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Mr James Moss

Volume 982: debated on Wednesday 16 April 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what further information he has regarding the trial or release of Mr. James Moss presently held in Mongu jail, Zambia.

I understand that no decision has yet been reached on whether the case against Mr. Moss should proceed to trial. Meanwhile, he is regularly brought before a magistrate, but continues to be remanded in custody, since bail is not granted in Zambia in murder cases.

As the Minister knows that Mr. Moss has been in confinement since December 1979, does he think that a visit by himself, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and myself might expedite a conclusion on the part of the DPP?

I should have to reflect a little on that question before giving a straight answer. However, a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins), are concerned. Indeed, their constituents who are relations of Mr. Moss have also made representations to me. My judgment is that through our high commission we are keeping in close touch indeed with developments in this case, and we shall keep a very careful watch on the welfare of Mr. Moss.

Does not the Minister think that it is unacceptable for Mr. Moss to languish in gaol for four months without the Zambian Director of Public Prosecutions making a decision on whether to bring the matter to trial? Can he say what further action the Foreign Office will take to press the Zambian authorities to make a quick decision, so that at least that element of doubt is removed from over this man's head?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a charge of murder has been made against Mr. Moss. It is up to the Zambian Director of Public Prosecutions, when he has considered all the factors, to decide whether Mr. Moss should be taken to trial. We have been in touch with the Zambian Government to ask how far ahead they anticipate that will be. As yet we have had no response, but we hope to receive one very soon.