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Dartmoor Prison (Escapes)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1957.

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Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton 12:00 am, 6th June 1957

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the prison authorities accepted the aid of the foxhound pack of the Mid-Devon Hunt last Thursday to search for a prisoner escaped from Dartmoor.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The prison authorities are not responsible for the search for escaped prisoners and were not consulted in the matter.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

While welcoming the statement made by the Home Secretary that the prison authorities were neither consulted nor in fact approved the use of foxhounds in this case, may I ask him to say that he does not view with favour the use of foxhounds in such cases, no shortage of police dogs having been reported?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I am not ready to make any observations on this matter. I must leave this case to the discretion of the local constabulary, and in particular to the chief constable involved.

Photo of Mr Victor Yates Mr Victor Yates , Birmingham, Ladywood

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement upon the recent escape from Dartmoor Prison and the subsequent discovery of firearms in the prison; and what steps he is taking to deal with the situation.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The prisoner Fowler escaped in thick fog from an outside party on 14th May. I see no reason to connect his escape with the subsequent discovery of firearms. As to this, on 13th May a pistol and ammunition were found by a woman cleaner in the lavatory of a train on which prisoners were being conveyed by an escort from Dartmoor to London. On 19th May, the authorities discovered another pistol and ammunition buried in the quarry outside the prison. The prison and police authorities are aware of the possibility that further weapons may have been concealed, and necessary precautions have been taken.

Photo of Mr Victor Yates Mr Victor Yates , Birmingham, Ladywood

In view of the public anxiety about these escapes, and the unsatisfactory arrangements in the opinion of prison officers, will the Home Secretary undertake an inquiry into whether the present system is satisfactory, so as to ensure that these events cannot occur again?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I understand the anxiety of the hon. Member and of the House about these revelations, but I do not think that an inquiry is necessary, because the Prison Commissioners have already taken most drastic action to deal with the situation. I am not prepared to give publicly particulars of that action, because it would not be in the general interest that I should do so, but I assure the hon. Member that the matter is well in hand and was brought fully to my attention.