§ 3.43 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, I hope it will meet your Lordships' convenience if, with your permission, I bring to your notice a Statement which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made in another place about Mr. Justice Brabin's Report on the case of Timothy Evans. I will use my right honourable friend's own words.
"I am sure the House would wish me to express our thanks to Mr. Justice Brabin for the painstaking and thorough way in which he conducted the Inquiry into this case and for the comprehensive nature of his Report. 28 Mr. Justice Brabin's conclusion, as the House will be aware, is that it is now impossible to establish the truth beyond doubt but that it is more probable than not that Evans did not kill his daughter, for whose murder he was tried, convicted and executed. In all the circumstances I do not think it would he right to allow Evans' conviction to stand. I have therefore decided that the proper course is to recommend to Her Majesty that She should grant a Free Pardon, and I am glad to be able to tell the House that The Queen has approved my recommendation and that the Free Pardon was signed this morning.
"This case has no precedent and will, I hope and believe, have no successor."
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I have not really much comment to make about this Statement, except perhaps on the last sentence:This case has no precedent and will, I hope and believe, have no successor.With that we all agree. However, I think that the Report itself and even this Statement raise the question of whether it is worth while, years after the event, to go on having a series of inquiries when witnesses are dead or cannot be found. I will not say more than that because I have nothing adverse to say about the Statement as such.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, I should like to say how much we welcome this Statement and how glad we are, first, that the Government recommended as they did to Her Majesty and, secondly, that Her Majesty has been pleased to approve the recommendation and that a Free Pardon has been signed in the case of Timothy John Evans.
In answer to the previous speaker, may I say that in my opinion it was absolutely necessary to have this investigation. There was a great feeling that injustice had been done to this poor man, and I am very glad indeed that the inquiry was held. We on these Benches are all delighted with the action taken by the Government in this matter.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for what he has said, speaking 29 on his own behalf and that of his noble friends. At this stage I would prefer not to commenton what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, except to say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that this matter was of great and paramount importance to Mrs. Probert, the mother of Timothy Evans, and to a great many people in this country, and above all it was of great importance to justice.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, could the Minister confirm that a Free Pardon is not a pardon in the ordinary sense in which we use the word nowadays but is in fact a total exoneration and places the person inexactly the same position as if he had never been accused of committing the offence? In these circumstances, is it not a great pity that we go on clinging to this outdated expression "Free Pardon", which can give to the man in the street the feeling that this man has committed an offence and has been forgiven, and should we not replace this expression with some other suitable expression which makes manifest that what has happened is the granting not of a pardon but of a total exoneration?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I can confirm that the effect of a Free Pardon is to expunge a conviction, and in this case is an admission by the State that Evans was wrongly put to death.
With regard to the further matter raised by the noble Lord, I would submit that this is another and much wider matter, which certainly merits consideration and which I will bring to the notice of my right honourable friend.