HC Deb 13 November 1985 vol 86 cc561-2
40. Dr. Godman

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland if he will discuss with procurators fiscal arrangements for the release of productions before trials.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am satisfied that procurators fiscal are adequately instructed on this matter.

Dr. Godman

This is an urgent and critical matter, especially for people on low incomes who have had articles stolen and, in the event of the criminals being apprehended, must wait a long time for the restoration of their goods. Will the Solicitor-General re-examine the rules of evidence so that there might be an early release of productions?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman has identified what we also recognise is a problem. In the interest of fair trials, however, there are evidential requirements with regard to the production of items that have been stolen. Instructions have been given to procurators fiscal throughout Scotland that, if possible, they should return productions to their owners. For example, if an old-age pensioner has had a television set stolen, it should be returned. If that is to be done, however, it may be necessary to secure an undertaking from the person involved that, in the event of a trial and the need to produce the item, it will be returned to the court. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular case in mind, I hope that he will write to me.

Mr. Fairbairn

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that this is a major problem in Scotland and gives rise to enormous embarrassment? For instance, a friend of mine had his plumber's gear stolen from his car. Frequently in Scottish courts we have a label in place of the production, which is not required to be brought. If my hon. and learned Friend goes to any production room, especially in Glasgow, he will see a myriad productions which matter greatly to their owners but have no evidential value at all. Surely we could have minutes of agreement between the defence and the prosecution for the return of items which are of immense value to their owners but of practically no evidential value to the court.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. He sets out a solution which I strongly urge should be followed. In as many cases as possible minutes of admissions or minutes of agreements should be entered into. There is, however, a problem at an earlier stage, as it may take some time before the matter comes to court. In those circumstances, procurators fiscal have now been enjoined to consider the matter carefully and to return items to their owners if possible.