HC Deb 09 July 1980 vol 988 cc543-5
36. Mr. Dewar

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what consultations he has had with the Lord Justice General regarding the present rules on the inadmissibility of evidence.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I have not consulted the Lord Justice-General recently regarding the present rules on the inadmissibility of evidence.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Solicitor-General accept that there is widespread anxiety and disquiet about certain remarks that he is reported to have made during the Glasgow, Central by-election which appeared to suggest that a murder trial which received widespread publicity and which resulted in acquittal might have had a different result if the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill had been on the statute book? In retrospect, and after consideration, will the hon. and learned Gentleman now agree with me that those remarks deserved the stinging public rebuke that they received from a prominent member of the Bar? Will he assure the House that he has no further intention of attacking the present rules on cautioning before statements are taken by the police?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

At no time have I made any remark which could be interpreted as attacking the rules of caution. The rebuke from a certain member of the Bar arose, I think, from a misunderstanding. In the matter in which the hon. Gentleman is concerned the accused was found not guilty and, as the presumption of innocence was undisturbed, the matter never went to the jury. The case was resolved on that basis.

Mr. Ancram

Will my hon. and learned Friend go further and confirm that, contrary to public apprehension, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill specifically retains the well-tried rules of admissibility and inadmissibility of evidence?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Yes, indeed. The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill does not in any way disturb that matter. Indeed, we put down an amendment, suggested in another place, in order to ensure that the present rules on admissibility of evidence are undisturbed by the Bill.

Mr. Buchan

It is precisely because the presumption of innocence was not disturbed in this case and that that was followed by a statement by the Solicitor-General that under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill that would not have happened that we are anxious both about his statement and about the Bill. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman agree to write in some new clauses on Report to ensure that the presumption of innocence, which we believe is severely under attack in the Bill, will be safeguarded?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

No, Sir.

Mr. Lang

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept my assurance, as one who was present at the press conference to which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) referred, that he prefaced his remarks clearly with a presumption of innocence in that particular case?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for making the facts clear. I know that Opposition Members infinitely prefer prejudice.

Back to