Questioning of Suspects (Tape Recordings)

Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General for Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th December 1982.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 12:00 am, 15th December 1982

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what guidance he has given to procurators fiscal about the use of tape recordings made by the police on the questioning of suspects detained under section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland whether he is satisfied that the procurator fiscal service is making full use of tape-recorded questioning of suspects.

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus South

Although no specific guidance has been issued on the use of tape recordings, those procurators fiscal in the experiment are closely involved with the monitoring exercise. I am satisfied that they are making full use of tape recording.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

Why are the Solicitor-General and his colleagues in the Scottish Office refusing to publish the report prepared by the Scottish Home and Health Department in the first two years of the experiment? Is it not wrong and a serious discourtesy to the House that we have to rely on selective leaks to the press? Does not such a procedure damage rather than protect the police? To refute the suggestion in The Economist this week that the police have systematically avoided tape recording by preliminary interviews before the suspect is taken to the police station, should not the Government publish the report in full so that we can make a judgment on the evidence?

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus South

The experiment is being conducted by the Scottish Office under the guidance of the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman has been advised in a written answer that the report has been kept confidential to ensure a free and frank exchange of views with the police. I deprecate the fact that the report has been leaked. It will not help those involved to iron out and properly resolve the difficulties if at every turn confidential reports are subjected to publication.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Is it not a disgraceful breach of the promises made by the hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessor during the passing of the Criminal Justice Bill that the report is not being made available to Members of Parliament? Is he aware that during the passing of that Bill his predecessor gave an assurance that there would be clear monitoring, in which Members of Parliament would be involved?

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus South

There is careful monitoring. From time to time my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, my predecessor and I have answered questions on this matter. The hon. Gentleman is asking that a confidential report by those working on the experiment to see whether the difficulties can be successfully ironed out should be made public. As my right hon. Friend and I have already said, that would be wholly counter-productive to trying to make sure that the experiment works.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I called the hon. Gentleman to ask a supplementary question on question 32, despite the time. Does the hon. Gentleman want to ask a supplementary question?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

We cannot go on to that question.

Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen

How long does my hon. and learned Friend think the experiment will continue? When, eventually, will a report be made to us on the results?

Photo of Mr Peter Fraser Mr Peter Fraser , Angus South

The experiment is being conducted, not by the Crown Office, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It has been going on for some time. What is important is that its area of experimentation has been extended. What is most important is that it is now being carried on in Glasgow. Once we know fully what has been found out in Glasgow, I have no doubt that there will be a full statement both to the House and interested members of the public on the success of the experiment.