HC Deb 22 April 1915 vol 71 cc381-3

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that Mr. Dyson, a newspaper reporter, has been recently prosecuted before the Portland magistrates on the charge of transmitting news to his employer which might be of service to the enemy; will he say who ordered the prosecution; had it the prior sanction of the Press Bureau or the Attorney-General or the Home Office; did Mr. Dyson receive the notifications of prohibition sent to editors so that he could judge what was or was not permissible; was the condemned matter published by any newspaper; and, if so, was the editor prosecuted?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)

I am aware that Mr. Dyson was prosecuted. The charge was collecting and recording information of a nature calculated to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy. The prosecution was ordered by the competent military authority, but upon the accused electing to be tried by a Civil Court with a jury, it fell to the civil authorities to conduct the prosecution. They considered that the case could be adequately dealt with by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and, with the consent of the Admiralty and the Army Council, the case was so dealt with. In the case where the telegram dispatched by Dyson was published by the paper to which it was sent, the responsible editor was proceeded against, convicted, and fined. Dyson was prosecuted in respect of the telegrams he dispatched to certain London newspapers. These telegrams were not published, and the action taken under the Defence of the Realm Regulations was in these cases limited to Dyson.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether Mr. Dyson was doing anything more than his normal natural duly in sending news to his superior, and whether it was not done without knowledge, or possible knowledge, of the prohibition notices issued by the Press Bureau?


Is it a fact that Mr. Dyson was kept in custody from 27th of March until 31st March without being before the justices of the peace?


I should require notice of that, as I have not had information on the point. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Salford, I should imagine that, as the Court held that Mr. Dyson was guilty, he was supplying information which was detrimental to the interests of the country. He may have thought otherwise, but the newspapers in the country did not publish this news.


My point is that he had no knowledge of these prohibitions.


All I can say is that he had an opportunity of stating that in Court, and that the magistrates came to another conclusion.


On a review of the whole circumstances, will my right hon. Friend think it well to relax the rules which have led to this prosecution?


No; I should say that that would be a very dangerous policy.


If the offence consists in sending, in the ordinary course of Press duties, a telegram, which is not published, does my right hon. Friend mean that, when a man in the course of his ordinary journalistic duties sends a telegram which is not published, the danger of the information leaking out to the enemy lies in the public service?


I believe that that would be a most dangerous doctrine to adopt. Every man must be responsible for his own actions, and he must decide whether he considers the information likely to be prejudicial or not.

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