HC Deb 13 February 1985 vol 73 cc336-7
36. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what is his policy on jury vetting in Scotland in cases relating to section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911.

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

The general policy of the Crown in Scotland with regard to jury vetting was explained by the previous Lord Advocate in 1979 and has not changed. The Crown does not screen persons cited for jury service. There have been no recent cases in which all or part of the proceedings needed to be held in camera, but for any such case in the future my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate reserves his position so far as the making of inquiries consistent with the observations of the High Court in M v. Her Majesty's Advocate in 1974 is concerned.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Solicitor-General set out in the Library the criteria of selection?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

A detailed explanation is given in the case to which I referred, which sets out the special cause where a challenge can be made to individual jurors. I shall make that available to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall make sure that it is in the Library.

Mr. Dewar

I hear the careful caveat that the Solicitor-General has made. May I take it from his reply that he shares my implacable resolve that jury vetting should not become a feature of the Scottish judicial system?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

What needs to be appreciated by the whole House is that were we have a jury operating in Scotland it operates in a different context from the jury that is to he found south of the border. There are significant differences. We have a different system of majority verdicts and a different size of ordinary criminal jury. I confirm to the hon. Gentleman that screening or vetting is not an ordinary part of the way in which we conduct matters.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the reason why the Government were persuaded by argument to leave the rejection of three jurors without cause shown was so that the practice of jury vetting by a back door should never be introduced in Scotland?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Yes, indeed, that is the situation. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) appreciated, there is only one small but general reservation that I have made on the whole matter.