HC Deb 21 December 1973 vol 866 cc1788-803

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)

I wish to raise the case of Mr. Philip Jones who lives in Meols, Wirral, Cheshire, in Mr. Speaker's constituency. The solicitors who act for him have their office in my constituency, and obviously I am raising the matter with Mr. Speaker's knowledge and consent.

It is a case involving injustice to an individual which the law seems incapable of disentangling and in which the Home Secretary refuses to use his power to intervene. I raise the case here because of the Home Secretary's refusal to recommend the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of mercy to set aside the conviction of Mr. Jones for a motoring offence—a conviction which, in the light of evidence now available though not made available at the trial, is, at the very least, unsafe.

The facts are simply stated. On 2nd August 1972 Mr. Jones was driving his car, a Toledo, along the A59 from Liverpool in the direction of Preston. His car was in collision with the rear of another car. The driver and one passenger in that car were injured. Mr. Jones suffered extensive head injuries, had to undergo brain surgery and to this day remembers nothing of the circumstances of the accident.

Mr. Jones was summoned for driving his car without due care and attention contrary to Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1960.

The driver of the car which Mr. Jones had hit made a statement to the police to the effect that her car was stationary at the time it was hit. The statement of facts sent by the police to Mr. Jones in support of the summons indicated further that there was an independent witness. This witness was the driver of a tanker coming in the opposite direction to Mr. Jones's car. This witness stated that There seemed to be plenty of room for him to overtake … but he did not pull out except for a couple of feet". It appeared, therefore, that Mr. Jones had carelessly struck a stationary car on his own side of the road and that the only independent witness supported the prosecution case. Certainly neither Mr. Jones nor his solicitor knew of any other witness. Indeed Mr. Jones, because of his amnesia, was unable to instruct his solicitor, Mr. Berkson, of Berkson & Berkson, Birkenhead. Mr. Berkson's managing clerk telephoned the police and a police officer repeated the case against Mr. Jones.

In those circumstances Mr. Jones was advised to plead guilty. He did so. At Ormskirk Magistrates' Court on 8th December 1972 he was fined £15 and his licence was endorsed. The Minister will agree that the size of the penalty in no way affects the principle with which we are here concerned.

About three weeks later, when Mr. Jones's insurers received an abstract of the police report of the collison, it was discovered that there had in fact been another independent witness and that this witness also had made a written statement to the police before the trial. This witness was the driver of a coach following Mr. Jones at the time of the collison. One may think that the driver of a coach following behind would have a particularly good view of the accident. This statement said that as Mr. Jones's car was on top of the pale blue car—that is, the car hit by Mr. Jones—that car appeared to move off at an angle across the roadway. Again I quote the statement: The driver of the Toledo was forced to brake hard as the gap had closed through which he intended to go". A further fact emerged. The driver of the pale blue car had said that she had stopped while two of her passengers had alighted to purchase some tomatoes at a nearby farm. But when her car was struck there were three passengers in it. It appeared likely, therefore, that the passengers who had alighted had returned to the car by the time it was struck.

It is easy to see, arising out of these further facts, a rather different interpretation of the incident than that believed by the magistrates—and, indeed, by the defence—at the time of the trial. Is it perhaps the case that this accident was of the type that so easily occurs when a stationary car suddenly moves off into the path of overtaking traffic?

Certainly if the facts known to the police at the time of the trial and discovered from the abstract of the police report sent to the insurers had been known to the defence, Mr. Jones would not have pleaded guilty, nor would he have been advised to plead guilty. But the police, the Lancashire police, contrary to what would appear to have been their duty, did not inform the defence of the existence of an independent witness whose testimony conflicted with that on which they intended to rely in bringing the prosecution.

The problem for Mr. Jones now was how to reopen a case in which he had not just been convicted but in which he had mistakenly pleaded guilty when, unbeknown to him at the time, there was a strong defence.

An attempt was made to apply for an order of certiorari setting aside the conviction. This was ruled out by the Divisional Court on the ground that Mr. Jones had not been denied natural justice in the sense in which that term had hitherto been understood by the courts. This was a technical legal decision which I do not here need, nor have I the competence, to discuss. But I may say that, whatever the legal connotation of the term "natural justice", it will seem odd to a layman—and I speak as a layman—that the denial to a defendant of evidence tending to acquit him should not be regarded by the courts as a denial of natural justice.

