material standard this was apparently true. But he had never been to church in his life until his committal to an approved school, and he never knew his father or mother or any of his brothers and sisters go there. He went to school in London until he was sent to his approved school, but he did not get any sort of religious or moral teaching there which made the least impression on his mind. He joined the Boy Scouts when he was twelve. This he did of his own accord at the suggestion of a school friend. He said he didn’t like it much and he left after six months. He ‘just didn’t take to it’. The scoutmaster didn’t play a lot of games and ‘you had to learn things’, which he didn’t find very interesting. He left the troop before the annual camp. Turner was registered in the prison record as C. of E., but this was a mere nominal description, and he told me that religion ‘meant just nothing’ to him. Not only had he never been to Sunday-school or church before his arrival at an approved school, but neither his father or mother had ever given him any instruction in moral behaviour or citizenship, nor had they ever made any effort to guide him in his choice of companions or to see that he had wholesome interests. At his approved school and Borstal he had to attend services in chapel. But he assured me that not even at school had he received any religious instruction. He was, in fact, certain that never in


all his life had he had so much as one personal conversation with any clergyman. Nor had any chaplain ever visited him in his cell. . He would not have welcomed him if he had. He declared that he did not believe in religion, but he had not the least idea what Christianity was or what it meant. When he got into trouble his mother ‘always sympathised with me’, which meant that she always made excuses for him whatever he did. His father was ‘pretty lenient’ when he first began to get into trouble, which meant that he did not wish to be bothered in the matter. When his offences continued and he was sent to Borstal, he told me that his father ‘got pretty severe’, so that he ‘shouted at him a good deal’, and finally when he was sent to prison his father ‘simply washed his hands of him and said he didn’t want to have anything more to do with him’.

The first time he stole was at the age of eleven. He had been once or twice to a fun fair with a boy of fifteen at the elder boy’s expense. Shortly afterwards they met again but had no money, and the boy told him he knew of a way to get some. Under the boy’s instruction he went with him to a shop, and, while he enquired about the price of some goods in the window, the other boy stole a collecting box from the counter. They broke this open and shared the contents. This being entirely successful, they repeated the trick a week or so later at another shop and again got safely away. Being out of funds some time later he went into a shop by himself, and seeing no one behind the counter stole a collecting box and ran away down the street. The shopkeeper had, however, seen him, and a boy outside the shop who knew him gave the shopkeeper his name. As a result of this he appeared at the Caxton Hall Juvenile Court and was put on probation for a year.

Admirable, and indeed indispensable, as is the probation system, one cannot expect that it should be always successful, and there was in this case the heavy handicap that the influence of his home was not used to support the lessons of the probation officer. As might have been expected, the system completely failed. Turner’s own account of it is instructive.

‘It was entirely useless to me. I don’t remember the name of the probation officer or even what he looked like. I saw him sometimes, but that is all I remember about it. I daresay it’s very good for older people. It had just no effect on me. I just looked on it as a let off. I was too young to appreciate it, I expect.’


His next offence was stealing from an automatic machine. He saw one evening outside a shop in Walham Green a machine into which one inserted pennies in the hope of being able to pick up a prize from a sort of miniature travelling crane. He noticed that the keys had inadvertently been left in the lock at the back of the machine. So he stole the keys, and after it was dark came back with another boy, opened the money drawer, and took the contents. A few nights later they came again, and once more got away successfully. At their third visit he was caught by a policeman after a chase through the streets, and was sent to the Ballantine approved school.

Unhappily, he was helped no more by his approved school than he had been by probation. I quote his account of the school in some detail first, as I have said, because it makes his story complete, and secondly because (although I have made such minor alterations as will make the identification of the school impossible) I had heard similar stories of the school too often before to allow me to believe that they are without any foundation at all.

‘After I had done ordinary school for six months, I took a trade to learn. There were all sorts of trades and you could choose what you liked. No one advised you what was best for you. Anyway, no one advised me, and I chose the band merely because it was the least hard work. I didn’t really get taught music and it didn’t help you to earn your living in a band. All that happened was that we did band practice for two or three hours every morning, though a lot of that was just fooling about. I only played one instrument and that was the bass. In the afternoon we dad housework, cleaning and laundry, and there were games. There was a wonderful sports ground, and as a matter of fact I played football not only for the school team but for a team made up of boys from all the schools in the district.

‘So far as I was concerned the school was a waste of time. I was there for two years and two months, and I don’t think I learnt a thing while I was there that was the least use to me so far as earning a living went. I was thirteen and a half when I went there and there was a terrific amount of bullying. There were a lot of boys much older than me. The prefects were the chaps who could fight the best and hold their own and keep order. Otherwise they were no better than anyone else. There was a lot of gambling and there was a good deal of the stuff that goes on between boys, dirty stuff. Lots of boys didn’t want to, but they were frightened. I wasn’t bullied as much as most of the small boys, because one of the best fighters in the school came from my street at home, and he looked after me, as we became friends, and when I got older I got the reputation of having a nasty temper myself.

‘You tell me that a tremendous lot of boys don’t get into trouble again after they leave approved schools. Well, I can only tell you the way I have found it. I have talked in Borstal and prison with other chaps who have been in approved schools and they all say it’s a case of having to wait and fight your way up. Don’t think I want to run the place down. As a matter of fact I quite enjoyed it after a bit. The headmaster, Mr. Knight, was a fine man, a real gentleman. The man I saw most of was the bandmaster, Mr. Day, and I quite liked him, too. You won’t scarcely believe it, but I cried at leaving the school. I suppose what spoilt it all really was the prefects. They may be all right at a proper school where the prefects are a better sort. But at Ballantine they just used the job to help themselves. For instance, after we got served out with pocket money there were several prefects who used to go along to different chaps: “Here, I want some fags from you, and sixpence from you, and a box of chocolates from you”, and so on. You had to pay up because else they got you into trouble for something, and they always backed each other up.’

I asked him what help he was given on his discharge in May 1941 by the school aftercare, and he replied:

‘It’s news to me that there was any such thing. As a matter of fact, I went home when I left the school. My father worked in a labour exchange, and so he had no difficulty in getting me a job. He asked his friends in the office, and they sent me to good jobs, with a very good character, and it was never said anything about my having been in a school. So I easily got a succession of jobs. As a matter of fact, I never stuck to any of them. I had three or four jobs in the five months before I got into trouble again. I can’t quite remember what they all were. One was in an engineering factory. Another was in a big works. I know I got sacked from there for messing about with the manager’s motor car, pressing the self-starter and trying to get it into gear. I can’t remember why I left the others. I know I didn’t like any of them much, and I suppose I only stayed two or three weeks in each. I got about 25s. pay and I gave it all to mother. She gave me pocket money back, either 5s. or 1 os. I spent it on cinemas mostly. Father got a bit disgusted with me by this time, but he didn’t say much. During all the time I was out before I got into trouble again I never even heard from anybody at the school.

‘While I was hanging around out of a job I met a chap about my own age, named Belsen. We started getting into trouble immediately. He knew a fellow called Souter, who was about thirty years old and had been in prison more than once. He introduced me to Souter, and Souter started us off working the Richmond Roehampton Twickenham district. He showed us how to do it. We used to go around looking for houses converted into flats, of which there were a lot about there. What we wanted was an empty flat in a house like that. The keys were generally left with the people in one of the occupied flats. We used to ring at the flat where the keys were and Souter used to ask if he could look at the empty flat, as he was trying to find one in that neighbourhood for a client. He had had a posh card printed pretending he came from some West End house agents, and he said could he bring his two workmen with him, and that looked as if he was in a big way, so there never was any suspicion. We always got taken by the person who had the keys into the empty flat, and we pretended to look it over. Souter wrote down in a notebook the size and number of the rooms and Belsen used to look what painting had to be done, and I examined all the electric-light fittings. Then Souter said he thought it was just what his client wanted, and what time could he bring him to see the flat. The person with the keys almost always used to say, “Any time except between ten and twelve”, or between some other times when they were going out. Even if he didn’t actually say that, Souter always managed to find out when their flat would be empty. So we simply went back at that hour next day and rang the bell, and when nobody answered we burst open the door and cleaned out the flat. It only took twenty minutes to half an hour for the three of us because we only went for money and jewellery. Souter used to sell it next day to some place near Hatton Garden while we waited for him in a café. He gave each of us a third of what he got. Of course, we never knew if he treated us fair, but I expect he did. We did one flat a week and that was quite enough. We didn’t want to be caught doing it too often, and I had all the money I wanted as my share averaged just over £20 a time. We did six flats altogether and we were never caught. I don’t know how many we could have done, only we didn’t stick to these flat jobs but we tried something else and were caught first time. Souter heard of a store near the Fulham Road. Belsen and I were to break in, and he was to pick up the stuff in a car. A policeman saw us breaking in and he got the place surrounded, and we were caught. Souter saw all the police and drove away. I got Borstal and served it at Rochester. Belsen was put on probation.’

His opinion of Borstal was as low as his view of approved schools. Again I told him it was nonsense, as the percentage of successes proved the value of the Borstal system. Once more he said he judged only by his own experience and he agreed that he had seen Rochester at its worst in the middle of the war. But he declared that his fifteen months spent there had taught him nothing of any value, while he did get actual harm from a number of skilled young criminals there who taught the less experienced lads their technique in house-breaking and robbery.

On leaving Rochester in January 1943 he went home and got a job driving a van. He said he enjoyed this work and the pay was £5 a week, but unfortunately after five months he was dismissed, for no fault of his but owing to petrol shortage. He was offered nothing which appealed to him at the labour exchange, so he rejoined Belsen, and they restarted their old activities in the Twickenham district. They carried out two successful robberies, stealing only jewellery which a relation of Belsen’s sold for them in Hatton Garden. The two thefts brought them just under £100 each, which worked out at £25 a week. At their third house-breaking they were caught, but they were both put on probation at the Central Criminal Court as nothing was known to connect them with the two earlier offences.

Probation, to a young man like Turner, was of course a mere farce. However, to avoid trouble with his probation officer, he told me he reported as often as required, and pretended to be trying his best to get work. But before he found any employment he was convicted at the Old Bailey for assault on an American soldier, and was sent to Chelmsford prison with his Borstal licence revoked. He assured me with great sincerity that his conviction was a mistake, and that he had not been concerned in the assault at all, and, as he confessed very frankly to having committed a good many robberies which were not shown at all on his official record, I am inclined to believe him. He served his six months in the severe discipline and hard exercise of a licence revokee’s regime and told me that he ‘found it very healthy and he almost liked it’.

On his release from Chelmsford he should have reported for military service, but he said he wanted a bit of freedom after his time in prison, and army life didn’t appeal to him, anyway. So he decided not to report.

‘Of course I couldn’t go home. So there I was—on the run, and I had to go pinching for a living. I knew I was bound to be caught sooner or later, and I just hoped it would be later.’

He had six weeks on the run when he was caught and convicted of three thefts, including one of a motor car. For these offences he served a nine months’ sentence in Bedford prison. On his release he was taken in handcuffs and handed over to the military authorities. His military service lasted only three weeks. I saw from his papers that he was discharged on medical grounds, for neurosis. I asked him what on earth was wrong with his nerves, and he said:

‘Nothing at all. But I didn’t want the army, and I encouraged it a bit—I mean I knew all the right answers when the doctors questioned me. A chap told me how to do it, and it was no trouble at all. But it was hard not to laugh.’

After his discharge from the army, Turner again worked as a lorry-driver, this time for ten months, his longest period of honest employment. He was happy in his work, got on well with his employers, and was able to make an addition of £2 or £3 a week to his high wages by doing odd deals in furniture, as his employers were small contractors who did a good deal of furniture removals. He told me that he was saving money fast and got engaged to be married to a very respectable girl. Once more, according to his own account, he found himself in trouble with the police through no fault of his own.

It may be difficult to believe any story of his innocence told by a man with so many convictions. But there was no object in his telling it to me if it were not true. Moreover, it was borne out entirely by newspaper cuttings in his possession. And once more he disclosed an offence committed at the same time not shown on his official record. To me at least, as he told it, his story carried complete conviction.

In the early summer of 1946 he was helping a friend in the street in which he lived to carry some crates into the cellar of his friend’s shop when lie tripped, fell down several steps, and sprained his ankle. By a coincidence, a police car of the Flying Squad chased a stolen car that evening into that same street, where the stolen car overturned; the two men in it escaped. Next day the police took Turner to an identification parade with no more justification, as he declared, than his sprained ankle and his criminal record. After much hesitation one constable identified him as having been in the stolen car. He was committed for trial and allowed bail.

Nothing in fact came of this charge. He appeared for trial at the sessions, where the very experienced chairman stopped the hearing, saying there was no case to be answered, and he was discharged.

Most unhappily, however, the charge brought more trouble with it. In his own words:

‘When I was on bail I got fed up. I had had my Borstal licence revoked when I had not touched that American soldier. And now I


was committed for trial when I had nothing in the world to do with this stolen car, just on my past record. I thought: if they are going to start chasing me when I really have gone straight for nearly a year, just on my record, well, I may as well really do something to deserve it. So I started working1 again. I had one successful coop2 and the second time I was caught. It was all so silly really, as the chairman at the sessions stopped the case against me. Of course, I was guilty of the job I did while I was on bail, but I don’t suppose for a minute I would ever have done that if I hadn’t been so upset by the false charge. I was really going straight and I had a nice girl, and I don’t think I would ever have let her down so long as I could get an honest living. She was really fond of me, too, and although I got a two years’ sentence she stuck to me and wrote to me in prison for over a year, when her parents made her break it off. I suppose you can’t blame them for that. I did my two years at Wandsworth, a rotten sort of place and certainly there wasn’t any good to be learnt there.’

He was released from Wandsworth in November 1947 and went home. His father was dead and his mother had taken in a lodger, whom he disliked. The home was disagreeable to him and he went off to a place in Surrey, where he shared a house in a secluded part with five others. Two had been friends in Wandsworth prison and all were thieves. Between them they owned a first-class lorry, and this they worked honestly, as a blind, by day, and dishonestly by night. This went on for over five months. He said that they made what would have been quite a decent living out of their honest daytime contracts, as they had no difficulty in getting work with their lorry at i8i. an hour. But the money they made on top of that by store-breakings at night ‘was just nobody’s business’. There were six of them, and they had a large lorry, so that they could remove considerable quantities of stuff in a short time. He said they did on an average two jobs a week, and they never did a job unless they had made plans beforehand for the disposal of what they stole. It was to this planning how to get rid of stolen property that he attributed their success. As he said, there was never anything suspicious for anyone to see on their lorry, or at their yard.

These five months were halcyon days. He said he was the housekeeper for the party of six.

‘The spending was simply terrific. We lived as none of us had lived in our lives. I bought absolutely everything any one of us wanted on the black market. We had hundreds of pounds coming in, so what 1 i.e. thieving.    * Coup!

did prices matter? I used to buy eggs at is s. a dozen; legs of pork for 50s.; whisky at £4 and £5. As long as I got the best nobody cared what I spent. Every week we divided up the money after paying expenses. Of course, with all the money we had coming in, we could have saved a lot more than we did. But nobody cared, and even as it was I had a lot saved.’

The end came with a theft of a huge quantity of plywood. Four of the gang drove the lorry to a timberyard in Sussex and loaded it with plywood of which the market value was £2 a ‘sheet’. This they sold at 155. a sheet. They successfully disposed of two loads, for each of which they got over £500 to be divided amongst them. The third load they got successfully to the outskirts of London, but Turner was seen driving it in the early hours of the morning into a yard in the suburbs and he was caught red-handed. He received a three years’ sentence, and he had served some six months of it when I saw him.

This young man had been more than once in prison, yet it seemed to be no deterrent to him. Indeed he admitted as much. He regarded it as the stake with which he played the game of life.

‘Not that I like being in these places,’ he said. ‘But I want certain things and I don’t see any chance of getting them except by doing what I have done.’

I asked him what the things were which he wanted in life.

‘Well, I don’t go for girls,’he replied. ‘They simply don’t interest me. And I scarcely drink. I have a drink to be sociable, but I wouldn’t care if I never had another. I only drink beer. I hate the taste of whisky. I do like a certain standard of luxury, I suppose. For instance

I like to go to a restaurant like the M-in the West End, and have

a good dinner and order wine and cigars. I certainly like good clothes. I have got six suits, all made for me in the West End by jolly good tailors. I have paid from £20 to £25 for each of my suits. Now, I know I haven’t got the education to earn enough to enable me to live like I want to at any honest job. So there it is.’

I pointed out that he paid dearly for a few months of enjoyment of these luxuries if he came back repeatedly for ever increasingly lengthy sentences of imprisonment. He said:

‘I don’t want to come back to prison. It’s not too bad in one way, if you understand me, but it’s all such an absolute waste. Now here in this prison I’m working a sewing-machine. It’s a ridiculous thing. It doesn’t do you any good to run a thing like that. I’ve got to the


stage that I could do it blindfold, and in my sleep almost. Then I get in my cell from 5 p.m. till 9 a.m. I lie on my bed thinking, thinking, thinking. When I was first sentenced I thought it was simply awful and that I would go mad before I finished that sentence of nine months. But now I go jogging along. This three years’ stretch, I don’t think a lot of it. I am so used to it. It’s not so bad. The officers on the whole are a pretty decent lot—one or two not so good. The longer they’ve been in the service as a rule the better they are. They’ve got a rotten job, with poor pay I wouldn’t take. I often think they’ve got pretty good patience to stick what they do—often just insults from some fellows. Well, I expect you’ve sized me up after all this. When I go out I sayjl won’t get into trouble again, and I did make a shot at going straight once like I told you. The thing is when one is in prison one gets talking to other chaps and they ask the things you’ve done. One gets known as a clever creeper,1 or a useful lorry or car-driver with good nerves when necessary. Then, when I’m outside, some chap comes up to me in a pub or somewhere like that and suggests I join in something, and I’m just not strong enough to say no.’

This lad’s record was very bad. He was not in the least vicious, but completely amoral. He seemed to have no ethical or moral standards at all. He said: ‘I’ve got my principles’, but I was quite unable to find what they were. By principles he meant, I think, habits. I asked him to tell me what they were, and he said: ‘Well, I wouldn’t steal things from a counter in a shop—I would never pick pockets; I won’t have anything to do with carrying a gun— I don’t hold with it.’ It never seemed to have occurred to him that if it were contemptible to pick pockets it was equally contemptible to rob an empty flat. I told him that it was a selfish and wicked thing to inflict suffering upon people by robbing them, that if he chose deliberately to live by stealing it was both justice and common sense that the community should protect itself by putting him into prison, and that if he still persisted in stealing, his sentences would get longer and longer. Such ideas as civic duty, or honesty for its own sake, or consideration for the rights of others, seemed to be completely new to him. He listened to me with attention, and said repeatedly: ‘Yes, I see your point of view.’ I asked him what he thought a judge ought to give him if he were again convicted, and he said: ‘Well, if you’re right in all you’ve been saying, on my record about five years.’

He was resigned to the apparent inevitability of future crimes and further imprisonments. I saw him in a small local prison which,

1 House-breaker.


grossly overcrowded and greatly understaffed, had no opportunity of giving him any useful industrial training. He said:

‘What chance can I have of getting a decent job when I go out? I shall be twenty-five and have neither a trade nor a character. What’s the use of your telling me to go straight? What am I to go straight at?’

When I saw him he was a pleasant, likeable young man who had led a shocking life, but I thought there was still hope for him. A man has to be very bad before one can be sure he will not respond to disinterested kindness. The medical officer described him as ‘self-possessed, reasonably intelligent, with no evidence of an anxiety state or psychopathic personality’. I took the view that if he stayed for the remainder of his sentence in this small prison he would go out so disheartened that an early reconviction would be inevitable. One more long sentence at twenty-five years of age and he would become irreclaimable.

Accordingly I brought his case before the prison commissioners with a view to his transfer to a prison where more could be done for him. They were unable to find a place for him at Maidstone, where he could have had really good industrial training in any one of a number of trades, but they transferred him to Chelmsford. A letter to me written a few weeks after his arrival shows his state of mind.

‘Dear Sir,

T8. 2. 1949.

Many thanks for your letter which I received today. Your letter refers to the opportunities offered me here regarding a trade. But this is not a trade prison, there are no facilities for learning. I am very dissapointed at being sent here as I had thought I was recommended for Maidstone, and I became full of enthusiam. I wanted to learn engineering, motor or precision, which I have always been interested in. I know my own abilities and I was confident that your trust in me would have been proved. I am not saying this just to fill up this paper. At this stage I am sick and tired of coming to these places. I curse my record, which has deprived me of the opportunity to leave prison with sound fundamental knowledge of a trade and the prospects of a better life in the future. I can only say all your efforts have been in vain. But I say, with all sincerity, thanks for what you have tried to do for me.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘Jack Turner’

Six weeks later I heard from the same kind prison visitor who, having taken Saunders1 upon his list, now took this man. He wrote that Turner was happier in his mind, and was settling down as one of the best behaved men in the prison, and that he was taking a course in motor engineering.

Six months after this his visitor again reported. Turner, he said, had greatly improved in his outlook on life. He wanted to keep out of trouble when he left prison, if for no other reason because he realised he would get a really long sentence in all probability if he were again convicted. Physically and intellectually he was quite able to hold his own in, say, ordinary factory employment. The danger was that he was weak, had no honest steady friends of his own age, and would need a guiding hand for a time until he steadied down to work.

This was one of the very few instances in which the view of a prisoner which I formed differed substantially from that of the prison authorities. I discussed him at length with a prison governor under whom he had served more than one sentence. His opinion was that, while Turner was perfectly capable of earning his living honestly, it was very doubtful if he had any real intention of going straight. He thought his show of co-operation was only a pretence The governor’s opinion is based upon a longer experience than mine, both of prisoners in general and of this man. Time alone can show which of us is right. Certainly this is just such a case in which one would be immensely helped by some continuing power of supervision after the lad’s release from prison.

