HC Deb 26 July 1933 vol 280 cc2719-41

9.41 p.m.

Brigadier-General SPEARS

I wish to address the House on the subject of Flying-Officer Fitzpatrick which I raised at Question Time to-day. I never thought this question would have come before the House at all. I handed the papers concerning the case to the right hon. Gentleman's Private Secretary some 10 days ago. I well know that mistakes can occur in any force and that in so large a body as the police force everyone cannot possibly be perfect, but I felt certain that it would be sufficient to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the fact for disciplinary action to be taken. It was only when, at the end of a week, I received no satisfactory answer that I put down the Question that came fip to-day, but even then it did not occur to me that the answer I received would be a justification of the action of the police and a complete refusal to take any action whatever. As the Home Secretary has given the story of the police. and only of the police, I am compelled to tell the story of Flying-Officer Fitzpatrick. He went to Derby to collect his Rolls-Royce car which was being repaired. Some friends asked him to remain to dinner and go to a play. He drove the car back to London and put it up at a garage at Putney, where he was having a new body put on it. He took a taxi-cab into London. He went first to the Sloane Court Hotel and found it was full. He went to the Cadogan Hotel, and found that it was full. He then took his taxicab to Victoria, where he dismissed it. He took his suitcase in his hand, meaning to see if he could get in at either the Eggleston or the Grosvenor Hotel He was walking down Gillingham Street when a saloon car drove up behind him and two men jumped out quickly. One of them, who subsequently turned out to be Detective-Sergeant Fish, of the Criminal Investigation Department, said in a very threatening manner: "What have you got in that bag?" This is the first point at which the testimonies of the police conflict with that of Mr. Fitzpatrick. The right hon. Gentleman, in his answer this afternoon said: When, as in this case, a man carrying a suitcase tries to hurry away on the approach of police officers, it cannot be said they have not got reasonable ground for suspicion. Mr. Fitzpatrick could not have, nor indeed did he, run away from a motor-car approaching him from behind, and which overtook him on the curb. On this matter, as in every other, the right hon. Gentleman has accepted without question the testimony of the police. Flying Officer Fitzpatrick thought definitely when he was threatened that he had to do with car bandits, all the more so after he had seen in the papers a few days before that a man had gone up to a women saying that he was a detective and demanded that she should hand him her handbag, which she did, and he ran away. He was a thief. Fitzpatrick, in answer to the question "What have you got in that bag?" said, "That is my business." The policemen said, "We will soon show you whose business it is. Up to that point there had been no question of these men stating that they were police officers. At this point two of the detectives seized him, each by an arm, and they then produced cards, which, they said, were Scotland Yard cards. Fitzpatrick had never before seen one, and, thoroughly alarmed, and not believing that members of the police force would act as these men were acting, he said, "I do not believe it. If you are police officers, take me to a policeman. There is one round the corner." He rather hoped that by saying that he would frighten them off, and he knew perfectly well there was certain to be a policeman in Victoria Station. which was only a short distance away. But they said, "We do not need a policeman. These cards are quite good enough."

It was the refusal of these men to find a policeman that convinced Fitzpatrick that he was dealing with bandits. It was then that he began to struggle, and at this point a third man jumped out of the car. Fitzpatrick then caught hold of the railings with one hand, and held on to his suit-case with the other. But the three of them twisted his arms behind his back, causing very considerable pain, and began to push him towards the car. His tie was pulled round his neck, and tied into a tight knot. This young man—and he is very young—by this time was convinced that he was being kidnapped as well as robbed. According to Flight Officer Fitzpatrick, it is not true to say, as the police say, that he was invited to inspect the official sign on the car, as the right hon. Gentleman told the House this afternoon. As a matter of fact, the youth was pinioned by both arms and the only thing he remembered was that he heard one of the men say, "Show him the radio," but he had not the faintest idea what they meant. He was propelled down the street with his arms twisted behind his back. The right hon. Gentleman said that no more force was used than was absolutely necessary to overcome his resistance, which was violent. If Mr. Fitzpatrick had been seen by a representative of the Home Office or of the Police Commissioner he would have seen that this young man could not offer very serious resistance. He weighs only 9 stone 8 lbs, and is only 5 ft. 8 inches high, and it does not seem necessary that these three police officers should have used sufficient violence to bruise both his arms, shoulder and wrists. So convinced was Mr. Fitzpatrick that he was dealing with car bandits, that when he was within distance of a coffee-stall he called out to the people he saw there for help. When they got near the stall some men who were at the coffee-stall stepped forward arid the Criminal Investigation Department men then held up their cards to these men, and said, "We are C.I.D. officers." The men at the coffee-stall then said to Flying Officer Fitzpatrick, "That is all right; they are genuine police officers." From that time on he ceased struggling, but nevertheless his arms were twisted behind his back in what, I believe, is called the half-Nelson position, which is extremely painful. In that condition he arrived at Rochester Row Police Station. Here, for the first time, he was questioned. The story given by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon is in very direct conflict with that of Mr. Fitzpatrick. In his original answer the right hon. Gentleman said: It was pointed out to Mr. Fitzpatrick that there would have been no need to bring him to the police station if he had given his explanation in the first instance in reply to the reasonable inquiry put to him by the sergeant. In answer to a supplementary question, the right hon. Gentleman said: Had he shown any inclination to give the reply which was necessary, none of this trouble would have occurred. Mr. Fitzpatrick's story is that until he got to Rochester Row no question whatever was put to him. No explanation was asked for after the original, threatening question, "What have you got in that bag?" This young man by this time was completely exhausted. He asked for a glass of water, which was given to him, and as soon as he was sufficiently recovered he protested. The question of his innocence was established in a few moments, but when he asked for an apology for what had been done, Detective-Sergeant Fish said that he was damned if he would apologise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame !"] Yes. He was told that he ought to know better than walk about at that time of the morning. Furthermore, he was told that he was carrying his suit case in a suspicious manner. I should like to know from the Home Secretary how one ought to know better than walk about the streets in the early hours. Perhaps also it would not be out of place if a demonstration were given on the Terrace of how not to carry a suit case in a suspicious manner. That is Mr. Fitzpatrick's story.

