HC Deb 11 June 1959 vol 606 cc1172-3
48. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the concern felt in many quarters as to the expense which falls on persons who prove themselves innocent of a criminal charge; and if he will move for the setting up of a Select Committee to examine the problem and to make recommendations.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I stated the present position in reply to Questions on 4th June. I am studying the reactions to this statement, as well as other representations on the subject. I do not feel that it will be appropriate or necessary to refer the matter to a Select Committee.

Sir F. Medlicott

If my right hon. Friend should change his mind on a matter which is causing a great deal of concern, will he bear in mind that the same problem is arising in the civil field in regard to matters involving assisted litigants and that we are reaching a situation in which a large number of people who are innocent are punished in the form of a heavy liability for costs?

Mr. Butler

I will make a note of that representation, too.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Does the Home Secretary realise that there is a great stigma attaching to a person who is acquitted on a criminal charge but has to pay his own costs? Will he bear in mind that, although the courts have a discretion in this matter, they rarely exercise it, owing to the doctrine of Lord Hewart and Lord Goddard when Lord Chief Justice? Does he not consider that the time is overdue for the practice of the courts on this subject to be overhauled in the interests of acquitted persons?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member has rightly referred to Lord Goddard's statement in 1952. This was the view as put forward by the Attorney-General in the Labour Government in 1948 at the time of the Criminal Justice Bill. It was also put forward in a Circular from the Home Office. I am reviewing the present position against the background of these statements on the representations which I am receiving.