1 Supra, p. 216.

b. 14.6.26 C. ofE. age 22

Approved school Returned to approved school

Returned to school

Returned to school

Bound over Approved school Returned to school

2    years’ Borstal

3    years’ Borstal

3    years’ imprisonment

4    years’ penal servitude









18.1.44 28.11.44



Canteen-breaking (while absconding)

Office-breaking (while absconding)

House-breaking (while absconding)

Larceny of cigarettes

Breach of recognisances

Larceny (while absconding)

Absconding from approved school

Larceny (5 cases T.I.C.)

Garage-breaking (2 cases T.I.C.)

Assault and attempted rape

With his deplorable record of continuous offences, unless something can be done to help this unhappy young man he will become undoubtedly a persistent offender for the rest of his life. On the other hand, his intelligence is so low and his capacity to earn any sort of honest living so limited that it is impossible to classify him as a recidivist in the sense of a man who prefers to live by dishonest rather than by honest means. He was, however, selected by a prison governor as representative of a certain type of persistent offender, and I therefore interviewed him. The governor, moreover, described him as perhaps one of the toughest and most brutal men in the prison, with a lengthy record of serious prison offences. I examined his prison file and it did indeed show a continuous list of such charges as assaults upon other prisoners, refusal

to work, and so on. Although he was serving a long sentence of four years and would therefore normally have had remission of one year and four months, he had already forfeited the whole of this remission in the first eighteen months of his sentence for serious offences against prison rules.

At the time I saw this man he was twenty-two years old, but when he entered the room where I was I thought a mistake had been made, and that the wrong prisoner had been sent; he had the appearance of a man more than double his age. He could read or write scarcely at all, which was not surprising in view of the history of his countless abscondings from every school to which he was sent. He was so ugly as to be repulsive, and his memory was so bad that I found it possible to study him only by getting him to tell me about various incidents of his life; anything in the nature of a connected story was beyond him. I had been a little alarmed at the description of him as a sort of terror of the prison, but the reality was very different. He appeared to me to be utterly pathetic. Unwin was the son of a painter, now dead. His mother, however, was still alive, and he spoke of her constantly and with great affection, though his home was a very poor one, squalid and dirty in addition, if the description in his police file was to be accepted. I think it was clear from his own early record of truancy that he had been completely neglected as a child, and he had had no supervision or training of any sort whatever. His childhood, as he told me, was spent in the roughest of slum streets, and he scarcely knew what I had in mind when I asked him about such agencies as the Boy Scouts, Sunday-schools, or clubs. He told me that he had two brothers and that both of them had, like himself, been committed to approved schools, and one to a Borstal institution; he added with real pride that both had made good and were doing well, the one of them who had been at Borstal as a sergeant in the army.

His memories of his various schools made one thing plain, that his intelligence was so low that he could not maintain any educational progress and that he was miserably unhappy as a result. He realised that he was learning nothing and that he was laughed at by other boys, and so, not at all unnaturally, he perpetually ran away. One can only marvel, as in the case of Nicholls,1 that his unsuitability for approved-school training was never recognised

1 Supra, p. 178.


and some alternative tried. As it was, after each absconding he was rather less fitted for approved-school life than he was before, but was mechanically returned to it by the juvenile court. A reasonable alternative which might usefully have been tried was some form of farm life. Certainly a greater mess than was in fact made of this difficult, unattractive, and most unhappy boy would not have been possible. He was forced back repeatedly into institutions to which he was unfitted, where he was miserable, and from which he ran away. While he was in them he was continuously under punishment and lost all remission, so that from the age of twelve he had never been out of some or other form of confinement for a longer period than three months.

The one place in which he had not been actively unhappy was Portland Borstal Institution and this was due to the kindness shown him by the then governor.

‘Mr. V.-was always kind to me,’ he said. ‘He was never too

busy to have a word with me, and he was out to help me, he was. He would help me now if he could, I’m sure. He was always a gentleman to me. I done me two years under him and I knew him well. He understood me.’

I asked him why he made things so much worse for himself by repeated prison offences. From an intelligent man his answer would have been absurd, but from this poor creature it convinced me.

‘I don’t know myself. Half the things I get punished for I’ve never done and don’t know nothing about. I’m very easy-going. I don’t like to give other chaps away and I’m the one that gets the blame for everything. Then, most everybody’s against me and they all believe things against me. Some of the chaps does things and they can’t take punishment, so when they look like being caught they put it on to me.’

One of his alleged prison offences for which he had been severely punished was the attempted smuggling out of a prison workshop of some tools. He told me that the prisoner actually carrying these tools out of the shop put them into his hands when an officer approached and the other man saw that a ‘rub down’, or search, was imminent. I found no difficulty in believing the truth of this story. As he said:

‘I’ve got into such a state of mind I don’t care. I would like a chance to make good away from these places. I tried to enlist in the

army, but they wouldn’t have me. I’ve never had any life. I swallowed

a spoon the other day, but it didn’t do any good.’

This hopeless gesture of swallowing spoons and all kinds of similar articles is familiar to every medical officer with experience of mentally abnormal prisoners. I myself have come across a man who swallowed a fork; he was operated upon and the fork was removed. After a brief period of convalescence in the hospital he was returned to prison, where shortly afterwards he swallowed a second fork. The whole routine was repeated, and again the man found himself in prison. It is hard to believe, but it is none the less true, that as soon as the opportunity arose he swallowed a third fork. On this occasion he made a small concession to weakness by swathing the prongs of the fork with lavatory paper before swallowing it.

Many prisoners have assured me that they were innocent of the offence for which they were serving a sentence. In some few cases I have thought that their story was almost certainly true. In the great majority of cases I have not thought it worth while to consider the matter since I had not access to the evidence. For what it was worth, Unwin assured me that his conviction for the sex offence for which he was serving four years was a mistake. Not having heard the evidence against him, I express no opinion, save to say that before a jury on such a charge he would be gravely prejudiced by his personal appearance, while he would be wholly unable to give any intelligible evidence on his own behalf, and it is in his favour that his past record of many offences included no sex crime.

His police character was bad in that he was described as lazy and as having had no record of regular employment. As to this, his history made any such record an impossibility, and one almost invariable characteristic of persistent offenders—that he was the habitual companion of criminals—was not alleged against him by a borough police force which could certainly not be described as sympathetic.

I tried with this man, as with the others, to be dispassionately analytical, but it may well have been that his helpless misery and the handicaps with which I realised he would have some day to face the world again influenced me unduly in his favour. He was grateful for so very little kindness.

‘I’d like to say I’m glad of this talk,’ he said to me. ‘You’ve been kind in hearing me out, and that hasn’t happened before. It’s cheered me up.’

He could, I think, perfectly well do the work of a navvy at such a job as roadmaking, and if for a time he could have the help of a kindly foreman I believe he would make a real effort. If he has no such chance given to him there will come perhaps a time when his poor mind revolts against the blows of fate, and he turns against the world, an embittered and a dangerous man.


Some time after this was written I got a carefully written medical report upon this man.

It disclosed what he had told me himself, that he had gone through a period of continuous and considerable punishment in the prison. When the doctor wrote to me he said that Unwin had since about the date of my visit been behaving well and doing his work. The report described him as a very difficult character but not certifiable as a mental defective. The doctor was of the opinion that he could behave if he wanted to do so and did in fact behave well while in the prison hospital. At one time the doctor had inclined to think him an aggressive psychopath.

b. 30.12.25 C. ofE. age 23

This young man was the illegitimate son of a chorus girl whose stage name he has adopted. He has no idea of her real name, or identity, or that of his father. This mystery of his birth has become an obsession with him and he kept coming back to it again and again each time I saw him. He has made endless enquiries, and he told me that it would make the whole difference in life to him to feel that there was a single person who belonged to him and to whom he himself belonged.

His childhood appears to have been utterly miserable. It may be that he exaggerated: I had no means of judging, save that I should not regard him as possessed of sufficient imagination to invent the story he told. If he were repeating something he had heard from another person, he told his tale most realistically. Personally, I believe he told the truth, and much of his story I was later able to confirm.

At the age of a few weeks he was handed over by the Blankshire County Council to the care of foster-parents who lived in a London suburb. There were two other foster-children, all more or less of an age, and they all believed themselves to be brothers. He himself had no idea that he was a foster-child until, at the age of fourteen, he got a birth certificate when he wanted to join the Merchant Navy. He said the sudden discovery that he was an illegitimate child of unknown parents was a great mental shock to him.

The three boys lived a wretched life. They were sent to school, but they made no friends there because they were allowed by the foster-mother to bring no one to the house, nor were they allowed to visit the homes of any other children. At school there were several boys he liked, but it was impossible to get to know them under such conditions. The only sign of friendship he could show, he told me, was to exchange ‘comics’ with other boys, and even


this had to be done surreptitiously, as his foster-mother did not allow ‘comics’ to be brought into her house.

I asked him if the three of them were consciously unhappy, and if at the time they knew how little liberty they had. He said that looking back, and having by now seen one happy home, he realised that they missed everything childhood ought to give, but at the time none of them knew things other than as they were, and he did not think they were really unhappy: they were just not happy. They were never ill-treated. They had good clothes and boots, and always plenty to eat. If they were ill the doctor was always called.

None of them ever had birthdays, in the sense of receiving birthday presents; he had no idea as a child of the date of his birthday. Christmas Day was notable for the fact that they had a better dinner, but that was all. There was no party, or cake, or presents, and it was all forgotten next day. They were treated by the foster-parents apparently as a business proposition, and without pretence or affectation of anything more. They had neither affection nor the show of it. He said he could never remember any one of them being kissed even once by his foster-mother, or tucked up in bed at night. They were taught no prayers. As they grew older they were sent to church with great regularity, but it was only in order to get rid of them. They were sent alone to the eleven o’clock service and, as they had never been taught anything whatever about religion, the service meant nothing to any of them. It was always their practice to sit together in the darkest part of the church they could find and play card games, or any other games which made no noise.

Vyne went to an elementary school from five to when he was eight years of age. He was then given a county council grant of £5 a term, to pay for books and extras to enable him to go to what he described as a ‘better-class bigger school’. I asked him if he was ever taught anything of religion at this school, and he said that religion was a ‘subject’.

‘It was one of the lessons. We used to have a story read to us, and we had to write an essay about it afterwards. I don’t think I could remember the stories now, but there was one about a donkey which could talk. No, I don’t think I can remember any more. Yes, I can: there was one about a man who had a stick and it turned into a snake. I don’t think anyone told us what these stories were good for. They didn’t mean anything to me.’

To my question whether he knew today anything more than this about religion, he said he had heard things, and had ‘picked up bits’ since then. I asked him if he knew anything at all about Jesus Christ, and he said, ‘Not really’. He has been at two approved schools and a Borstal institution, at each of which he attended church services as a compulsory duty. Comment is superfluous.

I wondered if the three boys had tried to escape the dismal atmosphere of this home by joining a club, but he said none of them knew until it was too late that such things as boys’ clubs or the Boy Scouts existed. He never remembered being taken to the pictures, but they had threepence a week each as pocket money, and they could go by themselves if they saved sufficient money. Sometimes they would lurk about outside a cinema in the hope that some compassionate person might take them in, and occasionally they were given the cost of a seat in this way. But it was so rare a treat that they would sit the programme round again and again until they were forced to go home for fear of being punished.

But the worst feature of this horrid house was that their fosterparents had two children of their own away at boarding school, and when these came home the three boys were not allowed to see them except at meals; the real children were taken to the pictures every week, but they did not go with them, and when the real children used the sitting-room the three orphans sat in the kitchen.

‘Looking back now,’ he said, ‘I think it was a wrong bringing up. I feel rather bitter. As to Mrs. Smith, I don’t love her. But I do not dislike her. I quite like her. I suppose that is because I never knew any one else or any other home. I gave her my money when I came back from my first ship. I never saw any inspector while I was there. I do not know if any county council inspectors ever came to the house. But if they did I never saw one.’

Early in 1941 Vyne was evacuated to Surrey, and was billeted at a hostel. He had no money at all given him for pocket money, and one day another boy in the hostel said that he knew an easy way to get some. This boy had a collecting box for a local hospital, and the two of them went from house to house with it. They had intended to go on until they had about £2 before breaking open the box, but a householder got suspicious long before they had collected as much, and he telephoned the police. Vyne was charged and put on probation.

The probation officer said he must find himself a job and he got work at a town in Berkshire where he knew some people. He got lodgings with the wife of a soldier serving abroad and gave her 20i. for his keep out of the 32$. 6d. he got as a junior clerk at an aerodrome. She was very kind to him, and he wanted to show his gratitude, so he promised that he would decorate the spare room in her house for her. To get the money for the paint and wallpaper he repeated the trick for which he had been put on probation and went round collecting money, ostensibly for the hospital of this district. According to his own story, he had finished his collection and had actually bought the paper and the paint, when the hospital gave information to the police and he was arrested. I asked him if he told anyone of why he had committed this fraud and he said that he had not done so; it was a feeble excuse and he knew no one would believe him, although it was in fact quite true, and he did not want to be jeered at. For this offence he was sent to an approved school in July 1941.

Altogether he was at two approved schools. He hated the first, and liked the second very much. If, therefore, his account of the former is bad, at least it cannot be said that he had nothing but abuse for all those set in authority over him.

‘I hated the first school at Ringmead. The headmaster was a real nice chap. He was always very kind to me, but I did not see him very often. I wanted to tell him about the bullying, but I was afraid of what would happen to me if I did. The reason I hated the place was because there were a lot of chaps there much bigger than me, and they bullied me. There was a lot of sexual stuff went on in that place. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it, but if you refused you got beaten up, and I didn’t want that. I am very nervous, and I got so that I could not sleep, so I ran away after ten months.

‘I lived by myself for six months. I never stayed very long in any one place. I think I was in three different places altogether. I used to get work, and was always able to find some sort of lodgings. Six months after I ran away I was in a place and I stole an attache-case in the house of some people who put me up for a night. It was a beastly thing to do because they only took me in out of kindness. Anyway, they told the police and I got sent to the Akbar Nautical School. That was in December 1942. I liked that place, and stayed there twelve months. The commander had been in the Navy and he was a man I got very fond of. He was very strict, but very fair, and he had no favourites. When I was discharged the school got me a ship and I went to sea as a deck hand. I went to Nova Scotia and Halifax. Unfortunately, I got appendicitis when I was there and I was sent home in another ship belonging to the same company. I have got my papers all right; they are marked: “Conduct, Good; Health, Unfit for Sea Service.”

‘I was sent back from Halifax to Liverpool and I lived at the Sailors’ Home. While I was there I used to go on board some of the ships, and one day I stole a wallet belonging to a carpenter aboard one of these ships. It was a silly thing to do. I wished I hadn’t as soon as I had got it. I took it out of his coat, which I saw lying on a table, and afterwards I wished I could put it back again. I had no real need to take it, because I was getting my keep paid at the Sailors’ Home, but I was getting no pay and I had no money at all. That was why I took it. When I was asked about it, I confessed at once. In August 1944 I was sent back to the Akbar for four months over this wallet. When I finished this time I wanted to go to sea again, but I was told this was impossible. They gave me a job in a seamen’s hostel in Birkenhead. It was very good pay, 35*. wages and live in free. I had to wash-up and to serve meals and keep the place clean. But I didn’t like being so near the sea and hearing people talk about ships all the time while I did work like that. So after three months I chucked it up and went back to Berkshire to see if I could get a clerical job there.’

He did in fact get clerical work, but he disliked it and tried to enlist. All three services rejected him, however, as physically unfit by reason of a perforated eardrum. In a vague fit of depression he went by train to Torquay, his own explanation being that he wished to see if anything could be done about getting into the Merchant Navy. I found this a very unconvincing reason for a visit to Torquay, and I imagine the truth was rather that he had nothing to do and was attracted by the idea of a seaside holiday in July. His own weakness and limited intelligence were soon shown. He had neither work nor money, but he told me that within a day or so of his arrival he made the acquaintance at the Y.M.C.A. of a girl whom he described as a ‘well-to-do young lady’, and wishing to be able to entertain her suitably he began again to ‘collect’ for the local hospital. On the third day of this activity he was arrested. His prison file shows that in August 1945 he was given a Borstal sentence for obtaining money by false pretences, ‘forty-four other offences taken into consideration’.

Vyne assured me that this meant no more than that he had in all obtained subscriptions fraudulently from forty-five houses, the total sum so obtained being less than £4.

After a four months’ wait in prison for a Borstal vacancy he was sent to Dartmoor, where he spent twelve months before his

discharge. So far as instruction and training went it was a profitless time. This was a period of very great overcrowding in Borstal institutions after the war, and the difficulties caused by this and by a considerable shortage of staff made it temporarily impossible to provide the thorough training which the Borstal system is designed to give. Moreover, the clamant demand for accommodation in Borstals caused by the larger number of sentences necessitated the reduction to a minimum of the time each lad was detained. It was due to such difficulties that the prison commissioners were forced to adapt a wing of the old Dartmoor prison as a Borstal institution. I asked Vyne, who both physically and mentally is the very reverse of robust or ‘tough’, what he thought of Dartmoor. His entirely unprompted reply amused me, in view of the floods of hysterical remonstrance with which kindly people with not much knowledge of Borstal lads had protested in Parliament and in the Press against the temporary use of this prison as a Borstal institution.

‘It was not at all rough. It was uncomfortable as regards weather, as there was an awful lot of mist and rain. But in fine weather, and all the summer, it was a lovely place really, all over the farms and the moor. I call it rather a jolly place, and the governor was a very nice man. I acted as clerk to my housemaster and he was always kind to me.’

After leaving Borstal in December 1946, Vyne got a succession of jobs, in none of which could he settle. He was first a steward at a sailors’ home in the London docks. This was a well-paid job, but he gave it up after a few weeks and went back to Surrey, where he found himself work as a fruiterer’s assistant at £4 lor. a week. Again he had no complaint either as to the pay or the work; indeed he said it was pleasant work which he enjoyed. But after four months he threw it up to become a civilian pay clerk in the office of the Territorial Army at £4 17s. 6d. a week. While doing this work he took on, in addition, part-time work as a youth club leader, which brought him in a further 45*. weekly, so that he was earning a total of more than £7 a week at twenty-one years of age and within six months of his Borstal discharge. He said frankly that he had secured this youth club work without disclosure of his past record, but after he had done the work successfully for three months he wisely saw the county organiser who reported so favourably on his work that he was confirmed in his appointment.

Q    241

One would imagine that Vyne would have been so thankful to find himself established, as he was, in comfortable lodgings, and with work, as he said, interesting and well paid, that he would have settled down to gain a character as a decent citizen. But, unhappily, the minds of young men who have known neither guidance nor discipline have twists and vagaries of their own. So, indeed, it proved with him. Restless and unsettled, he wandered back to the docks and to further trouble. Bad as it was, blameworthy as he was, if we look back at the dismal boyhood and the early youth spent in institutions which were all the adolescence he had known, it is not easy to be hard in one’s judgment. It is said that from him to whom much has been given much may be demanded. To that there must be in common sense the merciful corollary that from him to whom little has been given little can be asked.

Be that as it may, he did in fact drift back to the docks hoping against hope to find a ship. There he met a ship’s mate, who told him that with papers marked, as his were, ‘Unfit for Sea Service’, it would be impossible to get a ship by proper means, but, the man added, he himself would take Vyne to sea for a five-pound note. Once more the weak and foolish boy fell at the temptation. He had not as much as five pounds in cash. But he had a ciné camera belonging to the youth club. This he sold; with the proceeds he bribed the mate; and three days later he sailed as cook’s steward on a three months’ cruise. Unfortunately he was arrested as soon as the ship returned to England; his Borstal licence was revoked and he spent four months at Chelmsford prison. In April 1948 he was discharged.

On his discharge he had two consecutive strokes of ill-fortune. The first was an illness contracted only a few days after he left Chelmsford which kept him five weeks in hospital; the second was an appearance before a bench of magistrates inconspicuous for common sense or mercy. He left this hospital in a country town after five weeks in bed with the promise that in a week’s time he was to be taken for three weeks into their convalescent home. For a week after leaving the hospital he had sufficient money to keep himself. Then he presented himself at the hospital, only to find that there would not be a vacancy at the convalescent home for another week or ten days. His money was almost all gone. Once more he did the foolish and the wrong thing. He stole a bicycle and rode


off. As it so happened, he was stopped by policemen twice within some twelve miles. The police were on the lookout for an escaped prisoner, and he was allowed to ride on. But his nerve failed. He hid the bicycle in a hayrick and took to the train. After a few miles he got out of the train, and from a telephone box rang up the police station and told them where he had hidden a stolen bicycle. He then resumed his train journey and next day found himself work. A week later he was arrested, charged with the theft of the bicycle, and given a sentence of six months, which he was serving when I saw him.

The sentence appeared to me to be at once monstrous and absurd. It was certainly no encouragement to any future repentant thief to disclose of his own accord where stolen property had been hidden. The justices gave him the maximum sentence in their power to award whatever the circumstances. The circumstances in this case were that the prisoner was twenty-two years of age, had been sick in hospital, had stolen the bicycle when he was almost penniless to enable him to get to a place where work was available, had in fact got work, and had made such amends as was in his power by ringing up the police to tell them how to recover the stolen goods. In view of his bad record, he might reasonably have been fined and given time to pay the money out of his wages. In view of the fact that he had been sick and had returned the bicycle, he might more charitably and with equal reason have been put on probation.

This boy was not an attractive type. It would have been almost a miracle if he had been. Obviously weak, full of self-pity, needing constant supervision and stimulus if he were not to fall back into fresh offences, with no decent friends or interests to guide him, and prepared to take all he could get, there was no certainty that whatever trouble was taken with him he would ever repay it by honest effort. Against that, he was a lonely and pathetic figure, not in the least vicious or consciously anti-social, intelligent, and well able to earn his living honestly.

