HC Deb 18 May 1988 vol 133 cc465-6W
Mr. Hind

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will give details of the further work he proposes on the consequences when an accused person produces at his trial a line of defence which he has not previously mentioned to the police.

Mr. Hurd

As I said on Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill on 18 January 1988, at column 687, I started a discussion, beginning with a lecture to the Police Foundation in July, on a recommendation made by the Criminal Law Revision Committee in 1972. This was that the court should be able to draw whatever inferences appeared proper from the accused's failure, when interviewed by the police, to mention facts later relied on in his defence, and such failure should also be able to corroborate other evidence against him.

There has been a lively debate, and I have listened carefully to the arguments for and against change. I am not convinced that the protection which the law now gives to the accused person who ambushes the prosecution can be justified. The case for change is strong. But I am persuaded by some of the comments which have been made that more careful work needs to be done before we can bring forward with confidence a specific proposal for legislation. I do not see the Criminal Justice Bill, which is already long and detailed, as the right vehicle for such a proposal.

The work which needs to be done covers matters such as the precise form of the change in the law which would best achieve our purposes given the significant changes in police and criminal procedure in England and Wales in recent years, and of any warning given by the police to suspects before commencing interviews; the practical implications, both for police interviews and in court; and the relevance of other measures to encourage early disclosure of the defence case. I am asking a small working group under the chairmanship of a senior Home Office official to carry this work forward, and advise me by early next year, with a view to legislation in due course. The group will include a senior police officer, experienced members of both branches of the legal profession and a senior member of the Crown Prosecution Service. Since there will be implications for law and practice in Northern Ireland, I am, with the agreement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, also arranging for an official from his office to serve on the group.

The members of the working group will be:

Mr. W. J. Bohan

  • Head of the Criminal Policy Department,
  • Home Office
  • (Chairman)

Mr. K. R. Ashken

  • Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. Colin Bailey

  • Assistant Chief Constable (Crime),
  • West Yorkshire Police

Mr. B. A. Blackwell

  • Northern Ireland Office

Mr. Michael Kalisher QC

  • Barrister and a Recorder of the Crown Court

Mr. P. M. Raphael

  • Solicitor