HC Deb 08 October 1924 vol 177 cc530-1W

asked the Secretary for Scotland (1) whether, seeing that it has hitherto been the practice to consult the Prison Commissioners on all questions of liberation of prisoners before the completion of their sentences, he will say whether the Commissioners were consulted before the liberation of John McVey and Joseph Trainer, who were each sentenced to 15 years' penal servitude at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh on 31st January, 1919, for forging and uttering Treasury notes, and were released after serving 5½ years of their term of imprisonment; whether the Commissioners were aware of the fact that it was proved in evidence at the trial that these two men visited Lanarkshire mining villages on Saturday afternoons and evenings and during busy hours passed bogus notes for small purchases and, further, that McVey had in his house a plate for making forgeries and uttering Treasury notes; whether any representations, written or oral, were made for their release; and what were the reasons for which their liberation was ordered;

(2) whether any liberations of prisoners before the completion of their sentences have been granted without consultation with the Prison Commissioners since the present Government assumed office; and, if so, how many?


I think that the assumption upon which the two questions proceed is based upon a misapprehension. It is not the practice to consult the Prison Commissioners on questions of the liberation of prisoners. The Commissioners are only consulted where questions of health or other special circumstances coming within their purview are involved. During my tenure of office there have been 15 eases of special liberation (including those of McVey and Trainer) in which occasion for reports by the Prison Commissioners did not occur and one case in which such occasion did occur. For the reasons which have given the extent to which the Prison Commissioners were aware of the, evidence given at the trial of McVey and Trainer is not material. A petition in favour of the release of McVey and Trainer was sent to me last March, and after full consideration I felt justified in advising that the men should be released on licence after serving 5½ years. I would remind the hon. Member that it would be contrary to practice to state the grounds on which the prerogative of mercy is exercised in any case but my decision was only reached after very carefully considering all the circumstances.