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Mr David Ian Harvey

Volume 888: debated on Thursday 13 March 1975

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12.42 a.m.

I rise to draw attention to the case of a constituent of mine, Mr. David Ian Harvey, a respected teacher and a member of the Territorial Army, who was recently convicted of offences against several small boys and a young girl, despite his most vigorous protests of innocence and, as many might think, against all probability.

Mr. Harvey was convicted after four months at the Wells Street magistrates' court, London, and was given two suspended sentences of six months each and fined £200 plus £30 for legal aid costs. I note here that the immediate consequence of this conviction, if it is allowed to stand, will be the emphatic and premature ending of my constituent's career as a teacher, in addition to the other disabilities that he will suffer in seeking alternative employment—an unpleasant prospect indeed, but an inescapable one if the allegations against him are true. He has stoutly denied them from start to finish.

In the three years preceding his arrest my constituent had been doing voluntary work for one day at week at Dr. Barnardo's Home in Dulwich. Not only was there no complaint made against him in this respect; it seems that he was held in high regard by permanent staff and pupils alike. Early in September 1974 a member of the permanent staff at the home admitted that some time earlier he had indecently assaulted six of the boys. He was remanded to the Crown Court at Maidstone to appear in November with what result I know not.

Mr. Harvey was arrested soon after and charged with a similar offence. The officer in charge of his subsequent interrogation was one Detective Inspector Taylor, whose methods of interrogation were, to put it mildly, not in the highest traditions of the police force and might, indeed, have qualified him for a senior post in the South African Bureau of State Security, popularly known as BOSS.

I leave aside such relatively minor matters as the fact that my constituent was refused permission for more than five hours for his widowed mother to be informed of his arrest, that he was not offered any food or drink until the next morning, and that he was left to sleep on only bare boards at Peckham police station on the night of his arrest. To be quite fair, I must here pay tribute to an anonymous station sergeant at Peckham police station who was not on duty when Mr. Harvey was brought in and who, towards the end of the night, moved him to another cell where the boards were covered with a foam mattress and a blanket, saying that Mr. Harvey should get his head down for a couple of hours. That officer's genuine concern was much appreciated after what my constituent had just been through.

I return here to Detective Inspector Taylor. As I have indicated, Mr. Harvey was a keen member of the Territorial Army and had been recently issued with a stereoscope, for which item he had signed in the prescribed fashion. He was questioned about this at Feltham police station by Detective Inspector Taylor, and he produced his Intelligence Corps Assocation membership, which showed his name, rank and number, thereby disproving the bullying assertions of the inspector that he had acquired it illegally.