I can only hope—I should like the Minister to give me an assurance on the point—that the decision of the Lord Chief Justice sitting in the Divisional Court that in this highly technical sense Mr. Jones had not been denied natural justice did not influence the Home Secretary in the decision he eventually made. It is, as I say, quite clear to me that in any ordinary, if not the legal, sense of the term Mr. Jones was denied natural justice. The trial was quite simply unfair.

The first attempt to rectify the injustice having failed, an application was made to the Crown Court for leave to appeal out of time. But this too failed. Leave was refused by a judge, whose clerk prefers him to remain anonymous, and for reasons which have not been supplied. Once more I do not here comment on the anonymity of the judge or on the absence of reasons. Except as part of the story which climaxes by bringing me and the Home Secretary into the case, they are not directly germane to my argument. They are matters which perhaps high legal authorities will now consider. Perhaps today the Minister himself, greatly daring, will tell us who the judge was and whether he has learnt anything of the reasons. But I shall quite understand if he does not do so. I would not wish to place the hon. and learned Gentleman in peril of a justice not merely blindfolded but in this case invisible.

It was at this point, as a third attempt to secure justice for Mr. Jones, that I was brought into the case and made my approach to the Home Secretary.

It is not for me to assert here that Mr. Jones was certainly innocent. There is a conflict of evidence. My own feeling is that, in face of such a conflict of evidence, the magistrates could hardly have convicted. But what is certain is that it was known to the Lancashire police before the trial that there was a conflict of evidence; that they nevertheless failed to inform the defence about this second independent witness who could testify in Mr. Jones's favour; that the testimony of this second independent witness would have been highly relevant; and that, therefore, the conviction must be regarded as unsafe in itself and unjustly arrived at.

It is clear that an injustice has been done. Whether intentionally or not, by denying Mr. Jones the evidence in his favour the police effectively pre-empted the trial. They decided that he should be prosecuted and then concealed evidence which might suggest that he was innocent of the charge. Despite all this there seems to be no way of correcting the injustice, and the Home Secretary has now refused to intervene.

There are several aspects of the case which need clarification but which have not been clarified. Why did the Lancashire police fail to inform the defence about the second independent witness? There is surely no doubt that they should have done so. There seems to be some suggestion that the police authority would have informed the defence had they realised that Mr. Jones was suffering from amnesia. But there is evidence that they were aware of that fact. They were told so by Mr. Berkson's managing clerk, and a policeman who visited Mr. Jones to take a statement about the accident was also told. In any case why should evidence helpful to the defence only be supplied if the defendant has amnesia?

Lord Denning has made it clear that the existence of a witness whom the prosecution does not intend to call because it does not accept his evidence should be made known to the defence so that it can call him if it wishes. Lord Denning did not say that this rule applied only if the defendant was suffering from amnesia. A Law Society paper has argued that a defendant should not be denied access to "reasonable and relevant information". The Law Society paper does not say that this axiom applies only to defendants suffering from amnesia. The police, whether or not they knew of the defendant's state of health, were under a duty to him and to the cause of justice which they did not fulfil.

Why, then, did not the Lancashire police inform the defence? On 28th August 1973 I wrote to Mr. Stanley Parr, Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary. In my letter I said specifically: I would be grateful if you would let me know why evidence favourable to Mr. Jones, which was known to your Police Force, was not supplied to the defence. On 3rd September 1973, Mr. Parr replied as follows: I am in the process of obtaining full details of the incident. I shall be happy to let you know the result in due course. So on 3rd September Mr. Parr, knowing already of the Home Secretary's interest in the case, nevertheless told me that he, Mr. Parr, would himself let me know the result of his inquiry. However, on 11th October 1973 Mr. Parr wrote to me that … the results of our inquiries have been sent to the House Office and will no doubt be passed on to you in due course. In other words, Mr. Parr had retreated from his earlier assurance. He now evidently relied on the Home Office to inform me of the results of his inquiry. But when, on 27th November, the Home Secretary at last wrote to me, he made no mention at all of the results of Mr. Parr's inquiry into why the Lancashire police had concealed evidence from the defence. So, despite Mr. Parr's willingness on 3rd September to tell me himself once he knew, despite his willingness on 11th October that I should be told, I remain in ignorance of this important answer; and so does Mr. Jones.

