Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I am encouraged that, as I understand it, her amendment is likely to make it clear to the commission that it will retain a wide discretion in relation to the cases it refers. As I understood the noble Lord, Lord Renton, his understanding is that the present wording already gives it a wide discretion. I hope that the amendment will make that abundantly clear.

I fully understand the reasons behind the noble Baroness's reluctance to embrace Amendment No. 6 in view of the slight dichotomy between the two amendments at Committee stage. I am very grateful to her. I look forward with interest to the amendment which she will produce, which I hope I shall feel able to support. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Clause 18 [Power to require appointment of investigating officers]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 14, line 23, leave out from ("may") to end of line 24 and insert ("either require the appointment of an investigating officer as provided in section 19 to carry out the inquiries or, if subsection (8) applies, themselves appoint an investigating officer.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in introducing this amendment, I give the apologies of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, who, as your Lordships know, finds it very difficult to attend the House at all and is unable to do so today. I have discussed this amendment in detail with him and he fully supports it.

This amendment follows one which the noble and learned Lord moved at Committee stage. In accordance with the way in which your Lordships like to consider matters of this kind, we have sought to moderate the

23 Jun 1995 : Column 573

terms of the amendment which was put forward and voted on in Committee. What is now proposed is the essence of Amendment No. 8:


    "The Commission shall only appoint their own investigating officer if there are ... exceptional circumstances that would make it likely that any person appointed under section 19 would not be suitable to carry out the investigation".

We are well aware that there have been government amendments to Clause 19 which have been very helpful in increasing the power of the commission over the investigations carried out on its behalf. I believe that the House will agree that the integrity and independence of the commission are absolutely fundamental to the effective operation of this Bill. Certainly noble Lords from all parts of the House have emphasised that point, as indeed it was emphasised in another place.

So it is not that the Government are not moving to some extent in the direction we wish them to go, but we believe that they have not gone quite far enough. That is the view not only of my noble friends but of many others outside. The noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, speaking in Committee, emphasised his support, as the chairman of the Royal Commission, for the amendments which were then proposed. The Association of Chief Police Officers, which does not take a view on the Bill as a whole, has argued that the commission should have what it calls "a central unit", independent of police forces within the commission, which can carry out or manage complex or controversial investigations. This amendment, in cases of complex or controversial investigations, would give the commission that power.

This is not a theoretical amendment. I am sorry to say this, but there are practical examples of the involvement of the originating police force in investigations which have been unsatisfactory. There are very recent examples and perhaps I may give one. I refer to the case of Mary Druhan who was convicted of arson and murder on 12th June 1989. Justice put forward representations on her behalf to the Home Office in a petition dated July 1993. In January 1994, Justice was told that the Metropolitan Police had been asked to make further inquiries. In January 1995, having heard nothing, Justice wrote to express concern because there had been no response and that message was passed on to the police.

In April 1995, Justice contacted the police again and found that there had been no response to the Home Office, that there had been no reinterviewing of any of the witnesses and that the police had not even seen a copy of the 1993 petition. The police had not taken the original Home Office letter to be authority to reinvestigate and had simply referred the matter to the police files. In June of this year—in other words, during this month—the Home Office recognised that the police inquiry had been inadequate and said that the case had been resubmitted to the same police force for proper inquiries to be undertaken.

This is June 1995 and Mary Druhan has been in prison for six years. It is nearly two years since a full dossier was submitted in the case and 18 months since the police were asked to respond. That is not good enough. Of course, much of that will be put right by the provisions of the Bill; but some of it will not because,

23 Jun 1995 : Column 574

under the legislation, the natural expectation is that the case would go back to the originating police force and, in this case, the police force was very severely at fault.

Perhaps I may give your Lordships another example. I refer to the case of Brian Parsons, who was convicted of murder in 1988. The solicitors were passed information, after he appealed unsuccessfully, which suggested that the murder had been committed by two other men. The original police force was asked to reinvestigate in 1992, but television journalists found important forensic evidence which had not been disclosed to the defence. The independent forensic scientist has claimed that her investigations were severely hampered by the police. It took 18 months and 33 letters before she was allowed access to the exhibits.

Those cases have not yet been resolved and they must, of course, be taken with that fact in mind. However, I suggest that they offer sufficient evidence that the presumption that a case would go back to the originating police force is simply not satisfactory. The availability of the power to the commission in exceptional circumstances to have its own investigators is, we believe, essential to its integrity and independence.

In response to the amendment put forward in Committee by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, the Minister said that the staff were already there in the commission. But of course such staff are required to exercise supervision rather than conduct the cases. It was suggested that a body of people to carry out investigations would have a varying workload and that that would make it difficult for them to be used effectively and to be available effectively. But there will be something like 1,500 investigations taking place every year. If a few of them cannot be diverted without undue disruption to an internal force, it is difficult to know how effective the management is.

In Committee, the Minister referred to it as being a shadow police force. That is not the intention. The intention is that there should be a reserve power available. That is all that the amendments would provide. The Minister also argued that the commission's investigators would need the whole range of police powers such as the arrest and compulsion of witnesses. I confess that the amendment that we put forward on the powers of investigators was defective in the sense that it relied on the example of the Companies Act rather than on other legislation. But we have not sought to put forward the same amendments.

However, the "Police Complaints Authority" model, which has been adduced in support of the existing provisions in the Bill, is really no more satisfactory. If the amendments are agreed to, I am convinced that it would be possible without a great deal of difficulty, but with more expertise than I have, adequately to define what powers the internal investigators should have. After all, this part of the Bill refers to investigations to be carried out by a wide range of public bodies and not just by the police.

It is not a dramatic amendment and it is certainly not as far reaching as the amendment which both I and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, would have wished to put forward. However, it is a movement

23 Jun 1995 : Column 575

towards the reaffirmation of the integrity and independence of the commission from the rest of the criminal justice system which we believe to be essential for the proper and effective implementation of such an important and worthwhile Bill. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, in Clauses 18 and 19 the power to appoint an investigating officer is hedged about with a number of conditions. Perhaps I may invite the attention of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, to Clause 18(6) which says:


    "The Commission may direct—


    (a) that a person shall not be appointed, or


    (b) that a police force or other public body shall not be selected, under subsection (4) or (5) without the approval of the Commission.

That seems to give the commission the last word in the matter. Although I appreciate the motives of the noble Lord—indeed, if I may say so, he put the matter most fairly—I wonder whether his amendments would merely add to the elaborate precautions which Clauses 18 and 19 already contain.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, in rising to express my support for the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and standing also in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, I hope that it will be within the rules of order for me to speak obliquely to Amendment No. 9, which is tabled in my name. I understand that my amendment was originally grouped with Amendments Nos. 7 and 8, and that seemed to me to make good sense. However, the amendments were later ungrouped. I do not want to cause the Minister any embarrassment; but, if I were to speak now, I would deliver one short speech rather than two longer ones which at least would earn me some credit within the House.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page