HC Deb 16 March 1938 vol 333 cc399-400
26. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that a coloured man named Grant who had previously committed no offence in Barbados was, in November, charged with sedition for advising the natives to organise, and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment because it was declared dangerous that he should be let loose; and, seeing that it is not a crime in a British Colony to agitate for a form of organisation to overthrow the capitalist system, will he make a statement regarding this matter?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I am informed that Grant was found guilty of sedition in November, 1937, on four counts, and sentenced to five years' penal servitude on each count, two sentences to run concurrently with the other two, making a total term of imprisonment of 10 years. Although he had no previous convictions in Barbados, he had been deported from the United States of America after a number of convictions there. The case was tried by a special jury, who were directed by the Judge that lawful organisation could be encouraged and promoted, and were asked to decide whether, on the occasions which gave rise to the charges, Grant was fostering lawful organisation. The jury unanimously decided otherwise.

Mr. Creech Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Grant was undefended, that the offences were of a very petty character, that this man did not incite to violence, and that the Judge merely said that he was guilty of organising; and will the right hon. Gentleman therefore express himself to the Governor that this was an outrageous and savage sentence?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

It would be improper for me to comment on a sentence passed by a Judge on a decision by a jury, and as the exercise of the prerogative of mercy does not lie with me, but under the Constitution rests solely with the Governor, it would be highly improper for me to intervene.

Mr. Paling

In view of the fact that this man has been sentenced because he was asking the people to organise, is it too late to intervene, particularly in view of what has just happened in Trinidad and in view of the answer which he gave to a previous question that no compensation laws exist in these Colonies?