HC Deb 07 May 1928 vol 217 cc16-9
41. Captain GUNSTON

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to a prosecution by the police for an alleged offence in contravention of the Hyde Park regulations; and whether, in view of the results of recent prosecutions, he is satisfied that sufficient care is taken to establish the trustworthiness of the evidence before the charge is made?


asked the Home Secretary if he will consider the suggestion of the Metropolitan Police Magistrate to refer cases under the public parks bye-laws to the Chief Commissioner of Police before a charge is preferred; and what disciplinary action he is prepared to take with regard to the police in plain clothes or uniform who are entrusted with the regulations of the public parks bye-laws?


asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the recent case before Mr. Cancellor, at the Marlborough Street Police Court, where two persons of good repute and position were arrested and charged by policemen in plain clothes for an alleged offence against public decency in Hyde Park; whether he is aware that the charge was dismissed by the learned Magistrate with costs against the police; what action is being taken with reference to Mr. Cancellor's suggestion that in cases of the kind police officers in charge of stations should send their reports to headquarters with a view to proceedings by summons being instituted, if deemed desirable, in place of summary Police Court proceedings; and if he will explain why the park regulations are not enforced by uniformed policemen rather than by plain clothes detectives?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

I fully recognise the gravity of the issues which arise in connection with this case. I have to consider with the appropriate authorities whether the police officers concerned were guilty of perjury or of any breach of duty. This is a matter that, in justice to the officers, who I may say were specially selected men of long experience and with unblemished records, must be examined calmly and dispassionately, and the House will, I am sure, recognise that it is not possible for me to make a final statement on that matter to-day. There will be no unnecessary delay and I will make a full statement at the earliest possible moment. Apart from any question of the conduct of individual officers, a general question of police procedure arises and that question I propose to refer to the Committee on Street Offences, within whose terms of reference it comes.


Will my right hon. Friend's court of inquiry be composed entirely of police officers?


There is no question of a court of inquiry at the moment. I am the court of inquiry. I have already seen the Chief Commissioner personally, and I am making very careful investigations to decide whether it is necessary to set up a court of inquiry, or whether, as I say, the officers are guilty of perjury, in which case the matter would be submitted, of course, to another Court.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear that the officers, when they made the arrest, were in plain clothes and were on plain clothes duty with the authority and under the instruction of their superior officer?




Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to reply to the last paragraph of my question, as to why the park regulations are not enforced by uniformed policemen rather than by plain clothes detectives, and, further, will he say whether it is the object of himself and the police to act as censors of morals in these cases or merely to prevent annoyance to respectable people using Hyde Park?


In reply to the first supplementary question, there are 21 police engaged in Hyde Park; 19 of them are in uniform and two of them in plain clothes, so that the vast majority are already in uniform. In regard to the second point raised by my hon. Friend, it is not a question of morals at all, but it is the bounden duty of the police to see that public parks are not used in such a way as to be not only an offence but a disgrace to people who desire to use them.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the police themselves very much object to being dressed in plain clothes, with rubber soles, and that it puts a premium on blackmail?


I am not aware of anything of the kind. If my hon. and gallant Friend will bring me any statement to confirm that, I will go into it, but I very respectfully think it is not the case.


Will the right hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works that the parks should be better lighted, so that such complaints cannot be made?


Of course, the whole question is a very difficult one, and I am only responsible for the police side of it. If I find that that is the case, I will make representations to my right hon. Friend.


Is it not a fact that frequent representations have been made from New Scotland Yard to the right hon. Gentleman's Department that there should be additional lighting arrangements in Hyde Park and on Primrose Hill, where similar complaints have arisen in years gone by?


I am bound to admit personally, after such investigations as I have made up to the moment, that additional lighting facilities would be extraordinarily useful.