HL Deb 26 July 1999 vol 604 c1325

4 Clause 17, page 13, line 13, leave out ("section") and insert ("subsection").

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4. It is grouped with Amendment No. 5.

The purpose of these amendments is to strengthen the presumption that sexual offence complainants are eligible for assistance; in other words, they will be deemed eligible unless they specifically inform the court that they do not want to be considered as eligible.

It is notorious that a good deal of material shows that many sex offence complainants who choose to report a sexual offence to the police decide not to go any further with it. We do not want the trial process to make it too difficult for complainants to take their case through to trial. It was suggested that the presumption in Clause 17 as originally drafted did not go far enough to assure rape complainants that they would receive help.

Therefore, the amendments strengthen the initial presumption of eligibility for sex offence complainants. In other words, they will be considered eligible for help unless they tell the court they do not want to be helped. It is important that the court retains the discretion to decide which special measure or combination of measures will improve the complainant's evidence. That will include consideration of whether the measure might tend to inhibit the ability of the defence to test the complainant's evidence. I stress again that if the court decides that none of the special measures would improve the complainant's evidence, it will not make any available.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Lord Desai

My Lords, I welcome the amendments. Your Lordships may recall that I spoke on the matter when the Bill was before the House. The Commons have improved the provision immensely. I shall say no more about it because there was an excellent discussion in another place, especially the contribution from my honourable friend the Member for South Swindon. The amendments considerably improve the complainant's position and I look forward to its implementation.

On Question, Motion agreed to.