ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will lay upon the Table copy of 1052 Circular issued recently to coroners relative to verdicts of juries at coroners' inquests in cases of suicides; whether he will look into the verdict of felo de se, reported in papers of 27th February, returned at a coroner's inquest held at Hemel Hampstead on a police constable who died by his own hand, which verdict is alleged to have been given in consequence of the Circular in question; whether he is aware that in consequence of such verdict the widow with 10 children is deprived of the constable's payment of 17 years' contribution to the Superannuation Fund which she would have received if an ordinary verdict of temporary insanity had been given; and whether he will inquire and see if the payments in question can be given to the widow under the circumstances?
§ MR. ASQUITH
No such Circular as that referred to by the hon. Member has been issued by the Home Office to coroners. In the form under which the coroners make their returns for statistical purposes, there, are two columns under the head "Suicide"—one for cases of self-destruction due to insanity, and the other for cases of felo de se. Where there is no evidence as to the state of mind of the deceased, the death is directed to be entered in the first class. I am not aware that anything in the Police Act, 1890, prevents a Police Authority granting gratuities to the widow and children of a police constable guilty of felo de se, and I am informed by the Chief Constable of Herts that the Superintendent was in error in informing the coroner's jury that the constable's family were debarred from receiving any gratuity under the Police Act. The matter rests with the Standing Joint Committee, to whom it will be referred at their next meeting.