HC Deb 20 February 1992 vol 204 c456
12. Mr. Burns

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the case of Derek Bentley.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The report which I have received from the police is receiving careful consideration. I shall decide as soon as I can whether any action on my part is appropriate in this case.

Mr. Burns

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he recall that it is now 40 years since that unfortunate and backward youth was hanged? Does he accept that not only that youth's family but many other people have a total lack of comprehension as to how someone could be hanged in this country when he was in police custody when the gun was fired and the unfortunate police officer was killed by another person? Although it is 40 years since the incident, I urge my right hon. Friend to give urgent consideration to the case because the suffering of Derek Bentley's family continues day in and day out.

Mr. Baker

I appreciate the importance of the case and the public interest in it. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has taken new evidence which has been received and is being assessed by my Department. It will then be submitted to me and I shall review not only that evidence but all the earlier evidence, the reports of the trial and all the voluminous other aspects of the case. I assure my hon. Friend that I shall do that as soon as I can.

Mr. Corbett

I congratulate the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) on raising this issue. Has the Home Secretary considered exercising his powers of a posthumous pardon in this case? If he has, will he explain why he decided not to act? Secondly, I urge him to make the best possible speed in this matter because for many of us it represents the most dreadful stain on our criminal justice system.

Mr. Baker

The material new facts that have emerged involve new evidence from certain officers who were present on the night of the crime and who witnessed certain things. That evidence has to be assessed, and when that is done I shall, of course, make a decision.