I told him that he must stay for at least a year in one job, and, better still, two years, in order to earn a decent character and gain respectable friends. At this he broke down and wept, saying that there was no one in the world who cared what happened to him.

‘Ifonly I had somebody I could turn to, or write to; and who would

write to me. I want to pull up. I know if I go on like this I shall get

so that I never can pull up. Even today when I know it is hopeless I-can’t help thinking about my mother.’

Amongst those whom I consulted opinion was divided. The prison governor thought him so weak and spineless that he could respond to reforming influence only so long as it was present and active, and confidently expected him back in prison. The chief officer thought there was a chance for him if he could settle for a year or two in one situation and so establish himself.

It was very typical of this man that his emotional insistence upon the need of a friend to whom he could write for sympathy and advice left him as he went into the world. I had told him he might write to me, and he went out of prison protesting that he would write me a weekly letter. For a few weeks all went well. My friend Mr. Pinker1 fitted him out with an outfit of clothes and a little money to put in his pocket, and he got a reasonably good job. Then he found he needed a bicycle to get to his work and Mr. Pinker bought him one on easy repayment terms. A month after his discharge from prison he wrote to me:

“How grateful I am to you and to the Reverend Pinker for your kindness words fail me in my thankfulness, but believe me it has made me very happy. I am not going to be foolish and to say what I will do and won’t do, for I see the only thing is to do as well as I can. I have a bike, and I am to give the Reverend Pinker 55. a week to pay for it, and I shall save quite this in bus fares by having it. I really do appreciate your kindness and I shall always endeavour to keep you and your words in mind. I am doing quite well at my job. I am going to stay here. The only possible thing that can happen is for them to ask for a reference. Something was said about this when I started here, but I am going to work so hard that I hope they will not trouble to ask again.’

He did not answer either of two letters from me, and I heard no more of him until five weeks later. Then I had a deeply penitent letter saying that he had let me down badly. He had had debts when he came out of prison of which he had not told me, and he had got into further money trouble; as a result he was again penniless and had sold the bicycle, towards the cost of which he had made Mr. Pinker only two payments of five shillings each. Once more Mr. Pinker came to the rescue and put things straight, and he returned to his job.

1 Secretary, National Association of Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Societies.


Three weeks later he was dismissed, entirely through his own fault. He came to London, once more penniless and out of work. His one wish now was to make a clean sweep of his past and get to sea. Despite all the difficulties, Mr. Pinker found him a ship and he sailed in her as a cook. From the ship he wrote to me. He liked his ship and the work; he was getting a rate of pay so high that he would find no difficulty at all in repaying what he readily acknowledged to be a debt of honour for his bicycle; his gratitude for Mr. Pinkcr’s patience and kindness was beyond words to express, and he was now set on the path of honesty for life.

Alas, another few weeks found him again in London begging for help. He had left his ship, as he said because his skill as a cook was insufficient. Whether this was true I never learnt. Already some of his enthusiasm had waned. There was no urgency about work; he was anxious to look around for something suitable. But very wisely Mr. Pinker found that his patience, like Hitler’s, was exhausted. Vyne was firmly told that he would receive a very small cash grant and very scant sympathy until he was on board another ship. Within a few days he signed on as assistant cook and sailed for South Africa, almost exactly five months after his discharge from prison.

As I write this, five months later yet, we are still without a word from him. I have often thought of him and wondered if the frail barque of his own life has, after her unhopeful start, found some safe anchorage, or if, in the storms which all ships meet, she has somewhere foundered.


Fourteen months after his release from prison I had a sensible manly letter from him. He was in the same ship in which he had served for the past six months. He had got into some financial trouble but took my advice as to getting free from his small debts by making an allotment from his pay. He seemed settled and wrote that he was happy and most grateful for what had been done for him.

Prisoners’ Aid work is all ups and downs—mostly downs. If one is made unhappy by the downs, what joy there is to be found in the ups!

b. i2.i2.22 Atheist, age 26

I found it difficult not to be impatient with this man. He was furtive and unco-operative and, in addition, one of the few whom I interviewed who gave me the impression of not telling me more of the truth than he could help. I therefore checked and recheckcd a good many of his statements of fact. Although the final result is, I think, a reasonably accurate story, the man’s own manner did not increase my trust in him.

He was the eldest of a family of ten children. His father was still alive, but his mother died a year ago at the age of forty-seven. He described her as a very good woman and a kind mother who had for years led an unhappy life with his drunken father. Up to four years ago his father had been a foreman galvaniser and had earned very high wages, but as a result of drink be had then lost his position as foreman. Since then he still made good money, though not so much as formerly, as a glass blower in a Midland city. His father has always been a heavy drinker, and his mother got her money from him only by waiting for him on pay days outside the factory gates. He used to knock her about a good deal until she took him to court on one occasion for assault. During the last few years of her life his mother allowed him to spend virtually all his wages on drink, as she was able to run the home on the contributions of five children between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three. His father has continued to live in the same house since his wife’s death and he had seven of his children still living with him.

Of the ten children Williams was the only one ever to have been in trouble with the police. For what it was worth, as I had no means of checking this statement, he told me that, as a result of his father’s example, all the children old enough to decide such matters, including himself, were teetotallers and non-smokers. His own explanation of his criminal start in life was simple enough. He laid the entire blame on his father.


‘My father had no affection for me and never tried to help me. He preferred my brothers to me. I felt I was not wanted in the home. He used to knock me about so that I didn’t really feel I had a home at all.’

He explained his father’s dislike by saying that he had always preferred his mother and invariably defended her in the continuous quarrels between them.

I found this explanation too glib to be convincing. It sounded to me rather as if he were repeating a formula he had learnt by heart. To me it seemed improbable that, if his father had been the brute Williams made him out to be, he would have had any discriminating affection for any of his family. I therefore asked Williams if this explanation of his drift into crime were his own idea or whether it had been suggested to him by someone else. He assured me that the explanation was entirely his own, and in reply to a later question he told me that he had never at any time been interviewed by a psychiatrist. Later in the day, before I left the prison, I discussed Williams with the prison governor, and I discovered from his papers that this statement was in fact untrue and that he had been examined by a psychiatrist at Wormwood Scrubs. A week after I saw this man and wrote this present account of him, he was examined by the prison doctor. It is a curious example of entirely gratuitous lying that he told the doctor that he was an only child.

He went to an elementary school until he was eleven and then to a senior school until he was fourteen. As a child he had no pocket money, as his mother, so he told me, had no money to spare for this purpose with her large family. But he said he never felt the least need for it, and after he left the elementary school he always made is. or more a week for himself by running errands, chopping wood, or other similar small jobs for neighbours. He said he had never known as a child what it was to be without plenty of food, as well as good shoes and clothes. Oddly enough, though he never joined the Scouts or a club, he belonged to a Sunday-school. Neither his father or mother ever went to church, or sent any of their children there, and he could not remember how it was that he came to join a Sunday-school. On the other hand, his recollection was clear that he had belonged for five years and that each year he had got a prize for good attendance. But he was equally clear that during that five years of attendance at afternoon


Sunday-school lie had never once been to a service in church. The first time he had ever been to a church service of any kind was at his approved school, where they were marched on Sundays to the small village church. At Borstal, later on, church attendance was again compulsory, but here he never saw the chaplain alone, or at all save in chapel, nor did he so much as ever speak to the chaplain that he could remember, and certainly he did not receive any religious instruction. It is quite possible that in telling me this he said what was not true; certainly in at least one Borstal institution known to me personally, such a story would be inconceivable. But if this whole account were a lie, it is curious how often the same lie regarding the lack of individual religious instruction was told to me by other lads who had Borstal experience.

As was to be expected, he had never been inside a church since he left Borstal. After his mother’s death he became an atheist, and he was pleased at being allowed to give me in detail the basis of his views on religion. Here again I had exactly the same feeling that he was repeating parrotlike what he could remember of what he had heard from someone else. But he was very eager to display his learning.

At the time of his mother’s death, he told me, it occurred to him that she had been a good woman in every way, although she had had no connection at all with religion and believed in nothing. This made it clear to him that religion was unnecessary as a means of being a good person and leading a good life, and it was therefore useless. The whole thing was a myth, and it was clear that no intelligent person could believe in the Resurrection, which was obviously no more than a fable. Nothing which was called miraculous could be true. The so-called miracles of the New Testament were probably examples of mass hypnotism or magic, and in any case were doubtless greatly exaggerated. But one could in fact find instances of similar phenomena done today in Thibet by yogi. The creation of the world by God was another example he might quote to me of a fable. All scientists today knew that the world was formed out of gas. Here I interposed to ask who made the gas, and he replied with crushing finality that, as everyone knew, gas did not have to be made, but made itself.

His first contact with a juvenile court was made at the age of ten, when he was found not guilty on a charge of breaking into a hut.

When he was just eleven years old he stole two torches from the counter of a shop, and ran off down the street with them. His own account of the incident was:

‘I thought I could get away without being seen and it seemed a

good way of making some money, but the shopkeeper caught me.’

For this theft he was bound over without being put on probation.

He got into no more trouble until he was twelve, when he wandered into the foreman’s shed at some building works and, finding no one there, stole a pair of spectacles from a table. These he took home, but his father saw them and returned them to the foreman. Again Williams explained the matter by saying that he took the spectacles as he thought someone would give him a shilling for them. Once more the local juvenile court merely bound him over without putting him on probation.1

A year later he was again before the court charged with the theft of sevenpence. For this he was sent to an approved school. I find it hard to believe that it could have been right to impose such a sentence for the theft of a few pence when the obvious treatment of probation had never been tried, yet so it was.

He spent fourteen months at St. John’s School, Tiffield, Northamptonshire, and remembers it as a happy time during which he got into no trouble and everyone was kind to him.

On his leaving the approved school at the age of fifteen, the aftercare officer found him employment at a well-known public school as a waiter. Williams told me that he liked his work and would have been happy but for the fact that he thought some of the other servants knew he had come from an approved school and looked down upon him as a result. After two or three months he accordingly ran away. I was not inclined to believe this story since, in reply to a specific question, he admitted that none of the servants had teased or taunted him in any way, or even mentioned the word approved school in his hearing. The real reason of his running away was more probably dislike of steady work.

After spending a night in London he hitch-hiked to Banbury where after a few days he was picked up by the police and returned to his approved school. Here they kept him a further six

1 This foolish way of treating small boys, against which I have protested for years, has now happily been stopped by the Criminal Justice Act 1948.

months until October 1938 when on his discharge he went home, and got work in an engineering factory at i6j. a week. He was still not yet sixteen and lived at home so that lie had the chance once more of settling down into permanent employment, the more so as two of his brothers and a sister were employed by the same firm. But after six months he was in trouble again. His own account of the matter was:

‘I got fed up with the way things were at home. Father was always picking on me. He was better to the rest of the family than he was to me. One day I didn’t go to work with the others. I took a day off to have a holiday to go to Coventry. I got charged with stealing a chap’s push-bike, but I hadn’t meant to keep it. As a result, I got sent to another approved school.’

Once again his father is made to appear as the villain of the piece, but the real cause of his trouble seemed to me to be the far simpler reason that he did not like hard work. His new school he described as ‘a terrible place for bullying, a dreadful place to be at’. So with another boy he ran away after two months and returned home. According to his own story his father had no idea he was in the house, but his mother was so glad to see him that she helped him to hide from the police when they called at the house. During the three weeks he was at liberty he kept himself in funds by various small thefts and amused himself by getting into any motor car he found unguarded in the street and driving it until the petrol was exhausted. He said he had amused himself in this way by driving as many as three cars in a single day. When eventually he was stopped by the police he was convicted of the theft of a motor car and three other felonies and sent by quarter sessions to Borstal.

After fifteen months at Feltham, which did him no good at all, he volunteered for the army. He boasted to me that he was a good soldier, and had a very good army character for the first eight months of his service, and that he enjoyed his preliminary training very much. But he admitted that after eight months he got ‘browned off’ with the army, as he couldn’t get on with the officers and N.C.O.s, all of whom ‘had a down on him’. On the other hand, an examination of his army papers showed that, even within the first eight months, he had been once in trouble for being absent without leave and once in prison for one month for riding a motor cycle, without the consent of its owner, and without a policy of


insurance. Moreover, after the first eight months of his service he was repeatedly in trouble for being A.W.O.L., and in 1942 he was sent to prison for twenty-one days for assaulting a police officer. In the same year he was fined five times for such offences as committing wilful damage, obscene language, and obstructing the police.

In 1943 he was sent abroad and served in North Africa and in Italy, where he was wounded, and sent home to a hospital in England. Before his final discharge from the army in 1945 he had two more convictions. On one occasion he got fourteen days for assault, and on the other he was sent to prison for two months for driving a lorry without the consent of the owner while uninsured. I asked him if he understood that this latter offence was a serious one, and for what reason. He replied at once that when he was convicted for the first time of this offence the magistrate had told him that it was a very serious matter, since in driving he might injure somebody in an accident and be unable to pay any damages. But he added:

‘I couldn’t wait to think about that. I was fed up. Nobody seemed to want me, so I took the lorry from where I found it in the street and went for a day’s tour round. I drove it nearly a hundred miles.’

For some months after his discharge from the army he lived at home. He had no work, and apparently made no effort to get any. All he had was a temporary disability pension of 135. 6d. a week. While in this condition he got married at a registry office to a girl a year older than himself whom he had known for a few weeks. She lived in a boarding house where she was employed, and he continued to live at home. Three months after their marriage they had what he described as ‘a bit of an argument’ and he never saw her again. He told me that when I saw him he had no idea where she now was. His mother had been ‘a bit upset’ when she heard about it. In the prison record he described himself as a single man.

Soon after his marriage he got a job as groundsman at a dogracing track, at -£\ a week. After six months he was dismissed, his own explanation being that it was for no fault of his own and due solely to the fact that a policeman told the management that he had been in prison.

He told me that he was out of work from December 1945 to the following November, doing only occasional jobs from time to

time. His own story was that he lived at home, and for his day-today expenses he had such money as his mother gave him and his pension of 13.?. 6d. a week. For this reason he told me he had no need to look for work, and he claimed that during this year he committed no act of dishonesty. He had constant quarrels with his father.

I found it difficult to believe this story, the more especially as he told me that his mother’s health failed about this time with the result that she gave up going to work. She would therefore have had no earned income of her own to give him. It is much more likely that he added to his pension by petty thefts, and my sympathy was wholly with his father, who did his best to turn him out of the house but failed because the tenancy was in the name of his mother who, as he said, always took his part. As a result of his father’s efforts to make him find some work, Williams assaulted him, and spent a month in prison in consequence in July 1946.

On coming out of prison he returned home and again settled down to doing nothing. At the end of the year he was once more in trouble. A friend with whom he had been going about told him of a house in the residential part of the city in which the householder always kept a large sum in cash, never less than £200, for business purposes. This friend was a thief of some experience who, as Williams told me he knew at the time, had been in prison more than once. If this man was typical of the company he kept, it would seem more than ever improbable that he had in fact kept clear of all crime during the past year. However this may have been, they broke into the house together, but to their disappointment managed to find very little in actual cash. However, they took a few articles of which they thought they could easily dispose, and managed to leave the house without being seen. Three or four days later the friend was arrested while offering some of the stolen property for sale, and, as Williams indignantly informed me, ‘shopped’ him under police interrogation. For this burglary he was given a sentence of fifteen months.

He came out of prison in November 1947 and returned to live with his long-suffering family. Four months later, however, he returned to prison, this time with a sentence of four months for indecent assault upon his youngest sister. This conviction, he assured me, was a monstrous miscarriage of justice, as he was completely innocent, and was secured only by the deliberate


perjury of his father and three of his sisters. His father, he told me, was prepared even to commit perjury in order to get him out of the house, but he had no explanation of why his three sisters should do so.

Released from prison in July 1948, he was again convicted two months later of taking a car without the consent of its owner, and driving it while uninsured. In addition, he stole a sum of money which he found in the car, and received sentences which in all added up to twenty months. He was serving this sentence when I saw him.

The only sympathy I could feel for this man was due to the fact that he seemed to have been more than once most foolishly treated by the juvenile court justices of a great city before whom he made successive appearances. At his first appearance he was obviously guilty, but, as he told me with considerable amusement, he gulled the justices into acceptance of an alibi, and, most unfortunately for himself, was acquitted. He was found guilty of theft by the same justices when he was eleven, and again when he was twelve, and on each occasion was merely bound over. As he said, he looked on it as ‘a complete get off’. If ever a small boy needed the wise guidance of a probation officer it was this child, with a father whom he disliked, and a most foolish and weakly indulgent mother. At his next conviction he was sent to what a boy regards as fourteen months’ imprisonment for the theft of seven pence. These same justices were apparently determined he should not have the chance of a probation officer’s help. As I have already said, I think their action was as cruelly severe on this occasion as it had been foolishly weak and useless at his previous appearances. It is a fact that a court should punish the offender rather than the offence, but there must surely be some reasonable correlation between the crime and the punishment.

Williams talked to me very freely, and I was interested to find that, although he thought he ought not to have been committed to a school for the theft of a few pence, the one sentence which he regarded as most harshly unjust was that of fifteen months for burglary, in view of the fact that he and his friend had found so little money in the house. He admitted that he had gone there hoping to find more, and would certainly have taken it if he had been able to find it. But he seemed to think that as he had not actually secured any large sum his sentence was unjust. I asked him if, perhaps, the householder, whose money it was, might not have worked hard to save this £200, and whether its loss might not have been a great blow to him. His reply was perfectly frank and, I imagine, quite true. He said:

‘Well, I just never thought about any of that. I wanted some money, and I heard there was some there, so I just went after it. I never thought about the householder one way or the other. He didn’t mean anything to me. When I was inside a house £50 to me was just £50, and I wanted it.’

This man was due for discharge at the end of 1949. He said he was never going back to his family, who, save for his mother, had never done anything for him. His family had always been a handicap to him and had refused to help him. The police, too, had always put difficulties in his way and had invariably given him a bad character when he appeared in court. I asked him how the police could give him anything but a bad character, as he had a long string of convictions and had hardly done any honest work all his life. To this he merely replied that if I got him a good job he would show me that he could stick to it, and that he was prepared to turn over a new leaf. He added that he had no money at all and that his only suit of clothes was in rags, and he would find himself very much handicapped in his search for honest employment unless I could persuade the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society to give him an outfit and some cash.

I formed the view that Williams had gone too far down the slope to be saved merely by starting him in a job. He has never shown any capacity, or apparent desire, for honest employment; without any idea of what duty means, or the smallest realisation of the rights of other people, he is self-centred and selfish, lazy, dishonest, and untruthful. At the same time, he has no skill at any trade, no moral standards whatever, and very little intelligence. He told me he never read a book, but that he read ‘the picture paper’ for the sake of its strip cartoons, and that at week-ends he generally looked at ‘the Sunday papers’, by which I did not understand him to mean either the Observer or the Sunday Times. Although when I saw him there was as yet only one offence of burglary recorded on his file, I found it impossible to believe that during the year which preceded his conviction in November 1946 he had not repeatedly broken into houses. The words which he used to me struck me very forcibly. ‘When I was inside a house £50 to me was just £50, and I wanted it.’ Those were not the words of a man who only upon a single occasion had found himself inside a house for the purpose of robbery.

I thought there was nothing I could do for this man. But before I left the prison I consulted two senior officers of the prison who had seen a good deal of him. Both of them regarded him as hopeless. The prison doctor agreed with my view that if he was prepared to do his best there was no reason, mental or physical, why he should ever enter a prison again. But for my part I shall be surprised if he is not reconvicted within six months of his discharge.

b. 9.7.25 C. of E. age 24

15.5.39 Stealing wallet


12.12.40 Laying glass on highway

20J. and 5s. costs

11.9.41 Stealing cash and cigarettes

Bound over

12.12.41 Shop-breaking (100 cases T.I.C.)')

3 shop-breaking

4 attempted shop-breaking

Approved school

91 larceny

2 attempted larceny

7.11.44 House-breaking and larceny (21


cases T.I.C.)

15.11.44 House-breaking and larceny (69


cases T.I.C.)

14.11.46 Breaking and entering

2 years

13.7.48 Store-breaking; larceny; receiving

5 years

to have a father who was unfit to have children and a schoolmaster who did not include the training of character amongst his responsibilities to his pupils. He was pleasantly spoken; nice looking; had a keen sense of humour; very fond of healthy games and exercises —he had been a captain of football at Borstal and captain of his house—and for a time at least when he was free had been ambitious to do well and had worked hard. There is something wrong with our educational and social systems when a boy with so many qualities to help him do well can drift to a life so bad.

Young was born in a small town not far from a very large seaside resort. He was one of four children, having two sisters older than himself and a younger brother. His father and mother were separated and his father lived with another woman; the children lived with the mother, but this boy Maurice and a sister were friendly with both parents and saw them both regularly. His home did not lack food, and he had sufficient clothing, but there was, naturally, no surplus. He had a happy childhood in the sense that he was very fond of his mother and she did her limited best for her children. There was, so far as he could remember, no boys’ club or Scouts near his home; in any case, he belonged to no organisation for boys. But, curiously enough, he used to go to Sunday-school. I say curiously enough because he could remember nothing of why he came to join, nor did he go to church more than very occasionally. As far as he could recollect, neither his sisters nor his brother ever went to church, but his mother sometimes did so. I asked him if he had practised religion at all since he became older, and he said that although he could not remember going to church when he was out of prison, nevertheless at the present time he went to church in the prison every Sunday. I expressed some surprise at this and asked why he did it.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I believe in God, though you may think it odd seeing the way I live outside. I don’t feel the need for any church when I’m outside; I have got people to talk to and I am not lonely like I am here.’ 12

after something which might be helpful to him towards living a better life. I hoped that he would allow himself to be instructed in what Christianity really meant. But, unhappily, the fear of being ridiculed by other men in the prison was too great for him to agree to any proposal of seeing the chaplain privately.