My right hon. Friend's answer to my question this afternoon dumbfounded me, as I believe it dumbfounded the House. He accepted an ex parte statement from the police without any attempt to verify the statement by consulting the other party. What I have always understood to be a fundamental principle of British justice has been violated. It is a matter affecting the liberty of the subject. The parties who were evidently to blame were heard and every one of their statements was accepted, while the injured party was not heard at all. Incidentally, there was never at any moment any difficulty in getting hold of Mr. Fitzpatrick. His address was given on the paper which I sent to the Home Office 10 days ago. He would have come up to London at any moment at short notice, and he was in the House to-day. If I may say so, a nicer, straighter young man it would be difficult to find.

The right hon. Gentleman says that the Commissioner of Police is quite ready to depute an officer to see Mr. Fitzpatrick, if that would be any help. I consider that offer to be absolutely farcical. The case is judged and settled, the Home Secretary refuses to take any action whatsoever, but he would depute someone to see Mr. Fitzpatrick, if that would help. My answer as far as I am concerned is that it would not help. The attitude of the House made that perfectly clear this afternoon. This is a very serious matter indeed. The liberty of the subject has been violated and the Home Secretary defends such action. I think the House showed this afternoon that it would not tolerate his point of view nor the brutal, arbitrary action of the police or anyone else. I now request the Home Secretary to institute an inquiry into the action of Detective-Sergeant Fish, who is principally responsible in this business, and to inform this House of the result of that inquiry; also to report to the House on the regulations which made such action possible, if, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, it was undoubtedly within the rights of the police to act as they did.

10.0 p.m.


There are a few more facts which I feel it is incumbent upon one who has had some hours to-day with Flying-Officer Fitzpatrick, to give to the House. Naturally, when one meets an officer of a Service with which one has been associated for a good many years, one endeavours to try and arrive at a true statement of the facts in regard to any complaints which such an officer may make. On behalf of those of us in the House who this afternoon took exception to the answer of the Home Secretary, I want to make one thing quite clear, and that is that we are not, any of us, trying to make any indictment against the police, that splendid Force in general, or the administration of that Force. We are only questioning the conduct of some of its members at a particular time, a course which the Home Secretary himself, as the Minister responsible for that Force, would be the first to admit is within the rights of this House and is indeed the duty of Membears of this House.

The Home Secretary tried to defend the attitude of the police in this case by a condemnation of the conduct of Flying-Officer Fitzpatrick. I hope that when he replies he will not pursue that line any longer. I would ask him when he replies if he would consider the advisability of withdrawing, generously and wholeheartedly, any form of justification of police action by a condemnation of suspicious action on the part of Flying-Officer Fitzpatrick. There has been dis- parity, as I was bold enough to say in a supplementary question, right through, and as my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, between the two parties, but I honestly cannot see, and I think the House will agree with me, that there is any justification for the suspicious movement alleged in the defence put forward on the part of the Home Secretary.