The detective inspector, as I have said, has acquired an interrogation technique which is far from the highest ideals of the police service and seems to comprise an interesting blend of Kojak in the last but-one reel and the grosser excesses of the much hated PIDE, the Portuguese thugs whose removal from power nearly a year ago was greeted with such joy and relief by the long-suffering Portuguese people. There were bullying statements such as:
"You admit you put the boys to bed, sat on their beds and told them ghost stories. Why don't you admit the rest of it? The other one has."
All this was followed by the threat of physical violence—
"I'll thump you in a minute".
followed by a karate chop on to the table which the late Bruce Lee would not have disowned. After two hours of this Mr. Harvey might well have been expected to succumb, but his maintenance of his innocence was as stout as ever, and Taylor finally relented with the words
"You'll feel differently in the morning."
Tempted as one is to follow Detective Inspector Taylor's unique attempts to get Mr. Harvey to confess to everything —at least, I hope they are unique—I must now move on to events at Wells Street magistrates' court where, after a delay of four months or so, my constituent was finally brought to trial on 29th and 30th January this year, before Mrs. A. M. Frisby, a stipendiary magistrate. Here I can hardly do better than quote a passage from a letter sent to me by Mr. Harvey's mother on the morrow of his conviction. She said:
"One of the charges concerned an indecent assault alleged to have taken place on 1st August at Dulwich. The boy said that the indecent assault occurred only on that date. He was asked whether he was sure about the date and insisted that it was correct. In his closing speech Counsel referred specifically to this charge and said he had documentary evidence to prove that my son was taking part in an Open University Summer School at the East Anglia University at Norwich from 27th July to 2nd August inclusive. The documentary evidence was from the University and Hounslow Education Authority who made a grant to my son. Nevertheless, the magistrate found this charge proved, too. So far as I can remember, her actual words were I find all the charges proved except the one that was thrown out.' "
One was thrown out because the witness collapsed in court and could not continue. The letter continued:
"She did not explain how my son was able to be both in Norwich and Dulwich at the same time on the same evening. Some relatives in Norwich, with whom my son spent that particular evening, are willing to confirm the fact. However, I wonder what use this will be when documentary evidence from two official bodies is disregarded.
I presume Counsel will bring this matter up when the appeal is heard, so this letter is by way of information and not a complaint. Incidentally, the boy who started the ball rolling said in Court that he had been angry with Mr. Harvey and said what he did to get back at him. The other agreed that they had all talked it over together before making their accusations."
Her letter continued:
"Until now I would have defended British justice against its detractors, but not now. As a result of these boys' mischief and the inspector's machinations my son is now in Brixton prison on remand. In answer to the question put to me' were you surprised when a charge was made concerning Perry Brown?' I said 'No, I was expecting it.' Of course, I was asked to explain and said that I had been present when the inspector said to my son in a threatening tone of voice 'I'll go and see Perry Brown.' I knew then that a charge would be forthcoming, and it was. This boy had been eagerly looking forward to coming to stay with us again on 24th October so that we could take him out for the day on the 25th. If my son had assaulted him in the painful and disgusting way alleged on 20th September, this would hardly have been the case. He would certainly have complained to his mother, or to me at the time, and his mother and Perry would hardly have welcomed my son and myself so cordially when we went to call at Perry's home a few days before my son was arrested on 22nd October. You can imagine how my son and I feel about the whole affair."
I will now leave the proceedings which resulted in Mr. Harvey's conviction and sentence because, in the remaining time, I wish to refer to a quite remarkable series of tributes which a wide variety of people who knew Mr. Harvey well and had worked with him were prepared to make on his behalf following his arrest. They refer to his character, his suitability as a teacher and his integrity. Let me quote briefly from four of them.

The first is from a former headmaster of Winterbourne Junior Boys' School, where Mr. Harvey was employed from 1973 onwards. Referring to Mr. Harvey, the former headmaster said:
"He proved himself to be a young teacher of above average ability. obviously liking youngsters and understanding their interests. He shows marked potential and an eagerness to master his craft from the daily experience of working in the school. He showed that he had a special insight into the problems of the disadvantaged child and the less able child. The boys liked him and respected him and he created a happy class room atmosphere. On many occasions, I was able to praise and compliment him on his gifted assessments of their abilities and attainments, a quality often rare in teachers with considerably more experience, but one which endeared him in his meetings with parents. The boys were happy and worked well in his care, making excellent progress, particularly with their main difficulty, reading. David Harvey was also very well liked by his colleagues on the staff, men and women with whom he mixed easily and well, both professionally and socially. I knew of his home life, his widowed mother, of his outside interests, the Territorial Army, his studies with the Open University and his voluntary social work—a very normal young man, clean spoken, healthy and presentable in appearance, sincere and trustworthy and morally sound. I had complete confidence in giving him the care of other people's children, to train, to teach and to help in their growing up. This trust was transmitted to and felt by parents and staff alike because of his own transparent integrity, and never did I have any doubt concerning David Harvey's normality. His behaviour never showed any irregular aberrations nor did I have, at any time, any complaints or suggestions from parents that they were apprehensive for the moral safety of their boys."
The second one is from the headmaster of the Burrow Hill School, where Mr. Harvey spent the academic year 1972. He said:
"Mr. David I. Harvey was employed as resident housefather in this boarding school for slow learning boys between 31st January and 31st December 1972.
During this period he lived in close proximity to the boys with whom he worked.
There has never been any suggestion—before or since—that he was not a suitable person to take care of boys. Mr. Harvey was looked upon by his colleagues as a person of complete integrity."
Thirdly, there is a letter from the headmaster, a certain Mr. Clements, of Winterbourne Primary School in Thornton Heath, Surrey. He said:
"To whom it may concern. Mr. D. Harvey",
and he gives his address.
"I have known Mr. David Harvey since September only, but within that space of time I have been able to form a favourable impression of him both as a man and as a teacher.
He is, in my opinion, a man of sound judgment and strict morals. He brings an intelligent approach to all he undertakes and it is refreshing to find someone young who has a social conscience and is prepared to give up considerable time and energy to voluntary work.
As a teacher in this school, Mr. Harvey has proved conscientious and hard-working. His relations with the children with whom he comes into contact suggest a finely balanced attitude of respect and friendliness. He is a kindly but firm disciplinarian. He is a well-read man with a strong sense of humour and wide interests, which make him popular with members of staff, both young and old."
Finally, there is a letter from his family doctor, Dr. Galazka, who said:
"This is to certify that Mr. David I. Harvey has been my patient for the past fifteen years. I know him and his family very well. I always found him an honest and hard working, pleasant, serious young man.
I would be prepared to act as his referee, or to give him a reference for any job he wishes to apply for or for any other reason, whenever required."
Those are the tributes, and I have more here. But in the light of this evidence I feel confident that I am justified in asking my hon. Friend the Minister of State to institute an appropriate form of inquiry into what appears to have been the perverse result of the judicial process in this case.

