HC Deb 13 March 1911 vol 22 cc1865-6

asked the Home Secretary if he will state the nature and extent of the gross insubordination on the part of Inspector Syme; what reasons influenced him in his subsequent offer to reinstate the ex-inspector as a station sergeant and wholly overlook the offence of gross insubordination; and, when he lays the judgment of the Commissioner upon the Table of the House, will he add to at the judgment of the disciplinary board, so as to give Members of the House an opportunity of forming an opinion whether there has been a miscarriage of justice?


Mr. Syme committed two separate sets of offences. Because he had been transferred as a matter of ordinary administration from one station to another, in circumstances which he considered cast a slur upon his position in the service, he made against his superior officers, who had caused his transfer, a series of defamatory charges, which were shown to be untrue. For this he was sentenced by the discipline board to be reduced to the rank of station sergeant, and the decision was confirmed on appeal by the Commissioner and by my predecessor, Lord Gladstone. Mr. Syme refused in writing to abide by the decision of the Commissioner and of the late Home Secretary, and claimed a right to appeal to Parliament for a revision of that decision. He persisted in this course, which meant that he was to be entitled to carry on a regular agitation through circular letters to Members of Parliament, articles in the newspapers, and other similar steps which, though perfectly legitimate in a private person, cannot possibly be allowed to a member of a disciplined force, without subverting the whole system by which it is controlled and governed. In these circumstances, no alternative was open but to treat him as a military or naval officer would have been treated, and dismiss him from the service. When I came to the Home Office after these events, Mr. Syme appealed to me and asked me to see him. I had a prolonged interview with him and heard all he had to say. I told him that I fully endorsed the judgment of the Commissioner in regard to his original offence, and should maintain the punishment of reduction to station sergeant inflicted by the discipline board. But I also told him that if he would forthwith abandon his attitude of gross insubordination and submit himself to the punishment properly imposed upon him for his original offence, I would, as an act of leniency, overlook the breaches of discipline he had committed in attempting to conduct a Parliamentary agitation. I did this because I was sorry for the man, who made a good impression upon me, and anxious to save him from the consequences of his own unreasonableness. Mr. Syme definitely refused to accept my decision, and afterwards, as is well known, used the threats which have resulted in his being bound over at the police court. The case cannot now be reopened, and I am not prepared to lay any papers, except the final judgment of the Commissioners.