HC Deb 27 February 1978 vol 945 cc25-7
42. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Attorney-General whether he intends to give evidence to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure regarding the responsibilities of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Attorney-General

I have not yet formed an intention.

Mr. Price

Has my right hon. and learned Friend read the conclusions about the Director of Public Prosecutions' office in the Fisher Report on the Confait case? Is the office not meant to be some sort of safeguard to ensure that prosecutions for offences as serious as murder are properly brought? In this case, there are severe criticisms of the DPP's office. When my right hon. and learned Friend gives evidence, would it not be better for him to suggest abolition of the DPP's office and the setting up of a proper national prosecuting system?

The Attorney-General

I have read that part of the report by Sir Henry Fisher, and I entirely accept the criticism that he makes. But my hon. Friend will be aware that one of the matters to which Sir Henry particularly drew attention was the shortage of staff in the Department, which had a considerable bearing upon the event of the particular case, and the Director, apart from many other things that he is already doing, in consultation with myself following the report, is, in particular, seeking, as far as he can, to ensure that that is put right as quickly as possible.

Sir M. Havers

Will the Attorney-General be in a position soon to make a statement about the necessary increase in staff in the Director of Public Prosecutions' office in view of the present tremendous overloading of the professional officers?

The Attorney-General

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for supporting the view that I have just expressed—that there is considerable overloading. The Director is taking steps. He will have my support, and, I am sure, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's. We hope that that will produce results.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my right hon. and learned Friend be giving evidence to the Royal Commission about the relationship between his office and that of the DPP? Does he agree that there is considerable confusion in the public mind about the role of the two offices? Would it not be beneficial if the situation could be clarified?

The Attorney-General

I doubt whether there will be confusion in the minds of the Royal Commission, but if I give evidence there is no doubt whatever that it will contain a passage which bears upon the responsibility of the Attorney-General in relation to the DPP.

Mr. Lawrence

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman concerned by the fact that 50 per cent. of those who plead not guilty are acquitted, which is a very high rate of acquittal? Has he any proposal for the Royal Commission to make sure that either more of the guilty are convicted or that fewer of the innocent are charged?

The Attorney-General

The answer to both those questions is "No."

Mr. Skinner

Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell us whether still remaining on the DPP's file are such matters as the question of the Poulson case, especially in relation to the evidence from Kenneth Williams, who went away, and the question of London and Counties in respect of Gerald Kaplan, of whom, apparently, Interpol and Scotland Yard could not find any trace? Is Lonrho being dealt with at that level? Is the Slater Walker case also being continued with?

The Attorney-General

With regard to the first of my Friend's supplementary questions, I have already answered a Question about that, and I refer him to it. With regard to the third, I have also answered a Question about that, and I refer him to it. I will look into the other two.