HC Deb 07 December 1981 vol 14 cc577-8
47. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Attorney-General whether he will discuss prosecution policy with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Solicitor-General

My right hon. and learned Friend has regular meetings with the Director of Public Prosecutions, during which different aspects of prosecution policy are discussed.

Mr. Janner

Will the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General be good enough to discuss with the Director of Public Prosecutions whether the time has not now come to follow the Scottish practice of not permitting private prosecutions for shoplifting offences, such as occur in London? Because of the imminent and grave risks run by honest Christmas shoppers of being wrongfully charged for shoplifting, will they make such discussions urgent?

The Solicitor-General

I know of the hon. and learned Gentleman's great interest in this matter. He will recall that such suggestions have been made on a number of previous occasions. It entails doing away with the right to bring a private prosecution in such cases. I can only repeat what I and my predecessor have said previously—that the right to bring a private prosecution is a part of Britain's constitutional rights. I, for one, would not favour its abolition.

Mr. Alton

When the Solicitor-General next meets the Director of Public Prosecutions, does he intend to discuss the workings of the Bail Act 1976? Why has the Solicitor-General issued leaflets in his constituency blaming the Liberal Party for the workings of the Act? Does he believe that the Act should be rescinded and, if so, why did he not vote against it in the first place?

The Solicitor-General

Either someone else has been issuing leaflets in my name, or the hon. Gentleman has the wrong person. I am not aware of any reference to the Bail Act under my name in any leaflet. It is not a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. No doubt the Department concerned will pay attention to the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Archer

I revert to the question asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). Have the Government reached any conclusion on the comments of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure that it is inappropriate to permit or expect private organisations routinely to accept responsibility for decisions to prosecute in shoplifting cases?

The Solicitor-General

Discussions are taking place on the matter referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There are only two prosecuting authorities to which that criticism applies—Northumbria and the Metropolitan Police. There have been few complaints about those two authorities. Nevertheless, the points mentioned are under consideration, but no conclusions have been reached.