Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/151

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138
CHILDERS, R. C.—CHILDREN, LAW FOR

striking reform is associated with his name. His most ambitious effort was his attempt to effect a conversion of consols in 1884, but the scheme proved a failure, though it paved the way for the subsequent conversion in 1888.

The Life (1901) of Mr Childers, by his son, throws some interesting side-lights on the inner history of more than one Gladstonian cabinet.

CHILDERS, ROBERT CAESAR (1838-1876), English Oriental scholar, son of the Rev. Charles Childers, English chaplain at Nice, was born in 1838. In 1860 he received an appointment in the civil service of Ceylon, which he retained until 1864, when he was compelled to return to England owing to ill-health. He had studied Pāli during his residence in Ceylon, under Yátrámullé Unnánsé, a learned Buddhist for whom he cherished a life-long respect, and he had gained an insight into the Sinhalese character and ways of thought. In 1869 he published the first Pāli text ever printed in England, and began to prepare a Pāli dictionary, the first volume of which was published in 1872, and the second and concluding volume in 1875. In the following year it was awarded the Volney prize by the Institute of France, as being the most important philological work of the year. He was a frequent contributor to the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, in which he published the Mahā-parinibbāna Sutta, the Pāli text giving the account of the last days of Buddha’s life. In 1872 he was appointed sub-librarian at the India Office, and in the following year he became the first professor of Pāli and Buddhist literature at University College, London. He died in London on the 25th of July 1876.

CHILDREN, LAW RELATING TO. English law has always in theory given to children the same remedies as to adults for ill-usage, whether by their parents or by others, and has never recognized the patria potestas as known to the earlier Roman law; and while powers of discipline and chastisement have been regarded as necessarily incident to paternal authority, the father is civilly liable to his children for wrongs done to them. The only points in which infancy created a defect in civil status were that infants were subject to the restraints on complete freedom of action involved in their being in the legal custody of the father, and that it was and is lawful for parents, guardians, employers and teachers to inflict corporal punishment proportioned in amount and severity to the nature of the fault committed and the age and mental capacity of the child punished. But the court of chancery, in delegated exercise of the authority of the sovereign as parens patriae, always asserted the right to take from parents, and if necessary itself to assume the wardship of children where parental rights were abused or serious cruelty was inflicted, the power being vested in the High Court of Justice. Abuse of the power of correction was regarded as giving a cause of action or prosecution for assault; and if attended by fatal results rendered the parent liable to indictment for murder or manslaughter.

The conception of what constitutes cruelty to children undoubtedly changed considerably with the relaxation of the accepted standard of severity in domestic or scholastic discipline and with the growth of new ideas as to the duties of parents to children, which in their latest developments tend enormously to enlarge the parental duties without any corresponding increase of filial obligations.

Starting from the earlier conception, which limited ill-treatment legally punishable to actual threats or blows, the common law came to recognize criminal liability in cases where persons, bound under duty or contract to supply necessaries to a child, unable by reason of its tender years to provide for itself, wilfully neglected to supply them, and thereby caused the death of the child or injury to its health, although no actual assault had been committed. Questions have from time to time arisen as to what could be regarded as necessary within this rule; and quite apart from legislation, popular opinion has influenced courts of justice in requiring more from parents and employers than used to be required. But parliament has also intervened to punish abandonment or exposure of infants of under two years, whereby their lives are endangered, or their health has been or is likely to be permanently injured (Offences against the Person Act of 1861, s. 27), and the neglect or ill-treatment of apprentices or servants (same act, s. 26, and Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875, s. 6). By the Poor Law Amendment Act 1868, parents were rendered summarily punishable who wilfully neglected to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid or lodging for their children under fourteen years of age in their custody, whereby the health of the child was or was likely to be seriously injured. This enactment (now superseded by later legislation) made no express exception in favour of parents who had not sufficient means to do their duty without resort to the poor law, and was construed as imposing criminal liability on parents whose peculiar religious tenets caused them advisedly to refrain from calling in a doctor to a sick child.

The chief progress in the direction of adequate protection for children prior to 1889 lay less in positive legal enactment on the subject than in the institution of an effective system of police, whereby it became possible to discover and repress cruelty punishable under the ordinary law. It is quite inaccurate to say that children had very few rights in England, or that animals were better protected. But before the constitution of the present police force, and in the absence of any proper system of public prosecution, it is undeniable that numberless cases of neglect and ill-treatment went unpunished and were treated as nobody’s business, because there was no person ready to undertake in the public interest the protection of the children of cruel or negligent parents. In 1889 a statute was passed with the special object of preventing cruelty to children. This act was superseded in 1894 by a more stringent act, which was repealed by the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904, in its turn superseded for the most part by the Children Act 1908, which introduced many new provisions in the law relating to children and specifically deals with the offence of “cruelty” to them. This offence can only be committed by a person over sixteen in respect of a child under sixteen of whom he has “custody,” “charge” or “care.” The act presumes that a child is in the custody of its parents, step-parents, or a person cohabiting with its parent, or of its guardians or persons liable by law to maintain it; that it is in the charge of a person to whom the parent has committed such charge (e.g. a schoolmaster), and that it is in the care of a person who has actual possession or control of it. Cruelty is defined as consisting in assault, ill-treatment (falling short of actual assault), neglect, abandonment or exposure of the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health, including injury to or loss of sight, hearing or limb, or any organ of the body or any mental derangement; and the act or omission must be wilful, i.e. deliberate and intentional, and not merely accidental or inadvertent. The offence may be punished either summarily or on indictment, and the offender may be sent to penal servitude if it is shown that he was directly or indirectly interested in any sum of money payable on the death of the child, e.g. by having taken out a policy permitted under the Friendly Societies Acts. A parent or other person legally liable to maintain a child or young person will be deemed to have “neglected” him by failure to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid, or lodging, or if in the event of inability to provide such food, &c., by failure to take steps to procure the same under acts relating to the relief of the poor.

These statutes overlap the common law and the statutes already mentioned. Their real efficacy lies in the main in the provisions which facilitate the taking of evidence of young children, in permitting poor law authorities to prosecute at the expense of the rates, and in permitting a constable on arresting the offender to take the child away from the accused, and the court of trial on conviction to transfer the custody of the child from the offender to some fit and willing person, including any society or body corporate established for the reception of poor children or for the prevention of cruelty to children. The provisions of the acts as to procedure and custody extend not only to the offence of cruelty but also to all offences involving bodily injury to a child under sixteen, such as abandonment, assault, kidnapping and illegally engaging a child in a dangerous public