HL Deb 22 July 1988 vol 499 cc1666-8

200 Clause 143, leave out Clause 143 and insert the following new clause:

'Crown Court proceedings—orders restricting or preventing reports or restricting public access.

.—(1) A person aggrieved may appeal to the Court of Appeal, if that court grants leave, against—

  1. (a) an order under section 4 or 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 made in relation to a trial on indictment;
  2. (b) any order restricting the access of the public to the whole or any part of a trial on indictment or to any proceedings ancillary to such a trial; and
  3. 1667
  4. (c) any order restricting the publication of any report of the whole or any part of a trial on indictment or any such ancillary proceedings;
and the decision of the Court of Appeal shall be final.

(2) Subject to Rules of Court, the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal under this section shall be exercised by the criminal division of the Court, and references to the Court of Appeal in this section shall be construed as references to that division.

(3) On an application for leave to appeal under this section a judge shall have power to give such directions as appear to him to be appropriate and, without prejudice to the generality of this subsection, power—

  1. (a) to order the production in court of any transcript or note of proceedings or other document;
  2. (b) to give directions as to persons who are to be parties to the appeal or who may be parties to it if they wish, and as to service of documents on any person;
and the Court of Appeal shall have the same powers as the single judge.

(4) Subject to Rules of Court made by virtue of subsection (6) below, any party to an appeal under this section may give evidence before the Court of Appeal orally or in writing.

(5) On the hearing of an appeal under this section the Court of Appeal shall have power—

  1. (a) to stay any proceedings in any other court until after the appeal is disposed of;
  2. (b) to confirm, reverse or vary the order complained of; and
  3. (c) to make such order as to costs as it thinks fit.

(6) Without prejudice to the generality of section 84 of the Supreme Court Act 1981, Rules of Court may make in relation to trials satisfying specified conditions special provision as to the practice and procedure to be followed in relation to hearings in camera and appeals from orders for such hearings and may in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of this subsection, provide that subsection (4) above shall not have effect.

(7) In the application of this section to Northern Ireland

  1. (a) subsection (2) shall be omitted; and
  2. (b) the reference in subsection (6) to section 84 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 shall be construed as a reference to sections 52 and 55 of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978.'.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 200. I should like to speak to Amendment No. 425 at the same time. During the Committee stage of the Bill in your Lordships' House, the Government moved an amendment which is now Clause 143 of the Bill. It provided that orders made in a Crown Court trial under Sections 4 or 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 could be challenged by means of a judicial review. Your Lordships will recall that there had been complaints, in particular by the press, that the courts' power to prevent or restrict the reporting of proceedings had occasionally been misused and that there was no remedy to correct any such misuse.

While Clause 143 was welcomed so far as it went, some noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, felt that it did not go far enough. My noble friend Lord Caithness undertook to consider with my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor whether the scope of the clause should he widened to embrace other kinds of order which restrict the reporting of, or public access to, Crown Court proceedings.

Amendment No. 200 is the result. I think that it fully meets the concerns expressed during the Bill's earlier stages. Amendment No. 200 will allow challenges to the Court of Appeal in respect of any court which restricts reporting of Crown Court proceedings and any order which restricts access to those proceedings. This includes orders under the Contempt of Court Act or under Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 and orders for hearings in camera.

I should make a few observations about the special procedure envisaged by subsection (6). It is intended to deal with those very few exceptional cases involving information of high sensitivity. We have not sought to protect such cases from challenge but we must ensure that information is not disclosed in the course of an appeal which would damage national security or identity, and therefore put at risk a member of the security services. The prosecutor must be confident that any evidence containing such information will be heard in camera. He must retain the option of not proceeding with the prosecution if the consequences of disclosure of that information would be excessively serious.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 200—(Earl Ferrers.)

Lord Irvine of Lairg

My Lords, Amendment No. 200 is a very welcome amendment. The Bill as originally drafted provided for review of Crown Court orders under the Contempt of Court Act forbidding publication of reports of proceedings. We on these Benches pointed out that it was anomalous that there should be no similar possibility of review where the court went further and decided to sit in camera. We made the point too that it was not clear whether there was also a common law jurisdiction to prohibit publication with which the Bill should have dealt.

The Government have now dealt with both points. The procedure to he adopted has changed somewhat from that originally envisaged. But we have no particular objection. Indeed, some of the detail is to be welcomed. I wonder whether it would not have been better for the power conferred by the new clause—that is the power to stay proceedings—to be exercisable upon the application for leave rather than having to wait for the hearing of the appeal. I think that would have been better. However, subject to that small point, we are happy to welcome the amendments with enthusiasm.

On Question, Motion agreed to.