HC Deb 26 October 1955 vol 545 cc176-84
8 and 12. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) what reforms he proposes to introduce in the police organisation in Kenya in view of the state of affairs revealed by the case of the Kikuyu prisoner, Kamau Kichina, who died after ill-treatment received in custody;

(2) whether, in view of the widespread concern at the conduct of the case of Kamau Kichina, he will institute a high-level judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of Kichina and the proceedings in court, and into similar cases, in order to show his determination that justice shall be applied impartially to all races in Kenya.

9. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if his attention has been drawn to the magistrate's comments on the Kenya Police Force during the trial of four police officers following the death of Kamau Kichina; and what action he is taking to end the malpractices disclosed.

38. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the continued abuses of the law by certain of the police in Kenya, he will now start an exhaustive independent inquiry with a view to restoring native African confidence in British administration of justice.

47. Mr. Hayman

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the death of the Kikuyu Kamau and on the strictures of the magistrate on the behaviour of the two European police inspectors involved.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

With permission, I will answer Question No. 8 and Questions Nos. 9, 12, 38 and 47 together.

Mrs. Castle

On a point of order. I do not wish my second Question, No. 12, to be answered with this Question as it [raises an entirely separate point from Question No. 8.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Lady will wait to see whether the answer covers both Questions.

Mrs. Castle

Further to that point of order. I wish respectfully to say that I understood the Colonial Secretary was asking my permission to answer this Question with my Question No. 12. Presumably I have the right to say that I do not give that permission.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid I have to say that the courteous introduction "With permission" is a matter of courtesy and not of anything else. I do not think that any hon. Member has the right to object to an answer until he has heard it. I think that the Colonial Secretary ought to reply now.

Mrs. Castle

Further to that point of order. With great respect, may I say that there are two quite separate aspects arising out of the case and I put down two separate Questions because quite clearly I wish to put two separate points? Can I have an assurance, Mr. Speaker, that I will be given an opportunity to press those two points separately if the Secretary of State gives an omnibus reply?

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Lady will give me an opportunity of listening to the answer, I shall be able to say whether it covers the two points or not. At the moment I do not know what the answer is.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Perhaps I might be allowed to say that I read in "Tribune" that the hon. Lady was to assume leadership in matters of this kind. Therefore, I am not surprised at that intervention.

Hon. Members

Very cheap.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The Governor and I have been greatly disturbed by the Kamau case, which occurred at a time when a marked improvement had appeared in the control and discipline of the security forces following the measures taken after the amnesty offer of 18th January.

I am satisfied, after a detailed examination of all the circumstances, that this was an isolated case and not symptomatic of a general disregard of lawful procedures by the Kenya Police Force and I therefore do not consider that an independent inquiry is required. I am also satisfied that the conduct of the judicial proceedings was entirely proper.

I am nevertheless concerned that even one case of this kind should have occurred and the Governor is introducing or has introduced, additional safeguards against a recurrence such as closer supervision of junior officers and a longer period of police training. I am circulating a fuller statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mrs. Castle

In the first place, may I ask the Colonial Secretary if he does not agree that the fact that the Supreme Court had to step in and alter the sentence in this case proves that there is something seriously wrong with the adminstration of justice in Kenya? Does not the increase of the sentences leave unaltered the alarming fact that the charge in this case was altered from one of murder before the trial took place, and that that must have been done with the consent of the prosecution and, therefore, of the Department of the Attorney-General? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that fact has caused grave alarm among many responsible people with legal training in this country, who believe it shows that many cases in fact are not receiving the full treatment they ought to be getting in Kenya?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have, not unnaturally, gone with enormous care into this most distressing case and I say at once that I have found no one in Kenya, whatever their views, or to whatever race they belong, who has attempted to condone the disgraceful conduct of the people concerned. That shows the unanimity of feeling which prevails in Kenya about cases of this kind. In regard to the particular questions asked by the hon. Lady, the fact that the Supreme Court exercised its power of revision in this case appears to me to show that the rule of law and order does prevail in Kenya, which I believe we are all delighted to see reaffirmed.

The second point which the hon. Lady made was about the alteration of the charge from murder to manslaughter. The magistrate who agreed to that change was a very experienced magistrate in whom I and the Government of Kenya have full confidence. The charge was reduced to one of grievous bodily harm because the medical evidence—this would apply in this country and anywhere else—was that death might have resulted from causes other than this maltreatment.

