British Home Secretary Plans Penalties for Offenses by Racists

Henry Brooke, the British Home Secretary, said today in the House of Commons that the Government planned to strengthen penalties for offenses against public order. However, he cautioned that the Government would proceed slowly on amending the Public Order Act of 1936.

The Home Secretary made this known in reply to questions from T.L. Iremonger, a Conservative member, declaring he had come to the conclusion that penalties now available to British courts for offenses against the Public Order Act and the Public Meeting Act “are inadequate and need to be increased.” He said such action would be taken by the Government “as soon as a suitable opportunity occurs.”

Mr. Brooke pointed out that there were cases pending before appeals courts, a reference to the appeals by Colin Jordan and John Tyndal, officials of the British National Socialist movement, who had been convicted and imprisoned on charges of violating the Public Order Act. He said that, until such cases were disposed of, it was “not possible to form a final view” about the adequacy of the law at present. He added that, in the meantime, the police could deal promptly with any threats to the public peace.

Sr Barnett Janner, a Laborite, commented that police and other officials concerned should not be forced to go to fascist meetings, knowing in advance what kind of doctrine would be preached. He said a “bad impression” had been created in other countries “because of the fact of such meetings being held.” The Home Secretary replied he believed Sir Barnett should consider that “we will get into deep water if we think in terms of giving any Government the power to prohibit in advance the holdings of certain kinds of meetings.”

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