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Criminal Lunatic Department (Robert Smith)

Volume 244: debated on Tuesday 11 November 1930

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he can state the charge preferred against Robert Smith, at present an inmate of Perth criminal lunatic department, who was ordered to be detained during His Majesty's pleasure, by order of Glasgow sheriff court on the 13th October, 1921; the maximum penalty involved if the prisoner had been found guilty; the date since which the prisoner has been certified sane; and the number of years of imprisonment the prisoner has served since becoming sane?

Robert Smith was indicted for assault and attempt to rob and previous convictions. If he had been convicted, the Sheriff could have sentenced him to two years' imprisonment with hard labour, or could have remitted him to the High Court, where a sentence of penal servitude for such period as the Court might think proper would have been competent. Smith was first reported sane on the 28th March, 1923. Since then he has never undergone imprisonment, but excluding time spent under conditional liberation on various occasions, has been an inmate of the Criminal Lunatic Department for about 6½ years. As my hon. Friend is aware the Prisons Department have been endeavouring to find suitable guardianship for Smith in order that he might again be liberated on licence.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that this man, who has been sane since 1923, should be released, seeing that the authorities are not prepared to deal with the charge preferred against him; and are the Government going to keep this man in prison during the rest of his life?

This man can be liberated any time if that course can be followed in the public interest, but my hon. Friend must understand that this man is detained during His Majesty's pleasure under an order of detention pronounced by a competent Court under the statutory authority of the Lunacy Act of 1857. The authorities have no interest in the world in detaining this man if he can be liberated consistently with his own welfare and the public welfare. If the hon. Member will submit some further proposals for his proper guardianship, and, if they are acceptable, this man can be liberated to-morrow.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. This involves the liberty of a man who has been detained for six years since he has been sane, and I think it is a horrible thing that this should be allowed—