HC Deb 16 July 1959 vol 609 cc587-8
67. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has examined the working of the diminished responsibility provisions of Section 2 of the Homicide Act, 1957, with relevance in particular to such cases as that of Ernest Campbell, found guilty of manslaughter by strangling a six-year-old boy, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment with a possibility of remission; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I am keeping the operation of Section 2 of the Homicide Act under review. It is too early to reach any firm conclusion about its working. Nearly 40 per cent. of the offenders whose conviction of manslaughter appears to have been based on a plea of diminished responsibility have been given sentences of life imprisonment, which means that they may be detained as long as may be necessary for the protection of the public. There is no close parallel among those sentenced to fixed terms of imprisonment to the case of Ernest Campbell.

Dr. Johnson

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Does he not, nevertheless, agree that a case such as this, which has strong superficial resemblances to that of Straffen, gives a firm basis to the anxieties expressed from time to time on this side of the House? In this case, is it not a fact that there are really no means of detaining this man when his sentence has expired?

Mr. Butler

I should not like to comment further on this particular case without notice. I know that this man is at present under observation in the hospital at Wormwood Scrubs so that the doctors may have an opportunity to study his mental condition before any further decisions are taken. I will, if my hon. Friend desires it, keep in touch with him.