As to the last part of the question put by the hon. Lady, I feel quite sure that this is an isolated incident. When the hon. Lady has read my very full report I shall be ready to discuss it with her and answer any Questions in the House of Commons to make certain, as far as is humanly possible, that these things do not occur again, but I would ask her to see this matter against the enormous improvement there has been in every field of similar activity in Kenya over recent months.

Mr. Alport

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the new police training school has only very recently begun to produce a highly-trained European and African rank for the police force, when the first output from that school took place, and whether it is the intention of the Kenya Government to withdraw magistrates' powers from temporary district officers who, under the previous arrangements, received those powers?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think that both those questions will be answered in my full statement, but, because I think there is nothing more important for our good name in the Colonial Territories than considerations of this kind, I will answer them very briefly now.

With the improvement in the emergency situation this year it has been possible to extend the training period for newly-recruited police officers from six weeks to four months and recall the earlier intake for refresher courses. In answer to the second question, it is true that these magisterial powers will in future be removed from temporary district officers. Although it is also a fact that they have not actually sat as magistrates in courts, nonetheless I think it is an anomaly which we are in a position now to remove.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The Secretary of State is to provide a full statement, which we shall read, but may I ask him now to deal with a point which has caused serious concern and disturbance everywhere? That is the reduction of the charge in this case from murder to one of causing grievous bodily harm. The Secretary of State said that that was done on evidence. May I ask whether, in his statement, he includes that evidence; and, further, whether it would not have been better—because it is important in Kenya to see that justice is done impartially to all races—for that point to have been made in the trial without reducing the charge, which gave the impression that there was not an impartial administration of justice in Kenya?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir. I had not intended to include in my statement any evidence which came to the magistrate to convince him that the change was justified. I think it would be very unfortunate if Ministers were to attempt to interpret the mind of any magistrate in this country or in any Colonial Territory. I am absolutely satisfied that in good faith the magistrate arrived at the conclusion to which he came and his decision cannot be challenged. The important thing is that the case was reviewed by the Supreme Court under its powers of revision, and, secondly, that active steps are being taken to reduce to a minimum the possibility of a recurrence of similar affairs.

Mr. Swingler

By what methods has the Colonial Secretary satisfied himself that this is an isolated case? Is he not aware that there have been cases of this kind before in Kenya in recent years? What kind of inquiry has he carried out, in view of the detention of large numbers of Africans in Kenya, to satisfy himself that this is an isolated instance? Is he aware that after they have read his statement, large numbers of people, having examined this case, will continue to be convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with the police and judicial system under which this kind of thing can go on?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I hope that the hon. Member will not give renewed currency to such a slanderous inaccuracy of that kind. I am satisfied by this simple fact, among others, that in the course of the whole of the present year there have been only three cases involving physical violence, all three of a very trivial kind, apart from this particular case; and I think that this, in the light of the present situation in Kenya, justifies what I have said.

Mr. Hamilton

How does the right hon. Gentleman's original answer square with the description of these methods being used in Kenya with the remarks of Mr. Justice Cramm some months ago? Is it not the case that a delegation from this House, led by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), reported in February, 1954, that these methods needed overhauling? Why has not something been done about it in the meantime?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If the hon. Member had followed the position carefully throughout the last six months, he would know that there has been drastic overhaul. The remarks of Mr. Justice Cramm, to which the hon. Member refers, are now completely out of date. I would draw his attention to the remarks of Mr. Acting Justice Law more recently, and to the enormous improvement which those who follow this matter from day to day know has taken place.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Minister bear in mind that, in spite of the legal satisfaction which he finds in what he has said, this case has shocked the civilised world? Will he convey to the Governor of Kenya just what we on this side of the House feel about it?

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Paul Williams.

Mrs. Castle

On a point of order. The Colonial Secretary has not answered the point contained in my Question No. 8, which I particularly wanted to stress, and which, if he had given separate answers, he would not have been able to evade in the way that he did by taking my two Questions together. May I have your permission, Mr. Speaker, to ask a supplementary question, because the right hon. Gentleman has quite deliberately evaded that point?

