HC Deb 04 April 1957 vol 568 cc570-1
39. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will issue instructions to ensure that prisoners who are interviewed for the purpose of compiling preventive detention reports by the Prison Commissioners are warned beforehand of the purpose of the interview and of the fact that the information given may be published.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The hon. Member has raised an extremely difficult problem, which arises also in connection with the reports made on prisoners eligible for corrective training or Borstal training. It is important, and in the best interests of the prisoner, that the court should have the fullest information about his circumstances, including, in some cases, his domestic circumstances, because they may be relevant to the sentence.

I am anxious, while being fair to the prisoner, not to discourage him from giving the interviewing officer all relevant information. I am not, therefore, convinced that the hon. Member's suggestion is the right answer, but I am studying most carefully the problem to which he has drawn attention.

Mr. Swingler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that cases have occurred in which defamatory statements have been made in preventive detention reports to the courts, and that there have been very serious repercussions on third parties who have no remedy, because of the privileged character of these reports? Would the right hon. Gentleman therefore study the possibility of devising some means whereby at any rate defamatory statements should be excluded from the reports when they are to be published?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir, that is why I gave the hon. Member so careful a reply. I should like to look into the case and the point he has raised. The first thing is that the courts must have full information. The second thing is that the interests of third parties ought not to be damaged. The third is that the courts should be left the discretion to make known the content of the Prison Commissioners' report, if they think it necessary to do so. In the light of the case which has been put by the hon. Member, I am reexamining the whole problem.