HC Deb 21 May 1924 vol 173 cc2199-200
66. Captain BERKELEY

asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to the nature of the publicity in connection with the Eastbourne and Byflcet murder cases, and in particular to the article in the "Manchester Guardian" of 15th May, in which a letter is published purporting to have been written by the victim of the Eastbourne murder on the day prior to her death in which the accused is referred to by name; and whether, seeing that such publication is calculated to prejudice the accused on trial, although the letter in question would be inadmissible in evidence, he will say what steps he has taken or proposes to take to prevent further publications of the kind?

The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Patrick Hastings)

My attention has been called to certain publications in connection with one of these cases, and proceedings have already been instituted against the persons concerned. It is my intention to exercise all the powers at my command to prevent the publication by any person or newspaper of matter calculated to prejudice the fair trial of cases pending, either to the detriment of the accused or to the Crown.


In view of the necessity of strengthening the law in this matter in order to prevent publications of this kind, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider advising the Government to introduce legislation for the purpose, or, alternatively, to give facilities for a recent Bill which has been Introduced?


I do not agree that the law is insufficient and requires strengthening. The powers that I have are ample.


May the House take it that the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that the Indictable Offences (Regulation of Reports) Bill introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Nottingham (Captain Berkeley) the other day is quite unnecessary?


In my view, quite unnecessary!


Is it possible for the hon. and learned Gentleman to make an appeal to newspaper owners for clean newspapers on Sundays, particularly for family reading?


Let me say, in answer to that question, that I do not think any appeal is likely to be very successful.