No. 43 NAI DFA 244/12
LONDON, 18 April 1941
As you are aware I have been pressing the British authorities for some time now on the question of our Nationals imprisoned in this country (Defence Regulation 18b cases) under Emergency Powers for security reasons. For these cases, as you know, there is no Court trial but appeal is allowed to what is called an Advisory Committee consisting usually of a lawyer of standing as Chairman, with three or four others.
Being dissatisfied with the extreme slowness with which these cases were treated I went direct to the Home Secretary, Mr. Herbert Morrison, explaining that whilst I did not feel I could review the findings of the Committee I was entitled to protest in the strongest terms against the interminable delays between the lodging of the appeal and its hearing. I cited several cases, notably that of a Belfast man, William McWilliams, whom I had visited in Brixton Prison in August last year and whose case only a few weeks ago had not been considered.
Sir Alexander Maxwell, the Permanent Under Secretary of State for Home Affairs was present and put his departmental case. There was, he said an immense number of appeals and the Committees were overworked. I asked why the number of Committees should not be increased. He said the people who were fitted for this difficult work on the Committees (who were unpaid) were not easily obtained. I rejoined that many lawyers of high repute were through War conditions unemployed and if the Home Office paid the appropriate fee they could form as many panels of Committees as they wished. To cast innocent men in prison and keep them there for months without trial whilst heroics about individual liberty and freedom were indulged in on every side was surely fantastic. It was worse, it was cruelty of a singularly unimaginative character.
Mr. Morrison said I was using strong language. I said I meant to. When I thought of the sufferings of these prisoners, treated in many cases as convicts, and the mental and physical plight of their families and was met by the incredible excuse of administrative difficulties my feelings were beyond the reach of any words.
I saw Mr. Morrison again later. He agreed entirely with what I had said. He had released McWilliams and he had made arrangements to speed up the hearing of those cases where the men had not yet been before the Appeal Committees.
The position today, the Home Office state, is that there is now no case of our men imprisoned under Defence Regulation 18b whose appeal has not been heard.
There may be cases where the men refused to recognise the British juris- diction and have made no appeal. I have therefore asked the Home Office if there are in fact any such cases.
[signed] J. W. DULANTY
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