§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
asked the Attorney-General if he will publish the financial arrangements made for the support of the witnesses and their families and any arrangements for future financial payment to the witness or for his benefit, in each of the "supergrass" cases over the last two years.
§ The Attorney-General
The term "supergrass cases" has no precise meaning, but I take the hon. Member's 469W concern to be with certain trials for terrorists offences that have taken place in the courts of Northern Ireland in which evidence was given for the prosecution by individuals who were in some cases themselves admitted accomplices of the accused.
Over the last two years three such cases have come to trial in which prior to trial financial arrangements were made for the support of the witnesses and families of witnesses.
The three witnesses were each provided with accommodation free of rent, rates and charges for electricity and water. Each was given a cash allowance which varied between a payment of £35 per week in respect of a witness who had no dependents and a figure of approximately £120 per week which was the allowance made to a witness who had a wife and four children living with him. The actual sums expended on the support and maintenance of this witness and his dependents may have varied slightly from week to week.
These arrangements were necessary because the lives of the witnesses were in danger and it was essential that they should be protected in a safe place by the police and the witnesses and their families supported. In no instance was any arrangement made before trial for future financial payment to the witness or for his benefit.
Decisions as to the support and protection of witnesses are not a matter for me but, as Attorney-General, I am responsible for the discharge of the prosecution's duties to the court and the defence. It is in that context that I have approved the arrangements for the provision of information relating to these matters which I set out in my written answer on 24 October.