Mr. Alan O'Connor

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th April 1998.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, Blaby 12:00 am, 30th April 1998

If he will make a statement on the failed prosecution in Leicester Crown court on 20 January of those charged with assaulting Mr. Alan O'Connor. [39140]

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers)

I know that the hon. Gentleman has received a helpful and full explanation from the Director of Public Prosecutions about this case, where the early handling of the investigation presented particular difficulties in relation to the identification evidence. These should have been addressed sooner than they were by the Crown Prosecution Service in this case. More generally, the CPS and Leicestershire police have set up a working party to consider such problems and to produce guidance to assist investigating officers.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Conservative, Blaby

I am grateful for that sensible response from the Attorney-General. Does he accept that a case such as this—where two defendants were apprehended at the scene of a serious assault, where 11 witnesses came forward at the time, having seen the defendants assault my constituent, and where the defendants had blood on their shoes from kicking my defendant—undermines public confidence in the whole legal system, not just in the CPS? Will he tell the CPS in Leicestershire to reopen the case, as it was never heard in court?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers)

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's great concern. I have read his letters to the DPP and I have also read the replies. I do not wish to become unduly involved in this or any other case, as that would be contrary to the procedure laid down by my predecessor, Lord Havers. These are matters for the DPP.

I can assist the hon. Gentleman by repeating what the DPP has told me, because I asked to be informed following the hon. Gentleman's representations. First, it was a group identification carried out by the security staff and no steps were taken to prevent witnesses from talking among themselves. As I understand it, no identification was made by the victims—they failed to do that. The Court of Appeal has laid down specifically, and warned, that there is a difficulty in relying on this type of group identification. Indeed, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, passed under the previous Administration, codes of practice were laid down and must be adhered to, to ensure that there is fairness.

What went wrong in this case was that the initial identification was carried out wrongly. It was pointed out by the CPS more than once that there could be some sort of failure. Unfortunately, the CPS did not pursue the matter and ensure that the police gave an opportunity to other witnesses to see a proper parade, which would be admissible in the court and which would form part of the evidence. That is a matter of deep regret and the DPP has made her position quite clear and apologised to the hon. Gentleman.

As regards the blood on the shoes, that was not a direct and unassailable piece of evidence. All it showed was that one of the defendants was in a position approximate to where the incident occurred, and no more.