§ Miss Bacon
(by Private Notice) asked the Home Secretary what action he proposes to take with regard to the petition of Alfred George Hinds asking for a review of his case under Section 19 of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
A petition was received at the Home Office at 1.55 p.m. today asking for Hinds' immediate release from prison, and indicating his intention of applying for a free pardon. I will give the petition immediate consideration.
Hinds was convicted at the Central Criminal Court in 1953 of breaking and entering, and was sentenced to 12 years' preventive detention. His application for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence was refused by the Court of Criminal Appeal. He has in recent months been under the hostel system, going to work daily outside the prison: that is, he. is on parole under the Prison Rules on condition that he returns nightly to Pentonville prison.
Pending my examination of the implications of yesterday's decision I have directed that this condition should be removed.
§ Miss Bacon
Do I understand from this that Alfred Hinds will not now be required to go back to prison at all? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman means?
§ Mr. Brooke
I must have time to consider the very unusual situation which has arisen. I am sure that the House would wish that. At present, Alfred Hinds is on parole, going out to approved work each day, but required to return to the prison at night. Pending my further consideration of his petition, I am releasing him from the condition of having to return to the prison each night.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
Clearly, my right hon. Friend must have time to consider the petition and the position which arises from yesterday's proceedings. Will he, at the same time, give consideration to the question of now enabling to be 1800 delivered to me the letter which was written to me by Alfred George Hinds in 1953 while he was in custody awaiting his trial, making certain complaints, which letter was seized by the governor of the prison and was the subject matter of a debate on the Adjournment in 1955?
I ask my right hon. Friend this because I understand that the letter has now been seen by almost everyone in England, except the hon. Member to whom it was addressed, including some of my professional colleagues at the bar. Would it not now be desirable that this letter, 11 years later, should be delivered, through the normal course of post, to me?
§ Mr. Brooke
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for not being able in this hour and a half to familiarise myself with the details of what happened 11 years ago. I certainly will do so. Perhaps he and the House would care to know that I shall be answering a Question on the Order Paper today and indicating that I have reviewed and modernised the rules relating to letters from prisoners to Members of Parliament.
§ Mrs. Braddock
When the Home Secretary is making inquiries into the matter, will he also inquire how many times Hinds has put in petitions to the Home Office giving specific details of where he was upon the night he was supposed to be somewhere else? When he is making the inquiries, will he find out why it is that no notice is taken of things of this sort at the Home Office, and that when once a sentence has been decided a prisoner can put in as many petitions as he likes and nobody bothers about them and that the same sort of answer is sent to Members of Parliament when messages of this sort are sent?
§ Mr. Brooke
I must reject these allegations by the hon. Lady. Great care is taken in dealing with prisoners' petitions. But it is not normally right for the Home Secretary to override a decision of the courts in the absence of fresh evidence which was not before the courts.