HC Deb 16 July 1964 vol 698 cc278-9W
49. Miss Bacon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, before taking any final decision about disciplinary action against the two prison officers who were in charge of Kenneth de Courcy when he escaped, he will order a full and independent investigation into the circumstances in which the prisoner was given exceptional privileges.

50. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of his admission that a grave error of judgment in his Department led to the escape of the prisoner K. de Courcy, and that this man should not have been allowed to visit his solicitors' office while his appeal was before the High Court, he will cancel the reprimand administered to the two prison officers who were ordered to escort de Courcy on this occasion, and thus, without their knowledge, to take part in an unlawful act.

Mr. Brooke

I explained in my answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) on 9th July the reason why it was decided to grant facilities to this prisoner for consultation with his legal advisers at their office. The circumstances in which these facilities were, in error, continued after the hearing of his appeal had started have already formed the subject of an inquiry on behalf of the Court of Criminal Appeal, and a full explanation and apology were given on my behalf in open court, and accepted. The Court instructed its officers to assist my Department in the preparation of instructions designed to ensure that the correct procedure in regard to appellants whose appeals are being heard by the Court is always followed in future.

The disciplinary charge against the two prison officers to whose custody the prisoner was entrusted at the time of the escape was solely concerned with their duty to keep in their custody and within their sight a prisoner whom they were instructed to escort. On this, under the discipline code for prison officers, an award of a reprimand has been made by the prison governor. Under that code they now have a right of appeal to me. If they exercise this right of appeal I will take into account all the circumstances of the case before coming to any decision.