HC Deb 06 November 1930 vol 244 cc1021-3
42. Sir G. PENNY

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the representations made that the instructions issued by the Home Office to the police in regard to questioning suspects have hampered Scotland Yard in the detection of criminals, he will take steps to relax the regulations and give greater scope to Scotland Yard for questioning suspects where murder or brutal assault has been committed?


No such representations have been made to me, but I have seen in the Press suggestions to the effect stated in the question. As I informed the House on the 29th July last, a circular, copies of which were put on sale and placed in the Library, was issued On the 29th June last to all police forces. The object of this circular, the terms of which were approved by His Majesty's Judges, was to remove any possibility of misunderstanding as to the effect of the Judges' Rules. The circular involves no change in the practice of police forces that have correctly interpreted the Rules in the past. These Rules, which have been in force many years, do not prevent any necessary and proper questioning of suspects, and I could not entertain the suggestion that I could or should abro- gate them in any respect. So far as I know they have not, in fact, hampered the investigation of a single serious crime.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been a considerable decrease in convictions for these particular crimes since these orders were brought into being?


Does not the right hon. Gentleman think the object which it is desired to serve would be much better achieved if the police were instructed to refrain from raiding workmen during their lunch-hour, and persecuting sun-bathers?


Will the right hon. Gentleman ask for reports from the Chief Constables as to the effect of the working of these new rules?


The effect of the working is stated in one part of my answer. The other part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is not covered by the terms of the original question or my reply to it and cannot be dealt with now. As to there being a decrease in the number of convictions, that may be so, but it cannot be said to be attributable to the new rules.


the right hon. Gentleman's answer based upon reports from the Chief Constables?


As to that, I would not like to commit myself without notice.


Arising out of the Home Secretary's original answer, is it not a fact that in most of the cases of undetected crime a coroner's inquiry has taken place at which very strict questioning of the witnesses has been permissible?


So far as I can say at the moment, I do not think any restriction has been due to the new rules.

57. Captain P. MACDONALD

asked the Home Secretary in how many cases of murder committed since the inquiry into police procedure the Metropolitan police have failed to effect an arrest; and whether, in view of the number of such cases, he will consider ordering an exhaustive investigation into the whole problem of securing evidence from suspected persons?


Since the issue of the report of the Royal Commission one case of murder of a person over one year of age has occurred in the Metropolitan Police District in which no arrest has been made (Agnes Kesson). Three cases of murder of persons over one year of age have occurred in the provinces, in which Metropolitan Police officers have been engaged at the request of the Chief Constable concerned, and in which no arrests have been made. Two of these are recent and the inquiries are still proceeding. These figures do not suggest that there is an occasion for the investigation suggested.


Is it not a fact that, in addition to the cases mentioned by the Home Secretary, there are some 19 cases of murder where no arrest has been made; and is it not a fact that it would be almost impossible, under present conditions, for an arrest to be effected, or for any police officers to interrogate a suspected person?


The number suggested in the hon. Member's supplementary question is quite inconsistent with the terms of my reply, but I will make an inquiry.