HC Deb 14 June 1888 vol 327 cc102-4
MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is true, as reported in the papers of Tuesday, that Albert Travis, sentenced to death in 1886, has been proved to be innocent of the crime of which be was convicted; whether it is true that he has been unconditionally released; and, if so, whether the Government intend to compensate him for his unmerited imprisonment; and, whether it is true, as reported, that the police at the time of the trial had information in their possession showing that Travis was not guilty?

MR. TATTON EGERTON (Cheshire, Knutsford)

also asked, Whether, as stated in The Pall Mall Gazette of Tuesday, it is true an unconditional release of the convict Albert Travis has been made, and on what grounds; whether it is true, as also stated, that at the time of trial the police knew that Travis did not commit the murder; and, whether the release is due to reconsideration of the same papers in the Home Office at the time of the commutation of the capital punishment?


It is true that the remainder of the sentence on Albert Travis of penal servitude for life on a charge of murder has been remitted after two years, on the ground that there is too much doubt in the case to justify his further detention in prison. There is no intention to grant him any compensation. It is not a fact that at the time of the trial the police knew that Travis did not commit the murder, or that they had information in their possession showing that he was not guilty. Since the commutation of the sentence of death fresh information has been received, which has led me on two occasions to reconsider the whole of this most intricate and singular case. I arrived at my final decision after consulting more than one eminent Judge, from whom I have received valuable assistance. The difficulties of the case are shown by the fact that the learned Judge who tried the case is still satisfied with the verdict.


Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to a statement made by Major Barker, Chief Constable of Birkenhead, to the effect that it was known to the Police Authorities, after the case had been fully investigated before the Justices, that Travis did not commit the murder, and that it was against the judgment of the Police Authorities that a prosecution was instituted at the Assizes?


I have not seen that statement, nor am I aware that it is authentic. As far as I know, the only matter in the knowledge of the police that did not come out at the trial was evidence which the police have since laid before me, contradicting unexpected statements of a woman named Platt.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Rule is still observed by which, in all cases of capital charges, the prosecution shall be under the direct control of the Public Prosecutor?


I am not aware of any case in which that Rule has not been observed; but, off-hand, without searching for documents at the Home Office, I should be sorry to say positively that the Rule has always been observed. The Public Prosecutor is directly responsible for such cases, although, in many instances, he has employed local agents as his representatives.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

asked, whether it was not usual in cases where a man had suffered unmerited imprisonment, to give him compensation?


No, Sir; on the contrary, to give compensation is without precedent.

MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)

asked, if it was not a fact that compensation was given to a man named Habron, whose case stood on exactly parallel lines with the present one?


I would like Notice of that Question.