HC Deb 11 July 1985 vol 82 cc1248-9
4. Mr. Maginnis

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consideration he has given to the difficulties faced by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in obtaining evidential proof sufficient to satisfy the courts of the guilt of individuals believed by the police to be involved in terrorist activities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

My right hon. Friend and I are aware of the difficulties which the Royal Ulster Constabulary has in obtaining such evidence, but we remain convinced that it is right that alleged terrorists should be brought before the courts for trial against an evidential standard of "proof beyond reasonable doubt".

Mr. Maginnis

Is the Minister telling us that he will take no new steps to ensure that known terrorists do not continue to avoid justice in Ulster, are able to continue their murder on our streets and, indeed, to bring murder to the streets of Great Britain, as some recently have intended? Does the Minister admit that since the Bennett report that which in Great Britain has been accepted as a normal interpretation has been substituted in Ulster for a process more akin to the cosy interview?

Mr. Scott

I do not agree with that last comment. The figures given by my right hon. Friend earlier show the success which the security forces have had in arresting and charging people and bringing them before the courts. We must understand that terrorists are determined to undermine law and order. That is their principal objective. If we move away from strict standards in enforcing the law we shall be doing their job for them.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend accept that as surely as night follows day the House will in the fullness of time have the common sense to reintroduce capital punishment for terrorism in response to public demand? When that day comes, will it not be necessary to ensure that the people concerned have a proper trial? Is my hon. Friend aware that nothing will convince me that those who have escaped from the Maze prison have not struck and killed again?

Mr. Scott

On recent evidence I see no possibility that the House will be prepared to reintroduce capital punishment for murder, even for terrorist offences. To give a personal view, I do not believe that its reintroduction would increase stability in Northern Ireland.