3 FEBRUARY 1956, Page 7

A Spectator's Notebook

THE HOME SECRETARY has not yet succeeded in doing or saying anything sensible about the case of the three men who were Wrongfully convicted of assaulting a policeman. He first of all Made an award of only i1,000 and distributed it amongst them in indefensible proportions. He then confided to the House of Commons that he regarded the award as "generous'—which of all the adjectives he might have used was easily the least appropriate. He followed this up with the remark that the trial Judge had authorised him to say that if the men had not Perjured themselves so much during the course of the trial `they probably would not have been convicted.' This observa- tion seems to me quite beside the point and to reflect little credit upon the judge. It is just possible that MPs and others Would have shared the judge's complacency on this point if they had been allowed to see the evidence. for it. But Mr. Lloyd George, answering Mr. Willey, said that under the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907, he could not make a transcript of the evidence available 'save in the most exceptional circumstances.' There must be very few people who would deny that the wrong- ful conviction and imprisonment of three men is exceptional. But Mr. Lloyd George is one of them. `Such circumstances do not appear to me to exist in the present case.' The previous Nome Secretary put a copy of the Evans trial transcript in the Commons Library and since there would seem to be'no grounds for distinguishing between the two cases either Lord Kilmuir was wrong then or Mr. Lloyd George is wrong now (perhaps the Home Secretary should have.consulted the Lord Chancellor about this). In fact the Criminal Appeal Act says nothing what- ever about 'exceptional circumstances,' which seems to be a Phrase invented for the purpose by the Home Office. Mr. Lloyd George's crowning inanity was to say, 'There is no question of attempting to conceal what took place at the trial, which of course was held in public.'