HC Deb 30 March 1965 vol 709 cc1376-7
16. Mr. Park

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make representations to the Nigerian Government to expedite the hearing of the appeal by Dr. Victor Allen against his conviction on charges of sedition.

21. Sir D. Kaberry

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he is aware that Mr. V. L. Allen, a British citizen of Leeds, who was arrested on 16th June, 1964, in Lagos, found guilty on 10th November, 1964, after lengthy trial, sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment on three charges of sedition against the Nigerian Government and who has appealed, is still waiting to have his appeal heard but remains in custody and has been on hunger strike since 17th March; and if he will make representations to the Nigerian authorities to expedite the hearing of the appeal and to release Mr. Allen on bail pending the hearing of the appeal.

Mr. Bottomley

The hearing of Dr. Allen's appeal has now been fixed for 1st April. He ended his hunger strike on 25th March and has not meanwhile applied for bail. I see no call in the circumstances for representations to the Nigerian Government.

Mr. Park

I thank my right hon. Friend for his Answer. Can he tell the House why the delay in hearing the appeal has been so protracted? Dr. Allen may almost have completed his sentence before knowing the result of his appeal. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he is satisfied that the conditions of Dr. Allen's imprisonment are reasonable and humane, and has he any news of Dr. Allen's state of health?

Mr. Bottomley

I ask my hon. Friend to remember that Dr. Allen was convicted of serious charges. The hearing of his case lasted upwards of 100 days and the record of the court proceedings ran to about 500 pages. By the time the record became available to all interested parties, on 23rd February, counsel for Dr. Allen had still not been able to complete all the necessary formalities in connection with the appeal. The situation was further complicated by the fact that his original counsel withdrew from the case and there was some delay before another counsel could be found. However, as soon as the necessary preparatory steps had been taken for the appeal a judge of the High Court considered the case on 10th March and at once granted an application for an accelerated hearing. I am assured that Dr. Allen was reasonably treated in all the circumstances.

Mr. A. Henderson

Have any representations of any kind been made in this case?

Mr. Bottomley

I have been in constant contact about this case all the time and I am satisfied that the High Commissioner and his staff have done everything possible on behalf of Dr. Allen. Although the prison at Jos is a very long way from the nearest British office in Nigeria, members of the staff have paid no fewer than 14 visits to Dr. Allen. In addition, the High Commissioner has been in constant touch with both Dr. Allen's counsel and the court authorities about the progress of the case. Moreover the prison authorities have treated Dr. Allen with special consideration and the services of a medical specialist have always been available to him. In short, bearing in mind that Nigeria is an independent member of the Commonwealth, I am satisfied not only that everything possible has been done by the British authorities on behalf of Dr. Allen, but that the Nigerian Government for its part has dealt with the case in the judicial tradition which we expect from a fellow member country of the Commonwealth.

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