HC Deb 07 June 1928 vol 218 cc316-9

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the case of a lady who was recently charged at Bow Street with being a common prostitute, but was able to bring medical evidence which caused the magistrate to stop the case and discharge her, allowing her the cost of the doctor's fees; under which Act she was charged; and whether, in view of the nature of the case and the fact that he has made an ex gratia grant of £500 from the Metropolitan Police Fund to Major Graham Bell Murray to compensate him for being wrongfully charged with being drunk and disorderly, he will also consider making a grant to this lady to compensate her for being wrongfully charged with being a common prostitute?


My attention has been drawn to the case. On inquiry I find that she was charged under Section 54, paragraph 11, of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839. There is nothing either in the nature of the case or in the fact that a grant has been made, in different circumstances, to another person to raise any question of a grant in this case. I am informed that the magistrate, in allowing 42s. costs, said, "In doing so I am not making any reflection on the police. It must not be taken that I am doing that."


Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it much more serious for a working girl to be called a prostitute than for a gentleman to be accused of being drunk?


That is a distinction upon which I do not think I am called upon to express an opinion. I quite realise that there was a mistake made in this case, but it is the invariable rule that no compensation is allowed unless there are very special circumstances which the Minister thinks entitle a person to receive compensation. I am not going to say more about this case than that I have considered it, and I do not think it a case for compensation.


Does the Home Secretary think there is such a thing as a class war?


No, I do not.


Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it is extremely difficult for this girl to get fresh employment anywhere, and will he reconsider that point?


I really do not think there is anything in the nature of this case which would militate against her getting employment. She was honourably discharged from the charge made against her, and, if I may respectfully say so, the less her name is dragged into the case, the better.


Does it not give this girl a lot of cheap advertisement? [HON. MEMBERS "Shame!"]


Are we to understand from the Home Secretary's reply that the question as to whether or not compensation is paid depends on the social status of the victim?


No; and I never sad anything at all which would lead to such a conclusion.


asked the Home Secretary whether the sub-committee of the Committee on Street Offences has submitted its Report on the case of Major Bell Murray in January; arid, if so, can he explain the delay in publishing the findings of this Committee and the decision of the Government thereon?

Captain MARGESSON (Lord of the Treasury)

I have been asked to reply. Ti e Report of the Sub-Committee reached the Home Office, not in January, but on the 5th March. It was communicated to the Commissioner of Police on the 6th March for the appropriate disciplinary action. Certain questions of procedure then arose in view of the fact that the Discipline Code for the Metropolitan Police, by which the Commissioner is bound, makes no specific provision for a case such as this, where there has been an antecedent extrajudicial investigation. Those questions were settled in conference between the Commissioner and the Home Office, and on the 4th April the Commissioner proceeded to formulate charges against Police Constable Thurston. The Commissioner's report of the result of those disciplinary proceedings reached my right hon. Friend on the 30th April. He would then have been in a position, in the ordinary course, to dispose of the out- standing matters, which were the question of the publication of the findings of the Sub-Committee and the question of an ex gratia grant to Major Bell Murray. By this time, however, what has become known as the Hyde Park case had arisen, and, as that case bore certain points of resemblance to the case of Major Bell Murray, my right hon. Friend decided deliberately that it would be right to await developments in that case before coming to a final decision. His decision was taken as soon as the issues in the Hyde Park case had become clarified as the result of proceedings in Parliament.


Has a copy of the Report been sent to Major Murray himself?


Perhaps the hon. Member will give notice of that question.

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