HL Deb 19 October 1992 vol 539 cc73-4WA
Baroness Faithfull

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why in Clause 33 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Bill they are introducing a Pigot-type pre-trial evidence taking session for children whereas in the Criminal Justice Act 1989 they opposed this for England and Wales; and what are the reasons for the two different legislative provisions.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry)

The procedure introduced by Clause 33 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Bill is different from that introduced by virtue of provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 in England and Wales. The system proposed in Scotland relates to the existing Scottish procedure of taking evidence on commission, and the procedure envisaged under Clause 33 will be subject to supervision by a commissioner. The interests of justice are served by the accused being able to instruct his lawyer as to any lines of questioning which he wishes but the accused will not be in the presence of the child who will not be able to see him.

The position in England and Wales is different in that no equivalent of the Scottish procedure of taking evidence on commission exists. Judge Pigot's recommendation would have meant a new tier in proceedings in a way which is not applicable in Scottish procedures.

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Bill are similar, however, in protecting the child from having to give evidence in the court room itself. The differences between the Act and the Bill reflect the substantial existing differences between the legal systems of Scotland and England and Wales. The intention of all the relevant provisions is to spare child witnesses the distress of having to give their evidence repeatedly.