I am perfectly prepared to believe that the failure was unintentional. Mistakes can happen even in well-regulated organisations. But the truth should be told, even though the truth would still leave the problem of what to do about Mr. Jones's conviction. What is intolerable is that we should not be told. The Minister has an opportunity today, which I hope he intends to take, to tell the House why the police did not inform the defence. He has the chief constable's authority to do so if he needs it.

In his letter of 27th November the Home Secretary turned down my submission on behalf of Mr. Jones. He apologise for the long delay of three months since I wrote to him on 28th August. The reason for the delay, he said, was that he had been— awaiting a report from the Chief Constable of Lancashire. But that report had been passed to him seven weeks before, by 11th October. What happened in all that time? Was the Home Office dissatisfied with the chief constable's report? Did it ask for further information? Or is it simply that it could not bring itself to think about the question for six weeks after receiving the chief constable's report? Certainly it was not occupying the time formulating persuasive arguments for turning Mr. Jones down.

The Home Secretary's letter is hardly persuasive. There is no attempt at argument at all. There is not even an attempt at an apology for the police's failure. Two paragraphs are devoted to reciting the facts of the case. We then come to the decisive paragraph. It reads as follows: I have the power, as Home Secretary, to recommend the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to set aside a conviction. However, it would not be right for me to use this power in circumstances such as this in the absence of new evidence which clearly established that a defendant had not committed the offence of which he had been convicted, which is not the position here. I have carefully considered Mr. Jones' representations in the light of the inquiries which I have made, but I am sorry to have to tell you that I can find no sufficient grounds to justify my recommending an exercise of the Royal Prerogative in his case ". That is not an argument. It is a reversal which the Home Secretary does not pretend to defend, in its relation to this case, of a central doctrine of British justice. What the Home Secretary is saying is that, because it is not clearly established that Mr. Jones is innocent, he will not set aside the conviction. In other words, the presumption of innocence to which Mr. Jones would have been entitled at the trial had he pleaded not guilty is replaced by a presumption of guilt when it comes to the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. It is not enough that Mr. Jones was denied a fair trial. He must now be denied the setting aside of his conviction because it cannot be clearly established that he was innocent. The police secured his conviction at the trial by concealing a conflict of evidence; and the fact that there is a conflict of evidence is now used by the Home Secretary as an excuse for not setting aside a conviction so improperly obtained.

Surely to the meanest observer it must be apparent that the question in this case is not whether it can be "clearly established" that Mr. Jones is innocent but whether the trial was fair and whether there is substantial doubt about the conviction. The Royal Prerogative to set aside a conviction presumably exists to relieve victims of legal injustice which the law itself cannot unravel. It is perfectly "clearly established", to use the Home Secretary's phraseology, that the trial was unfair and that the conviction is unsafe. The Home Secretary should back away from his legal advisers and use his common sense.

Or are we to be asked to recall that hard cases make bad law or such other dicta, obiter and otherwise, that may so easily spill forth on occasions such as this? Is it perhaps feared that, if the conditions that determine the setting aside of a conviction by use of the Royal Prerogative are once shifted, the sea wall will be down and the Home Secretary will be awash with appeals to his sense of fair play? One needs strong reasons for denying justice, and I am perfectly clear on these facts that Mr. Jones has been denied justice. The Home Secretary should respond to my appeal or show better reason than he has yet done why he should not.

12.35 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) has rightly drawn to the attention of the House the case of Mr. Philip Jones who, as he says, is a constituent of Mr. Speaker. This is a case in which both Mr. Speaker and the right hon. Gentleman have made representations to the Home Office.

Before I answer the various points which have been put to me by the right hon. Gentleman, may I deal with one almost peripheral matter to which the right hon Gentleman referred? He implied that in some way it was the fault of the chief constable, whereas I hope that he will accept my explanation. The right hon. Gentleman said that, although the chief constable had written to him on 3rd September of this year, as I understand it, saying that he would be writing to him, he received a letter on 11th October saying that the chief constable had sent his report to the Home Office.

It is my experience in the Home Office that it is, and always has been, accepted as the normal practice of the police when, as in this case, two right hon. Members write to the Home Secretary and the chief constable is aware of this after a letter to him direct from a right hon. Gentleman, for the chief constable's reply to be sent through the Home Secretary. It certainly was not meant to be any form of discourtesy to the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I have looked at the file. There is a letter from the chief constable to the Home Office saying that he had done that and that as a result, as the police knew that the right hon. Gentleman had written direct to the Home Office, the police did not write direct to him although they had indicated earlier that they would be so doing.

