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Terrorism

Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th March 2004.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:30 am, 18th March 2004

If she will make a statement on the role of the Crown Prosecution Service in cases involving terrorist activity.

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Solicitor General (Law Officers), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The role of the CPS in terrorist cases is to advise the police on charges, to decide whether to prosecute, to keep the case under review and to prosecute the case when it comes to court.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

If we are to see novel methods of trial, does the Solicitor-General agree that that involves new risks of miscarriage of justice and new needs for safeguards? If members of the CPS were to be embedded in investigative teams and perhaps have some role in directing investigations, would it not inevitably colour their judgment of the value of the evidence provided, and in such circumstances would evidence always be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions before a prosecution was mounted?

Photo of Harriet Harman Harriet Harman Solicitor General (Law Officers), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Gentleman raises several important points. I can assure him that two safeguards are in place as regards any change to trial systems. Such proposals would, first, have to come before this House for its approval following debate and discussion; and, secondly, they would have to be compliant with our international obligations under the European convention on human rights as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998.

As for whether closer work between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police could contaminate the independence of the CPS, the answer is emphatically no. It is a good idea for the police to have early advice on the nature of the charge and what evidence would be admissible. That does not impede the independence of the Crown Prosecution Service, but it will ensure that the police are able effectively to progress the investigation and that the trial works properly.