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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I shall reflect on the way in which the noble Lord has put the matter. I see that there is a difficulty as regards permitting the complainant in a case simply to request special treatment. There is some force in the argument and I understand it. Not being a lawyer, I am slightly confused by the difference in the tests as regards subsections (1) and (4). It seems to me that subsection (4) is somewhat stronger although it specifically includes the test in subsection (1) as being the key as to whether protection is given. I had better

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take further and better legal advice on the matter in order to divine the difference between the two. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Special measures available to eligible witnesses]:

Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 14, line 3, after ("that") insert (", no later than 1st January 2000,").

The noble Lord said: I do not believe that I have been so knee-deep in paper since we were re-writing the last act of "Dry Rot" one hour before the curtain went up on the first night. In moving this amendment I am delighted that the Home Office secured an early legislative opportunity to advance the protection of vulnerable witnesses. I fully support the principles of this Bill. Once on the statute book this legislation should accelerate the implementation of the broader proposals contained within the earlier consultation paper Speaking Up For Justice, which deals with every aspect of the judicial process from the first stage of reporting a crime to the police to the court room and beyond. I am aware that excellent work is going on behind the scenes in bringing all these measures to fruition although it is clear that some will take longer than others.

For instance, the removal of wigs or robes will come into force nationally as a special measure the day after this Bill becomes law. Others, such as the use of intermediaries, will require careful piloting and evaluation over time before full implementation can be considered. Nevertheless, it would be reassuring to know that the Government have an end date in mind for the culmination of their implementation strategy.

This amendment seeks clarification on the timetable leading to the introduction of new measures. The Government want to pilot these measures. When will the pilots begin? How long will the pilots last and on what date will the special measures be implemented nationally? If a date has not already been set, perhaps consideration should be given to 1st January 2000 as proposed in my amendment.

Perhaps I may also raise the question of how the Government envisage tackling situations which may arise where a witness requires special measures in court, which are only available in court rooms in another county. I raise that point because the experience of giving evidence may be extremely traumatic for some people with learning disabilities. I fear that relocation will only add to the trauma. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As the noble Lord, Lord Rix, has pointed out, Part II of the Bill gives effect to a very large number of recommendations made in the Speaking Up For Justice report. It is 26. The implementation is considered as part of the wider programme of reform of the way in which our criminal justice system treats vulnerable witnesses.

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We have a steering group set up to oversee the implementation of all the recommendations in Speaking Up For Justice, not simply the 26 in the Bill, but the other recommendations as well. We hope that the implementation programme will be ready before the summer.

Some of the legislative and non-legislative changes are, of course, inter-dependent. We want to identify witnesses early on who need help and then treat them appropriately thereafter. It is not realistic to think that everything in the Bill can be brought into force by the end of the year. In many cases I believe that it should not. We know only too well that poorly implemented legislation is almost as bad as no legislation at all.

There is an enormous task as regards training guidance needed to ensure that all criminal justice practitioners, not simply those who sit as magistrates or judges, are able to use the new provisions. Some of the special measures mean buying or hiring special equipment like video and live link facilities. That cannot begin until after Royal Assent. There are some ideas in the Bill, as regards video recorded cross-examination, that have never been tried. Several Members of the Committee have expressed concern as to how they will work in practice. We need to implement them quite carefully.

Perhaps I may assist the noble Lord, Lord Rix, in one or two ways. The new measures to help witnesses will cost about £6.3 million. The cost of preparing applications for witnesses who need measures will be about £1.7 million--I have rounded that up slightly. That is per year. The use of live-link evidence will cost about £1.8 million over 10 years. The cost to the CPS applying for live links will be about £348,000. The cost of CPS video recorded evidence-in-chief will be about £683,000 per year. So quite significant costs are involved.

That is not used to indicate that we are not wholly committed to the purposes and principles of this Bill. I am simply giving those figures to reassure the noble Lord, and others who share his concerns, that we mean to implement this Bill and to put the measures in place. There is quite a lot of work to be done. I have given the figures only to indicate that there is significant work to be done and it could not usefully be done were we to have a timescale as rigid as 1st January 2000. But I assure the noble Lord that we mean to get on with this.

Lord Rix: I recognise that 1st January 2000 is only a short time away, as I am sure we are all only too well aware. I am glad to have the Minister's assurance that the costs for ensuring justice for people with learning disabilities do not enter into the Government's thinking. With that assurance ringing in my mind and, I am sure, the belief that all these measures will be implemented as soon as is humanly possible, without reference to the costing, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

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Clause 19 [Special measures direction relating to eligible witness]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 74A:

Page 15, line 3, after ("witness") insert ("or any other party to the proceedings").

The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Rix, did an extremely good job in rewriting "Dry Rot" at the last minute. I am having less success in trying to rewrite parts of the Bill.

The amendment is intended to draw out whether other parties to the proceedings may say whether they believe that special measures are not required. It is not difficult to imagine a witness thinking that it would gain sympathy with the jury if there were special measures of one sort or another. It may be difficult in such circumstances for the court to refuse. However, the defendant or people acting for him may wish to express a view.

It may be that another part of the Bill makes that possible and my amendment may be unnecessary. I infer from the reference in Clause 20 to "uncontested applications" in that context that those applications can be contested but I am not clear as to how that can be done unless my amendment is accepted.

However, I am encouraged also by government Amendment No. 75A, which is grouped with this amendment. That refers to the next clause. It appears to be making a similar point. Therefore, I believe that other parties to the proceedings should be able to express views on those matters. I suggest that my amendment may be necessary to achieve that. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I support the spirit in which this amendment is moved, although I suspect it is unnecessary. However, it provides me with an opportunity to ask the Minister to confirm that there would be no question of any--if I am still allowed to use the expression--ex parte proceedings, as there is in public interest immunity applications.

Lord Windlesham: This amendment provides an opportunity to refer to a concern that has been raised by the NSPCC about the impact of Clause 19(2) and Clause 19(3) in relation to child witnesses. Those subsections require the court to determine whether any of the available measures would, in the court's opinion, be likely to improve the quality of evidence given by a witness, and then to determine which measures would be likely to maximise the quality of the evidence.

The court has to consider all the circumstances of the case. The views expressed by the witnesses are only one circumstance to be considered. The court must consider also whether that special measure may,

    "tend to inhibit such evidence being effectively tested by a party to the proceedings".
In the opinion of the society, that is potentially a more stringent series of hurdles to leap than the threshold which currently exists. In its view, if the proposed legislation is not amended, there will be a real risk that

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child witnesses will receive even less assistance from the available special measures when the intention is that they should receive more assistance.

I am not sure whether the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, would make matters worse or better from the NSPCC standpoint. However, I ask the Minister to take note of those observations and to write to me. I shall make sure that the reply is passed on to the proper quarter.

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