HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1789-90
29. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Lord Advocate if he is aware of the practice of certain accused persons of giving their address as care of the court concerned; and if he will make a statement.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. Ronald King Murray)

I am aware of the practice, which has been in existence for a very long time. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) raised this point in correspondence earlier this year, and since then my officials have been collecting information with a view to arranging meetings with interested parties. The Committee on Criminal Procedure, under the chairmanship of Lord Thomson, recommended major changes in relation to the release of accused persons, and this is also being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself.

Mr. Taylor

Has there been any increase in this practice, and does it worry the Lord Advocate at all?

The Lord Advocate

To my knowledge there has been no increase in the practice. There are certain aspects of the practice that do worry me. For example, it does not guarantee that the accused person who is cited care of the sheriff clerk's office will get a copy of the indictment when it is served there. There are certain advantages in the practice, but this is one of the disadvantages, which I wish to clear up.

Mr. Sillars

Do any of these cases involve the National Front, which is circulating a most scandalous piece of racialist literature in Edinburgh at the moment?

The Lord Advocate

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman's party condemns the activities of this body as much as mine does. The leaflet that is being distributed in my constituency was issued by the Scottish Front, which I assume is a variation of the National Front. I have had that leaflet before my office to consider whether criminal prosecutions may arise from its distribution. Having considered the matter very carefully, I have taken advice that no basis exists for criminal prosecution in regard to the distribution of the leaflet.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will the Lord Advocate tell us the advantages of this method?

The Lord Advocate

The advantage of citation care of the sheriff clerk's office is that the prosecution knows with certainty where an indictment may be served. From the point of view of the accused, when he is legally represented—as he often is—the solicitor knows where to get a copy of the indictment at the earliest possible date. He then has the responsibility of making sure that the accused knows about it and receives a copy. In cases where the accused does not wish his address to to be known, this device can be used.