HC Deb 13 July 1978 vol 953 cc675-7W
Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has now considered the motion passed in the House of Lords regarding the case of Mr. D. C. Anderson; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Millan

I have examined with great care the detailed representations made by Mr. Anderson and others. I have now also considered the representations made in another place that I should either recommend the exercise of the Royal Prerogative in favour of Mr Anderson or institute an independent inquiry.

Recommendations for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative are clearly matters for the personal decision of the Secretary of State. I should rightly be criticised if I intervened lightly or unjustifiably to overturn decisions of courts of law. In a case such as this it would be wrong of me to substitute myself for the sheriff, who heard the evidence under oath and subject to cross-examination, or for the appeal court.

In considering whether to recommend a free pardon, the principal issue I face is this: are there any factors of substance which constitute grounds for my believing that the verdict of guilty recorded against the person involved may be a miscarriage of justice? I appreciate that the present form of appeal in Scotland open to those tried under summary procedure does not permit a full review of the evidence heard by the sheriff or of his verdict, but it is certainly not a sufficient ground for recommending a free pardon in any particular case that there has been criticism of the appeal procedure prescribed by law and followed in that case.

Against that background, I have taken into account criticisms made of the evidence in court in the case against Mr. Anderson. In addition, as is proper in a Prerogative case, I have considered factors of substance which were not before the court but which bear on the question of Mr. Anderson's innocence or guilt. I refer to the fact that, as is not disputed, Mr. Anderson made two separate relevant admissions to senior officials before his trial, and to a number of subsequent explanations he has given of why those admissions were made.

Mr. Anderson saw the then Crown agent and subsequently wrote two letters to him before his trial. He wrote the first of these on 26th December 1972, giving a description of an encounter with two girls on the night of 18th December which was inconsistent with his subsequent alibi defence. He wrote a second letter on 12th January 1973—following receipt of the complaint from the procurator fiscal—to the effect that he had wrongly placed the incident with the two girls and that it had taken place a week earlier. He subsequently stated that this second account was untrue and has said that no such incident occurred. Both these letters have been widely circulated by Mr. Anderson, and I am placing copies in the Libraries.

On 10th January 1973, following his receipt of the complaint from the procurator fiscal, Mr. Anderson also made an admission to the same effect as that in his letter of 26th December at a meeting with the then permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office. A record was made of that meeting in an internal memorandum in the Scottish Office. Mr. Anderson has asked to see the memorandum, and in all the circumstances I have decided to supply him with a copy and to put a copy in the Libraries.

I am aware of no other factors bearing upon Mr. Anderson's conviction that are relevant to my Prerogative decision. No fresh issue was raised in the debate in another place to justify a departure from my previous decision.

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