§ Mr. Alex Carlile
asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the circumstances and purpose of the Solicitor-General's meeting on 2 December with Mr. Boyd, of counsel, and others.
§ The Solicitor-General
The meeting was requested on 2 December by the assistant solicitor instructing counsel (Mr. Boyd) on behalf of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise for the prosecution in the case of Peljeric and Ropret at the Crown court, Reading. It took place at 7 pm in the Attorney-General's room at the House of Commons.
The purpose was to acquaint me with the fact that the trial judge had that day been requested on behalf of the defendants to order that the name of an alleged informant in the case be disclosed in open court; to inform me of the importance and value of informers to the investigative functions of the Customs and Excise regarding controlled drugs; and to seek my approval for the withdrawal of the prosecution in the event that the judge acceded to the defence request. Mr. M. Jones, the investigating officer in charge of the case, was present. Counsel, whether for the prosecution or the defence, and representatives of any Government Department, are entitled at any stage of a criminal trial in which they are participating to seek to consult a Law Officer of the Crown on any matter affecting them which they believe gives rise to a serious question concerning the public interest or their professional duty. The request for the meeting which took place on 2 December was made in accordance with the standard practice of the solicitor to Her Majesty's Customs and Excise in such circumstances.
On learning that a substantial proportion of the drugs seized each year by the Customs and Excise is found through informers, and of the great importance of protecting the identity of such informers, I gave advice as to the submission that might be made to the learned judge the next day by Mr. Boyd, and gave my approval to the withdrawal of the prosecution in the event that disclosure of the name was ordered.
It is important to note that, while it is the general rule that the courts shall protect the identity of informers, exceptionally circumstances can exist which may require the disclosure of identity to be ordered. Whether that is so in a particular case is a matter for the trial judge to determine in accordance with principles established by 555W law. In a case where disclosure is ordered it is for the prosecutor to decide whether or not to proceed further with the prosecution.