§ Sir Ivan Lawrence
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what conclusions he has reached as a result of his examination of the circumstances surrounding the acquittal of Mr. Joseph Elliot; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Howard
It would not be proper for me to make any statement about the particular circumstances of this case. Nevertheless, my examination provided a useful insight into some of the general issues facing the criminal justice system. In particular, it has helped to confirm my belief in the wide-ranging programme of reform on which the Government have embarked. That programme is designed to ensure that people never have cause to feel so exasperated about crime and the response of the criminal justice system that they feel driven to take the law into their own hands; that young people in particular are deterred and helped to desist from a life style of idleness and petty crime; and that the criminal justice system as a whole works efficiently and effectively, allowing courts full and prompt access to relevant evidence. It is vital that people have confidence in the system and are encouraged to come forward to help it work better.
Specifically on the law on self-defence, I am satisfied that the individual should always be able to defend himself, his family and his property, as long as he only uses force that is both reasonable and necessary. I am not currently persuaded that there is a need to change the law. However, I intend to study the Law Commission's recent report on offences against the person very carefully and will be interested in the public reaction to its recommendations.