HL Deb 01 March 2002 vol 631 cc259-60WA
Baroness Whitaker

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions the Attorney-General has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland regarding the director's policy on the giving of reasons for non-prosecutions following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Jordan v The United Kingdom. [HL3056]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith)

The Government are considering a package of measures which, taken together, should meet the concerns expressed by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgments in a series of cases from Northern Ireland, including that ofJordan v The United Kingdom.

In furtherance of that objective, I have had a number of discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland (the Director) regarding the giving of reasons when a decision is reached not to initiate or continue a prosecution.

We have agreed that the following statement should issue:

"The policy of the Director in the matter of providing reasons for decisions not to initiate or continue prosecutions, is to refrain from giving reasons other than in the most general terms. The Director recognises that the propriety of applying the general practice must be examined and reviewed in every case where a request for the provision of detailed reasons is made. This policy is based on a series of public interest considerations. It also reflects the duties owed by the Director to a range of parties as a public authority under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The lawfulness of the policy was upheld by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in Re Adams Application for Judicial Review (2001) NI 1.

The Director, in consultation with the Attorney General, has reviewed his policy in the light of the judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights on the 4 May 2001 in a number of Northern Ireland cases, including the case of Jordan v The United Kingdom. Having done so, the Director recognises that there may be cases in the future, which he would expect to be exceptional in nature, where an expectation will arise that a reasonable explanation will be given for not prosecuting where death is, or may have been, occasioned by the conduct of agents of the State. Subject to compelling grounds for not giving reasons, including his duties under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Director accepts that in such cases it will be in the public interest to reassure a concerned public, including the families of victims, that the rule of law has been respected by the provision of a reasonable explanation. The Director will reach his decision as to the provision of reasons, and their extent, having weighed the applicability of public interest considerations material to the particular facts and circumstances of each individual case".