Right to Silence

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th November 1994.

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Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 24th November 1994

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what comparison he has made of the use of the right to silence by criminals tried in the Crown court and by criminals tried in the magistrates court.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Research cited by the Royal Commission on criminal justice suggested that exercise of the right to silence may be higher in cases that go for trial in the Crown court.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson , Eastbourne

I am grateful for that answer. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that research suggests that it is the more experienced and professional criminals who try to hide behind the right to silence, giving only their name, rank and serial number when questioned, which is one of the reasons why this change in the law is welcomed so widely not only by police men and women but by many law-abiding citizens throughout the country?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I do indeed agree with my hon. Friend. Research carried out on behalf of Kent constabulary suggests that experienced offenders with five or more convictions are more than three times as likely as suspects without convictions to refuse to answer questions during interviews. That bears out the proposition that was put to me by my hon. Friend: that experienced and professional criminals have made use of this device to a much greater extent than other suspects.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

In order to minimise hypocrisy, will the Home Secretary inform the House of any of his colleagues who have drawn an adverse inference from Lady Porter's decision to maintain her right to silence?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we are talking about the right to silence in criminal proceedings. I thought from his intervention in last week's debate that we would be able to welcome him as a late convert to the change in the law. I am sorry that his question shows that such hopes are doomed to disappointment.