Let us consider the facts of the case. I am aware that it is a case which has caused the right hon. Gentleman a considerable degree of concern. It is one which has been taken up by Mr. Speaker. It is also one which, I am aware, has caused a degree of concern in certain other quarters as well as from Members of the House. Therefore, I am glad of the opportunity to explain the reasons for the Home Office decision in this matter.

The right hon. Gentleman has contended that this is a case in which, as he put it, there has been injustice to an individual. He also contended that as there is no way, apparently, in which this case can be reopened before a court—I think we are both in agreement about that—and as he believes that it is a case of injustice to an individual, the right course is for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to remove the conviction by recommending a free pardon.

My right hon. Friend considered this course very carefully when the case was earlier brought to his attention. The right hon. Gentleman asked me what was happening between 11th October when, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, the report of the Lancashire police was sent to the Home Office, and 27th November when the letter was sent to the right hon. Gentleman. Part of that time was taken up in giving consideration by officials to the question whether the Home Secretary would be justified in recommending that the Royal Prerogative be exercised and in consideration of that matter by the Home Secretary himself.

After careful inquiry my right hon. Friend felt bound to conclude that this was not a case in which it would be right or proper for him to intervene. The reason is that the exercise of the Prerogative is rightly regarded as an exceptional remedy to be used only in very special circumstances. As the right hon. Gentleman will agree, I am sure, the administration of justice is a matter for the courts, and it is well recognised that an executive power which clearly exists should not be used to alter the outcome of judicial proceedings unless there are compelling grounds for doing so. In accordance with that view it has been the practice for many years for the Home Secretary to intervene to recommend a Royal Pardon only if it has clearly been established that the person concerned did not commit the offence of which he was convicted.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he was not here to assert that Mr. Jones was certainly innocent. At one stage he said that the lowest he would put it was that the conviction was unsafe. The standard that has always been accepted as appropriate for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of a free pardon and over-ruling a decision of the court is that the Home Secretary is satisfied that the person concerned was not guilty of the offence of which he was convicted.

I understand the points made by the right hon. Gentleman, but, with the best will in the world, it is impossible in this case to say that one can be satisfied that Mr. Jones was innocent. In considering cases such as this, that is the test which Home Secretaries always have set themselves in deciding whether to exercise the Royal Pardon.

It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that because of what happened the court did not hear evidence in this case. It did not hear the full facts and, in particular, it was not aware of the evidence of the witness Mr. Clare, who was favourable to Mr. Jones. But one cannot overlook the fact that there were two other witnesses. There was the driver of the car, Miss Buchanan, who claimed that her care was stationary at the side of the road, and there was the driver of a lorry coming the other way, who, one must assume, had an excellent view of what was happening. They both say that Mr. Jones ran into the back of this car while it was stationary at the side of the road. One cannot disregard that evidence and say that because there is another witness whose evidence is contrary, one is satisfied that Mr. Jones was wrongly convicted.

I shall not go through all the facts which the right hon. Gentleman set out so adequately. I accept what he says, that Mr. Jones received serious head injuries, that he was taken to hospital and that the police then took three statements—one from Miss Buchanan who was sitting in her car when it was hit, one from the driver of a tanker approaching from the opposite direction, Mr. Richardson, and one from the driver of the coach, Mr. Clare.

Miss Buchanan claimed that her car was stationary. Mr. Richardson said that the car was stationary. Mr. Clare said that the car pulled out suddenly just before the accident occurred. If the evidence of Miss Buchanan and Mr. Richardson were accepted, I do not think anybody could deny that there was at least a clear prima facie case of careless driving.

When Mr. Jones was interviewed by a police officer on 17th September and asked to make a statement, he admitted being the driver of a Triumph car but declined to make a statement. Although the right hon. Gentleman said today that it was made clear to the police at that stage that Mr. Jones was suffering from amnesia, my information is that nothing was said by Mr. Jones at that time about his loss of memory of the accident. He merely declined, as he is entitled, to make a statement.

