HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1055-6
39. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what proportion of trials in Scotland, for the most recent 12-month period, have had to be postponed because of the non-appearance of Crown witnesses.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. Peter Fraser)

Statistics are not kept for this purpose, but it is thought that the proportion of trials which have had to be postponed because of the non-appearance of Crown witnesses is small.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the Solicitor-General aware of a constituent of mine who lost his job and suffered severe health problems as a result of two prolonged delays for that reason after being charged with a minor offence? Will the Solicitor-General assure the House that he will look into that case with a view to awarding my constituent some compensation? Will he discuss with the Lord Advocate the possibility of taking some action to minimise such delays in other cases?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I know about the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred. It was an exceptional case. I accept that it was most unfortunate that, for reasons beyond the Crown's control, adjournments were necessary on three occasions. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any undertaking on compensation, but I recognise that in such cases individuals do suffer as a consequence of adjournments.

Mr. Dewar

I know that the Solicitor-General is sensitive about delays in this area. Will he undertake to look at the situation again? He said that no figures were available for delays caused by the Crown, but I should have thought that there are often considerable delays. At the same time, will he take an early opportunity to report to the House on the working of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, with its intermediate diets, which are meant to stop delays caused by people who plead guilty and change their plea at the last minute?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I shall certainly report to the House on that latter point. It is important that we know how the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act is working.

The original question related to the non-appearance of Crown witnesses. It can be extremely difficult for the Crown to discover that a witness will not appear. It may be that everything is arranged and the witness simply does not turn up at court.