HC Deb 21 November 1946 vol 430 cc1004-5
32. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that injustice and loss are frequently inflicted by the imprisonment, pending trial, of accused persons who, later, are found not guilty of the charges preferred against them; and if he will take steps, by legislation, to prevent this injustice and loss.

Mr. Ede

Of the persons remanded in custody a small proportion are subsequently found not guilty, and the possibility that an accused may subsequently be acquitted is one of the many reasons why remands should be on bail unless there is good reason to the contrary. There are, however, some cases where the prima facie grounds for remanding in custody are so strong in the interests of justice and the protection of the public that this course is unavoidable, and if of the persons so remanded some are subsequently acquitted, it does not follow that the decision of the magistrates to remand them in custody was unjustified.

33. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that at present many accused persons are subjected, in effect, to two trials, one in the police court and one before a jury; that publicity given to the first prejudices them in the second by informing potential jurors of the case for the prosecution before the case for the defence is presented; and if he will, by legislation, take steps to obviate this possible source of injustice.

Mr. Ede

This question has been frequently considered and the conclusion reached that the advantages of publicity outweigh any potential disadvantages. In my view, which was also that of my predecessors in office, justices when conducting a preliminary examination with a view to deciding whether the accused shall be committed for trial on indictment, should not sit in private save in exceptional cases, such as those in which they are satisfied that the publicity given to these preliminary proceedings will prejudice the ends of justice.

Mr. Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a real problem which, although it has been previously considered, should be reconsidered, and in the case of any further reconsideration, will he take into account the procedure in Scotland?

Mr. Ede

This is obviously a case of balancing advantages and disadvantages. I think that the greatest advantage of all is that the courts should, in all normal circumstances, be open, so that the public can be assured that justice is being properly administered.