“FIREARMS (MRS. BARNEY)
House of Commons Wed 13 July 1932
Lord H. CECIL asked the Home Secretary whether it is intended to prosecute Elvira Barney for the illegal possession of a firearm; and whether instructions will be given to the police to enforce with the utmost strictness the law relating to firearms?
Sir H. SAMUEL I am informed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that, at the instance of the Attorney-General, he is instituting proceedings in this matter. I have no reason to doubt that chief officers of police are fully alive to the importance of securing compliance with the requirements of the Firearms Act, 1920, and I see no occasion for the issue of any fresh circular in the matter.”
(taken from Hansard)
Elvira was duly charged, and fined £50, the following week. It was a symbolic act but served to bring down the curtain on the authorities’ interest in Elvira. Had she not been involved in the car-crash in the South of France, the general public, which had already turned its back on her, would also have moved more quickly on to other scandals. Eventually, it was Brenda Dean Paul, part of Elvira’s circle, who would come to stand for all that was wrong with rich young women and the “fast” set and hers is the name we still remember.
Brenda Dean Paul leaving court after trial for possession of drugs 1932.
Lord Cecil, who raised the Barney affair in parliament, was Conservative MP for Oxford University from 1910 to 1937, when he became Provost of Eton. Oxford University returned two Members (always Conservative) and was not a physical location. Its constituency consisted of Oxford graduates. Remarkably, it was not dissolved as a seat until 1950.
Hugh Richard Heathcote Gascoyne-Cecil, 1st Baron Quickswood
Sir Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary, was a Liberal MP and an important figure in early twentieth century politics. Most famously, he was the first High Commissioner of the Palestinian Mandate, a controversial appointment that was the subject of much debate, then and, to some extent, now. (see Wiki Herbert Samuel )
In 1951 he became the first British politician to give a Party Political Broadcast on television.
Sir Herbert Samuel
A Question in the House of Commons
Public disquiet about the trial verdict manifested itself very quickly. For the newspaper-reading public, the post-trial photographs and the stories of her speeding around in her car, going to the hairdressers and even partying on the night of her acquittal turned her from tragic heroine into a distinctly dubious character who did not merit popular sympathy. Elvira should have kept a very low profile. Her ghosted account of her life with Michael, which appeared on the Sunday (10th July) was perhaps the most ill-advised of her many ill-advised actions.It smacked of self-pity and lacked the penitential tone that was demanded by the target-audience.
Anger within the “Establishment” was also growing. It was an open secret that everyone in court (including the Defence) had expected at least a manslaughter verdict. The fact that Elvira walked away scot-free was, for many, intolerable.
A question was asked in Parliament. In itself it seems innocuous enough, but given that the jury’s verdict could not be publicly denounced, it was the nearest one could get to an official statement of disapproval.
It was not a debate, as some accounts claim,