The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 will enable inferences to be drawn by a court or jury if a suspect fails in the specified circumstances to answer questions put to him by the police or does not give evidence at his trial. These provisions, while not requiring anyone to forgo his right of silence, will ensure that silence will no longer be hidden from magistrates or the jury.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply, but in some ways have we gone far enough? Are not there serious crimes, such as terrorism and drug dealing, where suspects should be required to make a statement about what they were doing at the time of the crime.
I am delighted to welcome the hon. Gentleman as a late convert to our right-to-silence proposals. Will he now give them the support that seems to lie behind his question?
I refer my hon. Friend to the wise words of the Lord Chief Justice recently when giving judgment in a case in which it was made clear that the courts now have powers to pass appropriate sentences in cases of racially motivated crime without the need for a separate offence—which would be counter-productive, lead to unnecessarily prolonged trials and do little to deal with the mischief that many people, from the best of intentions, desire to remedy through the creation of a new offence.