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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The way in which the amendment works is to give the Director of Public Prosecutions the power to designate certain people, subject to exceptions, to have the power to exercise all of the powers of the Crown prosecutors. I do not think that it would be appropriate to exercise that power by either an affirmative or a negative order. Amendment No. 212 states:
That would be much more appropriately dealt with as a managerial matter by the DPP rather than by a negative or affirmative order. Therefore, although I am grateful for that suggestion, I do not think that it is necessarily an appropriate way of dealing with the problem.
Lord Belstead: I am guilty of not making myself clear. I am suggesting that as the scheme is to be trialled--a piece of information that we have not heard previously--the trials could take place and it could then be possible to bring the provisions of the amendment into force, by order, subject to either the affirmative or the negative resolution.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We could not pilot it without the legislation. We would need the power to be able to use lay presenters. The amendment has been tabled precisely because the First Division Association brought a court case in 1989 which effectively prevented the DPP from designating lay presenters to review and present cases. In the light of that divisional court case, it is plain that we need legislation to be able to move forward even in relation to the piloting. I do not think that what the noble Lord is suggesting is possible as a way forward.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Because the legislative authority that is required is to give the lay presenters the power to act as Crown prosecutors. That is what the DPP cannot do at the moment because of the FDA case in 1989. As a matter of legislative drafting, that is what we took to be all that was required in relation to the Bill. That is the answer.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Because the only authority that is required is to give the DPP the power to designate. With respect to the noble and learned Lord, I think that that point is dealt with in what will be new Section 7A(3)--perhaps I should have referred the noble and learned Lord to this earlier--which states:
That may well meet the point. It must be subject to such instructions as are given to him by the director. That will include appropriate instructions in relation to who supervises him and what kinds of cases he can deal with.
Lord Windlesham: The noble and learned Lord will have sensed apprehension in the Committee about this late proposal. The Government propose the insertion of a completely new clause at Committee stage. The noble and learned Lord informed the Committee that the report by Sir Iain Glidewell was due shortly. I ask the noble and learned Lord whether he will consult the Home Office and ask that department to be more precise as to when it expects to hear from Sir Iain Glidewell. Will he urge the department to process the report internally very speedily so that it does not get delayed in the Home Office--something that has occurred from time to time in the past--and that the findings of the report on this aspect are made available to the Home Office Minister who takes this Bill through Standing Committee in the Commons?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Glidewell team is to report to the Law Officers, not the Home Office. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is far more aware than I am that reports that go to the Home Office often become lost; the Law Officers' Department has so few reports that they are never lost. We are literally on the edge of our seats awaiting Sir Iain Glidewell's report. I can give the noble Lord an assurance that the moment the final report of Sir Iain Glidewell is available we will consider all of it with immense care and expedition. If and in so far as there are any parts of it that relate to this particular provision as soon as reasonably practicable we shall bring them to the attention of the Minister who is to deal with the matter in the Commons so that the other place has the benefit of any comments that Sir Iain may have on this aspect.
I have noted the concerns expressed by the Committee in relation to this matter. It may be that the most appropriate course is to ensure that the guidelines to be applied in relation to the appointment of lay presenters are published at a stage when they can be considered either in this place or in another place before the Bill finally becomes an Act. It is to be hoped that that will lay to rest many of the concerns that have been raised in the course of this very useful debate.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I have been waiting to hear from the noble and learned Lord why delay will be cured by the proposals to bring in lay presenters. Until quite recently there was a useful way of dealing with the backlog of Crown Prosecution Service cases whereby young barristers were given a day's list for a fixed fee. They cut their teeth on a variety of cases. The advantage of such a method of dealing with delay was that, first, it got rid of the backlog; secondly, it gave very valuable experience to young members of the Bar; and, thirdly, it maintained the quality of independence from the investigation authorities that is so very important.
What troubles me about the present proposal is that it has nothing to do with delay; it is to do with cost cutting. It is cheaper to have lay presenters do this work than to employ young members of the Bar, as happened in the past. These proposals therefore appear to be a return to the old days when prosecution was in the hands of the police inspector and the decision making of the prosecutor, the local policeman, was always subject to query. The introduction of lay prosecutors in a similar way closely attached to police stations, as they will be in many instances, is a throwback to the past. I thought that we had got away from that, thus ensuring the independence of the prosecutor from the investigation. This is not in any sense a plea for restrictive practices by the legal profession as a whole; it is to do with the quality of decision-making. It is worth paying for the quality of decision making by prosecutors to ensure that justice is done in cases that can affect so many members of the public whose confidence in the criminal justice system must be maintained.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I hope that nothing I have said has in any way denigrated the importance of decisions about prosecutions and the importance of proper presentation of cases even where there are relatively minor charges because they can affect the reputation and liberty of individuals.
I should like to deal with the three points just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. How does it affect delay? As I thought I had explained earlier, the Government accepted the Narey proposals which involved a package of measures. It would not be possible to do the other things proposed by Narey--for example, that indictment-only offences should go to the Crown Court--without greater flexibility in the resources available to the CPS thereby using lay presenters to do the more simple guilty pleas so that lawyers can do the cases that require the attention of a qualified lawyer.
Secondly, the noble Lord suggested that this was a throwback to the past and independence might be threatened. We believe that that is not so. We are concerned here with straightforward guilty pleas that will be reviewed and presented by lay presenters under the direction of a Crown prosecutor only after suitable training. We do not believe that that significantly threatens the quality of justice in those cases.
Thirdly, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, like all barristers, referred to the halcyon days of his youth when at the last moment barristers were provided with a long list of simple cases in a magistrates' court. He omitted to point out that the trouble with such a long list of cases was that there was no proper opportunity to consider the detail of all those cases. Although I do not believe that the quality of presentation was excellent, I am sure that that was necessarily a handmaiden of justice in those circumstances. For all those reasons, and with the greatest respect, I reject the criticisms of the proposals that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford.
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