Right to Silence

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd March 1993.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury 12:00 am, 22nd March 1993

To ask the Attorney-General what submission his Department has made to the Royal Commission on criminal justice on changes to the right to silence; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

I discussed this issue with the royal commission at a meeting at which it sought my views on a range of issues. My personal thoughts on the ability of the court to draw inferences from silence in appropriate cases were set out in my speech last October to the Howard League for Penal Reform, a copy of which is in the Library.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer and I welcome his views, as far as they go, set out in that speech. Many people would like the Government to go further and to remove altogether the right to silence in cases in which people have been killed, such as cases in which children have been killed at home. The country looks to the Government and not to the liberal consciences of the Runciman commission to take the ultimate view on the matter.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

We should not anticipate the advice of the royal commission. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Murray case, a recent case in the House of Lords, which shows the proper balance to be considered when discussing the right to silence. It points to the fact that inferences can be drawn only in a case in which there is already a prima facie case and in circumstances in which it is proper, in the legal sense of that word, to do so.