Skip to main content

Capital Sentence (Medical Inquiries)

Volume 437: debated on Thursday 8 May 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when, and by whom, application was made for an examination of the mental condition of Thomas John Ley, recently under sentence of death.

Consideration of the question whether a medical inquiry shall be held into the mental condition of a prisoner under sentence of death does not depend on the receipt of an application. It is my duty in every capital case to consider whether any question arises as to the prisoner's state of mind, and to order a medical examination whenever I have reason to think further inquiry desirable.

But does my right hon. Friend not realise that the defence of insanity was never raised at the trial, and was never raised in the Court of Criminal Appeal; and in view of the general disquiet about this case, will he assure the House that this is not a trial by doctors to supersede a trial by jury?

No, Sir. I am not bound in my consideration of the case by what has been submitted either to the lower court or to the Court of Criminal Appeal. I have to examine all the documents—and they are many and various—which come into my possession with regard to each individual case. If I have any doubt as to the mental stability of the person who has been sentenced to death it is my duty to order a medical inquiry. If that medical inquiry takes a certain course, the matter is then taken completely out of my hands.