HC Deb 10 February 1959 vol 599 cc978-9
9. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that under the criminal law of Scotland a person may be detained without trial for a period not exceeding 110 days and may then be released without being given any opportunity, other than such release and a subsequent civil action for damages, of clearing his reputation; in view of the fact that injustice may be done thereby, if he will consider some appropriate rectification of the law; and what steps he intends to take to rectify this wrong.

Mr. N. Macpherson

In Scotland a person may be committed by the sheriff to prison pending his trial on indictment, and may then be detained for a maximum of 110 days which includes the period of trial. During this period new evidence or doubt about the existing evidence may emerge and criminal proceedings may be dropped; if so, the person is released at once. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate informs me that nobody is committed for trial on indictment unless there is a substantial prima facie case against him, and that only very occasionally are proceedings subsequently dropped. In these circumstances my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not think that the law requires amendment.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister realise that where a man afterwards found to be innocent is kept in prison for this long period of 110 days a great injustice is done to him unless he is either given an opportunity of clearing his name or is given compensation for the long detention? Surely, a fair-minded Secretary of State would take the view that here is a wrong seeking a remedy and would take steps to provide that remedy.

Mr. Macpherson

In reply to the first part of the hon. and learned Member's supplementary question, I would say that no suggestion of suspicion or guilt should attach to anyone who is released without trial. Certainly, in the eyes of the law nobody is found guilty unless he has been proved guilty.

Mr. Ross

Editors have been sacked.