The second important disparity is that no apology was offered to Mr. Fitzpatrick, although the Home Secretary stated that such an apology was offered at the police station. My hon. and gallant Friend gave the details of the reasons why Mr. Fitzpatrick thought that he was not in the hands of the police but in the hands of bandits. I would, at the risk of repeating what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, ask any Member of this House if he had the following conversation whether he would not consider that he was up against a tough proposition at 3.40 a.m.: Question: "What is in that bag? Answer: "That is my business. Reply: "We will soon show yon whose business it is. Is not that a bandit's answer? The warrant card was produced in the dark. It is somewhat difficu!t to recognise a warrant card in the dark, particularly if one has never seen a warrant card in daylight. That is scarcely sufficient justification for the police maintaining their attitude. Then there was the suggestion of Mr. Fitzpatrick that they should take him to a policeman round the corner at Victoria Station: Answer: "We do not need the police. Those cards are good enough. Is not that the answer of a bandit who is about to take a person's luggage? Then there was a voice: "Take him along. Show him the car." Is not that the answer of bandits about to take away his luggage?

I say, do not let the Home Secretary blame the boy in any defence the right hon. Gentleman may make to the House. The hon. and gallant Member has stated that there were four to one against a boy of 9 stone 8 lbs. I ask: Was the arm twisting necessary? I went down to the site of this incident with Mr. Fitzpatrick and we paced the distance. From the place of the incident to the coffee stall, where Mr. Fitzpatrick first realised that he was in the hands of the police and not in the hands of bandits, it is 100 paces. It is a further 300 paces to Rochester Row police station. In the circumstances, feeling that they had to deal with a suspicious character, the police had to use a certain amount of violence against Mr. Fitzpatrick who was resisting for 100 paces, but after Mr. Fitzpatrick realised that he was in the hands of the police the arm twisting proceeded for a further 300 paces. I ask the Home Secretary to explain why it was necessary to continue this procedure for a further 300 paces?

At the police station Mr. Fitzpatrick was abused and was told that he had no business to behave as any citizen of this country has a right to behave. Mr. Fitzpatrick feeling full of anger and mortification, and shock, asked Detective-Sergeant Fish for his name and told him that he would hear something more of the matter. Detective-Sergeant Fish gave his name, but so shocked was Mr. Fitzpatrick that he could not write it. I ask the House to realise that Mr. Fitzpatrick is a flying officer of the Reserve of the Air Force, that he can fly an aeroplane of an obsolete type which will fly at 55 miles an hour but means death at 54 miles an hour, or aeroplanes which go at 200 miles an hour. Therefore, he is not a young man of cowardly tendencies or one whose, nerves are not likely to be those of a normal person. But so shaken was he, that when he tried to write down the name the pencil actually fell out of his hand, and the name had to be written down for him. The Home Secretary's justification of the police, which was after all the gist of his reply to-day, is not right if it reduces a typical good young Britisher to the state in which Mr. Fitzpatrick was.

I submit that there was no call for Mr. Fitzpatrick to go to Scotland Yard, and I hope again that the Home Secretary is not going to say that it was open to Mr. Fitzpatrick to go to Scotland Yard, and that the Commissioner of Police or some other officer would have seen him. If any citizen is wronged by the police, it is up to the force to take the initiative and express its regret without asking the man to go to Scotland Yard, and they may be good enough to give him some sort of explanation of what they have been doing. It was due to Mr. Fitzpatrick for the Metropolitan police to have taken early steps to send an officer round to his address to explain and ex- press regrets and had that happened the excess of zeal of Detective-Sergeant Fish might have been overlooked by Mr. Fitzpatrick, and this case would not have come before the House. I ask the Home Secretary to offer on behalf of the police a generous and frank apology to Mr. Fitzpatrick for this unfortunate excess on the part of the police whilst doing their duty in the best way they can, but nevertheless a case in which one member of the force exceeded the bounds of decent conduct and exceeded the bounds of his responsibility to the British public. In those circumstances, I feel that the House will overlook this incident and continue in the future to have that great esteem and regard for the police which we wish still to maintain.

10.10 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON

I crave the indulgence of the House accorded to those who are privileged to speak for the first time. I had no intention of speaking when I entered the Chamber this evening but I feel compelled to do so because I should be sorry if the Debate went further without one word being said by a private Member on behalf of the police. I have also two other reasons. I have been connected with the police in this country as the honorary commandant for some years of the special constabulary of the "OK" division, Wapping, Stepney, Mile End, and I have therefore some experience of the police difficulties in that neighbourhood. I have also seen a great deal of the police forces abroad. Curiously enough, the very thing which has happened to Mr. Fitzpatrick happened to me some three years ago. I was assailed in pitch darkness by two men who flashed electric lights into my face, three miles from a town and two miles from my home, having lost the last train home. I was carrying a heavy bag. The same question was put to me: "What's in that bag?" I said "Books." The next question was "Hold them up." I dropped the bag and prepared to slosh anyone until I discovered that they were indeed police officers. I then explained that I was a Knight of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and a Justice of the Peace in the next police division. They said that I did not look like it, but after a certain amount of palaver one of them remained with me while the other bicycled to the next police station to ascertain if there was such a person living three miles away. I only mention this to show that I have suffered from a similar sort of incident, and that I got away with it not by saying: "That is my business," but by putting down the bag promptly and preparing to defend myself in case of need.

