HC Deb 07 July 1955 vol 543 cc1295-6
41. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has yet considered the statement made by Mr. Friend-Smith to the police before his death and not produced in the trial of James Weaver for murder in 1928; whether he will make a statement concerning it; and why it was not made available at the time of the trial.

Major Lloyd-George

The statement to which my hon. Friend refers was not in the form of a dying declaration and was not admissible in evidence, but it was before the then Home Secretary, and was taken into consideration by him, together with other relevant material, when he decided to recommend the reprieve of the three men concerned. It does not afford grounds on which I should be justified in re-opening the case.

Mr. Teeling

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not consider it strange that when a man is reprieved for murder he still has to serve a sentence, even though he is reprieved because of some doubt as to whether he ever committed the murder? In view of the fact that the defending lawyer said, when he was shown this document one year after the case, that had he been shown it at the time of the trial he would have got the man off, does not my right hon. and gallant Friend think that the Home Office should work in with the man who has served his sentence to see if he cannot be completely cleared? Would my right hon. and gallant Friend consider allowing the man's Member of Parliament—myself —and a legal adviser, to see this document, if it is still in existence?

Major Lloyd-George

I do not think that I can add anything to the answer which I have just given. My hon. Friend raised this subject some time ago, when we had an opportunity to debate it. I told him at the time that if he was in possession of any further evidence, then, of course, it would be looked at, but the actual document to which he has referred does not afford grounds for reopening the case.

Mr. S. Silverman

Although this case was a long time ago, can the Minister explain why this document, if it was in the possession of the prosecution at the time, was not made available to the defence? If the prosecution was not proposing to avail itself of it, why should not the defence have been given the opportunity of deciding what, if any, use it could make of it? Why was it withheld?

Major Lloyd-George

As I said in answer to the Question, it was not admissible in evidence. It was available to the then Home Secretary, who took upon himself the decision to reprieve the three men concerned. Although it is now nearly thirty years ago, I have stated that if fresh evidence can be brought forward it will be looked at.