Deregulation

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th January 1997.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West 12:00 am, 20th January 1997

To ask the Attorney-General what plans he has for further deregulation proposals within his office. [9939]

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

The Departments for which the Attorney-General is responsible have no regulatory functions to which the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 applies. However, the Crown Prosecution Service continues to work with the police to reduce paperwork and administrative burdens in the prosecution of crime.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

Rational deregulation is to be welcomed, but has not the ideologically inspired deregulation of the Crown Prosecution Service left it in a sad position? Morale is at rock bottom and public confidence is at a low ebb. The CPS is thought to pursue trivial offenders when it has a strong case, whereas serious offenders are allowed to run free if the case is weaker. Is not the result of the CPS's conviction-at-all-costs policy that trivial offenders are convicted, whereas many serious offenders get away with it?

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

The hon. Gentleman's criticisms are entirely misplaced. He talks about morale, but if he and certain of his hon. Friends visited the CPS more often and looked at what it does, they would launch into ill-judged criticism less frequently. The best way in which to help the CPS with morale is to stop criticising it unfairly.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend not to remove the obligation from the Crown Prosecution Service and the prosecuting authorities to prosecute cases under the War Crimes Act 1991 if there is adequate evidence?

Photo of Mr Derek Spencer Mr Derek Spencer , Brighton, Pavilion

I appeared in front of Mr. Justice Potts in Sheffield for three days between 17 and 19 December. He heard arguments that the case amounted to an abuse of process, in part based on the lapse of time since the events took place. After he had heard all the arguments, he concluded that there was no abuse of process and that the case was fit to proceed. The case came to an end last week only because a jury found that the defendant's mental state, which had declined rapidly in the past six months, did not allow him to be tried. The principle, however, is plain: if there is evidence—and there was in that case—and if the defendant is fit to be tried, we will prosecute firmly and resolutely.