HC Deb 18 March 1991 vol 188 cc13-4
27. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Attorney-General when he last authorised any prosecution for the publication of anti-Semitic literature.

The Attorney-General

On 23 Febraury I gave my consent to the prosecution of Jane Lady Birdwood for offences under part III of the Public Order Act 1986 relating to the leaflets "The Ultimate Blasphemy", "Jewish Tributes to our Child Martyrs", "The Snides of March" and "Another Blood Libel or Ritual Murder".

Mr. Marshall

Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House whether that is the only prosecution for anti-Semitic behaviour that he has brought in recent months? Does he accept that many people look forward to the successful prosecution of such disgraceful hatred and trade in bigotry and racism?

The Attorney-General

I know what a close interest my hon. Friend takes in this matter. In the past I have described that kind of literature as odious and, of course, the whole House agrees with that. In recent months I authorised the prosecution of two other cases. Fourteen cases have been reported to me and are being considered by the police. That probably answers my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Cohen

Notwithstanding that one proposed prosecution, has the Attorney-General's Department blocked other proposed prosecutions that have been put to him in the past by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis? Do the proposed prosecution and the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer suggest a change in his policy and that he will look more favourably on prosecuting those who are guilty of distributing anti-Semitic publications?

The Attorney-General

There is no question of a change in policy. The matter is governed by the code for Crown prosecutors, to which I have already referred. Nor is there any question that any prosecution has been blocked. In recent years, no decision not to prosecute has been taken on public interest grounds—such a decision has always been made on the ground of insufficiency of evidence. As for the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the hon. Gentleman may or may not have seen a letter from Sir John Dellow, the acting commissioner, a few weeks ago in which he said that he knew that all cases referred to the Crown prosecution service were given full and proper consideration and decisions were taken on entirely proper grounds.

Sir John Stokes

Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell me whether there have been any prosecutions for anti-English publications?

The Attorney-General

No, Sir. Because—I do not know whether I should say "because", but I remind my hon. Friend that prosecutions under part III of the Public Order Act 1986 relate to publications which are designed, intended or likely to stir up racial hatred and which are threatening, abusive or insulting in their character.

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