I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) has rather overstressed this case. If it had been a workman or someone quite unknown the incident might have passed without any publicity. It so happens that Mr. Fitzpatrick belongs to a deservedly respected service, and his case has had a degree of publicity and attention—in the intervals of discussions of the World Economic Conference—which would be impossible in any Legislature in the world except our own. Is it reasonable to assume, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle seems to assume, with the assistance of other Members of this House, that he is capable of judging whether the police acted rightly or not and that the Home Secretary is incapable of judging? As a humble member of the public I suggest that the police, with the tremendous responsibilities which rest upon them, with the very widespread complaints of theft and banditry, are entitled to view with suspicion people who are carrying bags at night. As for "suspicious manner," I have had some experience of actual police work, and with all respect I assure hon. Members that there is such a thing as a suspicious manner. Although it cannot be simulated, it may very well be misunderstood. The police have to use their judgment at any given moment. They are men who often begin in somewhat humble circumstances. They have to run risks. They have to exercise their judgment, and I believe that they do so with more uniform success than any other police force in the world.

We have heard a good deal of what has been going on the Continent of Europe. I have heard a good deal of what is going on to-day in police circles in the United States. To give the vast publicity which this case will give to the apparent misdoings, owing to a pure misapprehension, of two or three members of the police force very late at night, with a young man who was in the street and lost his head—[HON MEMBERS: "No!"] It seems to me that he lost his head, because I am not without experience, and I know that the police do not indulge in these tactics unless a man does lose his head. I speak with all diffidence. I suggest that there are other remedies open to British subjects in such cases. They can appeal to the courts. They can appeal to the Home Secretary or to Scotland Yard. With all deference I cannot accept the view that if a mistake is made it is up to the responsible officials to hasten to find out and wait on the doorstep of an aggrieved person.

10.18 p.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Gilmour)

I realise that the House is interested in this problem. It might well he that my reply this afternoon conveyed to certain hon. Members the idea that I myself, or the Commissioner, desired in some sense to shield or protect the police without due inquiry. Believe me, that is very far from the case. So far as I speak for myself I can assure the House that I have no desire to be other than honest and just in dealing with these matters, and I am certain that I can say the same for the Commissioner of Police. When I first heard of this case it was through the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears). I had, of course, to get the best report that I could get from Scotland Yard. I regret very much if there has been any delay in getting the answer that the hon. and gallant Gentleman desired. But I think I am within the recollection of the House when I say—and it is the fact—that it was some time on Friday, the 21st, or Saturday, the 22nd, that either the hon. and gallant Gentleman or his secretary telephoned asking what my decision might be, and that it should be communicated to the hon. and gallant Member not later than Monday, the 24th. I understand from my office that on Monday, the 24th, the hon. and gallant Gentleman's secretary telephoned twice, and spoke to one of my private secretaries at the Home Office. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's secretary was told that the police report had not been received when she telephoned first, but had been received when she telephoned the second time. She was then told the effect of the minute which Scotland Yard had sent to me. She was informed that the Commissioner was sorry that the incident had occurred but that Mr. Howe, who is a chief constable and who was the officer responsible for the investigation, would be very glad to see Mr. Fitzpatrick and explain the position to him.

There appears to be some idea that it was improper for Scotland Yard to have made an investigation and to have invited this gentleman to come and see them and to put his point of view. I am ready to admit that there may have been n genuine misapprehension on both sides but let me remind the House of the duties of the police who are carrying out these patrols. These patrols are for the purpose of ensuring security for the citizens as a whole and for the recovery of stolen goods and the prevention of outrages and thefts. In one division out of 22 in the London Metropolitan Police area last year over 1,200 people were stopped—in that area alone—and questioned by patrolling officers or officers in cars. As a result of stopping these people, 303 persons were arrested and a large amount of property was recovered. I am saying this to the House not as a measure of justification of anything that may have occurred in this particular instance, but as making clear to the House that they roust not run away with the idea that the police are going outside their proper duty in stopping people at any time they think necessary. In fact in so doing the police are carrying out a very difficult and very responsible duty.

I should have thought that when officers patrolling in a car observed an individual carrying a bag at that time of the morning and in that quarter of London, they were fully justified in keeping that individual under observation. That in fact was what happened. They then stopped him and asked him to explain where he was going and what he was doing. It is quite clear from Mr. Fitzpatrick'.s own account that he told them to mind their own business. It is equally clear that the officers then took him into custody and eventually to the police office. It may well be that Mr. Fitzpatrick was genuinely afraid that they were people other than the police. That may be admitted at once. On the other hand, when they came to the coffee stall and other people were there, and he appealed to them, clearly those individuals were completely satisfied When they were shown the police card. If when that was shown in the first instance by the police officer to Mr. Fitzpatrick, he had accepted that, this trouble would never have arisen.


