HC Deb 10 November 1976 vol 919 cc406-7
42. Mr. Fairbairn

asked the Lord Advocate how many accused persons have been released under the 110-day rule since 1945; and when and in what court these releases occurred.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. Ronald King Murray)

No records are kept of these particulars.

Mr. Fairbairn

No doubt it is wise for the Lord Advocate not to keep records of his own incompetence. Does he not appreciate that there is growing public concern in Scotland that the incompatibility of those who are employed in his Department results in miscarriages of justice with growing frequency when men are released who have been charged with serious crimes? What will the right hon. and learned Gentleman do to demonstrate that he is in charge of the Department for which he is responsible?

The Lord Advocate

The hon. and learned Gentleman is not noted for his consistency, except perhaps in demanding my resignation. He has asked for certain figures, and the Question relates to that. In effect, the hon. and learned Gentleman is criticising the Government for not cutting public expenditure enough At the same time, he is demanding that my Department keeps statistics which it cannot usefully and productively keep.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is it not the case with regard to the Tartan Army trial that the presiding judge who heard the application refused an extension of the 110-day rule? Does this not reflect on the competence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Department, since if the presiding judge had thought that there was justification he would have granted an extension? Is it not the case that there are also instances in Scotland in respect of other court cases? The right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to look at the administration of his Department in order to make sure that these problems do not arise in future.

The Lord Advocate

I would refute any suggestion that the difficulties to which the hon. Gentleman has referred were in any way connected with the competence of those running the cases concerned. I should indicate that the Government and the Crown were guided in this particular aspect of the law by two reported cases, Bickerstaff and Boyle. For the first time, the line of reasoning in those cases was questioned in the Tartan Army trial. I can also tell the hon. Gentleman that a bill of advocation has been tabled by the Crown which raises the matter, and this will be heard by the High Court of Justiciary on Friday.

Mr. Fairbairn

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply given by the Lord Advocate, I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment. If he cannot give me the figures, I can give them to him.