Joint Committee On Human Rights Second Report



Conclusion and recommendations

57. In respect of the Criminal Justice Bill, we draw the following matters to the attention of each House.

  • In relation to clause 6 of the Bill, removing the duty to make a record of everything in the possession of a person arrested at a police station or brought to a police station after being arrested elsewhere, we consider that the proposed amendment of section 54 of PACE would engage P1/1, and that adverse consequences would flow from the repeal of the duty to record property. We recommend as a minimum safeguard that, if section 54 is amended as proposed in the Bill, Code C should at least require that a record be kept of any property taken from a detainee by the police (paragraph 10 above).

  • In relation to the provisions about admissibility of evidence of bad character, we are concerned that the very wide definition of that evidence could have an adverse effect on the right to a fair hearing, and we recommend that it should be limited to evidence of previous convictions (paragraph 15 above).

  • In relation to the same provisions, we do not consider that irrelevant evidence should ever be admissible, and we consider that the matter can be reliably clarified only by amending clause 84 to ensure that the message is clear on the face of the Bill (paragraph 18 above).

  • We consider that clause 84, on rules governing the ability of a defendant to adduce evidence of bad character of a co-defendant as compared with the ability of the prosecution to do so against a defendant, does not sufficiently avoid a risk of inequality of arms contrary to the requirements of ECHR Article 6 (paragraph 21 above).

  • In relation to provisions extending the admissibility of hearsay evidence, we accept that the Government could legitimately argue before the courts that the provisions would not necessarily be incompatible in all cases with the right to a fair hearing and the right to have witnesses examined, under ECHR Article 6.1 and 3(c) but we draw the attention of each House to the very narrow range of circumstances in which it might, in our view, be proper to convict a person on the basis of substantially unsupported hearsay evidence (paragraph 30 above).

  

  • We consider that refusing, under clauses 143 and 144, to give a copy of pre-sentencing reports to a child defendant aged under 14 would be likely to lead to a violation of the child's right to a fair hearing under ECHR Article 6 unless the court is required to ensure that the child has independent legal representation, at public expense if necessary, whenever the reports are being withheld from the child, regardless of the views of the child's parents. We recommend that clauses 143 and 144 should be amended to make it clear to courts that they have a duty to make sure that the child (paragraph 35 above).

  • For the reasons given above in paragraphs 5 and 36 to 56, we consider that other provisions of the Bill (including those relating to double jeopardy and the limitation of the right to trial by jury) would not be likely to give rise to a violation of Convention rights, although we recognize that the proposals are highly controversial in terms of policy.



 
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