HC Deb 07 July 1938 vol 338 cc572-3
37. Lyons

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a recent case in which a man was convicted of the dangerous driving of a motor vehicle, having been committed for trial by the justices after an investigation at which the public and Press were excluded; whether any proposal was submitted for his approval and, if so, on what grounds; and whether, in the public interest, justices will be circularised with representations and warnings for and against this procedure in any such future cases?

Sir S. Hoare

I have had no communication with the justices about this case, and it would be wrong that a court of justice should be subject to the directions or approval of the executive as to the course to be followed in dealing with a particular case. As regards the general question, I am advised that when justices are making a preliminary investigation of an indictable case for the purpose of determining whether or not a defendant should be committed for trial, they are not required to sit in open court, though it is the practice for them to do so. In my view they should not sit in private save in exceptional cases such as those in which they are satisfied that publicity given to these preliminary proceedings will prejudice the ends of justice.

39. Mr. Lyons

asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the case of G. E. Stedall, who is serving a sentence of imprisonment for dangerous driving of a motor vehicle; and whether, as on 4th July, at Maidenhead, at the coroner's inquest upon the person killed in the collision in connection with which the charge was brought, the jury found a verdict of accidental death and exonerated the driver, he proposes to take any and what steps to review this matter?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes, Sir. I have received from Mr. Stedall's solicitors a full report of the facts of this case. Mr. Stedall in swerving to avoid another car collided with a third car of which the driver was killed. Mr. Stedall and the driver of the car which he swerved to avoid were both charged with dangerous driving. The other defendant was acquitted but Mr. Stedall was convicted and sentenced to four months' imprisonment. Mr. Stedall appealed to quarter sessions but his conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal. Subsequently at an inquest held on the person killed the coroner's jury returned a verdict of accidental death and added a rider to the effect that the driver who had been acquitted had put Mr. Stedall in great danger. This rider does not, in fact, necessarily exonerate Mr. Stedall, but in any event a rider by a coroner's jury, whose sole function was to determine the cause of death and who, I am informed, had no evidence additional to that considered by the convicting Magistrates and by quarter sessions, would not afford grounds for reviewing a conviction by the courts established by law for the trial of offences and the hearing of appeals. I have considered the representations made on Mr. Stedall's behalf and can find no ground for interference with the sentence which the court thought fit to impose.

Sir Edmund Findlay

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I humbly suggest that questions such as this which apply only to one particular person should be put down for written answer, in view of the difficulty we have in getting answers to questions?

Mr. Speaker

It is purely a matter of opinion.