HC Deb 27 November 1975 vol 901 cc1033-4
14. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the Criminal Law Revision Committee to report on its review of the law relating to sexual offences; and if he will report on his progress in setting up a policy advisory committee on sexual offences.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The review of the law on sexual offences in England and Wales has only just begun and it is far too early to forecast when the committee is likely to report. I am now setting up the Policy Advisory Committee and hope to announce the names of members shortly.

Mr. Steel

Following the publicity given to the recent tragic case involving a bishop, does not the Home Secretary agree that pending these reports it would be a sound principle if prosecutions took place only where some member of the public had been offended and a complaint had been made? Does not he feel that the police have better things to do than spend time seeking out these rather pathetic cases of elderly men misbehaving themselves?

Mr. Jenkins

As the hon. Gentleman will know, while criminal law is a matter for me and, with the approval and support of the House, a matter in respect of which it is for the Home Office to make proposals, the prosecution process is not such a matter. I do not, therefore, think that I ought to fall into the temptation of commenting on the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what discussions he has had recently with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services about the tragic incidents which have hit the Press in recent days, relating to people released—quite wrongly in my view—from psychiatric hospitals?

Mr. Jenkins

That is clearly an important question, but it hardly arises on this Question. However, we have the benefit of the Butler Report, which has been delivered to my right hon. Friend and myself. This will be of considerable assistance in avoiding difficulties such as those which have come to public notice and which we are all extremely anxious to avoid. We well understand the public concern about these matters. However, as has also been pointed out, it is not possible to proceed entirely without risk without having a position in which we would have, as someone has said, not one Broadmoor but a new Broadmoor built every few years to supplement the existing one. A balance must be struck, and, of course, we shall endeavour to strike a better balance than has been struck by successive Governments and successive Ministers responsible over recent years.

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