HC Deb 27 February 1936 vol 309 cc634-5
40. Mr. S. O. DAVIES

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the Governor of Cardiff Prison has circulated to the parents of certain persons a lengthy questionnaire inquiring into the antecedents of the latter now committed for trial in connection with the Taff Merthyr Colliery dispute; that the questionnaire does not contain the appropriate caution that any information given may be used against the accused; and will he take immediate steps to prevent the continuance of this practice which assumes in anticipation the guilt and conviction of the accused, and which causes added pain and anxiety to the persons involved and their families?


I have already been considering this matter, and intend that in the future letters of inquiry of this kind sent out by the prison authorities shall contain a fuller explanation of their purpose, so as to avoid any possibility of such misunderstandings as have arisen in this case. The object of these inquiries is to enable the prison authorities to carry out their statutory duties of preparing reports for the use of the court as to the suitability of defendants for Borstal treatment. The information obtained is made use of only in the event of the defendant being convicted and in the event of acquittal is treated as entirely confidential. The parents are under no obligation to answer such inquiries.


Does the right hon. Gentleman approve of the type of question put to the parents of young persons awaiting trial, particularly a question of this kind: "Are you prepared to give him (or her) a home and supervision when he (or she) is again at liberty?"? That definitely assumes the guilt and conviction of persons who have not yet been tried.


I am much obliged to the hon. Member for giving me that example. It is not intended that there should be any such assumption, but in the interests of the young person himself it is very important that the court should know, at the time it has to decide, what can be done with the co-operation of the parents at home as distinct from having to send the young person to an institution. It is really an effort by the prison authorities to collect information on which the court can act; but I quite agree that there should he no use of a phrase which seems to imply the guilt of the young person.

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