HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1425-6
1. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Government's policy with regard to the report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee concerning evidence and procedure in criminal trials.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

The report is under study in the light of the debate in another place and the many memoranda and other comments that we have received, but we shall not reach conclusions on this important report until this House has had an opportunity to debate it.

Mr. Davis

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the grave disquiet in the legal profession, as expressed in another place, about most of the major observations contained in this report? Is it not time for the Government to express their view? When does the Minister anticipate that the House will have an opportunity to debate the issue?

Mr. Carlisle

The opportunity for a debate is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we will not reach conclusions until there has been the opportunity for a debate on the report. I am aware of the many views that have been expressed on it and of the comments that the hon. Gentleman makes. We have to weigh up the various issues involved in this important report.

Mr. Fowler

Will my hon. and learned Friend beware of special pleading on this report? Is not the overriding interest that of the public? Does he not agree that, while everyone accepts that the rights of the innocent should be protected, there is also a genuine public interest in seeing that the guilty are convicted?

Mr. Carlisle

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It seems that the approach we should make to this report is to see that the rules of evidence of our courts are appropriate for the present day as the courts seek to do their best to arrive at verdicts in individual cases.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Despite criticisms of the jury system and the imperfections in the procedure of the system, will the Minister at least take this opportunity to affirm his faith in it and say that with all its imperfections it still provides the best method and remains the best bulwark for the liberty of the subject?

Mr. Carlisle

Of course I have faith in the jury system and I willingly accept what the hon. Gentleman says about its importance. But the fact that one believes in the system does not mean that one ought not to review the rules of evidence and the type of evidence which can be put before a jury.

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