His first conviction was shortly before his fourteenth birthday. He had gone to see the doctor and, whilst waiting alone in the room adjoining the consulting-room, he saw the doctor’s coat hanging in a cupboard; exploration revealed the presence of a wallet in a pocket and this he stole. Naturally enough, the doctor reported the matter to the police and he was charged and put on probation. But, most unhappily, the mischief was done. He had taken the wallet to his father, and, instead of telling his son to return it, the man used the four or five pounds which the wallet contained to give the two of them a day of riotous feasting and enjoyment at the seaside. It is always a bad thing when a young thief learns that stealing brings enjoyment, but it is a hundred times more shocking when the teacher is his own father.

Probation was a failure with this boy. If he himself is to be believed, the reason for this was that the probation officer lived too far away and was able to give him no real supervision. Young told me that the probation officer got him his first job as an errand boy and made him promise to keep it, but in fact he was constantly in trouble with a succession of employers, who found him lazy and a bad timekeeper, and he drifted from one brief job to another. He admitted, candidly enough, that he took no interest whatever in his work, and his father, with whom he lived at this time, took so little care of him that he made no effort to help him find work worth having, and learnt only by chance, if indeed he learnt at all, of his frequent changes of employment.

His next conviction was for the very mischievous offence of laying glass on the high road, for the pleasure of causing damage to the tyres of passing motor cars. For this, a fine of one pound and five shillings costs would have been sensible enough, if the justices had taken the elementary precaution of ensuring that the money was paid by the offender himself; as it was, his father paid the cash for him and no good of any sort was done.

A year later he was again found guilty of the theft of money, and, quite inexcusably, he was merely bound over; it was obvious that as he had not been checked from theft when he was fourteen


by being put on probation, he would not now be checked from theft when he was sixteen by nothing more disagreeable than a few warning words. This, however, did not seem to occur to the local justices.

In December 1941, three months later, he made another appearance before the justices in consequence. He was found guilty of shop-breaking, with the extraordinary record of one hundred additional cases taken into consideration. I thought at first that this number must be a mistake, but Young explained to me that it was not so. It represented seven months’ systematic thieving. Three boys, of whom he was one, had gone two or three days a week during the entire summer and autumn season of the big seaside town near which he lived and robbed boarding houses and small hotels along the sea front. Their practice was to dress themselves in their best clothes and to walk quietly into the lounge of the establishment which they proposed to rob. If they encountered a porter or other hotel employee they asked for some imaginary visitor, and walked out on learning that he was not staying in the house. If, however, the coast was clear, as was generally the case in small and inexpensive places, the three boys walked quietly upstairs. One stayed in a passage to keep guard and the other two slipped into bedrooms and picked up whatever cash or small portables were easily available. Young told me that by choosing suitable hours of day and days of fine weather when visitors would be on the sands or the esplanade, they avoided all trouble, and, if they had not been so foolish as to continue their operations after the season had ended, he declared that they would never have been caught at all. As it was, until they were actually arrested, they had had to run for it only two or three times in their hundred offences.

During the six or seven months over which these thefts were spread, none of the three boys had, of course, any employment. I asked Young if his father did not know that over all this period his boy was doing no work, but he said merely that ‘he was not all that interested’. It really seemed to me a surprising thing that three boys of sixteen, none of them in any sort of need, all of them intelligent enough to realise the risks they were running, and each of them able to get honest work if they cared to accept it, should deliberately commit score after score of such thefts as these, in a kind of warfare against the community, and I asked Young to explain the way they had looked at it.

‘Of course,’ he said, ‘we knew it was wrong. But we were only sixteen, and it seemed more like a lark than anything to us. It was frightfully exciting, too, and we used to laugh like anything over near shaves we had, and that. I suppose it didn’t seem so bad to us as we didn’t make a lot out of it really, as we used to get rid of the stuff for anything we could get. We never tried to bargain in selling it. We just took it to places like snack bars and offered it to chaps. Things like rings and watches we sold for a few shillings. Of course everybody who bought the stuff knew it was stolen, but they took it all the same. We made all we wanted because we each got enough out of it to pay for his keep and to have pocket money over, and we got that much by working this stunt only two or three days a week.’

It would be very unjust to pay too serious attention to the criticisms of approved schools and Borstal institutions made by the worst failures of these places; a love of truth is not a conspicuous trait amongst the inmates of prisons. For no more than it is worth, therefore, and it may well be worth nothing, I record this lad’s low opinion of the school where he spent his next two years.

‘It was a lousy place. I learnt more about thieving from the chaps there than anywhere else I have ever been. I got taught nothing in the way of a trade either. There were two trades taught, but I never got the chance to learn one. All I did was a sort of handyman’s job—sweeping up and that. I ran away once, and went to my mother, but she was so upset that I gave myself up to the police and went back.’

He was discharged from the school a few weeks before Christmas 1943 and went to live with his mother. For five months he worked happily, and apparently successfully, for a small master builder who worked with him. His job was that of a handyman and he got ii. 9d. an hour for such work as slating roofs and pointing walls—all of which accomplishments, as I reminded him, he had learnt at his approved school. Most unhappily, at the end of five months his employer gave up business and retired, with the result that Young retired from honest industry at the same time. He was now eighteen and he told me frankly that he left home, made no attempt to find a job, and, forming another gang of three young men, started once more a life of systematised crime. His reasons were merely that he found life at home dull, and he did not get on well with his younger brother who, he said, had always been his mother’s favourite, as he was not only a model son but a skilled workman very highly thought of by his employers.


Again his career of crime ran for six or seven months without a check. The technique which had served so successfully before was used again, one of his two companions being indeed one of the boys who had worked the boarding houses with him in his earlier enterprise as an hotel thief. This boy, too, had been sent to an approved school without any notable effect. Quite undeterred by past experience, the gang returned to work in small hotels and boarding houses on their earlier well-tried lines. As they committed their many offences in the same district in which they had been already convicted for precisely similar thefts, it might be thought that the most unimaginative local detectives might have found grounds for suspicion against them. But this apparently was not so; at all events they were not arrested and sentenced for seven months, and they had once again the distinction of asking for ninety other similar crimes to be taken into account in their sentences. Young was now in November 1944 committed to Borstal. His father received nine months’ imprisonment for receiving some of the goods stolen by these lads at this time.

From the first institution to which he was sent he ran away after three weeks; at the next, he did extremely well to outward appearance. He became a captain of football and cricket teams and captain of his House. Moreover, in contrast to the manner in which he had criticised his approved school, he spoke gratefully of the efforts that both the governor and his housemaster had made for him at his Borstal.

‘I don’t think they could have done more for me, really. The Borstal Association gave me a hand when I came out, too. I was a fool, but I got in with a girl when I came out of Borstal and I could not give her all she wanted on what I could earn in a straight job. I came out in February 1946 and the probation officer, who was the welfare officer for the Borstal Association, got me a job as a brush hand. The pay wasn’t bad, but I chucked it up after three weeks and found another job selling ice-creams and chocolate fruits—pears and apples in chocolate ice. If you cared to put in long enough hours you could make terrific mon'ey at that job, and I used to be out with my van at seven in the morning and stay out till it got too dark to see to sell. I got 105. a day wages and 25. 6d. in the pound commission on what I sold. The probation officer didn’t want me to take this job; for one thing it only lasted for the summer, of course, and he said making so much money would unsettle me for anything else when it finished. But he let me do it in the end. If the weather was very bad, as it was occasionally, I never sold any ices and I made nothing


beyond my pay of ioj. a day. But on hot days, and especially so at week-ends, I sold so much that my week’s money was never less than £10 and often a good bit more. I gave my mother £3, spent a lot on my own clothes, and the rest on my girl. I lived with her at this time. When the job came to an end I had not got anything saved at all. I suppose the probation officer had been right really, because at the end of the season when my job was finished I didn’t try to get another. I joined another chap and we did another job, I mean we went stealing. The two of us broke into a house and got away with a lot of money; my share was just £400. I spent £300 in five days, mostly on girls and clothes. When I was arrested after that I had got £100 hidden, but the police made me disclose where it was and they got that back again. I got two years for this business. I was released in March 1948.

‘When I came out, I had it in my mind to make a try at going straight. I don’t pretend that I was any different, but I was fed up with coming into these places and I wanted to settle down if I could and have some home of my own. I was ready to do my best if I had been given a chance, but I never was. I went to the labour exchange and asked for work, and there was a young chap who talked to me so as to show me he knew I had just come out of prison. He said there was no work for me, and when I said I would do anything, he said, “Well, come back tomorrow.” The next day it was the same thing: no work to offer me. The first week I got 15J.; and I had to go three times to the office to get that. I went there three weeks in all and they never once gave me a card so that I could go and try for a job. I really wanted a job. The second week I got no money at all, only food tickets for 12s. 6d. The third week it was the same. In the end I said to the chap, “Look here, I can’t live on food tickets. Are you going to give me a job or not?” He said would I take a job on a farm and I said I would take a job anywhere, and I filled up a lot of forms and signed them. But I never heard anything more about it. So I said to myself that the labour exchange would not give me anything in a hundred years, and I went to the amusement park at the seaside town near by. I had been a lift boy there years before and I knew the foreman who engaged most of the ordinary labour and I asked him for something and told him I would do anything at all, and he gave me some sort of cleaning-up job, but after three days he gave me my money and said it was no good my coming any more, as the police had told him that if there were any trouble in the amusement park it would be blamed on to me, and then he would get into trouble for employing a man with my record. Then I tried to make a living selling paper hats. You know the hats: they have got things like Chase Me printed on them. I bought two hundred of them, but when I had sold about fifty a policeman in plain clothes sidled up alongside me on the front and took me down a side street and told me they would run me in for obstruction if I tried to sell anything at all. I took the hats back to the shop where I had bought

them, but they would not take them back even for less than I had bought them for. So I threw them all away, and I said to myself, “Well, if you don’t want to let me go straight when I want to, I’ll -well go crooked.” ’

I have recorded this unpleasant story in almost the exact words in which Young told it to me. What truth there was in it, or if there were any truth at all, I have no means of knowing. As I have said so often, prisoners arc as a class so untruthful that one comes instinctively to regard every word they utter with distrust. It is, however, no less true that this was not an educated or a clever man who told the story, or one likely to be able to tell a tale so convincingly if it were no more than a tissue of lies made up as he went along; in any case, the story is part of the picture of the man who told it, and it would be suppression of evidence to withhold it, true or untrue. It may be some sort of endorsement of his statement and of the bitterness which he either felt or pretended to me that he felt that in his previous prison sentences his behaviour in prison had been uniformly good, but during this present sentence it had been bad, and included one serious assault upon a prison officer.

Whatever the reason for it may have been, he did, in fact, after this action by the police, give up all effort to get honest work, and return to crime. With two companions he hired a car and used it for breaking into shops and stores. Within a couple of months they were arrested after a store-breaking which brought him in as his share something over £250. His arrest followed only a fortnight after the offence, but he had no more than £20 when he was caught; the rest had been spent, as he told me, in one glorious week’s burst with his girl friend in London.

When I saw him this man was at an early stage of five years’ sentence, and the years stretch ahead of him in dreary succession. How genuine and how lasting was the intention which he expressed to me to make another effort at leading an honest life on his release I could not even guess. I did what little I could to encourage him. The odds against him seemed to me to be heavy indeed. He has no religion. He has no interests which can be cultivated at reasonable cost to replace the hectic joys of spending enormous sums of money in a few days. He reads nothing; the football and boxing news in a Sunday newspaper are all he reads in the Press. Of politics he knew so little that he could remember


the names of Mr. Churchill and the Prime Minister and of no other politician whatever; in world affairs he was so little interested that he had no idea of what caused the war of 1939, and of all the admirals and generals he knew the name only of one, but had no knowledge of what part in the war even he had played. In prison he told me he read fiction, but he could not remember the name of the book he was then reading. He had no honest friends. He had a clean driving licence, but apart from that no trade. His mother and his girl friend are but slender supports. The former lives where he has spent the whole of his life and where his past record stamps him as one of the worst men of the district. The latter was at best a young woman of loose morals who already had had one illegitimate child by a man other than Young; it was pathetic to hear him say that he ‘thought the world’ of her, and to realise that this poor creature, whose picture he carried in his coat to show me, was the best he had known of womanhood. The odds against her remaining in any small degree faithful to him for three further years of separation must be very great. Even if this man still wishes to start a new life of honesty when he leaves prison, the difficulties will be stupendous.

I felt wretchedly helpless and incompetent as we sat facing each other in a bare prison room. He asked me if I would write to him, and I made him that small promise. But I could not believe that a few letters would be of any help to him. I feared he was beyond help. But looking back at his history and his parentage I cannot feel that the real sin is his.


I wrote to him a month later. Here is his reply:

‘20 Oct. 1949

‘I recieved your letter on 18th. I was quite pleased to know that you have kept your prommise and written to me, it means quite a lot to me to know that someone has taken an interst in my welfare, it gives me an incentive to pull myself together and look after myself as I have done this last 2 months or so.

‘When you visited me I had been out of trouble for one month and not three as you seem to have understood. I wish to put you right on this point and then there can be no misunderstanding between us.

‘The Governor has given me his kind permission for me to write to you as often as I like. I have tried to get the book you reccomended


but it is not in the prison library. I am doing very well and keeping out of trouble up to present. The job I wish to get is a lorry driver’s mate until I have learnt to drive better than I can at present. There is not much more I can say at present. I am looking forward to your next letter.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘Maurice Young’.

Some later letters are instructive and revealing.

^    ‘15 Nov. 1949

‘I received your most welcome letter for which I do thank you, it is good of you to write to me, and your letter gives me something to hold on to to keep me out of trouble and give me hope for the futer.

‘I shall keep my promise to you, and I do need real decent help when I get out of here, and if you do as you say, then I will have my first real chance to go straight, as I told you I did not get a scauauredeal before and as you say, its so easy to get crooked, especially when you have no real friend to back you up, I have no fear of the futer if I can get a proper start, I know this may sound poor on paper but I realise I have to make a show this time, and Im sure I can make the grade with a friend like you.

‘I have kept out of trouble since I saw you, I do hope you will continue to write to me as all my other friends who used to write to me have not answered my letters to them. I dont know what has gone wrong I haven’t heard from my mother for a month now and you will remember the young lady I told you about, well she hasn’t written for three weeks and the Boxing News stopped just as I was getting interested in a serial. I am in the dumps. They don’t realise what these things mean to us in here. Thank you for getting Rodney Stone for me for the library here. I enjoyed every chapter of it. . . .

‘Well, Sir, I will close now once again thanking you for your kindness I do sincerely appriciate all you are doing for me.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘Maurice Young.’

‘6 Dec. 1949

‘I was glad to receive your most welcome letter yesterday and hope you are in the best of health which it leaves me at the time of writing.

‘I had been keeping out of trouble untill last night when the chap next door shouted me about a liberary book so I have lost another three days but I promise you I will try my hardest to keep out of trouble from now on.

‘All I want is to get out of this place and to start a new decent life.

1 Square!


‘Sir, since I wrote to you I have had a letter from my Mother and she is alright so I have nothing to worry about at home.

‘The Book you ask me of is not in the libbrary and I cannot see any other book by Jack Buchan.

‘We have got a band here and every man can have a musical instrument in his cell and he can play it every night I used to be able to borrow my friends pianer accordian but he as gone away to parkhurst so I am unlucky.

‘I have also finished with that girl I shall allso finish and keep away from my old friends because I dont want to see the inside of these places again. We had a decent film this week Slightly Dangerous. Well, Sir, I can’t think of anything else to write about except the weather.

‘I wish you the best of luck.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘Maurice Young.’

And with a last letter we must leave him.

‘24 January 1950

‘I expect you have been wondering why you have not heard from me but I have been rather unsetted lately and I thought it best not to write until I got setted once more. You will be sorry to hear that since hearing from me I have been twice on report once for having a shirt torn for which I was cautioned and another time for having a bit of an argiement with another Prisoner, I lost three days remission and fourteen days association, now that all happened before Xmas, since then I have kept out of trouble, but I have lost my job in the laundry and was given no reason why, but I am back in the matshop where discipline is rather strict but at least I do know just where I stand you may think by my letter that I am getting bitter but these little things do get me down. Thank you for the book Thirty Nine Steps you sent me I enjoyed it very much, I have been getting some good books lately from the libberary.

‘I hope you had a good Xmas, and although it is a little late I do wish you all the best for 1950,1 hope it will be a better year for me, and I shall be glad to see the next one here, but it will come, and I must have pacience which is not one of my strog points we had a very good Xmas here the food was very good, and we had plenty of entertainment.

‘Well, Sir, I close now, once again saying how sorry I am for not writing.

‘Trusting I shall hear from you again with very many thanks and best wishes I will say goodbye for now.

‘Yours sincerely,

‘Maurice Young.’

Part 3


Portrait of a Young Man

If I have drawn the portraits of these twenty-three young men with any fidelity at all I shall have shown them as having each his own individuality and differing so much from one another as to constitute each one a separate problem not to be successfully solved on any mass solution lines. There is no criminal type. If, for example, these men were to be mixed with others of their own age and class with no criminal records it would be quite impossible to pick out the delinquents by their appearance or expression. Nevertheless, experience and study of offenders of this age group does enable one to paint a composite picture which is of practical value because we can use it in some manner as a test for proposed reforms. If we have a shrewd and accurate understanding of what the average young recidivist is like we are not likely to be misled by the kindhearted and well-meaning but quite unpractical visionary who lays before us reforms which would doubtless be of the greatest value if the young criminal were quite other than he is. The character sketch which follows is based not only upon the twenty-three men whose histories are recorded, but on a far greater number. Obviously enough, not all the characteristics are to be found in each of the twenty-three, but I believe that of almost all of them the portrait is, upon the whole, a not unfaithful or misleading study.

I think the first point which needs emphasis is that we are dealing in the persistent offender of this age group not with an abnormal person but with a perfectly normal young man who has gone wrong. The difference is very important. It means that in dealing with him, and in caring for him and in planning for his betterment, we need no abstruse knowledge or unique gifts. We need no more than sympathy, a sense of proportion, and a knowledge of human nature. He may indeed have gone too far down the road for us to be able to persuade him to turn back.


That will be his tragedy and our unhappiness. The point is that, even if that be so, the reason will be that he suffers, not from some rare or peculiar vice, but from the ordinary weaknesses of our common nature, such as we suffer from ourselves, but of a degree too great for his individual capacity to resist. It is vital to remember this. If we forget it, we shall find ourselves legislating not for a normal man who, if he respond at all, will respond to the inducements which move the actions of ordinary men, but for a creature of our imagination who does not exist.

This type of young man is below the ordinary standard in intelligence and knowledge. This is to be expected, since so often we find he truanted in his schooldays; moreover, if he had found it easier to make a good living honestly he would very often never have taken to crime. One of his most pathetic features is that his schooling has given him no wholesome interests or hobbies. Sex, the cinema, the street corner, betting, and the public house together give him all the pleasure he knows, or asks of life. He does not read books save when he is in prison, outside he is content with a picture paper, or a Sunday paper in which he follows the football or the boxing. Of politics he may know a few slogans, and possibly the names of a very few prominent politicians, though the odds are heavily against his being able to name correctly the offices they hold, or have held. A boy too young to have served in the war will know by name perhaps a single eminent British general, though he will have no idea at all of the actual battles in which he took part or contribution which he made to the war. It is by no means uncommon for him to be ignorant of which nations were our allies and which our enemies. None of this age group could answer questions of general history which you would expect to find answered correctly by boys of ten years of age at a preparatory school. It is not uncommon, indeed, to be told by one of these young men that he reads and writes only with some difficulty, or that he is ‘not much good at figures’, which means that the simplest sums are beyond his power. His whole mental development and outlook is often still at the adolescent stage, although in actual years he is a man well into his twenties.

It is curious to find that with such drawbacks this young man in prison is so often vain and self-satisfied. The reason is perhaps that, having no morals, he has false standards by which he measures his


life, not as something contemptible, but as something bold and glamorous. He aims to be tough, a wide guy, a wise guy, whatever his current expression may be to indicate what by his own sorry standards he imagines to be a man of the world. Indifference and neglect by his parents; the failure of home and school alike to produce any ethical standards which he makes the least pretence to follow; absence of his father in the forces, and his mother in a factory, with the unrestricted liberty of the war years—all their influence combined to produce a boy, now grown into this young man, without control or supervision, who does what he wants when he wants, and nothing that he doesn’t want.

Even when he grew up with his parents in his formative years they seldom exercised any influence which was not bad. Too often indeed even affection showed itself as a most harmful indulgence and pampering which gave him a pernicious, false idea of his own importance. The ‘mother’s darling’, whose parent takes his side, however outrageous his behaviour, and hurries to his school to threaten and abuse his teacher if ever her child is corrected, is heavily handicapped in life. He imagines other people exist to serve his needs, and this delusion is apt to persist. Its result is that as a spoilt young man he is utterly selfish, resents all discipline and authority, and is quite indifferent to the rights of other people; one sees this in his callous attitude towards the losses and suffering of which his thefts and house-breakings are the cause.

He is almost always weak and easily led, a natural enough trait to expect in the character of one who has never tried to exercise self-control. So marked is this feature that he cannot stand up to life on his own, with the inevitable result that he is hardly out of prison before he is again in trouble. It shows itself again in his readiness to lay the blame for his repeated failures on anybody but himself. It is seen similarly in his fear of public opinion; he will not have the strength to do what he knows to be right if it entails a degree of moral courage, even if he wants to do it. Thus, I knew of a lad at Usk Borstal institution who for a year not only attended Sunday service at the institution, as was compulsory, but of his own free will walked each Sunday evening two miles to the village church, whatever the weather. The religious services obviously helped him and, as he said himself, he greatly enjoyed them. Yet at his discharge he told the chaplain


frankly that he would never go near a church, much as he would wish to, lest he might be laughed at for so doing by his neighbours.

