HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1490-1


Lords Amendment: No. 1, in page 4, line 23, leave out "or mental".

The Solicitor-General (Sir Michael Havers)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker

I gather that the suggestion is that we should consider at the same time Lords Amendment No. 2, in page 4, line 23, after "witness" insert: or is unfit to attend as a witness by reason of a mental condition which has arisen since he made the statement".

The Solicitor-General

These amendments relate to the admissibility of a signed, written statement in the absence of the person who made it because of his mental unfitness to attend. The clause originally permitted this statement to be admitted in evidence regardless of when the mental illness had begun. The amendment provides that the time must be subsequent to the making of the statement, on the basis that, if the absent witness were mentally ill at the time of the making of the statement, this would throw considerable doubt on the validity and the weight of the statement.

A wider amendment was debated in Committee in this House which would have had the effect of excluding any such statement made by a witness who was mentally ill regardless of when the condition arose. For obvious reasons, that was unacceptable. The present amendment is acceptable since, for example, it would not cover the case where the witness since making his statement had been so intimidated that his mental health broke down. I am not over-enthusiastic about the amendment, because I can see perhaps further difficulties arising from it, but I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.