HC Deb 11 November 1954 vol 532 cc1399-400
32. Mr. Bullard

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will write to all police authorities requesting them not to pursue a claim for costs for contingent actions in a case where the defendant has been acquitted of a criminal charge.

49. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will circularise police authorities discouraging them from seeking to recover costs where criminal proceedings against an accused have failed.

Major Lloyd-George

I am aware of a recent case which has received some publicity, but I have no authority to intervene in a matter of this kind, which is entirely one for the decision of the police authority concerned, and it would not be appropriate for me to offer any general advice to police authorities on the subject.

Mr. Bullard

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend please reconsider this matter, because it seems to be a case where some general instruction is required? Is he aware that in the case of Mr. Fletcher, particulars of which I sent to him, after a very long time police costs were pressed to an extent which made Mr. Fletcher eventually bankrupt; and does it not seem wrong that after a man has had such an experience, and after a long time has been acquitted, he should have to undergo bankruptcy proceedings on top of all the rest?

Major Lloyd-George

While I am naturally prepared to look at anything my hon. Friend sends me, I am bound to tell him that the question of whether an order for costs is enforced is entirely a matter for the standing joint committee in Norfolk, and it would be inappropriate for me to offer any advice to the committee.

Mr. Ede

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us what is the practice in the Metropolitan Police, for which he is the police authority?

Major Lloyd-George

Not without notice.

Brigadier Medlicott

Does not this disclose a very unsatisfactory position, because it amounts to a breach of the principle that a man is deemed to be innocent until he is proved guilty, and here is a man who, in the eyes of the law, was found innocent? Is it not unsatisfactory that he should have to pay any costs at all?

Major Lloyd-George

I am not arguing that at the moment. I am prepared to look at anything which my hon. and gallant Friend is prepared to send me. I can only say that I have no authority to intervene in a matter of this kind.