HC Deb 24 July 1940 vol 363 cc800-1
41 and 42. Mr. Radford

asked the Attorney-General (1) why he did not order the prosecution under the Treachery Act of the Air Ministry inspector, William Gaskell Downing, who was sentenced at Manchester, on 16th instant, to six years' imprisonment for making photographs of an aeronautical inspection badge, an Air Ministry pass and a permit to enter certain premises;

(2) why he did not order the prosecution, under the Treachery Act, of the aeroengine works employé who was sentenced at Crewe, on 13th instant, to six months' imprisonment for 10 offences under the Defence of the Realm Act, in whose apartments were found a cinema camera containing films of aeroplane engines, a passport for various European countries and an international permit to drive a motor cycle?

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

In neither case did the evidence justify proceedings under the Treachery Act.

Mr. Radford

Does my right hon. and learned Friend hold the view that treachery is not treachery if the police are quick enough to catch a man before he has consummated what he is after; and, secondly, why was the Treachery Act brought before this House and passed, two months ago?

The Attorney-General

No, Sir, I do not accept the suggestion in the first part of the Question. Each case has to be considered on its own merits, in the light of the code contained in the Treachery Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Defence Regulations. Different and graver facts have to be established to justify proceedings under the Treachery Act than under the other provisions. If my hon. Friend has a suspicion which he appears to have, that there is any reluctance to invoke the Treachery Act in a propel case, he will be glad to be assured that his suspicions are quite unfounded.

Mr. Radford

With regard to the first case, at Manchester, there has been struck out from my Question a statement that this Air Ministry inspector was living with a German woman at the time. Was my right hon. and learned Friend aware of that fact?

The Attorney-General

No, Sir, I was not. As far as the Manchester case is concerned, the offence took place before the Treachery Act was in force.

Mr. Bevan

Is it an offence to live with a German woman?

Mr. Silverman

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take care that, in exercising his functions under this Act, he will not allow himself to be influenced by political pressure of any kind?

The Attorney-General

There is no question of politics at all.