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Lord Thomas of Gresford: Does the Minister not agree that that simply goes to propensity? We have always turned our face against evidence of propensity.

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All she is saying is that the fact that you have assaulted someone before just proves propensity to assault somebody else.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It does not go just to propensity. Indeed, the noble Lord will know that there are many cases that currently allow such evidence to be admitted. We are not going significantly further than that. As I say, the law in this area has been beset with complexity and confusion. The new statutory scheme is intended to set out a clear and predictable set of rules.

Clause 93(1)(d) promotes that aim by providing a clear and simple route to admissibility that will assist the courts and practitioners alike. I emphasise that Clause 93(1)(d) will remain subject to Clause 93(3), which means that probative and prejudicial have still to be weighed in the balance. That is an issue on which the judges of this country have always been entrusted with the ability to determine. I think that noble Lords in this debate will agree with me that they have determined it in a way which has always inured to the benefit of justice.

Lord Kingsland: I am much obliged to the noble Baroness. What she seems to be saying in a nutshell is, "Yes, Clause 93(1)(d) does go beyond the existing law"—I would suggest that it goes way beyond the existing law—"but we should not really worry about that because the defendant will have the protection of Clause 93(3) in relation to (d)".

That may or may not be true. We shall consider Clause 93(3) on another occasion not, I trust, tonight. But that is no excuse and no justification for the way that Clause 93(1)(d) has been drawn. It will allow offences that have nothing whatever to do with the offence with which a person is charged to be brought in evidence against them. Quite apart from the general principle of doing that, I can see no justification for the Government expanding the geography of the definition of bad character to that extent.

I shall not invite the Committee to divide on this matter now. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but I shall certainly return to it on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at eighteen minutes past ten o'clock.

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