Faced with those three statements, the police decided—and it is a matter for their judgment—that the circumstances justified a prosecution for careless driving. A summons was therefore issued and a letter sent to Mr. Jones explaining the procedure for pleading guilty by post, and in accordance with that procedure a statement of facts was also enclosed.

It is true that the statement of facts ended with the phrase There is an independent witness. Perhaps I may read the statement: At 3.40 on Wednesday 2nd August the witness Buchanan parked her motor car on the nearside of Moss Lane. This vehicle had been stopped for approximately five minutes when the defendant driving a motor car along Moss Lane collided with the rear of the witness's car. As a result of the collision both vehicles were damaged and three people sustained injuries. At the time of the accident the weather was fine, the road surface dry and visibility good. There is an independent witness. Excluding that last line for a moment, what is said in the statement of facts represents the facts upon which the prosecution relied, their case being that a vehicle had been stopped for approximately five minutes when Mr. Jones's vehicle collided with it from the rear.

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the purpose of the statement of facts is to give to the defendant a concise statement of the case against him. It is, to use the words of the Act, to give a concise statement of such facts relating to the charge as will be placed before the court by or on behalf of the prosecution if the accused pleads guilty when appearing before the court. The police were relying upon the evidence of Miss Buchanan and Mr. Richardson, and the case they were making was based on the evidence of those two witnesses. The fact on which they were relying was that the car was stationary at the time. I do not think it is fair to say that there was anything wrong with the statement of facts that was sent to Mr. Jones.

On 6th December, Mr. Jones's solicitors wrote to the police informing them that it was their client's intention to plead guilty and they were arranging to have someone to speak for him. On 8th December, Mr. Jones was not present but he was represented by counsel at Ormskirk Magistrates' Court, and having pleaded guilty he was fined.

After those proceedings, Mr. Jones's insurance company, as is normal in these cases, wrote asking the police for an abstract of their file on the accident, and that included the names and copies of the statements of all the witnesses, including Mr. Clare.

Mr. Dell

I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman's instructions are different from mine, but mine are that the insurance company wrote on 29th August, that is, well before the proceedings, but did not receive a reply until 28th December, about three weeks after the proceedings.

Mr. Carlisle

That may be so. The right hon. Gentleman is probably aware that it is recognised procedure throughout all police forces that they do not provide the abstract until after any criminal proceedings have been completed. The letter may have been sent at an earlier stage, but the insurance company would be aware that it would not receive a reply until after the proceedings had been completed. That abstract contained the names of the witnesses.

The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there is recognised to be a duty on the prosecution, certainly in the higher court, to supply to the defence the names and addresses of any witnesses from whom they have taken statements but whom they do not propose to call. The difficulty here was that no witnesses were called. No evidence was given because the solicitors acting on behalf of Mr. Jones, having seen the statement of facts, wrote informing the police that their client would be pleading guilty.

I am told by the Lancashire police that had the case been put down for trial they would in the normal way have supplied to the defence the names of all the witnesses from whom they took statements, including Mr. Clare. One must make a distinction between a statement of fact meant to be a concise statement of the prosecution's case and a responsibility which rests on the prosecution to provide the defence at a trial with the names of any witnesses from whom it has taken statements but upon whom the prosecution itself does not rely. Here the prosecution was certainly not relying on Mr. Clare. That is not to say that the police suggested that Mr. Clare was dishonest; it was merely that his explanation was not accepted, while the explanations of Miss Buchanan and Mr. Richardson formed the basis of the statement of facts of the case which the prosecution proposed to put.

Mr. Dell

The hon. and learned Gentleman has enormous experience in the courts, while I have none. Surely what he says implies a great difficulty. I understand that one of the principal objects of presenting a statement of facts is to prevent unnecessary defence of bad cases; in other words, to get people to plead guilty in appropriate cases and so not clog up the courts. On the basis of the facts as known to Mr. Jones and his solicitor, following the statement from the police, this appeared to be such a case. But if the police are then to say that because somebody pleads guilty in ignorance of the fact that there is an important additional independent witness they will not provide the name of that independent witness, all this does is to encourage people not to plead guilty in case it turns out that the police have some evidence which they have not supplied.

Mr. Carlisle

I am not saying that the police will not provide a name because a defendant pleads guilty. The statement of facts does not normally include names of witnesses, and the police were never invited to give the defence the names of witnesses.

