§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Government, in releasing Mr. Edalji from confinement, decided that Mr. Edalji was wrongfully imprisoned, should not have been imprisoned at all, and was not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the Government have decided that a free pardon is properly applied to a person who has been wrongfully or mistakenly convicted and imprisoned when he is released from an unjust confinement.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether there is any precedent for granting compensation to a person who has been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, and who has been granted a so-called free pardon; and whether the Government will, in future, grant compensation to any person who has been wrongfully imprisoned, and will discontinue the use of the words free pardon in releasing an innocent person from prison.
(Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) I will answer this and the next two Questions together. Mr. Edalji was released in October last at the end of three years because it was considered that the sentence originally passed upon him was unduly severe. This was my predecessor's decision in August, 1905, which I carried out in October, 1906.† See (4) Debates, clxix., 1417–8261 In the absence of a right of appeal to a higher court the grant of a free pardon, whether the term is considered appropriate or not, is the only means by which a person can be relieved of the consequences of a conviction, whether wrongful or otherwise. Compensation has, in certain exceptional cases, been granted to innocent persons who have suffered imprisonment, but the question of payment of compensation must depend upon the circumstances of each individual case. The reasons which have led me to advise the grant of a free pardon without compensation to Mr. Edalji are shown in the Papers which have been laid before Parliament, and I have nothing to add to what is contained in them.