HC Deb 28 October 1943 vol 393 cc357-8
21. Wing-Commander Hulbert

asked the Home Secretary how many persons during the years 1940, 1941 and 1942, who have been refused bail by magistrates, have been found not guilty by juries when tried at assizes; and what recent instructions have been given to magistrates in regard to the granting of bail?

Mr. H. Morrison

Figures in the form asked for are not available, but the number of persons committed to prison on remand or for trial and subsequently found not guilty was 1,221 in 1940, 1,439 in 1941 and 1,294 in 1942. These figures—which include persons remanded for a medical report—are approximately 2½ per cent. of the total number of persons so committed. No advice has recently been given to magistrates about the grant of bail, but I am in full sympathy with the principle that, unless there are cogent reasons to the contrary, justices should make full use of their discretionary power to grant bail. In a circular letter sent by the Home Office to chief constables in January, 1939, it was pointed out that whenever the police oppose the grant of bail they incur serious responsibility, and it was emphasised that bail should not be opposed unless there is reason to believe that its grant would defeat the ends of justice or expose persons to danger.

Wing-Commander Hulbert

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider sending a new circular to magistrates, asking them to grant bail on every possible occasion unless there is any risk involved?

Mr. Morrison

The difficulty is that the circumstances which make it proper for magistrates to refuse bail are necessarily very varied, and I doubt whether any useful purpose would be served by such a circular. Nevertheless, I hope that the Question, and my reply, will perhaps meet the need.

Wing-Commander Hulbert

Will the right hon. Gentleman circulate his reply to the magistrates?

Mr. Morrison

I think magistrates have ways of seeing my replies.

Sir Herbert Williams

Is it made known to persons who are refused bail that they have a right of appeal to a High Court Judge, who can overrule the magistrates?