Previous Section Index Home Page


Plastic Baton Rounds

Mr. Maginnis: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what have been the results of recent studies into the feasibility of providing an effective alternative to plastic baton rounds for use in crowd control situations in Northern Ireland; and what have been the costs of these studies in the last 10 years. [144690]

Mr. Ingram [pursuant to his reply, 8 February 2001, c. 679W]: Phase one of the research programme aimed at finding an acceptable, effective and less potentially lethal alternative to the plastic baton round has now been completed. I have today placed a copy of the Report, and

2 Apr 2001 : Column: 26W

a letter my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has issued to Northern Ireland party leaders, in the Library of the House.


Foot and Mouth

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Prime Minister on what date he received a report from Dr. Keith Scupton on the foot and mouth outbreak; and if he will make a statement on Government policy on its contents. [156534]

The Prime Minister: I have read the report which is in the public domain.


Departmental Policies (Southwark)

Ms Harman: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will set out, with statistical evidence relating as directly as possible to the London borough of Southwark, the effects on the London borough of Southwark of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [155982]

The Solicitor-General: The Camberwell and Tower Bridge branch of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) deals with all adult cases emanating in the London borough of Southwark. The Youth and City branch of the Crown Prosecution Service deals with most youth cases emanating in the London borough of Southwark.

In November 1999, in line with national policy, the Camberwell and Tower Bridge branch and the Youth and City branch, introduced procedures to implement the Narey proposals. They did this in liaison with a number of other criminal justice agencies (including courts, police and defendants representatives). All defendants charged with a criminal offence, where a guilty plea is anticipated, now make their first appearance before the Magistrates or Youth court within five working days.

Both the Camberwell and Tower Bridge and the Youth and City branches have fast track procedures in place to deal with Persistent Youth Offender cases. They are working towards the Government's 71-day target for disposing of those cases.

In November 2000, the Crown Prosecution Service at Camberwell and Tower Bridge branch began changing its structure in line with implementation of the Glidewell review. As a first step towards a Trial Unit, it established a Crown Court Committal section. This enables the Crown Prosecution Service to place greater emphasis on serious crime cases, which are heard at both the Inner London Crown court and the Central Criminal court.

The Camberwell and Tower Bridge branch are involved in the Direct Communication with Victims initiative. This provides a written explanation when the Crown Prosecution Service either discontinues or substantially alters a charge. In some circumstances the Crown Prosecution Service will meet with victims to explain why a particular decision was taken.

2 Apr 2001 : Column: 27W

Action and polices of the Treasury Solicitor's Department and the Serious Fraud Office do not directly affect my right hon. Friend's constituency.

Diplock Hearings

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will list the criteria he uses in deciding whether a Diplock court hearing has been prejudiced by (a) public comment and (b) other matters outside the court. [156537]

The Solicitor-General: It is not for the Attorney- General, or Solicitor-General, to consider whether a trial has been prejudiced by any matter. If, following a conviction, there is any question as to the fairness of a trial, it is exclusively for the Court of Appeal to consider by way of appeal or referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Racist Literature

Ms Perham: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make it his policy to prosecute those who produce literature including the phrase "Kill the Jews". [156391]

The Solicitor-General: Each case which the police send to the Crown Prosecution Service--whether involving an allegation of anti-Semitic literature or any other offence--is reviewed by a Crown Prosecutor. All cases are carefully considered to make sure that they meet the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which is issued under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.

There are two stages in the decision to prosecute. The first stage is the evidential test. The Crown Prosecutor must be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a 'realistic prospect of conviction'. He must consider objectively whether the evidence can be used and is reliable. The Crown Prosecutor must also consider what the defence case may be and how it is likely to affect the prosecution case. A 'realistic prospect of conviction' means that a jury or bench of magistrates, properly directed in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict the defendant of the charge alleged.

If the case does not pass the evidential test, it must not go ahead, no matter how important or serious it may be. If the case does pass the evidential test, the Crown Prosecutor must then consider the second stage test to decide if a prosecution is needed in the public interest. In cases of any seriousness, a prosecution will usually take place, unless there are public interest factors tending against prosecution which clearly outweigh those tending in favour. The Crown Prosecution Service will only start or continue a prosecution when the case has passed both tests.

Offences under part III of the Public Order Act 1986, which include offences of producing and distributing racially inflammatory material, require Law Officer's consent. Where the evidential and public interest tests are met consent to prosecute will be granted.

Since the heightened tensions in the Middle East there have been a number of reported incidents of the publication/distribution of racially inflammatory material targeting the Jewish Community in London.

2 Apr 2001 : Column: 28W

The police have arrested individuals and seized leaflets. Files have been submitted to the CPS and are either ongoing, the decision to prosecute having been made, or under review.


Mr. Purchase: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement about the arrangements for instructing advocates to prosecute cases on behalf of the Government. [156818]

The Solicitor-General: Last year the Attorney-General set up a working group, chaired by David Nissen, CB, the Solicitor to the Department of Trade and Industry, to conduct a review of the arrangements for instructing advocates to prosecute cases on behalf of the Government. Following that review and consultation within Government and the legal profession, new arrangements come into force today that will govern the instruction of advocates (whether barristers or solicitor-advocates) in private practice in prosecution cases for the following Government Departments and non-departmental public bodies:

A single panel will be set up of advocates for prosecution cases divided into three lists: A, B and C according to the level of experience of the advocate. Appointments will be for three years with the possibility of further renewals. I hope to announce the first recruitment exercise for the new single panel in the autumn. Further details about the application and selection process will be given closer to that time. There will be annual recruitment exercises and advertisements for applications to the new panel will be published. There will be equal opportunities monitoring of the application and selection process and particular care will be taken to encourage applications from women and member of the ethnic minorities. Appointment to the panels will be open to solicitor-advocates.

From today, as a transitional arrangement until the new single panel is set up, my current Lists of advocates for the Departments named will be operated as a single List with instructing solicitors in those Departments free to instruct advocates on the other lists. Those currently on a list will be expected to apply to join the new panel in due course.

Also from today, the role of my clerk in nominating advocates from the lists for instructions/briefs, the reallocation of returns and off-list nominations of counsel will cease. This was a considerable burden placed upon the chambers of each Attorney-General, which in these times can no longer be justified. From now on, Departments will be responsible for dealing directly with clerks concerning the delivery of instructions and the reallocation of returns. Departments will be responsible for monitoring the fair spread of instructions across the lists and the quality of performance of advocates. There will be an Administrative Unit, based at HMCE, responsible for central monitoring that will report to me.

2 Apr 2001 : Column: 29W

I am confident that the new arrangements will serve prosecuting departments and NDPBs well. The system will be open and fair and will offer greater opportunities than in the past for prosecutors to do Government work.

Next Section Index Home Page