HC Deb 28 January 1964 vol 688 cc209-12
Mr. Fletcher

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department since the new Judges Rules announced by the Lord Chief Justice affect not only the admissibility of evidence, but also the conduct of the police in the interrogation of suspected persons, what consultations he has made with the Chief Constables' Association and with the Police Federation; and what directions he intends to issue with respect to the revised Rules.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)

The new Rules are the responsibility of the judges and not of the Home Secretary; but I know that the views of chief officers of police were available to the judges before the Rules were made.

As regards the second part of the Question, I have sent to chief officers administrative directions on interrogation and the taking of statements. The terms of these directions have been approved by the judges. Copies of the Rules and directions were made available to the House on Friday last.

Mr. Fletcher

While I recognise that the Rules relating to the admissibility of evidence are a matter for the judges, does not the Home Secretary regard it as unfortunate that the Police Federation and the Chief Constables' Association should have expressed their indignation that they were not consulted before the right hon. Gentleman issued his circular?

Secondly, may I ask the Home Secretary whether he can give us an assurance that he is satisfied that these revised and somewhat complicated new Rules, with their double caution, can be satisfactorily worked by the police and will not impair their efficiency in investigating and detecting crimes?

Mr. Brooke

I am sure that the Rules can be satisfactorily worked by the police, but I say again that they are not my responsibility.

The judges made it known at an early stage that they would take account of any representations made to them, and it was open to the Police Federation, and to all kinds of other bodies, to make representations if they wished to do so. I did not think that it was for me, in a matter of this kind, specifically to invite the Federation or other bodies to make representations.

Mr. John Hall

Is it not a fact that the Home Office circular did not come into the hands of the police until Saturday? As these Rules were meant to operate from Monday, was that sufficient time to give the police in view of the rather complicated nature of these changes?

Mr. Brooke

The date of promulgating them was a matter for the judges. I became aware late on Tuesday night of last week that the Rules were to be promulgated on Friday. Chief constables were warned in confidence in a circular that was issued to them on Wednesday. The judges agreed that the Rules and directions ought to be ready in print in advance of promulgation by the Lord Chief Justice, and the Stationery Office, by a great effort, was able to supply sufficient copies to enable the Home Office to send to chief constables on Thursday night a copy for every police station in the country. Copies were also available on sale, as well as in the Vote Office here on Friday.

Mr. Paget

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that I, at any rate, have always been brought up to believe that it was for us to make laws and for the judges to interpret them? This appears to be an act of legislation by the judges. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us from where they get their authority to do this?

Mr. Brooke

This is not an act of legislation. This is an indication by the judges of what they will take into account when they are hearing evidence in court as to the admissibility of that evidence.

Mr. J. T. Price

While I have no wish to discuss the merits of the technical features of these amendments to the Rules, would not the Home Secretary agree that in view of the present crime wave, and of the dangerous elements that are now let loose on society, in increasing numbers, anything which hampers the police in making proper investigations to make arrests and to reduce crime will be regarded as a sorry outcome of academic considerations of the kind mentioned in these Rules?

Mr. Brooke

I am extremely anxious that anybody who commits a crime shall be brought to justice and convicted, but I am equally anxious that no evidence shall be obtained by oppressive measures, and that those who are not guilty shall be found not guilty.

Mr. Fletcher

Is it not a fact that the directions which the Home Secretary has given go far beyond anything which the Lord Chief Justice promulgated with regard to rules of evidence? May I ask the Home Secretary whether he consulted chief constables and the Police Federation about all the other administrative details in the circular which he issued?

Mr. Brooke

Naturally, I had the advice of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary. I would not accept that the directions went far beyond the Rules. I think that they were a necessary accompaniment of the Rules. They were approved by the judges before I sent them out.

Mr. Ronald Bell

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he knows of any reason which made it necessary or desirable that these new Rules should be promulgated so shortly before they came into force on Monday?

Mr. Brooke

That was a matter for the judges. I expect that the judges thought it would be undesirable for the old Rules to continue in operation for any appreciable time after the new Rules had been promulgated.