HC Deb 07 February 1929 vol 224 cc1916-7
5. Viscount SANDON

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention was called to the trials of two disabled ex-service men, Mr. Holden and Mr. Sarll, on 10th January at the Central Criminal Court, and to the remarks of the Judge in each case; and whether he will consider steps by which such cases can be dealt with at the discretion of the Judge otherwise than by the usual criminal procedure?

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

Everyone must feel the utmost sympathy with ex-service men who, by reason of mental impairment due to war service, bring themselves within the operation of the criminal law. The first difficulty is that the full facts cannot usually be determined until the man concerned has been brought before a Court of Trial. The question then arises as to the alternative courses of action that are open to the Court. On this point, I should observe that the learned Judges who dealt with the two cases mentioned by my Noble Friend expressed no dissatisfaction with the courses open to them under the law. As the law stands, a man who is found insane or mentally defective can be sent to a suitable institution other than a prison. In other cases, it is open to the Court to bind the man over on condition of his entering a suitable institution as a voluntary inmate if he is willing to do so.

In the case of Holden the jury, with all the facts before them, did not find him insane, and he cannot at present be certified medically insane without further observation. Meanwhile, he is receiving every care and attention; and X-ray examination is being arranged, in consultation with the Ministry of Pensions; and there may be a question of an operation.

The case of Sarll is on a quite different footing. He has no disability pension, and I understand that his condition cannot be attributed in any way to his war service, which was not rendered overseas. The learned Judge was prepared to bind him over on condition that he went into a suitable home, but he refused.