HC Deb 13 January 1913 vol 46 cc1665-6
57. Mr. ASTOR

asked the Home Secretary whether the convict, John Williams, who was sentenced to death at Lewes Assizes on the 17th December, applied in writing to the Home Office for permission to marry Florence Seymour in order that the child whose birth she was expecting should be born legitimately; whether his application was refused without any reason being given; whether Florence Seymour gave birth to a child, of which the prisoner acknowledged himself the father, on the 29th December; and, if so, whether he will state the grounds for his decision in this case?


The application of the prisoner was made verbally through the Governor, not in writing. Applications by prisoners to marry while in prison have not infrequently been made and on grounds similar to those advanced by Williams, but they appear from the records of the Home Office to have been invariably refused. There were special circumstances in this case against my setting aside this unbroken rule. An appeal was then pending and marriage would probably have had the legal effect of preventing the woman, who was a principal witness for the prosecution, from being called to give evidence if so required by the Court of Appeal. Moreover, it must be remembered that in all capital cases after conviction and before execution the question of the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy has to be considered. It is impossible for me to know, and I cannot discuss, the motives which prompted the request for leave to marry, but the effect of such a marriage would have been to introduce into the case an element which was likely to excite strong expressions of sentiment, but which had no true bearing on the prisoner's guilt and culpability. In these circumstances, I was satisfied that it would not be in the public interest that the marriage should be allowed to take place.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether John Williams is an Englishman or a domiciled Scotchman?


I believe that Williams is of Scotch parentage, but whether he is domiciled in England I cannot say.