It was shown to him in the dark.


It was probably no less dark then than it was finally when he did accept it.




This was at the coffee stall.


As I have said, a genuine misapprehension on the part of this gentleman may undoubtedly have taken place. I am very anxious that there should be no idea or feeling on the part of either this gentleman or of hon. Members that a fair deal was not given in this case. I would repeat that the Commissioner of Police, who, after all, was head of the Air Force and is the officer responsible for the discipline of the force which we are discussing, is prepared to see Mr. Fitzpatrick and to go into this matter with him. I would add that it is not the desire either of the Commissioner or of myself that if any officer of the force has taken action which was due to some misjudgment or error of consideration, that should be overlooked. Quite the contrary.

If, on investigation, Mr. Fitzpatrick can produce to the Commissioner sufficient evidence to show that he has been unduly or improperly handled, no doubt the Commissioner will take that into full consideration and deal with this problem as is his bounden duty in this matter. I regret very much indeed that this thing has happened and can only add that Detective-Sergeant Fish has a record of good work in very similar duties, without any complaint in the past as far as I know. At any rate, of this I am quite certain, that the duties which this patrol had to carry out are necessary duties, and it is, I hope, possible to see that justice is done to any aggrieved party as has been repeatedly done among the thousands who have been stopped in the streets of London in the last year where some mistake has been made. I trust that this case may be dealt with in the same way without grossly exaggerating an incident which I and the Commissioner deeply regret.

10.27 p.m.


The reason I rise is that I have had an opportunity of having quite a long conversation with this Mr. Fitzpatrick since the question was raised this morning, and I rise to ask whether it would not commend itself, not only to the House but to the Home Secretary, if we took a middle course in this matter. It is very undesirable that a matter of this kind should be left in an indeterminate position. It is not conducive to the public confidence in the Police Force, which I am sure on the whole is an excellent organisation, to have these serious charges of abuse of authority left uninvestigated and unrebutted, if they can be rebutted. It is not conducive either to efficiency or to the ease of mind of these members of the force who have to carry out this difficult and important night patrol to have their conduct impeached without the opportunity of justifying themselves. It seems to me that on both sides of this matter they had reasonable grounds for suspicion. It is the duty of the police on night patrol to challenge anyone whom they regard with suspicion, and it must be admitted that more than one law-breaker has been caught carrying a bag like an honest man in the night time. It is natural, too, that a lone pedestrian carrying a bag on honest business should be startled and suspicious when three men jump out of a car upon him. While recognising that the police have a difficult task to perform in the protection of the public and that the Home Secretary has a much greater responsibility towards both the public and the police, I feel that the procedure in this case leaves something to be desired.

Two questions suggest themselves. The first is, Could not the Criminal Investigation Department men, who had nothing to fear, have satisfied the flying officer of their bona fides by calling the point policeman, as he suggested? Could not the Home Secretary have concluded his investigations with a statement from the flying officer as well as a report from the police sergeant, and thus have avoided the charge now made against his judgment that it was based on an ex paste statement? May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that, in order to satisfy this criticism, he should instruct the Commissioner of Police to inquire into this matter, to get statements on both sides, and to report to the Home Office? I would suggest further that the matter might be raised in the House by way of questions after the Recess so that the House may be informed of the inquiry and of any action, if any, which the Home Secretary may consider it necessary to take. The maintenance of good relations between the public and the police are very important, and those relations will be impaired if the issue is left where it is. I am trying to hold the balance fairly between both sides and to ensure that the reasons that actuated both shall be given due weight. The issue is left in an inconclusive and irritating state at the present moment. The Home Secretary can allay that by undertaking in his strictly judicial capacity to have a proper inquiry made followed by action if necessary.

10.32 p.m.


I think that most of us who felt indignant this afternoon will be in the same position after hearing the right hon. Gentleman this evening. He has left the case very much where he left it this afternoon, except that 1 understand Lord Trenchard is willing to see Mr. Fitzpatrick. It seems to me that what is needed is a more judicial kind of investigation. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that some years ago a woman was arrested in the street under somewhat similar conditions. It was in 1911, and my memory does not serve me whether the House appointed a committee, but the Home Secretary of the day defended the arrest very much as the right hon. Gentleman has defended this arrest. A committee or an investigation took place, and it was proved conclusively that the officers were wrong. In this case the right hon. Gentleman said that there may have been something wrong on both sides. Perhaps there was. The hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson)—I should have begun by congratulating him on his excellent maiden speech—spoke of his experience in these matters in the East End, and truthfully said that if this had been a workman or someone quite unknown the whole incident might have passed without any publicity. [HON. "MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say it might have done. I am repeating something that the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin said.

