Lord Williams of Mostyn (Attorney General, Law Officers' Department; Labour)
No, because the charge of theft--the noble Lord referred to certain charges and I shall try to dissect that--against someone who has committed 25 previous thefts and has been imprisoned is in a completely different qualitative category from the allegation of theft against the poppy seller who has been a devoted servant of the Royal British Legion and has attended the Cenotaph service for 40 years. Those cases are utterly different. The charge in the latter case may well be destructive of that man's life. In the former case, the person concerned hardly cares tuppence because they have, as we say in the trade, "form as long as your leg". One cannot legislate in this way. This is an unpalatable response but if one wants to have a society in which justice is public, I do not think that a remedy will be forthcoming, and certainly not in this piecemeal way. I repeat my question; the allegation of rape would be publishable, but not the allegation under the measure we are discussing. That is not a trivial or drafting question as there are difficult questions involved here. If I knew the answer to them, I should be as happy as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, to hear my response.