HC Deb 30 June 1982 vol 26 cc890-1
30. Mr. Dewar

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland whether he will have further consultations with the procurators fiscal to discuss the operation of part II of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, relating to procedure and evidence; and whether he will make a statement.

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

There is a continuous flow of information from procurators fiscal to the Crown Office on the operation of all parts of the 1980 Act. Both I and my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate have had discussions with procurators fiscal and other interested parties on the operation of the Act, and will continue to do so with a view to identifying any difficulties being experienced in connection with the implementation of this legislation.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Solicitor-General for Scotland accept that great administrative problems arise from the administration of judicial examination? Will he also look at the problems arising from section 2 of the Act, which allows the detention of suspects for questioning by the police? Is he aware that the confidence that he and his colleagues have expressed is not shared by the Criminal Court of Appeal? Has he seen the recent judgment, where Lord Emslie referred to the problem of confusion created by the detention powers, and Lord Cameron said: It is not, indeed, immediately apparent what useful purpose this innovative and possibly confusing provision is designed to serve. In those circumstances, will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider further amending legislation, as this is clearly an unsatisfactory situation?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

A number of points are developing as we gain experience of the working of judicial examination. As to the recent case to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I think that he is referring specifically to the problem of the caution that is given by the police where the powers of detention are exercised. The hon. Gentleman may ruefully reflect that when the measure was in Committee I referred to the efficacy of the warning that is required to be given under that section. I accept and recognise, as the Court of Appeal has said, that there are two stages at which a warning must be given. If the police detain someone without questioning him further, the caution required by section 2(7) is sufficient. However, if the police ask questions, it is clear that they must give a common law caution, and that instruction has already gone from the Crown Office to the police.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 is going down very well in the courts, largely because of the way in which the sheriff principals, such as Sheriff Principal Taylor, are handling it?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

In spite of some of the somewhat hysterical over-reactions originally given to this legislation, it is clear that a number of parts of the Act are working extremely well. Despite the fact that it was thought that the police would abuse the powers given to them, a number of people from interested sections involved in the administration of justice in Scotland recognise that they have used them both reasonably and sparingly.

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