Hardly ever has this young man a trade, although he may have had every opportunity of learning one. He is almost always not only idle and lazy but incapable of sustained effort or of sticking to the monotony of regular employment. From this irritating weakness comes his habit of leaving jobs which are found for him for trivial reasons and sometimes for no better reason than that after the shortest experience he tires of it and feels, in his own phrase, ‘browned off’.

I have left to the last his greatest handicap. He has no religion; no faith; no inspiration. As a materialist he judges rewards and punishment by wholly material standards and conceptions. That he would find any satisfaction or contentment in living honestly for the mere reason that it is right to be honest and wrong to be dishonest he regards as absurd. He is without the smallest understanding of loyalty. He is never one of a team. To him his employer is no more than a person, or an organisation, the boss, from whom a sensible person like himself extracts as much as he can, and to whom he gives as little as he can. He has no religion, or any idea of duty which religion gives. Neither his home nor his school have taught him, or apparently attempted to teach him, that there are no rights without corresponding duties.

Life has given him very little. Sometimes through his own fault he has made matters worse by throwing away the little that he had. It is easier to understand him than to help him. The only help of real value to him is to teach him to better himself. Any lasting improvement must come to him from within himself. That in turn necessitates effort on his part, the last thing of all he finds it easy to give. He is suspicious and slow to believe that anyone should wish to do him disinterested kindness. That is why prison ‘unofficial visitors’ have sometimes such great influence; even the worst prisoners know that they are unpaid, and have no motive in coming into prison save the wish to do good. There is good to be found in most unlikely young men with terrible records achieved in their short lives. But it must be sought for with patience and sympathy, above all with no affection of superiority. One may find a sense of humour, endurance, pluck which is no less pluck because it is unworthily employed, gratitude, and a real love of family and home.


The Causes of Crime

A year or more ago I read a book, Hill on Crime, published in i853* Rs author was one Frederic Hill, who in 1835 was appointed Inspector of Scottish Prisons. He found them in a dreadful state. Men and women prisoners were herded together; there were no wardresses; prisoners were half starved; they had no work or occupation; the buildings were cold, verminous, and filthy. In a few years Hill, the most humane and farsighted of men, had forced through reforms vastly in advance of anything known at that time in England, and this in the face of the most bitter opposition from politicians and local magistrates alike. To those familiar with the history of English prisons it will come as something of a shock to read that in his first annual Report to Lord John Russell in 1836 this remarkable man suggested amongst other things:

(a)    the introduction of profitable labour, all prisoners being required to work;

(b)    that civilian instructors should be introduced into the prisons to teach such trades as would enable prisoners to earn their livings on discharge;

(c)    the foundation of a large hostel or refuge which should house juvenile offenders on their discharge from prison until suitable employment could be found for them.

In his book on crime, Hill set down the reflections of a wise man of great kindness of heart with the practical sense which comes of twenty years’ close association with prisoners and criminals. I was deeply interested to find, at a time when I was myself considering the same subject, that Hill had included his reflections on the causes of crime. His conclusions were that at the time he wrote crime was due to six causes. They were:

(1)    bad training and ignorance;

(2)    drunkenness and profligacy;

(3)    poverty;

(4)    habits of violating the law engendered by the creation of artificial offences;

(5)    other legislation interfering unnecessarily with private actions and presenting examples of injustice;

(6)    temptations to crime caused by the probability of escape or of insufficient punishment.

I propose to discuss in some detail the causes which at the present time are leading young people into crime. We shall find a cure for crime only by accident if we are ignorant of its cause. No subject in this connection is therefore of more obvious or more vital importance.

If we may make the assumption that a thoughtful and able man was probably correct in the conclusions to which he came on a subject with which he had had twenty years’ intimate association, it is possible to say that the six matters set out above were the main causes of crime one hundred years ago. Human nature changes remarkably little in one hundred years. The changes in the manner of life in that period are naturally immense. Habits and customs have altered; the standards of education and the social services are far higher; housing is improved; civilisation has in fact advanced. All these things are superficial; they are no more than the outward expressions of a nature itself unchanged. Humanity is the same today as when Hill wrote. Today, as then, there are good and bad men; men who control and those who fail to control their desires and passions; the passions and desires are not altered. All that alters is the proportion of men who obey and those who disobey the laws of morality and the law of the land. Admittedly this proportion can be changed by the resources of civilisation. But essential human nature remains.

These reflections are not wholly irrelevant. I have very often in the course of years thought over the causes of modern crime, and discussed them also with men in close and continuous contact with delinquency. This is, after all, a practical problem, and the question of why men commit crimes is surely more likely to be correctly answered by men who have lived amongst thousands of lawbreakers than by professors in their studies or by doctors in


their consulting-rooms. As a result, then, of what I regard as a sane and commonsense approach to the problem, i.e. the pooling of the knowledge and experience of practical men, I am satisfied that the main causes of crime1 at the present time are (a) the loss of religious faith and the abandonment of the practice of religion; (6) the decay of family life; (c) the evil example of older people both in morals and in lawlessness; (d) the refusal to submit to discipline; (e) the absence of such influences for good as boys’ clubs; (f) the mistaken and ineffective treatment of delinquents after conviction; (g) a widespread contempt and dislike of the criminal law.

There arc those who will not be prepared to accept this diagnosis. I have had ample cause shown me to be assured of this. But, if I may say so, disagreement is to be found amongst those theorists whose knowledge of criminals comes from reading books about them; so far at least as I am aware, I have had none amongst men with any considerable personal practical experience of prisons or of prisoners.

Whether they are right or wrong, I had formed, and indeed publicly expressed, these opinions as to the causes of the existing wave of crime before reading Mr. Hill’s book. Having read it, I was glad to find how agreed on principles we were. I do not think that any degree of serious crime today is due to poverty. Apart from that single point (and poverty was doubtless the cause of much crime a hundred years ago) the differences between Mr. Hill’s list of causes and mine are mere matters of expression.

It would require a volume in itself to explain in detail the facts and reasoning upon which my conclusions are based. I shall, therefore, content myself with saying enough to make my meaning clear. A simple and reasonable test of the practical value of my suggestions is to consider whether they give an adequate and convincing explanation of why the twenty-three young men above described took to crime.

That there has been a really dreadful deterioration of the morals of the people of this country in the last ten years scarcely needs proof. If anyone should be inclined to doubt the truth of this statement let him glance at the divorce-court figures for 1938 and for 1948. The figures of the illegitimate birthrate of considerably more than seventy thousand annually may convince him. Or he 11 have made no attempt here to put them in order of importance.

may be impressed by the fact that in 1949 it needed an organized campaign of protest to induce a government department to effect the removal from the London streets of machines which, with the apparent approval of another department of the same government, had been placed there for the sale of contraceptives to such boys and girls as cared to buy them. Most striking evidence of all, at least to me, of the low moral standards accepted by many young persons today was the resolution of the Oxford University Labour Club condemning the action of the Home Secretary in cleansing the streets of these machines as ‘narrow and intolerant’. Lest it may be thought that by the word immorality I mean only immorality of sex, I quote, too, the figures as to the increase in railway thefts.1 Thousands of these thefts are committed annually by the servants of the railway who are in full employment. They steal not because they are in distress or poverty but because they like to make extra money by robbery and because to commit the sin of theft means nothing whatever to them. I find it hard to believe that these thieves are not known to, or at least suspected by, their fellow employees, but I, at least, have not read of public opinion amongst railway servants being very effectively mobilised to protect the property entrusted to the railways. This tolerance of crime, immoral as it is, can be seen in the facility with which thieves can dispose of stolen property not to professional receivers but in public houses or markets to ‘respectable’ persons fully prepared to buy what they know is stolen if only it is a bargain to themselves. Example is a deal more important than precept. But the modern child does not get so much as a good precept. What he gets is the evil example of his elders who bring home their employers’ property, go slow in their working hours, and boast how successful they have been in cheating the railway company of a full fare. If it be thought that this is an unfair picture, I would suggest that a question be put to the nearest building contractor as to the numbers of pots of paint or distemper, or the amount of wood, which his firm has stolen by its employees every year. The managers of hotels, too, will be illuminating as to the hundreds of towels and sheets they lose every year by the thefts of guests who leave the hotel in their own motors.13 14 The black market is an evil, but it exists only because there are enough people ready to buy in it goods which they know are stolen or otherwise illegally obtained. A final point must be made clear about sex immorality. It is sometimes mistakenly believed that while it is likely to lead young men into crime to allow them to see crimes committed by their elders, or by which their elders are prepared to benefit, (such as goods stolen from employers), it is not so mischievous for the young man to be set the example of a low moral standard in matters of sex. But the person who says this does not know young men. Certainly he does not know young men in prison. The distinction is altogether too subtle for a young man’s mind. If he is taught that he may without loss of his selfrespect abandon self-restraint with regard to one sort of law he will very soon apply the same pleasant and easy standard to all sorts of law. It very often requires a good deal of strength and selfcontrol for a youth to resist temptation when it comes to him in the attractive form of an invitation to join his mates in doing what he knows to be wrong and criminal. Young men are not helped to acquire strength and self-control by seeing their elders weakly giving way to every sex temptation, or by hearing all around them the doctrine that self-restraint in these matters is an outmoded superstition, any more than they are taught to regard stealing as something abominable by hearing their elders boast of their habitual minor dishonesties.

So far I have dealt with those causes of crime which Mr. Hill called profligacy and bad training. I will say something now of the causes which he names as artificial and unjust legislation.

The greater part of these dishonesties are due no doubt to deterioration of character on the part of those who commit them. But I think some definite percentage of small offences is due to an increasingly widespread contempt for the law. There are today so enormous a number of regulations that the most law-abiding citizen finds himself breaking them without his knowledge. The decent man in the street looks on most of them as merely absurd, as indeed they are. But there are others which he regards as repugnant and unjust. As a result he considers a breach of these regulations, although it is in fact a breach of the criminal law, as a matter involving no moral stigma and therefore permissible and to be carried out whenever it can be done with impunity to himself. The danger of any such general attitude is obvious enough. Large


numbers of citizens may habitually violate foolish regulations without doing very much harm either to themselves or to the State. The trouble is, however, that there is a tendency to draw the line ever a little further, so that they find themselves all too soon breaking laws by which the community is injured.

For these reasons, I regard the existence of large numbers of these regulations which have the force of law as mischievous, and the action of enforcing them by prosecution in the criminal courts as foolishly mistaken. I think it would be in the public interest that such prosecutions, save in extreme cases, should cease. They have the undesirable effect of antagonising decent people against the law and the police, who are, and who should be recognised as being, the best friends of the public.

Lest I may be thought to exaggerate I will give some instances of actual cases. As chairman of a bench of magistrates I heard a case in which the Ministry of Food prosecuted a defendant for selling to a woman a few pounds of potatoes in excess of her ration, although the prosecution admitted that, at the time of the sale, the potatoes were frost-bitten so that they would have had to be thrown away if they had not been cooked at once. Mr. Claud Mullins, when a Metropolitan magistrate, was called upon to decide in a prosecution before him whether a costermonger had broken the conditions of his licence to sell vegetables by selling rhubarb, which it was solemnly argued was a fruit.1 A few months ago substantial penalties were imposed at another Metropolitan magistrates’ court for the offence of selling asparagus in a restaurant as a separate course when admittedly no offence would have been committed had the asparagus been served on a plate with other food. Recently a shopkeeper was fined £5 for selling sweets which he made himself from his own sugar ration and that of his wife. At a farmhouse tea in Devonshire a stranger is served with Devonshire cream, but the stranger is a snooper of the Ministry of Food and the farmer’s wife is prosecuted. At a conference of the Magistrates’ Association in 1947 it was stated that magisterial courts hear annually thirty thousand prosecutions for breaches of one sort of control or another, many of them utterly futile. So, too, the numberless prosecutions for street betting are not of the slightest avail in the prevention of gambling; they are, moreover, regarded with every justification by working men as a 1 Fifteen Tears' Hard Labour (Gollancz, 1948).


repressive and unjust form of class legislation. My own opinion of gambling is that it is one of the greatest of our social evils, yet I would gladly see the abolition of these prosecutions, for they bring the law into hatred. Similarly, many prosecutions of motorists are little short of persecution. Take, for example, the very common case of a motorist who commits some trivial and perhaps quite technical offence a hundred miles from where he lives. If he is summoned, as he usually is, to a court at so great a distance his attendance is virtually impossible. He is therefore fined, and one more respectable person is added to the number who dislike the police and lose respect for the law. I have no doubt that there are many hundreds annually of these unnecessary prosecutions in which a warning letter from the police would be equally effective and a good deal more just. In country districts prosecution and bench sometimes vie with each other in stupidity. I came across a case recently in which a man had been granted the requisite licence to kill his pig; the licence was for the slaughter of the animal by a named butcher in a named building on a particular day. Owing to some emergency that date became impossible to the butcher, and the pig was killed by him in the proper building the day before that named in the licence. The justices imposed a heavy fine on the owner of the animal. The same local paper recorded another similar case. There the right pig was slaughtered by the right man on the right day, but owing to some change of plan it was killed in a building some two hundred yards away from that authorised on the form. Again a substantial fine was imposed. And that trenchant critic, Mr. W. J. Brown, M.P., unearthed a case in which a man, having bought a motor-cycle, used the petrol in the tank to ride the motor-cycle home, and was prosecuted for using petrol for which he had neither licence nor coupons, and fined twenty shillings by the stipendiary.

Finally, the agent provocateur is not a figure acceptable to the British tradition. Readers of Oliver Twist will remember how the robust sense of Charles Dickens holds up to derision the odious character, Noah Claypole. This gentleman’s plan was to walk out during churchtime attended by his wife in respectable attire; the lady fainted away at the doors of charitable publicans, and her husband, being accommodated with threepennyworth of brandy to restore her, laid on information next day and pocketed half the penalty. Noah Claypole, if he were alive today, would not need

any such tedious subterfuge as this. He could readily find employment as a ‘snooper’ in a British Ministry.

In a debate on juvenile delinquency in the House of Lords in November 1949 the Lord Chancellor put a very great degree of responsibility upon the parents. ‘If the first five, six, or seven years are wrong and the right sort of instincts are not instilled into the children, it is not fair to expect that the schoolmaster or the parson can do it afterwards.’ There is a great deal of truth in that. There have always been bad parents to whose neglect and stupidity the wrongdoings of their children are directly attributable. Moreover, as I have shown, even when the parents provide fully for the material needs of their families there are today an increasing number who show them the worst possible example in matters of morals.

From the words I have quoted it would seem that Lord Jowitt realised the importance of the maintenance of family life. If so, he is wholly right. If family life becomes debased the whole social structure of the State will come to destruction. The strength of a State lies in the homes of its people. But to be a source of strength they must be good homes. Most certainly they can be sources only of weakness if the children grow up to be criminals. If it be recognised that a good, happy, and healthy family is the supreme need of the State we may expect that Governments will so direct their legislative measures as to foster wise parenthood and to assist the parents to fulfil these responsibilities towards their children which it should be not only their wish but their duty to carry out. The family should be the unit of a healthy State, and the father and mother should be its responsible heads. If the parents are not recognised as responsible for the control of the children, the only alternative is that the responsibility should be assumed by the State. The result of the application of this doctrine is plain for all to see in the equal horrors of Hitlerism and Stalinism.

Lord Jowitt in his speech in the House of Lords wisely reminds us of the importance of the early formative years of a child’s life. It is true that it is in the home in early childhood that the foundation stones of character and conduct are laid. What is learned in the home is more thoroughly taught and better remembered than what is taught in any school. It is in the home, and in the home alone, that children can be really trained in the virtues of unselfishness, obedience, and loyalty. The home and the family are then essential to good citizenship. But if this lesson has been learnt by


Lord Jowitt it is apparently rejected by the Government of which he is a part. Their policy does nothing to strengthen the family as a unit. On the contrary, it does much to weaken it. The first need in a home is a mother. Without a mother family life is no more than a shadow of what it should be in the early years of a child’s life. But the policy of the Government has been to entice the mother out of the home to resume her place in the factory which was forced upon her by the necessities of wartime. No policy could be more fatal to family life or more harmful to the best interests of the State. Again, if we are sincere in our recognition of the vital importance of the family, we shall be ready to help and foster it. It needs, for example, a hearth which is its own, where it is secure and independent. There is no more worthy ambition for a family man than to own the house in which he lives. It is in the best interests of the State that he should attain it. But the Minister for Health, Lord Jowitt’s colleague, has of set choice and policy done all in his power to make it virtually impossible for the small family man to build his own home. Once more, no policy could be worse. There is yet another fashion in which, most undesirably, the State has encroached upon what should be equally the duty, the prerogative, and the privilege of the parent. A correspondence in The Times gave evidence of this some little time ago.1 Men of great knowledge of delinquent children2 pointed out that the State of recent years has taken upon itself the task of providing children with milk, food, clothing, and even bicycles to ride to school. They made it clear that in criticising this policy they had no wish to suggest that a single child in need of milk should not have it, but that gifts of this nature to the child should not be given in a manner likely to humiliate the parent in the eyes of the child and so destroy parental authority. They gave as a striking example of such wrong methods the practice whereby children entitled to free milk were required to attend school during the holidays for no other purpose than to drink their milk in the presence of the teacher. Such a practice tends obviously to make a child feel that the State is great and generous and his parent a mere nonentity. The very experienced headmaster of an approved school intervened in the correspondence to support these views. He pointed out with robust common sense that it is a very dubious axiom that if a

1    November and December 1948.

2    Mr. John Watson and Dr. Alan Maberly.


child’s father cannot afford to buy a bicycle at the moment someone else must at once purchase it. It would be wiser to teach the child to go without the machine until it can be obtained by thrift or extra work and without charity. No wiser words have been spoken upon these matters than the warning given by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster to a meeting of parents at Newcastle a year ago:

‘Do not allow the State to relieve you of these responsibilities of parenthood, because, if you do, it will finally relieve you of your children. If you allow the State to monopolise the feeding, clothing, and education of your children, it will do so in accordance with its own ideas. It will decide the future career of your child . . . you will have no say.’

No one would deny the good intentions of the Government in its decisions. No one would for a moment question the fact that in this sphere they have material achievements to which they may point with legitimate satisfaction. The point which I wish to emphasise is, however, this. There are material values and there are spiritual values. In family life it is the latter which are of the greater influence and importance. It is these spiritual values which are ignored by the ever encroaching arm of the Welfare State. Without the recognition of the importance of spiritual values the responsibility of parents for the conduct of their children will not easily be re-established; but until it is restored the status of the family cannot be raised. Moral laxity, the legacy of all wars, is the greatest danger to family life. If we can restore family life to the status it once had we shall see again the earliest and the best education of all, that by parents of their children. It is education not only of body but of mind and soul. When there is this relationship between parents and their children, the father is not indifferent as to how his son spends his leisure hours, or to the employment in which he is engaged; the mother takes care her daughter has more wholesome interests and occupation than in fun fairs and the streets.

No one with close knowledge of delinquent children and adolescents will fail to attribute a great part of the tragedy of these boys’ behaviour to ill-discipline. Every young animal needs discipline if it is to grow up in decent ways and not a nuisance to all who come in contact with it. So, certainly, does every boy. Indeed, it is obvious that all human beings must discipline and


control themselves. Home discipline plays a great part in the formation of character. It is essential. If it is to have its full effect it must be consistent, just, and based upon affection. Such discipline will be found only in good family life, exercised by a parent conscious of his responsibilities, for it entails for him much thought and labour. Next in importance to the discipline of the good home comes the discipline of school. He would be a very bold or a very ignorant man who was prepared to say that the discipline of our educational system was adequate to its task of training boys. I do not hesitate to ascribe to it a great part of the blame for the troubles of delinquent youths. So often have I heard a boy say about his approved school:

‘I didn’t like that school. Why, they ordered you about all the time. I wouldn’t have that. I’ve been used to doing what I wanted. So I ran away.’

Or a lad who has ruined all the early years of his life by deserting from the army i1

‘I couldn’t stick it. You were told to go here, or do that, till you couldn’t call your soul your own. I wasn’t going to be told what I was to do by a chap just because he was a corporal.’

Lest it may be thought that this is no more than the expression of my personal views I will quote from statements made by experienced persons entitled to be heard with respect.

Mr. Basil Henriques, who has the authority which comes from having spent his life living amongst boys and working amongst them as a magistrate and the warden of a boys’ club in the East End of London, has said:

‘A reason for this increase in delinquency may well be the changed discipline of the so-called progressive school, where a child is no longer made to do things which need to be done at a time when he may not feel in the mood to do them. The result is that there is a very marked change in the philosophy of children which is now so often that of “I saw: I wanted: I took”.’


The chairman of the Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools said:2

‘The last twenty-five years had witnessed a remarkable increase in the serious misbehaviour of young people; the same period was

1    These are extracts from actual conversations with boys in prison.

2    The Times, 31st December 1948.


equally remarkable for the decline of old-fashioned teaching and the rise of that form of juvenile freedom so beloved of the educational psychologist. . . . Many children were going out into the world resentful of any form of restraint. To them authority in any form was anathema. Selfishness had developed to a degree now becoming intolerable.’

So, too, the president of the Catholic Teachers’ Federation:1

‘Soft psychology is reducing school to the level of a badly run play centre. In the streets and in public vehicles, soft psychology is turning children into real public nuisances.’

A boy of naturally weak character needs, above all, to be taught to control himself. If he is allowed to act always as he wishes he will never learn self-discipline. The lack of disciplinary restraint in home and school alike results in a naughty or mischievous boy growing into a self-centred and lawless youth.

