HC Deb 29 March 1973 vol 853 cc1501-2
1. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, with a view to legislation, he will set up an inquiry into the numbers of acquittals in jury trials.

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

My right hon. Friend has no plans for a formal inquiry, but the significance of the statistics for acquittals in contested trials is one of the many subjects in the field of criminal law which are being considered for future research.

Mr. McCrindle

I am pleased to note the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend. He in turn will have noted the remarks of Sir Robert Mark, who has revealed that in London juries have acquitted 41 per cent. of all defendants in recent months and has called for impartial and extensive research into the jury system. To disprove the suggestion—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must ask a question, preferably a brief one.

Mr. McCrindle

To disprove the suggestion that large numbers of guilty men are getting away with it, does not my hon. and learned Friend feel that urgent research is required?

Mr. Carlisle

The 41 per cent. is the figure of acquittals in contested cases. If one includes all the cases of indictable offences that go for trial, the overall figure of acquittals is 7.5 per cent.

Mr. Stonehouse

If an inquiry is held, in the light of recent publicity will consideration be given to the importance of ensuring that in sex trials there are women members of the jury?

Mr. Carlisle

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1972, as from March next year juries will be taken from the electoral roll. That will rectify the present imbalance between men and women on juries.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

May it not be that the 41 per cent. quoted by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) were innocent of the crime with which they were charged? Should there not be research into the way in which juries reach their decision, in view of the analysis by the Oxford Group and the interesting article by Dudley Stamp in Modern Law Review?

Mr. Carlisle

I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that 41 per cent. is a high figure, whether it refers to innocent people who have been wrongly charged or to people who have been wrongly acquitted. I agree that research into the jury system is a matter that might be considered, although one has to be careful not to attempt to interfere with the privacy of the jury room.