HC Deb 18 June 1975 vol 893 cc1390-2
34. Mr. Thompson

asked the Lord Advocate if he is satisfied that the police have adequate powers to bring to justice vehicle drivers from the Republic of Ireland who commit traffic offences in Scotland.

The Lord Advocate

The Scottish police are responsible for detecting road traffic offences committed in Scotland regardless of whether the offender resides in Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, or elsewhere. The extent to which these duties are undertaken depends largely on the availability and deployment of police manpower.

Once the police have detected an offence, it is the responsibility of the procurator fiscal to institute criminal proceedings against offenders who have committed road traffic offences in Scotland. For most road traffic offences there is no provision for arrest and so, in the case of many offences, an offender from abroad cannot be physically prevented from leaving the country before he can be brought before the court. Of course, there are law-abiding drivers from abroad who voluntarily comply with the requirements of our procedure and so enable the procurator fiscal to take proceedings.

This matter is, however, causing me some concern and it is under active consideration by the Home Office Committee. I understand that various matters which may have a bearing on this problem have also been considered by the Thomson Committee on Criminal Procedure in Scotland.

Mr. Thompson

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his lengthy reply. Is he aware that there is considerable disquiet in my constituency at the tales that are circulating, whether they be true or false, that the police merely move on Irish drivers who are committing lesser traffic offences? Perhaps I should make it clear that I am referring to drivers from the Republic of Ireland. There is great difficulty because we do not have an adjective to cover the two different parts of Ireland. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that there have been cases of under-age drivers from the Republic of Ireland driving heavy vehicles, and that they also have been allowed to go through the net? Could not some arrangement be made with the Government of the Republic of Ireland to deal with these admittedly relatively few cases?

The Lord Advocate

These are difficult and weighty questions, and I think I would require notice of them.

Dr. M. S. Miller

I am rather surprised that the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson) should raise this matter. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that one of the hon. Gentleman's supporters wrote to me not long ago objecting strongly that he was fined in an English court for a motoring offence which he committed in England?

The Lord Advocate

We must consider, when we are thinking of remedies, that any stronger measures which we give to the police to deal with drivers from overseas will necessarily put an increasing load upon the domestic British driver.

Mr. Powell

In the course of the welcome reconsideration which the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned, would it not be wise to consider whether the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill, which is to come before the House tomorrow, should not apply to the United Kingdom as a whole?

The Lord Advocate

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, great difficulties are involved in that proposition. However, I have taken note of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, as, no doubt, have others.