It is largely because of the lack of discipline in home and school that agencies such as the Boy Scouts, Boys’ Brigades, and boys’ clubs are of such immense importance and value. Boys need agreeable and pleasant occupation in their spare hours. It is obvious enough that in the cramped housing conditions of many working boys’ homes not only are there no facilities for wholesome games but the strain upon a tired parent of maintaining discipline which is effective and yet benign is greatly increased. The boy, therefore, tends to find his relaxation in the streets. It is here that the boys’ club serves so fine an end. It provides a decent atmosphere where a boy can enjoy himself in ways which do him good rather than harm, and where, too, he is subject unconsciously to discipline because he must adapt himself in his behaviour to the rules of the club and the convenience of his fellow members. There are supertheorists who maintain that ‘no significant relationship has been established between club membership and susceptibility to delinquent behaviour.’2 Indeed, I have heard it gravely argued that club leaders are not justified in claiming that clubs reduce delinquency, since it cannot be proved that boys who belong to clubs would commit offences if they were not members, or that boys who do commit offences would not equally commit them if they belonged to a club. Persons who write and talk in this fashion

1    The Daily Telegraph, 31st December 1948.

2    I quote this typically ponderous phraseology from a letter addressed by a professor to The Times, 2nd November 1949.


have laboratory minds. They ignore the plain facts of experience. Juvenile court magistrates find it almost unknown to have charged before them any boy who is an active member of a good boys’ club. Probation officers encourage boys under their care to join a club precisely because they know by practical experience that boys will learn there wholesome interests and hobbies with which to replace the temptations of the streets. A very large proportion of young offenders get into their first trouble because they have no means of finding an outlet legitimately for their superfluous energy and desire for adventure and fun, or because they are just bored for want of a hobby or something to do.1 A club gives them opportunity for all they need for the healthy development of boyhood in place of roaming the streets. The theorist who states publicly that the value of boys’ clubs in reducing delinquency has not been proved is not only foolish; he is mischievous, since he discourages men to volunteer as essential club leaders. Let us, there. fore, consult practical men once more to see where the truth lies. So far as lawless youths are concerned few men could have more practical knowledge than the police. The Norwich Lads’ Club was founded in 1918 and has been managed to the present time by police officers of the city. The following particulars of its success are taken from a short history of the club after twenty years’ work. The average number of children and young persons under the age of sixteen charged in the Norwich courts was ninety-six in the six years before the club was opened. In 1919, the year after it was opened, the number was forty-five. In 1922 it fell to twelve and it remained at about that average in a city with much industrial congestion, a good deal of chronic unemployment, and many unwholesome housing conditions. The police view is unchanged today. In January 1950 Sir Harold Scott, Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, at a conference of London Boys’ Clubs paid high tribute to their success in combating juvenile crime, saying that it was very rare for an active club member to be found in serious trouble.

A study of the twenty-three cases in this book illustrates clearly enough another cause of crime to which I have elsewhere drawn attention. It can scarcely be denied, I think, that foolish and unskilful treatment by criminal courts in the selection of punishment or sentence is a prolific cause of crime. Treatment may be 1 Cf. The Sentence of the Court-passim.


so weak and inadequate that it induces in an offender a contempt for the law and a feeling that he has little to fear if he offend again. Or it may be so unnecessarily cruel and hard as to destroy a man’s character and ruin his employment with the result that he is driven into crime. More likely still, it is harmful purely through ignorance and lack of training of the bench, but unfortunately not the less harmful because it is well meaning. If anyone be in doubt as to the truth of this statement let him study the remarks of the prison commissioners on lamentable sentences which are to be found year after year in their annual official Reports.1 There are juvenile courts so feeble in the handling of difficult boys as to make the law a subject of derision amongst the offenders who appear before them. In London the best of the juvenile courts are models of what such courts should be. But of other juvenile courts even in London itself the Report of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, published in 1949,15 16 has the severe criticism that ‘almost all the experienced officers who discussed the position are agreed that some courts entirely fail to impress on young offenders the seriousness of their acts, and that repeated bindings over or probation orders only serve to engender a contempt for the law’. If this is true in London, it is worse in the provinces. Outside London, as a general rule, the efficiency of juvenile courts is on a very much lower level. I have been told by more than one chief constable that his police officers consider it almost a waste of their time to prosecute children and young persons as they are treated with such mischievous leniency by the magistrates.

I mention last that which in my opinion is of all causes of crime the most potent and all-pervading—the collapse of religious belief. Now that I refer to it I shall say little about it. That the collapse is real and that it affects all grades of society needs no proof. There are, however, those who admit no causal connection between the decay of religious belief and the increase in crime. Such connection is clearly impossible to prove by statistics. It is, moreover, not unreasonable that persons to whom religion means nothing, to whom it brings nothing, in whom it inspires no motives of unselfishness or good conduct, should find it difficult to understand what its collapse can entail. But facts are not less facts be-

cause to some they are difficult to understand. In the past, millions grew from childhood to youth, and from youth through the difficult years of adolescence to manhood, in the practice of religion. Each of them in varying degree, according to the reality of his faith, was helped by his religion to be a good member of his family, to have decent morals, to exercise self-discipline, and to obey the Commandments. In other words, each was helped by religion to be at once a good man and a good citizen. Today, the millions who succeed them grow up, for the larger part, entirely without any religion and therefore without the inspiration or the assistance which it gives. There is therefore more crime, and this must be so unless the sanctions and the inspiration of religion can be replaced by others equally strong.

Very briefly, I add a concluding paragraph on what I have been led by experience to regard as not being major causes of crime.

Whatever may have been the case one hundred years ago in the time of Hill, I do not believe poverty is now, or has for some years been, a cause of serious crime. Two years ago I wrote.1

‘The Minority Report of the Committee on Persistent Offenders in 1932 stated that in ninety-seven or ninety-eight per cent of indictable cases the economic factor played a leading part. Even at that time I imagine this estimate to have been picturesque propaganda rather than statistical fact. However that may be, the percentage of crime due to sheer poverty is to-day infinitesimal.’

That remains equally my view today. It is at least a significant fact that at the present day when serious crime is at a high record and still mounting there is virtually no unemployment, wages are at their highest, and working hours at their shortest.

Upon one final point I find myself in disagreement with juvenile court magistrates of great experience from whom I dissent very reluctantly. I think, however, and I have always thought, that they have laid undue emphasis upon certain wartime conditions as constituting main causes of juvenile delinquency. I refer to evacuation, truancy and the closing of schools, bombing and marital disharmony. That these influences may have contributed to bring about other conditions which directly caused children to commit offences is well possible. But I am not convinced they were any one of them more than a causa causans. That, at any rate, 1 The Sentence of the Court, at p. 180.


has been my own experience in determining the factors which have led individual offenders into crime. As a mere illustration of that experience, none of these wartime conditions were the effective reasons why any one of the twenty-three young men in this book went wrong. So, too, while it is easy to agree that domestic disharmony may cause a boy to leave his parents and run into the street in the search of a more pleasant atmosphere in which to play, it is more difficult, for me at any rate, to agree that the disharmony causes the boy to steal when he is in the street. He steals, surely, because he meets bad companions and is not strong or disciplined enough to refuse to join them in what he knows to be wicked, or because he sees an opportunity to get something which he wants and has insufficient home training or morals to resist the temptation to steal it. In the first place, this seems to be a more reasonable explanation of a boy’s thefts than that the essential cause is a sense of insecurity engendered by the sight of disharmony between his parents. Secondly, it is in accord with my own experience. Thirdly, it is reasonable to suppose that in a home where domestic disharmony exists, whether it be in the form of marital infidelity or continuous quarrels, there will be an absence of religious belief, of good morals, and of happy family life to which I have already pointed as some of the major causes of serious crime. Finally, I find it difficult, if these wartime causes were ever major causes ofjuvenilc crime, to understand the present position. No bomb has dropped for five years. Every evacuee has returned to his home years ago. All the schools are open again. Domestic disharmony can surely be no greater today than under the stresses and strains of the war years. If these, then, were the causes, juvenile delinquency would be far less today than at the end of the war. But in fact it has risen each year since the war and the figures in the Metropolitan Police area when these wartime influences were most evident show an increase of twenty eight per cent of children arrested for indictable offences in 1948 over 1947.1

1 Report of Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Cmd. 7737, p. 49.


As Things Might Be

I have set out above1 what I believe to be the main causes of serious crime in this country at the present time. The obvious next step is to consider if remedies likely to improve this grave situation can be found. I am in no doubt in the matter. I believe that they can be found, put into force, tried, and doubtless improved by practice in their administration. I am not foolish enough to believe that any methods will stamp out crime entirely. We shall always have crime in any large community. Certain types of offender can never be deterred or reformed by any human agency. But I am very strongly of opinion that the present alarming level of serious crime could be reduced very considerably to manageable proportions if the problem is tackled realistically. Moreover, I take the view that if it is not so handled now it will increase. The plain fact is that at the present time crime pays, or, if it does not pay, the adolescent is led to believe that it does. His religious scruples against what is sinful no longer exist. His moral standards are too low to help him. He has been educated without discipline in his home and his school and is therefore without self control. The question in his mind is not ‘Would it be wrong for me to do this?’ but ‘Would it pay to do it?’ At present, far too often, the young man believes serious crime does pay. The prize is enormous. He may, and does, make hundreds of pounds in a night’s work. The odds are reasonable where the stakes are so large; every police force, as he well knows, is grossly understrength. He gets away with several successes before he meets failure, and he always anticipates yet one more success. Finally, the danger is not anything very terrible after all, in the event of disaster. The gratifying publicity of a trial followed by a sentence, which at the worst means nothing more than the boredom of a few months in prison. True, there is the possibility of a long stretch if he has bad luck in the

1 Supra, p. 275.


distant future, but that is so far off that he need not worry about it now.

I think that this analysis of the attitude of mind of a large majority of adolescent offenders would be accepted by most officials who have charge of them in prison. It is upon the assumption that it is substantially correct that my proposals are founded. For their purpose is twofold. In the first place it is to show that crime does not pay. In the second it is to strengthen his will and to improve his understanding that he may the better resist temptation.

All these aims constitute a formidable task. We shall not be successful in carrying it out unless we recognise that the work is urgent and essential in the national interest and are prepared for the expenditure of a great deal of effort and of a certain amount of money. These are not days when it is desirable to suggest new ways of spending money. But crime is costing the country many millions of pounds every year. It is an economy, not an extravagance, to spend less than a single million if the effect is going to be that the country will be thereafter saved the waste of millions every year. I have often wondered if people are merely ignorant of the cost of crime, not only in money but in suffering, or whether, realising the truth, they are indifferent. Thus, to take a simple illustration, the London police force is some five thousand officers under full strength. It is obvious enough that if it could be made up to full strength much of the crime now being committed would be prevented, and a greater number of criminals convicted and sentenced to imprisonment than is now the case. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has said publicly more than once that one of the great difficulties in recruiting for the police is the lack of official houses and he has appealed to local authorities to make special provision for police quarters. The fact that he has had to make such an appeal repeatedly argues a very poor understanding of the position on the part of the housing committees. The most effective of all deterrents is the strong probability of detection and arrest.

One sees elsewhere, too, the same lamentable failure to realise the seriousness of the problem to be solved. Thus, it is clear enough that to do good work one needs an effective instrument. In the sphere we are discussing, to administer justice in the best interests of the country, we need competent judges and magistrates. The


first draft of the Justices of the Peace Bill 1949, designed as it was to strengthen the lay magistracy, most wisely recommended that the recorderships of a great number of boroughs should be abolished. Very cogent reasons were given for this proposal as being likely to improve the quality of justice. It was at once fiercely opposed. Mayors made angry speeches. Bishops defended in the House of Lords the commissions of their ancient cathedral towns. Town clerks maintained stoutly that Parliament must lay no sacrilegious hand upon rights granted by Queen Elizabeth. Here, surely, is an example of ignorance. Courts of quarter sessions and petty sessions alike exist for a single purpose—the administration of justice. They do not exist to enhance the glories of a borough, however venerable. The fact that a borough was granted its ancient privilege by Queen Elizabeth, or indeed Queen Boadicea, is wholly irrelevant. The more skilled in administering justice the magistrates and the recorder maybe, the more effectively will they put down crime. Nothing else should be considered.

I could multiply examples of this ignorance easily enough. Let one more suffice. A unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission on Justices was that the chairman of urban and rural district councils should not be ex officio justices of the peace and members of the local bench.11 say with the utmost seriousness that no one could read the reasons advanced in the Report for this recommendation and continue afterwards to maintain honestly that the appointment of such ex officio justices was desirable if he made its effect upon the administration of justice his sole test. Yet in both Houses the recommendation was rejected. I read the speech of one noble lord who opposed the recommendation on the ground that it was hurtful to the dignity of local government. It is not in that spirit we must approach a wave of crime. A petty sessional court has nothing in the world to do with local government. On the other hand, it plays a big part, for good or for evil, in dealing with crime. To add justices to a bench for any reason whatsoever save that they are likely to add to its efficiency is a bad and retrograde step. It is certainly indefensible to make a man a magistrate solely as a reward for local authority services when he may be an utterly unfit person who would never be selected on his merits.

I have myself sat as a member of a country bench for twenty-five years. I was appointed after I had practised for some years at

1 Cmd. 7463 at p. 88.

the Bar and it was natural enough that I should be impressed with the need for lay magistrates to learn such matters as the rules of evidence and at least the elements of the criminal law. As a witness before the Royal Commission on Justices in 1947 I was glad to be able to assure the chairman in reply to a question put to me by him that since my appointment there had been a considerable improvement in the general standard of knowledge amongst justices. This I believe to be due mainly to the educational work of the Magistrates’ Association. But I felt bound to add to my answer this qualification, that in one essential subject, perhaps the most important of all, the determination of treatment or sentence, there had been little or no corresponding improvement.

The selection of the wisest treatment of an offender is a matter of the utmost importance not only for the defendant himself but for the community. A suitable treatment may reform him, or assist in his reformation, and the country will be benefited; a wrong treatment may confirm him in his wrongdoing, or make him worse, and the country will be harmed. There is a very wide choice of treatments open to a court, remedial, punitive, deterrent, and preventive. Probation, used wisely, is merciful and efficient; the same system, used unskilfully, brings the administration of the criminal law into public derision. For certain offenders and for certain crimes, prison is almost always necessary in the public interest; for certain other offenders and offences it is almost invariably both cruel and useless.

If these statements are well founded, and it would be a bold man who would deny their truth, certain facts emerge. They are these. The selection of sentence is a matter of difficulty. To make a wise choice, a judge, of whatever rank he may be, needs to have education in penology—that is to say, he needs to understand the proper principles of legal punishment. He needs also to know the nature of the instruments he uses—that is to say, he must study the probation system in order to get to know what it can do and what it cannot do, and obviously he must visit every variety of penal institution or else he is prepared to remain wilfully ignorant of what he does when he commits a man to prison.

If I am right in making these claims, then it follows that courts of petty sessions must make many serious blunders in their treatment of offenders since in fact there has never been any insistence upon magistrates having any knowledge at all, either of law or


penology. All courts of lay magistrates have the advice in matters of law of their professional clerk. But it is not the function of a clerk to advise upon sentence. That is the sole responsibility of the justices. I do not hesitate to say that this is the part of their work which is least well done. If this is thought to be an unfair criticism, I would suggest that the decisions of justices recorded in the case histories of this book be carefully scrutinised. The cases are few in number, and selected by prison governors solely because the young men appeared to be well on the way to becoming confirmed criminals. Yet it would be easy enough to find solid ground for argument that amongst these twenty-three lads more than one had been given no help by the justices but had rather been pushed a little further along the road to a criminal future by the magistrates’ mistakes.

The need for all criminal courts to improve their knowledge of punishments and prisons is very real. I do not conceal the fact that I regard such improvement as one of the most important and urgent reforms if we are successfully to combat the present crime wave. It would not be right, therefore, that so far as magisterial courts are concerned I should rest the case for it upon no opinion other than my own. I could appeal to many authorities, but I shall be content to quote one. It will, I think, be sufficient for any open mind. It is the Report of the Prison Commissioners.

For many years justices have been advised, indeed almost implored, (a) not to send mere youths to imprisonment in adult prisons ifit could possibly be avoided; (b) not to send first offenders to prison at all save in exceptional circumstances; (c) not to send anyone, least of all a youth, to prison for so short.a term that it were almost useless as a deterrent, wholly useless as an opportunity for training, and mischievous as taking away the future fear of prison; and (d) to send for long Borstal training such youths as show by their criminal records their need for it.

Let us see how justices have acted upon this advice.

In 19461, 2,726 youths were sentenced to imprisonment in adult prisons. Of these 914 were first offenders; 303 were sixteen and seventeen years of age; 796 had sentences of one month or less.

In 19472, the last year for which figures are available, 2,589 youths were sentenced to imprisonment in adult prisons. Of these 1 Cmd. 7475, at p. 28.    2 Cmd. 7777, at p. 20.

712 were first offenders; 253 were sixteen and seventeen years of age; 731 had sentence of one month or less.

It is not surprising that the prison commissioners should comment1 :

‘That 712 youths and 88 girls should be sent to prison for their first proved offence remains deplorable.. .. Among the 1,177 youths and 103 girls with more than two previous convictions it is difficult to think that many were not qualified for Borstal training. And, finally, no less than 1,441 youths and 224 girls were sent to prison for no longer than three months.’

So much for the need of systematic instruction for magistrates upon these matters. I have long felt its existence. In 1935 I wrote2:

‘I urge magistrates to consider not only the unwisdom but the impropriety of their sending defendants to approved schools, Borstals, and prisons before they have familiarised themselves with these places. ’

It is a satisfaction that this view, which has indeed been held by all who have observed the results of magisterial ignorance, has been endorsed by a unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission on Justices to the effect that courses of compulsory instruction shall be inaugurated for lay magistrates and that these courses shall include visits to all types of penal institutions.

Unhappily, the need for instruction in the art of passing the most appropriate sentence is not confined to magistrates. It is shared by judges of the superior courts, by recorders and judges of assize. I have dealt at considerable length with this subject in an earlier book3 and I refer to it again only because I regard it as a reform of the first urgency at the present time. A King’s Counsel on promotion to judicial office takes off his silk gown and, putting on his judicial robes, takes his place on the bench of a criminal court. He may perhaps have taken no part in criminal work for some years, but he goes through no course of instruction in his new duties. He may never have been inside a prison in his life but he will at once be required to determine sentences of imprisonment. No one questions the learning, dignity, integrity, high sense of honour, and earnest desire to do right of English judges. These things form part of our national heritage. But they do not suffice in themselves to enable however good a man to do well what is a technical job requiring specialised knowledge. The most able and learned lawyer may be quite unfit to be a criminal judge at all. 1Cmd. 7777, at p. 22. 2 Justice of the Peace. 8Sentence of the Court—passim.

Lest such criticism may be thought to be unjustified, I give some example of recent sentences passed in superior courts. Moreover, the twenty-three case histories in this book will show many examples of unhelpful sentences passed by courts of quarter sessions and assize.

A.B. age 22.

As a child, was put on probation for theft. Later, he was again guilty of theft and sent to an approved school. After his discharge from the school he was again convicted of theft and sent to Borstal. He was now convicted of house-breaking. Sentence: six months’ imprisonment. What possible good could that be?

C.D. age 17.

Plea of guilty to house-breaking.

At the age of thirteen he was charged with burglary and since then the police described him as having developed into a ‘cunning and resourceful thief’. Six months before the present charge he had been released from an approved school and at once resumed his burglary. He asked for thirty-one other offences to be taken into consideration.

Sentence: six months’ imprisonment. A more obvious case for Borstal could not be imagined.

Both these sentences were passed by a King’s Counsel, the recorder of a great city. The weakest bench of justices in the most remote country district could not have done worse. Let us therefore examine an example of assize court practice.

It has been maintained by judges that no knowledge of penology is required by them for the discharge of their duties on the bench. Indeed, in 1938 Lord du Parcq, then Mr. Justice du Parcq, published a pamphlet1 in which he supported this view. One of his arguments was that in reality the punishment of an offender is in the hands of the Home Secretary and the prison commissioners rather than in the hands of the judge, since the actual treatment in prison is determined by them after the judge at the trial has decided that a prison sentence is necessary and has fixed its length. From this argument Lord du Parcq deduced that it was no part of the duty of a judge to make any close study of the prisons to which he commits offenders.

The argument appears to me quite fallacious because it is manifestly impossible for a judge to decide wisely and on proper grounds whether a prison sentence is necessary, or to fix its length unless he knows what the conditions of a prison are. Quite apart 1 The Place of Criminal Law in Legal Education.

from that, it is simply not the case that the selection of punishment is not in the hands of the judge. Consider the following illustration:

At Leeds Assize Henry Batley appeared before Mr. Justice S. and pleaded guilty to factory-breaking and assaulting the police. He asked for twenty other cases to be taken into consideration involving stolen property to the value of £530. The offences were committed while Batley was on the run after he had absconded from a Borstal institution before completing the sentence passed upon him by another court for a previous offence. Mr. Justice S. said: ‘You are a very remarkable example of the utter and complete failure of this sort of institutional treatment. The prison commissioners express the view that a little more of the same thing would be a good thing for you. I am sorry to say I most profoundly disagree with the prison commissioners on that matter.’ His lorship placed Batley on probation for two years, saying that he was giving him his first real chance in life. He went on to add: ‘This boy is not to be picked up by anybody, and taken back to this Borstal institution. If they pick him up they do it at their peril. I have ordered him to be discharged and I will communicate with the Home Secretary myself on this matter.’1

This surely is a very remarkable example of the exercise of judicial power and discretion. The defendant appears for sentence for no less than twenty-two offences. The learned judge inflicts no penalty save to bind the youth over on probation. This, of course, he has a perfect right to do. In so doing he expressly disregards the advice tendered to him in the course of their duty by the prison commissioners. This, again, he is fully entitled to do. But two reflections occur to me. It can hardly be suggested in the face of the exercise of such powers by a judge of assize that there is very much force in Lord du Parcq’s contention that the punishment of an offender is not in the hands of the judge. Secondly, the learned judge goes even further than the determination of punishment for the twenty-two offences for which the prisoner stood in the dock before him. Batley was an absconder from a Borstal institution in which he had served only part of his sentence. Normally he would have been taken back to his Borstal institution like any other absconder to complete his sentence. But in fact Mr. Justice S. expressly forbade that this should be done. He remitted the remainder of a sentence passed upon Batley by another judge at a former trial of which Mr. Justice S. had not heard the evidence.

