Criminal Justice

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 27th February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery 3:32 pm, 27th February 1997

I, too, am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for allowing me to see the review earlier today. It contains a number of worthwhile proposals, which we shall certainly consider, and which will speed up the criminal justice system.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not recognise, however, that one part of the review is extremely badly flawed? I refer to the Soviet-style rewriting of history in the section that deals with the right to elect jury trial. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, ever since defendants were first given the right to give evidence on their own behalf in trials, they have had the right to elect trial by jury? Does he not recognise that that is a fundamental freedom, which is not to be done away with in the cause of saving money?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman further recognise that, if the proposals on the abolition of the right to elect jury trial were brought into effect, there would be a considerable increase in delays in magistrates courts, unless the Government were to take the view that a large additional number of stipendiary magistrates were to be appointed? Further, does he not recall that when the Crown Prosecution Service was established by the right hon. and learned Member for Tunbridge Wells (Sir P. Mayhew), the independence of the CPS was the benchmark behind its establishment? Does he not agree that the arm's length independence of the CPS remains very important; that while it is, of course, appropriate for police forces to have lawyers in police stations, those lawyers should not be part of the independent CPS, but should be employed by police forces—as is the case in many forces now—and advise those police forces?