There is an area of disputed fact between the solicitors and the police to which I should like to refer. I understand that the solicitors claim that they telephoned the police force at some stage. I am told that the chief constable, having held an inquiry, is unable to trace any record of such a conversation which the solicitors say they had with the police at Southport about the strength of the case against Mr. Jones. I am not necessarily suggesting that there was no such telephone call, because the police get hundreds of calls about cases which are pending and do not necessarily record them all. But the chief constable has been unable, as a result of the inquiry, to find any record of such a call, and none of the officers who might have been thought to have been concerned has any recollection of such a call.

I am sure that had the solicitors asked for the names of the witnesses from whom the police had taken statements they would in these circumstances have supplied the names of those on whom the prosecution did not intend to rely. But, having received the statement of facts, the defence made the decision to plead guilty and informed the prosecution of that.

The only place in which one might say that the statement of facts was in any way misleading is that at the bottom of the statement there is the phrase "There is an independent witness". But that was not a fact on which the police relied. They relied on the fact that the vehicle was stationary and that Mr. Jones ran into it from the back.

The right hon. Gentleman raised certain other questions about the case. As he knows, there was an application to the Divisional Court for an order to quash the conviction. As I understand it, the basis on which the application failed was that the court said there had been no denial of natural justice in that it could not be suggested that there was anything wrong about the hearing before the lower court. It was accepted that Mr. Jones had pleaded guilty, that the facts had been given, that he had been represented, and the court took the view that the order of certiorari ran only where there was some failure in the judicial system. It was accepted on Mr. Jones' behalf, I think, that there had been no failure in the judicial system in this case.

He then made application to appeal out of time to the Lancaster Crown Court. I am not in a position to give the name of the judge who declined to grant the application. I did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had been refused that knowledge. All I can say, from my own general experience, is that an appeal cannot be made against a finding of guilt where a person has pleaded guilty unless it can be shown that there was something which had been said in court which made that plea equivocal.

As I understand it, because Mr. Jones had pleaded guilty, and the defence realised its difficulty in attempting to raise an appeal, it chose first to try to get an order to quash the case by certiorari. I cannot comment on what may have been the reason for the decision which the judge took in this case, but in general an appeal cannot be made to a higher court against a conviction unless it can be shown that the plea of guilty was in itself equivocal.

I accept that the right hon. Gentleman says that there is no appeal through the courts available to Mr. Jones. I also accept, and understand, Mr. Jones' feeling that he has a grievance in that he was unaware that there was a witness whose evidence was contrary to that of other witnesses and who may or may not, depending on the hearing, have influenced the court in deciding whether the case against him was proved.

I repeat that there were two witnesses who clearly raised a substantial prima facie case of careless driving against Mr. Jones and that against them there was one witness whose evidence would appear to exonerate him. I cannot say what influence that witness would have had on the hearing in Ormskirk Magistrates' Court. I appreciate Mr. Jones's feeling and understand why he says he has been hard done by.

Mr. Dell

I am grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman giving way again. He will accept that had Mr. Clare's statement been available to the defence and there had been a trial Miss Buchanan would presumably have been asked about her statement that her car was stationary. I assume that the police, after getting Mr. Clare's statement, asked Miss Buchanan to confirm that she had not suddenly driven out. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the police asked her that question and, if so, what was her reply?

Mr. Carlisle

I cannot without notice say the order in which the statements were taken. I have seen Miss Buchanan's statement, and if my recollection is correct, she claimed she had been stationary for about five minutes sitting in her car when she felt a tremendous bang at the back of the car. That is contrary to the evidence of Mr. Clare. I assume that all three statements were taken from the witnesses in the vicinity of the accident. The evidence of Mr. Richardson, coming the other way, with a full view, confirmed, as I have said, that the car was stationary when it was hit.

However, as I say, I can understand how Mr. Jones feels a sense of grievance, having incurred a conviction without an opportunity to offer a defence of which he was not at that time aware. But I must repeat that the question for my right hon. Friend is whether there is any action that he can properly take. It is, I am afraid, over the essential question of what happened at the time of the accident: can one now be satisfied, on the evidence put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, that Mr. Jones was innocent of the charge which was brought against him? With the best will in the world, and looking at this matter as sympathetically as possible, one was bound to conclude that the case did not add up to the strict standards which Home Secretaries set themselves for granting a Royal Pardon. Therefore, regrettably, the Home Secretary felt himself unable to intervene.