Mr. Speaker

I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that he was publishing a full report on this case. I think the House could look at that report before pursuing the question. I also remind the House that although we have been engaged on Questions for nearly half an hour, we have reached only Question No. 10. Mr. Paul Williams.

Mrs. Castle

Further to that point of order. I tabled two Questions on two separate points and it is within my rights as a Member to put down three Questions a day. In effect, I have had only two answered. Could I not have the opportunity of pressing my Question in a supplementary question, as I tabled it in the proper fashion?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid not. A full report is to be published. If the hon. Lady finds any material in it for further interrogation, she is quite at liberty to put down further Questions. I have to think of the other hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper.

Following is the statement: The measures taken after the amnesty offer of 18th January to prevent situations in which malpractices by the security forces could occur included amendments to Emergency Regulations to restrict powers of holding suspects, the reciting of screening camps and the reorganisation of the Kikuyu Guard. The marked improvement which followed was the subject of favourable judicial comment. The Governor and I were, therefore, all the more disturbed when we first heard of the Kamau case. 2. The three police inspectors and the district officer (Kikuyu Guard) who were convicted were young officers employed on contract terms. Following a mandatory inquiry into the cause of death of Kamau Gichina while in police custody, the officers were arrested on warrants issued by the resident magistrate. Police Inspectors Fuller and Waters were charged with murder, and Chief Inspector Coppen and Temporary District Officer Bosch with causing grievous harm. In the course of the preliminary inquiry the court, in consequence of the medical evidence, dismissed the charges of murder and substituted charges against Fuller and Waters of causing grievous harm. They pleaded guilty. Coppen and Bosch pleaded not guilty to that offence, and in their cases the prosecution accepted a plea of guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. All relinquished their rights to be tried as Europeans before a jury. The magistrate sentenced the first two accused to eighteen months' imprisonment and Coppen and Bosch to fines of £25 and £10 respectively. All four officers have been dismissed from the service or had their contracts terminated and have forfeited gratuities and passage rights. Subsequently the Supreme Court, acting under its powers of revision, has enhanced the sentences on Fuller and Waters from eighteen months to 3½ years on grounds that original sentences were patently inadequate, and that on Bosch from £10 to six months imprisonment. Coppen has left Kenya. 3. In his judgment, the magistrate commented on statements, before and at the inquest, by two other district officers who were not before the court. One of these was a temporary district officer in charge of a tribal police combat unit. Inquiry has revealed that, when questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department, he did not reveal all the knowledge in his possession (though he did later add to his statement on his own initiative). His contract has been terminated. The other district officer concerned is a regular member of the Administrative Service with a good record. The Governor has instituted an inquiry into his conduct in connection with this case and, until the results of that inquiry are known, I am not in a position to say any more about his conduct. 4. The magistrate also made some comments on the subject of the combination of executive and judicial powers. In Kenya, as in many other Colonial Territories, members of the Administrative Service are ex officio magistrates. Officers of the regular Service not only are selected with the greatest care but also undergo a course of training, which includes law and judicial procedures, before taking up their appointments. It has not been possible to give this training to temporary officers appointed by the Kenya Government in the course of the emergency and, although magisterial powers have been used by temporary district officers only for the issue of warrants or summonses and none has sat on the Bench and tried cases, the Governor has decided to remove the ex officio magisterial powers from such officers. 5. The Governor and I are satisfied that this was an isolated case and not a symptom of a general disregard of lawful procedures in Kenya, and that the magistrate acted throughout with complete propriety. I do not, therefore, think that a high-level independent inquiry is needed. The essential point is that all possible measures should be taken to prevent a repetition. This is being done. With the improvement in the emergency situation this year, it has been possible to extend the training period for newly recruited police officers from six weeks to four months and to recall the earlier intake for refresher courses. Other measures being instituted include more frequent inspections and closer supervision by all senior officers and irregular surprise medical inspections of persons held in custody. The Commissioner of Police is using every possible means of making sure that all his officers realise that no mercy will be shown to any member of the force found guilty of violence to persons in custody and has, at a special conference of provincial police commanders stressed their personal responsibility for ensuring, by their own inspection and those of their subordinate officers, that those in custody are properly treated. The Governor is issuing parallel instructions to district administrative officers.