asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about Sue Berry, aWatford Postreporter, who was arrested in the West End of London on 8th July, detained in a cell for 2 hours 40 minutes, charged with obstructing the pavement having been told to move on and subsequently found not guilty, and who was urged by the police, before the trial, to plead guilty and not be a nuisance.>
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis tells me that Miss Berry was arrested at about 8.30 p.m. on 8th July with 13 other persons. About half an hour later she was charged with wilfully obstructing the footway. She was placed in a cell while inquiries were made about bail and was released at 11.30 p.m. as soon as these inquiries had been completed. Nothing has been found to support the allegation that an officer suggested that she should plead guilty. Miss Berry has not been able to identify any such officer.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the policemen who told this girl to plead guilty was the very man who gave evidence in court against her? Is he going to allow this kind of thing to continue? Is he to tolerate this kind of thing or will he make an example of this policeman? What does he think would happen to me if I as counsel for the defence went to a witness for the prosecution and said, "Do not give evidence against this girl, she is not guilty."?
I am not prejudging this case in any way. I am not necessarily accepting what my hon. Friend has told me. The position is that Miss Berry made no complaint to the police and, despite the fact that she is a journalist, she was unable when interviewed to identify any police officer alleged to have put this pressure on her. I certainly do agree that it is highly improper for police officers to put pressure on people to plead guilty.