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Lord Thomas of Gresford rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 1A to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1B, at end insert "but do propose the following amendment in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 1A—


1CClause 2, Insert the following new Clause— "Anonymity of suspects in certain cases


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    (2) No matter relating to that person shall be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify that person as the person who is alleged to have committed the offence, until that person is charged or the criminal investigation has been completed and a decision not to charge the person has been made.


    (3) If any matter is published or included in a relevant programme in contravention of subsection (2), the following persons, namely—


(a) the author or broadcaster, if the publication or relevant programme took place with their consent,
(b) in the case of a publication in a newspaper or periodical, any proprietor, editor and publisher of such newspaper or periodical,
(c) in the case of any other publication the person who publishes it, and
(d) in the case of a matter included in a relevant programme, any body corporate which is engaged in providing the service in which the programme is included and any person having functions in relation to the programme corresponding to those of an editor of a newspaper, shall be guilty of an offence triable summarily and punishable by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.


    (4) Where a relevant programme is broadcast live, it shall be a defence for any body corporate or editor referred to in subsection (3)(d) to show on the balance of probabilities that it took such steps as were reasonably practicable to ensure that no matter was included in the programme in contravention of subsection (2).


    (5) Subsection (1) shall not apply—


(a) if the person against whom the allegation was made waives his right to anonymity; or
(b) if it is disapplied in relation to a specific person by a magistrates' court on application by a police officer of at least the rank of inspector, or a customs and excise officer of equivalent rank. (6) The power under subsection (5)(b) of a magistrates' court in England and Wales may be exercised by a single justice.


    (7) In this section the expressions "publication" and "relevant programme" have the same meaning as that given to them in section 63(1) of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister referred to an unkind analysis of my amendment. Her analysis is not simply unkind, but wrong. I propose to set out why I believe that.

The reason given by the Commons for disagreeing to the amendment was that it was unnecessary to make provision for the anonymity of suspects and defendants. We totally disagree with that. The press codes that have applied in the past have failed to work, and it is time that Parliament took the responsibility of ensuring that people who may very well be innocent and never be charged enjoy anonymity in respect of terrible allegations made against them. The noble Baroness said that it applied only to sex cases. We say that such cases attract the most publicity, and, whether the allegation is established or a charge brought, such publicity results in considerable pain and anguish to a suspect. It can result in the ruination of his reputation and the destruction of his family life. Therefore, sexual offences are distinct for that reason.

They are distinct for a second reason. As we said in earlier debates on these provisions, the complainant who may well be lying, as happens in sex cases, is granted anonymity throughout, no matter the result of

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the case. So a person who is acquitted at the end of a trial, or who is never charged, may go through pain and anguish while the complainant herself has the cloak of anonymity.

I turn to the specific criticisms made of the Bill. In subsection (1) of my amendment to the Motion, we have made it clear that an allegation may refer to any sexual offence in the Bill. The noble Baroness said that we had not made it clear whether that covered Part 1 or Part 2. A sexual offence under this Bill clearly covers both Part 1 and Part 2.

The second criticism was that the author, publisher or programme editor, if it is a broadcast, will be punished and that they cannot be held responsible for faults of people under them. At the same time, the Government talk about introducing manslaughter against the directors and controllers of a company to make people responsible for the deaths of victims who may die as a result of negligence that has nothing to do with the management or the people who are charged. So the Government speak with one voice in that area and with another voice in this area. It is perfectly right that a publisher, an editor, or the person in control of a programme or the body that produces a television programme should be made responsible for offences of this nature, because unless the people at the very top carry that responsibility, nothing will be done to put in place the controls.

In our subsection (4) we have recognised that, with a live broadcast, a defence for such a person could be to show, on the balance of probabilities, that the body corporate or the editor took such steps as was reasonably practicable to ensure that no matter was included in the programme in contravention of the subsection. That provision has been put in for the reason mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, on the previous occasion that we discussed the matter; that in the course of a live broadcast—as happened in one very well publicised case—a guest may say something that indicates the identity of a person charged with an offence. In those circumstances it would be unfair for a television company, a radio company or an editor of a programme to carry the can.

We recognise that, but in relation to those within the chain of command, headed up by the editor and by the publisher, we believe that the responsibility has to lie with them. I will be interested to see whether the noble Baroness can justify in any way the Government's policy in seeking to make the heads of companies liable for manslaughter and at the same time make the argument that she has made in this case.

The noble Baroness also criticises this amendment for not referring to aiders and abettors. She knows that it is possible to charge anyone with aiding and abetting an offence. I considered that point. I am aware of the aiders and abettors Act; I cannot give the date of it but it is very familiar to me. It is certainly perfectly possible for a person to be charged with aiding and abetting an offence of this kind and to stand trial for that. The kind of person whom I have in mind is the police officer who leads an investigation and leaks to the press, as has happened, the details of a person who is a suspect. The

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noble Baroness says that they will put in place the press code although, interestingly, she said that they had not finally agreed on it. So the amendment is rejected without our knowing what will be put in its place.

Finally, a criticism made on the last occasion was that an application to a magistrates' court would involve some delay. For that reason, we have included subsection (6) so that an application by a police officer of the rank of at least an inspector can be made to a single justice, if necessary in his own home. It is not necessary to convene the court within the precincts of a magistrates' court for a magistrate to make an order. So the criticism of delay made the last time can no longer be made of this amendment.

I do not know why the Government take the attitude they do. It may be that they are in thrall to the tabloid press and simply dare not take a lead on such an issue. They simply fear the fact that there are newspaper proprietors who are making money from leaks, and they cannot face it. That is typical of how the Government have acted regarding the tabloid press. I think that we shall probably hear a little more about that issue before we finally finish the Session.

So, my Lords, I strongly support the amendment put down in the name of the Liberal Democrats. It is a very liberal point we make. It is met with hostility by the Government. That just indicates that any credentials they ever had for a liberal approach to matters of this kind have been lost and were lost years ago. I shall wait to hear the Minister's response before I decide what to do. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 1A to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 1B, but do propose Amendment No. 1C in lieu of Lords Amendment No. 1A.—(Lord Thomas of Gresford.)

7 p.m.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said that the Minister's analysis was unkind. I shall not accuse the noble Baroness of being unkind, but I have noticed, both today and last week, that she has taken an undue pleasure in criticising the very earnest attempts from these and the Liberal Democrat Benches, both in this House and in another place, to find a solution to what I thought was a common cause on a very real problem.

There have been many attempts to find a good legislative solution to the problem. All attempts have been comprehensively rejected by the Government. We continue to believe that these issues are important. Defendant anonymity is important, especially in cases of sexual offences. We are genuinely disappointed that the Government have failed to find a solution with us to those very real issues. If the Government had wanted to find a technically competent solution one could have been found, but they did not.

We on these Benches have throughout supported defendant anonymity on a pre-charge basis. We were minded to continue to support that this evening. However, the Minister in another place made it very

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clear earlier today that the Government will not change their mind if the Bill returns. That threat raises the prospect of the Bill being lost for the sake of defendant anonymity. We on these Benches are not prepared to let all the good things in the Bill be lost. So it is with very great regret that we find ourselves unable to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford.

The Government have made it plain—and the Minister again made it plain this evening—that their hopes are pinned on a self-regulatory solution. We believe that effective self-regulation would be ideal. But if self-regulation does not work, more innocent lives will be ruined. I hope the Minister will at least make a clear commitment to using one of the very many legislative opportunities that I am sure her department will have at its disposal to act decisively if a regulatory regime is not agreed or, if having been agreed, proves to be unsatisfactory.


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