HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc236-7W
Mr. Lawrence

asked the Attorney-General whether he is satisfied with the operation of the guidelines in identification cases laid down by his predecessor.Official Rep ort, vol. 912, No. 115.

The Attorney-General

While I am satisfied that, in cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the guidelines have been generally effective in safeguarding against the danger of wrong conviction due to misidentification, experience has shown that rigid adherence to the requirement for witnesses as to identity being called to give oral evidence at the lower court is unnecessary and can itself lead to injustice. For example, in one case of alleged murder, where the defence would have been content with the procedure under section 1 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967—Committal by magistrates without consideration of the evidence—the court in question was unable to find time for a full hearing until a date when the trial itself might otherwise have been expected. In other instances, child victims of sexual assaults have had to undergo the ordeal, again unwished for by the defence, of giving evidence at both committal proceedings and the subsequent trial.

After careful consideration, therefore, I have decided that the guidelines should be modified so that, where neither the prosecution nor the defence feel it necessary for witnesses as to identity to give oral evidence at committal proceedings, and provided the court agrees, the procedure under section 1 of the 1967 Act may be used.

I have also found that the Director and his deputy are obliged to give unnecessary personal consideration to straight forward cases and again I propose to modify the guidelines to provide that all cases of which the Director has the conduct will be considered at not less level than principal assistant director.

I would repeat the hope of my predecessor, that other prosecutors will accept these guidelines and that the Director's advice will be sought in difficult or borderline cases.

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