HC Deb 23 February 1987 vol 111 cc14-6
52. Mr. Greenway

asked the Attorney-General what representations he has received about the use of his proposed powers under clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill to refer cases to the Court of Appeal for a review of their implications for future sentencing policy; and if he will make a statement.

57. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Attorney-General what representations he has received in favour of a right of appeal for the Crown in rape cases, where he is of the opinion that (a) a judge has been lenient in his sentence or (b) has not complied with the Lord Chief Justice's guidelines on the subject.

The Solicitor-General

I have not received any specific representations about the use of the proposed powers under clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Mr. Greenway

Will my right hon. and learned Friend reflect on the victim's position in the recent Ealing vicarage case and in similar cases in which, because the rapist pleads guilty, the full details of the case are not brought out before the judge, the victim's evidence is not heard and the case is thus not open to full assessment by the judge? Does he share my concern that in that situation the judge cannot make a proper evaluation of the mind of the victim and that something needs to be done?

The Solicitor-General

This is an important point. It is' sometimes said that in making a speech in mitigation the defence counsel may reflect adversely on the character of the victim. If anything is said that the prosecution knows to be misleading, the prosecuting counsel should intervene to correct it to avoid the court being misled. The judiciary will always seek to ensure that any judicial observations are squarely based on fact.

Mr. Bruinvels

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the completely inadequate sentences being given by certain judges? Is he aware that the average sentence for rape is three and a half years and the term actually served only 20 months? Does he agree also also that if all judges looked at the Regina v. Billam case, useful guidelines would be given. Does he agree that when clause 29 is reconsidered there is a possibility of directly amending any particular ludicrously light and lenient sentence and thus the opportunity to deter other potential rapists from committing such a heinous crime?

The Solicitor-General

To the extent that there is current public disquiet, it is important that clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill should be enacted, and I hope that it will be enacted. Without accepting the adjectives used by my hon. Friend, it is important— I believe that the House shares this view—that the guidelines that have been laid down by the Court of Appeal criminal division should be adhered to and applied by the judiciary.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Are there any aspects of the Kincora affair that could be brought to the attention of the Court of Appeal under the proposed powers of clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill? Is it not true that the file was given to the Prime Minister on 1 November 1984 by Mr. Wallace and Captain Holyroyd, setting out major allegations about the destabilisation of a Labour Government and the Government of the Irish Republic, but that no action was taken? Is it not about time that the Government made a statement so that Parliament can learn the truth? We want to know whether the findings in the report are true or false.

The Solicitor-General

I find it just as difficult as the hon. Gentleman must find it to see how clause 29 can relate to the Kincora affair. However, active consideration is being given to certain reports that have recently appeared about Mr. Holroyd and Mr. Wallace.