HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc15-6
30. Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the Attorney-General what representations he has received from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the prosecution of juveniles [14187]

The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer)

The prosecution of youth offenders is one of a number of issues that my right hon. and learned Friend and I discuss in our regular meetings with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Is he aware that the Crown Prosecution youth service warmly welcomes my private Member's Bill dealing with offensive weapons—in particular, because it gives powers of arrest to police to stop and challenge teenage hooligans carrying knives? Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of a problem brought to light by the experience of the youth service—the fact that the prosecutions of a large number of 14-year-olds have to be discontinued because the CPS cannot prove that they know the difference between right and serious wrong?

Does my hon. and learned Friend further agree that it is extremely important to show our determination—

Madam Speaker

Order. That is much too long a question.

The Solicitor-General

Yes. Two judges in the divisional court, in the case of C, held that the presumption was no longer part of our law. In the House of Lords, five judges held that it was. So far as I am aware, there has been no call for the two judges in the divisional court to resign. As a result of that decision in re C, the Government are looking very closely at the position to see whether any reform of the law is necessary. The Crown Prosecution Service is drafting guidance, to be issued to investigators and prosecutors, to help them to obtain and present whatever evidence is necessary in court to show that such young people know the difference between right and wrong.