asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the action of the police in taking proceedings against certain persons for annoying or insulting behaviour in Hyde Park; whether action has in all cases only been taken on police evidence; whether the police have in any case been able to produce as witnesses any persons who have been so annoyed or insulted; and whether, in view of the fact that nearly all of these cases have been unsuccessful either in court or on appeal, and considering the very grave effect which may be produced upon the career and life of an individual by an unjust or unsubstantiated charge of this nature being made against him, he can assure the House that the best possible use is being made of the police in this connection, and that the greatest possible care is exercised before such charges are made?
I find that since 1st January, 1921, 318 persons (154 males and 164 females) have been charged by the police with misbehaviour of this kind in Hyde Park. Of these, only seven (three males and four females) were discharged by the magistrate, and these were, I believe, discharged under the Probation of Offenders Act. In three cases of males the convictions were quashed on appeal. In only seven cases members of the public consented to come forward and give evidence. These figures show how little foundation there is for the insinuation contained in the question. I see no reason whatever to doubt that the police generally use very great discretion in bringing charges of this nature.
Has the right hon. Gentleman given consideration to the last part of my question, and can he assure us that the greatest possible care will be exercised before bringing a charge, which may or may not be true, against an individual which is certain to ruin his whole future life and career?
Yes, Sir. I have already said that I am quite satisfied that that is being done, and I think the fact that only seven cases out of 318—and those under the Probation of Offenders Act—were discharged, shows very clearly that the police must have been most careful in bringing charges.
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it advisable that charges of that nature should be brought on the uncorroborated testimony of one policeman, without the evidence of a superior officer or some member of the public?