HC Deb 09 July 1964 vol 698 cc733-5

9.4 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

I am obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for allowing me very briefly to raise another Home Office matter. I do so because, as the House will appreciate, this may be almost the last opportunity we shall have in the present Parliament of doing so, and because the matter is one of some urgency. I apologise to the Joint Under-Secretary for not having been able to give him notice in detail of what I was going to raise, and, naturally, I cannot expect a detailed reply from him; perhaps he will simply be good enough to say that he will look urgently into the matter.

I am concerned about one of the mail-train robbers whose appeals against sentence and conviction were dismissed in the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday. One may remark in passing that these thirty-year sentences are an accurate reflection of the values of our society, since, if these men gain the maximum possible remission, they will be serving twice as long for an offence against property—admittedly a very grave offence—as is normally served by those who take human life.

The man concerned is Roy John James and the information I have about him comes to me from his fiancée, who called to see me this afternoon: she is a young lady of obvious respectability and credibility. According to her, James has been undergoing very severe restrictions indeed on the privileges normally allowed to prisoners whose appeals are pending. He is, or was until today, in Brixton. His appeal visits have been restricted. He has been refused permission to communicate with his solicitors—in startling contrast with the unique privilege accorded to Kenneth de Courcy, who had seventy-four whole days at his solicitor's office. But then, Mr. Roy John James is not a man of wealth and influence and is not a staunch supporter, like Mr. de Courcy, of the present Administration. However, let that pass.

James has also been denied the usual monthly visits. His fiancée, who lives in Berwickshire, came to London yesterday in the expectation of being allowed to see him. She was told that she could not see him, but she did not know that he was in court. She waited at Brixton Prison for 3½ hours, from 1.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., without anyone having the courtesy to tell her that he was in court and that she would not be able to see him that day.

Finally, and perhaps most important constitutionally to hon. Members, he has not been allowed to communicate with his Member of Parliament. I am not his M.P. I have tried to contact his Member this evening but, as will be appreciated, this is not an evening for an exceptionally full House. I felt, however, that I should bring this to the attention of the House and of the Home Office at once, because the last of these points in particular is one about which all hon. Members are particularly sensitive. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, by leave of the House, will say that he will look into this matter at once.

9.8 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. C. M. Wood-house)

Ely leave of the House, I will reply briery. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) for making it clear that he was raising this matter without notice and that therefore it was impossible for me, in the circumstances, to give a detailed reply to the points he has raised. But I will certainly communicate them as a matter of urgency to my right hon. Friend at the Department and I will undertake to ensure that the hon. Member receives an answer at the earliest possible opportunity.