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Oral Answers to Questions — Trials (Transcripts)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd February 1964.

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Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West 12:00 am, 3rd February 1964

asked the Attorney-General if he will require the Director of Public Prosecutions to request a transcript of the trial of Dr. Stephen Ward; and if he will make such a transcript available to Mr. Ludovic Kennedy and Messrs. Victor Gollancz Ltd. upon payment of an appropriate fee.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that Mr. Ludovic Kennedy applied for a transcript, was told that he could have one on payment of £200, that he and Mr. Gollancz, an author and publisher of the highest repute, agreed to pay the cost of the transcript, and that then for some reason the application was referred for virtually ex parte consideration by some unknown judge in camera and that, ex camera, one always expects the negative?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

I am not aware of alt that the hon. Gentleman has said. I am aware that Mr. Kennedy made such an application. The hon. Gentleman is an author and also a lawyer, and I know that he will appreciate the law and Section 16(1) of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907. It would surely be plainly wrong for the Director, for whom I answer, to obtain a transcript where the court has refused the application. The Director can properly obtain a transcript only for the purpose of the discharge of his statutory duties; and these do not include the supply of transcripts to authors.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is it not a fact that up till now transcripts have been provided for the authors of the Notable Trials series and at least two other series of public trials? What is there to hide about this? Why was agreement made to provide the transcript and the matter then referred to a judge in chambers?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

The hon. Gentleman is, to a certain extent, anticipating the next Question. His Question would require me to require the Director to take certain steps. I would suggest that, having regard to the refusal of that application by the court, it would not be right so to do.

Photo of Sir Martin Lindsay Sir Martin Lindsay , Solihull

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the anxiety about the way in which this case has been handled is not in the least confined to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and that those who have read the correspondence find it extraordinarily hard to understand why transcripts are made available in some cases and not in others? Will my right hon. and learned Friend have a look at this matter again?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

My hon. Friend must realise that this is a matter where an application was made to the court and that under the rules of the court and the Statute it is a matter only for the court. There are various provisions made within the Statute If it is a matter for changing the law, it is not a matter for me. I am answering only on what is the duty of the Director.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Whatever the present state of the law, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a good reason why the transcript should be refused to reputable people and, if not, surely this House has power to alter the law? Will he give an undertaking that legislation will be introduced to do so?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

I cannot say why a transcript should be refused by the court. The right hon. Gentleman well knows that it could not and should not and that he would not want it to be the responsibility of the Executive to be able to reply to such a question. All I can say is that the duty of the Director, where the court has refused an application, could only be to obtain transcripts for his own use, with the exceptions to which I will refer when we come to the next Question.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

I am not talking about a particular case, but can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give reasons why the transcript of cases in open court should be refused; if he cannot, will he undertake to alter the general law, quite apart from this case?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

There are quite clearly reasons why some could be refused, as people might make applications for cases of a particular nature of which they would seek to have a transcript; reference can be made to cases of grave indecency and matters of that kind where it would be right and proper to refuse them. In the circumstances, the provision has been made that there shall be rules that the parties interested shall be entitled to get a transcript, but no other persons, save in exceptional circumstances.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Why is it not possible, when, as here, it is a matter of wide public interest, for steps to be taken to enable the transcriot to be made available for historical and other purposes? In this particular case, would he consider whether there was not the possibility of an appeal from the order which was made in camera, and, if there is the possibility of appeal, would he direct the Director of Public Prosecutions to enter an appeal?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

No, Sir. There is no such possibility of appeal and there is no such power. The power arises under Section 16(1) of the Criminal Appeal Act and the rules made there under, and therefore the Director cannot in any way interfere.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

asked the Attorney-General what applications for transcripts of trials for the purpose of authorship have been granted by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the last five years; and which have been refused.

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

The Director of Public Prosecutions has lent six transcripts to authors on the authority of the Court of Criminal Appeal. He has granted no applications on his own authority. No record is kept of applications which have been refused.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Is it not a fact that the Act specifically says that a transcript may be provided to a person interested? There is nothing wrong with the law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman now says that other authors have been able to borrow transcripts for nothing, but this very reputable author and publishers were told that they would have to pay £200—and agreed to pay it—and why is there this discrimination? Why was the matter referred to the court when it was not necessary to refer it to the court under the Act or under the rules, and indeed the agreement was made without any reference to the court? Is Miss Marilyn Rice-Davies to be the only distinguished author who can write about this case?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

I know of no application save the application made by Mr. Kennedy, as I understand it, to the court itself. A party interested means the appellant or the respondent. With regard to my present answer to this Question, there have been, as I said, six cases. All of these have been on the authority of the court, and those authors have been able to have a transcript.