HC Deb 04 August 1924 vol 176 cc2516-8
59. Mr. CLIMIE

asked the Home Secretary if his attention has been called to the widespread feeling existing that capital punishment has failed to act as a deterrent to homicide; if he is prepared to consider the setting up of a Committee to go into the whole question of capital punishment, including its effect upon the youth of this country; and to consider an alternative punishment to persons found guilty of the capital charge?


My right hon. Friend will consider the suggestion that a Com- mittee should be set up, though he doubts whether such a Committee could obtain any precise information as to the extent to which capital punishment acts as a deterrent.

Lieut.-Colonel MEYLER

Will the hon. Gentleman see that this Committee shall also have as one of its terms of reference consideration of the morbid reports in the Press concerning murder trials?


asked the Home Secretary whether he will issue instructions to all prison governors to exclude from any prison in which executions are taking place all reporters and Press representatives, and all persons other than the spiritual advisers of the condemned or those specially authorised to attend under a Home Office Order?


The law gives a discretion in this matter to the Sheriffs who are responsible for executing death sentences. My right hon. Friend cannot override the law.


Cannot the Home Secretary take steps to prevent people who have not a Home Office permit from visiting prisons? I have never heard it suggested yet that he has not that right.


Is the hon. Member aware that under Section 7 of the Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act, 1868, the powers vested in the Home Secretary in regard to this matter are quite absolute?


The information in my possession is that the Section of the Act referred to states that Any Justice and Such relatives of the prisoner or other persons as it seems to the Sheriff or the visiting Justices of the prison appropriate to admit within the prison for the purpose may also be present at the execution. That authority has been given to the Sheriff by statute law and he has exercised it.


Will the hon. Member see that the Sheriffs carry out their duties personally, instead of hiring a hangman?


In the opinion of the Home Office, does it come within that Section if the Sheriff admits members of the Press, as stated from the Front Bench a few days ago?


Has the hon. Member considered the Section to which I have referred, which says: One of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State shall from time to time make such rules and regulations to be observed at the execution a judgment of death upon a prisoner as he may from time to time deem expedient for the purpose, as well as guarding against any abuse of such execution and of giving greater solemnity to the same.


In the interest of the proper manner of carrying out these executions, is it not necessary that the public should be represented by a reasonable number of members of the Press?


It is a very difficult and technical matter which has been raised by the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Birkett), and I think I am entitled to receive notice of a question of that kind.


If the hon. Member ascertains that he has the power to exclude persons other than those mentioned in the question, will he do so?