HL Deb 19 December 1985 vol 469 cc951-2WA
Lord Hylton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether detention for periods ranging from one year to 2½ years or more, pending trial in some cases in Northern Ireland, particularly those involving accomplice evidence, is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (especially Article 5(4) and what steps are being taken to reduce pretrial delays.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Lyell)

The question whether the European Convention of Human Rights has been contravened in a particular case is for the European Court to decide; but the Government do not consider that the relatively long periods which persons involved in particularly complex criminal cases in Northern Ireland may spend in custody on remand breach the convention.

The Government are concerned however to eliminate avoidable delays in bringing persons to trial and a number of measures have been implemented recently which should help reduce waiting times.

Twelve additional Queen's counsel and an additional county court judge have been appointed, together with a presiding judge at Crumlin Road courthouse to oversee the listing of cases, extra staff have been recruited in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and a "fast stream" of cases which can be dealt with within two months.