HC Deb 27 November 1975 vol 901 cc1026-7
8. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications he is now considering for appeals to be heard against allegedly unfair sentences.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On the assumption that my right hon. Friend means cases in which representations have been made to us alleging wrongful conviction, I regret that this information could not be provded without disproportionate effort.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the Minister aware that there is intolerable delay in considering appeals? For instance, in the Confait case the Catford boy's family and friends had to wait two years before an appeal was heard. Is my hon. Friend not aware that these delays cause considerable anguish to families and friends? What is being done to improve the speed with which these appeals are considered? In particular, what is being done to speed up the appeal of George Davis?

Mr. Lyon

My hon. Friend seems to be labouring under some misapprehension, and to have confused an appeal to the Court of Appeal with a representation to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that there has been a miscarriage of justice. The Davis case is subject to the normal laws relating to appeals to the Court of Appeal. The appeal has not been heard. It is sub judice, and the first time that my right hon. Friend would have any right to make any representations about it would be after it has been heard by the Court of Appeal.

It took a long time for the Department to consider the various representations made about the Confait case because we exhaustively examined every detail of it. Although I cannot give an accurate estimate, the Department receives about 4,000 representations a year in respect of cases of alleged wrongful conviction. That is bound to put a strain upon the staff of the Department.

Mrs. Knight

Will the Minister confirm my observations, which are the result of the large number of letters that I have received from persons currently being detained at Her Majesty's pleasure, that over 90 per cent. of prisoners believe that they have been given an unjust sentence? Will he accept my sympathy at the administrative problems involved?

Mr. Lyon

I am bound to agree with the hon. Lady. I remember that when I was at the Bar I never had a client who did not think that he had been wrongfully convicted.