HC Deb 25 January 1982 vol 16 cc611-2
38. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Attorney-General what recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on prosecution policy.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

In accordance with my usual custom I have had regular meetings with the Director of Public Prosecutions at which prosecution policy was discussed.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the Lord Chancellor considering issuing guidelines to magistrates in areas, such as the Leyland organisation, where work forces are occupying factories in a wholly responsible manner because they are desperate about their jobs and about redundancies?

The Attorney-General

I have no information on this subject. If the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is intended to mean that where criminal offences have been committed the Lord Chancellor will be seeking to influence the execution of the magistrates' duties, the answer must be "No".

Mr. Nelson

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is of the utmost importance that the Director of Public Prosecutions should enjoy full public confidence? Is there not a danger that, after recent cases, there may be doubt on the part of the DPP and his officials about when to prosecute? If that were to be the case, would it not be extremely regrettable? Will he give the House an assurance that the DPP will continue to base his policy on a careful analysis of the evidence and a balanced assessment of where the public interest lies?

The Attorney-General

I am sure that the Director of Public Prosecutions always applies those principles. The criticism that is usually levelled at him is that he does not prosecute in enough cases.

Mr. English

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman is considering the report of the recent Royal Commission on criminal prosecutions, may I take it that he will take note of recent events in Scotland which illustrate that, private prosecutions never having taken place in the past 70 years, judicial restrictions on private prosecutions may well infringe upon this basic individual right? I hope that he will therefore reject at least one recommendation of the Royal Commission. Will he also consider that it might be a good idea if we reverted to the ancient British system, which is still the American system, and allowed prosecution ultimately to be decided upon by a jury?

The Attorney-General

There is no judicial discretion in private prosecutions. Certain statutory restrictions are usually imposed by the will of the House. [Interruption.] There are a number of Royal Commission recomendations and they are under constant consideration.

Mr. Stokes

In any discussions that my right hon. and learned Friend has with the Director of Public Prosecutions, will he bear in mind that protection of the public from violent crime must be one of the foremost considerations in his mind if the Government are to continue to have the confidence of ordinary law-abiding citizens?

The Attorney-General

I have always taken the view that violence is one of the worst crimes in the calendar. When I sat in a judicial capacity I always made certain, so far as I could, that the sentence reflected my views about that crime.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman discussed with the Director of Public Prosecutions recently any plans for setting up a national prosecuting service? If he has, what response has he received?

The Attorney-General

If the hon. and learned Gentleman had read the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission he would have seen my views and those of the Director of Public Prosecutions. We agree that there should not be a national prosecuting system but we were agreed—this emerged in the recommendations—that every police force should have access to local prosecuting systems, which presently does not happen throughout the country. It was suggested also that either the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General should have a say, or perhaps a veto, in the appointment of the senior prosecuting solicitor for each area.