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Hanratty Case

Volume 889: debated on Thursday 10 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now received the report by Mr. Lewis Hawser, QC, into the Hanratty case; and if he will make a statement.

I have received Mr. Hawser's report and it is being published today. I am most grateful to him for undertaking this onerous task and for the time and care he has given to it.

The report examines all the important issues raised in the case, including the identification evidence and the alibis. After thorough analysis of all the available material. Mr. Hawser has concluded that there is no reason to doubt the correctness of the jury's verdict.

I accept this independent assessment and I hope that now, nearly 14 years after the event, hon. Members may do so too.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have had only five minutes to study the document, unlike the national Press, representatives of which were telephoning people last night about the matter, with consequent distress? Is my right hon. Friend also aware that while we must all thank Mr. Hawser for the detailed investigation, and must study it carefully, the conclusions will be a matter of profound grief to the Hanratty family? Those who have campaigned for so long on the matter will wish for further evidence as to why Miss Stone's first identification was not used in the court hearings and was not made available at the time of trial, and will perhaps wish for publication of documents 1 to 11 enumerated in the Hawser Report.

As is common practice with Governments of both parties, the report was issued to the Press in advance under an embargo. It appears that that embargo was not respected by some members of the Press. I greatly regret that and the fact that they apparently rang up members of the family. It is highly undesirable behaviour, which is bound to call into question whether one can issue reports in this way. The ending of the practice would mean grave inconvenience to the Press and everyone concerned.

As to the matter of substance relating to the report, I understand the deep feelings of my hon. Friend and many other people, including, of course, the family. But what I must also have in mind, and have had in mind throughout, is that what is certain in this case is that a lady who is still alive had her companion shot beside her and suffered grave personal injury. I have not been prepared, and am not prepared, to go to all the time, trouble and difficulty of setting up an adversary process, causing her again to be put in the witness box, subject to cross-examination for a long period, and having a revival of this dreadful incident of her life, now 14 years ago, unless there is an independent indication that the verdict was ill-founded. That matter has been gone into by a Queen's Counsel of the highest repute, and he has found strongly to the contrary. So far as I am concerned, that must be an end of the matter.