The point I desire to make is that no one has controverted the statement, and the right hon. Gentleman has not controverted it, that this man's arms were black and blue from being twisted. No one will convince me that it was necessary to use that amount of violence. No one has controverted the statement that as soon as the man knew that the men were policemen, he went along quietly to the station. No one has controverted the statement that the detective-sergeant told him that he would see him damned rather than apologise. All these things the right hon. Gentleman has not attempted to meet; and what I am concerned about is that if this sort of thing is done to a man who, I suppose—we can take it for granted—was dressed as an ordinary officer would be dressed, what would happen to an ordinary workman under those conditions, especially it he had happened to have had a glass of beer too much? He would have no redress whatsoever.

The right hon. Gentleman asked us to remember that the police have the right to stop people in this way. Yes, but the public ought also to be conceded the right that the men who deal with them shall do so in a judicious sort of manner. I am not going to believe that this man could have got away from a high-power motor-car, which could have followed him quite easily to see where he went. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I do not understand why the police should have been so anxious to take the man into custody at that particular moment. Even if they had been on foot they might have followed him. They could not have had him under observation very long—that point seems to have been left out of account altogether. They seem to have driven down the street, to have seen a man carrying a bag suspiciously, jumped out and stopped him. I do not think the public ought to be treated in that fashion. It would have been perfectly easy to follow the man if necessary. Also, and this is my strongest point, I do not think the police have any right to "manhandle" another man in that fashion.

The Home Secretary has, in a way, modified some of the things he said at Question Time, but he leaves the case just where it is, except that Lord Trenchard will how graciously see Mr. Fitzpatrick. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, and our course of action will be decided by his answer, whether he will not even now appoint some small committee, not necessarily composed of Members of this House, but members of the public, whom he can choose himself, and allow Mr. Fitzpatrick to put his case before them? Let the case go before two or three—two if he pleases—members of the public, whom the right hon. Gentleman chooses himself, and let them give their verdict on the matter after having heard all that is to be said. Remember, there will be three to one against Mr. Fitzpatrick in the matter of witnesses, but I am so convinced, from what I have heard of this case, of the truthfulness of this man, that I would be perfectly willing for that course to be taken—and so, I should think, would those who raised the case—if the right hon. Gentleman will have a proper investigation.

This is not the cheap matter that some hon. Members apparently think it is. The people of London—there are 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 of us—are the most peaceful and law-abiding population in the world —the mass of us are. Every now and then someone breaks the law, and then the law takes its course. But the public of London are not kept in order by the number of police there are, because we can have them for breakfast any morning we please—such are our numbers. London is kept in order by the good behaviour and good will of the population, and an incident of this kind having obtained this publicty—and I am very grateful to the hon. Members who have brought it forward—it will not make for good will, and it will not make for confidence in the police unless the right hon. Gentleman has it properly investigated. We do not want Detective-Sergeant Fish to be discharged, or anything like that, but we want to know the facts about this case, and we want him and his colleagues to understand that we all thoroughly object to that method of dealing with civilians when they are being taken to a police station.

10.41 p.m.


I am sure that hon. Members generally regret that this matter should have had to come before the House. I agree entirely with what was said by an hon. Member that it is a pity, having regard to the general reputation of the police of this country, as compared with those of any other country in the world, that attention should have been brought to the case in this way, but what else could have been done? If there is any responsibility for that, it rests, not upon those police officers, but upon the Commissioner of Police in this city and upon the Minister. This incident did not take place this week, but on the 14th of this month. The fact that a serious mistake had been made must have been apparent to the authorities within 24 hours. Within 24 hours of that fact being revealed, there should have been an eagerness to make what expression of regret was necessary and was within the right of this man.

When the hon. and gallant Member who brought forward this case—with reluctance, I understand, and after some delay—and made his very moderate statement—his grievance was not so much against the police officers, who are liable, like all frail mortals, to make mistakes and to err from excess of zeal, but against those who are the governors in this matter, and who apparently looked upon it as of such trifling importance that it was days before the request for an apology was even considered. If this had happened to the Home Secretary him' self—we go home late sometimes from this House, carrying bags most suspiciously, it may be—we should have thought that 10 days was altogether too long before an inquiry was made. The facts were evident within 24 hours, and within a few hours of the expiration of that time an expression of regret should have been made.

