HC Deb 24 June 1954 vol 529 cc589-90
48. Mr. Wade

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to amend or curtail the powers of a coroner to commit a person for trial on the findings of the coroner's jury.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I can hold out no prospect of introducing legislation for this purpose.

Mr. Wade

Without wishing to cast any reflection upon coroners as such, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he agrees that there are many strange anomalies in the existing system of coroners' inquests? Would he also agree that there may be very real injustice done to a man named in the verdict of a coroner's jury who may thereby be committed for trial on as serious a charge as murder or manslaughter, and will he have regard to the fact that the ordinary procedure of our courts of law is not followed and the ordinary rules of evidence, which are designed to safeguard an accused person, do not apply at coroners' inquests?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I think the hon. Member has a very serious point. Quite obviously, what was stated by the Wright Committee in 1936 has much importance, and I shall consider the matter, but it would not have been right to have held out the prospect of legislation at the moment. I will carefully consider what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Isaacs

Does not this Question justify looking up and examining again the Report of the Committee of inquiry into inquests of some years ago?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I referred to it in shorthand terms by the name of its Chairman as the Wright Committee. That is the Committee he has in mind. I said that its Report was well worthy of consideration.