HC Deb 03 July 1940 vol 362 cc822-3
25. Mr. Radford

asked the Attorney-General with reference to the Admiralty chart depot employé, who was convicted about a fortnight ago by the Grimsby magistrates of being in possession of incriminating matter, including flying charts on which were written a list of towns with aerodromes, why he did not proceed against him under the Treachery Act?

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

This prosecution was not referred to me or to the Director of Public Prosecutions, so there was no question of my giving directions with regard to it. That disposes of the actual Question put, but I have made inquiries into the case and would like to give the result of these. The proceedings were undertaken by the police authorities, who, as is usual in cases of this kind, were in consultation with the Security Services. Such cases, if regarded as sufficiently grave, are always referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. This case was not so regarded, and the Security Services agreed with the course taken, namely, to proceed summarily under Defence Regulation 3. I do not think it would be right for me to go into details, but it follows from what I have said, that some of the reports which appeared gave a wrong impression of the gravity of this case. These reports have given rise to very natural anxiety. I have satisfied myself as the result of inquiries that this case affords no basis for these anxieties and that, under the existing procedure of communication between chief constables, the Security Services and the Director of Public Prosecutions, there is no reason to believe that grave cases of espionage or similar offences will not be properly dealt with.

Mr. Radford

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that to put into operation the Treachery Act which we passed less than two months ago would have a salutary effect upon people of a traitorous frame of mind; whereas, if these people see that such cases merely go before magistrates and get trifling sentences, they will be encouraged in their wicked work?

The Attorney-General

Nothing would discredit justice in this country more than that prosecuting authorities should bring a case of treachery when, on the evidence, they were satisfied that no treachery existed.

Mr. Thurtle

Who is the Minister responsible to this House for the Department which the right hon. and learned Gentleman calls Security Services?

The Attorney-General

That is quite a different question. Security Services are, I think, the officers of the different Service Departments who are charged with matters of this kind.

Forward to