HC Deb 24 June 1937 vol 325 cc1357-8
19. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the remarks of the Metropolitan magistrate at the South-Western police court, on 12th June, in the case of William Hugh Gordon Brooks, that wealthy defendants able to take their case to a higher court and to employ a counsel can often evade penalties imposed on poorer defendants; and whether His Majesty's Government propose to take steps to remedy this state of affairs?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I have seen reports of the remarks to which the hon. Member refers. It is a well established principle that a person who is charged with a serious offence has a right to elect to be tried by a jury, and if a defendant has not the means to employ counsel he may be granted legal aid at the public expense. If the implication is that juries are habitually deceived by mere advocacy, and that those who preside at trials in the higher courts are unable to prevent it, I am unable to accept the suggestion.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that, although this aid can be obtained in certain circumstances, poor people are in many cases convicted and sentenced when people with money to fight those cases would have got free; and will he not take steps to ensure that a definite opportunity is provided, in every case that comes up, to people to be allowed to appeal without any cost to themselves?

Mr. Hannah

May we ask how this matter is managed in Russia?

Sir S. Hoare

As I am not responsible for an answer to the second supplementary question, I will proceed to answer the first. Every defendant who has not the means to employ counsel may be granted legal aid at the public expense.

Mr. Gallacher

Could it not be made a regulation that the defendant is informed that he can apply for an appeal, and that means will be provided?

Sir S. Hoare

That is a much wider issue, and I would prefer not to deal with it by way of question and answer.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that convicted persons will not be shot before the day fixed for their appeals?