New Clause 4 — Anonymity Of Suspects And Defendants In Certain Cases (No.2)

Part of Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 3rd November 2003.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 5:45 pm, 3rd November 2003

I agree that that is a problem. Indeed, as Vera Baird said, that is not only a problem in cases of sexual offences, but extends to all criminal cases. I would continue attempts to reach a voluntary agreement. Failing that, I would give serious consideration to enlarging the categories of case in which the Attorney-General may apply for an injunction.

I do not pretend that I have come to a concluded view. I do not know—the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions did not tell us—how many cases have been voided as a result of pre-trial publicity. I suspect that the number is relatively small, partly because of the long gap between charges being laid and trial, which the hon. Gentleman himself mentioned. I have tried abuse of trial arguments in cases that have received pre-trial publicity. I have managed to have the venue of trials changed. But I cannot recall having a case voided as a result. It happens less often than we fear, but I accept that it may happen.

The injunction process may be the right approach to address the issue, but that may be more suitable for debate on another day. I am cautious about the approach recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, but I am sure that he is right to identify it as an issue to be addressed.