I have deliberately refrained from seeking to explain how this could have come about. I could have told the House about inefficiency on the part of the ill-briefed barrister who conducted his defence, of the prejudice—and, perhaps, occasional ignorance—of the magistrate trying the case, and other things which have combined to produce this result. Instead, I prefer to leave it to the sound judgment and common sense of my right hon. Friend to use such powers as he possesses to right a wrong, as I believe it to be.,

One final word: I have recently been informed that my constituent will not appeal, despite his continuing protestations of innocence. Lest the uncharitable attach any special importance to this, let me say that were I in Mr. Harvey's financial situation, with my knowledge of the way in which the so-called legal aid system in this country works, I would probably have done the same.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to look at all the circumstances of the case with a view to recommending to my right hon. Friend a pardon or some other suitable response to my constituent's plea.

12.59 a.m.

No one who has listened to recital by my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) of the compliments that have been paid by a succession of people to the character of Mr. Harvey can fail to recognise the tragedy of his present circumstances, and I fully understand and appreciate that a man with as big a heart as my hon. Friend would feel the same sense of tragedy and sympathy for a man in this plight.

I do not think that that necessarily excuses the somewhat swashbuckling way in which my hon. Friend dealt with some of the people who have had to consider this case. A protest that there has been an injustice is not made better by creating a sense of injustice in those who were doing their job in the way that they thought was proper in the public service, and against whom no allegation of neglect or of misuse of power has yet been proved.

My hon. Friend has written letters to the Home Office complaining about the conduct of the police officer in the case. These letters have been passed to the chief officer of police, as is proper. They are being dealt with as a complaint against the police officer. A senior officer has been put in charge of the investigation. The investigation could not proceed until the case had been completed. My hon. Friend in due course will be informed of the result of the investigation. Until the investigation has been completed, it would be wrong for me to assume that any part of the allegations my hon. Friend has made and repeated tonight is true.

I shall come to the question which is germane to this debate, namely, the possibility of a miscarriage of justice against the accused, but I do not think that we should encourage any charge of a miscarriage of justice against the officer or the magistrate, or any of the other persons involved, simply on the uncorroborated evidence of a mother who, no doubt, loves her son dearly and who has made a number of allegations, none of which has yet been fully investigated.

