HC Deb 01 July 1958 vol 590 cc1065-6
36. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Lord Advocate how long William Watt was detained in Barlinnie Prison recently; what were the reasons for his detention; and if he will make a statement.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. W. R. Milligan)

William Watt was detained in prison from 27th September, 1956, to 3rd December, 1956. He was arrested on the first-mentioned date as there was, in the opinion of the Procurator Fiscal, Glasgow, sufficient evidence to warrant this step being taken. On the following day he was charged on Petition in the Sheriff Court, Glasgow, with the murder of three persons.

After further exhaustive inquiry, Crown Counsel decided that the evidence was insufficient to warrant his being put on trial, and, accordingly, he was liberated on 3rd December, 1956.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

In view of the fact that it has now been proved that Mr. Watt was completely innocent, will the Lord Advocate look at the procedure by which he was kept in prison for 67 days, during which time he endured great suffering and loss of business, while an atmosphere of suspicion was created against him? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman look at the procedure to see whether some action can be taken to prevent a repetition of this case?

The Lord Advocate

As the House knows, this case was one of great difficulty, and very extensive inquiries had to be made. I fully appreciate that, as the hon. Member has said, the period of detention was unusually long. In reply to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I would say that I am always prepared to consider any question of procedure if I think there is any possibility of injustice.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is not it contrary to British ideas of justice to keep a man a long time in prison and not to bring him to trial and give him the satisfaction of the chance of an acquittal? Is not that entirely wrong and why was it done in this case?

The Lord Advocate

The hon. and learned Gentleman may or may not know that, under the law of Scotland, a man may be, but practically never is, detained for 110 days.