HC Deb 29 January 1931 vol 247 cc1131-2

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the release of a convict who had been sentenced to two terms of imprisonment of six months, to run consecutively, after serving the first term; whether his attention was drawn to the matter apart from the communication from the prosecutor in the case; and what precautions are taken to secure that the warrants of commitment which are forwarded to the governor of the prison in which a prisoner is detained are correctly drawn in accordance with the terms of the sentence?


I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the case of a man who was convicted at a Metropolitan Police Court on two charges, and was sentenced to a term of six months' imprisonment on each charge. There was no express direction in the warrants of commitment that the sentences were to be consecutive and in the absence of such direction the sentences were properly regarded by the prison governor as running concurrently. The prisoner was accordingly released after he had served a term of six months, less the usual remission authorised by the prison rules. After the prisoner had been released the prosecutor wrote to me stating that the sentence passed had been one of 12 months. On inquiry at the court I was informed that it had been intended that the two terms of six months should be consecutive, but that through an oversight owing to abnormal pressure of work no direction to that effect had been inserted in the warrants of commitment. The responsibility for seeing that such warrants are correct rests with the court, and it is no part of the duty of prison governors to return for verification warrants which on the face of them are in order.


There is no suggestion in the question that the governor of the prison acted wrongly in any way, but what I ask is whether there is any means of checking the warrants sent to the governors so that the decisions of the courts may be correctly communicated to the governors?


I do not think that that isolated instance would justify any elaborate procedure.


Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that it is an isolated instance?


These questions are becoming a debate.