HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 cc18-9
41 Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Attorney-General how many representations he has received about the method of selection of jurors.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

If, as I assume, the question relates to the selection of the jury panel then, since January 1980, there have been no representations, but five requests for information, three from journalists, one from a TV network, and one from a law teacher.

Mr. Price

Does the Attorney-General agree that juries should be picked at random? Is the system for coroners' juries really satisfactory in the light of the recent case of Richard Campbell, who died in Ashford remand home? The coroner was reported as having demanded an all-male jury for that case. Should not the rules for coroners' juries be exactly the same as those for juries in courts of law?

The Attorney-General

The hon. Gentleman has already asked me a question about this matter. The Lord Chancellor has approved a new system for selecting potential jurors from the electoral register. It has been devised with the assistance of the Royal Statistical Society and it involves the use of random numbers. The issue of coroners' juries is being considered by the Home Office. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would, perhaps, be to everybody's advantage to have the same system.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he will never allow ethnic, racial, religious, geographical or any other factors to have any influence over the selection of jurors?

The Attorney-General

The process of selection from the electoral roll will be done entirely by a system of random numbers. Selection in court is again entirely random. It takes place by a system of ballots. My hon. Friend will remember that each defendant in a criminal case still has three challenges available to him.

Mr. John Morris

I am sure that the House will welcome what the Attorney-General has had to say about the progress that has been made to ensure that there is real random selection of jurors. We shall examine with some care the details of what has been announced today. How many cases of jury vetting has the right hon. and learned Gentleman approved in the past 12 months? Will that practice continue with his approval?

The Attorney-General

Since January 1980, which is more than 12 months ago, I have received applications to vet the jury panel on three occasions and I have authorised two applications.