HC Deb 12 June 1989 vol 154 cc549-50
40. Mr. Janner

To ask the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions; and what matters were discussed.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

On 7 June. We discussed a variety of matters of Departmental interest.

Mr. Janner

Did the Minister discuss with the Director of Public Prosecutions the inability of the law to deal with cases of incitement to racial violence and the likelihood of greater danger as a result of the Rushdie affair? Does he agree that the law is not capable of dealing adequately with such public order offences and that it should be strengthened? Are the Government considering such strengthening?

The Solicitor-General

Policy is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but basically, no, I do not agree with the premise of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. I do not believe that anything that he has put in his question has made it out.

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my hon. and learned Friend please discuss with the DPP the implications of the case of Gooch, who was convicted at the Old Bailey of the manslaughter of his wife, my constituent, where the judge said that there was no justification for accepting the plea to manslaughter rather than the charge for which he was brought before the court, namely murder? In cases of that kind, would it not be better for the CPS to clear a reduction from the charge of murder with the trial judge privately beforehand and thus avoid giving the impression in court that the reduction in the charge had been done at the convenience of the CPS?

The Solicitor-General

I shall certainly look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend. It may be useful to say that, against an open question, it would be helpful if my hon. Friend could either write a letter or put down a specific question.

Mr. Fraser

Can the Solicitor-General help us on the question of prior publicity and prosecutions? Does he recall that in December the Attorney-General told the House, in the Father Ryan case, that juries have a "scrupulous disregard" of what they see and hear elsewhere and that the risk of publicity affecting their ability to try a case fairly does not exist? Can he say, first, whether those remarks and those of the Prime Minister applied only to the Ryan case or are they general? Secondly, can he say that there is no doctrine applied by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the effect that the prior publication of reports, such as the King's Cross report or a Department of Trade and Industry inspector's report, acts as a debarment to a subsequent prosecution? Thirdly, can he tell us why the consideration by the Director of DTI reports is taking so long?

The Solicitor-General

It would be in rare cases that prior publication became a debarment to prosecution but one must look at each case on its merits. The House will have in mind particular cases in recent weeks, which would obviously have a very different effect from other cases that we have discussed.

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