HL Deb 01 May 2002 vol 634 cc126-7WA
Lord Desai

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to learn the lessons from the Crown Prosecution Service handling of the Damilola Taylor case. [HL4049]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith)

I would like to express my deep sympathy for the Taylor family, who still have many questions left unanswered despite an intensive police investigation and a lengthy trial.

This was always going to be a difficult case. It is the job of the CPS to bring cases before the courts where in their judgment there is a realistic prospect of a conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute. It is then the job of the court, in this case the judge and jury, to examine the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. The approach of the CPS results in cases being brought before the courts that ought properly to be examined in a trial. Inevitably, there will sometimes be acquittals. If the CPS prosecuted only in cases where conviction was near certain, there would be far fewer cases and many guilty people would go free. Where there is an acquittal after a contested trial it should not be assumed that there has been a failure in the criminal justice system or that it was in any way wrong for the CPS to bring the case.

However, it is important now that we take time to learn any lessons. I therefore asked the Director of Public Prosecutions last Friday to look into the handling by the prosecution of the case, to consider whether there are implications for the conduct of future cases and to make recommendations. He will involve HM CPS Inspectorate in the review. I have particularly asked the director to examine whether the time has come to introduce a system where, before trial, interviews of certain key witnesses are conducted by the prosecutor in a limited category of cases.

The review will report by mid-summer.

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