HC Deb 05 December 1983 vol 50 cc12-3
63. Mr. Canavan

asked the Attorney-General how many prosecutions he has personally conducted since he become Attorney-General.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

Eight, Sir.

Mr. Canavan

Are the streets of Britain safer or more dangerous as a result of the Attorney-General's failure to secure the conviction of the two London detectives, who gunned down an innocent unarmed man in the street, shooting him five times and then pistol-whipping him? Those men then admitted in court that they would do the same thing again in similar circumstances. Does not that case demonstrate the need for a change in the law or, at the very least, a change in the regulations on the police use of firearms?

The Solicitor-General

The law in relation to that case is clear, and the verdict returned by the jury was clear. I do not think it proper to make any further comment about that case.

Mr. Adley

Did any of those eight cases— and I assume that the answer is no — involve shoplifting offences? Has my hon. and learned Friend any qualms about the state of the law, particularly in view of the recent Woolworth's case and the recorder's comments?

The Solicitor-General

None of the eight cases involved shoplifting. The content of the law relating to shoplifting is—as for the whole of the criminal law—a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. However, my hon. Friend will know of my views on that matter from earlier exchanges when I had other ministerial responsibilities.

Mr. Alton

When the Attorney-General next considers initiating a prosecution, will he think of prosecuting those councillors who boasted this weekend that they had blackmailed and bludgeoned Group 4 Security away from the plant in—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is well wide of the question.

Mr. John Morris

Is the Solicitor-General aware of the considerable concern that surrounds many aspects of the recent conspiracy case in Cardiff, at which a substantial number of defendants were acquitted? Will he examine some of those matters and, in particular, the prolonged incarceration of many of the defendants—a subject that I raised, I believe, more than a year ago with the hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor—and the need to bring cases to trial within a period that is more in line with that in Scotland? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind the immense cost of the trial and consider whether there are any lessons to be learnt from it?

The Solicitor-General

My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will certainly examine those points. However, I think it is common ground in the House that the sooner a criminal case can be brought to trial, the better. There are a variety of reasons for the delays that sometimes occur and not all of them are connected with the congestion of the courts or delays on the part of the prosecution. If the Scottish rule were applied here, it would be unlikely to improve matters.