HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 cc313-4W
Valerie Davey

To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement concerning the consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service of the five cases covering the Mitrokhin archive and related matters which were referred to by the Home Secretary in his oral statement of 21 October 1999,Official Report, columns 587–99. [103901]

The Solicitor-General

In his statement of 21 October, the Home Secretary informed the House that, in the light of Mrs. Melita Norwood's recent statements, the papers in her case were being studied again by the prosecuting authorities. He also stated that four other cases were being considered. Those cases included those of Robin Pearson and John Symonds.

I can now inform the House that the CPS has decided not to refer the papers in any of the five cases to the police for investigation. The reason in each instance is the same, namely, that sufficient is known about the case to make it clear that any prosecution would fail. Having reached that view, it would be quite wrong for the CPS to ask the police to undertake a criminal investigation.

In the case of Mrs. Norwood, the intelligence information about her case would not be admissible as evidence; her statements to the media would probably be ruled to be inadmissible as evidence; there is little prospect of obtaining admissible evidence; and in any event any prosecution would probably be stayed on the ground of abuse of process. Similar considerations apply to the case of Mr. Pearson. In the case of Mr. Symonds, an immunity, granted by the DPP's office in 1984 in connection with inquiries into other matters, precludes a prosecution.

The Law Officers have been consulted about each case, and we agree with the conclusions reached by the CPS. Each decision has been made only after careful and detailed consideration.

It is not usual for the Law Officers to make announcements concerning their consideration of individual criminal cases. The rationale for this is straightforward. If it is considered that there is a case against an individual, and the public interest is in favour of a prosecution, then the proper course is to put the facts before the court and let justice take its course. If it is considered that there is no case against an individual, or the public interest is against a prosecution, then to give publicity to that decision will inevitably draw attention to the individual, attention which he or she may not welcome and which will not often be deserved.

In this instance, a different course is being followed because the allegations against the three individuals named in this answer have been given extensive publicity, and not to name them could only prompt speculation about whether a case against them is still being considered.