HC Deb 12 January 1981 vol 996 cc746-7
31. Mr. Adley

asked the Attorney-General if he has recently received any representations concerning shoplifting; and what has been the gist of these letters.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Ian Percival)

The Attorney-General has received only two letters recently, both from Members of this House and both concerning the alleged existence of guidelines issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the police on the handling of allegations of theft from shops made against prominent persons. It appears that some misunderstanding may have arisen from an answer which the Attorney-Generaal gave to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) on 24 March last year, in which he indicated the type of cases involving theft from shops in respect of which the Director had been consulted by police forces. Whilst the Attorney-General merely reported on the type of case in which the Director had actually been consulted, by police forces, this has been interpreted as implying that the consultation in these cases was the consequence of instructions issued by the Director. This was not the case and I can say that there is no question of the Director having issued or intending to issue any general guidelines or instructions to the police concerning such cases.

Mr. Adley

Leaving aside the misery that may or may not be caused to prominent persons, and bearing in mind that just as much misery is caused to anybody else who finds himself in these circumstances, will my hon. and learned Friend indicate whether he has had any recent discussions with the Department of Trade, with its responsibility for the trading methoods of stores, and the Home Office, with its responsibility for legislation, on the specific issue of shoplifting? If he has not done so, will he consider setting up an inter-departmental working party to consider the issue in view of continuing public concern?

The Solicitor-General

I know and respect my hon. Friend's concern. As he will know from previous questions and answers, I share a great deal of his concern and views. There have been no recent discussions, but he may rest assured that Ministers in the Departments to which he has referred share his concern and mine that all our efforts should be co-ordinated and that they will note what he has said.

Mr. Greville Janner

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman feel that the concern that he has expressed should be given form through a full inquiry into the thoroughly unsatisfactory state of the law of theft from shops, which all too often leads to innocent people being prosecuted? Meanwhile, should not guidelines be issued so that at least elderly and ill people become the subject of psychiatric and medical reports before they are subjected to going into the dock in circumstances in which no decent and compassionate society would place them?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. and learned Gentleman risks confusing two different matters. It is not the intention of my right hon. and learned Friend or the Director of Public Prosecutions to lay down guidelines. However, my right hon. and learned Friend made it clear in an answer in the autumn that if anybody wishes to consult us or the DPP our services are always available.

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