HC Deb 13 April 1921 vol 140 cc1136-7W

asked the Prime Minister whether he will inform the House of the several amounts paid in fees to the four Counsel appearing for the Crown in the prosecution which took place at the recent Cardiff Assizes relating to the scuttling of the ss. "Glendalough"; and why, having regard to the fact that the Government are curtailing their expenditure in essential matters such as education, the expense of employing the Solicitor-General, a King's Counsel, and two junior Counsel was incurred for the purpose of such prosecution?


I have been asked to answer this question. No fees have yet been paid to Counsel for the prosecution. As to the second part of the question, the case was one of a wholly exceptional character, and involved very considerable preparation. It was described by the learned Judge who tried it as of "supreme importance" He stated that it was essential that in a community which is dependent for its very existence upon its mercantile marine the strictest investigation should be made wherever an allegation of impropriety or of a criminal offence is made against those who have the management or care of vessels. The case occupied 16 days at the police-court and five days at the trial. One case was tried out, and both defendants were convicted; in the second case, after it had been opened, the defendant pleaded guilty. The depositions and exhibits were very voluminous and amounted to some 4,000 folios of written matter. The case was the outcome of an inquiry which lasted for 20 days before a Court of Inquiry sitting at the instance of the Board of Trade. It was undertaken by the Director of Public Prosecutions as being the most important case of its kind for many years, and was undertaken to a large extent in the interests of merchant seamen. It was thought that a Law Officer should bear the responsibility of conducting the prosecution, and it is the invariable practice for a King's Counsel of the Circuit to be instructed with him. Apart from this practice, the case was of such an exceptionally heavy character that the employment of four Counsel would have been amply justified. I may add that the whole of the expenses will not fall upon the Imperial Exchequer, as in law a considerable part of the costs of a prosecution is borne by the locality in which it is undertaken.

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