1 The case is taken from the Daily Telegraph of 21st February 1947 and the Yorkshire Post of the same date.

I confess that I had no idea at all that even a judge of assize had authority so far-reaching as that. But the fact that he has power to reject the advice of the prison commissioners, and to free a prisoner from an existing sentence, is surely a powerful endorsement of my argument that it should be part of the accepted duty of a judge to make a close study of Borstals and prisons. It would surely be wrong for a judge to criticise so strongly by implication institutions with which he was not fully familiar.

I was interested in the subsequent career of this prisoner Batley. The intervention of the learned judge was certainly not a success. Only two months after his release Batley was again arrested on charges of factory-breaking and larceny, and in July 1947 he was once again sentenced at Leeds Assizes. On this occasion the judge of assize gave him nine months’ imprisonment. With the customary remission for good behaviour he was released on 14th January 1948. Two months later, on 15th March, he was arrested on charges of breaking and entering and on 19th April was sentenced to twenty-one months’ imprisonment, once more by a judge of assize at Leeds. Released in June 1949 was sentenced only four months later to two years’ imprisonment for stealing a motor car.

It will be seen that the sentences of judges of assize do not differ materially from those of recorders. Indeed there is no reason why they should. Both a judge and a recorder are men highly trained and skilled in law and not necessarily either trained or skilled at all in the difficult art of sentencing.

I venture, therefore, with the deepest respect, to express the belief that a first and very important step should be that all professional judges should now be called upon to give not only thought, as I am sure they already do, but systematic study to these matters. If, for example, a judge upon first appointment were before sitting in a criminal court to spend a week at Scotland Yard in a study of the files with the assistance of men who really understand the characters of criminals many quite futile sentences which are now conventional would be replaced by others more in the public interest. If this week’s investigation were followed by a conducted tour of Borstals and prisons, the new judge would not only learn a great deal which would be of help to him in his responsible work but, I am convinced, would find that work incomparably more interesting. I do not doubt another result would be that judges would take the place which should be theirs in the van and at the

head of all movements for the reform of the criminal law. Their warmest admirer would not claim that place for them at the present time. Lord James of Hereford, himself a Lord of Appeal, said in the last century, ‘The role of criminal reformer is not a part hitherto played by our principal judges.’ With honourable exceptions, the words remain true today. I am, however, confident that H.M. judges will soon abandon the attitude towards prisons and penology to which I have alluded1 as suggested by Lord du Parcq. The Royal Commission on Justices has recommended that justices of the peace should be conducted over prisons and receive instruction as to the proper use of prison sentences. Schemes are in preparation by which this recommendation may be fulfilled. If it be right and necessary that justices of the peace, who have power to imprison only for short terms, should be familiar with prison conditions,2 it can scarcely be maintained that such knowledge is superfluous in the case of professional judges who have power to imprison for long terms.

It has been widely suggested that the power of passing sentence in a criminal trial should not be exercised by the judge but by some form of specialist tribunal after enquiry into the many matters of health, past record and the like which require investigation if full justice is to be done. I am wholly opposed to this proposal. But there is one important reform which I should welcome in this connection. At the present time sentence is pronounced too soon and upon insufficient information. The decision as to sentence is a matter which in the great majority of cases of far greater difficulty than the determination of guilt or innocence. Once more, merely as an illustration, I refer to the case histories in this book. I find it hard to believe that in a number of these cases judges would have passed the sentences which they did if they had had available to them the information which the man’s case history provides. I have dealt in detail with this question elsewhere3 and here I mention only the principle. I do believe that often full justice is not done because the court is not furnished with all the facts about a defendant which need to be known. I do not suggest than in any but such indictable cases as those in which a sentence of imprisonment may be passed any new procedure is required. I admit at once that extra time would be generally needed for a criminal trial

1 Supra, p. 295.    2 Cmd. 7463, p. 23.

s Cf. Sentence of the Court, pp. 156-65 and 172-6.


and greater trouble to the judge. But in very many cases, for example in these in which there was a plea of guilty, the enquiries could be pre-trial, without the cost of additional time, and I am sure no judge would grudge the trouble if he found himself able to do better justice. As a judge of the High Court once said to me, under our present system a judge can never see a prisoner alone or under any such circumstances as enable him to study or to understand the man. Everything he does must be done coram publico. It is not therefore surprising that, however anxious the judge may be to do what is wise, he is so handicapped that on occasion he passes sentences which appear most unwise to those who do know the prisoner. In certain types of case everything which can be said on behalf of a prisoner is said for him by his counsel. But what I have most seriously in mind is not special pleading in the interest of a particular offender, but the need of fuller and more intimate information in the interests of justice. Under our existing system I am in no doubt at all that courts do habitually give sentences which they would not give if they knew all the facts. The late Sir Alexander Paterson told me that he heard a judge impose a sentence of three years upon a prisoner who, to his knowledge, had made a real effort to go straight, and had fallen again into crime only at a time of considerable unemployment when his wife had become ill. Sir Alexander Paterson saw the judge, who reduced the sentence to six months and gave special directions for the prisoner to be helped by the probation officer on his release. No doubt in theory the prisoner could have told these things to the judge himself. In fact, the prisoner needs some means of seeing that every claim he has to a particular form of treatment shall be expressed and explained to the court. Not less is it desirable that the case of the community for protection should be made clear. The community has no right of appeal against a silly and inadequate sentence, such as is enjoyed by the prisoner against too harsh a sentence. It is, for example, a curious reflection that the police and prison officials are the only classes of men whose lives are spent in close contact with criminals, and they are almost the only ones who are never consulted regarding their treatment. Under proper safeguards of test and challenge, their help might be of the very greatest value. All this subject is, however, too big for detailed discussion here. All that must be made plain is that amongst reforms of the future the provision of a better

system of information upon which a court shall determine sentence, should be included.1

I am firmly convinced that schools can do more than they do now to help in the solution of the problem of the anti-social child who grows into a troublesome youth and a delinquent young man. Most children who appear in court, as I have said, attend neither church nor club. But they must attend school. The school, therefore, has the opportunity. It would be best that homes should be improved, that religious faith should be restored, that morals should be raised, and that parents should be more responsive to their duties towards their children. If these things could be done crime would largely disappear. Unhappily, these are matters upon which I make no pretence to be able to offer suggestions of any value. Indeed even as regards schools I speak with diffidence. But there I can at least claim that I have seen enough of the results of the existing system to make me sure that change of some sort is required. And, further, what few suggestions I put forward have been discussed with men now actively engaged in teaching in elementary and secondary schools.

I see no impossibility in the proposal that there should be a welfare teacher on the staff of schools likely to provide enough boys, either already in trouble or heading for trouble, to fill his time. His work would be to know the boys’ homes and to attempt, under whatever handicaps and difficulties, to do some of the work a parent should do; he would give them moral instruction, advise them as to their leisure, persuade them to join clubs, and help them to gain their first jobs. I need hardly say that if such a welfare teacher found it possible to educate the parent as well as the child that would be best of all. Such a teacher might be of great assistance in co-operating with Scout troops, clubs, and even child-guidance clinics. He would certainly bring a new measure of hope into the lives of the dull and backward boys who tend so largely to get into mischief. Obviously enough, such a member of the staff would need special hours and conditions of work. If the principle of his appointment were accepted these would prove very minor difficulties.

My own opinions have been supported by doctors and teachers alike with whom I have discussed the subject of discipline in schools. I have found agreement with my view that modern, too ‘See Appendix, p. 312.


common practice, whether it be that of a ‘progressive’ school or that advised by ‘educational experts’, is producing a boy who is not only unable to work at a job because he has not been made to work when he did not want to do so at school, but who is grievously handicapped in the critical early years of his life by a resentment against authority and inability to obey an order. One of the most valuable lessons which a boy can learn in all his school training is that in real life retribution surely follows indiscipline, laziness, and disobedience. If he has learnt nothing else but this, his school life has not been wasted. But the ‘progressive’ school, without rewards or punishments, not only does not drive home this lesson but it teaches precisely the opposite.

Another type of boy to whom far more careful attention should be paid than is often accorded him is the lad who is handicapped by special difficulties in learning the use of the written word although he may often be highly intelligent. His failure in school disheartens him the more so as it is due to no want of effort. If there follows unfair criticism or perhaps punishment he will often truant, and this becomes the starting point of temptation and delinquency.

I know that a good deal is already done in many schools with the view to bringing home to the child that he is a member of a community, and that the community flourishes only when all its members act in their daily lives fairly and honestly towards one another. The boy is taught his rights. I have sometimes wondered whether sufficient emphasis is laid on his duties. I have not myself met a teacher who went further and discussed in class the subject of juvenile delinquency. Would it be impossible to inculcate the idea that the boy who was charged in the juvenile court had brought disgrace on his school, or upon his House? If it were possible to bring about such an outlook in a school the result would be to mobilise juvenile public opinion on the right side, instead of its being, as it so often is, on the wrong. In parenthesis, such an attempt might be made easier by a reconsideration of the question of the enforced suppression of the names of defendants in juvenile courts. I have so far not found either a chairman of a juvenile court or a probation officer to agree with the view that such names should be made public. That is indeed a strong argument for their continued suppression. On the other hand, one must admit that it is not among the chairman and the probation officers that one expects to find agreement with the opinion that


such courts are weak and ineffective. Equally I do not remember a single police officer of experience who has not been of the opinion that the publicity resulting from the publication of the names and addresses of delinquent children would prove a much-needed deterrent.

A correspondent who has served for more than twenty years as a teacher in L.C.C. schools wrote to me recently on the subject of juvenile crime. In his letter he said that his experience led him to estimate that his professional colleagues in London might be classified as twenty per cent devout Christians, seventy per cent wholly indifferent to religion, and ten per cent actively hostile. No man can give what he has not got. The teaching of religion which is going to be of any value as a way of life can be done effectively only by these who themselves believe. If my correspondent is at all right in his estimate, the prospect for religious instruction in the London schools does not seem happy.

My last word on the matter of schools must be an extract from a letter to The Times from a schoolmaster who writes with the authority on delinquency of the headmaster of an approved school:

‘One way of preventing road accidents would be to fence the whole of our pavements, but another good idea is to look where you are going. It is little short of tragic that we wait until children are committed to approved schools and Borstals before we give them the elementary ethical instruction of which they are in such sore need. We need teachers upon whose moral standards we insist as much as upon their academic qualifications.’1

I have given examples2 of the absurd prosecutions which lead even respectable people to dislike the law and its administration. So far as possible I should like to see an end of these irritating and useless cases. Men would be the more likely to regard the law as something not only necessary but also reasonable. To break the law would perhaps come amongst decent people to be looked upon as doing something stupid. Today it is too often looked upon as doing something clever because the law is looked upon as itself not worth keeping.

There are two types of sentence which I should be glad to see made available by legislation to criminal courts. They are the suspended sentence and the indeterminate sentence. The latter, as will be seen, would be from its nature suitable only to courts of 1 Mr. C. A. Joyce, 9th December 1948.    2 Supra, p. 278.


assize. I see no real reason why the former might not be used also by courts of summary jurisdiction. If, however, it were thought that any injustice might be caused by its use, it might be made available at first only to higher criminal courts and extended to magisterial courts only later when its use was understood.

At present it is possible for a court to place a defendant on probation for a definite period of time. The system of probation is, in effect, one of deferred sentence. The defendant is told that he will not be punished at that moment for his offence, but that he may be punished for it at any time during his probationary period if he gives the court cause. If he completes this period without getting into any sort of trouble, however, then he can never be punished for the offence for which he is put on probation.

The probation system has saved untold suffering and has done immense good. No one would be so foolish as to wish to weaken it. The suspended sentence which, without any startling originality, I suggest should be tried in this country, would be in reality a strengthening of the same system. One weakness of the probation system is that the public, and sometimes the offender in addition, is apt to think that the court has been weak and that a man who merits punishment has been ‘let off’. As a result, respect for the law suffers. Another weakness is the lack of definition and certainty. It is true that the offender knows that if he fails to behave well during his period of probation he is liable to be brought before a court for punishment. But he has no idea what the punishment will be. He has been treated very leniently once already and he hopes for similar leniency if he is so unfortunate as to appear again. There is, therefore, some measure of deterrence, but in certain cases it is not enough, and he commits a further offence.

The suspended sentence would be a sterner deterrent, very suitable in some cases in which a court was not prepared to go quite so far in the direction of mercy as to bind over an offender on probation. Let me give two instances within my own recent experience when a suspended sentence would have been of peculiar value. In each case the prisoner was sent to prison, in my view wrongly. One was a man with several previous convictions, the other a first offender.

The first is the case of Nicholls.1 At his last appearance at quarter sessions the court refused the plea of Nicholls’s counsel to

1 Supra, see p. 183.

put him on probation. At least one of the reasons which influenced the justices was the thought that for an offence of house-breaking, even a trivial offence in itself, it would be inadequate in the case of a young man with so bad a record despite the extenuating and wholly exceptional circumstances. How completely appropriate and satisfying a suspended sentence of four years’ imprisonment would have been. It would have given the boy his chance; it would have been a sentence appropriate to an offender with his record if he had failed to take advantage of the chance given him; and it would have been to the boy himself a clear and unmistakable threat hanging over him during the period for which the sentence remained operative and so the strongest possible deterrent.

The second case was one in which a serious robbery was carefully planned by a middle-aged man who induced two young men hitherto unconvicted of any real crime to come with him. The youths were technically first offenders. But this was a premeditated crime, long prepared in advance, and indeed rehearsed. The young men knew fully what they were going into, and took part deliberately. The court felt, I think quite rightly, that their case was too serious to be dealt with by a probation order, which would have had the most mischievous effect of causing the public to believe that an offender is immune from serious punishment for his first conviction. At the same time the judge felt he ought not to impose a long sentence on a first offender. He therefore gave the two youths sentences of nine months. In this case, too, I should have thought it far better, had such a sentence been possible, to give them a suspended sentence of three years. It would have saved them from the contamination of prison; it would have been a strong deterrent, to them and to others; and had they committed a further offence they would have been in prison long enough for reformative training to be effective.

Finally there is the hopeless criminal who is the declared enemy of society.

Mr. Justice Wills described1 this type fifty years ago:

‘They follow crime as the business of their lives; take it up as a profession, calculate and accept its risks; they have entirely ceased to work, if they ever did work, and never mean to do so. Such men are hopeless. No punishment will alter them, and the moment they are 1 In a letter to The Times.

released they begin to practise crime again. They are teachers of crime by precept and by example, and their exploits often throw a kind of halo of romance over crime which does infinite mischief.’

This serious menace to the wellbeing of society existed fifty years ago; he has existed all through the years between; he exists in greater numbers today than ever before; and his numbers will increase still more if we continue to play with the problem in the future as we have played with it in the past.

He has recently been described by Dr. Rees, a consulting psychiatrist who has a considerable knowledge of delinquents.1

‘We all know that there is the hard core of incurables, comparable in every way to those with physical illness of long standing, not adequately understood from the pathological angle and, unfortunately, to be regarded as incurable in our present state of knowledge.’

I could quote a great many actual cases, but one will suffice. Let us call the man Smith. He was first in court at the age of seventeen, but he was already a lad of a certain experience. Here is his actual career.







3 cases of house-breaking (12 cases

12 months’ pro





2 cases of garage-breaking

3 years’ Borstal



3 cases house-breaking (50 cases

2 years’ hard





Burglary and larceny

18 months




3 months



Taking motor car

2 months



2 cases of burglary and larceny

3 years



(a)    House-breaking and larceny (23 cases T.I.C.)

(b)    Burglary and larceny (9 cases

3 years




(a) House-breaking and larceny

5 years

(b) Being habitual criminal (41

5 years’ preven

cases T.I.C.)

tive detention

In his brief periods of liberty it will seem that Smith has been actually convicted of a hundred and fifty major crimes before reaching the age of thirty.

1 Clarke Hall Lecture 1947, by J. R. Rees, C.B.E., M.D., F.R.C.P. u    305

But there are many such men as ruthless and even more dangerous than Smith being released from prison daily under our existing foolish system. The men of today are equally irreclaimable and they carry firearms, which, at least, Smith never used.

Such headlines as this are a commonplace at the close of 1949:

‘Armed police hunt gunmen. Shot a shopkeeper in Leeds. Chief Constable says men known to be armed; will shoot if challenged.’1

Here is a statement2 on today’s position by a man whose judgement upon such a matter must carry conviction—a retired Inspector from Scotland Yard.

‘Never before have there been so many armed criminals and such crimes of violence as there are today. In my twenty-five years at Scotland Yard there was nothing to compare with the ruthlessness and recklessness of the 1949 criminal. .. . The policeman on the beat has no idea what he may have to face when he goes on duty armed only with a truncheon. . . . Not even the civilian is safe from the thug with gun, razor, or cosh. The black market is negligible compared to what it was in 1945. Yet the high rate of criminal offences is increasing. . . . Severe punishment of a criminal for an armed robbery has, believe me, the most profound psychological effect on the underworld.’

Let us then admit, as surely any honest man must, that these hopeless incurables exist. They do enormous harm to the community in two ways. They cause loss and suffering to innocent people. They act as the recruiting officers for the army of crime. Get rid of them and the good done to society will be great indeed. The harm they themselves do will cease. A considerable proportion of the inflow to the ranks of serious crime will be shut off.

Our criminal law administration failed fifty years ago to deal with such vicious and dangerous men as these. It has failed ever since. That it is failing even worse today will be agreed by any honest enquirer who reads the reports of the prison commissioners and of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and the criminal statistics.3

In these circumstances I suggest the time has come when the public are entitled to demand protection. The courts of assize have already power in extreme cases to order imprisonment for

1    Daily Express, 17th November 1949.

2    Daily Graphic, 20th November 1949.

3    The Daily Telegraph of 15th February 1950 announces a Scotland Yard conference to consider the ‘recent sharp increase in violent crime,’ especially by youths.

life today. It may be said that such sentences are virtually never passed. The highest criminal courts should be given, therefore, the lesser power of giving the indeterminate sentence which is now available to the courts of many other countries.

Such a sentence is for life, or for a long term of years, with power to the Executive (in the form of a parole board or otherwise) to release the prisoner if he appears to have become fit for release, but such release from custody not to be made before a minimum considerable period fixed by the judge at the time of the trial.

There is no novelty in this proposal amongst those who have given any attention to the systems of punishment in force outside this country. Our trials are, in my judgment, the finest in the world —in all save our system of punishment. There the real answer is that we have no system. Let us, therefore, be prepared at least to study what is done elsewhere.

Preventive detention, which is intended not as retributive or expiatory punishment but solely as preventive protection of the community, may be indeterminate under the criminal codes of Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Baumes Law in the State of New York provides that a fourth conviction for felony must be followed by the indeterminate sentence with a minimum of fifteen years to be served.

The penal code of California lays down that a prisoner convicted of certain serious crimes after two previous convictions for specified grave offences (including robbery, burglary, and receiving) incurs life imprisonment without possibility of parole before twelve years, and that a fourth conviction for felony leads to imprisonment for life with no chance of parole.1

The International Prison Congress held in London in 1925 recognised the fact that the indeterminate sentence is the necessary consequence of the individualisation of punishment, and one of the most efficacious means of social defence against crime.

As Dr. Max Grunhut17 18 says in his recent valuable book Penal Reform.:

‘Correction and prevention are simultaneous objects of a rational penal policy. . . . The future belongs to preventive punishment, if necessary indeterminate. . . . This idea has steadily gained support in international discussion.’

I believe many men on the threshold of a criminal career would draw back if they thought they might ultimately face the bleak prospect of the indeterminate sentence. They would decide that crime had ceased to pay. Criminals such as the man I have called Smith1 would be shut up for life if they committed further offences.

I hear already the cries of shocked protest from the humanitarians, who have such deep sympathy for those who commit crimes but apparently little for their victims. All my pity is spent, however, upon the sufferers in such a case as this.2

‘Her Life’s Savings.

‘Two burglars, working with towels wrapped round their feet, robbed fifteen houses in Blenheim Road, Walthamstow, yesterday, working so quietly that even watchdogs were not disturbed. A widow who had been paying for twenty years on an endowment insurance policy drew the money—her life’s savings—only the previous day. That was taken as well as her jewellery.’

Thus two men, because they are wicked and unwilling to work, can under our existing system bring in a single night pain and loss upon fifteen homes; they can continue such a course of life until old age makes it physically impossible for them to go on longer. At intervals they will be caught and confined, under conditions healthy and humane if at the worst irksome, in one of His Majesty’s prisons, to be released in a few years with the full intention of recommencing their criminal attacks upon the public immediately.

I emphasise that I have referred to the practice, past and present, regarding the indeterminate sentence in other countries for one purpose only. That purpose is not to suggest we follow precisely any foreign model. It is to make clear that there is nothing absurd or impractical in the principle that the community should be prepared, when a criminal uses his liberty only to rob and injure his innocent neighbours, to take that liberty away for ever.

Two matters, prisons and aftercare, would have remained for detailed consideration had it not been for the Criminal Justice Act of 1948.

