HC Deb 17 July 1995 vol 263 cc1367-8

Lords amendment: No. 10, in page 10, line 29, leave out from ("verdict") to end of line 2 on page 11 and insert

(", finding or sentence shall not be made under any of sections 9 to 12 unless—

  1. (a) the Commission consider that there is a real possibility that the conviction, verdict, finding or sentence would not be upheld were the reference to be made,
  2. (b) the Commission so consider—
    1. (i) in the case of a conviction, verdict or finding, because of an argument, or evidence, not raised in the proceedings which led to it or on any appeal or application for leave to appeal against it, or
    2. (ii) in the case of a sentence, because of an argument on a point of law, or information, not so raised, and
  3. (c) an appeal against the conviction, verdict, finding or sentence has been determined or leave to appeal against it has been refused.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1)(b)(i) or (c) shall prevent the making of a reference if it appears to the Commission that there are exceptional circumstances which justify making it.")

Mr. Nicholas Baker

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also Lords amendment No. 11.

Mr. Baker

When setting out in clause 13 the broad criteria for the referral of a conviction, verdict or finding by the commission to the courts, we have sought to enable the commission to refer cases when there appears to be a real possibility of a subsequent appeal succeeding and there is some new element, whether argument or evidence, for the courts to consider but, when setting reasonable criteria for references, we are conscious of the need to ensure that references are not precluded in circumstances in which injustice would result.

Amendment No. 10, therefore, enables the commission to refer a conviction, verdict or finding in the exceptional case where the existing criterion for there to be argument or evidence not already raised in any relevant proceeding is not met, but there are, nevertheless, compelling reasons that justify its referral.

Amendment No. 11 is purely a drafting amendment.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

It is always entertaining to hear a Minister urge the House to agree to something that he resisted in an earlier debate. We welcome Lords amendment No. 10 because it allows some flexibility in the rules which govern whether a case can be referred to the Court of Appeal.

In the Bill as drafted originally, there had to be argument or evidence that had not been raised previously in any way, shape or form. In Committee, we suggested an amendment to allow consideration when the argument or the evidence had not been raised adequately—which is another way of putting the amendment that is before us today. We touched on the issue again on Report on 26 April. Interpretation by the Court of Appeal changes over time. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 has affected how courts look at admissions of guilt, and mistakes by lawyers can mean that an issue is not argued fully.

I welcome the Lords amendments, but I note that such matters may be considered in exceptional circumstances. We have always believed that such appeals should be catered for in exceptional circumstances and that they should be allowed to reach the Court of Appeal.

I cannot let the Minister's authoritative comments on Lords amendment No. 10 pass without pointing out that, basically, we told him so.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 11 to 16 agreed to.

Forward to