The House is now left in an impossible position. I cannot accept in its entirety the story of Mr. Fitzpatrick, as expressed by the two hon. Members, because it is an ex parte statement. No lawyer in the country could accept that statement in its entirety. No one could accept the statement made by the Home Secretary in its entirety. Everyone knows that the only way in which you can ascertain what did happen—so far as we can ascertain what happened at that early hour of the morning—is by an independent inquiry, in which the two statements are weighed. The hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) suggested that this incident would bring disrepute upon the police, as in other countries, like America, but surely it adds to the repute of the administration of justice in this country that an event of this kind happening, as we believe, very rarely, is considered of such importance that an inquiry ought to be made into it. I do not want any elaborate machinery, but I believe that an inquiry might very well be made. It is not fair, where the police are concerned, that the police should make the inquiry. No man can be the judge in his own cause.

This matter has not been brought before the House wantonly. As has been said by hon. Members on the other side, it has not been brought forward in order to embarrass the Government, but because there is a public duty to discharge. The public mind will not be satisfied unless there can be an inquiry, and unless the main charges contained in the statement of the hon. and gallant Member are maintained or are disproved. What was said by the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, just now is quite true. This might have happened to a man who could not give as clear an explanation of the circumstances as this gentleman could. Fortunately, he is a man whose record, and, apparently, all that happened to him that day, could be brought before the whole world, but, supposing that he were someone who had something against him altogether independently of this case, we should never have heard anything about it at all. The law is intended, not only to defend the respectable, but to defend those who have their right to the law even though they may not have an entirely clean life. They have their right, and that is why the law is there—to defend the suspected as well as those who have a perfectly clean record. For the present position no one is responsible except the highest authority—not the police—and for that reason I think the public mind will not be satisfied without an inquiry, which can be expeditious and which ought to be independent.

10.47 p.m.


I should not have taken part in this discussion but for the speeches of one or two hon. Members who have been assailing the police. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] I should have thought that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) would have felt that the action of the police was almost sufficiently Cromwellian in this case. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that these police officers acted very much in excess of their duty—that they should have followed this gentleman with a handbag for longer than they did, presumably in their police car, and should have waited much longer before going up and asking what fie was doing. I cannot see that they did anything which a police officer should not have done, up to that moment. Let us assume that Flying Officer Fitzpatrick was not the innocent person that, in fact, he was. In that case, would not the police have suffered a considerable reprimand if they had allowed a suspicious character carrying a bag to get away? The police officer has a most difficult and onerous task, and he carries it out with extraordinary restraint. There is only one suggestion that I should like to make, and that is that it might be possible for motor patrols to patrol in uniform and not in plain clothes. In that case there would be no chance of any misunderstanding, and, in a car, they would be equally effective whether in uniform or in plain clothes. Apart from that possible readjustment, I think there are many Members of the House who do not feel that these men have been fairly treated in the arguments which have been advanced against them, and in the way in which their action has been dealt with.

10.49 p.m.


I should like to remind hon. Members that it is not long since, the House having been carried away by the feelings which it rightly has regarding the sacredness of the liberty of the subject, the Savidge inquiry was instituted, which even resulted in murderers going unhung owing to the stifling of the activities of the police and their fear of getting reprimanded. It is admitted that Mr. Fitzpatrick made a mistake, and that was under the misapprehension that they were car bandits. Surely we can in the same spirit of justice admit that the police officers also made a mistake. It would be a lamentable thing if when on patrol duty a police officer who saw people with bags acting in a suspicious manner should through any action of this House be deterred from making an arrest, if necessary. Therefore, I hope the House will be satisfied with the explanation of -the Minister.

10.51 p.m.


May I reply to the question which has been put to me by the Leader of the Opposition? The last thing that I should desire would be in any way to take a line which would lead this House to think that proper inquiry was not made into this case. Let me remind the House of the fact that there are in London between 12,000 and 14,000 people stopped and questioned by the police, and out of all these people there are very few complaints. In fact, it is found that the ordinary investigation by the officers concerned is sufficient, and that there is no difficulty. Of course, it is a fact that in this case this aggrieved gentleman has been invited to take the course that many other people take of having their cases investigated. I repeat that invitation. [HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"] Through my office. After all, I am responsible in this House for the Metropolitan Police, and the Commissioner is responsible for discipline within the Force. It would be a very odd thing that this House, in a case like this, which is one of many others in which some mistake may have been made, should not allow the ordinary course of investigation to proceed. I trust the House will believe me when I say there will be no doubt as to the investigation which the Commisisoner of Police will make, and I hope, in fairness both to this gentleman who is concerned and to the officers of the police concerned, that this particular matter may go through the ordinary method of procedure, and that the House has enough confidence both in the Commissioner—[HoN. MEMBERS "None at all !"]—and in myself.

10.54 p.m.


