HC Deb 17 March 1884 vol 286 cc40-1

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether it is true that the Government have determined that the prosecutions in all capital cases shall be conducted by the Director of Public Prosecutions; and, whether he has given any directions to that effect?


Sir, perhaps it will be the better course for me, in answer to the Question of my hon. Friend, to state what directions I have given to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I lately received a communication from the Homo Office that in some recent cases great inconvenience, if not injustice, had resulted from no responsible person being in charge of cases when the life of the accused was at stake. I was also informed that the Home Office had found great difficulty in dealing with cases of alleged insanity in consequence of the facts not being brought before the jury, and only suggested after the trial. It seemed to me, therefore, advisable to take steps to insure that all the evidence bearing upon the case, whether tending to prove the guilt or innocence of the prisoner, should be placed before the jury; and with that object I have requested that whenever an accused person is brought before Justices on a capital charge, the magistrates' clerk shall communicate with the Solicitor of the Treasury, and that that officer shall take charge of the prosecution unless he finds that some competent private person or local body has the conduct of it; but, in the absence of such proper conduct, it will the duty of the Treasury Solicitor, acting for the Director of Public Prosecutions, to see that the evidence in every capital case be fully brought before the jury. I have also requested that in those cases where insanity in the accused is alleged, full inquiry shall be made, and in the absence of his or his friends' ability to produce witnesses, the Treasury Solicitor shall secure their attendance.


Will the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the chief evil in this matter has not arisen in the Central Criminal Court; and if his attention has not been directed to the way in which prosecutions are carried on there?


The evils to which my attention has been directed are pretty general. One of the cases I have in my mind did occur at the Central Criminal Court. The question of the right hon. Gentleman involves the point whether the Director of Public Prosecutions should not take charge of them altogether.