HC Deb 15 February 1996 vol 271 cc1131-2
12. Mr. Burden

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to make a final decision in the Carl Bridgewater case, and if he will make a statement. [13861]

Mr. Kirkhope

A final decision will be made when we have received and considered the response to our provisional conclusions notified to the applicants, as I have already said, on 7 December 1995.

Mr. Burden

Will the Minister recognise that there is considerable concern about the reply he has just given and the one that he gave little while ago? He appears to be making a judgment on the quality of new evidence in the Carl Bridgewater case, rather than whether the new evidence is significant. Does he accept that it is for the courts, rather than the Home Secretary, to make such judgments? The sooner the matter is referred to the courts, the better.

Mr. Kirkhope

No, I do not accept that. As I explained to the House earlier, one of the most thorough investigations into any alleged case of miscarriage of justice has been made in that case. The matter was referred to the Court of Appeal in 1989, when the application was turned down. The further evidence, and the allegations that have been made since that time, have been meticulously and thoroughly investigated by the Merseyside police.

As I have already explained, if any other points were to arise from the applicants' solicitors in response to our preliminary conclusions, we would obviously wish to consider them carefully before finally concluding the matter.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Is my hon. Friend aware that, when that ghastly murder occurred in my constituency, there was widespread distress? There is real concern lest the wrong people have been convicted, so can my hon. Friend give some idea of when he expects matters to be finally resolved?

Mr. Kirkhope

We expect to receive further representations from the applicants' solicitors very soon. We hope then to be able to proceed further to our final conclusion. Undoubtedly, the delays have taken place because the case is very involved. It is a complex matter and a thorough consideration is taking place.

I hope that all hon. Members will also bear in mind the appalling time that the family of young Carl Bridgewater have had. They have suffered terribly, and the continuing publicity and time involved in considering the representations are causing them even more suffering.