Prisons serve three purposes—deterrence, reformation, and prevention. Each is of value. Each type of prison should be planned both in its buildings and its routine to fulfil one or more of these purposes. So, too, the prisons should be so ordered as to be best

1 Supra, p. 305.    3 Sunday Graphic, 5th May 1947.


fitted to deal with certain types of prisoner presenting especial difficulty, such as the psychopath, and to make, when necessary, skilled examination of offenders on their first arrival in prison. Finally, special institutions designed for the custody and care of adolescent offenders should be provided. All these matters are dealt with by the new Act, and criticism or proposals must therefore be postponed until such time as the provisions of the Act have been tested in practice. Certain points may, however, be made clear. The Act will be an advance of considerable value, but only when it is fully operated. Thus, it provides what are to be known as detention centres to which young men may be committed as an alternative to imprisonment in an adult prison. It provides also special observation centres for psychological cases. But although the Act has been already a considerable time on the Statute Book, it provides these and other quite admirable things only in theory. Not a single brick has been laid towards their provision in practice. There can be no reasonable hope of their becoming available until the clamant demand of honest citizens for houses in which to live has been substantially satisfied, and he would be a bold man who ventured a prophecy at the present rate of progress as to when that would be.

There remains one other subject upon which it may be useful to suggest future improvements in administration: I refer to aftercare on discharge from prison.

When a man who has broken the law has served the prison sentence passed upon him he has purged his offence against society. It would be contrary to every law of charity and common sense alike to continue his punishment after his release. If on his discharge he wishes to live an honest life it is in the interest of the community that he should do so. At the present time employment is in general easy to get. But it is very often more difficult for a man from prison, who may be without a home or even working clothes, than for others. It is true a man need never starve. The National Assistance Board will see to that. But a married man is frequently faced with serious domestic troubles such as debts, rent in arrear and other such disheartening problems as make the first days of freedom a bleak welcome to the world. Greatest handicap of all, men emerge from prison very often so emotionally unstable that they need sound guidance and advice as urgently as they may need financial help if they are to make good.

A criminal is an expensive curse to the community: an honest man is its greatest strength. If we admit so much it becomes evident that if any reasonable expenditure can turn a man from a life of crime to one of honesty it is money most profitably spent. Put in the most simple terms, it is sound economy to spend twenty pounds if by so doing we keep a man for ever out of prison when it costs twenty pounds a month to keep him in prison.

The subject of aftercare is too large to be dealt with here save in outline. Moreover, the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, contains provisions which are not yet, of course, fully tested, and it would be absurd to attempt to make fresh detailed proposals until those so recently enacted have been tried. My main aim is to emphasise the principle that even in the straitened circumstances of our present national life some generous system of aftercare not dependent upon private charity may be an expenditure well worth while. There are, however, one or two other minor points. Release under supervision is, I am completely convinced, wise, and indeed essential, for the salvation of many men. The Act provides for this only in the case of such young prisoners as were under twenty-one years of age at the beginning of their sentences.' I cannot think that it is wise to make this arbitrary distinction. Supervision with a power to recall to prison gives authority which enables a wayward young man to be saved from himself if he shows signs of returning to bad company or of rejecting advice on his discharge from prison. Such supervision is surely as necessary and valuable for a young man who is twenty-one or twenty-two when he commences his sentence as it is for one who is twenty years of age. Finally, I would lay stress on the need for continuing help. I do not mean that prisoners on discharge should not be encouraged to cut free from all association with aid societies at the earliest practicable moment. All I mean is that if, as so often happens, a man loses a first job and is in danger of relapsing into evil ways, he should not feel that he has had his one and only chance of help, or that the life-line has been cut. So long as he remains genuinely desirous of making a new start in life, so long should there be some official friend to whom he can turn.

It will, then, be not only merciful but wise and in the public interest to give every prisoner at his discharge one real chance, or indeed two. But we must, as practical men, remember that no number of chances are of much value to a prisoner who has no


wish to avail himself of them. Always, therefore, as a first essential we must bear in mind, at all events with younger prisoners, that their training in prison should be so directed as to ensure, if possible, that on their release they will be anxious to take the chance given them.

Somewhere, in one or other of our prisons, there are men of middle age whom I knew as boys serving their first sentence. If I have at all succeeded in what I set out to do, I shall have shown what manner of young men they are today who embark upon this sad journey which in their turn will lead them in their middle age only from one prison to another. Already in their young manhood they have done so much that is evil, and know so little of what is good. I shall have shown too the forces which have moulded them into what they are. The battle against powers so formidable will not be easy. To win it we shall need hard heads as well as kind hearts. But the fight is one so well worth while the winning.

{The following report was written for the proceedings of the Twelfth International Penal and Penitentiary Congress at The Hague, 1950, as Introduction to the discussion on pre-trial enquiries.)

Is a pre-sentence examination of the offender advisable so as to assist the judge in choosing the method of treatment appropriate to the needs of the individual

offender ?

The First Question of this Congress asks whether, for certain reasons, ‘A pre-sentence examination of the offender is advisable’. I propose to re-draft and to enlarge the question. It can thus be made absolutely clear beyond possibility of doubt what it is we are endeavouring to discover. The question so expanded becomes an enquiry whether it is advisable that after conviction but before sentence an examination of an offender should be made by some authority independent of the court and that the results of this examination should be made known to the judge to assist him in the determination of treatment.

To find the right answer to this question, in my submission we need do no more than consider the aim of legal sanctions and the purpose which society should have in view in the punishment of crime. The subject is one of great interest and obvious importance. Much has been written upon it. This is however not the place to deal with so difficult a problem in detail. For our present purpose it will be sufficient to set out the conclusions upon which the majority of penologists are agreed, with no greater detail than is required to make the argument intelligible.

It was at one time widely believed that the expiation of moral wrongdoing was not only a legitimate but indeed an essential aim of legal punishment; today this theory of punishment for expiation is recognised to be based upon a confusion of law and


morality, and there are very few, if indeed there are any, who accept it. Apart altogether from this confusion between morality and law there is another conclusive argument against this theory. It is this. To require a judge to determine the degree of pain precisely adequate to expiate moral guilt is to demand what is patently impossible. No human judge can read the secrets of men’s hearts to leam the struggle to resist temptation, the degree of temptation, and all the palliating circumstances upon which the degree of guilt depends. This aim of punishment is therefore impossible of achievement in practice, and if it were attempted the result would be cruelty and injustice.

Similarly, at the present time the theory, once almost universally accepted, that retribution is the proper aim of legal punishment has been abandoned, although amongst the unthinking it lingers on. But it is indefensible. Many persons who habitually commit crimes have had little or no opportunity through no fault of their own of being other than what they are. It is true that they are lawless and dangerous, an expensive nuisance to the community of which they are a part. But, as association with, and study of, criminals make clear, in many cases it is heredity, poverty, squalor, ignorance, mental defect, environment, or ill health which have largely contributed to their state. For the common good it is obvious that they must be restrained. It is both legitimate and reasonable that the community should for its protection impose punishment. But it is impossible to believe that in addition to such sanctions as are necessary for the security of the community, society has in such cases either the duty or even the right to impose suffering on an offender merely to express its resentment against him. It has been well said that the fuller our insight into the springs of human conduct, the more impossible does it become to maintain the antiquated doctrine of retribution.

The criminal courts exist to make life and property secure. To attain this object they are armed with the power to inflict punishment for wrongdoing. In practice judges do not find it necessary to impose severe punishment—or indeed any punishment—in every case. One offender may need severity of punishment but another may need no more than a warning.

If this statement of principle be accepted we can see readily enough what the true purpose of legal punishment should be. It should be the good of society, the protection of the community. The actual methods of punishment used by the courts will necessarily vary according to the requirements of each individual case. But the aim of punishment remains, or should remain, constant and uniform, to do what is best in the public interest.

Thus, where the reformation of the offender appears to be reasonably practicable and the case is otherwise suitable, the court may see fit to concentrate its attention upon such action as may be most likely to help the offender to become a better citizen. If this action succeeds the aim of punishment will have been secured, since it is obvious that it is in the interest of the State to have good citizens rather than bad ones. It is only incidental that the offender will benefit at the same time.

Again, in the next case which comes before it, the court may take the view that the offender will not respond to reformative treatment, but may be effectively frightened away from any repetition of his crime. In such a case the court may elect to concentrate upon deterrence. If the deterrent punishment succeeds the aim of punishment will once more have been attained, and the community will be benefited. In the general good it is immaterial that the particular offender may necessarily suffer.

In yet another case, the court may believe that the offender is so hardened in crime that he is unlikely to be amenable either to reformation or deterrence. It may therefore feel it necessary to protect the community by a punishment of which the method is prevention. The most obvious example is the lengthy sentence, in comparatively lenient conditions of imprisonment, passed upon recidivists. Another clear example of the same principle is the Order by which a court makes it impossible for a dangerous motorist to drive a car, and so protects the public.

Finally, there are certain offences which a State may regard as being of peculiar danger to the community. Instances of such crimes are treason, murder, or trafficking in dangerous drugs. In such cases it is legitimate for the court so to order its punishment as to protect the community with ruthless disregard of the interests of the criminal. Salus poptili suprema lex. So if it holds that the general security can best be safeguarded by the penalty of death, the State is within its rights in making such a provision.

The aim of punishment is, then, the good of the State. Punishment should be devised always for this end. But humanity and

common sense alike qualify the choice of punishment. Thus punishments which entail excessive suffering have been rightly abandoned, despite the fact that they might be very successful as deterrents. The problem for the criminal court is therefore in each case to select a punishment, or other treatment, which shall be effective in securing its aim, while at the same time inflicting the minimum of suffering, even upon offenders, compatible with the object to be attained. It is evident that no court can solve this problem, or indeed approach its investigation intelligently, unless it has considerable knowledge both of the types of punishment which it orders and of the individual offender upon whom punishment is ordered.

The first proposition—that a court must be fully conversant with every type of punishment which it orders—appears to be self-evident. It is surely fantastic to suggest that a court can use any treatment with intelligence and success if it does not know of what the treatment consists. A primary duty of criminal judges is therefore to familiarise themselves with prisons, the probation system and alternative methods of treatment. This is not a matter which is directly the concern of the question now under discussion, and it is mentioned only to complete the argument logically.

It is even more plain that if a court is to know how best to treat an offender it must know a great deal about him. The more it knows the greater will be the probability of successful treatment. Let us take a simple example. A judge may have before him five men convicted of taking part in a carefully organised robbery of a warehouse. If he is to carry out his task conscientiously and with the maximum probability that he will impose that sentence which will, without useless severity, best protect the community, the judge must know a great deal about each of the five offenders. In England the ordinary police report will inform the court in each case of the particulars of his previous convictions, if any, his age, his record of employment, and his health. It is essential that these details should be known to the court. But in addition a court should know much more than this outline if in each case it is to have all possible assistance in its determination of sentence. To make this clear, let us revert once more to the five hypothetical criminals found guilty of warehouse-breaking. It is easy enough to understand how greatly the judge’s task of sentencing would be simplified and improved if before he had to decide on


treatment he had an opportunity of studying some such report as the following:

A.B., age 45, a man of some education and considerable intelligence, unmarried. He has never made any attempt to earn his living honestly and has many convictions. (Here his offences and sentences would be set out in detail.) He is the leader of a gang which is well equipped and organised and has carried out a number of carefully planned robberies, specialising in the theft of furs. He himself never carries arms but invariably employs in his gang one or more men capable of great violence. This man is well capable of making an honest livelihood, and efforts have been made more than once to help him. But he is both idle and vicious and has preferred to make considerable sums by large-scale thefts over many years. His health is good.

C.D., age 44, formerly a clerk, has been out of employment for some time, mainly owing to his ill health and despite his efforts to get work; has a wife and family and has been in great financial need. C.D. has never before been in trouble with the police. In the present case he was induced by A.B. to join his gang as a sentry, or look-out man, his function being to keep observation and to give warning in case of danger. He was selected because he was not known to the police and was not therefore liable to come under police observation himself. He knew that what he did was criminal and made him liable to heavy punishment. But he joined in the offence only because he was in great need of money for his family, and he would not have done so even then if he had imagined that there was any possibility of a serious assault being made on a night-watchman. It is probable that if employment could be found for C.D. he would never offend again.

E.F., age 25, unmarried, nominally a builder’s labourer but has done no regular work for years. He was discharged with a bad character from the Army. He has been convicted only once, but that was of a serious offence of burglary and he was sent to prison for 12 months. He has a reputation as a man of violence and on the occasion of the burglary for which he was convicted two years ago a night-watchman was struck with a hammer and seriously hurt in exactly the same way as the night-watchman in the present case. E.F. has always associated with bad company and has been a close companion of A.B. ever since he came out of prison. Although he has had only the one conviction he has no


record of honest employment and his only explanation of how he has lived is that he has been lucky at the races. Is strong and healthy physically and is sufficiently intelligent to earn an honest living if he chose to do so. But he is not known to have any redeeming characteristics and is not likely to respond to training easily or rapidly, if at all.

G.H., age 24, comes from a bad home, has had a very poor education as he has travelled continuously about the country with his parents and has never had any opportunity of learning a trade. He has been convicted many times, but only of small offences, and this is the first occasion on which he has been charged with a serious crime. Is strong and well physically and appears to be of reasonable intelligence. He has been fined on several occasions and has three times been sent to prison for periods of a few weeks. At present he is very frightened by the position in which he finds himself and may well make a serious effort to start a new life if he is helped to do so. He is very anxious to be trained as a carpenter and is clever with tools. Has never had anything to do with an offence of violence before.

J.K., age 20, is the son of a widow and has a good home. He lives near the parents of E.F. who got to know him some years ago and induced him to join in the commission of the present crime. J.K. has a perfectly good character and clean record, although he suffers from the lack of discipline due to the death of his father when he was 12 years old. Lately he has been getting into bad company under the influence of E.F. He is a baker by trade and his employer speaks very highly of him and is prepared to take him back. His health and intelligence are both very good. He scarcely realised the gravity of the crime in which he took part and went into it, as he thought, as an isolated and exciting adventure. It never occurred to him that there was any possibility of his being involved in a crime of violence. His part was to drive the lorry in which the stolen goods were taken away.

If I have now succeeded in making clear that some such reports as these would assist a court in determining the most just and efficient sentence to be passed upon an offender I shall have done all I set out to do. I do not for a moment suggest that the above specimen reports are the best that could be devised. I am not concerned to do more than show that if full justice is to be done some such reports, and therefore some examination of the offender,


is required, since it is obvious that without careful and skilled examination there can be no fair and reliable reports. Indeed the existing English system whereby a police report is furnished to the court is an admission of the principle that a judge cannot adequately pass sentence without information about the offender. The English police report has obvious defects, however. It is made by officials trained for entirely different purposes. It is almost wholly factual. The police have neither the facilities nor the time to produce information of the sort needed.

We are left with numerous questions unanswered. When, by whom, in what manner, and in what cases should an examination be made? In what form should the report be presented?

These are questions which can best be settled by experience. It is, I think, clear that the examination must be made only after conviction, since the examining body would have neither the authority nor the desire to make searching enquiry into the history and character of a possibly innocent man. There will be those who will believe that the tribunal of enquiry should be made up only of medical men or of psychologists. Upon this matter there will be considerable dispute. It is possible that a tribunal composed of a doctor, a social worker, and a prison official might be very efficient. Certainly, too lengthy an enquiry would be most undesirable. It might be that an offender should be permitted some form of representation to ensure that his case might be adequately put to the tribunal. It is obvious that not all cases would need to be brought before the examining body. The selection of cases would need to be based on principles to be decided. Here again is opportunity for argument and discussion.

But, to many minds at least, one thing needs no further proof. The choice of sentence is a matter of dreadful importance not only to the offender but to the community of which he is a unit. The present system by which a court may, and often does, decide upon sentence without adequate information is unsatisfactory. It is always inefficient since chance necessarily plays so large a part. It is often cruel and unjust.

Aftercare, 309 Approved schools, 19

Baumes Law, 307 Borstals, 19, 22, 241, 260 Bowlby, Dr., 58 Boys’ Clubs, 42, 275, 284 Brown, W. J., 279

Crime, amount of, 21-6 causes of, 15, 57, 273 cost of, 290 of violence, 28-33 Criminal, attitude towards, 21,41 Criminal Justice Act, 1948, 39, 249, 308-10

Detention centres, 39, 309 Deterrence, 21 Discipline, 41, 283, 300 Dodson, Sir Gerald, 27

East, Sir Norwood, 57 Encephalitis lethargica, 46 Example, bad, 276 ex officio justices, 291

Family life, 275, 282

Goddard, Lord, 24, 31 Griffin, Cardinal, 282 Grunhut, Dr., 307 Guilt sense, 55

Henriques, Basil, 283 Hill, Frederick, 273 Home, Hon. Douglas, 59

Information, need of full, 214, 298

International Prison Congress, 307

James of Hereford, Lord, 298 Toyce, C. A., >59 Jowitt, Lord, 280 Juvenile court, 33, 85, 286 Juvenile delinquency, 25, 41

Law, dislike of, 275, 277, 302 moral, 54, 275

Maberly, Dr. Alan, 281 Mullins, Claud, 278

Observation centres, 39, 309 Offences T.I.C., 20

du Parcq, Lord, 295, 298 Parents, 41

Paterson, Sir Alexander, 299 Penology, 292-8

Persistent offenders, 17,33-5, 269, 304

Pinker, Rev. M., 162, 244 Police, 36, 290, 299 Poverty, 286

Preventive detention, 307 Prison commissioners, 20, 40 Prison, Dartmoor, 241 Leyhill, 39 Maidstone, 39 Stafford, 37

Prisons, in former times, 21, 273 number of, 23


overcrowding of, 36, 39, 40 purposes of, 292, 308 state of, 21, 38, 40 Probation, 22, 253, 292, 303 Psychiatrist, 45 Psychology, 42 and morality, 49, 53 Punishment, purposes of, 85

Railway thefts, 26 Recorders, 291, 294, 297 Rees, Dr. J. R., 305 Religion, lack of, 275, 286, 289, 302

Remission, loss of, 180 Remorse, 54

Royal Commission on Justices, 291

Schools, training in, 41, 300 progressive, 283, 300

Scott, Sir Harold, 285, 286 Sense of guilt, 55 Sentences, ignorant, 82-4,96,103, 149, 178, 243, 253, 286, 293 importance of, 292 inadequate, 34, 286, 293 indeterminate, 307 instruction in, 32, 184, 214, 292 short, 66, 293 suspended, 303 Sleepy sickness, 46 Smashing up, 196 Supervision on discharge, 91, 230, 310

War, effects of, 23, 275, 288 Watson, John, 281 Wills, Mr. Justice, 304

York, Archbishop of, 58


   Daily Telegraph, 29th October 1949.    3 Daily Telegraph, 20th September 1948.


   Cmd. 7737.    4 The Times, 7th November 1949.


As the word will be used later, it may be stated that the title psychiatrist can properly be claimed only by a fully qualified medical man who has taken an additional specialist course in psychology and has generally secured a diploma therein.


   Daily Telegraph, 21st September 1949.


   Forty-four Juvenile Delinquents, by John Bowlby, M.D.


   Cmd. 7271, December 1947.


If I were writing a volume on psychology I should think it necessary to give all references. This, however, is no more than a chapter explaining my own views and I do not think this course essential, although I have them available.


felt not the least trust in his sincerity. Despite his pious ejaculations, I did not observe one sign of sorrow, or remorse, or even thought for the injuries he had done by his countless thefts to a host, of innocent people who had done no harm to him. Every word he uttered was dictated by no higher a feeling than the reflection that an honest life would add to his own comfort. He would go straight because crime didn’t pay, not because honesty was the only decent course of life. He was perfectly intelligent, and it was beyond argument that he could earn a good living honestly if he cared to do so. But he was lazy, completely selfish, self-satisfied, and easily led. In the past he had had repeated opportunities of reform and had thrown them away. I could feel no assurance that in a very few months he would not return to prison.

This was the opinion I formed as a result of my talks with him. It was only later that I heard the opinions of the governor and housemaster of his Borstal: one described him as ‘Plaintive, lazy, always wanting something, almost hopeless’; the other as ‘unable to stand up to anything, morally defective’.

The prison medical officer described him as quite intelligent and in good general health; a plausible liar, lacking in effort, self-


This was a fine strong boy with an attractive face and manner marred by a rather surly expression. His school report described him as being slightly below average intelligence, but this surprised me as he seemed to me to be shrewd enough in conversation, though slow to understand any point that was new to him.


had the advantage of a detailed and lengthy police report in addition to one written by a Borstal housemaster, so that I was in a position to check his statements of fact. His story was exceptionally truthful and accurate in all matters susceptible of being tested.

His mother died when he was only a few months old and he was taken to live with a childless aunt until he was twelve, when he returned to his father’s house. His father had, however, married again, a widow with several children of her own, and from the



was unfavourably impressed by the way he spoke; he gave me the impression of reciting something he had learnt by heart. He appeared also to be following all the evidence with close attention and intelligence, and I believed him to be shamming. Moreover, the witnesses agreed that his cell door was very ineffectively jammed, and that, although the contents of his cell were set on fire, they were all collected at the other end of it to that where Porter stood, and he was in no real danger of getting burnt. I



suggested that he should get the prison chaplain to come and talk to him. He knew hardly anything of the religion of the English Church and what he took for religious feeling was, I imagine, mere emotion based on an imperfect memory of the better instructed religious belief of his boyhood. But undoubtedly he was groping


   Supra, p. 26.


   Cf. ‘Everyone a Delinquent’, Report on Juvenile Delinquency, p. 31 (The Falcon Press, 1949).


   e.g. the two most recent Reports: for 1947 (Cmd. 7475) at p. 29, or for 1948 (Cmd. 7777) at p. 22.


   Cmd. 7737, p. 9.


   Cf. Rosling, Laws Relating to Professional Criminals, 1933, at p. 460.


   Reader in Criminology, All Souls’ College, Oxford.