§ Mr. McMaster
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the current position on the case of Neil Latimer; and if he will make a statement.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
When I responded to the Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) on 23724W February, Official Report, columns 408-16, I described my statutory power to refer a case to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. The criterion which I would normally expect to be satisfied if I were to refer a case is that there should be some new evidence, or other consideration of substance, which has not previously been before the court and which now appears to cast doubt on the safety of the conviction. I also reiterated the central principle that it is not for Ministers to substitute their own assessment of the evidence in a particular case for that of the courts.
My predecessor referred the cases of Mr. Latimer and his co-accused to the Court of Appeal because forensic tests showed that notes of police interviews with the appellants had been altered and falsely authenticated. Since Mr. Latimer's appeal was dismissed in July 1992 I have received a number of representations asking me again to refer his case to the Court of Appeal, but none has so far provided sufficient grounds to justify such a reference.
I am at present obtaining advice on the further material referred to during the debate and will, as I undertook on 23 February, continue to give these matters the very careful consideration that they merit.