All that the Home Secretary can do in the case of an alleged miscarriage of justice is either to recommend to the Queen that there should be an exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy, which quashes the conviction and sentence, or to say that the matter has created such a doubt in his mind that he will refer the matter to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) for a further hearing. My right hon. Friend cannot do either unless new factors have come to light. I say "can- not". My right hon. Friend can, in theory, but the constitutional practice is that he does not use these powers unless new factors have come to light which were not before the court and which create in the Home Secretary's mind a fear that the court might have reached a different decision had it known of those factors.

There can be little doubt that there is no new factor in the case of Mr. Harvey. He was convicted on 29th and 30th January. He was sentenced on 20th February. The time allowed for the putting in of an appeal expired only today. In those circumstances, it would be very rare for new factors to have come to light which could have changed the attitude of the court had it known about them. Indeed, my hon. Friend has not urged any new factors.

In those circumstances, it is impossible for the Home Secretary to take any part in this case. The right procedure is for Mr. Harvey to appeal. If it were true, as my hon. Friend alleged, that there was insufficient evidence to justify a conviction, or that the evidence was obtained in a way which was unlawful—by the exercise of power in a wrong way by the police officer concerned—all these matters could have been raised before the court. Indeed, some of them were. If Mr. Harvey had been aggrieved by the result, as undoubtedly he would have been, he could have appealed to the circuit court and the whole matter would have had to be retried.

That would not be an appeal to the Court of Appeal in the normal way, where the evidence is not reheard. If the case went to London Sessions, as it would, the matter could be reheard as a completely fresh trial with all the witnesses being tested all over again. There could not be a better way of testing any weaknesses in the prosecution case or of asking for a complete review of the decision of the stipendiary magistrate. It is far preferable to the exercise of prerogative power by a Minister sitting in Whitehall.

Does my hon. Friend agree that such a decision would result in my impoverished constituent facing an enormous potential bill in the event of failure?

I do not know the means of this gentleman, but legal aid is available. That would mean that the man would have to pay nothing. Of course, that depends on the assessment of his means by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. That assessment is made to the court and it is for the court to order how much it thinks is reasonable for the accused to pay for his own defence. If Mr. Harvey had the means, an order might be made for a substantial sum, but if, as my hon. Friend suggests, he is not a man of any great means, it is unlikely that he would have to pay anything.

For my part I find it difficult to understand why Mr. Harvey has not appealed. I am certain the question of his means is not the factor which has prevented an appeal. It seems, first, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department could not intervene and, secondly, that Mr. Harvey has, or had, until today, a right to a complete review of the evidence. All the points could have been put that he thought were relevant to the issue. If he liked he could have had a new counsel properly briefed. He would have been capable of dealing with the case in any way that he thought proper. All that could be done by appeal, but so far Mr. Harvey has not chosen to accede to that course. It is true that the time has now expired for an appeal to be entered. That does not necessarily exhaust his remedy. If he wished to do so he could go to the Crown court to ask for leave to appeal out of time. In view of the circumstances, the court might accede to that request.

I think that my hon. Friend should have read not the transcript of the evidence—no transcript is made at the magistrates' court—but the note of the evidence taken by the magistrates' clerk. That note showed that there was substantial evidence against Mr. Harvey which his own counsel, in his summation to the stipendiary magistrate, agreed had been corroborated by the witnesses. There was a case, and a substantial case, against Mr. Harvey, which was accepted by the stipendiary magistrate. All that could be gone into again.

In those circumstances, I suggest that the best course—I do not wish to prejudice any rehearing of the case by any comments I may make about the evidence —is for my hon. Friend to advise Mr. Harvey to appeal to the Crown court at London Sessions and to hope that the court will allow the appeal to be entered out of time, so that all these matters may be reviewed. Unless any new facts which were not before the court came to light, it would not be possible for the Home Secretary to intervene even after that. That is no more than a mere academic comment upon the facts as they have been presented by my hon. Friend. I think that the matter must go to the Crown court at London Sessions, or Mr. Harvey will have to live with the conviction for the rest of his life.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at nine minutes past One o'clock.