HC Deb 09 December 1942 vol 385 cc1558-60
35. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been drawn to the case of a doctor recently struck off the register for giving bogus certificates to men to enable them to evade military service and to the large sums of money involved; and what action has been, or will be, taken in his case, in that of the intermediaries and the others concerned?

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

The activities of the doctors to whom the Question relates were with certain other similar cases the subject of a very full investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1940, which was the date of the acts complained of. It was decided that the available evidence did not afford a basis for criminal proceedings. Since this Question has been put down inquiries have been made to see whether the position so far as evidence for criminal proceedings is concerned has been altered. As at present advised, I do not think it has. I would like to add that as a result of the investigation to which I have referred a Defence Regulation was made strengthening the law on the subject, though it is not, of course, applicable to acts done before it was made.

Mr. McGovern

If there is no case for criminal proceedings, is it not most unfair that a doctor should be struck off the register if there is no complete evidence, and should not the Attorney-General take up this matter and amend the power of this medical council?

The Attorney-General

I do not think that that is right. Anyone familiar with criminal proceedings will realise that the laws of evidence, the laws of corroboration and the fact that the accused, unless he desires to give evidence, cannot be questioned in any way, make an inquiry before a criminal court a different matter from an inquiry before a committee, and there may well be cases where an investigating body may arrive, on evidence and on grounds perfectly proper to be put before it, at a conclusion that it would be impossible to establish in a criminal court, having regard to the rules of evidence and the principles governing a criminal trial.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

Are we to understand from the right hon. and learned Attorney-General that the evidence was submitted to the Public Prosecutor some little time ago and that it was on the specific advice of the Public Prosecutor that a prosecution was not initiated?

The Attorney-General

Yes, Sir, that is absolutely right, subject to the addition that in this particular case the Director of Public Prosecutions took the advice of Treasury counsel, it being a case of great importance, and he acted on that advice, and it was entirely his decision.

Mr. Hopkinson

Purely on the legal advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions?

The Attorney-General

Purely on the legal advice—I am glad to make that clear—of the Director of Public Prosecutions, after taking the advice of Treasury counsel.

Mr. George Griffiths

If a trade union member breaks the trade union rules, has not that trade union the power to take action without interference such as is suggested by the hon. Member?

Mr. McGovern

Is the hon. Member aware that I hope that medical men will get a fairer "do" than trade union members?