HC Deb 20 June 1956 vol 554 cc1414-6
34. Mr. Elwyn Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies who are the members of the committee which is to examine and review the sentences of persons convicted in Kenya of Mau Mau offences; what are their qualifications; and what are the powers of the committee.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The members are: Lieutenant-Colonel S. H. La Fontaine, D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C., formerly Provincial Commissioner of the Central Province and Acting Chief Native Commissioner; Mr. Desmond Ryland, formerly Officer in Charge of Nairobi Extra Provincial District; and Mr. J. Sinclair Lockhart, District Commissioner. All have served in Kenya for many years and have considerable knowledge of the Kikuyu peoples.

The Committee is empowered to examine all sentences of imprisonment for Mau Mau offences and to recommend in each case whether the law should take its course or whether the Governor should be invited to consider the use of his prerogative powers to remit the residue of prison sentences and transfer the prisoner to a detention order for the purpose of rehabilitation in a works camp with a view to release thereafter.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Although these gentlemen may be experienced in Kenya itself, in view of the grave public disquiet with regard to the administration of justice in Kenya generally, is there not now an overwhelming case for the appointment of a high-powered tribunal presided over, if possible, by a High Court judge of this country which will look into this whole question? Is the Secretary of State aware that this assurance that he is going to have conversations with the Attorney-General in Kenya is not enough, and that the Attorney-General is a party involved in this matter? The decision of the committee of inquiry may well satisfy public opinion, but I ask for consideration to be given to this question.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, I think this is much the best way to set about this work. Already over 500 cases have been considered by the committee; remission has been recommended in 354 cases, and release orders have been signed in 164 cases. The committee hopes to speed up its work very soon.

Mr. Bevan

Would not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his reply? Would he not appreciate that there might be on both sides of the House a considerable volume of opinion that it would be a very good thing indeed to have some fresh blood on this committee from outside so that we might be satisfied not only that justice was done in the old way but that it was seen to be done? It is not seen to be done only by having persons drawn from the Colony itself on this committee. Furthermore, will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that great mischief has been done already to public opinion in Kenya by virtue of the fact that some of his followers in the last debate urged the Government not to hurry up the release of these prisoners?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

That was in very different circumstances. Justice is not only done but is seen to be done by those people of many differing political persuasions and backgrounds who are now working to help the Government of Kenya.

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