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Ex-Inspector Syme.

Oral Answers to Questions — Genoa Conference. – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1922.

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asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that ex- Inspector John Syme, of the Metropolitan Police, was sentenced on 18th November, 1921, to three months' imprisonment in default of finding sureties to be of good behaviour for 12 months: that the prisoner has resorted to hunger-and-thirst strike, refusing even to partake of water, as a protest against his imprisonment; that he was temporarily released from Pentonville Prison on 23rd May under the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for lil-Health) Act, 1913; that this is the seventh release during the term of the sentence imposed on 18th November last; how many days of this sentence have been served and how many days still remain to be served; what has been the cost incurred by the police authorities and prison service, respectively, in cab fares and expenses of escort conveying the prisoner to and from Brixton, Wandsworth, and Pentonville Prisons and his home since his original arrest on l5th November; whether police officers attached to the Special Branch, New Scotland Yard, have been employed daily keeping observation on ex-Inspector Syme during his periods of temporary release; what has been the total cost to the police authorities in wages and expenses of the officers so employed; whether four officers were employed daily on this duty between 22nd April and 18th May; whether such observation is usually kept on prisoners temporarily released; and, in view of the need for economy in the police service, will he consider the desirability or advisability of granting an inquiry into ex-Inspector Syme's alleged grievance?

Photo of Mr Edward Shortt Mr Edward Shortt , Newcastle upon Tyne West

The facts are correctly stated in the first part of the question. Owing to Syme's persistency in refusing to take sustenance when in prison, he has, I understand, actually served only 41 days out of the three months' imprisonment passed on him in November. I cannot say what is the total cost incurred by the police in connection with the case, but it must be considerable. For other than financial reasons I greatly regret. the exceptional measures to which the hon. Member draws attention, but I see no alternative. I cannot regard Syme's persistency as affording any ground for departing from the decision which was arrived at after repeated consideration of his case by my predecessors and myself.


In view of the persistence of this individual, as the right hon. Gentleman says, in trying to bring before the public what he considers to be a grievance against the Government, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that this man has been sufficiently punished, and that it would be a greater economy to the nation not to be constantly imprisoning and constantly releasing him and having him followed up and clown the streets, when released, by detectives?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

That question has already been answered.


I want to know whether this cat-and-mouse Act is going to be continued in regard to this individual, and whether it is not a case of atrocity on the part of the British Government regarding an individual who has been persecuted for the last four or five years?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

The hon. Member is repeating the original question.