HC Deb 29 July 1909 vol 8 cc1362-3

asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to the frequent publication in leading newspapers in. London of letters and communications by a Mr. Krishna Varma, openly advocating assassination for political purposes; and, if so, whether he has considered the demoralising consequences likely to result both here and in India from the dissemination of such a pernicious doctrine by influential journals?


I think the leading newspapers who publish letters of the kind mentioned in this question are unintentionally giving aid, which is perhaps dangerously effective, to the propaganda of political murder, and come under the law as to seditious libel. I recognise, of course, that their motives are the reverse of criminal, but that is not in cases of this sort any defence in law, and does not lessen the mischievous results of such publications among those most likely to be influenced by them. It is earnestly hoped that in future they will refrain from what is undoubtedly an unlawful proceeding.


May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman if it is a fact that this letter was published in "The Times" newspaper, and why do the Government mete out different treatment to "The Times" than to "Justice," which was seized the other day in Trafalgar Square, and, further, why they do not instruct the police to seize "The Times"?


The letter or publication which forms the subject-matter of the prosecution against the printer was not published in "The Times," and I do not think I ought to state why one differentiates between one offender and another in regard to criminal prosecutions. The question of motive and other special circumstances of that kind have to be taken into consideration as to whether or not a conviction would be likely to be obtained, and the only case in which under the circumstances a prosecution would be justified was a case in which it was undertaken.


This is a very serious matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that questions of motive have to be considered in deciding whether a criminal prosecution is to be instituted. The question I put to him is why the police seized a newspaper called "Justice" for a publication which was much less objectionable than the one which appeared in "The Times" directly inciting to assassination? I wish to know why the police are instructed by the Home Secretary to differentiate in the treatment of "The Times" and "Justice"?


That is not a question for the Attorney-General, but the Home Secretary.


I shall put a question to the Home Secretary on the Paper.