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Lord Thurlow: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, like other noble Lords I was very glad indeed to hear about the review being set in hand. Will she be good enough to ensure that the views of the other countries that have legislation--including for instance, New Zealand, with whose legal system I am familiar--on the central problem of evidence will be taken fully into account in the review?
Lord Ackner: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she help me on two matters? She expressed on behalf of the Government an anxiety that if the Bill was enacted it might make matters worse since it might mean that countries that should be, and might well be thinking of being, more vigorous in their prosecutions would relax. I wonder whether she has found that in the 12 countries that have adopted similar legislation that tendency has arisen. I should like to know whether she has any evidence to support her thesis. It is significant that 12 other countries have adopted such legislation.
The second point relates to evidence. On the last occasion, on 15th March (col. 991) the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, asked whether the noble Baroness would inquire from Father Cullen, to whom he had already made reference, whether, as he understood the position, he could arrange that witnesses would be forthcoming to this country if his assistance was called upon. The noble Baroness gave an assurance that she would take the matter up in order to further the debate. I wonder whether there has been any activity on that front.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, on the first point, it is a view that if we undertake to take it upon ourselves to secure convictions for these kinds of activities when the primary duty for doing so is that of another country that country will simply leave it to us to do. Given how difficult it would be in practice for us, so many miles away, to secure all the proof of evidence that is required in our courts, we have taken the view that it would be better to see proper court cases secured in those countries where the activities take place, and to do all we can to co-operate. I accept that the noble and learned Lord is right to challenge me. It is but a view. I hope that I presented it in that way.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I apologise again for interrupting. The question that the noble and learned Lord addressed to the noble Baroness was: has that been the experience of the 12 countries that have already enacted this legislation?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I was just coming to the particular point about the other countries. I have absolutely no evidence. We know that they have not been very successful in securing convictions, and having examined cases in which convictions have been secured, and the way in which they were secured, in our view they would not be secured in this country given the operation of our criminal justice system. That does not
As to the point concerning Father Cullen, I referred the matter to my department. I am ashamed to say that I cannot give the noble and learned Lord a specific answer as to the outcome. However, I shall make absolutely certain that he receives an answer from me in the not-too-distant future.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all Members of the House who spoke in this short debate. Last year, it was extremely encouraging to receive virtually unanimous support. I was a little
The noble Baroness will not be surprised to learn that I found the general tenor of her reply rather disappointing. The only small crumb of comfort she seemed able to provide was the review that she announced. I hope that it will not be an occasion for yet further delay. I am sure it is important to consult with other countries. However, we do want action, and we want it quickly. Having said that, once again I thank all who have spoken. I commend the Bill to the House.
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