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Miss P Lamble

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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35.

asked the Attorney-General why the Crown offered no evidence at the recent trial of Miss P. Lamble under the Official Secrets Act.

The police investigation established a prima facie case against Miss Lamble and thus she was properly arrested and charged. Her statements later, however, indicated that she might not have intended to act in a manner prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State. This was one of the matters I took into consideration when the matter came before me for my consent for the case to proceed.

If the learned Attorney-General believed Miss Lamble's statement that she wished merely to draw attention to the incompetent security procedures at SIS, why was it necessary to keep her in prison for more than a month? What action has been taken over the allegations that she made?

The police investigations established a prima facie case. Her statement indicated that she might not have intended to act in a manner prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State. That required further inquiries. When inquiries had been completed I decided that it was not a case in which I should consent to prosecution. Her representatives did not dispute the statement made in court by counsel for the Crown that she had behaved unwisely and had placed herself in the predicament in which she found herself.

I appreciate that when it has been decided not to proceed against someone it is sometimes embarrassing to embark on a public discussion of why he, or she, might have been proceeded against. However, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that a number of recent decisions have given rise to public anxiety? Has he considered the possibility of appointing an official, similar to the Parliamentary Commissioner, or the Law Society's lay observer, who could consider the files, not necessarily publicly, and give an independent judgment on the way in which they should be handled?

In many cases, especially of this sort, there may be a public interest aspect. Responsibility for that has been placed upon the shoulders of the Attorney-General of the day. I shall consider the right hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion when I come to consider future action.

How came it that a statement was made by an accused person in custody and she was charged, and only then were investigations made to ascertain whether the statement was true? Surely the proper procedure should have been for her explanation to be properly investigated before she was charged.

There is some difficulty in answering the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, because there are certain matters which it is not in the public interest to disclose and with which I am unable to deal. Miss Lamble made a statement, and later she made a second statement. As I have made clear, that was only one of the matters that I had to consider when deciding whether to consent to prosecution.