|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: I have listened very carefully to the noble Baroness's explanations in the past few minutes, which were given with great precision and clarity. However, as one of the noble
It would help me greatly if, on each clause, the Minister could say, for example, "This is introduced purely for organising legal inheritance purposes and plays no part in the shifting of the balance". Otherwise, in common with other Members of the Committee, I shall continue to suspect, however clear the explanation, that any clause forms part of the equipment for shifting the balance, which is the fundamental aspect of the Bill. I hope that I make myself clear.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand the right reverend Prelate's remarks about what the media have said and how they have presented it outside the House. Regrettably, I have no control over how anyone other than me expresses the provisions. The Government seek parity, fairness and justice, and the delivery of justice in a clear, understandable, recognised way to those who participate in, and rely on, the justice system.
It is right that there is a perception that the balance has been put far too much in favour of the defendant, and not properly in favour of the victim. Our jurisprudence has developed in a sound way. The Bill seeks to set out the position clearly so that we all have the same starting point, giving scope for further development. But the fundamental principles of what Clause 93 does are in our jurisprudence already.
We hope that we will now have the clarity and precision to enable us to say, "In one place, you will be able to see what we have said for the defendant and for the prosecution. That legislation provides the balance and the clear exposition of the position". We know that the jurisprudence will continue to develop in accordance with our common law. The best way of saying with clarity, not only to those responsible for administering the justice system, but to those affected by it, is that we have the balance right and it is here in one place. The legislation will provide in one place the answer to the arguments and debates about whether victims are getting a proper, fair deal, whether defendants are properly protected, whether the system works and whether it is balanced. I do not know whether that will silence those who continue to rage about the issues. All I can say is that the Government are doing their best.
Lord Cooke of Thorndon: Perhaps it will assist the noble Baroness if I suggest that, when the measure reaches Third Reading, instead of having the abstract discussion that has occurred today, in which she has
There may or may not be justification in some cases for moving the balance towards the prosecution. To cope with the question, one needs specific examples. To test the merit of Clause 93 and so forth, we need a specific example of a case. We need, for example, a case concerned with allegedly important explanatory evidence that would probably be ruled out by the judge as inadmissible at common law, but that would go in under the Bill, and where it is desirable that it should do. With such a concrete example, one would be in a far better position to form a view of whether the provisions had any merit.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand what the noble and learned Lord says in that regard. I shall see whether I can return with some case studies as he describes. One of our difficulties, not in the debate in this Chamber, but elsewhere, has been that every time one side of the debate says, "We want this to be included in Clause 93", the other side says, "But it is already possible" and the Government say, "Yes, it is". That debate is happening now. We have put everything in one place to enable concision.
I am happy that we should continue that debate. I will see what can be done, but I think that the debate will continue on Report, not in Committee. I hope, therefore, that Members of the Committee will take into account the expansive nature of today's debate so that we can hone any further debate on Report to only that which is absolutely necessary.
Lord Kingsland: I admire the perspicacity of the intervention by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cooke. It is notable that, although the explanatory memorandum devotes quite a lot of illustrative space to other clauses, its contribution to the explanation of what Clause 94 means is especially spare. It consists, in paragraph 335, of two lines:
Lord Ackner: The extensive interrogation of the noble Baroness over the past 40 minutes seems to give great weight to the observation by the Lord Chief Justice on evidence of bad character, at paragraph 13 in his supplementary note. He expressed his own view and that of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division as follows:
In regard to the noble Baroness's specific answers to the problems which confronted me, I do not understand yet why the other paragraphs, to which I have drawn attention, should not come within subsection (3). I never drew attention to paragraph (a) for obvious reasonsthe parties have agreed. In paragraph (b), the evidence can be adduced by virtue of cross-examination, which could be cross-examination that would not now be permitted. No restriction is placed on the cross-examination. Apparently, we will have the possibility of situations in which, hitherto, the judge would say, "No, Mr Brown, I don't think I should follow that course", seeking to protect the defendant from excessive prejudice. It may be a case in which the judge himself would warn the defendant, and not proceed further with a line because it lets in cross-examination or the defendant's record.
Lord Ackner: Perhaps I may inquire which piece of information is right: that is, that we will not go on this Bill beyond 4 p.m. or that we could go on until 6 p.m.? I am in the unhappy position of having a wife who cannot be left alone. I have certainly covered the position until 4.30 p.m. Should I cover the position beyond that?
Lord Kingsland: The substance of Amendment No. 146, as it relates to Clause 93(1)(d), has already been discussed as a consequence of earlier amendments. The noble Baroness will be aware that the observations made from this side of the House were that Clause 95(1)(b) would allow offences that had nothing whatever to do with the offence with which a person is charged to be brought in evidence against them.
I am extremely concerned that the category of offences stipulated in Clause 95(1)(b) is a matter not for the Bill, but for an order made by the Secretary of State. My concern deepens when I look to the way in which "category" is defined in Clause 95(2), which states:
In my submission, the discretion given to the Secretary of State in these circumstances is a discretion that the Committee should not permit. I beg to move.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page