§ 17. Colonel Wedgwood
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the case of three Communists who were fined £5 each for chalking certain words on a building in Stoke-on-Trent, and, if so, will he make inquiries with a view to reducing the sentences?
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I have caused inquiry to be made, and am informed that the three men were convicted of an offence against a local by-law prohibiting the defacing of walls by unauthorised writing without the permission of the owner. The defendants did not appear in answer to the summons, but each sent a letter to the court. It was, of course, open to them to appeal to quarter sessions, but the defendants did not take advantage of the machinery provided by the law for persons who feel themselves aggrieved by the decisions of courts of summary jurisdiction. I regret that having given careful consideration to all the information before me I can find no ground on which I should be justified in advising any interference with the decision of the court.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Does my right hon. Friend recollect the case in which officers who painted Stonehenge, doing permanent damage, were fined £2 each, and does he think that £5 for putting chalk on walls is a proper punishment?
§ Sir S. Hoare
It is not for the Home Secretary to say whether a penalty imposed by a court, on whose shoulders is the responsibility, is right or wrong. In a matter of this kind I am acting in accordance with the precedent adopted by every Home Secretary in the past.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Will the Home Secretary reconsider this matter on the basis of an investigation of the accuracy of one of the statements in the question, and will he also take into consideration the ages of these boys who were fined £5?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I have said that from the information at my disposal there is no justification for my intervention. If the hon. Member will send me any additional facts, of course I will take them into account, without in any way suggesting what action I will take on them.