May I ask one question of the right lion. Gentleman, by the answer to which my own action will be guided? Do we understand that this gentleman will now receive from the Home Secretary's office a letter asking him to call in order that he may make his case? Because it must be very hard for a young man in these circumstances to call at Whitehall unless he received an official request. If that assurance is given, I feel certain the investigation of the Commissioner will satisfy the House.


Yes, most certainly.


Brigadier-General SPEARS

Are we to understand that there is to be a proper investigation into this matter by the right lion. Gentleman's Department? This afternoon we were told quite definitely that there would not be such an investigation.


I have said that there will be an invitation to this gentleman to go to Scotland Yard to see Lord Trenchard, and I have told the House that Lord Trenchard will take whatever information this gentleman may give him. He will satisfy himself that these questions which may be raised are properly investigated, and he will report to me.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman definitely to refuse to allow any investigation into this case other than through the Commissioner and the Department of the Commissioner?


Yes, Sir.

Commander MARSDEN

This officer is a very nice young gentleman but he is also very nervous. In entering the portals of Scotland Yard, will he be entitled to be accompanied by a friend to assist him?


I do not imagine that there would be any objection to that.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 29.

Division No. 294.] AYES [10.55 p.m.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Eillston, Captain George Sampson Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Eimley, Viscount Marsden, Commander Arthur
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.) Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Martin, Thomas B.
Apsley, Lord Emrys-Evans, P. V. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Milne, Charles
Atholl. Duchess of Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd Chisw'k)
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Fremantle, Sir Francis Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Gibson, Charles Granville Moreing, Adrian C.
Bateman, A. L. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Morris, John Patrick (Salford. N.)
Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Glossop, C. W. H. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Bann, Sir Arthur Shirley Goff, Sir Park Morrison. William Shepherd
Bernays, Robert Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Munro, Patrick
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middiesbro', W.) Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Gunston, Captain D. W. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Birchen, Major Sir John Dearman Guy, J. C. Morrison North, Edward T.
Boulton, W. W. Hanbury, Cecil Nunn, William
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Harbord, Arthur Palmer, Francis Noel
Bracken, Brendan Hartington, Marquess of Pearson, William G.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Penny, Sir George
Brass, Captain Sir William Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Percy, Lord Eustace
Broadbent, Colonel John Holdsworth, Herbert Pete, Geoffrey K,(W'verh'pt'n,Bliston)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hare-Belisha, Leslie Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Horobin, Ian M. Procter, Major Henry Adam
Browne, Captain A. C. Horsbrugh, Florence Pybus, Percy John
Burghley, Lord Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Hume, Sir George Hopwood Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Inside, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Rankin, Robert
Castlereagh, Viscount James, Wing Com. A. W. H. Ratcliffe, Arthur
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Jamieson, Douglas Rathbone, Eleanor
Chapman, Col.R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Jennings, Roland Rea, Waiter Russell
Christie, James Archibald Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-
Clarke, Frank Jones. Lewis (Swansea, West) Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Clarry, Reginald George Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Kerr, Hamilton W. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Knight, Hollord Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Colman, N. C. D. Leckie, J. A. Runge, Norah Cecil
Conant, R. J. E. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cook, Thomas A. Levy, Thomas Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Lindsay, Noel Ker Salt, Edward W.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Crookshank, Col. C.de Windt (Bootie) Lloyd, Geoffrey Salley, Harry R.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Cross, R. H. Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Lyons, Abraham Montagu Skelton, Archibald Noel
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil) Mebane. William Slater, John
Denman, Hon. R. D. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Smith, Louis W, (Sheffield, Hallam)
Dickle, John P. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Smithers, Waldron
Dower, Captain A. V. G. McConnell, Sir Joseph Somerset, Thomas
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) McKie, John Hamilton Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Eastwood, John Francis McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Edge, Sir William Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Stewart, I. H. (Fife, E.)
Edmondson, Major A. J. Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot Stones. James
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Mender, Geoffrey le M. Storey, Samuel
Strauss, Edward A. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon. S.)
Sueter, RearoAdmiral Murray F. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart Wallace, John (Dunfermline) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Summersby, Charles H. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) Wise, Alfred R.
Sutcliffe, Harold Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend) Womersiey, Walter James
Templeton, William P. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Thompson, Luke Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles Waterhouse, Captain Charles TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Thorp, Linton Theodore Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour- Captain Austin Hudson and Lord
Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wlck-on-'l.) Whiteside, Borras Noel H. Erskine.
Attlee, Clement Richard Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Banfieid, John William Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Mainwaring, William Henry
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Groves, Thomas E. Milner, Major James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Jenkins, Sir William Parkinson, John Allen
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Smith, Torn (Normanton)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lawson, John James Tinker, John Joseph
Dagger, George Leonard, William Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Logan, David Gilbert
Dobble, William Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Edwards, Charles Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Mr. D. Graham and Mr. John.
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) McEntee, Valentine L.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.