HC Deb 28 March 1968 vol 761 cc1707-8
24. Mr. Arnold Shaw

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will give an assurance that the making of a personal apology by the Deputy Commissioner of Police to Lady Diana Cooper on 23rd February will not be made a general practice in similar cases in the future.

Mr. Taverne

I hope that there will be no similar cases in the future.

Mr. Shaw

Would my hon. and learned Friend agree that such treatment would not be given in the case of a less exalted person? Secondly, would not he suggest that the Assistant Commissioner might have a better use for his time?

Mr. Taverne

My hon. Friend is in a sense suggesting that special favour was shown to a member of the aristocracy, whereas it is true that the police acted in a particularly unjustified manner against a member of the aristocracy because they did not follow their normal procedure of checking information before applying for a search warrant. Since an. abnormally irregular procedure was followed, I think that an abnormal apology was justified.

Mr. Hogg

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that when the police make an unjustifiable mistake of this kind they will always apologise, whoever it may be?

Mr. Taverne

Even in cases where the police have every justification for asking for a search warrant, when they find that they have made a mistake, and nothing is found on the premises, they apologise.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

My hon. and learned Friend may say that preferential treatment was not shown in this case, but is it not a fact that at least six or seven similar cases have been reported during the last six or seven months, and that in not one instance, other than that involving this noble Lady, did the Deputy-Commissioner go along and apologise?

Mr. Taverne

My hon. Friend is wrong. We debated this on an Adjournment debate, and I showed that in the case my hon. Friend had in mind there was no lack of justification for the issue of a warrant. It was justified, even though in certain cases nothing was found on the premises, and even there an apology was made.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is it not a case of noblesse oblige?

Mr. Taverne

The hon. Gentleman can put it very eloquently in French.