HC Deb 17 June 1992 vol 209 cc542-3W
Mr. McNamara

To ask the Prime Minister if he will outline his policy concerning representations to be made by individual Departments to the prosecuting authorities while considering evidence against individuals in cases concerning their Departments.

The Attorney-General

I have been asked to reply.

The prosecuting authorities for which I am responsible as Attorney-General apply a dual test when considering any prosecution. First there must be a sufficiency of evidence. Secondly, a prosecution must be required in the public interest.

In 1951 my predecessor then Sir Hartley Shawcross gave an authoritative explanation of the duty of the prosecutor in relation to the second test. That explanation referred to the duty of the Attorney-General when considering whether to authorise a prosecution but the principles are of general application. Briefly, it is the duty of the prosecuting authority, where appropriate in consultation with the Law Officers of the Crown, to acquaint itself with all the relevant facts, including, for instance, the effect which the prosecution, successful or unsuccessful as the case may be, would have upon public morale and order, and with any other consideration affecting public policy. Such consultations may, where appropriate, include Ministers and Government Departments. The assistance of those consulted is confined to informing the prosecuting authority or the Law Officers of particular considerations that might affect the prosecution decision, and does not consist, and must not consist, in telling it or them what the decision ought to be. Responsibility for the eventual decision does not rest with those making representations as to the public interest but with the independent prosecuting authorities.

Where a Department believes that it has information material to a prosecution decision it should so inform the prosecutor either directly or, where appropriate, through the Law Officers.

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